Thursday, 18 January 2018

Was Jesus Given an Honourable Burial?

At the outset we have to acknowledge that we have no way to tell for sure what happened. We can only look at the evidence available, and see what makes the most sense, what seems most likely.

Why was Jesus crucified

Never mind the theology (which makes little enough sense), why did the Romans crucify Jesus?

The usual Christian claim is that Jesus was crucified by the Jews for blasphemy, but this is patently false. The punishment for blasphemy was death by stoning, and we know that because James, Jesus' brother, suffered exactly that fate. Early Christianity was in the business of selling the religion to the Romans and so had to shift the blame from Pilate to the Jews.

The Gospel of Mark, the earliest account we have, is very clear:
Mark 15:25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.
Recall that just days earlier Jesus had arrived in Jerusalem, proclaimed as the messiah, the awaited king of the Jews.

From the Babylonian captivity in 597 BC to Jesus time (and indeed until 1946!) the Jews had been ruled by a succession of empires (with a century of self-rule from 167 BC to 63 BC). They dreamed of being free of their oppressors, and being ruled once again by a Jew, and more specifically, by one of the line of David. The ancient kings were anointed with oils at their coronation, and messiah literally means anointed one. The new king of the Jews, who would usher in the messianic age, God's kingdom on Earth!

Note that the Jews of Jesus' time did have a king, Herod Agrippa. He was clearly not the messiah, but was a puppet of the Romans. He was not even of the line of David.

Anyone claiming to be the messiah was necessarily a threat to the Romans. Claiming to be the messiah was saying you were the true king of the Jews, and you you intended to free the Jews from their oppressors. Anyone claiming to be the messiah, and with a sizeable following was a big threat that had to be stamped out and fast! And that meant Jesus.

Jesus was crucified because he was the leader of a movement that represented a very real threat to Roman rule.

Was Jesus buried?

It was Roman practice to leave crucifixion victims on the cross long after death as a warning to others, and there is a significant chance that this is what happened to Jesus.

However, this practice horrified the Jews, and it was common for Jewish crucifixion victims to be buried. This stems from this law:
Deuteronomy 21:22 If someone guilty of a capital offense is put to death and their body is exposed on a pole, 23 you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.
Various other verses show this in action:
Joshua 8:29 He impaled the body of the king of Ai on a pole and left it there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take the body from the pole and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day.

Joshua 10:27 At sunset Joshua gave the order and they took them down from the poles and threw them into the cave where they had been hiding. At the mouth of the cave they placed large rocks, which are there to this day.
Note that these two verses are very clear that the dead were just put underground, and nothing else. No blessing, no anointing, no wrapping.

There are other verses that mention the importance of burial, but are less clear on what was involved (Tobit 1:17-19; 2:3-7; 12:12-13; Sirach 7:33; 38:16).

Despite Jesus being crucified, and despite being found guilty of blasphemy by the Sanhedrin (if that even happened), we can be sure the Jews would have wanted the body buried.

Would the Romans have allowed it? There is certainly precedent for the Romans to do so, and with the Passover so close, an especially volatile time in Jerusalem, they would have even more reason to keep the populous happy.

We cannot be sure, but it seems entirely reasonable for Jesus to have been buried promptly, before nightfall.

But - and this is the important part - the custom required only burial, nothing more. As long as the body is underground, that is enough.

Was he buried by Joseph of Arimathea?

To be clear, the question is whether the burial under the orders of Joseph of Arimathea. As a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin there is no way he would touch the body just before Passover, but could he have been the individual responsible for getting Jesus buried?

Ultimately we have to wonder how the disciples knew what had happened. In all probability they had fled Jerusalem, keen to avoid the same fate, just as Jesus predicted (Mark 14:27), and there was no one around to see what happened to the body.

It may be that Joseph of Arimathea was the member of the Sanhedrin who had the job of going to the Romans to ask that crucifixion victims got buried. I appreciate this is speculation, but think this through. This is something that would need to be done often, perhaps several times a months! The Jewish community must have known it was done, otherwise there was no point doing it. If it was done often and known to be done often, then people would know how it was done.

It would be entirely reasonable for early Christians to assume this was also done this for Jesus, and if Joseph of Arimathea was the guy who did it, then he must have been the one who did it for Jesus. Seems a fair assumption to me.

Note that Joseph of Arimathea was almost certainly not a follower of Jesus. Mark makes no claim that he was. This was a later embellishment (and one that contradicts the claim that all the Sanhedrin condemned Jesus).

Again, we cannot be sure, but it makes sense and seems likely, then, that Jesus was buried under the direction of Joseph of Arimathea.

Where would Joseph want to bury the body?

If we suppose Joseph of Arimathea really was pressed for time, what would he do?

Let us think for a moment about where the burial sites might be that he was choosing between.

First, his own tomb. This was, we are told, unused, so Joseph had chosen a site for it himself. Clearly it had to be outside the city, but that leaves a large area to choose from. Now, would be chose to have his new tomb built next to where all the criminals were crucified, the most profane land in the region? Or would he chose somewhere a long way away?

What of the pit where the crucifixion victims were buried? Remember, this was something that might happen several times a month. Would the Romans dig this pit next to the crucifixion site, or a long way away?

I think the communal grave would be right next to where Jesus was crucified, and Joseph's tomb would be the other side of the city.

The most likely scenario is that Joseph of Arimathea had Jesus buried in the nearby communal grave for crucifixion victims.

Where would the Romans allow Joseph to bury the body?

While we can say it was probably most convenient to bury Jesus in the communal grave, a more important issue is what the Romans would allow.

The overriding consideration for the Romans was keeping peace (generally anyway). Sometimes that meant putting down a rebellion mercilessly, but other times it meant keeping the populous happy. They allowed the bodies of the dead to be taken down to keep the Jews happy, but they crucified Jesus to end the messianic movement behind him.

And part of putting an end to the movement was ensuring he did not become a martyr. That meant giving him the most degrading death, and that included the burial. The Romans could not afford for Jesus to have an honourable burial for fear of him becoming venerated as a saint, and his movement rallying behind him even in death.

A dishonourable death was vital to the Romans.

Jesus was likely buried, quite possibly under the orders of Joseph of Arimathea, but buried in a communal grave adjacent to where he was crucified.

So why would anyone believe in an honourable burial?

The early Christians did not know what happened after Jesus was arrested. They had fled Jerusalem, and could only speculate. They knew he had been crucified. They could hope he was buried in a tomb suitable for the messiah, and so convinced themselves that that was the case. Who was there to say otherwise?

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Dr John Lennox: A Christmas Gift for Doubters

Okay, I know Christmas was a few weeks ago, but I only just got around to posting. This video was posted on "Chrtian CADRE" and "Dangerous Ideas", like it was supposed to convince people of the virgin birth.

In fact, the reverse is true. This video is a gift for those arguing against Christianity, because it shows that when it comes to their faith, Christians will turn off their critical thinking (and it is probably not just Christians).

Dr John Lennox

From Wiki:
John Carson Lennox (born 7 November 1943) is a Northern Irish mathematician specialising in group theory, philosopher of science and Christian apologist. He is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics[2] at the University of Oxford and a Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College, Oxford University. He is also Pastoral Advisor of Green Templeton College, Oxford, a Fellow of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and Associate Fellow of the Saïd Business School.
 This is a very intelligent, very well-educated man. Far more so thanthe average person. And yet, his critical thinking just turns off when considerng his religion.

Baseless Assumptions

Lennox assumes the Bible and Bible traditions are true. He laments that the authority of scripture is being eroded, and takes as fact that Luke was the author of the gospel that bears his name. He says that as Luke starts saying it will give certainty, then it must be fact.

Seriously? How can a university professor be so naive? If one of his students starts an essay saying what they wrote was true, would he just assume it was so? Of course not!

How does he know Luke did not make it all up? He does not say. How can we know Luke investigated every claim to ensure it is true? He does not say. He takes it on faith.

It is EASY to prove Christianity is true if you start from the assumption the Bible is true.

But that will not convince anyone who is not already a Christian!

Lennox on the Virgin Birth

The thrust of the lecture is the truth of the virgin birth. He discusses this text:

Luke 1:26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[b] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[c] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Lennox says of Mary: "She had a real moral question. How could she possibly have a child?" asks Lennox. Well, the usual way at that time was to marry your betrothed, and then have sex with him. Was Mary too dim to figure that out? Note that there was no suggestion from the angel at this point in the narrative that no sex would be involved or that it would happen before she was married, and the angel is talking about conceiving in the future. Her role in society was to bear children; why the surprise when the angel says she will do just that?

It does not make sense!

Bear in mind that to be the Messiah, i.e., the new King of the Jews, Jesus had to be a direct-line descendant of David - and the angel even says of Jesus "his father David"! If the angel was telling her that her son would be the Messiah, she would have even more reason to expect Joseph, who was of the house of David. to be the father.

Lennox looks at alternative explanations... but only considers if it was made up around the time of the birth, either by Joseph or Mary. He presents his false dichotomy: "It's either/or ladies and gentlemen. Either there was immorality OR this is the biggest thing that has ever happened in the history of the world" (his emphasis).

The far more likely explanation is that the virgin birth was made decades later, after both were dead. The virgin birth came from pagan myths, and was notably absent from Mark.

Why does he not consider that possibility?

Because it might be right, and his faith has blinkered his critical thinking.


He claims Luke was a scientist. Luke was not. He was a physician. You would have thought a philosopher of science would know the difference. Was Luke familiar with the works of Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle? He might have been, but nothing in the texts indicate that as far as I know, so in what sense can Lennox claim Luke was a scientist? This was a time where curing people meant driving out demons; to claim that a physician was a scientist is laughable.

He claims it is disturbing (for secularists anyway) to find there is more out there than this world. He then references the Narnia stories, which are very popular... because they suggest there is more out there than this world! Science fiction and fantasy are popular genres because people would love for there to be more out there. But hey, he has an agenda to push, and it is obvious he is preaching to the Christians, not atheists, so who will tell him he is wrong?

He makes the point that there were people in that world who were very intelligent. Okay, but there were also people who were stupid and gullible. That is not to say they were more stupid and gullible than people today, look at Mormonism, Scientology and the election of Trump. Hey, look at how Lennox blindly accepts the Gospel of Luke, and he is highly intelligent. That is how people are right across time. The simple fact is that people at that time believed all sorts of miracle claims. Look at "glycon" in Wiki to see what nonsense they accepted as true.

I agree with him about miracles with regards to science. We cannot rule out miracles on the basis that they go against the laws of nature - that is what a miracle IS.

However, as Lennox so well proves, people will believe the most flimsy of evidence when it comes to claimsthat support their most cherished beliefs, and thus it is all-to-easy to envisage erroneous claims of a virgin birth of empty tomb to become established as fact in the early Christian community.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Religious Tolerance

Wikipedia introduces "Freedom of religion" like this:

Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance. It also includes the freedom to change one's religion or belief.[1]

Freedom of religion is considered by many people and most of the nations to be a fundamental human right.

It is interesting to compare this fundamental human right with what the Bible says - not least because many Christians claim humans rights come from God. From NASB:

Deuteronomy 13:6 “If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife [e]you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, 7 of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), 8 you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. 9 But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. 10 So you shall stone him [f]to death because he has sought to seduce you from the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of [g]slavery. 11 Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you.

12 “If you hear in one of your cities, which the Lord your God is giving you to live in, anyone saying that 13 some worthless men have gone out from among you and have seduced the inhabitants of their city, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom you have not known), 14 then you shall investigate and search out and inquire thoroughly. If it is true and the matter established that this abomination has been done among you, 15 you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, [h]utterly destroying it and all that is in it and its cattle with the edge of the sword. 16 Then you shall gather all its booty into the middle of its open square and burn the city and all its booty with fire as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God; and it shall be a [i]ruin forever. It shall never be rebuilt.

Hmm, quite the opposite of religious tolerance. Kind of like human rights were invented by man, not God...

Saturday, 2 September 2017

A Response to Fred Reed

I was directed to a very long rant against evolution by a guy called Fred Reed. He admits it is "atrociously long", making me wonder why he does not edit it, as it excessively verbose. This is a guy who was a journalist, and should know better.

He starts with a rant against science in general - copied, it looks like from here, but with no link or credit (though it is in quote marks). Again, a journalist should know better than to plagarise without proper credit.

You have to love the irony of a rant against science published on the internet, using the heights of technology that science - and not religion - has given us.

From there we get to learn how he started to think about evolution in school. I wondered why this was worth including, given the document is "atrociously long", and I strongly suspect this is supposed to give it authority. This is a guy who has given this a lot of thought, so by golly, he must be right.

In there he says:
The frequent shifting of ground bothered me. If we knew how life began, why did we have so many prospective mechanisms, none of which worked? Evolution began to look like a theory in search of a soup. Fifty-five years later in 2015, it still does.
And soon after:
As an example, consider the view that life arose by chemical misadventure.
That is not a problem in evolution, it is not evolution at all! More importantly perhaps, science is quite open about this being as yet unknown. In fact it becomes clear that this guy has a problem with science not being dogmatic:
May have, perhaps, might. Somewhere, somewhere else, anywhere. Onward into the fog.
Science is not like religion. It does not just make up stuff and present it as fact. It proposes what might have happened, and then looks for evidence. That means there can be a lot of uncertainty. See here too:
The sciences, as I knew them, gave clear answers. Evolution involved intense faith in fuzzy principles.
What makes it especially odd is that later he says:
Humans today are a puffed-up and overconfident species. We believe that we know everything, or shortly will. We have a sense of near-omniscience equaled only by that of teenagers.
Here he is complaining about over-confidence, just after objecting to evolution as being too tentative! We get quite the screed on how arrogant we are to suppose we know everything before we finally get to the Theory of Evolution.
The Theory of Evolution is not just about biological evolution. It is part of a grand unified theory that seeks to explain everything (except things that it can’t explain, which it ignores). It runs briefly as follows: First came the Big Bang. Subatomic particles flew in all directions, coalesced into atoms and into molecules and stars. Planets formed, then oceans, and then life came about by chemical inadvertence. Evolution produced trilobites, dinosaurs, mammals, and us. In the popular version, though not in the scientific, evolution produces ongoing betterment.
Actually, Fred, the Theory of Evolution is just about biological evolution.

That it is part of a "grand unified theory" does not make that any less true. And that "grand unified theory" is called science, by the way. It is science that seeks to explain everything. That enterprise that have you the internet and allowed you to post this stuff.
In this it serves the purposes of a religion and is treated as such by its adherents. They react to questioning with anger and they see their hated opponents as Creationists–that is, adherents of another religion. Note that while in the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, Christian fundamentalists tried to outlaw Darwin, today evolutionists appeal to the courts to outlaw mention of Creation in the schools. This is not rational. Can anyone believe that describing Creation in high schools will deter students from studying biochemistry, and turn them into intellectual loin-cloth wearers burning textbooks?
Describing creation is science class will surely lead some students to believe it has scientific worth when it does not. That is reason enough to keep it out.
Before going further, let us look at some of the questions  ignored by evolutionism.
At last we get to his arguments...
In Evolution Writ Large nothing exists but physics. The Big Bang was physics, chemistry is the physics of the interactions of atoms, biochemistry a subset of chemistry and therefore also physics. Everything that happens in a cell is physics  (to include biochemistry). Everything that happens in a living body, from movement to thought, is physics. Mutations are physical events. The behavior of DNA follows the laws of physics.
Okay... So what is the question?
Note that biological evolution is always regarded as an indivisible entity, yet in fact it consists of several distinct components that are logically separable. First, that life came about accidentally in the ancient seas (highly shaky and certainly not demonstrated). Second, that evolution occurred (as the fossil record would seem to show beyond reasonable doubt). Third, that natural selection drove evolution (demonstrable in some cases, plausible in a great many, and highly unlikely in yet others). Fourth, that random mutations drive natural selection (very shaky, but crucial to evolutionism). Fifth, that nothing else drives it.
This is just nonsense. Biological evolution - at its very simplest - is about selection, variation and inheritance. Three components that can, and are, studied separately.
The unwillingness to recognize that these are separable leads to a tendency to believe that when one of them can be demonstrated–natural selection, say–it is regarded as confirmation of the whole edifice. It isn’t.
And that is it for his "questions ignored by evolutionism". The first is not a question, the second comes from misunderstanding evolution.Well done Fred.
Inevitably one who writes of evolution without being a PhD at CalTech is assaulted on grounds that he must be ignorant of practically everything. I claim to be an expert on nothing. However, I subscribe to the principle that most problems can be solved by the application of modest intelligence and obsessive-compulsive disorder. A fact forgotten today is that one can learn things by reading books. By doing so I have learned enough to talk about at least a few things, such as:
An yet he thinks evolution cannot be split into selection, variation and inheritance. When someone displays this level of ignorance on a subject, it seems perfectly reasonasble to dismiss his opinions as ill-founded.

Let us turn this around. Why should anyone trust the opinion of a guy who has no qualifications in the field, and demonstably does not understand it versus the opinions of highly educated men and women who have working in the field for decades?

Given this is the ranting of a guy who knows next to knowing about the subject, he now launches into the usual tornado in a junkyard straw man.
Is the chance of accidentally forming a living Crittter a similar problem? It would seem so on various technical grounds involving specified information and the mathematics, similar to that of the monkeys, of protein formation. The difficulty of discussion is exacerbated by the inability of  evolutionists totell us what the First Critter was. But it is their responsibility to tell us, first, what of what complexity formed and, second, why the odds are not astronomically against it. The point to take away is that the invocation of long  periods of time can mean  little when speaking of the probability of complex yet unspecified events.
Just so we all know, he has now jumped back to abiogenesis, not evolution. His mention of "complexity" and more so "specified information" indicate where this came from.
In sum: If we don’t know what conditions existed, or what conditions would be necessary, and can’t reproduce the event in the laboratory, and can’t show it to be statistically probable, and can’t construct something that might have evolved—why are we so very sure that it happened? Would you hang a man on such evidence?
His argument here appears that we do not know for sure, therefore evolution cannot have happened. A curious logic, but I have to suppose it makes sense to him. He continues at length about the uncertainty surrounding abiogenesis, as though this somehow disproves evolution.

Then we get Paley's watch:
If in an unexplored region of the Amazon Basin you find a grass hut next to a dugout canoe, you may not know who made them, but you suppose that someone must have. This is the theory of Intelligent Design. When you find in nature systems of unfathomable complexity that nonetheless work flawlessly, it is not unreasonable to suspect that they were designed, and perhaps sustained, by someone, or something. I have no idea who or what or why.
Curiously this guy does not even believe the human body can keep going without some mysterious force to keep things in check:
But to believe that 180 pounds of infinitely complex, interacting chemical reactions (me, for example) can go on for seventy years without utter collapse requires powers of belief beyond the wildest imaginings of religious faith. The whole is less possible than the sum of its parts. Something is going on that we do not understand.

That last sentence is particularly interesting, given a few paragraphs ago he was objecting to evolution because "we don’t know what conditions existed, or what conditions would be necessary, and can’t reproduce the event in the laboratory", and yet here he is admitting he does not know. Apparently it is okay if Fred's pet theory does not have all the facts, but if evolution is missing anything, then we must reject the whole thing.

From there he discusses how they can be free will if the brain is purely physical:
Which means that the brain cannot, and thus we cannot, make choices. Physical systems cannot choose what to do. A bowling ball dropped from the top of the Washington Monument cannot decide to fall up, or sideways, instead of down, nor choose how fast to fall, nor how far. Similarly, the end point of a physical system is determined by starting conditions. A molecule of a neurotransmitter binds ineluctably to a receptor because of stereochemistry and charge. It cannot not bind. Quantum indeterminacy is often invoked to try to make choice possible, but this would work only if very few molecules were involved.
I cannot help thinking that if he stuck to evolution, his article might not be so "atrociously long"!
It follows then that we cannot choose one action over another. Our thoughts are predetermined by the physicochemical states of our brains. We think what we think because it is physically impossible to think anything else. Thus we cannot think at all. QED.

Unless Something Else is going on. I don’t know what.
Remember, this was the guy who objected to evolution because of its uncertainty. Apparently he rejects evolution because there is some doubt in some areas, and replace it with "I don’t know what".

Hmm, kind of like he has decided he does not want evolution, and having decided has been hunting around for ways to rationalise that decision.

And how exactly does "We think what we think because it is physically impossible to think anything else" imply "Thus we cannot think at all."? How can he conclude we do not think from a premise about how we think?
If fitness means the rate of successful reproduction, we encounter the interesting conclusion that a woman with a genetic IQ of sixty and twelve retarded children by forty-five drive-by fathers is more fit than a Harvard math professor who runs Triathlons but has two children.
Okay. So what is his point? That "fitness" does not conform to his ideas?
A staple of evolutionism is that evolution works to maximize the number of offspring, thus passing on successful genes. This is plausible but, in the case of us, counter to observation (but why let facts debilitate a perfectly good theory?)
Wrong. It is that evolution works to maximize the number of surviving offspring. Some species do that by sheer numbers in the hope that at least a few survive. Mammal on the other hand nurture and protect a limited number of young maximising the survival chances for each.
Evolutionists insist that human evolution continues today at a rapid pace. There is nothing illogical in this to the extent that it is a matter of selective breeding and that evolution is defined as a change in phenotype.  In some cases it can be shown to happen.
Yes, mankind is evolving. The selection process is "messed up" for various reasons, including contraception, health care and lifestyle choices, and what counts as "fit" is therefore not quite what you might expect looking at other animals. This is going on now and has been studied. It is fact.

I am only about a third of the way through his "atrociously long" sceed, and I have seen enough. This is a guy who has already decided evolution is wrong, and will find anything he can to justify that belief, and what we see here is an incoherent collection of excuses, many of which are not even about evolution.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Jesus Burial

Some Christians claim that Jesus' burial is historically likely, given the crucifixion. There are various historical records that show the Romans would allow a body to be taken off the cross in special circumstances, and it is certainly the case that the Jews of that time considered it a religious necessity to ensure the dead were buried before nightfall. In times of war or insurrection, there is no way the Romans would agree to such a thing, wanting the corpse left up for maximum effect, but that was not the situation when Jesus was crucified.

It is, therefore, likely that a member of the Jewish council asked Pilate for the body to be taken down, and entirely plausible that Pilate agreed. Whether it happened is another issue, but let us suppose it did - what happened to the body?

Pilate may have approved for the body to be taken down, but he did so to appease Jewish sensibilities, to avoid trouble. All that required was that the body was buried. There was no requirement for a proper burial, there was no reason for the Jews to do anything

On the contrary, the Roman's would have required that the body be buried dishonourably.

How The Jews Venerated Dead Saints and Martyrs

Around the times of Jesus, veneration of dead prophets and martyrs was a big thing. As Jesus himself said:
Matthew 23:29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,
Also consider the words of William Lane Craig:
"During Jesus’s time there was an extraordinary interest in the graves of Jewish martyrs and holy men and these were scrupulously cared for and honored."

How The Romans Cared About The Dead

Like any other culture, the Roman's cared about how the dead were treated. More specifically with regards to executed criminals, the disposal of the body was a consideration.

For an example of a Roman denied honourable burial, we can look in the accounts of Suetonius, in The Lives of the Caesars:
For instance, to one man who begged humbly for burial, he is said to have replied: "The birds will soon settle that question."

More generally, this is from a site that describes itself as an "online evangelical encyclopedia of biblical Christianity":
The goal of Roman crucifixion was not just to kill the criminal, but also to mutilate and dishonour the body of the condemned. In ancient tradition, an honourable death required burial; leaving a body on the cross, so as to mutilate it and prevent its burial, was a grave dishonour for the victim.
Crucifixion was the ultimate deterrent, and each part of it was designed to dishonour the victim - and that included disposal of the body

What The Romans Thought of Jesus

The Romans accused Jesus of treason, and this was a very extreme crime - we know that because he suffered the most extreme punishment.

Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem as a prophet, and the Romans would have been well aware that he had a big following among the Jews. I suspect this account is exaggerated, but it seems likely there were crowds welcoming him:
Matthew 21:8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Jesus was crucified to stop any chance of him leading the Jews into revolt. Christians might argue that that was not Jesus' way, but it does not matter. The Roman's perceived him as a rebel leader, and we know that because he was executed as a rebel leader:
Matthew 27:37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is Jesus, the king of the Jews.
In fact many Christians will say Jesus was executed for blasphemy, but that is not true. The Roman's did not care about blasphemy against the God of the Jews.

How The Romans Would Have Dealt With Jesus

They crucified him as a rebel leader, and the last thing the Roman's wanted was for Jesus to be a martyr, to be a symbol for rebellion after death.

It would have been a very real possibility that Jesus tomb would be venerated, given he was hailed as a prophet by at least one segment of the Jews in Jerusalem (despite the sanhedrin conspiring against him - if that even happened). Would the Romans want the tomb of a man executed for treason to be venerated? Absolutely not!

The Romans may well have permitted the body to be taken down, but it is inconceivable that they would have allowed an honourable burial for him.

I find it odd how Christians cite the historical evidence for crucifixion victims being taken down from the cross, but ignore the historical evidence for them then being buried in dishonour. Cherry-picking at its finest.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Darwin, Hitler... and Christianity

Having no actual evidence, creationists engage in character assassination in an attempt to discredit the theory of evolution, and a common ploy is to pretend that Darwin was a major influence on Hitler.

The reality is that Hitler was far more influenced by Christianity.

They do not mention that. But if they say that Darwinism should be abandoned because it was an influence on Hitler, then surely they must also agree that Christianity should likewise be abandoned, if there is good evidence it was an influence, right?

I mean, surely these Christians are not hypocrites...

Houston Stewart Chamberlain

I thought it would be interesting to compare the impact of Darwin on Hitler to that that of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Like Darwin, Chamberlain was English, but he took German citizenship in 1916.

He is best known for his book, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, written in 1899. First published in Germany, it became a best seller and was later translated into English and French.

President Theodore Roosevelt wrote about it:
"... a man who can write such a really beautiful and solemn appreciation of true Christianity, of true acceptance of Christ's teachings and personality, as Mr. Chamberlain has done, [...] represents an influence to be reckoned with and seriously to be taken into account."

So let there be no doubt that Chamberlain was a Christian, that he was vocal about his Christianity, and that his Christianity informed his views.

A couple of quotes from his book:
Certain anthropologists would fain teach us that all races are equally gifted; we point to history and answer: that is a lie! The races of mankind are markedly different in the nature and also in the extent of their gifts, and the Germanic races belong to the most highly gifted group, the group usually termed Aryan...
About the Jews, he said:
Their existence is sin, their existence is a crime against the holy laws of life.
Not only the Jew, but also all that is derived from the Jewish mind, corrodes and disintegrates what is best in us.
Quotes from here.

So let there be no doubt that Chamberlain was a racist, and specifically he was anti-Semitic.

Some quotes from this web site that give an interesting biography of the man:
In his essay Der Wille zum Sieg, 1916, he wrote: "Die Deutschen stehen bereit; ihnen fehlt nur der vom heiligen Geist eingesetzte Fuhrer" - The Germans are ready for it; all that is missing is a God-sent Fuhrer

Many argue that Chamberlain's work influenced Adolf Hitler, although the precise links are unclear. The two men did meet in Bayreuth on September 30th, 1923, on a so-called "German day". Chamberlain, who was by now elderly, ill and embittered, regarded Hitler as Germany's future saviour, and after this meeting he wrote to Hitler: "In no way do you resemble the descriptions depicting you as a fanatic. I even believe that you are the absolute opposite of a fanatic. [...] The fanatic wants to persuade people, you want to convince them, and to convince only." (8)
In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote:
Those who had the government of the country in their hands were quite as indifferent to principles of civil wisdom laid down by thinkers like H. S. Chamberlain as our political leaders now are. These people are too stupid to think for themselves..
It is interesting to note that the third section of The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, was called Der Kampf.

So let there be no doubt that Chamberlain was an influence on Hitler.

Martin Luther

Luther, founder of Protestantism, is almost as famous for his anti-Semitism. Here is his advice on how Jews should be treated:
First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. ...
Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. ...
Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. ...
Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. ...
Fifth, I advise that safe­conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. ...
Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. ...
It is worth noting Martin Luther's influence on Hitler. Here is Hitler on Luther.
I do insist on the certainty that sooner or later—once we hold power—Christianity will be overcome and the German church, without a Pope and without the Bible, and Luther, if he could be with us, would give us his blessing.
To them belong, not only the truly great statesmen, but all other great reformers as well. Beside Frederick the Great stands Martin Luther as well as Richard Wagner.
So again we have a man who is not just a Christian, but is outspoken on his Christianity, who is vehemently anti-Semitic, and who we know Hitler held in high regard, because we have Hitler's own words stating just that.

The Long Lead Up to the Holocaust

The sad truth is that Christianity has a long, long history of anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust was the end result. The seeds were planted within decades of Jesus' crucifixion:
Matthew 27:25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
The violence started rather later (but long, long before Darwin). It is worth reading about blood libel too, to see how deeply this attitude was embedded in Christianity.

Can we abandon Christianity now?

Of course the same Christians trying to link Darwin and Hitler are the ones who are notoriously bad at looking at evidence that contradicts their faith-based opinions. Truth does not matter when you have a religion to promote it seems.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

All About Satan

All About God

I came across this web site (some time ago in fact), which purports to offer a history of Satan. I found it fascinating how it has to corrupt Biblical verses to support its claims.
The history of Satan is described in the Bible in Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12-19. These two biblical passages also reference the king of Babylon, the King of Tyre, and the spiritual power behind the kings.
In fact the verses are purely about the king of Babylon and the King of Tyre respectively, and hovering over the links on the web page makes that clear. The author then repeats the usual Christian dogma:
What caused Satan to be cast from Heaven? He fell because of pride that originated from his desire to be God instead of a servant of God. Satan was the highest of all the angels, but he wasn’t happy. He desired to be God and rule the universe. God cast Satan out of heaven as a fallen angel.
But the reality is there is no justification for these claims in the Bible.
Satan is often caricatured as a red-horned, trident-raising cartoon villain; no wonder people question the history of Satan. His existence, however, is not based on fantasy. It’s verified in the same book that narrates Jesus’ life and death (Genesis 3:1-16, Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11).
The Genesis verses are about a snake; God cursed all snakes because of what that a snake did. The Isaiah and Ezekiel verses have already been dismissed. If we believe the Bible, all we have is that Satan tempted Jesus.
Christians believe Satan acts as leader of the fallen angels. These demons, existing in the invisible spirit realm yet affecting our physical world, rebelled against God, but are ultimately under His control. Satan masquerades as an “angel of light,” deceiving humans just as he deceived Eve in the beginning (Genesis 3).

Jesus Himself testified of Satan’s existence. During His ministry, He personally faced temptation from the devil (Matthew 4:1-11), cast out demons possessing people (Luke 8:27-33), and defeated the evil one and his legion of demon angels at the cross. Christ also helped us understand the ongoing, spiritual war between God and Satan, good and evil (Isaiah 14:12-15; Luke 10:17-20).

Again the same Genesis and Isaiah verses! The verses in Luke need more consideration.
Luke 10:17 The [i]seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” 18 And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”
This could mean that Jesus had witnesses the fall of Satan, or it could be prophetic; Jesus had a vision of Satan falling in the future. It could even be figurative; the seventy disciples had been casting out so many demons that Satan's power was diminished, and it was that reduction of power that was like Satan falling like lightning. Given the Book of Revelation, the prophetic interpretation seems most likely, which would indicate that when Jesus was talking the fall from heaven had yet to happen.
Jesus Himself testified of Satan’s existence. During His ministry, He personally faced temptation from the devil (Matthew 4:1-11), cast out demons possessing people (Luke 8:27-33), and defeated the evil one and his legion of demon angels at the cross. Christ also helped us understand the ongoing, spiritual war between God and Satan, good and evil (Isaiah 14:12-15; Luke 10:17-20).
Same Isaiah, Matthew and Luke verses. You kind of get the feeling Satan is not mentioned much in the Bible. Or if he is, not in a way that supports this guy's argument. He goes on, discussing Paul's views on Satan, but with nothing more on Satan's history.

Reasoning from the Scriptures

Here is a web page called "How Did Lucifer Fall and Become Satan?", by Ron Rhodes, President of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries. With a title like that, he must know what he is talking about.

The story of Lucifer’s fall is described in two key Old Testament chapters—Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14. Let’s briefly look at both of these.

It would seem from the context of Ezekiel 28 that the first ten verses of this chapter are dealing with a human leader. Then, starting in verse 11 and on through verse 19, Lucifer is the focus of discussion.

What is the rationale for the conclusion that these latter verses refer to the fall of Lucifer? Whereas the first ten verses in this chapter speak about the ruler of Tyre (who was condemned for claiming to be a god though he was just a man), the discussion moves to the king of Tyre starting in verse 11. Many scholars believe that though there was a human “ruler” of Tyre, the real “king” of Tyre was Satan, for it was he who was ultimately at work in this anti-God city and it was he who worked through the human ruler of the city.
So the argument here is that because the later verses refer to the king, rather than the ruler, it must be about Satan. Despite ruler and king being synonyms. Wow.
Some have suggested that these verses may actually be dealing with a human king of Tyre who was empowered by Satan. Perhaps the historic king of Tyre was a tool of Satan, possibly even indwelt by him. In describing this king, Ezekiel also gives us glimpses of the superhuman creature, Satan, who was using, if not indwelling, him.

Now, there are things that are true of this “king” that—at least ultimately—cannot be said to be true of human beings. For example, the king is portrayed as having a different nature from man (he is a cherub, verse 14); he had a different position from man (he was blameless and sinless, verse 15); he was in a different realm from man (the holy mount of God, verses 13,14); he received a different judgment from man (he was cast out of the mountain of God and thrown to the earth, verse 16); and the superlatives used to describe him don’t seem to fit that of a normal human being (“full of wisdom,” “perfect in beauty,” and having “the seal of perfection,” verse 12 NASB).
More likely the author is being ironic. At the end of day, this text does not mention Satan.

In his mind if it says "Lucifer", it must be about Satan. And why does this guy think that "Lucifer" is refering to Satan? He does not say, but I strongly suspect it is because that is what Satan is called in these verses!

Of course, he is obliged to use the KJV here. Modern translations do not include the word "Lucifer" at all.
Apparently, this represents the actual beginning of sin in the universe—preceding the fall of the human Adam by an indeterminate time. Sin originated in the free will of Lucifer in which—with full understanding of the issues involved—he chose to rebel against the Creator.

This mighty angelic being was rightfully judged by God: “I threw you to the earth” (Ezekiel 28:18). This doesn’t mean that Satan had no further access to heaven, for other Scripture verses clearly indicate that Satan maintained this access even after his fall (Job 1:6-12; Zechariah 3:1,2). However, Ezekiel 28:18 indicates that Satan was absolutely and completely cast out of God’s heavenly government and his place of authority (Luke 10:18).
There is that verse in Ezekiel that the Bible clearly states is about the King of Tyre again, but Christians routinely twist to pretend is about Satan. What of the Zechariah verses? These date from when the satan was considered to be an angel appointed by God to act as the prosecutor in the divine count.
Zechariah 3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and [a]Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”

This is why God merely gives the satan a telling off. God is saying Joshua is a good man who has proved himself, and should not be standing here to be judged.

This is certainly not the reaction of a all-powerful, perfectly good being upon seeing the author of ultimate evil!

It is worth looking at Psalm 109 in this context. Here are two translations:

Psalm 109:6

Psalm 109:6Appoint a wicked man over him, And let an accuser stand at his right hand.
Psalm 109:6Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.

The NASB has translated the word as accuser, and this is exactly what it means in Zechariah 3. The satan was the accuser appointed by God.