Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Holtz on 1st-Century Skeptics

Holtz.AAC.2002: "Christian apologists often claim that if false, the gospel traditions would have been refuted and discredited by the skeptics in 1st-century Palestine. However, there is no indication that the Jesus movement was important enough to merit the sort of early written debunking that would have been preserved despite skeptical apathy and Christian hostility."

On the contrary, as Glenn M. Miller points out, the skeptics were highly organized, vocal, confrontational, motivated to maintain the existing power structures and status quo, successful in gathering disciples in their circles of learning, effective in transmitting their teaching through their disciples, and preserved disagreements with Christians in their writings. They had every reason to try to refute Christianity in that honor and shame society. The most parsimonious explanation is that no contemporary skeptical account could be rationally and successfully composed due to the strength of the evidence for Christianity.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Holtz's Resurrection Theory

Here is Brian Holtz's theory of the resurrection:
1. As a longtime disciple of Jesus [Lk 8:2], Mary Magdalene was especially crushed by Jesus' humiliating defeat, so she arranged to steal Jesus' body, possibly through Joseph of Arimathea.
2. Unlike any apostle, she attended both the crucifixion and entombment. She was the first to visit the tomb on Easter [Mt 28:1; Jn 20:1] and she thought Jesus' body may have been removed [Jn 20:2,14-15]. Meanwhile, Jesus' body was discreetly reburied. The Jewish slander reported by Tertullian saying that the empty tomb was faked is credible.
3. The apostles left the empty tomb, but Mary Magdalene weepingly lingered [Jn 20:11]. She was mentally unstable, since Jesus had driven seven demons out of her [Mk 16:9; Lk 8:2], and she began to have a mystically intense, ecstatic vision or hallucination of a triumphant Jesus as an unconscious way of coping for Jesus' humiliating defeat on the cross. That these appearances were only visions and not physical manifestations is corroborated by the apocryphal Gospel of Mary.
4. The other apostles didn't believe her at first [Lk 24:11], but they too began to have visions. The other apostles weren't aware of any theft of the body. Then Mary was suspiciously expunged from Paul's list of appearances [1 Cor 15] and not mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament. The Gospels simply report the woman witness Mary Magdalene because there was no choice, since she was the instigator of the plot.

Holtz's theory has several fatal problems. The appearances are not plausibly explainable as projected visions [1] or hallucinations [2]. Removal (theft or discreet reburial) was not possible [3]. Pious deceit is not a viable explanation [4]. Demonic possession is not the same as mental illness [5]. Overwhelming evidence indicates that the empty tomb was genuine [6].


Monday, February 26, 2007

Another Installment in the Theodore Drange AFTB Series

Christological Genealogies
"(2) Jesus was claimed to be a (bodily or blood) descendant of David (Ro 1:3), but it is unclear how that could be. According to both Matthew and Luke, Mary's husband Joseph was a descendant of David (though they disagree about the exact genealogy, as discussed below). However, both Matthew and Luke deny that Joseph was Jesus's father, so their genealogies of Joseph (Mt 1:2-16, Lu 3:23-38) should not be regarded as genealogies of Jesus. Matthew erred when he called it that (Mt 1:1)." See my genealogy post.

Does "Almah" Mean "Virgin?"
"(1) The Hebrew word "almah" which is used in the Isaiah verse does not mean "virgin" but "young woman". It is correctly translated in the Tanakh, the Revised Standard Version, the Revised English Bible, and the New Jerusalem Bible, but is incorrectly translated by the King James Version, the New International Version, and the New American Bible. It is also incorrectly translated by Matthew, who probably relied upon the incorrect translation in the Septuagint. There is another H g ebrew word, "bethulah", which definitely means "virgin." Since a virgin birth is such an extraordinary event, presumably Isaiah would have used that other word if indeed he really meant to say that the woman is a virgin."
See here.

Immanuel Is The Messiah
(2) The sign mentioned in the Isaiah verse pertains to a specific woman, known to both speaker and listener (believed by many historians to be Isaiah's wife), who is already pregnant, not some unspecified woman who is to become pregnant. The correct translation (from the Tanakh) reads "Look, the young woman is with child and about to give birth to a son." It was a sign given to Ahaz, the king of Judah, in the eighth century B.C. regarding some events in what was then the immediate future. It had nothing to do with the Messiah or with events in the far distant future.
This was not about Isaiah's wife [Is 8:1-4]; neither did Ahaz's son have the characteristics of Immanuel. This was an expressly messianic prophecy [Is 9:6-7], and since Palestine = the land of Immanuel [Is 8:8] = the land of Yahweh [Is 14:2,25; 47:6; Hos 9:3; Jer 2:7; 12:14], Immanuel is God incarnate.

Is Immanuel the Proper Name of Jesus?
(3) Part of the sign to King Ahaz was that the child will be named "Immanuel." Since that name means "God with us", it was supposed to show Ahaz that God was on his side. But, despite Matthew's unreasonable claim that Jesus would be named "Immanuel" (Mt 1:23), Jesus was not named "Immanuel," but rather "Jesus" (as Matthew himself declared at 1:25).
Jesus is called Immanuel; it is His title, for He is "God with us" in the mystery of the Incarnation and His messianic role as a member of the house of David.
"(2) Matthew claims (27:9-10) that the purchase of the potter's field had been prophesied by Jeremiah, but there is absolutely nothing about that in the Book of Jeremiah, and that is why the passage from Zechariah is usually appealed to instead. It was perhaps a slip of the pen by Matthew.
(3) However, the translation of the relevant part of Zec 11:13 in the Tanakh just reads "I took the thirty shekels and deposited it in the treasury in the House of the Lord." There is no reference there to throwing the money, nor is there any reference to a potter or to a "potter's field". So the alleged prophecy in Matthew does not appear in Zechariah either. It seems to be a figment of Matthew's imagination."
See here.
10. Did Potiphar buy Joseph from Midianites? Ge 37:36 (From Ishmaelites) Ge 39:1
The two are interchangeable.
12. Were Levites to begin to serve at age 30? Nu 4:30 (Age 25) Nu 8:24
Nu 4 simply says to not count the ones under 30, not that younger ones didn't serve, perhaps because of a period apprenticeship.

How Did David Kill Goliath?
14. Did David kill Goliath with a sling + a stone? 1Sa 17:50 (With a sword) 1Sa 17:51
Young St. David mortally wounded Goliath with the sling and stone [1 Sa 17:50] and then decapitated him with a sword [1 Sa 17:51].
18. Did Saul enquire of God? 1Sa 28:6 1Ch 10:13-14
He did, but 1 Chr 10:13-14 means that he did so insincerely.

How Did Saul Die?
19. Did Saul die by his own hand? 1Sa 31:4-5 (By an Amalekite) 2Sa 1:4-10; (By Philistines) 2Sa 21:12; (By the Lord) 1Ch 10:14
Saul committed suicide [1 Sa 31:4-5] after being defeated in battle by Philistines [2 Sa 21:12]; an Amalekite lied that he killed Saul [2 Sa 1:4-10]; the Lord engineered Saul's death [1 Chr 10:14].
21. Did David take 700 horsemen from Hadadezer? 2Sa 8:4 (It was 7000.) 1Ch 18:4
22. Did David kill 700 Syrian charioteers? 2Sa 10:18 (It was 7000.) 1Ch 19:18
Scribal error.

How Many Horse Stalls?
28. Did he have 40,000 stalls for his horses? 1Ki 4:26 (Only 4000) 2Ch 9:25
Scribal error in 1 Ki; only 4000 stalls.

When Did Ahaziah Become King?
33. Did Ahaziah become king in the 12th year of Joram? 2Ki 8:25 (It was the 11th year.) 2Ki 9:29
He gained partial control in the 11th year but gained full control in the 12th year after Joram died from his illness.
37. Did 775 descendants of Arah return from exile? Ezra 2:5 (It was 652.) Ne 7:10
[Note: there are dozens of other discrepancies between the lists in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7. Yet it seems to be the very same census, since their totals agree (Ezra 2:64-65, Ne 7:66-67).]
This has to do with differences in date and other factors; see here and here.
38. Did Jesus descend from David through David's son Solomon and grandson Roboam? Mt 1:1-7 (Through David's son Nathan and grandson Mattatha) Lu 3:23,31
Already addressed in "Matthean and Lukan Genealogies."

Color of the Robe of Jesus
62. Did the soldiers clothe Jesus in scarlet (the color of royalty)? Mt 27:28 (It was purple, the symbol of infamy.) Mk 15:17
Purple was the type of dye [cf. Acts 16:14] which resulted in scarlet fabric.

Long Lives in Genesis
"(14) Chapter 5 of Genesis has humans living more than 800 or 900 years. But we know that humans do not live anywhere near that long." Anti-supernaturalistic bias.
St. Jonah in the Whale
"(26) According to Jonah 1:17, 2:10, a man lived for three days inside the belly of a fish (or a whale, according to Mt 12:40), but that is impossible." More anti-supernaturalistic bias - though Jonah did die and was resurrected.

Star of Bethlehem
"(27) According to Mt 2:9, a star moved in the sky until it was directly over the town of Bethlehem, but we know that that is impossible." It was neither a physical sun nor a comet, but the glorious local manifestation of YHWH's presence.

The Massacre of the Holy Innocents
"(28) According to Mt 2:16, Herod had every child in the region killed who was under three years old, but there is good historical evidence that such an event never occurred." See here.

Demonic Possession ≠ Mental Illness
"(29) According to the Bible, [20] the cause of mental illness and various infirmities is possession by devils. But today we know that mental illness and infirmities have a different cause." Lots of skeptics use this canard, but they fail to show that the incidents of demonic possession are mere mental illnesses. See here and here.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Holtz on Divine Shyness

God has not given sufficient evidence of His existence

Holtz.AAC.2002: "The gospel story of a secretive unpublished family-resenting bastard faith healer in the rural outback of a peripheral province of a regional empire seems an unlikely self-revelation for the omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent Creator of the universe:
-Why such ambiguous and picayune miracles? Why not raise a new mountain in the desert, or install a new star in the heavens?
... Why not include in it indisputible [sic] authentication, e.g. by predicting a fundamental physical constant?" In a November 1, 2006 blog post Brian Holtz elaborates on this, saying he "would have added a few simple revelations like the germ theory of disease; the theory of natural selection; the relationship among the Earth, Sun, stars, and Milky Way; basic set theory; non-Euclidean geometry; Newtonian physics; the axioms of special relativity (which are quite simple); and the approximate value of the speed of light (e.g. 'sunlight takes eight minutes to reach Earth')." He adds, "And if you gave me two or three miracle cards to play back in the First Century, you can bet I wouldn't have wasted them on a nativity comet or reviving a still-warm alleged corpse. ... I could have re-arranged the stars into an eye chart spelling out my message in Greek or Latin ... or ... created outside every city a kilometer-long diamond slab with my complete message massively engraved in every extant human language (with a new universal phonetic script to encode unwritten languages). Heck, I could even have just made every household on earth wake up with a stainless still bucket with my face and core doctrines inscribed on it. Why were the miracles of Jesus so much more like those of a faith-healing carpenter than like those of an actual deity with a little bit of imagination?"

Holtz's Blasphemy
Holtz's first long sentence will be addressed in depth in an upcoming post; meanwhile, rest assured that Jesus was not secretive, nor did He resent His family. He was not a bastard, but was born of St. Mary, a lifelong virgin. Jesus was a miracle worker, not a phony placebo/psychosomatic/faith healer.

Christmas Star, Lazarus, and Jesus the Carpenter
The Christmas star was neither a sun nor a comet (no naturalistic explanation), and I have posted evidence that Lazarus was clinically dead. In the last sentence, by calling Jesus a carpenter, Holtz contradicts the AAC paragraph he so often quotes during his debates which says that "He spurned his stepfather's trade of carpentry to take up a ministry proclaiming himself the son not of Joseph but of God."

Holtz's Proposals For 'Better Revelation'
On installing a new star in the heavens or spelling out the message in a stellar eye chart: what's to stop (especially heart-hardened) blind people from distrusting the information others relay to them regarding things that they can't visually/empirically verify for themselves? On Holtz's steel bucket proposal: God has already done something better. In a less blatant way, the omnipresent Holy Spirit is as persuasive as needed to leave room for free choice and a loving, sincere, and lasting relationship between God and His creatures. Men are without excuse because the evidence for God is clear [Ps 19; Rom 1-2]; the heavens declare His majesty. Furthermore, those who see will find [Mt 7:7; Lk 11:9]. That is, the evidence is clear enough for those with an open mind and open heart (vital!), but vague enough to not coerce those with closed minds and hearts. Why wouldn't the steel bucket simply frighten everybody into belief? Being a Christian does not end at conversion (which is not just in the mind--intellectual--but in the heart); it is a lifetime of discipleship and fellowship. The odyssey of conversion, which involves independent decisions and critical thinking, would disappear as we know it. Regarding the diamond message: Is the existence of even a layered, detailed gospel message that could not at all be misinterpreted/irrationally dismissed/distorted logically possible?

Some People Are Stubborn
Brian Holtz and I have both interacted with 9/11 conspiracists, and we both oppose 9/11 conspiracism and obviously find the evidence that 9/11 was indeed carried out by 19 Middle Eastern radical Muslim Al Qaeda terrorists objectively compelling. However, there are still thousands of 9/11 conspiracists! The evidence is there, clear, diverse, and abundant, and yet they reject it and try to rationalize it. Therefore, it is not surprising that people with hardened hearts and closed minds like "the Pharisees [Mt 9:34, 12:13-14, Mk 3:5-6, Jn 9:16-34, esp. Jn 11:48, Lk 6:10-11, 14:4-6], the villagers of Korazin, Bethsaid, and Capernaum [Lk 10:13, Mt 11:20], various Jews [Jn 10:32, 12:37], disciples of Jesus [Jn 6:66]" rejected Jesus. Holtz calls Biblical miracles "consistent with 1) Iron Age myth-making and 2) a perfectly naturalistic and innocent process of delusion, misinterpretation, exaggeration, and embellishment." On the contrary, Holtz's implausible explanations do not suffice for the sample claims listed beside them:
Delusion: Jesus' self-conception
Hallucination: resurrection
Misinterpretation: reanimation of Lazarus, widow's son, and Jairus' daughter; Jesus' divinity claims
Exaggeration: walking on water
Embellishment: Malchus' restored ear
Faith healing: healing of congenitally (that it was disputed does not mean it was false) blind man and hemorrhaging woman

Post-Biblical Miracles
There have been post-Biblical miracles! Two that for all intents and purposes are undeniable are Fatima and the Eucharistic miracle in which a 700 A.D. Italian priest who began to doubt the Real Presence witnessed the transformation of wine into clots of human blood and the bread into human flesh (these treasures, kept in the Vatican, were scientifically tested in 1970 and found to be authentic and fresh as they were over a millennium before). This renders Jn 6:66 unusable as evidence that Jesus' miracles were not real. There is also the miracle of the liquefaction of St. Januarius' blood. Plus, witness the lives of hundreds of other saints; more on that later.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Re:Holtz on Gospel Probabilities

In "Possible Explanations for the Gospel Evidence" (January 2003), Holtz says not to assign zero probabilities to any of the options, but I will anyway:

  • Gospels resulted from other than merely human phenomena: 0.98
    • Resulted from intentional super-human benevolence: 0.98
      • Misunderstood or imperfect salvific effort of something less than a benevolent omnipotent omniscient agency: 0.003
        • Natural agency: 0.001
        • Supernatural agency: 0.002
      • The perfect salvific plan of an omnipotent omniscient benevolent Yahweh: 0.977
    • Resulted from intentional super-human non-benevolence: 0.001
      • Supernatural non-benevolence: 0.001
        • Malevolence by demonic forces opposed to the less-than-tri-omni (but nevertheless benevolent) Yahweh: 0.0004
        • Malevolence by a being calling itself Yahweh: 0.0006
      • Natural non-benevolence: 0.0
        • Of technologically advanced natural beings (e.g. aliens, time travellers): 0.0
        • Of being(s) running this universe as a simulation: 0.0
    • Resulted from unintentional phenomena (e.g. quantum fluctuations): 0.0
  • Gospels resulted from merely human phenomena 0.02
    • Jesus was not deluded (e.g. was insincere and deceptive) 0.01
      • Apostles were co-conspirators 0.004
      • Apostles were duped 0.006
        • Apostles were duped by a twin of Jesus 0.0
    • Jesus was deluded 0.01
    • Jesus never existed 0.0
      • Jesus invented by apostles (e.g. Paul) 0.0
      • Christianity myth arose in a Jewish sect 0.0
      • Christianity invented by Roman authorities 0.0

Friday, February 23, 2007

Holtz on Vouching

Special thanks to JP Holding of Tekton Apologetics Ministries!

Holtz.AAC.2002: "Vouching. The author(s) of John protest (19:35 and 21:24) that the testimony quoted in this gospel is true, and admit (20:31) it has 'been written so that you may believe.' The 2nd letter of Peter claims [1:16] the gospels are not 'cleverly invented stories,' then warns [2:3] that 'false prophets' will employ 'stories they have made up.'" Oaths like this were normal for contemporary historians, since they invited scrutiny and showed one's commitment to report the truth. Holtz's suspicion is totally unwarranted. "Been written so that you may believe" does not mean "doctored to fool you" but "recorded as a true historical record that will help you to get to Heaven by instilling in you the virtue of faith."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Holtz on Exclusivity of Resurrection Apperances

Special thanks to JP Holding of Tekton Apologetics Ministries!
Holtz.AAC.2002: "The appearances were suspiciously exclusive: 'He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen' [Acts 10:40-41] 'Why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?'" This is not a problem at all, since a miraculous (physical) resurrection is much more parsimonious and has much more explanatory power than "epiphanies, perhaps involving the occasional dream, ecstatic vision, encounter with a stranger, case of mistaken identity, or outright hallucination (or fabrication)," in addition to the stolen body, voracious dogs and birds, Passover plot, legend, twin, and swoon theories; cf. Charles Pettit McIlvane in The Evidences of Christianity:
Now, in conclusion, let us see what an unbeliever must believe in consistency with his profession. He must believe that the apostles were either such weak-minded men as to imagine that their crucified Master had been with them, from time to time, during forty days after his burial, had conversed with them, and eaten with them, and that they had every sensible evidence of his resurrection, while in truth he had not been near them, but was still in his sepulchre; or else that they were so wicked and deceitful as to go all over the world preaching that he was risen from the dead, when they knew it was a gross fabrication. Suppose the unbeliever to choose the latter of these alternatives. Then he believes, not only that those men were so singularly attached to this untruth as to give themselves up to all manner of disgrace, and persecutions and labour, for the sake of making all the world believe it, knowing that their own destruction could be the only consequence; but also, what is still more singular, that when they plunged, immediately at the outset of their ministry, into an immense multitude of those who, having lately crucified the Saviour, were full of enmity to his disciples; they succeeded, without learning, eloquence, power, or a single conceivable motive, in making three thousand of them believe that he, whom they had seen on the cross, was indeed alive again; and believe it so fully, as to renounce every thing, and be willing to suffer any thing, for the sake of it, and this on the very spot where the guards that had kept the sepulcher were at hand to tell what was become of the body of Jesus. He must believe, moreover, that although in attempting to propagate a new religion to the exclusion of every other, they were undertaking what was entirely new, and opposed to the views of all nations; although the doctrines they preached were resisted by all the influence of the several priesthoods; all the power of the several governments; all the passions, habits, and prejudices of the people; and all the wit and pride of the philosophers of all nations; although the age was such as insured to their fabrications the most intelligent examination, with the strongest possible disposition to detect them; although, in themselves, these infatuated men were directly the reverse of what such resistance demanded, and, when they commenced, were surrounded by circumstances of the most depressing kind, and by opposers specially exulting in the confidence of their destruction; although the mode they adopted was of all others most calculated to expose their own weakness and dishonesty, and to imbitter the enmity and increase the contempt of their opposers, so that they encountered everywhere the most tremendous persecutions, till torture and death were almost synonymous with the name of Christian; although they had nothing to propose, to Jew or Gentile, as a matter of faith, but what the wisdom of the world ridiculed, and the vice of the world hated, and all men were united in despising; although they had nothing earthly with which to tempt any one to receive their fabrication, except the necessity of an entire change in all his habits and dispositions, and an assurance that tribulations and persecutions must be his portion: Yet when philosophers, with all their learning, and rank, and subtlety, and veneration, could produce no effect on the public mind, these obscure Galileans obtained such influence, throughout the whole extent of the Roman empire, and especially in the most enlightened cities, that, in thirty years, what they themselves (by the supposition) did not believe, they made hundreds of thousands of all classes, philosophers, senators, governors, priests, soldiers, as well as plebeians, believe, and maintain unto death; yea, they planted this doctrine of their own invention so deeply that all the persecutions of three hundred years could not root it up; they established the gospel so permanently that in three hundred years it was the established religion of an empire co-extensive with the known world, and continues still the religion of all civilized nations. This, says the unbeliever, they did simply by their own wit and industry; and yet, he well knows that, preachers of the gospel, with incomparably more learning, with equal industry, in far greater numbers, and in circumstances immeasurably more propitious, have attempted to do something of the same kind among heathen nations, and could never even approximate to their success. Still the apostles had no help but that of their own ingenuity and diligence! Such is the belief of the unbeliever. To escape acknowledging that the apostles were aided by miraculous assistance, he makes them to have possessed in themselves miraculous ability. To get rid of one miracle in the work, he has to make twelve miracles out of the twelve agents of the work. The Christian takes a far different course. "Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase." The weapons of their warfare were not carnal, but mighty through God, to the pulling down of strong holds. To which solution, philosophy or common sense would award the prize of rational decision, it is easy to determine.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

On last night's American Idol, A.J., Jared Cotter, Chris Sligh, Blake, Phil Stacey, and Sanjaya sounded good. Jared Cotter sang the best, but the judges were harshly critical of him (what were they smoking?) and everyone else.

Celsus Revisited

Jesus' miracles were just magic tricks He learned from Egyptians

Elaboration on a previous post...
Holtz.AAC.2002: "Celsus (quoted by Origen) dismissed the miracles as the 'tricks of jugglers' that he said are 'feats performed by those who have been taught by Egyptians.'" Celsus, who as a pagan was predisposed to accept a different kind of miracle-working man, acknowledged the historicity of several miracles but went on to dismiss them as magic; Origen refuted Celsus [1]. Celsus' comparison was imbecilic and irresponsible: there is no parallel between a juggler/magician and someone who "heals the sick (possession, blindness, skin disorder, bleeding, fever, paralysis, withered hand), revives the recently deceased, calms a storm, multiplies food, and walks on water." Jesus also withered a fig tree, turned water into wine, and miraculously predicted the coin in the fish's mouth and the two catches of fish.

[1] (CC:I.68):
But after this, Celsus, having a suspicion that the great works performed by Jesus, of which we have named a few out of a great number, would be brought forward to view, affects to grant that those statements may be true which are made regarding His cures, or His resurrection, or the feeding of a multitude with a few loaves, from which many fragments remained over, or those other stories which Celsus thinks the disciples have recorded as of a marvelous nature; and he adds: "Well, let us believe that these were actually wrought by you." But then he immediately compares them to the tricks of jugglers, who profess to do more wonderful things, and to the feats performed by those who have been taught by Egyptians, who in the middle of the market-place, in return for a few obols, will impart the knowledge of their most venerated arts, and will expel demons from men, and dispel diseases, and invoke the souls of heroes, and exhibit expensive banquets, and tables, and dishes, and dainties having no real existence, and who will put in motion, as if alive, what are not really living animals, but which have only the appearance of life. And he asks, "Since, then, these persons can perform such feats, shall we of necessity conclude that they are 'sons of God,' or must we admit that they are the proceedings of wicked men under the influence of an evil spirit?" You see that by these expressions he allows, as it were, the existence of magic. I do not know, however, if he is the same who wrote several books against it. But, as it helped his purpose, he compares the (miracles) related of Jesus to the results produced by magic. There would indeed be a resemblance between them, if Jesus, like the dealers in magical arts, had performed His works only for show; but now there is not a single juggler who, by means of his proceedings, invites his spectators to reform their manners, or trains those to the fear of God who are amazed at what they see, nor who tries to persuade them so to live as men who are to be justified by God. And jugglers do none of these things, because they have neither the power nor the will, nor any desire to busy themselves about the reformation of men, inasmuch as their own lives are full of the grossest and most notorious sins. But how should not He who, by the miracles which He did, induced those who beheld the excellent results to undertake the reformation of their characters, manifest Himself not only to His genuine disciples, but also to others, as a pattern of most virtuous life, in order that His disciples might devote themselves to the work of instructing men in the will of God, and that the others, after being more fully instructed by His word and character than by His miracles, as to how they were to direct their lives, might in all their conduct have a constant reference to the good pleasure of the universal God? And if such were the life of Jesus, how could any one with reason compare Him with the sect of impostors, and not, on the contrary, believe, according to the promise, that He was God, who appeared in human form to do good to our race?


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

Listen to "Things You Can Do" by Deltron 3030.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Jesus Christ was truly the first to ascend into Heaven. His ascension by His own power and according to His human nature above all the corporeal heavens [Ps 8:2; Eph 4:10] and spiritual creatures [Eph 1:21] is the cause of our salvation. St. Enoch (Henoch) and St. Elijah (Elias) simply went to limbo of the fathers without dying. These are the only two men who did not experience death; even St. Mary died before her Assumption into Heaven.
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Friday, February 16, 2007

Theodore Drange on Prophecy, Pt. 1

Flourishing of Lebanon
Theodore M. Drange, in his error-filled "The Argument from the Bible," (1996) mentions many allegedly false prophecies. One of his citations was Isaiah 29:17, which says, "Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?" But Lebanon is a barren land, Drange complains. Here he commits the error of hyper-literalism. Isaiah is using a metaphor for God's plan of redemption.

Coming of St. John the Baptist
Drange also says that Isaiah 40:3's prophecy was not fulfilled in the time of St. John the Baptist. He especially focuses on Isaiah 40:4, which says "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked will become straight, and the rough ways plain." Drange says that mountains were not leveled when St. John the Baptist came. Again, this is a metaphor for God preparing to lead His people home via an easy highway and with glory before other nations, with St. John the Baptist as the forerunner to Jesus Christ the Messiah.

How Did The Sons of Amaziah Die?
Furthermore, Drange cites Amos 7:17 as a false prophecy. Amos says that Amaziah's sons will die by the sword, but Amaziah's son Uzziah died from leprosy. Amos was referring to the children of the priest Amaziah, whereas 2 Chr 26:1,21 refers to the leprous son of king Amaziah.

Sadly, I’ve looked far and wide and this is probably the single best professional anti-Christian treatise (e.g. Bertrand Russell's "Why I Am Not a Christian" is imbecilic rubbage!, esp. his 'First Cause' section), while Brian Holtz’s highly flawed yet exceptionally succinct and self-contained "Arguments Against Christianity" piece is probably the best amateur anti-Christian treatise.

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Holtz's Naturalistic Miracle Explanations: Examples, Pt. 1

Brian Holtz has suggested misinterpretation, mythologizing, and exaggeration, among other things, as being much more plausible explanations of Jesus' alleged miracles than supernatural activity. I have dealt with mythologizing in a post. Misinterpretation does not apply to e.g. Jesus' divinity claims (since they were perspicuous) and Jesus' reanimation miracles (since there is enough evidence to warrant the conclusion that Lazarus, Jairus' daughter, and the widow's son were indeed dead). Exaggeration does not apply to e.g. Jesus' walking on water because He and His disciples were in the middle [Mt 14:24; Mk 6:47] of the 28 square mile sea, which can reach depths of 150 feet.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Request to Holtz for Clarification

Some statements Holtz should elaborate on in his "Arguments Against Christianity" are:
1. "the scholarly consensus regards [2 Peter and Titus] as late and pseudoepigraphic"
2. "cf. the differing manuscripts for Rom 9:5, Acts 20:28, and 1 Tim 3:16"
3. "Jesus failed to leave clear teachings about salvation, [H]ell, divorce, circumcision, and diet"
4. "[John the Baptist's] embarrassing baptism of Jesus is played down or not mentioned in the later gospels"
5. "The god of the Torah promotes or demands ... animal sacrifice ... monarchy"
6. "Matthew changes (21:5 vs. Mk 11:7)"
7. "the Old Testament, a patchwork of folklore, legends, and myths about a tribe whose patriarch Abraham turned to monotheism because of fertility problems"

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Theodore Drange's AFTB on Miracles

From Theodore M. Drange's AFTB.1996:
"(19) According to Ge 17:17, Abraham's wife bore a child at age 90, and according to Ge 19:26, Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt. But such events are physically impossible. This is also true of dozens of other alleged miracles throughout the Bible. We know they are mythical rather than factual because they are contrary to natural law." See Summa Contra Hume on Miracles and this post on the unjustified naturalismLot's Wife turned into a pillar of salt of the multiply flawed worldview secular humanism.
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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Jesus the Lunatic?

Jesus was a lunatic

Holtz’s diagnostic criteria of paranoid schizophrenia for Jesus Christ are only uniquely interpretable as hallucinations, delusions of grandiosity, and delusions of persecution in a naturalistic paradigm. Holtz cites Mk 3:21 as proof that Jesus’ family thought Him "mad." Jn 8:48 has no weight since these Jews accused Jesus of being a Samaritan and being Beelzebub which He refuted. Holtz also cites Jn 10:20, but Jesus’ numerous disciples, who were in a much better position to know Jesus’ mental state, defended Him as sane in Jn 10:21. Furthermore, Jesus did NOT satisfy the following criteria:
-disorganized speech/thinking
-grossly disorganized or catatonic physical behavior
-lack of emotion
-low energy
-poor motivation
-affective flattening
-alogia (difficulty or inability to speak)
-inappropriate social skills or lack of interest or ability to socialize with other people
-inability to make friends or keep friends or not bothering to have friends
-social isolation (spending most days alone or only with close family)

Stay tuned for answers to Holtz’s points about Jesus being chicken, reluctant to have His powers tested, and secretive and evasive about His special nature.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Theodore Drange and Zedekiah's Death

Jeremiah prophesied falsely about how Zedekiah would die
Drange in his Argument from the Bible: "4. Jer 34:5 prophesied that Zedekiah will die in peace, but according to 2Ki 25:7 and Jer 52:10-11, that did not happen. Instead, he saw his sons killed, was carried off in chains, blinded, and eventually died in prison." Drange is very misleading here; only the last clause has anything to do with Zedekiah's death! He died neither violently nor in battle, so he indeed died in peace.
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Friday, February 09, 2007

1006 CE Supernova

In AAC.2002, anti-Christian atheist polemicist Brian Holtz says that the Christmas star, Jesus' triumphal entry, Good Friday earthquake, Good Friday saints, Good Friday darkness "in fact went unnoticed by every non-Christian writer, including the historians Seneca and Pliny the Elder. Contrast this with the supernova of 1006CE that was noted in China, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Japan, and Switzerland." More on this argument from silence will be discussed at a later time. However, in the mean time, this contrast seems invalid: the supernova occurred in 1006CE, a millennium later, when literacy was much more common and paper constraints, etc, and other extenuating circumstances in Jesus' time were not there.
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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Theodore Drange's Miscellaneous "Evil God" Argument, Pt. 1

Theodore M. Drange, AFTB.1996:

"God killed:
1. A man who refused to impregnate his brother's widow (Ge 38:7-10)." This statement is true but is worded in such a way as to trivialize the issue. Onan repeatedly refused to do the right thing and pretended he didn't, abusing God's mercy and patience; he simply took advantage of the widowed Tamar by having sex with her and taking a blatantly anti-life stance [1]. He was trying to obtain the family inheritance when it was Tamar who was it desperate need of the family inheritance.

God ordered the death of "4. All the Amalekites, including children, and even animals (1Sa 15:3,18), [where Saul was severely punished for sparing some of them.]" (Brackets are Teddy Bear's.) Addressed at "Amalekites," inspired by the truly scholarly Glenn M. Miller.

"It is hard to understand how anyone who interprets the Bible to say that God keeps people alive for purposes of eternal torment, instead of simply annihilating them, could also suggest premise (8) of the Bible. And yet there are such." Premise (8) reads "(8) The Bible contains a perfect morality, and no ethical defects." See my November 5, 2006 post "Hell," which addresses annihilation.

[1] Onan's contraception was a mortal sin, as my good friend Dave Armstrong (I own his excellent book The Catholic Verses: 95 Bible Passages That Confound Protestants and you should too!) points out.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Holtz on the Unimpressive Nature of Resurrection Appearances, Pt. 2

Doubt & Recognition
In part one I said, "Biblioskeptics like Holtz often say that Jesus' post-resurrection appearances were unimpressive to the disciples who heard about them (and should have been expecting them) and even to those who witnessed them or that they were cases of mistaken identity. This is a gross misrepresentation of the accounts. Occasionally there was difficulty recognizing Jesus [Lk 24:15-16; Jn 20:14-15; 21:4], but in every case it was only temporary. Perplexity, sorrow, the dimness of the light, visual distance, the suddenness of Jesus' appearance, the different clothes He was wearing, and spiritual dullness were some factors causing this difficulty. Before the appearances were over, the witnesses had absolutely no doubt that Jesus Christ, whom they had known intimately for many years, had arisen in a literal, physical body. Holtz quotes Mt 28:17: "When they saw Him, they worshiped Him, but some doubted." The Greek verb in context points to hesitation/indecision as to what to do next, not disbelief in the fact of the resurrection."

Now onto part two.

AAC.2002: "Resurrection. At his death the apostles abandoned Jesus in panic, even though they should have been expecting his resurrection if they had indeed witnessed his miracles, heard his divinity claims, and heard him say at least four times [Mk 8:31, 10:34; Mat 16:21, 17:23, 20:19; Lk 9:22, 18:33, 24:7, 24:46] that he would 'rise from the dead' or be 'raised to life' 'on the third day.' ... Many of the 'appearances' seem to have been unimpressive to the disciples who heard about them (and should have been expecting them) and even to those who witnessed them:
But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like idle tales. [Lk 24:11]
When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them [Mk 16:11-12]
These returned and reported it to the rest, but they did not believe them either. [Mk 16:13]"

When Does Mark 16 End?
Now, in his paper Holtz says the following regarding the Gospel of St. Mark:
"in an appendix later added to Mark [16:15]"
"The earliest copies of this gospel end abruptly at 16:8 before any visions of the risen Jesus, which were added later in various differing endings."
"Original Mark claims an empty tomb but describes no appearances."
"Original Mark contains no appearances at all."

However, compelling internal and external evidence too complex to delve into here at this moment shows that 16:9-20 is part of original Mark and is canonical scripture.

Knowing that, the answer to the above arguments is that the disciples were NOT expecting Jesus' resurrection, which makes the above Synoptic quotes harmless. This fact is demonstrated by JP Holding, Holtz's arch-nemesis :-), at Holtz was overconfident about his answers, which Holding thoroughly refuted (He calls "Daffy Whacked" Holding's "clumsy effort to return the favor"), over and against Holtz's complaints.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Don't Waste Your Time

Right off the bat, there are only two options worth considering as to the eexistence of supernatural agency: Trinitarian eutheism (one benevolent God who is three persons) and atheism (no supernatural agency exists whatsoever). Unitarianism, deism, maltheism, polytheism, pantheism, etc. are impossible by definition. For example, maltheism cannot be true because the universal moral law Giver must be absolutely good.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Holtz on Heresies

The spread of Christological heresies proves that Jesus did not competently reveal His identity

In AAC.2002, Holtz mentions several heresies that he believes should not have existed if Jesus had "effect[ed] a competent revelation of Who precisely He was." Right now I'll tackle just a few, and address the others another time. I've already posted on Docetism.

Adoptionism [=Christ as man is the Son of God only by adoption and grace; Christ is not called the adopted Son of God anywhere in the Bible; also refuted by Jn 1:18; 3:16; Rom 8:32].
Arianism [=Son of God began to exist - He was created (genetos) and of a different substance from the Father: heteroousios; explicitly precluded by Jn 1]
Apollonarianism [sic =Jesus Christ is not fully human because He lacked a human rational mind; I demonstrate that He had a human rational mind in my Docetism post.]
Nestorianism [=Jesus Christ is two persons; precluded by Rev 1:12-18 - stay tuned for anti-Nestorian post based on St. Cyril of Alexandria's work]
Monophysitism [=Jesus Christ has one nature; this is a contradiction, whereas two natures is not a contradiction; see my post "The Incarnation is True"]

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Holtz's Resurrection Red Herring #1

Brian Holtz, AAC.2002:
"If a tomb had in fact been found empty, that doesn't necessarily imply that these early manifestations were initially interpreted as experiences of a physically reanimated corpse." But this is irrelevant, since they were interpreted as such.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

What is earth suspended on?

In the Bible, eres (earth) has multiple meanings. Planet earth is suspended on nothing, as Job 26:7 says, while the land is founded upon the seas as Ps 24:2 says.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Harmony of Christ's Seven Statements on the Cross

Here are Christ's seven statements on the Cross in chronological order:
1. Father forgive them; for they know not what they do [Lk 23:34a].
2. Woman here is your son; son here is your mother [Jn 19:25-27].
3. Truly I say unto you, today you will be with Me in paradise [Lk 23:43b].
4. My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? [Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34] Note that He spoke in Hebrew because He said "Eli" which the people mistook for the abbreviated form of Elijah (Eliyahu). If He spoke in Aramaic He would have said Eloi, which can only mean "My God."
5. I am thirsty [Mt 27:48; Jn 19:28-29].
6. It is finished [Jn 19:30].
7. Immediately before dying Jesus said, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit" [Lk 23:46a].