August 22, 2017

Cyclone

Photograph of a cyclone by “Comfreak” (March 2017) [Pixabay / CC0 Creative Commons]

*****

(2-15-04)

*****

The words of Catholic Mark Kasper will be in blue.

*****

Compliments on your Romanticism discussion. Growing up on a midwestern farm, I never had much use for ‘nature-mysticism.’ Tornadoes, blizzards, -25 F nights, and +105 F days teach you quickly that nature is not a friendly force.

It’s not as if us city-folk haven’t experienced most of these phenomena. But your comment misses the point. Nothing I wrote (or what Keith wrote) would deny that nature has a brutal, not-so-pleasant side. Of course it does.

In the Bible, the vagaries of nature are discussed alongside the glorious aspects. I wrote about natural catastrophes and “natural evil” in my essay about the problem of evil (following a similar effort by C. S. Lewis: from whom I receive much of my Christian Romanticism). In some ways (ironically) you argue as an atheist would:

1. The natural world is brutal and evil and not always so nice.2. Therefore a good God is not reflected in it (the atheist goes further and says that it disproves either God’s existence or a good God).

This doesn’t follow, and that was the “problem” I dealt with in the above essay (among other things). We live in a fallen world, but it is also a world with much beauty that still represents an image of God’s glory, and heaven. The Bible teaches us that God is “declared” in His creation:

Romans 1:20 (RSV) Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.*

Job 12:7-9 But ask the beasts and they will teach you; the birds of the air and they will tell you; or the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?

Psalm 19:1 The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. (cf. 19:2-6; 50:6; 97:6)

Wisdom 13:5 For from the greatness and beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen.

Are you seriously contending that the existence of hurricanes and blizzards (and droughts and avalanches and volcanoes and floods and lots of other “negatives”) somehow wipe out the import and meaning of the above verses?

I can admire a spring day, flowers and rainbows as much as any other person, but I do not see God’s presence in those any more than I see Him in lightning, forest fires, earthquakes, etc.

Then how do you explain the above verses, which directly contradict this?

The physical world is what it is, but let’s not mistake it for the revelation of God.

It’s not revelation; I agree, and I did not say it was. But it is natural theology, per the above Bible passages. Nature tells us something about God, and that is in His written revelation, so it isn’t merely a Romantic or “Armstrong” or “Catholic” thing.

Romanticism is related to mysticism, with which Catholicism has long had an uneasy relationship. The inability to define the mystical experience of God is problematic for Catholicism.

I don’t see how, as we have had a long line of mystics.

Our belief that Jesus Christ is the complete and final revelation of God seems at odds with the experiences of Catholic mystics. I personally find Catholic mysticism a very attractive attribute of Catholicism, something sorely lacking in other Christian sects.

Who is “our”? Again, I don’t follow your reasoning. You will have to elaborate. I don’t see any “odds” or “problems” here.

There is a great importance here on Earth that is not lost on the Romantic. This planet and the world of man are serious business. The blithe way that more and more of our fellow brothers and sisters skip through life without a sense of the value of the body, the value of their time here on earth, the importance of other human beings who will soon be lost to those of us who remain . . . it is disheartening.

I agree. Well-stated.

. . . your comment “May all Christians who do not yet comprehend this, be led to this realization by the Holy Spirit and through nature and life itself” and comments made by yourself in the same vicinity are not sentiments I can agree with.

I think it will be seen that you misunderstood them, then.

As I stated in my first post, if one believes that nature is all good, then there is a lot of explaining to do about the hideous things of nature.

But I don’t believe “nature is all good.” I believe that it reveals God, and contains traces of both Eden and heaven. Biblically speaking, however, even the more terrifying aspects of nature are said to represent God’s power and judgment and awesomeness and omnipotence. So. e.g., in Job 38:1, God speaks to Job “out of the whirlwind” (hurricanes). In the burning bush, God is also present, speaking to Moses (forest fires). In Job, chapters 37-39, this motif is expanded upon with many examples. God controls lighting (37:3,11; severe thunderstorms), thunder (37:4), snow and rain (37:6; blizzards), cold and wind (37:9), frozen waters (37:10; the dead of winter), snow and hail (38:22-23). And how are these sorts of things described?: “He seals up the hand of every man, that all men may know his work” (Job 37:7); “Whether for correction, or for his land, or for love, he causes it to happen” (37:13). In Job 39:13-17, we are told that God in some sense causes an ostrich to “deal cruelly with her young.” This is God’s Providence. He is in control of everything.

While I don’t want to bore you with a litany, here are just a few things that are, in fact, part of nature: cancer, AIDS, fire, floods, earthquakes, famine, drought, etc. I do not accuse you of believing that these are good, but I ask you to temper your enthusiasm for the appearance of God in nature.

It’s good to bring this up, and I am happy to be able to clarify my position. But I think I have answered adequately. It is you who have a far bigger problem with the biblical texts along these lines than we do. In fact, look what happened to Job. That was by God’s permission (Job 1:12). So was Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Cor 12:7-10) – which is called a “messenger of Satan” (12:7), yet it is by God’s design and part of His sovereign will (12:9a), so that Paul can have more of the “power of Christ” (12:9b).

When God judges, He uses all these calamities and dreadful happenings. They are part of His will. No one can be very familiar with the Bible and not know this. See, e.g., Leviticus 26 and the warnings God gives to the Jews if they don’t obey His law: He speaks in terms of “I will do this to you” (26:16), “I will chastise you again sevenfold for your sins” (26:18), “I will bring more plagues upon you” (26:21), “I myself will smite you” (26:24), “I will send pestilence” (26:25), etc., etc. Among the means God uses to do this are consumption and fever (v. 16), bad crops (v. 20), wild beasts among them (v. 22), starvation (v. 29), and ruined land (v. 32).

Another example is the plagues of Egypt, in order to let the Jews go: water turned to blood (Exodus 7:17-18), “I will plague all your country with frogs” (Ex 8:2); further judgments included the use of gnats (8:16), flies (8:21), plague among livestock (9:3), boils and sores (9:9), thunder, lightning, and hail (9:22-24), locusts (10:4-6), and darkness (10:21).

That doesn’t make all these natural calamities “good” in and of themselves. Buy they are tied in with God Himself and are “good” insofar as He is all good, and that includes His judgment (and justifiably condemning people to hell, for that matter, which isn’t a very pleasant or fun place, either).

Furthermore, God’s presence is persistently represented in Scripture (which isrevelation) by natural metaphors, such as the shekinah cloud (which looked like fire at night) that hovered over the tabernacle (Numbers 9:15-22), or “the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud” which followed the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22; 14:19,24). God’s presence is described as a great light – another natural phenomenon (1 John 1:5, Rev 21:23, 22:5). That’s a lot of natural things which God chose to represent Himself: clouds, fire, and light. The frequent Davidic description of God as “my rock” might perhaps imply a mountain also. Hence, it would seem to follow that looking at these things might bring God to mind, since He Himself chose to use them to represent His presence.

God may choose to reveal Himself in nature, as he did in the burning bush to Moses, but not all fire is the appearance of God.

The point I would make, is that God is the God of nature. But it is a fallen world, so all is not happiness and bliss. That doesn’t mean, however, that God is not also revealed in nature. The Bible expressly says so, so no Christian who believes in inspiration can deny it.

Observing nature, it is very difficult to conclude precisely what God is trying to tell us.

I agree. That’s why Romans 1:20 limits what we can know to “power” and “deity.” That’s why St. Thomas Aquinas and Catholic theology proper hold that some aspects of God can be known through natural theology, but by no means all, up to and including the Holy Trinity.

What can we learn about God from the speed of light, Planck’s constant or the structure of DNA?

That He is a marvelous creator of natural wonders.

What is God trying to tell us about Himself or about the way He wants us to live?

Not much in those things. The moral sense, however, is ingrained as part of our nature (Romans 2:12-16).

I think we overestimate our deductive powers when we conclude attributes of God from nature. In the early 1700’s, the theological movement of Deism preached a ‘Christianity as Old as Creation’. It was claimed that Nature itself reveals God.

You mean like Romans 1:20? So far, deism is correct (i.e., your last sentence above). It was its presumption that this “god” was simply an impersonal designer who was not sovereign over his creation, which departed from theism and Christianity.

Deism, although it was defeated by Joseph Butler’s The Analogy of Religion and William Law’s The Case of Reason, has never really disappeared. It is still with us today.

Of course; like all errors.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I enjoy playing outside with my family on a sunny spring day. I like swimming and picnics. I like snowmen, sunsets, rainbows, thunder, and shores. I love my wife. I love my children. They are part of this physical world. But the physical world is not God, and despite it being His creation, we cannot assume to interpret it as His revelation.

I never said the physical world was God. I’m not a pantheist or deist or panentheist. I am a theist (of the Catholic Christian variety). So this complaint has no bearing on my position. And I also think that nature can only teach us so much about God, without His written revelation (as explained). So where do we disagree now? I don’t see it, if you are a trinitarian, biblical Christian as I am, and as Keith (also Catholic) is.

Thanks for your polite reply, despite your disagreement with my post.

And thanks to you for the same reason.

I am a cradle Catholic, and I must admit some bewilderment at the barrage of scripture quotations you used. I am familiar with the texts and quotations you used, but it has not been part of my catechetical training (which might be lacking since I grew up in the 60’s) to employ scriptural verses and quotations in argument.

I think this is where Catholics have been shortchanged in the last 40-50 years. This was not always the case. The Fathers used primarily Scripture for their arguments, and then appealed to the Church’s teaching as their final authority over against the heretics. Catholic apologists have always used plenty of Scripture; so does the Catechism and Vatican II. Quoting Scripture is not intrinsically a “Protestant” thing. It is also a “Catholic thing.” Hence my article in the February issue of This Rock, entitled “Catholics Need to Read Their Bibles.”

As a wise priest once told me, “Don’t go toe-to-toe on scriptural verses with someone with an evangelical background. We Catholics will always lose.”

That is a scandal. I have devoted my apostolate towards showing that Catholics will “win” against contra-Catholic arguments from Scripture, if they study it enough. I was blessed to have an evangelical background which taught me to love and study Holy Scripture. That’s how things seem to be today, generally, but it doesn’t follow that Protestants own the Bible. I’m not trying to lecture you (please don’t misunderstand); just making a general point.

Perhaps the numerous evangelical converts to the Catholic Church will prove this priest wrong.

I hope so. But my hope and dream is to see that not only converts are Bible-centered in their apologia for Catholicism. Vatican II urges us to explain our faith in terms that people can understand. So with Protestants, that means heavy use of Scripture. It’s not optional.

I will allude to one or two scriptures of my own to support myself. Luke 13:4 “Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means!” John 9:2 “His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned.'”

But of course, I have no disagreement with this. I already wrote that natural events are not good in and of themselves; only that God uses the bad things in His Providence, and that He is the God of nature. I used similar arguments way back in 1982 as a Protestant, in order to argue against the notion in some charismatic circles that God always heals and that people need only “claim” some thing from God. It doesn’t work that way.

Man’s conclusions about the events of the natural world and his understanding of the divine nature is always questionable. I believe it is wiser for us to trust in God’s explicit revelation, than for us to divine for ourselves what God is telling us in the events and appearance in the physical world.

Well, ironically, this is precisely why I quoted so much Scripture, since you keep appealing to this “explicit revelation,” and I was trying to demonstrate that when we do that, nothing can be found that is contrary to my expressed opinions on Romanticism and God-as-revealed-in-nature. I haven’t claimed anything more for God in this sense than the Bible does. I didn’t argue that nature was always this benevolent force. Nature was also subject to the Fall. The original Romantic argument was simply saying that God’s grandeur is seen in His creation, and that nature can sometimes be a foretaste of the longing for heaven. These are fairly minimal claims, and not at all contrary to biblical teaching.

I fail to see what the claim that “God reveals Himself in nature” means to those whose homes have been leveled by an F5 tornado. What is God revealing about Himself? That He is powerful? We know that from creation itself.

But creation is nature, so I fail to see the point. Catastrophes of this sort do lead – at least in some sense, for the man of faith – to a realization of God’s sovereignty and Providence, even in suffering. Hence Job said, when his great suffering began:

Job 1:21 Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

Then after more suffering, he cursed the day of his birth (3:1). The whole book then proceeds in making its point that God is sovereign, and that man must accept what God brings. The friends of Job do not get this, and so are rebuked at the end of the book (42:7-9), whereas Job (even after all his tremendous suffering) submits to God’s often-inscrutable sovereignty (42:1-6) and is blessed and “comforted” for “all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (42:11). This is the biblical theology of suffering.

What is God telling us about ourselves? What should I conclude from the event?

That God is sovereign.

The good and the bad of nature must equally be God’s revelation of Himself. I could agree with you that there is some form of revelation present in nature, but it is not insulting to you or myself to say that I do not think human deductions of that revelation have any particular value.

But again, I am not quoting Scripture to prove that my ideas are merely “human deductions” from the raw data of nature, disconnected from objective revelation. I am doing biblical theology, which is presupposed in my “Romantic” feelings about nature. I’m not separating the two at all. This was part of my original argument, too: that Christianity alone gives ground and meaning to Romantic longings and aspirations. And Christianity is a propositional, revelational religion, based on history and Scripture. All these aspects must be kept together.

I am certain that you, just as I, have had friends stricken and die from cancer.

My only brother died of leukemia in 1998.

I imagine that we have both heard well-intentioned but misguided folks make statements such as “It is God’s will.”

It is and it isn’t. There are two levels to that. The biblical theology of suffering and sovereignty is an exceedingly complex topic. As a bad thing, which causes misery and suffering, things like cancer are obviously not God’s perfect will. But as part of His providence, they are manifestations of His permissive will, and are used for a good purpose, however inscrutable (Romans 8:28). I showed this already, with several examples (Job, Paul’s thorn, etc.).

I think such statements are false. What does the death of a father of four children at the age of 36 reveal about God? What are the wife and children to conclude from this tragedy? That human life is fragile and God is more powerful than man?

No; again, that God is sovereign, and that His ways are higher than our ways. I knew Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., one of the leading Catholic catechists of our time, and advisor to both Pope Paul VI and Mother Teresa. He talked quite a bit about God’s providence (this concept is not owned by Protestants anymore than the Bible is). He would say, “Everything that happens – absolutely EVERYTHING – has a reason and a purpose.” This is good Catholic theology. Suffering and pain has a place in God’s overall plan, just as everything else does. Is it difficult to understand? Absolutely; you bet. Does that mean we accept profound tragedies and agonies with a goofy, self-delusional smile? No, not at all. But faith allows us to accept the terrible things with the knowledge that God has not abandoned us or the loved ones who endure these things.

Humans have long fought against nature and they correctly understood that the events of nature do not represent the will of God. My great-grandmother died of diphtheria in 1922. My mother suffered, yet survived polio in the early 1940s. Vaccines against smallpox, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, etc. have been Godly advances in man’s struggle against nature.

We don’t disagree on this. These things are not God’s perfect will, and they result from the fall, which was man’s rebellion.

I don’t want to go further in this line of discussion, because it is not my intention to browbeat you over this. I will contend, not from scriptural quotations, but from the 2nd great commandment, that the natural world, as it stands, does not represent the will of God.

I agree, because it is a fallen world. Yet God uses it, just like He uses Satan to accomplish His purposes. We don’t so much disagree, as we are looking at this differently. You seem to be looking at it mostly from the human standpoint, whereas I am trying to go one step deeper and analyze it from what we know about God from Scripture: from God’s perspective.

Do not forget that those who divine the revelation of God from nature are now using it against the Church in their push for homosexuality.

They are wrong. Nature does not help their case. Again, I made an argument from Scripture against homosexuality, by using Scripture (the same methodology I use now, even citing the same primary passage: Romans 1):

“St. Paul’s Argument From Nature Against Homosexuality (Romans 1)””Do Homosexual Animals Prove That Human Homosexuality is ‘Normal’?”

I wanted to ease your mind over my post. I am not an atheist.

I didn’t say you were. I only said that you argued somewhat like an atheist would, in one respect. I figured you were a Christian of some sort.

I am a Roman Catholic in communion with the Holy Father John Paul II. I believe in the Holy Trinity and the Apostle’s Creed. However, I do not believe in the God of Nature. I believe in Yahweh, the God of Abraham and Isaac, the Triune God of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

So do I. It is rather disconcerting to think that you think we disagree on this. I am only saying that Yahweh is the God of Nature. That is not a separate, pantheistic-type entity. God uses nature, to judge, and to sometimes represent or reveal things about Himself, as I have shown.

Nothing in the Apostle’s Creed, which is the Roman Catholic profession of the faith, could be ascertained from a walk in the woods or taking a telescope to the cosmos.

I disagree. One can discern the first line: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” We know this from Scripture itself (the passages I listed above).

If you want to make an argument against that, feel free. Even deistic philosophers like David Hume could see this. He believed that nature proved that there was a designer of the universe, and this was strictly a philosophical argument. Concerning the rest of the Creed, you are right: one learns nothing about Jesus, or the Virgin Birth, or the Passion of our Lord, or the crucial historical events of Christianity, or the rest of it. I already stated similarly, so this is nothing new. All the central aspects of Christianity must be derived from God’s written revelation. We can only know from nature that God exists, is powerful, and is the creator (and these propositions are in the Bible, too, so nothing here is purely speculative).

You can feel free to respond to me again if you want since it is not my goal to have the last word,

Nor mine. My goal in all my dialogues is to work together with the other person to arrive at a fuller understanding of Christian truth. I felt there were misunderstandings here and more things to clarify, so I replied.

but I don’t think we’ll end up in agreement.

Nothing I have told you is at all contrary to biblical or Catholic theology, at least as far as I know. Anyone is welcome to try to demonstrate otherwise.

Since our exchange has not been that constructive, I won’t bother you on this topic again.

I think it has been very constructive. I was challenged to go deeper into this; I did, and I have learned quite a bit as a result (I hope you and others have, too); therefore it was eminently constructive.

*****

April 7, 2017

SheaMark

Photograph of Mark Shea from You Tube, posted on his “Books, CDs, and DVDs” web page.

*****

This exchange (slightly edited to stick to this immediate subject matter) took place on my Facebook page today. Mark Shea’s words will be in blue.

***

[Note: it’s true that in the Facebook discussion I did confuse the primary and general election vote in analyzing Mark’s statements, which came out later, but Mark did urge folks in some situations to vote for Hillary in the final election (which I argued, was even more indefensible). That was my concern: voting for her, period, whether in the primary or the general election. I will edit accordingly, so as not to confuse readers further (keeping my first sentence the same). I have admitted and retracted my mistake on those specifics, and anyone can read the original exchange at the Facebook link above (i.e., I’m not trying to hide anything).]

*****

Mark Shea urged folks to vote for Hillary Clinton in the primaries, and also certainly believes (like all Never-Trumpers, aka Never Rational Rationalizers) that she is more sensible and stable than Trump. [I knew that Mark voted third party, not Democrat, and said so later]

No I didn’t. I urged those in swing states to vote for her and would have done so myself had I lived in one. Not to “support the lesser evil” but to lessen evil–the massive evils Trump is now doing And I would have done so with a clear conscience before God. But the election is over. Hillary lost. Move on. Stop living eternally on 11/8/16. The problem you face is that you are still defending, right now, every lie, cruelty, folly and incompetence Trump and his party is doing. I am free to praise him on those exceedingly rare occasions he is right. You seem to be absolutely bound to praise him for the all too common and daily occasions when he is wrong. That’s the problem: the “prolife” movement is wasting its time and energy defending, not the unborn, but Trump’s lies, cruelties, incompetence and folly. Whatever happened to “holding his feet to the fire”?

Glad you came to comment, Mark.

You urged a vote for her in some circumstances. I would never do that unless it was a case of someone being more pro-abort than her, running against her. And it’s pretty tough to be more pro-abort than Hillary. I am not aware of defending anything I believe to be “cruelty.” Nice try, though.

And, I repeat, I never told people to support Hillary (a terrible, terrible candidate) in the primaries. I never told people to support anybody in the primaries. I did urge people to defeat Trump in the general election. But the election is over now. Move on.

 You did urge people to vote for Hillary in the [general election] in certain states and situations. And I would never do that, unless it was a case of her running against a pro-abort more bloodthirsty than she is. That’s the difference between us. I am more consistently pro-life — as a non-negotiable matter of moral principle — than you are.

I understand that it was in certain swing states only and that it is not carte blanche endorsement. When many people have said that you were a liberal I always corrected them and said that you were third party. When people have said nothing of yours is of any value, I always say that your apologetics are excellent: among the best.

I do say, however, that in many ways your arguments are indistinguishable from that of secular liberals, to such an extent that one might be excused for categorizing you as a useful idiot for the Democratic Party.

It does show that Mark has less consistent pro-life commitments than I do, as a pro-life activist for 35 years and former rescuer. I always vote pro-life when there is a choice between that and pro-abortion. That includes voting for pro-life Democrats on the state level. There hardly are any on the national level anymore.

It makes your statement false. I never urged anybody to vote for Hillary in the primaries. I also never supported and in fact specifically condemn her pro-abortion stance. What I said was that Trump stance is the same as hers and that he will do nothing whatsoever to change our abortion regime. That’s why he sent Ivanka to suck up to PP [Planned Parenthood] and that’s why Roe will still be in place when he’s gone. My purpose, perfectly in line with what Ratzinger wrote in 2004 was to lessen the evil that Trump would do, not support the evil Hillary would have done.

“When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.” – Joseph Ratzinger

I don’t think you slandered me. You made and error of fact. I didn’t support Hillary in the primaries. I don’t think “he sounds like a liberal” is slander either. I just think it’s dumb. The reason question is “Are my views compatible with the faith” and the answer is Yes. I’ll worry more about the judgment of a demographic that despises Francis and adores Trump when they stop being epically wrong about almost everything.

On July 19th, 2016 on Patheos, you wrote:


The Case for Hillary is Simple

She’s not Trump. That’s it. That’s all. I support Hillary with the white hot passion of a thousand shrugs. Which is to say I’d vote for her if I had to (if I lived in a swing state), but will vote a third party protest both against the both of them since I live in ultra-violet blue Washington and don’t have to vote for her for her to carry the state.

In the combox you wrote: “I say one can vote for Hillary, not one must (and prove it by not voting for her.)”

On May 13, 2016 on Patheos you wrote:

Given, therefore, that Trump really is–to any prudent and sensible person–the documentably worse choice of two terrible choices, I will not sit in judgment of any Catholic who, using his or her prudence, feels bound in conscience to take Pope Benedict’s permission to heart and vote for Hillary in order to hand this dangerous fascist and his followers the crushing defeat they richly deserve. Indeed, if I lived in a swing state, I would not only feel free to vote for Hillary with a clear conscience in order to stop Trump, I would actually feel bound by my conscience to do so, precisely *because* of my Catholic–prolife–faith.

Happily, I do not live in a swing state. Here in Violet Blue Washington, a Hillary win is a foregone conclusion and does not need my help to defeat Trump. So I have liberty to register a protest vote for Joe Schriner against both parties.

[you then go on to argue at some length that no consistent Catholic could possibly vote for Trump without warring against the Church, whereas they could vote for Hillary, to “lessen evil” etc.]

Thus, you state in the combox: “For prudent people and not those blinded by propaganda, it is clear that Trump is vastly worse. Given that fact, I will not sit in judgment of Catholics who feel bound in conscience to stop him with a vote for Hillary.”

I was writing with the general election in mind, not the primaries. Because it was obvious who the candidates were going to be in the general election.

If I’d had my druthers, Sanders would have been the Dem nominee since, while not perfect, he has a sense of civic duty. But since I live in the real world, I knew that we were stuck with Clinton vs. Trump and that Trump was, by far, the worse candidate.

It’s even worse to urge a vote for her in the general election, since in the primaries there is a strong pragmatic and tactical / strategic element. It’s unconscionable for any Catholic or pro-lifer to vote for her, against Trump, since Trump advocated (whether one believes him or not) a pro-life position and she did not. That was the choice. And it was a very clear choice.

We’re already seeing the pro-life fruits on several fronts. They would have never been there if Hillary had won. 60 pro-life groups strongly supported Judge Gorsuch in a letter on March 20th. They just had the anti-Planned Parenthood vote in the Senate (Pence being the tie-breaker). The short-lived RyanCare bill defunded Planned Parenthood (for a year).

This in contrast to the pro-abort zealot Hillary would have appointed . . .

Trump was a transparent liar on abortion and that transparency has only been borne out. He doesn’t care about it and hasn’t changed his position not matter how many lies he tells about it. Meanwhile, on every other issue he is the same as Hillary or worse. And in terms of sheer psychological fitness for the job, he is is unfathomably worse. So yes, there was plenty of proportional reason to oppose him.

Meanwhile, I say again: Hillary lost. Move on. The issue is not how people voted. It’s that you are *still* defending every lie, cruelty, incompetence, and bungle this guy is doing. Focus. Live in the present.

Prolife fruits. Mexico City: which does almost nothing but keep “prolifers” on the reservation. Gorsuch who says Roe is settled law and the fetus is not a person. PP still funded with Ivanka holding secret meetings to such up to them.

Prolife losses: They are now zealous defenders of a sex predator who will not say if he personally paid for abortions for his conquests. They are ardent defenders of denying poor women maternity benefits, as well as of placing immense pressure on the poor to abort via low paying jobs and removal of health care benefits. They are, in percentages greater than the general population, opponents of the Church on unjust war, torture, and the death penalty. They cheer for the rejection of refugees, but never saw a bomb they didn’t love. They also spend vital prolife energy defending an NRA that like to help those who accuse the parents of Sandy Hook of staging a hoax. They are also the most passionate enemies of “commie” Pope Francis.

On the whole, I’d call it a net loss.

I do appreciate the fact, Mark, that you have come here and have been willing to engage the discussion. It’s at least an exchange of some sort, where both sides have been heard, and that is rare enough these days, with the huge social and idealogical divides crossing the Church and political discourse.

No one in the Church (or a fellow Christian of any sort or pro-lifer) is my enemy, and so we ought to be able to talk. No one, period, is my personal enemy, as far as I am concerned. I’m willing to talk to anyone of any persuasion, as long as it is civil and a true exchange.

We disagree profoundly on political and social issues. I continue to think you are a great writer and apologist, and don’t question your sincerity or motivations. I think you have massive false premises that you build upon, and hyper-polemicize upon [in political discussion], to generally ill effect.

I will be making this a Patheos dialogue, because I think it is a good back-and-forth. I always try to present opposing views to my readers and let them decide for themselves.

I don’t say Gorsuch is not prolife. I say that his public statements give me no reason to think Roe will be overturned, which is the only thing that matters about his appointment from a prolife perspective. The monomania of thinking that Roe’s repeal is just around the corner is absurd. It’s not going anywhere.

[Y]ou have declared . . . that I support abortion by opposing Trump in the general election. Not feeling the love.

Whatever our disagreements, I have sent several sincere compliments your way in this thread and many times in the past several years, and you have sent very few my way. I’m not looking for them, but I think it is a very telling contrast.

Brian Chovanec (also active in the discussion thread) wrote:

Dave, your 9/24/2015 Patheos article [on pro-life so-called “single-issue” voting] was good. I agree that abolitionists and MLK were right to choose one issue as focus in those times. Where you disagree with me and Mark is in thinking that the Republican Party is doing the same today with abortion; you think that the Republican focus is for life, we think the Republican focus is pretending to be pro life but in reality being for a bunch of other things as their real priority.

There have been a massive number of abortion restrictions on the state level. They came from Republican pro-life commitment. They sure as hell didn’t come from the Democrats, except for the few pro-life Democrat politicians on the state level.

The legal permissibility to pass these restrictions in the first place also came from GOP appointees to the Supreme Court. A Democrat-appointed pro-life Justice hasn’t occurred since 1962 and Byron White. It’s 100% pro-abort record after that.

Our record is mixed, but it remains true that any pro-life Justice in the last 55 years has been from a Republican President.

That in turn allowed state restrictions (after 1989) that have resulted in many thousands of saved lives and a significant reduction in overall childkillings per year.

If we say that the GOP is not 100% committed to pro-life above all else or is 100% consistent, I would readily agree.

But — that granted — it remains true that any gains we have made in the pro-life movement have been as a result of Republicans, with just a handful of pro-life Democrats on the state level.

October 28, 2015

Original title: Are Atheists “Evil”? Multiple Causes of Atheist Disbelief and the Possibility of Salvation

churchsign

Not a real sign!  I made it up. See the “www” in it? But I contend that such a sign is actually possible, within a biblical / Christian paradigm.

(17 February 2003)

* * *

Jesus taught that those who love Him will at least attempt to follow His teachings:


Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.


(Matthew 7:21; see entire context of 7:16-27)


Also, James writes:

So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

(James 2:17; cf. 2:26; RSV)


You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.


(James 2:24; RSV)

As for non-Christians (religious or otherwise) their possible salvation depends on how much they truly know of Christianity, and what they do with that knowledge. If they really do know it and reject it, they cannot be saved. If not, they are judged by what they know and do, according to the teaching of Romans 2:1-24 (particularly 2:13-15):


Romans 2:11-16  For God shows no partiality. [12] 
All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. [13] For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. [14] When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. [15] They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them [16] on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. 

As to the virtuous, “good” atheist, who is kind and loving, forgiving, etc., I believe that a variety of psychological, experiential, cultural, and philosophical factors come into play. The Bible’s position is actually that there are no atheists in fact; that everyone knows there is a God (at some level – perhaps unconsciously), but I would hasten to add that the factors cited above can affect a person so that they might possibly not be culpable to the extent of damnation. I sure hope so. It’s dangerous ground, in any event.

The Catholic Church has always held that there are such things as “invincible ignorance,” “implicit faith,” “baptism of desire,” and so forth. It’s in the Bible itself; Augustine, Aquinas, Irenaeus and Justin Martyr and many others all taught this. To the extent that atheists or anyone else think mainstream Christianity holds that only those who literally hear the gospel can be saved, they are incorrect. There are some Christians who believe this (some Calvinists and/or fundamentalists –the two groups overlap), but they are in the minority, even in the sub-group of Protestantism.

My impression of many atheists is that they seem to think it is a slam-dunk case for atheism; that it is very clear, and that, conversely, Christianity lacks any good evidences at all – and suffers from the effects of many counter-proofs – , and is clearly untrue. If that is indeed the case (about clearness), and further, if atheism is true, then there must be an awful lot of Christians and other theists who are resisting this “obvious” truth.

My view is somewhat intermediate: I think (as anyone would fully expect) that the theistic proofs are compelling and the atheist ones implausible and fallacious, yet I believe that the “psychological” aspects of belief (all sorts of belief, not just religious faith; i.e., epistemology) and the many many complex influences which make one believe what they do, “nullify” – in large part -, the clearness of the objective proofs qua proofs.

In effect, then, it would not be such a clear thing, either way, once these other non-philosophical influences and factors are taken into account. Nor (for largely the same reason) is it so straightforward (as some atheists seem to think), that if a person is presented with a fantastic miracle, that they automatically believe in God or Christianity. That is not the biblical teaching, nor what we have learned from human experience and history. And that is because every person comes to the table with a host of prior belief-paradigms and theoretical frameworks, and experiences, including the emotions and the will, which are not to be underestimated, either, in their effect on beliefs, in all people, of whatever stripe.

In my view God’s existence is known by the cumulative effect of evidence drawn from many, many sources and sorts of arguments (which includes the stars and conscience, as Paul argued in Romans 1 and 2). The teleological and cosmological arguments connect God’s existence to the known physical world, which is why they are my favorite theistic arguments; I love that “concreteness” about them.

And if even David Hume could accept a minimalist, deist form of the teleological argument, then I think we are on pretty solid philosophical ground (at least at a level that can’t be immediately dismissed as children’s fairy-tales). Albert Einstein looked at the universe and posited some sort of God; not the Christian God, but some sort (more akin to pantheism). He accepted something that was not atheism.

Furthermore, Christians don’t say that “regular miracles” are unnecessary. Most of us believe they still take place, though less often and less spectacularly than before. Christians believe in empirical proofs (the Resurrection and post-Resurrection appearances by Jesus are precisely that). The dispute here is whether we have reliable eyewitness testimony of same (which takes the arguments into the ground of “legal-type” evidence, rather than strictly empirical).

If one accepts the existence of biblical miracles on a legal criterion of how past events are determined to have occurred (such as a murder or robbery), then one can believe in Christianity for that reason, among others. Beliefs and belief-systems are formed by a huge multitude of contributing factors. As for Christians and scientific proof: if God was so opposed to that, He wouldn’t perform miracles at all, and the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus wouldn’t have occurred.

If indeed there is no God, and people are supposedly “objective, truth-seeking machines” who will inexorably believe only if shown the proper amount of proof, why is it, then (I would ask an atheist) that the vast majority of mankind remain religious and don’t become atheists?

One should use the normal means of inquiry to determine truth. That’s the whole point of Christian apologetics. Christianity, rightly-understood, does not claim for itself some sort of esoteric, hidden “gnostic” knowledge, but attempts to appeal to eyewitness testimony and the tenets of philosophy. We accept natural law, known to all men (Romans 2), and upon which was built the English-American tradition of jurisprudence (Jefferson presupposed a Creator and natural law in the Declaration of Independence, etc.).

Skepticism and hard-nosed rationality and desire to see things proven is fine. I oppose excessive skepticism: the kind that is impervious to any disproof of itself, or evidences for opposing viewpoints because of prior ironclad predisposition. Some atheists may possess this attribute; some may not. Who’s to say? But it is foolish to deny the very concept or possibility of such excessive skepticism. If skepticism is a valid concept, then there is such a thing as an excessive amount of it, as well as too little of it. One must find a happy medium.

I’m not doubting anyone’s sincerity or intellectual honesty (including that of atheists). All I’m contending is that, as a Christian, we must believe that God put awareness of His existence in all men in some fashion. This should come as no surprise. If I believed that God didn’t do so I would agree with atheists that such a Being (if He exists) was unjust, and would I might doubt that He exists, or deny it outright. I don’t deny that such knowledge could be deeply hidden or lost, through no fault of the persons themselves.

I happen to believe that one can know there is a God by looking at creation, just as Paul in the Bible argues (Romans 1). Christians and atheists disagree on that. We disagree on lots of things. Certainly atheists cannot expect a Christian to not believe plain biblical teaching. It doesn’t follow that I am attacking atheists’ honesty or integrity, and I think belief (any belief) is an extraordinarily complex matter. Nor does it follow that I am advocating some sort of idiotic anti-empiricism or anti-scientism.

I do not think all atheists are inherently dishonest and willfully blind (though some might indeed be). I simply believe in Romans 1 and try to apply it to atheists in the most charitable, unassuming way I can. God has made Himself known to all men, as one would hope He would do. No discussion is possible if both sides think advocates of the other opinion are “fundamentally disingenuous.”

How silly is it to hold (like atheist advocates of the argument from non-belief), on the one hand, that because all men don’t believe in God, He obviously hasn’t made His existence clear enough, therefore He must not exist (because this is unjust), yet, on the other hand, hold that someone who does believe in God should not believe that He has made Himself known to all men? One can’t claim that one thing is unjust to the extent that it is grounds to doubt God’s very existence, yet complain loudly about a theist who merely consistently holds to its contrary. What do atheists want Christians to do?: believe in this unjust God that they so object to, and hold that He doesn’t give all people enough evidence, so that some go to hell unjustly? If I believed in that sort of “god,” I would hate him, not worship and adore Him, as I do.

To reiterate: I think that, on a very deep level, even atheists know that God exists. I am trying to be both honest and true to Christian views. In any event, I think any belief is extremely psychologically and intellectually complex, so it works out the same way. I don’t question anyone’s sincerity or intellectual honesty. That’s not the issue. Both sides have to come up with some reason why the “other guys” aren’t convinced by the same evidence. The prevailing atheist view is that Christians are gullible ignoramuses, anti-scientific, anti-rational, etc. Atheists can believe whatever they want about us. But Christians have to agree with biblical teaching about unbelief. That doesn’t mean we have to demonize every individual person. Many Christians do that, and they are wrong to do so.

I believe atheists’ self-report. I think people can get to a place where they truly don’t believe something, by various means. I have no problem with that. If all atheists were rotten rebels who know the God of Christianity exists, and reject Him, then they would all go to hell. But I am already on record, stating that I don’t believe that. I think many, many factors are involved in both Christian or theistic belief and atheist belief.

As for the Bible’s “philosophical” position on unbelief: there is no philosophy per se in the Bible because the Jews were not a philosophically-oriented society. They were much more practically-oriented and historically-minded. Parts of St. Paul come close, though (and he was a highly-educated man who grew up in a very cosmopolitan town of that era: Tarsus in Asia Minor).

Romans 1 is one such passage. It is a very primitive version of the teleological argument (or at least a statement of it, if not an argument – but not that dissimilar to what David Hume stated, as I have shown). Now, does Paul claim that all atheists are wicked people who suppress the truth? No. He seems to claim, as I have stated, that all people know there is a God by looking at creation (Romans 1:19-20). He rails against those who “suppress the truth” in 1:18, but there is no indication that this is intended to include everyone who doesn’t believe in God or Christianity.

This is quite obvious from context. For example, continuing to talk about people who suppress the truth, in 1:23, he condemns idol-worship (“images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles”). As far as I know, that doesn’t describe the ordinary atheist, so Paul isn’t talking about atheists at that point (rather, idolatrous polytheists). In verses 1:26 and 1:27 he describes these people who suppress the truth as lesbians and male homosexuals.

Quite arguably, this doesn’t include all homosexuals, either, as Paul is clearly making a very broad statement, and such utterances allow of exceptions. In verse 29 he says such people are murderers and those who commit all kinds of other sinful acts. In 1:30 he calls them “haters of God” (hard to hate a God one doesn’t believe exists). So, clearly, Paul is talking about those who know the truth and reject it. I don’t see how this can be interpreted as a blanket condemnation as utterly evil, all persons who aren’t Christians.

When St. Paul he was in Athens, he preached his famous sermon on Mars Hill (or, the Areopagus). He observed the idols in the city (Acts 17:16). He argued with the philosophers, including the Epicureans and Stoics (17:17-18). When he started preaching (17:22 ff.) he didn’t utterly condemn the religious practices as utterly evil, but utilized them in his presentation. He commended the people for being “very religious” (17:22). What he did was build upon their knowledge in order to present Christianity in terms they could understand. In so doing, he cited the pagans Epimenides and Aratus (his work, Phaenomena) – 17:28. He mentions that “the times of ignorance God overlooked . . . ” (17:30). Christians have argued from the beginning that there is such a thing as invincible ignorance and the possibility for those who have never heard to be saved.

Therefore, Paul cannot be interpreted to teach that all atheists are wicked God-haters who know the truth and reject it, nor that they cannot possibly be saved. This is a theme throughout the New Testament. For example, when Jesus talked to a pagan Roman centurion who probably knew little about Judaism, He commended him for a faith not seen in all of Israel (Matthew 8:5-13). Paul extends the possibility of salvation to all who do good, even without the law, based on their consciences, while condemning those Jews who hypocritically do not follow the greater revelation they had received (Romans 2:1-28; see esp. 2:6). God judges in the end, and He does so impartially (Romans 2:11).

Christianity holds that “to be saved by Jesus” is not necessarily identical to “knowing all about Jesus” or “hearing the gospel.” But some people are stubborn and rebellious. Many, many religious people will be damned. Jesus talks a lot about that, and states that the “Gentiles” would come in before many of the Chosen People, where the latter were hardhearted, in individual cases. Some atheists are willfully blind or obstinate or rebellious; others disbelieve for many, many reasons (philosophical, psychological, social, moral, cultural, emotional, familial, etc., etc.). Only God knows who will be saved in the end.

Generally (almost always, in fact) people don’t go through the arduous process of testing, proving, reasoning, trying to falsify, with regard to their axioms (upon which grand theories are built). I want to know, in my dialogues, why people accept certain axioms, and try to get them to see that we all have them, and that they are ultimately unprovable. All views require “faith” (in the sense that they are not airtight or demonstrable beyond any possible doubt or disproof). I do believe, however, that atheism becomes either self-defeating or purely fideistic if examined closely enough. Christianity doesn’t do that. Faith itself is neither necessarily self-defeating or fideistic (i.e., entirely devoid of all rational support).

I don’t say the primary atheist problem is intellectual dishonesty; I say it is shoddy thinking and inability to prove their starting assumptions or axioms to an extent at all superior to the theistic and Christian starting assumptions and axioms.

Belief in God is not simply an abstract proposition. If the Christian God exists, we must devote our lives to Him, do everything we do for Him, and tell others about Him. It’s not just an intellectual pursuit to be undertaken in dimly-lit, elegant libraries. It is a way of life; reality itself.

* * * * *

Here is another piece I wrote on 12-12-06; originally entitled, “Can Atheists Be Saved? Are All Atheists Immoral? The Demands of Christian Charity”

* * * 

Here, I was responding to remarks from Theresa Frasch: a former Christian who became an atheist.

* * * * *

Calvinist theology doesn’t allow that an atheist who claims to have once been a Christian ever actually was one. Catholic (and Arminian Protestant) theology does hold that folks can fall away from true faith. I never believed otherwise (thus in my critique of your deconversion I never denied that you were a Christian). I was an Arminian Protestant and am now a Catholic.

The “perseverance” / eternal security position is a minority viewpoint in historic and present-day Christianity. Catholics deny this; so do Orthodox (that’s already some 1.4 billion Christians). So do most pentecostals, Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans and lots of non-denominational groups. It is mainly the Presbyterians, Reformed, Baptists, and smaller groups related to them theologically, who hold this (greatly unbiblical) position.

Before Protestantism arose in the 16th century, Christians virtually unanimously agreed that falling away was possible.

So argue against it; you are right when you do that, but be sure to note that this is only one position within Christianity, and a minority one at that.

Of course the downside of the opinion that you were a Christian, would be that you, therefore, rejected Christianity and the first hand experience you had with it (and with God), and are now (by definition) an apostate. The ones who claim you never were a Christian cannot really say that. They’d have to say you were a “wolf-in-sheep’s clothing.” So it’s either that or an apostate.

Either way, the future doesn’t look too bright for you, from where we sit.

But my theology and approach tries to adopt a middle way as much as possible: objectively you are an apostate, but subjectively there may be many reasons (mitigating circumstances) why you left (or that influenced your decision) that would cause God to exercise mercy on the last day. That is my hope.

The key would be if you truly knew Christianity was the truth and rejected it. That is very serious. Only God knows if you had and have full and sufficient knowledge or not.

If you didn’t, and didn’t now, there is hope that you may be saved, because you are not directly rejecting something you know to be true, but rather, mistakenly believing a falsehood that you sincerely believe to be true. In Catholic theology, this is a very large factor.

In any event, our job as Christians (of whatever type) is to convince you to embrace Jesus and Christianity again (or for the first time, so say the Calvinists, etc.). That is obviously far better than to be an atheist, from our vantage point.

You know this; it isn’t like I’m saying anything new. But what we believe on this affects how we approach people. Those who think you are unregenerate and never-saved will tend to be (but don’t necessarily have to be) more rude and presumptuous about your soul and ultimate destination.

I make no claims on either your sincerity or the state of your soul or moral character. None whatsoever. I simply critiqued the reasons you gave for your deconversion. I don’t see why that would be insulting to anyone (as it is merely entering into the arena of competing ideas), yet John Loftus blew a gasket when I examined his story.

Go figure, huh?

 

March 28, 2022

Debunking Yet More of the Endless Pseudo-“Contradictions” Supposedly All Over the Bible

Bart Ehrman is one of the most well-known and influential critics of traditional Christianity and the inspired Bible (“anti-theists”) writing today. Formerly, in his own words, he was “a fundamentalist for maybe 6 years; a conservative evangelical but not extreme right wing for maybe 5 years more; and a fairly mainstream liberal Christian for about 25.” The primary reason he gives for having lost his faith is the problem of evil (a very serious topic I have dealt with many times). He stated on 3-18-22 in a comment on his blog: “I could no longer explain how there could be a God active in this world given all the pain and misery in it.” I don’t question his sincerity, good intentions, intellectual honesty, or his past status as a Christian; only various opinions which Christians must (in consistency) regard as erroneous.

Dr. Ehrman “received his PhD and MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied textual criticism of the Bible, development of the New Testament canon and New Testament apocrypha under Bruce Metzger.” He has written 30 books, which have sold over two million copies and have been translated into 27 languages.

Ehrman explains that the purpose of his blog is “to disseminate scholarly knowledge of the New Testament and the earliest periods of the Christian church to a non-scholarly audience, . . . Every post is rooted in scholarship – not just my own but that of thousands of scholars who have worked for centuries on understanding the historical Jesus, the New Testament, and the origins of Christianity.” Well, the conclusions of scholars are only as good as the solidity and truthfulness of the premises by which they are operating.

This is one of a series of reply-papers, in which I will address many of his materials from the perspective of archaeology, history, and exegesis.

*****

I am responding to his article, “Is the Book of Acts Historically Reliable? The Negative Case.” (3-30-16). His words will be in blue.

There are two major ways to check to see if Luke is historically accurate.   The first is to see if he is internally consistent in his telling of his stories.  If not, then that would show that he is not particularly concerned to get the facts straight.  The second is to compare him with other reliable sources of the time to see if they coincide or not.  As it turns out, a number of things that Luke says about Paul are things that Paul himself talks about, so we can compare the two.  Whenever they talk about the same thing, they are at odds with one another.  Luke does not appear to be historically accurate.

First, internal consistency.  Luke sometimes tells the same story two or even three times.  When he does so, there are striking contradictions, which show, among other things, that Luke is more interested in spinning a good yarn than he is in preserving a historically accurate narrative.   Let me cite two examples.  First, Jesus’ ascension.  In Luke 24 (you can read it for yourself and see) Jesus rises from the dead, on that day meets with his disciples, and then, again that day, he ascends to heaven from the town of Bethany.   But when you read Acts 1, written by the same author, you find that Jesus did not ascend on that day or at that place.  Jesus instead spends forty days with his disciples proving to them that he had been raised from the dead (it’s not clear why he would have to prove it!  Let alone do so for forty days!); and only then — forty days after the resurrection– does he ascend. 

I’ve already refuted this objection in answering another atheist who argued in the same way: Seidensticker Folly #15: Jesus’ Ascension: One or 40 Days? (9-10-18). Summary: Luke in his Gospel was using the well-known literary technique of compression, or telescoping; i.e., condensing or abridging the story and leaving out details in a way which may lead some (not familiar with the technique) to erroneously believe that it all happened on one day. But this methodology was unquestionably used by ancient writers such as Josephus, Plutarch, Cicero, and Quintillian. It was described by Lucian of Samosata (c. 125 AD-after 180 AD), a Syrian rhetorician, in his treatise, How to Write History.

Ehrman himself recognized that the Gospel writers sometimes use the technique, since he wrote about Matthew’s account of the raising of Jairus’ daughter: “Matthew . . . has telescoped the story to make it much briefer” (4-22-19). He claimed that in doing so, Matthew introduced contradictions (what else?!), but nevertheless he still acknowledged that there was such a literary technique and that Matthew used it. Therefore, he can’t rule out at least the possibility that Luke also did in our present case. In other words, our reply is not mere rationalization. It’s plausible and it has demonstrable historical background.

And here he ascends not from Bethany but from Jerusalem.   Luke tells the same story twice, and in two radically different ways.  Historical accuracy does not appear to be his major concern.

I would say that accuracy in reporting what the Bible stated in the first place seems not to be Ehrman’s “major concern.” Here are the two passages:

Luke 24:50-52 (RSV) Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. [51] While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. [52] And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy,

Acts 1:9-12 . . . as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. [10] And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, [11] and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” [12] Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away;

There simply is no contradiction here. In Luke 24, the text implies that Jesus ascended from Bethany, and that they “returned to Jerusalem” afterwards. In Acts 1, they also “returned to Jerusalem” (therefore the Ascension didn’t take place in Jerusalem!) after the Ascension took place on “the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem.” Where’s the contradiction? Wikipedia (“Mount of Olives”) explains that “On the south-eastern slope of the Mount of Olives lies the Palestinian Arab village of al-Eizariya, identified with the ancient village of Bethany mentioned in the New Testament . . .” Likewise, John 11:18 states: “Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off,”.

Neither text asserts that Jesus ascended to heaven from Jerusalem. He did so from the Mount of Olives, which Acts rightly distinguishes as separate from Jerusalem (as it was in the first century), while Luke mentions Bethany, which lies on the Mount of Olives. So it turns out that Ehrman (not the eminent historian Luke) is sloppy in his history, Bible reading, . . . and (if I do say so) the geography of first-century Israel.

Second example.  On three occasions Acts narrates the conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus, chapters 9, 22, and 26.  Compare them closely to one another, and you find very odd contradictions.   In chapter 9 Paul’s companions hear the voice of Jesus talking to Paul, but they don’t see anyone; in chapter 22 they see the light but don’t hear anything.  Which is it?  In Chapter 9 the companions are left standing while Paul falls to the ground; in chapter 26 they are all knocked to the ground.  Which is it?

Acts 9:3-7 Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. [4] And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” [5] And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; [6] but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” [7] The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.

Acts 22:6-9 “As I made my journey and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. [7] And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ [8] And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’ [9] Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.”

Acts 26:14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, `Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’

The Catholic Encyclopedia (“Acts of the Apostles”) disposed of this objection way back in 1907: 

It is urged that the three accounts of the conversion of St. Paul . . . do not agree. . . . There are many solutions of this difficulty. . . . Pape and others give to the eistekeisan the sense of an emphatic einai, and thus it could be rendered: “The men that journeyed with him became speechless”, thus agreeing with 26:14. Moreover, the three accounts can be placed in agreement by supposing that the several accounts contemplate the event at different moments of its course. All saw a great light; all heard a sound from Heaven. They fell on their faces in fear; and then, arising, stood still and speechless, while Paul conversed with Jesus, whose articulate voice he alone heard. In Acts 9:7, the marginal reading of the Revised Edition of Oxford should be accepted: “hearing the sound”. The Greek is akoyontes tes phones. When the writer speaks of the articulate voice of Christ, which Paul alone heard, he employs the phrase outer phrase, ekousan phonen. Thus the same term, phone, by a different grammatical construction, may signify the inarticulate sound of the voice which all heard and the articulate voice which Paul alone heard.

In chapters 9 and 22 Paul is told to go to Damascus to be instructed by a man named Ananias about what to do next.  In chapter 26 Paul is not told to go be instructed by Ananias, instead Jesus himself instructs him.  Well, which is it?

Acts 9:10-12 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Anani’as. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Anani’as.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” [11] And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying, [12] and he has seen a man named Anani’as come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” . . . 

Acts 22:10 And I said, `What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, `Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’

Acts 26:15-18 And I said, `Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, `I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. [16] But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, [17] delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles — to whom I send you [18] to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Much ado about nothing, again, as we see by simply reading the texts and applying logic (and not being hostile to and suspicious the texts without reason from the outset).

1) Acts 9: Paul learns (in a vision) that some stranger named Ananias would help him regain his sight after his dramatic conversion experience.

2) Acts 22: Paul is told to go to Damascus to be instructed, then he recounts how Ananias instructs and exhorts him.

3) Acts 26: Paul recalls some things that Jesus told him (having to do with his future mission) at the time of his conversion.

Ehrman first misrepresents the stories of Acts 9 and 22 (I don’t say deliberately, but he should know better, being a NT scholar). It’s just plain sloppy analysis. Acts 9 says nothing about Paul beingtold to go to Damascus to be instructed by a man named Ananias.” He simply saw a man identified as Ananias in a vision, who would, in effect, heal his temporary blindness. Nothing is here about either being sent to Damascus or being instructed by Ananias. The text talks about how Ananias was told by God in a vision to go visit Paul, but even so, it mentions nothing about “instruction.” So why does Ehrman project all these things onto the text that aren’t there? Who knows why?

In Acts 22 Paul is indeed told by God to go to Damascus and that he would be instructed. But God didn’t tell him that Ananias would do so. So Ehrman presents the two texts in an inaccurate way. They don’t contradict each other, though. The information is complementary and internally consistent. Ehrman then tries to make out that Acts 26 contradicts 9 and 22, simply because in that account, Paul recalled how Jesus had directly instructed him. But so what? Where is the supposed contradiction?

The texts taken together never assert that “only Ananias would instruct him” or “only God would instruct him.” If that had been the case, it would have been contradictory. They teach us that he was instructed by both. The more the merrier! First God did, and then Ananias affirmed that God was so speaking (to help Paul avoid being skeptical of his vision), with the evidence of a miracle to establish his own “credentials” as a man verifying what God had said. 

Why do we have to choose between these things (which is it?”), as if they can’t supposedly all exist together? We don’t! They exist in harmony and do not logically contradict. If Bart Ehrman disagrees, I suggest he revisit and refresh his memory as to what he learned in his logic class (if he ever took one), or read a book about logic now if he didn’t take the course in college. I’m not trying to be insulting (really, I’m not). We all have to learn how to think logically, and even when we do so, we can all fall into being so biased that we fail to correctly apply logic to a particular matter. Every textbook on logic provides examples of great thinkers falling into the trap of logical fallacies. If a person wishes to make serious charges against portions of the Bible, in terms of alleged contradictions, then he or she better have their “logical ducks” in a row. 

All these examples simply show that Luke was far more interested in telling a gripping story than he was in being consistent.  His artistic license has seriously undercut his historical accuracy.

They show no such thing, because — as I have now demonstrated — Ehrman’s charges all fall flat under intense scrutiny. Luke’s historical accuracy is demonstrated by being backed up by external archaeology and historiography at least fifty times.

But even more noteworthy are the external contradictions with a reliable source: Paul himself.  Whenever Acts relates an incident from Paul’s life that Paul himself discusses, there are striking and irreconcilable differences.   Sometimes these involve small details.  For example, Acts 17 is clear and unambiguous: when Paul traveled to bring the gospel to Athens, he came by himself, without Timothy or any of the other apostles  But Paul himself is also clear and unambiguous; in 1 Thessalonians 3 we learn that he came to Athens precisely in the company of Timothy, not by himself.  It couldn’t be both.

Acts 17:14-17 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. [15] Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed. [16] Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. [17] So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the market place every day with those who chanced to be there.

1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, [2] and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s servant in the gospel of Christ, to establish you in your faith and to exhort you,

This is yet another non sequitur and non-contradiction. Let me explain how and why it isn’t. Paul came by himself to Athens, and gave instructions to the sailors who brought him there to inform Silas and Timothy (presumably through some sort of mail, or by going back to where they were) to meet him in Athens “as soon as possible.”

1 Thessalonians, contrary to Ehrman’s skeptical “gotcha!” claim, did not assert that Paul came to Athens precisely in the company of Timothy.” It says nothing at all about who went there with him. It simply says that Paul was writing to the Thessalonians, about whom he was concerned (2:17-18), because of their suffering (2:13-14). So he sent Timothy (who was at this time with him) to exhort and comfort the Thessalonians, to be able to withstand the “afflictions” that are the “lot” of Christians (3:2-7). We know Timothy was eventually with him in Athens, but we don’t know from this text that he went there with him. That comes solely from Bart Ehrman’s zealous and overactive imagination.

Paul had asked that Timothy and Silas come as soon as possible. So Timothy eventually arrived (perhaps Silas couldn’t make it for some reason), and Paul sent him off to comfort other suffering Christians. In an earlier article (9-4-13), Ehrman added another equally false claim of alleged biblical contradiction, contending that “the book of Acts states that when Paul went to Athens, he left Timothy and Silas behind in Berea (Acts 17:10-15) and did not meet up with them again until after he left Athens and arrived in Corinth (18:5). . . . It’s a minor detail.  But it serves to show something about the historical reliability of Acts . . .”

Actually, the book of Acts doesn’t deny that Paul met with Timothy and Silas between the time they all were in Berea and another later time when all were in Corinth. That comes from Ehrman’s fertile imagination only, and can’t be positively proven from the information we have in the Bible. Acts simply says that “Silas and Timothy arrived [in Corinth] from Macedo’nia” (18:5). Since it says absolutely nothing about the in-between time in Athens (neither affirming nor denying either Timothy or Silas’ presence there), it’s perfectly consistent, logically, for Paul to say in 1 Thessalonians that Timothy was with him part of the time (not from the beginning), before he sent him away on a mission.   

So it looks like (but isn’t certain) that Silas never made it to Athens during Paul’s stay. Then in Acts 18: he arrives in Corinth from Macedonia, which makes perfect sense, seeing that Berea (where he was last mentioned as being) is in Macedonia. This is more evidence that he never left Macedonia previously (for whatever reason) to go to Athens and evangelize with Paul. So Ehrman is correct about Silas, but not about Timothy. He was sent by Paul from Athens to Thessalonica, and now he is said to be traveling to Corinth to meet Paul from Macedonia. Yep: this is perfectly reasonable, too, since Thessalonica is also one region of Macedonia. So it all fits perfectly together with no contradiction. Foiled again!  

I reiterate: where’s the contradiction? There “is” one if a person sets up a straw man that can’t be demonstrated in the text itself. This is what Ehrman has done. Shame on him making such an intellectually sloppy and groundless argument and passing it off in public as if it were a “biblical contradiction.”

In another post attacking Acts and Luke (9-5-13), Ehrman pontificates:

We could deal forever with the question of the historical accuracy of Acts. There are entire books devoted to the problem and even to *aspects* of the problem, and different scholars come to different conclusions. My own view is that since Acts is at odds with Paul just about every time they talk about the same thing, that it is probably not to be taken as very accurate, especially in its detail. 

Yes we could, (I for one would be delighted to do more of this), and I highly suspect that Ehrman’s arguments will be just as weak, flimsy, and fallacious as all of them refuted in this article were. He’s come up with a big zero so far; therefore, his triumphalistic attack on Acts falls on deaf ears. He has proven no such thing. If his loyal followers think he has, then I say they need to take a refresher course in logic along with Bart.

Sometimes the differences really matter.  When Paul himself talks about his conversion in Galatians 1 he insists that after he had his vision of Jesus he did not – he absolutely and positively did not (he swears to it!) – go to confer with the other apostles in Jerusalem.  Not for years.  And what happens when Paul converts according to Acts 9?  What is the first thing he does after he leaves Damascus?  He makes a bee-line to Jerusalem to confer with the other apostles.  In Acts he does precisely what he himself swears he didn’t do.

This is clearly another instance of compression, or telescoping. Luke employs it in Acts 9, which is his narrative of Paul’s conversion and his meeting the apostles: just as he did in his Gospel, chapter 24, and Paul does not in Galatians 1. But in Acts 22:17, Paul himself uses the same technique of compression, during his trial. He recounts his conversion, then (desiring to condense the story for whatever reason) skips right over the three years in Arabia at Acts 22:17 and starts talking about being in Jerusalem and the initial skepticism that he had converted, after persecuting Christians. So Paul does it one place and not in another (which is perfectly fine). This is how ancient literature works. And no doubt there are analogous examples in our time as well.

Even more striking than the contradictions in the itinerary and travels of Paul are the discrepancies in his preaching.  Here I give just one example.  In Acts 17 when Paul is preaching to the pagans of Athens, he tells them that they worship idols out of ignorance.  They simply don’t know any better.  And because of that, God overlooks their mistake; but he now gives them a chance to recognize the truth and worship him alone.  

Exactly. Here, Ehrman actually (to his great credit) portrays what is in the text, instead of warring against a straw man that isn’t in the text. But it doesn’t last for long! In Athens, Paul noted and praised the Athenians worship of a “god”: albeit an “unknown” one. So it’s not a question of denying God’s existence altogether, but rather, of worship that lacks particulars as to the nature and identity of the one they are worshiping. Paul then used the opportunity of their lack of knowledge and simultaneous sincere and pious religiosity, to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and the nature of the one true God. He uses what they know and builds upon it, up to and including the Christian message.

That stands in sharp contrast with the views that Paul himself lays out in his letter to the Romans.  In chapter one Paul states his views of pagan idolatry and false worship, and they are completely contrary to what he allegedly said in Acts 17.  In Romans Paul tells us that pagans worship idols precisely because they did know that there was only one God who was to be worshiped, and they rejected that knowledge in full consciousness of what they were doing. And because of that God has cast his wrath down upon them.   Well which is it?  Do they commit idolatry out of pure ignorance so God overlooks their mistake?  Or are they fully aware of what they’re doing so God judges them?  Assuming Paul himself knew what his own views were, you would have to say that Acts has misrepresented the very core of his preaching message.

It’s apples and oranges and another non-contradiction. In Acts 17 in Athens, Paul is addressing a situation where the Athenians had an “altar” with the inscription, “To an unknown god” whom they worshiped (17:23). This he perceived as their being pious and “very religious” (17:22). That’s not atheism: not a deliberate rejection of any god or God (nor even agnosticism), but ignorant religiosity; religion minus knowledge and particulars. Paul in effect praises it and expressly categorizes it as “ignorance” that “God overlooked” (17:30). 

In Romans 1 he is addressing something utterly different than that: “men who by their wickedness suppress the truth” (1:18); people who “knew God” but “did not honor him as God or give thanks to him” (1:21) and “did not see fit to acknowledge God” (1:28). This is a vastly different approach from the Athenians (or at least those who worshiped the “unknown god”). Paul isn’t addressing all pagans whatever, but specifically, people with these characteristics.

Having stated this, he goes right into a very ecumenical, welcoming message in the next chapter (and the original New Testament didn’t contain chapters): one of possible salvation for all human beings (“glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.”: 2:10-11). He teaches that abiding by a good conscience could very well bring salvation to anyone: Jew or Gentile alike (2:14-16). Obviously, then, he is not condemning all pagans and non-Jews with the wave of a hand. In Romans 1 he specifically condemned those who know there is a God and who deliberately reject Him, knowing that He exists.

So, as usual, no contradiction exists here, either. Ehrman simply failed to closely read the text and draw the proper distinctions. I suggest that he read much more carefully, and not be consumed by his excessive skeptical zeal.

Every time you compare what Acts has to say about Paul with what Paul has to say about himself, you find discrepancies.  Just as you find discrepancies internally, whenever Acts recounts the same event more than once.   As valuable as Acts may be as an interesting story about the first years and decades of the early Christian movement, the reality is that the book of Acts is not historically reliable.

That’s his claim. However, upon close examination, none of the examples he provided prove what he is trying to say: that Luke is contradictory and unreliable. Therefore, since I have done my own research and have presented fifty instances where he was reliable, based on archaeology (which is objective science and not arbitrary subjective fluff), and since these contradictions have not been proven (which is putting it mildly), I stand by Luke as a reliable historian.

***

Ehrman’s “reply” in his combox:

Paul doesn’t join up with Timothy until later in Acts, not while he is still in Athens.

My counter-reply:

As I already noted, Paul stated that Timothy was eventually with him in Athens, because he sent him somewhere else:

1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 (RSV) Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, [2] and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s servant in the gospel of Christ, to establish you in your faith and to exhort you,

***

Practical Matters: Perhaps some of my 4,000+ free online articles (the most comprehensive “one-stop” Catholic apologetics site) or fifty books have helped you (by God’s grace) to decide to become Catholic or to return to the Church, or better understand some doctrines and why we believe them.

Or you may believe my work is worthy to support for the purpose of apologetics and evangelism in general. If so, please seriously consider a much-needed financial contribution. I’m always in need of more funds: especially monthly support. “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim 5:18, NKJV). 1 December 2021 was my 20th anniversary as a full-time Catholic apologist, and February 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of my blog.

PayPal donations are the easiest: just send to my email address: apologistdave@gmail.com. You’ll see the term “Catholic Used Book Service”, which is my old side-business. To learn about the different methods of contributing, including 100% tax deduction, etc., see my page: About Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong / Donation InformationThanks a million from the bottom of my heart!

***

Photo credit: St. Paul (c. 1611), by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

Summary: Agnostic Bible skeptic Bart Ehrman writes about “Luke the unreliable historian” by suggesting self-contradictions that don’t in fact exist upon a closer look.

March 25, 2022

“Receiving” Jesus is Receiving God the Father, from Whom He Was “Sent” 

Bart Ehrman is one of the most well-known and influential critics of traditional Christianity and the inspired Bible (“anti-theists”) writing today. Formerly, in his own words, he was “a fundamentalist for maybe 6 years; a conservative evangelical but not extreme right wing for maybe 5 years more; and a fairly mainstream liberal Christian for about 25.” The primary reason he gives for having lost his faith is the problem of evil (a very serious topic I have dealt with many times). He stated on 3-18-22 in a comment on his blog: “I could no longer explain how there could be a God active in this world given all the pain and misery in it.” I don’t question his sincerity, good intentions, intellectual honesty, or his past status as a Christian; only various opinions which Christians must (in consistency) regard as erroneous.

Dr. Ehrman “received his PhD and MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied textual criticism of the Bible, development of the New Testament canon and New Testament apocrypha under Bruce Metzger.” He has written 30 books, which have sold over two million copies and have been translated into 27 languages.

Ehrman explains that the purpose of his blog is “to disseminate scholarly knowledge of the New Testament and the earliest periods of the Christian church to a non-scholarly audience, . . . Every post is rooted in scholarship – not just my own but that of thousands of scholars who have worked for centuries on understanding the historical Jesus, the New Testament, and the origins of Christianity.” Well, the conclusions of scholars are only as good as the solidity and truthfulness of the premises by which they are operating.

This is one of a series of reply-papers, in which I will address many of his materials from the perspective of archaeology, history, and exegesis.

*****

I am responding to a portion of his article, “Does Jesus Claim to Be God in Mark?” (3-19-17). His words will be in blue.

[I]n the Gospel of John Jesus does, repeatedly, claim a divine status for himself:  “I and the Father are One,” “Before Abraham was, I AM,” “If you have seen me you have seen the Father,” and so on.  These sayings are found only in John, not in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  That seems very odd if the historical Jesus really went around making such claims about himself.  How could the three earliest Gospels (and their sources: Q, M, and L!) not say anything about Jesus making such radical claims if they knew he made them.  Wouldn’t that be the most significant thing to say about Jesus, that he called himself God?  Did all of them simply decide not to mention that part?

That seems unlikely.   It is far more likely that they had never heard of such a thing, and so didn’t report it.

In fact, there is a passage that is analogous to what Ehrman himself thinks would be a “claim to divine status”: “If you have seen me you have seen the Father”:

Mark 9:37 (RSV) “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (cf. 12:1-11 at the end, below)

If “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9; cf. 12:45) means claiming to be God (as Ehrman states) then by the same logic and exegesis, “whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me” also means claiming to be God. Therefore, Jesus made this claim, according to the Gospel of Mark. Moreover, there is a more or less exact parallel passage in John:

John 13:19-20 I tell you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. [20] Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives any one whom I send receives me; and he who receives me receives him who sent me.

But there is more! The motif of being “sent” which is also present in Mark 9:37 is also massively present in the Gospel of John:

John 3:34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for it is not by measure that he gives the Spirit;

John 4:34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.

John 5:23-24 that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. [24] Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

John 5:30 I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 5:37-38 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness to me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen; [38] and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe him whom he has sent.

John 6:29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

John 6:38-40 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; [39] and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. [40] For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:57-58 “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. [58] This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.”

John 7:16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me;”

John 7:18 He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.

John 7:28-29 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from? But I have not come of my own accord; he who sent me is true, and him you do not know. [29] I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”

John 7:33 Jesus then said, “I shall be with you a little longer, and then I go to him who sent me;”

John 8:16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he who sent me.

John 8:18 I bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me.

John 8:26 . . . he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.

John 8:29 And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.

John 8:42 . . . I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.

John 9:4 We must work the works of him who sent me . . .

John 10:36 “do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

John 12:45 And he who sees me sees him who sent me.

John 12:49 For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak.

John 13:16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.

John 14:24 He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

John 15:21 . . . they do not know him who sent me.

John 16:5 But now I am going to him who sent me . . .

John 17:3 . . . Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.

John 17:18 . . . thou didst send me into the world . . .

John 17:21 . . . so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (cf. 17:23, 25)

John 20:21 . . . the Father has sent me . . .

Lastly, Jesus utters a parable, in which the “son” that was “sent” clearly represents Himself:

Mark 12:1-11 And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. [2] When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. [3] And they took him and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. [4] Again he sent to them another servant, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. [5] And he sent another, and him they killed; and so with many others, some they beat and some they killed. [6] He had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, `They will respect my son.’ [7] But those tenants said to one another, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ [8] And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. [9] What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others. [10] Have you not read this scripture: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; [11] this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

***

Practical Matters: Perhaps some of my 4,000+ free online articles (the most comprehensive “one-stop” Catholic apologetics site) or fifty books have helped you (by God’s grace) to decide to become Catholic or to return to the Church, or better understand some doctrines and why we believe them.

Or you may believe my work is worthy to support for the purpose of apologetics and evangelism in general. If so, please seriously consider a much-needed financial contribution. I’m always in need of more funds: especially monthly support. “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim 5:18, NKJV). 1 December 2021 was my 20th anniversary as a full-time Catholic apologist, and February 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of my blog.

PayPal donations are the easiest: just send to my email address: apologistdave@gmail.com. You’ll see the term “Catholic Used Book Service”, which is my old side-business. To learn about the different methods of contributing, including 100% tax deduction, etc., see my page: About Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong / Donation InformationThanks a million from the bottom of my heart!

***

Photo credit: geralt (6-20-18) [Pixabay / Pixabay License]

***

Summary: Agnostic Bible skeptic Bart Ehrman denies that Jesus is God in Mark. I show that He is, since receiving Him is receiving God, & because God the Father “sent” Him.

March 25, 2022

Bart Ehrman is one of the most well-known and influential critics of traditional Christianity and the inspired Bible (“anti-theists”) writing today. Formerly, in his own words, he was “a fundamentalist for maybe 6 years; a conservative evangelical but not extreme right wing for maybe 5 years more; and a fairly mainstream liberal Christian for about 25.” The primary reason he gives for having lost his faith is the problem of evil (a very serious topic I have dealt with many times). He stated on 3-18-22 in a comment on his blog: “I could no longer explain how there could be a God active in this world given all the pain and misery in it.” I don’t question his sincerity, good intentions, intellectual honesty, or his past status as a Christian; only various opinions which Christians must (in consistency) regard as erroneous.

Dr. Ehrman “received his PhD and MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied textual criticism of the Bible, development of the New Testament canon and New Testament apocrypha under Bruce Metzger.” He has written 30 books, which have sold over two million copies and have been translated into 27 languages.

Ehrman explains that the purpose of his blog is “to disseminate scholarly knowledge of the New Testament and the earliest periods of the Christian church to a non-scholarly audience, . . . Every post is rooted in scholarship – not just my own but that of thousands of scholars who have worked for centuries on understanding the historical Jesus, the New Testament, and the origins of Christianity.” Well, the conclusions of scholars are only as good as the solidity and truthfulness of the premises by which they are operating.

This is one of a series of reply-papers, in which I will address many of his materials from the perspective of archaeology, history, and exegesis.

*****

I am responding in this article to a particular erroneous point Dr. Ehrman makes about the star of Bethlehem, in which (so I will contend) he fundamentally misunderstands the biblical text and the presence of habitual phenomenological language in the Bible. Here is what he has stated (his words will be in blue):

How does a star . . . lead the Magi not just to Bethlehem but stop over a house?  How does a star stop over a house? (12-26-19)

Miracles, of course, defy historical explanation. But even so, are there features of the two accounts that are difficult to explain even on the assumption that miracles happen?  How, for example, does the “star of Bethlehem” in Matthew stop moving over Jerusalem, resume moving, and then stop over a house? (11-18-21)

When I discuss this account while wearing my historical-critical hat, I talk about the plausibility of . . . a star that stops moving over a city, and then over an actual house, . . . (12-25-21)

What Does it Mean to Say that the Star of Bethlehem “Went Before” the Wise Men (Matthew 2:9)?

This refers to (in context) to the wise men being in Jerusalem and talking to Herod (Mt 2:1, 7-9). He “sent them to Bethlehem” (2:8), which is south of Jerusalem, about six miles (I myself traveled this route in 2014). Therefore, this (I submit) is what the Bible (which habitually uses phenomenological language) means by saying that the star “went before” them.

In other words, it would always have been “ahead” or “in front of” or “before” them as they traveled: much as we say we are “following the sun west” or how American slaves (in folklore, at least, if not in fact) attempting to escape to the north followed the “drinking gourd” (the “Big Dipper”) north.

Thus, one could say that the Big Dipper or North Star “went before” the slaves, just as we say they “followed” it. The North Star would also lead anyone to the North Pole if they kept following it; that is, by our vantage-point it would “go before” them.

We also refer to the sun “rising” and “setting” as if it is moving. But we know that the appearance of its movement to our eye is due to the earth’s rotation. It’s all phenomenological language, which we use all the time, just as the biblical writers also did. Hence, “The Bible History Guy” writes:

Later that year, in late November to early December of 2 B.C., Jupiter’s position in the sky, when viewed from Jerusalem, was to the south – in the direction of Bethlehem. This was six months after the brilliant birthday conjunction of Jupiter and Venus. This was just the right time for the Magi to reach Jerusalem. (1)

We know from the astronomical charts that Jupiter was to the south from Jerusalem; therefore, it “went before” the wise men as they traveled south to Bethlehem: the journey that the text refers to.

Jupiter wouldn’t have moved much on the way from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. A camel travels about 3 mph average, so it would have taken two hours to get to Bethlehem. That’s roughly the entire time the Bible refers to them (in non-literal language, I believe) following a star. In the language of appearance (non-literal language), it “went before them” not in perceived motion, but because it was always ahead of them on the way.

Dag Kihlman provides an even more fascinating and specific view:

Jupiter — if this was the star of Bethlehem — was not seen in the early evenings in December in 2 BC. It rose very late, at roughly 9 PM. . . .

A more realistic view (if Jupiter was the star of Bethlehem) is that the magi traveled early in the morning, when Jupiter was still visible. . . . In the early morning, Jupiter was south of Jerusalem, and thus in the direction of Bethlehem.

If the magi travelled in the early morning they would probably have followed the normal route between Jerusalem and Bethlehem: Derech Beit Lechem. This route follows the terrain and slowly turns to the west. If the magi started at a suitable hour, they would have had Jupiter in front of them as they left Jerusalem. If they travelled by donkey, camel or horse . . . they would have had Jupiter in front of them all the way to Bethlehem, since Jupiter would have moved slowly to the west just as the road slowly turned west. (2)

How Do We Understand the Star of Bethlehem Coming to “Rest Over the Place Where the Child Was”?

Matthew 2:9 (RSV) . . . the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was.

“The Bible History Guy” again provides a good summary of what the astronomical data indicate:

On December 2, 2 B.C., Jupiter entered retrograde motion. It continued in this state till December 25 (Julian calendar). During this time, Jupiter appeared to travel horizontally above Bethlehem, when viewed from Jerusalem, while the other planets visible, Mercury and Venus, dipped normally toward the horizon as they traversed the night sky. Jupiter’s horizontal stasis throughout December – right above Bethlehem when viewed from Jerusalem – made it appear to come to rest, as Matthew recorded, above the City of David. (3)

What is the “retrograde motion” of planets? Astronomer Christopher Crockett explains:

Typically, the planets shift slightly eastward from night to night, drifting slowly against the backdrop of stars. From time to time, however, they change direction. For a few months, they’ll head west before turning back around and resuming their easterly course. Their westward motion is called retrograde motion by astronomers. . . . [It’s] an illusion caused by the motion of Earth and these planets around the sun. (4)

As an analogy, when we pass a car on the freeway, it temporarily seems to be moving backwards. As already noted above: in December, 2 BC, Jupiter appeared to come to a stop above Bethlehem and — according to some researchers — remained there seemingly motionless for six days (5).

Ernest L. Martin noted that at dawn on December 25th in that area, it would have been at an elevation of 68 degrees, above the southern horizon: shining down on Bethlehem. See:  The Star That Astonished the World, published in 1991 (6). It would have been the brightest “star” in the sky on that day and location.

Another important aspect of this discussion is the clause “it came to rest over the place where the child was.” First of all, the text does not say that this means it shone specifically onto a “house.” This is a common misconception. Matthew 2:11 (i.e., two verses later) simply says they went “into a house”: not that the star was shining on it, identifying it. We must be precise about what any given text under consideration actually asserts and does not assert. Two of the very best and renowned Protestant Bible commentators and exegetes of our time agree:

It is not said to indicate the precise house, but the general location where the child was. (R. T. France [see link for citation]) (7)

The Greek text does not imply that the star pointed out the house where Jesus was or that it led the travelers through twisty streets; it may simply have hovered over Bethlehem as the Magi approached it. (D. A. Carson [see link for citation]) (8)

Let’s examine the actual biblical text a little more closely. The Greek “adverb of place” in Matthew 2:9 is hou (Strong’s word #3757). In RSV hou is translated by “the place where” (in KJV, simply “where”). It applies to a wide range of meanings beyond something as specific as a house.

In other passages in RSV it refers to a mountain (Mt 28:16), Nazareth (Lk 4:16), a village (Lk 24:28), the land of Midian (Acts 7:29), Puteoli (Pozzuoli): a sizeable city in Italy (Acts 28:14), and the vast wilderness that Moses and the Hebrews traveled through (Heb 3:9). Thus it can easily, plausibly refer to “Bethlehem” in Matthew 2:9.

In RSV (Mt 2:9), hou is translated by the italicized words: “it came to rest over the place where the child was.” The question, then, is: what does it mean by “place” in this instance? What is the star said to be “over”? As we’ve seen, other uses of the same word referred to a variety of larger areas. The text does not specifically say that “it stood over a house.” Yet many able and sincere, but in my opinion mistaken, Christian commentators (along with the skeptics) seem to think it does.

This is an important point because it goes to the issue of supernatural or natural. A “star” (whatever it is) shining a beam down on one house would be (I agree) supernatural; not any kind of “star” we know of in the natural world. But a star shining on an area; in the direction of an area (which a bright Jupiter was to Bethlehem in my scenario: at 68 degrees in the sky) is a perfectly natural event.

Matthew 2:9 is similar to how we say in English: “where I was, I could see the conjunction very well.” “Where” obviously refers to a place. And one’s place is many things simultaneously. Thus, when I saw the “star of Bethlehem”-like conjunction in December 2020, I was in a field, near my house (in my neighborhood), in my town (Tecumseh), in my county (Lenawee), in my state (Michigan), and in my country (United States).

This is my point about “place” in Matthew 2:9. It can mean larger areas, beyond just “house.” If the text doesn’t say specifically, “the star shone on the house” then we can’t say for sure that this is what the text meant.

I have found 18 other English Bible translations of Matthew 2:9 that also have “the place where” (Weymouth, Moffatt, Confraternity, Knox, NEB, REB, NRSV, Lamsa, Amplified, Phillips, TEV, NIV, Jerusalem, Williams, Beck, NAB, Kleist & Lilly, and Goodspeed).

In all these cases, they are translating hou: literally meaning “where” but at the same time implying place (which is the “where” referred to). The Living Bible (a very modern paraphrase) has “standing over Bethlehem”: which of course, bolsters my argument as well (because it didn’t say “house”).

All these things being understood, all the text in question plausibly meant is that the bright star was shining down on Bethlehem, just as we have all seen the moon or some bright star shining on a mountain in the distance or tall building or some other landmark.

A man might see the light from the harvest moon romantically shining on his girlfriend or wife’s face. It need not necessarily mean that this is all it is shining on. It simply looks that way from our particular vantage-point.

All of this is in my opinion, more plausible and straightforward and in line with biblical thinking than positing a supernatural “star.” It’s true that many reputable and observant Christian biblical commentators exist who do argue for that interpretation, and I don’t disparage them at all. Theirs are honest efforts just as mine is. Reasonable and equally devout Christians can and do disagree. I can only present the reasons for why I hold to my opinion.

Thus it can easily, plausibly refer to “Bethlehem” in Matthew 2:9. It may be that many readers (filled with the endless – sometimes inaccurate — images of Christmas from childhood) confuse this with another Christmas passage:

Luke 2:8-9 And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. [9]  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.

Note that it is the light from an angel (rather than a star) that “shone around them” and they were not yet visiting Jesus. Thus, Luke 2:15 states: “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened . . .” They were not in the same place. When I visited Bethlehem in 2014, I saw exactly how far it was: at least according to local tradition. The birth site is a considerable distance away, and at a higher elevation.

We mustn’t be led astray by extraneous factors when exegeting Holy Scripture. I believe the explanation I have adopted is feasible and in complete harmony with both science and the biblical texts.

To say, then, that the star “came to rest over the place” is to observe that they didn’t see it moving much over Bethlehem once they arrived there. I’m not an astronomer, so I can only cite other people who know more about these aspects. If the wise men hit the right day (in Bethlehem), Jupiter would have appeared to be stationary.

In the Christian view, God in His providence could have again arranged that the wise men, exercising their own free will, arrived at just the right time when the bright Jupiter appeared to be a sign above Jerusalem for this king Whom they believed was indicated by what they saw in Persia or Babylon (both due east).

Commentator Peter Pett stated that Jupiter “was actually stationary on December 25, interestingly enough, during Hanukkah, the season for giving presents.” (9) That was in 2 BC. Note again that I am not saying this is when Jesus was born, but rather, when He was at least a year old.

Ivor Bulmer-Thomas opined (10):

As a planet approaches a stationary point and then moves away from it its motion is very slow, hardly detectable by the naked eye for about a week. The Magi would have noticed the slowing down of the planet as they approached Bethlehem, and they would have recognized that a stationary point was near.

Now what is even more interesting is Bulmer-Thomas’ documentation that the ancients knew about retrograde motion of the planets, and stationary points:

[T]here is a wealth of material showing directly that for several centuries before the birth of Christ and round about the time of his birth Babylonian astronomers were deeply interested in retrogradations and stationary points. It is contained in hundreds of cuneiform texts excavated in Babylon and Uruk . . . The three volumes of Neugebauer’s Astronomical Cuneiform Texts (1955) give a vast collection of Babylonian inscriptions dealing with retrogradations and stations. (11)

This is highly significant because it would mean not only that Matthew 2:9 uses phenomenological language, but also that the Magi understood retrograde motion of planets, which may lie behind the terminology (received from oral tradition) of “came to rest over” Bethlehem.

And in my opinion these facts support my natural interpretation all the more, because it’s not just (as a critic might say) “projecting” our modern scientific understanding onto the Bible, but an understanding that already existed and was known by the Wise Men.

But if the star didn’t shine right on the “house” (Mt 2:11) where Jesus was, how did the Wise Men find it? We too often make things too complicated by over-analyzing them.  They would simply have to ask the locals about this child who generated so much excitement one or two years previously, and where He lived. Word about notable events travels fast in small towns and people know each other.

It would be like when I visited Woodstock, New York in 1992 and asked someone at a gas station if they knew where “Big Pink” was: the famous house (i.e., to rock music fans) where Bob Dylan and The Band (some of whom lived there) recorded The Basement Tapes in 1967. It so happened that this man lived there, so he took me right to it. That’s how small towns are.

Woodstock, New York in 1990 had a population of 6,290, and yet I could get to a particular house (actually several miles away in the countryside) by running into one man at a gas station. The population of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ infancy was estimated to be only 300 by eminent archaeologist William F. Albright. Other Bible scholars think it was no more than a thousand. Yet we are to assume that no one there knew where Jesus and Mary and Joseph lived? That goes against common sense.

Footnotes

(1) “The Bible History Guy”, “The Real Star of Bethlehem”, 12-12-19.

(2) The Star of Bethlehem and Babylonian Astrology: Astronomy and Revelation Reveal What the Magi Saw, self-published, 2017, pp. 97-98.

(3) “The Bible History Guy”, ibid.

(4) “What is retrograde motion?”, EarthSky, 2-6-17.

(5) See, for example, Susan S. Carroll, “The Star of Bethlehem: An Astronomical and Historical Perspective”, 1997,

(6) Available online at Associates for Scriptural Knowledge.

(7) The Gospel According to MatthewAn Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1985), p. 84.

(8) Matthew; part of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, revised edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Academic, 1917), page undetermined at the Google Books page.

(9) Pett’s Commentary on the Bible (on Matthew 2:9). No date is given for the commentary. The author appears to still be living.

(10) “Star of Bethlehem” (Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 33, Dec. 1992), 371.

(11) Ibid., 370.

***

Note: in my particular model, the wise men visit Jesus in December of 2 BC, and I apply the objective data of what we know regarding astronomical events in and around Bethlehem at that time (particularly Jupiter and its retrograde motion). Elsewhere, I deal with the related dating issue of when Herod died, the census, etc. (see many articles collected on my Christmas web page). But generally speaking, retrograde motion of planets, the wise men’s knowledge of same, and phenomenological language in the Bible are points that stand on their own, and I believe that they provide the key to understanding the biblical texts here examined.

But Ehrman interprets hyper-literally (like fundamentalists do) and so he misses the entire point, which is far more subtle and complex than he seems to think possible with the biblical text and that time and place. This is not even a miracle, but rather, a perfectly normal celestial event, that we are able to determine through science: which took place in December, 2 BC in the vicinity of Bethlehem.

***

Practical Matters: Perhaps some of my 4,000+ free online articles (the most comprehensive “one-stop” Catholic apologetics site) or fifty books have helped you (by God’s grace) to decide to become Catholic or to return to the Church, or better understand some doctrines and why we believe them.

Or you may believe my work is worthy to support for the purpose of apologetics and evangelism in general. If so, please seriously consider a much-needed financial contribution. I’m always in need of more funds: especially monthly support. “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim 5:18, NKJV). 1 December 2021 was my 20th anniversary as a full-time Catholic apologist, and February 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of my blog.

PayPal donations are the easiest: just send to my email address: apologistdave@gmail.com. You’ll see the term “Catholic Used Book Service”, which is my old side-business. To learn about the different methods of contributing, including 100% tax deduction, etc., see my page: About Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong / Donation InformationThanks a million from the bottom of my heart!

***

Photo credit: iessephoto (12-26-20) [Pixabay / Pixabay License]

***

Summary: Agnostic Bible skeptic Bart Ehrman puzzles over what he thinks is a “star stopping over a house.” I counter that the Bible doesn’t even assert this in the first place.

March 24, 2022

Jesus “Scarcely” Talks About Himself in the Synoptics? No Parables At All in John?

Bart Ehrman is one of the most well-known and influential critics of traditional Christianity and the inspired Bible (“anti-theists”) writing today. Formerly, in his own words, he was “a fundamentalist for maybe 6 years; a conservative evangelical but not extreme right wing for maybe 5 years more; and a fairly mainstream liberal Christian for about 25.” The primary reason he gives for having lost his faith is the problem of evil (a very serious topic I have dealt with many times). He stated on 3-18-22 in a comment on his blog: “I could no longer explain how there could be a God active in this world given all the pain and misery in it.” I don’t question his sincerity, good intentions, intellectual honesty, or his past status as a Christian; only various opinions which Christians must (in consistency) regard as erroneous.

Dr. Ehrman “received his PhD and MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied textual criticism of the Bible, development of the New Testament canon and New Testament apocrypha under Bruce Metzger.” He has written 30 books, which have sold over two million copies and have been translated into 27 languages.

Ehrman explains that the purpose of his blog is “to disseminate scholarly knowledge of the New Testament and the earliest periods of the Christian church to a non-scholarly audience, . . . Every post is rooted in scholarship – not just my own but that of thousands of scholars who have worked for centuries on understanding the historical Jesus, the New Testament, and the origins of Christianity.” Well, the conclusions of scholars are only as good as the solidity and truthfulness of the premises by which they are operating.

This is one of a series of reply-papers, in which I will address many of his materials from the perspective of archaeology, history, and exegesis.

*****

I am responding to his article, Is This the Same Teacher? Jesus in John and the Synoptics. (10-4-17). His words will be in blue.

In the Synoptic Gospels, you will have noticed that Jesus scarcely ever speaks about himself. There his message is about the coming kingdom of God and about what people must do to prepare for it. His regular mode of instruction is the parable. 

To the contrary, He massively speaks about himself, by using the method of referring to Himself as the “Son of Man.” Elsewhere (in many posts), Ehrman tries to vainly argue that Jesus thought the Son of Man was someone else. But this won’t fly. His use of the phrase clearly is referring to Himself, as countless clues from immediate context prove. See Him doing this 82 times.

Even Ehrman concedes that this appears to be the case several times, but then he argues from Mark 8:38 (which he believes is actually Jesus’ words: a rare case!), that the passage (“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” [RSV] ) cannot possibly be understood in and of itself as referring to Him.

This is also untrue. Seven verses earlier He clearly applies the title to Himself: “And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Moreover, there is the parallelism: “ashamed of me [?] . . . [I’ll] the Son of man will be ashamed of you . . .” Verses can’t be read in total isolation.

But there is much more reference to Himself in the Synoptics, which proves that it is false to claim that Jesus “scarcely ever speaks about himself” in these three Gospels:

Matthew 4:19 (RSV) And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (cf. Mk 1:17)

Matthew 5:17 Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.

Matthew 10:22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

Matthew 10:32-33 So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; [33] but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (cf. Lk 12:8-9)

Matthew 10:34-35 Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. [35] For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

Matthew 10:37-38 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; [38] and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10:40 He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. (cf. Lk 10:16)

Matthew 11:6 And blessed is he who takes no offense at me. (cf. Lk 7:23)

Matthew 11:27-29 All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. [cf. Lk 10:22] [28] Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. [29] Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew 12:30 He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. (cf. Lk 11:23)

Matthew 13:15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them. (cf. Mt 13:13-14 and Is 6:9-10) [Jesus is citing an Old Testament passage about God and applying it to Himself]

Matthew 15:32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat; and I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”

Matthew 16:16-17, 20 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” [17] And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”… [20] Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. (cf. Mk 8:27-30; 9:41; Lk 4:41; 9:18-21; Jn 4:25-26)

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (cf. Lk 9:23)

Matthew 16:25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 18:5-6 Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; [6] but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (cf. Mk 9:37, 42; Lk 9:48)

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Matthew 24:5 For many will come in my name, saying, `I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. (cf. Lk 21:8)

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Matthew 26:31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night; for it is written, `I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

Matthew 26:32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee. (cf. Mk 14:28)

Matthew 26:53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me

Matthew 28:20 . . . I am with you always, to the close of the age.

Mark 9:39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me.

Mark 10:29-30 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, [30] who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (cf. Mt 19:29; Lk 18:30)

Mark 10:38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?

Mark 14:7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you will, you can do good to them; but you will not always have me.

Mark 14:61-62 . . . Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” [62] And Jesus said, “I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (cf. Lk 22:70)

Luke 2:49 And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Luke 5:32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

Luke 9:18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone the disciples were with him; and he asked them, “Who do the people say that I am?”

Luke 9:26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Luke 12:49-50 I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! [50] I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!

Luke 13:35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, `Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'”

Luke 14:27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

Luke 22:15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer;

Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Luke 22:32 I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.

Luke 22:37 For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, `And he was reckoned with transgressors’; for what is written about me has its fulfilment.”

Luke 24:25-27 And he said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! [26] Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” [27] And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

Jesus teaches in His own authority (“I say to you”) in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:18-34, etc.), and many other passages. The prophets, in contrast, spoke as God’s messengers in the second person (“The Lord says…”). He often talks in a way in which only God could speak, and distinguishes Himself from the prophets (Mt 13:17). Perhaps the most striking example of this occurs in Matthew 23:

Matthew 23:34, 37 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes… [37] O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (cf. Jud 6:8; 2 Ki 17:13; 2 Chr 24:19; Jer 7:25; 25:4; 26:5; 29:19; 35:15; 44:4; Hag 1:12; Zech 7:12)

Luke 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (cf. Mt 23:37; Dt 32:11-12; Ruth 2:12; Ps 36:7; 57:1; 63:7; 91:4)

That’s an awful lot of material to be described as something Jesus “scarcely ever” did, ain’t it? I guess Christians and Ehrman live in alternate universes. We don’t even see the same things. Where we see green, he sees red. Go figure . . .

In John, however, Jesus does not speak in parables (which he never uses)

He rarely does, but “never” (one of Ehrman’s unfortunately frequent “universal negatives”) is woefully inaccurate. In John 10:1-5, Jesus taught about the shepherd and the sheep. Then John 10:6 states (very similar to many instances of His parables): “This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” Then He proceeds to explain that He was the “good shepherd” (Jn 10:7-16).

Moreover, in John 16:20-22, Jesus compares a woman about to deliver a child to the agony and joy of the disciples after they would see Jesus risen. This is parabolic technique as well. Jesus uses a parable-like analogy in John 3:8: “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.”

In John 4:32-38 Jesus makes two quick parable-like analogies to food and the harvest (“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest.”: 4:35). In John 12:24, Jesus compares His death and resurrection to a grain of wheat dying, but then bearing much fruit as a result. His teaching on the vine and the branches is very much like a parable:

John 15:1-8 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. [2] Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. [3] You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. [4] Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. [5] I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. [6] If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. [7] If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. [8] By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.

In the early part of John 6 (not the latter part, which is literal and eucharistic), Jesus compares Himself as savior and deliverer of “eternal life” to the manna in the wilderness:

John 6:47-51 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. [48] I am the bread of life. [49] Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. [50] This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. [51] I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Once again, this contradicts the description of Jesus “never” supposedly making parable-like utterances in John. It’s the same Jesus, and He teaches generally or broadly in the same way (if not in all minute particulars): using massive analogies or word-pictures.

nor does he proclaim the imminent appearance of the kingdom (which he never mentions).

Again, it appears that Ehrman reads a different Bible than we do:

John 3:3, 5 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” . . . [5] Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Moreover, Jesus is described as a “king” in John, which is part and parcel of the “kingdom of heaven.” He’s the king. He doesn’t reject the title when someone applies it to Him (1:49), nor during Palm Sunday, when people say this, and the text sees it as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (12:13-15). And He explicitly affirms that He is the “king” under questioning from Pilate (18:33-37).

In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus has come down from the Father and is soon to return to him. His message alone can bring eternal life. He himself is equal with God. He existed before he came into the world. . . . He says that he is the one sent from God to bring life to the world, and he does signs to show that what he says is true.

His preexistence is strongly implied in the Synoptics, which also use the terminology of the Son being “sent” by the Father (Mt 10:40; 15:24; 21:37 [same notion in a parable; cf. Mk 12:6]; Mk 9:37; Lk 4:18, 43; 10:16) and the equation of folks receiving Jesus, which also means that they receive God the Father (Mt 10:40; Mk 9:37; Lk 10:16). I have gathered the abundant overall evidence of the deity of Christ in the Synoptic Gospels at least four times:

Deity of Jesus: Called Lord/Kurios & God/Theos [10-24-11]

Seidensticker Folly #55: Godhood of Jesus in the Synoptics [9-12-20]

9 Ways Jesus Tells Us He is God in the Synoptic Gospels [National Catholic Register, 10-28-20]

Ehrman Errors #2: Jesus is God in the Synoptics (With Emphasis on the Term “Son of God” Applied to Jesus in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and Its Implications) [3-19-22]

He reveals God’s glory. Only those who receive his message can partake of the world that is above, only they are in the light, and only they can enter into the truth.

We see similar passages about disciples being the bearer of “light” in several passages in the Synoptics (Mt 5:14-16; 6:22; Lk 11:33-36; 16:8). As always, the four Gospels are complementary, not contradictory. They are fully consistent with each other. Ehrman mentions Jesus saying “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12). But the Synoptics teach the same thing about Him (Mt 4:16; Lk 1:79; 2:32).

Yeah, John has a lot more “stuff” and different and unique things (absolutely): to which the Christian says: “so what? Ho hum. It’s all there in the Bible for our instruction. Different books highlight different things.” Ehrman seems to find this the most inexplicably curious and foreign notion. We see it as common sense and wisdom from God.

He presents other arguments of a similar nature that are able to be shot down as well, but I have put more than enough time and effort into this reply already, and it is sufficient.

***

Ehrman replied in the combox:

So when the prophets of the OT were sent from God, or John the Baptist, does that mean they pre-existed? (3-27-22, 3:43 PM)

I counter-replied:

No. I’d appeal to your own words above, which seem different from what you are now saying. You wrote:

In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus has come down from the Father and is soon to return to him. … He existed before he came into the world…. He says that he is the one sent from God to bring life to the world, … How does one belong to the world that is above? By believing in the one who has come from that world, Jesus (3:31). … it is an appeal to believe in the one sent from heaven so as to have eternal life in the here and now.

With these comments you appear to think that when Jesus says He was “sent” in John, He was referring to His preexistence. I agree! My point is that He also does so in the Synoptics (Mt 10:4015:2421:37Mk 12:69:37Lk 4:184310:16).

Did you read my article? Obviously, no dialogue of much substance can occur here, with a two-comment, 400 word-per-day limit. I had barely enough words allowed to me to make this reply, and it’s my second comment of the day. But thanks for the 20-word reply!

No, I didn’t read your article. And yes, in John Jesus clearly states he pre-existed, as does the Prologue. That is precisely what we don’t have in the Synoptics. “Sent” language is common in the prophets of Scripture, with no reference to pre-existence.

I agree that pre-existence is not explicit in Mark, but it is in Matthew and Luke, as I already noted in my article:

***

Jesus teaches in His own authority (“I say to you”) in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:18-34, etc.), and many other passages. The prophets, in contrast, spoke as God’s messengers in the second person (“The Lord says…”). He often talks in a way in which only God could speak, and distinguishes Himself from the prophets (Mt 13:17). Perhaps the most striking example of this occurs in Matthew 23:

Matthew 23:34, 37 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes… [37] O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (cf. Lk 13:34; Jud 6:8; 2 Ki 17:13; 2 Chr 24:19; Jer 7:25; 25:4; 26:5; 29:19; 35:15; 44:4; Hag 1:12; Zech 7:12)

Prophets don’t send other prophets. Only God sends prophets. Since Jesus is speaking in the first person of sending prophets, it’s a claim to be God. This proves His pre-existence in two ways: 1) only God does this, and he says He does it; and 2) John the Baptist was the last prophet, and he was born before Jesus; therefore, if Jesus “sent” him, He was pre-existent.

***

Practical Matters: Perhaps some of my 4,000+ free online articles (the most comprehensive “one-stop” Catholic apologetics site) or fifty books have helped you (by God’s grace) to decide to become Catholic or to return to the Church, or better understand some doctrines and why we believe them.

Or you may believe my work is worthy to support for the purpose of apologetics and evangelism in general. If so, please seriously consider a much-needed financial contribution. I’m always in need of more funds: especially monthly support. “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim 5:18, NKJV). 1 December 2021 was my 20th anniversary as a full-time Catholic apologist, and February 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of my blog.

PayPal donations are the easiest: just send to my email address: apologistdave@gmail.com. You’ll see the term “Catholic Used Book Service”, which is my old side-business. To learn about the different methods of contributing, including 100% tax deduction, etc., see my page: About Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong / Donation InformationThanks a million from the bottom of my heart!

***

Photo credit: Christ and the young rich ruler (1889), by Heinrich Hofmann (1824-1911) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

Summary: Agnostic Bible skeptic Bart Ehrman writes about the topic of “Jesus: Synoptics vs. John?” & argues incorrectly that John is fundamentally different & contradictory.

March 24, 2022

Bart Ehrman is one of the most well-known and influential critics of traditional Christianity and the inspired Bible (“anti-theists”) writing today. Formerly, in his own words, he was “a fundamentalist for maybe 6 years; a conservative evangelical but not extreme right wing for maybe 5 years more; and a fairly mainstream liberal Christian for about 25.” The primary reason he gives for having lost his faith is the problem of evil (a very serious topic I have dealt with many times). He stated on 3-18-22 in a comment on his blog: “I could no longer explain how there could be a God active in this world given all the pain and misery in it.” I don’t question his sincerity, good intentions, intellectual honesty, or his past status as a Christian; only various opinions which Christians must (in consistency) regard as erroneous.

Dr. Ehrman “received his PhD and MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied textual criticism of the Bible, development of the New Testament canon and New Testament apocrypha under Bruce Metzger.” He has written 30 books, which have sold over two million copies and have been translated into 27 languages.

Ehrman explains that the purpose of his blog is “to disseminate scholarly knowledge of the New Testament and the earliest periods of the Christian church to a non-scholarly audience, . . . Every post is rooted in scholarship – not just my own but that of thousands of scholars who have worked for centuries on understanding the historical Jesus, the New Testament, and the origins of Christianity.” Well, the conclusions of scholars are only as good as the solidity and truthfulness of the premises by which they are operating.

This is one of a series of reply-papers, in which I will address many of his materials from the perspective of archaeology, history, and exegesis.

*****

I am responding to a portion of his article, Internal Discrepancies in the Gospel of John (6-26-18). His words will be in blue.

In John 5:1, Jesus goes to Jerusalem, where he spends the entire chapter healing and teaching. The author’s comment after this discourse, however, is somewhat puzzling: “After this, Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee” (6:1). How could he go to the other side of the sea if he is not already on one of its sides? In fact, he is nowhere near the Sea of Galilee; he is in Jerusalem of Judea.

This might seem strange to us but it wouldn’t at all to Galilean Jews in the first century who lived on the west side of the Sea of Galilee (Capernaum, where Peter’s house was and where Jesus stayed for a time). The east side was known by them as the “other side” because it was a different culture: a Gentile one. I can think of at least two American examples that are analogous to this usage.

The Grand Canyon in Arizona has, of course, two sides, or rims: the south rim and the north rim. The south rim is vastly more popular and gets ten times as many visitors. I had visited the south rim three times (hiking to the bottom on my second visit), and then in 2019 finally visited the north rim. If I were talking to anyone who had been to the Grand Canyon, I could have said, “we went to the other side of the Grand Canyon this year” and they would know exactly what I was talking about.

Secondly, as a Michigander, if I were to say that “we’re gonna visit the other side of Lake Huron / Michigan / Superior / Erie” (i.e., the Great Lakes), it would be immediately understood by anyone from Michigan that it’s the west side of Lake Michigan (in Illinois and Wisconsin), the east side of Lake Huron and north side of Lake Superior (in Ontario, Canada), and the south side of Lake Erie (in Ohio). And I have visited all those places. It has to do with the side that one is more familiar with (the Michigan side!) and/or where one lives. In that context, “the other side” is immediately understood. This analogy is almost a perfect one.

And that’s exactly what we have with regard to “the other side” of the Sea of Galilee. It was understood by Galileans that the west side was far more familiar and that referring to “the other side” was clearly the eastern Gentile side of the lake. There is still very little on the immediate shores on the east side to this day (I visited the area in 2014). Accordingly, not just the Gospel of John, but the other three Gospels all use this standard title in referring to the east side of the Sea of Galilee: which is precisely how it could be referred to as a destination from any part of the country (in this instance, from Jerusalem):

Matthew (four times): Matthew 8:18, 28; 14:22; 16:5.

Mark (five times): Mark 4:35; 5:1, 21; 6:45; 8:13.

Luke (one time): Luke 8:22.

John (three times): John 6:1, 22, 25.

The title was understood to such an extent that in all but two of fifteen instances of the phrase “other side” occurring in the New Testament, it refers to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee (Luke 10:30-31 being a generic, “non-title” usage). They didn’t even bother to say “east side” or “Gentile side” of the lake or whatever the region was called then (Gerasa or Gergesa, etc.) because everyone knew what “the other side” referred to. The Evangelists could have used the phrase “east side” had they chosen to (it appears 33 times in the Old Testament, though not in the new, and “east” appears eight times in the NT). But none of them chose to do that.

In any event, this objection is really “scraping the bottom of the barrel” in terms of alleged biblical “contradictions”: and I’m familiar with hundreds, having replied to a great number of them. Once we understand the reasoning and rationale above, I believe that it vanishes (alongside countless other “faux / pseudo- / alleged ‘contradictions’ “).

***

Practical Matters: Perhaps some of my 4,000+ free online articles (the most comprehensive “one-stop” Catholic apologetics site) or fifty books have helped you (by God’s grace) to decide to become Catholic or to return to the Church, or better understand some doctrines and why we believe them.

Or you may believe my work is worthy to support for the purpose of apologetics and evangelism in general. If so, please seriously consider a much-needed financial contribution. I’m always in need of more funds: especially monthly support. “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim 5:18, NKJV). 1 December 2021 was my 20th anniversary as a full-time Catholic apologist, and February 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of my blog.

PayPal donations are the easiest: just send to my email address: apologistdave@gmail.com. You’ll see the term “Catholic Used Book Service”, which is my old side-business. To learn about the different methods of contributing, including 100% tax deduction, etc., see my page: About Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong / Donation InformationThanks a million from the bottom of my heart!

***

Photo credit: Zachi Evenor (2-5-14) Sea of Galilee: panorama of the southern end [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license]

***

Summary: Agnostic Bible critic Bart Ehrman tries to make out that it’s “contradictory” to refer to the “other side” of the Sea of Galilee without being on the opposite side.

 

March 23, 2022

Bart Ehrman is one of the most well-known and influential critics of traditional Christianity and the inspired Bible (“anti-theists”) writing today. Formerly, in his own words, he was “a fundamentalist for maybe 6 years; a conservative evangelical but not extreme right wing for maybe 5 years more; and a fairly mainstream liberal Christian for about 25.” The primary reason he gives for having lost his faith is the problem of evil (a very serious topic I have dealt with many times). He stated on 3-18-22 in a comment on his blog: “I could no longer explain how there could be a God active in this world given all the pain and misery in it.” I don’t question his sincerity, good intentions, intellectual honesty, or his past status as a Christian; only various opinions which Christians must (in consistency) regard as erroneous.

Dr. Ehrman “received his PhD and MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied textual criticism of the Bible, development of the New Testament canon and New Testament apocrypha under Bruce Metzger.” He has written 30 books, which have sold over two million copies and have been translated into 27 languages.

Ehrman explains that the purpose of his blog is “to disseminate scholarly knowledge of the New Testament and the earliest periods of the Christian church to a non-scholarly audience, . . . Every post is rooted in scholarship – not just my own but that of thousands of scholars who have worked for centuries on understanding the historical Jesus, the New Testament, and the origins of Christianity.” Well, the conclusions of scholars are only as good as the solidity and truthfulness of the premises by which they are operating.

This is one of a series of reply-papers, in which I will address many of his materials from the perspective of archaeology, history, and exegesis.

*****

I am responding to his article, Israel’s Conquest of the Promised Land: Did Any of That Happen? (8-25-21). His words will be in blue.

I want to address a question lots of people typically have about these stories of the Conquest of Canaan in the book of Joshua.   Did any of this happen?

Here’s how I discuss the matter in my book The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction (Oxford University Press), a book you should consider getting if you’re interested in knowing both what’s in the Bible and what scholars say about it from historical and literary perspectives. . . . 

[T]he narratives of Joshua . . . are clearly molded according to theological assumptions and perspectives.  There is almost nothing in the accounts that suggest that the author is trying to be purely descriptive of things that really happened.  He is writing an account that is guided by his religious agenda, not by pure historical interests.  That is why, when read closely, one finds so many problems with the narratives. . . . 

  • In the archaeological record there is no support for the kind of violent destruction of the cities of Canaan – especially the ones mentioned in Joshua.  Think for a second: if one were to look for archaeological evidence, or other external verification, to support the historical narratives of Joshua, what would one look for?
    • References to the invasion and conquest in other written sources.
    • Evidence that there were indeed walled cities and towns in Canaan at the time.
    • Archaeological evidence that the cities and towns mentioned actually were destroyed at the time (Jericho, Ai, Heshbon, etc.).  . . . 

And what kind of verification do we actually get for the narratives of Joshua?  None of the above.  There are no references in any other ancient source to a massive destruction of the cities of Canaan.  There were few walled towns at the time.  Many of the specific cities cited as places of conquest did not even exist as cities at the time. 

I addressed Hazor in my previous article. Remember, Ehrman claimed there was “no support . . . none” for “violent destruction of the cities of Canaan – especially the ones mentioned in Joshua”: as I detail below the actual, specific archaeological evidence that he thinks is nonexistent. It’s easy (and very foolish) to make  “universal negative” statements. And it’s easy as pie to shoot them down. Even a single counter-example already logically demolishes such sweeping and “triumphalistic” claims. But I will produce many counter-examples.

This includes, most notably, Jericho, which was not inhabited in the late 13th century BCE, as archaeologists have decisively shown (see box). 

Jericho is a special case, due to the rapid level of erosion caused by the arid climate and the closeness of the Dead Sea: one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world. I explained this in my paper, Joshua’s Conquest & Archaeology.

The same thing applies to Ai and Heshbon.  These cities were neither occupied, nor conquered, nor re-inhabited in the days of Joshua.

The data from Ai is inconclusive and does not thus far appear to positively support the biblical account. Archaeologist Kenneth Kitchen stated that there was a new settlement “at about 1220/1200 or soon after” (1): which is still Joshua’s era. Avraham Negev and Shimon Gibson state:

The Iron Age I village at et-Tell was probably biblical Ai. The “men of Ai” whom Joshua defeated in the wadi north of the site (Josh. 8:1-29) were probably the first inhabitants of the Iron Age I site. (p. 23)

But Kitchen states that “Ai is enigmatic” (3). The evidence is even much less impressive for Heshbon. Christians need not be embarrassed by the occasional lack of confirmation of Scripture or scanty evidence in archaeology. There are many many more instances where the data confirms the Bible: often rather dramatically. So “score two” for Ehrman. He chose his examples wisely. But his sweeping, grandiose claims regarding the “conquest” do not hold up, as I will now show.

Lachish

Joshua 10:31-32 And Joshua passed on from Libnah, and all Israel with him, to Lachish, and laid siege to it, and assaulted it: [32] and the LORD gave Lachish into the hand of Israel, and he took it on the second day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it, as he had done to Libnah.

Archaeological Level VII of Lachish has been dated to the 13th century BC, and its destruction determined to be the middle or latter part of the 12th century BC. According to Israeli archaeologist David Ussishkin, “the biblical description (in Josh. 10:31-32) fits the archaeological data: a large Canaanite city destroyed by fire; . . . and complete desertion of the razed city explained by the annihilation of the populace.” As with Hazor, a small Iron Age settlements appeared not long afterwards. (4)

Bethel

Judges 1:22-25 The house of Joseph also went up against Bethel; and the LORD was with them. [23] And the house of Joseph sent to spy out Bethel. (Now the name of the city was formerly Luz.) [24] And the spies saw a man coming out of the city, and they said to him, “Pray, show us the way into the city, and we will deal kindly with you.” [25] And he showed them the way into the city; and they smote the city with the edge of the sword, but they let the man and all his family go.

The destruction of the Late Bronze Age town was by fire, and dated by William Albright to around 1240-1235 BC. This was followed by a relatively poor and different Israelite Iron Age I settlement. This was what happened according to archaeologists Amihai Mazar and Israel FinkelsteinNegev and Gibson (5) added that “The last Late Bronze Age stratum is covered by a very thick layer of ashes and charred and fallen bricks.”

Bruce Waltke notes Canaanite cities that underwent “catastrophic destructions”:

Hazor (Tell el-Qedah), Megiddo (Tell el-Mutesellim), Succoth (Tell Deir Alla), Bethel (Beitin), Beth Shemesh (Tell er-Remeileh), Ashdod (Esdud), Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir), Eglon (Tell el-esi), and Debir or Kiriath-Sepher (Tell Beit Mirsim or Khirbet Rabud). . . .

On the other hand, he differentiated cities mentioned in the Bible that show no sign of destruction, in line with the biblical accounts:

Gibeon (el-Jib) (Joshua 9), Taanach (Tell Taaannak) (Judg 1:27), Shechem (Tell Balatah) (Josh 24), Jerusalem (el-Quds) (Josh 15:63; 2 Sam 5:6-9), Beth-shean (Tell el-husn) (Judg 1:27-28), and Gezer (Tell Jezer) (Josh 10:33). (6)

Dr. Kitchen assessed the overall evidence and harmony with the scriptural accounts and concluded “eighteen or nineteen” sites out of twenty “were in being in Late Bronze (II)”, according to what we have determined by archaeology. He stated that Makkedah was an exception to the rule because “most of that site is not accessible, hence is not decisive.” (7)

He concluded from the research: “This review shows up the far greater deficiencies in some critiques of the Joshua narratives and list that are now already out-of-date and distinctly misleading.” (8)

Azekah

Joshua 10:10 And the LORD threw them into a panic before Israel, who slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-hor’on, and smote them as far as Aze’kah and Makke’dah. (cf. 10:11; 15:35).

Azekah was occupied right through the early, Middle, and Late Bronze periods, as well as through the Iron Age . . . (9).

Libnah

Joshua 10:29-30 Then Joshua . . . fought against Libnah; [30] and the LORD gave it also and its king into the hand of Israel; and he smote it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left none remaining in it; . . .

Libnah . . . can be plausibly identified with Tell Bornat (Tel Burna), which was inhabited in the Late Bronze Age, in agreement with the probable date of Joshua’s raids. (10)

. . . settled in the Early Bronze Age and Iron Age I-II (11).

Eglon

Joshua 10:34-35 And Joshua passed on with all Israel from Lachish to Eglon; and they laid siege to it, and assaulted it; [35] and they took it on that day, and smote it with the edge of the sword; and every person in it he utterly destroyed that day, . . .

Eglon . . . is in all likelihood to be sited at present-day Tell ‘Aitun (Tell ‘Eton), occupied in the Late Bronze II period . . . (12).

Debir

Joshua 10:38-39 Then Joshua, with all Israel, turned back to Debir and assaulted it, [39] and he took it with its king and all its towns; and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed every person in it; he left none remaining; . . .

Debir . . . is more securely located at Khirbet Rabud . . . this site was inhabited in the fourteenth/thirteenth centuries, in the Late Bronze II period, and was reoccupied directly in Early Iron I (twelfth century). (13).

Gaza

Joshua 10:41 And Joshua defeated them from Ka’desh-bar’nea to Gaza . . . (cf. 14:6-7; 15:3).

Archaeological soundings . . . in 1922 . . . uncovered a series of walls, the earliest of which was associated with Late Bronze Age pottery . . . Egyptian texts dating to the reign of Thutmosis II [r. 1493-1479 BC] refer to Gazat “a prize city of the governor,” indicating at least a 15th century BC date for the occupation of the site. Gaza is also mentioned in the El Amarna [c. 1350 BC] and Taanach tablets [also c. 1350 BC] as an Egyptian administrative center . . . (14)

Shift in cultural patterns: that is, evidence of new people taking over from other peoples of a different culture (as you get in the Americas when Europeans came over bringing with them their own culture, different from that of the native Americans).

Ehrman claimed that there was no evidence for this, which is false. Junkkaala summarized his in-depth study of these cities that are mentioned in the Bible in conjunction with Joshua and the Israeli conquest and subsequent settlement:

This study has included 29 sites, which have been divided into two main categories: the “conquered cities” and the “unconquered cities”. The first category has been subdivided into three groups: excavated cities, surveyed cities and others. In all of the “unconquered cities” excavations have been carried out.
*
Two questions were asked concerning each of the sites: were they inhabited in the periods in question (Late Bronze Age II, Iron Age I and II), and can we know something about the cultural backgrounds of the inhabitants. In most cases it could be determined that the culture was influenced either by the Coastal Plain culture (C) or the Hill Country culture (H). The third possibility was the Sea People culture (mostly Philistines, P). . . .
*
The list of the “conquered cities” contains 19 sites. 12 of them have been excavated, 5 have been surveyed and 2 neither have been carried out. In 10 of the 12 excavated cities C-culture dominated in the Late Bronze Age II and in 3 of them (Ai, Arad and Makkedah) there was no identifiable settlement in that period. The cultural change between the Late Bronze Age II and Iron Age I can be seen in all of the sites, although in some it is not very obvious. This change does not happen simultaneously, in Ai the H-culture begins in Iron Age I as in almost all the other cities in this group, but Arad and Makkedah have no settlement until Iron Age II.
*
In 8 of the 12 excavated sites the new settlers seem to represent H culture. . . .
*
The list of the “unconquered cities” contains 10 sites, all of which have been excavated. C-culture dominated in all the sites in Late Bronze Age II. In the Iron Age I the same culture (C) has been found in at least 4 of them and P-culture or its variations in 5 of them (Gezer, Jarmuth, Dor, Aphek, and Achsaph). . . .
*
The conspicuous difference between the archaeology of the “conquered” and the “unconquered” cities is that in the former ones the H-culture begins during Iron Age I (although not commencing simultaneously), and in the latter it only starts in Iron Age II. (15)
This is strong archaeological confirmation of the biblical descriptions of the conquest. Waltke (backed up by others) (16) made a similar observation:
The sudden emergence of hundreds of new sites by pastoral nomads in Iron I contrasts sharply with the reduced number of sites in LB in comparison with MB. Kochavi (17) wrote: “During the Late Bronze Age, and especially towards its end, new small unfortified settlements are known. However, with the beginning of the Iron Age, they suddenly appear by the hundreds.” I. Finkelstein (18) elaborates:

Altogether only 25-30 sites were occupied in the Late Bronze II (c. 1400-1200 BC) between the Jezreel and Beer-Sheva valleys. Human activity was confined mainly to the large central tells…. It is highly unlikely, therefore, that many additional Late Bronze sites will be discovered in the future, because it is difficult to overlook such major settlements. Other regions were also practically deserted during the Late Bronze period…. In Iron I there was a dramatic swing back in the population of the hill country. About 240 sites of the period are known in the area between the Jezreel and Beer-Sheva valleys; 96 in Manasseh, 122 in Ephraim… and 22 in Benjamin and Judah. In addition, 68 sites have been identified in Galilee, 18 in the Jordan Valley and dozens of others on the Transjordanian plateau.

As I noted in my previous article, Ehrman likes Israel Finkelstein a lot. He thinks his 2002 book, The Bible Unearthed, is “absolutely terrific . . . Really great, in every way”, and that Finkelstein and co-author Neil Asher Silberman are “highly established and incredibly learned scholars who seem to know everything relevant to the Hebrew Bible . . . far more qualified than I to say anything about the history of ancient Israel” (“Did David Exist? And When Did I Know I Lost My Faith?”, 4-15-17).

Archaeology is often a speculative and inexact science. But I submit that there is more than enough verification in the above information to establish that the Bible was (yet again) substantially accurate in its claims regarding the “conquest” of Canaan begun by Joshua, and certainly enough to counter Ehrman’s grotesquely exaggerated claims that there is no evidence or archaeological verification of the historical accounts in Joshua.

Footnotes

(1) Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 188.

(2) Avraham Negev and Shimon Gibson, Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (New York: Continuum, revised edition of 2001).

(3) Kitchen, ibid., 188.

(4) Eero Junkkaala, Three Conquests of Canaan: A Comparative Study of Two Egyptian Military Campaigns and Joshua 10-12 in the Light of Recent Archaeological Evidence (Finland: Abo Akademie University Press, 2006), 235-236, 238.

(5) Negev & Gibson, ibid., 221.

(6) Bruce K. Waltke, “The Date of the Conquest” (Westminster Theological Journal 52.2 [Fall 1990]: 181-200); citation from pages 197-198.

(7) Kitchen, ibid., 186.

(8) Kitchen, ibid., 189.

(9) Kitchen, ibid., 183.

(10) Kitchen, ibid., 183.

(11) Negev and Gibson, ibid., 299.

(12) Kitchen, ibid., 184.

(13) Kitchen, ibid., 184.

(14) Negev and Gibson, ibid., “Gaza”, 191.

(15) Junkkaala, ibid., 299-300.

(16) Waltke, ibid., 197-198.

(17) M. Kochavi, “The Israelite Settlement in Canaan in the light of Archaeological Surveys,” Biblical Archaeology Today (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1985), 55.

(18) Israel Finkelstein, The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society 1988), 39.

***

Practical Matters: Perhaps some of my 4,000+ free online articles (the most comprehensive “one-stop” Catholic apologetics site) or fifty books have helped you (by God’s grace) to decide to become Catholic or to return to the Church, or better understand some doctrines and why we believe them.

Or you may believe my work is worthy to support for the purpose of apologetics and evangelism in general. If so, please seriously consider a much-needed financial contribution. I’m always in need of more funds: especially monthly support. “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim 5:18, NKJV). 1 December 2021 was my 20th anniversary as a full-time Catholic apologist, and February 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of my blog.

PayPal donations are the easiest: just send to my email address: apologistdave@gmail.com. You’ll see the term “Catholic Used Book Service”, which is my old side-business. To learn about the different methods of contributing, including 100% tax deduction, etc., see my page: About Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong / Donation InformationThanks a million from the bottom of my heart!

***

Photo credit: Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen’s landmark book on Old Testament archaeology [Amazon book page image]

***

Summary: I produce much evidence regarding Joshua’s conquest & science, but agnostic Bible skeptic Bart Ehrman contends that there is little or no such archaeological evidence.

 

March 23, 2022

Including Possible Archaeological Evidence for the Battle of Deborah in Judges 4

Bart Ehrman is one of the most well-known and influential critics of traditional Christianity and the inspired Bible (“anti-theists”) writing today. Formerly, in his own words, he was “a fundamentalist for maybe 6 years; a conservative evangelical but not extreme right wing for maybe 5 years more; and a fairly mainstream liberal Christian for about 25.” The primary reason he gives for having lost his faith is the problem of evil (a very serious topic I have dealt with many times). He stated on 3-18-22 in a comment on his blog: “I could no longer explain how there could be a God active in this world given all the pain and misery in it.” I don’t question his sincerity, good intentions, intellectual honesty, or his past status as a Christian; only various opinions which Christians must (in consistency) regard as erroneous.

Dr. Ehrman “received his PhD and MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied textual criticism of the Bible, development of the New Testament canon and New Testament apocrypha under Bruce Metzger.” He has written 30 books, which have sold over two million copies and have been translated into 27 languages.

Ehrman explains that the purpose of his blog is “to disseminate scholarly knowledge of the New Testament and the earliest periods of the Christian church to a non-scholarly audience, . . . Every post is rooted in scholarship – not just my own but that of thousands of scholars who have worked for centuries on understanding the historical Jesus, the New Testament, and the origins of Christianity.” Well, the conclusions of scholars are only as good as the solidity and truthfulness of the premises by which they are operating.

This is one of a series of reply-papers, in which I will address many of his materials from the perspective of archaeology, history, and exegesis.

*****

I am responding to his article, Israel’s Conquest of the Promised Land: Did Any of That Happen? (8-25-21). His words will be in blue.

I want to address a question lots of people typically have about these stories of the Conquest of Canaan in the book of Joshua.   Did any of this happen?

Here’s how I discuss the matter in my book The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction (Oxford University Press), a book you should consider getting if you’re interested in knowing both what’s in the Bible and what scholars say about it from historical and literary perspectives. . . . 

[T]he narratives of Joshua . . . are clearly molded according to theological assumptions and perspectives.  There is almost nothing in the accounts that suggest that the author is trying to be purely descriptive of things that really happened.  He is writing an account that is guided by his religious agenda, not by pure historical interests.  That is why, when read closely, one finds so many problems with the narratives. . . . 

Joshua 11:10-13 (RSV) And Joshua turned back at that time, and took Hazor, and smote its king with the sword; for Hazor formerly was the head of all those kingdoms. [11] And they put to the sword all who were in it, utterly destroying them; there was none left that breathed, and he burned Hazor with fire. [12] And all the cities of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua took, and smote them with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded. [13] But none of the cities that stood on mounds did Israel burn, except Hazor only; that Joshua burned. (“Jabin king of Hazor” was referred to in 11:1)

Ehrman makes the patently, demonstrably false statement:

  • In the archaeological record there is no support for the kind of violent destruction of the cities of Canaan – especially the ones mentioned in Joshua.  Think for a second: if one were to look for archaeological evidence, or other external verification, to support the historical narratives of Joshua, what would one look for?
    • References to the invasion and conquest in other written sources.
    • Evidence that there were indeed walled cities and towns in Canaan at the time.
    • Archaeological evidence that the cities and towns mentioned actually were destroyed at the time (Jericho, Ai, Heshbon, etc.). . . .

And what kind of verification do we actually get for the narratives of Joshua?  None of the above.  There are no references in any other ancient source to a massive destruction of the cities of Canaan.   There were few walled towns at the time.   Many of the specific cities cited as places of conquest did not even exist as cities at the time. 

At the moment, I am dealing with only Hazor. I’ll get to many other cities in due course (I have the time, since I am a full-time apologist). Remember, Ehrman claimed there was “no support . . . none” for “violent destruction of the cities of Canaan – especially the ones mentioned in Joshua”: as I detail the actual, specific archaeological evidence that he thinks is nonexistent. It’s easy (and very foolish) to make  “universal negative” statements. And it’s easy as pie to shoot them down. Even a single counter-example already logically demolishes such sweeping and “triumphalistic” claims. But I will produce many counter-examples in this and other similar articles to come.

Hazor, according to archaeology (1), was “destroyed along with a massive conflagration in the thirteenth century, probably toward its end” (exactly the time period of Joshua).

In 1996 rather sensational charred remains of a late Bronze Age palace were discovered in excavations led by Amnon Ben Tor. That this was the work of the Israelites was suggested by the “deliberate decapitation and mutilation of statues of deities, in keeping with the charge of Moses to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 7:5”. “The emerging picture, . . . is consistent with the description of the sack of Hazor in Joshua 11.” (2)

Eero Junkkaala wrote at length specifically about this general topic and noted that four Israeli archaeologists (Yadin, Aharoni, Ben-Tor, and Frankel) agreed and concluded that the city was destroyed militarily by the Israelites. Frankel wrote about it: “the archaeological finds ostensibly correlate with the biblical description: a Canaanite city was totally destroyed and a small Iron I village was built upon its ruins.” (3).

In stratum XIII, the last of the Bronze Age strata, the building [“probably a palace”] was destroyed by fire. (4)

Rafael Frankel [see his book], also maintained that “in the case of the conquest of Hazor too, the archaeological finds ostensibly correlate with the biblical description: a Canaanite city was totally destroyed and a small Iron I village was built upon its ruins.”

Footnotes:

(1) Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 185.

(2) James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 35.

(3) Eero Junkkaala, Three Conquests of Canaan: A Comparative Study of Two Egyptian Military Campaigns and Joshua 10-12 in the Light of Recent Archaeological Evidence (Finland: Abo Akademie University Press, 2006); citations from pages 230-231, 233-234.

(4) Avraham Negev and Shimon Gibson, Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (New York: Continuum, revised edition of 2001), 78.

Even Ehrman concedes in his article that Hazor was “wiped out at about the right time,” which of course contradicts his earlier statement that there was no support . . . none [my italics] for the “violent destruction of the cities of Canaan”. Which is it? Perhaps Ehrman can explain to us this discrepancy in his argument. In any event, the evidence for the burning destruction of Hazor in Joshua’s time is clear and incontrovertible.

Now we can deal with the topic of Judges 4, which Ehrman takes to be a biblical contradiction. He writes:

In ch. 11 [of Joshua], for example, the Israelite forces completely annihilate the city of Hazor: . . . If that were true, why is it that in the next book, Judges, the Canaanites still very much live in and control Hazor, under their king Jabin, whose powerful army afflicted and oppressed the Israelites (Judges 4)?

The battle is described in Judges 4:1-24 (the entire chapter), complete with references to “Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor” (4:2), “Jabin the king of Hazor” (4:17), “Jabin the king of Canaan” (twice in 4:23-24), and “Jabin king of Canaan” (4:24). There is no mention, by the way, in this second incident, of Hazor being burned or destroyed; only that Jabin was “destroyed.” This corresponds with the archaeology that likewise doesn’t show a second destruction at this time.

So of course, the skeptics and atheists have had a grand time mocking this, since the city was burned in Joshua 11, and here it is again, with the same king? How hilarious, huh? The only problem is that there is a long time gap involved, which Ehrman neglects (he acts as if the two events were close in time). In fact,  Judges 3:11 states that “the land had rest forty years” and notes that the first Judge Othniel died.  Judges 3:30 then informs us that “the land had rest for eighty years.” By my math that is at least 120 years that had passed since Joshua’s destruction of Hazor, and this second battle led by Deborah, who is brought up five verses later.

The first battle was around 1230-1200 BC, according to archaeologist and Egyptologist Kitchen, and several other prominent archaeologists. But when is the time period of Deborah? It so happens that recently, archaeologists believe they may have found evidence of the town Haro’sheth-ha-goiim, where Deborah’s nemesis Sisera dwelt (Jud 4:2). El Ahwat is now believed to possibly be the location (as reported in The Jerusalem Post on 11-27-19). A chariot linchpin was found on the site, as Wikipedia reports. 900 chariots were involved in this battle (Jud 4:7, 15-16).

Wikipedia also noted that the well-known Israeli archaeologist Israel Finkelstein dated the site at around 1060-1050 BC [Finkelstein, I. and Piasetzky, E. 2007. Radiocarbon Dating and Philistine Chronology with an Addendum on el-Ahwat. Ägypten und Levante: Internationale Zeitschrift für ägyptische archäologie und deren nachbargebeite Vol. 17.]. Wikipedia (“Deborah”) states thatTraditional Jewish chronology places Deborah’s 40 years of judging Israel (Judges 5:31) from 1107 BC until her death in 1067 BC” [see further source].

As one can see, the dates almost line up with Finkelstein’s scholarly archaeological opinion. A. D. H. Mayes, in his article, “The Historical Context of the Battle against Sisera”, Vetus Testamentum19 (3) [1969]: 353–360 [download a PDF copy at an article site] also believes that the most likely period for this battle was somewhere between 1050-1000 BC.

So how do such judgments correspond with the biblical data? They do quite strikingly. The Bible notes at least a 120-year gap between Joshua and Deborah and this second battle. The late estimate for the first battle (1200 BC)  is 140 or 150 years earlier than Finkelstein’s estimate, and 150-200 years earlier from that of Mayes. Given the inexact nature of much archaeological speculation, that is very good correspondence indeed; there may very well be more unmentioned years passed, according to the Bible, and so it is seen that the Bible is (for the zillionth time) historically accurate and (conversely) not definitely in error.

Ehrman (as I would have suspected) is rather fond of Israel Finkelstein. He thinks his 2002 book, The Bible Unearthed, is “absolutely terrific . . . Really great, in every way”, and that Finkelstein and co-author Neil Asher Silberman are “highly established and incredibly learned scholars who seem to know everything relevant to the Hebrew Bible . . . far more qualified than I to say anything about the history of ancient Israel” (“Did David Exist? And When Did I Know I Lost My Faith?”, 4-15-17).

All this being the case, Ehrman’s objection basically vanishes to nothing. It’s not unthinkable at all for a town to rebuild itself in a period of 140-200 years. Archaeologist Rafael Frankel stated about Hazor, that “a small Iron I village was built upon its ruins.” That’s all we need to know. It was in existence (again) at the time of Deborah’s battle.

The only remaining problem is the multiple mention of king Jabin. It appears, in light of all of the above, that there simply were two people with this same name. This is not unusual at all, when we look at the history of kings all over the world. A list of Assyrian kings, for example, shows many examples of multiple king names (indicated by “II”, “III”, “IV”, or “V” after the names): most of them closer in time to each other than the 120-year minimum spread between the two Jabins. Scottish kings show the same tendency; as do Egyptian pharaohs and no doubt many other (if not all other) such lists. The most famous multiple names perhaps come from the French monarchs, with 19 kings named Louis and ten named Charles. So that is a non-issue.

With that settled, Ehrman’s entire objection — at least in my humble opinion — vanishes, in light of what we know from secular archaeological science and history (not simply biased Christian apologetics or internal Christian arguments from the Bible).

***

See the related paper, Pearce’s Potshots #41: 13th c. BC Canaanite Iron Chariots [7-16-21]

***

Practical Matters: Perhaps some of my 4,000+ free online articles (the most comprehensive “one-stop” Catholic apologetics site) or fifty books have helped you (by God’s grace) to decide to become Catholic or to return to the Church, or better understand some doctrines and why we believe them.

Or you may believe my work is worthy to support for the purpose of apologetics and evangelism in general. If so, please seriously consider a much-needed financial contribution. I’m always in need of more funds: especially monthly support. “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim 5:18, NKJV). 1 December 2021 was my 20th anniversary as a full-time Catholic apologist, and February 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of my blog.

PayPal donations are the easiest: just send to my email address: apologistdave@gmail.com. You’ll see the term “Catholic Used Book Service”, which is my old side-business. To learn about the different methods of contributing, including 100% tax deduction, etc., see my page: About Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong / Donation InformationThanks a million from the bottom of my heart!

***

Photo credit: Qasinka (2-9-13). Ruins of Hazor [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

Summary: Agnostic Bible skeptic Bart Ehrman makes several objections regarding Hazor and the “conquest” of Canaan by the Israelites. I provide strong counter-arguments.

 


Browse Our Archives

Close Ad