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Why is Dawkins making this so easy for us?

For some, apparently Richard Dawkins is their guide to life, death and eternity.

Here’s Dawkins on the Bible, supplied by UD News:

 DAWKINS: The evidence [Jesus] existed is surprisingly shaky. The earliest books in the New Testament to be written were the Epistles, not the Gospels. It’s almost as though Saint Paul and others who wrote the Epistles weren’t that interested in whether Jesus was real.

PLAYBOY: You’ve read the Bible.

DAWKINS: I haven’t read it all, but my knowledge of the Bible is a lot better than most fundamentalist Christians’.

Here’s the apostle Paul, author of 13 or perhaps 14 (the authorship book of Hebrews is uncertain) of the 27 books of the New Testament:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, … , And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 17-18.

Got that?  Let me make it easier for you.

 The apostle Paul: If Jesus didn’t live, die and rise again, then we’re all damned.

Dawkins: Of course, Paul wasn’t really that bothered about whether Jesus existed. Trust me, I know the Bible really well.

How about some others who wrote the epistles? Let’s try John, who comes next, having written 5 books in the New Testament, including 3 letters. John’s made this one a really difficult one for us, by failing to raise the whole subject of Jesus’ coming as a true human being until the first lines of his first letter:

 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our 1 joy may be complete.  - 1 John 1:1-4

The whole purpose of 1 John was to refute false teachers amongst the churches who taught that the Christ had not really come as a true human being…. and hence 1 John is full to bursting with lines like these:

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,
and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. – 1 John 4:2-3

Got that one?

The apostle John: Those who do not believe in the coming of Jesus as a true human being are the spawn of Satan.

Dawkins: John didn’t really care about whether Jesus was here or not. Was scarcely on his radar. Really, I’ve studied the Bible quite hard, you can trust me on this one.

How about the leader of the apostles, Peter – who wrote two letters and is reputed to be the main source for the gospel of Mark?

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. -2 Peter 1:12-18

 You get the drill by now…

 The apostle Peter: I saw the glory of Jesus, and heard the voice of God. This stuff isn’t made up. It’s really important that you remember that.

Dawkins: Peter hardly cared about whether there was a Jesus at all. Honestly, I’m a Bible scholar.

Those dozing in the passenger seat might want to peer out of the window and take a look at where Dawkins is driving them. The man talks a good game, but he can’t read the map.

Why is Dawkins making it so easy for folk to spot his foolishness? It’s almost as if he’s dropping you a hint! In case Dawkins wants a further opinion from any other of the epistle-writers, then here’s Jude:

 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” – Jude 17-18

Weren’t we talking about that earlier? 

 

 

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71 Responses to Why is Dawkins making this so easy for us?

  1. Why does he make it so easy? Because pitching he’s pitching a brand name: Richard Dawkins. Along with the other members of atheism’s crusty boy band, “The New Atheists” (PZ Myers, Daniel Dennett, and Ben Stiller’s evil twin, Sam Harris) he’s found a sure way to fortune and fame: take on christianity.

    They’ve nothing new to say but they say it very well. Their musings sell in the millions so why mess with a good thing especially when the fourth estate will never hold them accountable for a single word written or said?

    Not that it matters. In a few short months they’ll be as fondly remembered as the Dave Clark Five or Menudo.

  2. 2
    sagebrush gardener

    I am always astounded by those who consider themselves to be at the pinnacle of human intellectual achievement yet have no qualms whatsoever about displaying the profoundest ignorance regarding what is probably the most influential book in Western civilization.

  3. DA:

    Well said. My own retort (with link to onward discussion and vids) is in the earlier thread. Somebody didn’t do their homework.

    KF

  4. I would like to point out, for one thing, that greater scholarship into the Bible, and greater evidence into the authenticity of the ‘historicity of Jesus’ has been, as Gary Habermas has put it, ‘the argument that has changed a generation of scholars’. William Lane Craig has several videos on the historicity of Jesus that tell of this wholesale shift in academic thought. As well Dr. Timothy McGrew has a excellent series of videos defending the Bible from accusations of alleged contradictions, but more intriguingly, he has a series of video lectures on ‘undesigned coincidences’. Personally, to me these ‘undesigned coincidences’ border on being a ‘supernatural watermark’ on the Bible that one would expect to see for verifying the Bible’s overall authenticity. For anybody interested, Craig’s and McGrew’s videos on these topics are easy to find on the web. But I would like to focus in on another area establishing the authenticity of Christ’s resurrection, an area that I have not seen much discussed by most scholars. I would like to focus in on Christ’s impact on the world since his resurrection and since his ascension into heaven.

    From Josh McDowell, Evidence for Christianity, in giving examples of the influence of Jesus Christ in culture cites many examples. Here are just a few:
    1. Hospitals
    2. Universities
    3. Literacy and education for the masses
    4. Representative government
    5. Separation of political powers
    6. Civil liberties
    7. Abolition of slavery
    8. Modern science
    9. The elevation of the common man
    10. High regard for human life
    11. (I would like to add countless millions of salvaged lives from the ravaging effects of sin, including mine)

    This extremely positive effect on culture is certainly far different from what Dawkins view of what the influence of Christianity has been like for the world. ‘New’ atheists, like Dawkins, like to point to the Spanish inquisition and witch hunts, etc.. etc.. to try to say that atheism is a much better worldview than Christianity for the world. Yet these ‘new’ atheists, amazingly, forget to look in the mirror at the exponentially worse horror that was visited upon mankind in the ‘utopia’ atheistic regimes of the 20th century. This following video is very clear as to pointing out the extremely different ‘degrees of evil’ we are dealing within these atheistic and Christian cultures:

    “Christian” Atrocities compared to Atheists Atrocities – Dinesh D’Souza – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmrRC6zD4Zk

    ,,, Since ‘modern science’ is claimed to be so important by new atheists, and that modern science supposedly makes Christianity completely obsolete in their way of thinking, I would like to point out that, number 1, modern science was brought to a sustained level of maturity in the matrix of Christian Theism:

    Founders of Modern Science Who Believe in GOD – Tihomir Dimitrov
    http://www.scigod.com/index.ph.....File/18/18

    Christianity Gave Birth To Modern Science – Dr. Henry Fritz Schaefer – video
    http://vimeo.com/16523153

    and Number 2, it is impossible to epistemologically justify the rational practice of science without God. Moreover,,

    Kurt Gödel – Incompleteness Theorem – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/8462821

    THE GOD OF THE MATHEMATICIANS – DAVID P. GOLDMAN – August 2010
    Excerpt: we cannot construct an ontology that makes God dispensable. Secularists can dismiss this as a mere exercise within predefined rules of the game of mathematical logic, but that is sour grapes, for it was the secular side that hoped to substitute logic for God in the first place. Gödel’s critique of the continuum hypothesis has the same implication as his incompleteness theorems: Mathematics never will create the sort of closed system that sorts reality into neat boxes.
    http://www.firstthings.com/art.....ematicians

    Taking God Out of the Equation – Biblical Worldview – by Ron Tagliapietra – January 1, 2012
    Excerpt: Kurt Gödel (1906–1978) proved that no logical systems (if they include the counting numbers) can have all three of the following properties.
    1. Validity . . . all conclusions are reached by valid reasoning.
    2. Consistency . . . no conclusions contradict any other conclusions.
    3. Completeness . . . all statements made in the system are either true or false.
    The details filled a book, but the basic concept was simple and elegant. He summed it up this way: “Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle—something you have to assume but cannot prove.” For this reason, his proof is also called the Incompleteness Theorem.
    Kurt Gödel had dropped a bomb on the foundations of mathematics. Math could not play the role of God as infinite and autonomous. It was shocking, though, that logic could prove that mathematics could not be its own ultimate foundation.
    Christians should not have been surprised. The first two conditions are true about math: it is valid and consistent. But only God fulfills the third condition. Only He is complete and therefore self-dependent (autonomous). God alone is “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28), “the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). God is the ultimate authority (Hebrews 6:13), and in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).
    http://www.answersingenesis.or...../equation#

    Moreover, Godel’s incompleteness theory was even extended to show that ‘leaps of intuition’ are necessary for the advance of modern science:

    Alan Turing & Kurt Godel – Incompleteness Theorem and Human Intuition – video (notes in video description)
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/8516356/

    And if we look for ‘leaps of intuition’ throughout history in modern science, as Godel showed are required, we notice a very strange pattern in regards to scientific discovery in Judeo-Christian cultures that argues strongly that Christ is ‘personally’ having a ‘actual, real’ effect on the progress of modern science in Judeo-Christian cultures:

    i.e. A very strong piece of suggestive evidence, which persuasively hints at a unique relationship that man has with ‘The Word’ of John 1:1, is found in these following articles which point out the fact that ‘coincidental scientific discoveries’ are far more prevalent than what should be expected from a materialistic perspective,:

    In the Air – Who says big ideas are rare? by Malcolm Gladwell
    Excerpt: This phenomenon of simultaneous discovery—what science historians call “multiples”—turns out to be extremely common. One of the first comprehensive lists of multiples was put together by William Ogburn and Dorothy Thomas, in 1922, and they found a hundred and forty-eight major scientific discoveries that fit the multiple pattern. Newton and Leibniz both discovered calculus. Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace both discovered evolution. Three mathematicians “invented” decimal fractions. Oxygen was discovered by Joseph Priestley, in Wiltshire, in 1774, and by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, in Uppsala, a year earlier. Color photography was invented at the same time by Charles Cros and by Louis Ducos du Hauron, in France. Logarithms were invented by John Napier and Henry Briggs in Britain, and by Joost Bürgi in Switzerland. ,,, For Ogburn and Thomas, the sheer number of multiples could mean only one thing: scientific discoveries must, in some sense, be inevitable.
    http://www.newyorker.com/repor.....ntPage=all

    List of multiple discoveries
    Excerpt: Historians and sociologists have remarked on the occurrence, in science, of “multiple independent discovery”. Robert K. Merton defined such “multiples” as instances in which similar discoveries are made by scientists working independently of each other.,,, Multiple independent discovery, however, is not limited to only a few historic instances involving giants of scientific research. Merton believed that it is multiple discoveries, rather than unique ones, that represent the common pattern in science.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.....iscoveries

    “I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by men who were inspired. I study the Bible daily…. All my discoveries have been made in an answer to prayer.” —
    Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), considered by many to be the greatest scientist of all time

  5. Moreover, the rise of America to preeminence in science had a ‘strange’ correlation that new atheists certainly would not expect:

    Bruce Charlton’s Miscellany – October 2011
    Excerpt: I had discovered that over the same period of the twentieth century that the US had risen to scientific eminence it had undergone a significant Christian revival. ,,,The point I put to (Richard) Dawkins was that the USA was simultaneously by-far the most dominant scientific nation in the world (I knew this from various scientometic studies I was doing at the time) and by-far the most religious (Christian) nation in the world. How, I asked, could this be – if Christianity was culturally inimical to science?
    http://charltonteaching.blogsp.....-wife.html

    In fact the negative, stifling, effect of atheism on education in America is clearly illustrated in the following study. The following study shows that the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores for students showed a steady decline, for seventeen years from the top spot or near the top spot in the world, after the removal of prayer from the public classroom by the Supreme Court, not by public decree, in 1963. Whereas the SAT scores for private Christian schools have consistently remained at the top, or near the top, spot in the world:

    The Real Reason American Education Has Slipped – David Barton – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4318930

    AMERICA: To Pray Or Not To Pray – David Barton – graphs corrected for population growth
    http://www.whatyouknowmightnotbeso.com/graphs.html

    Of related interest, as to defending the integrity of David Barton’s scholarship, David Barton defends, from several recent attacks by ‘friendly scholars’, his scholarship for a book he wrote suggesting Thomas Jefferson held beliefs that were far more friendly to Christianity than what many ‘revisionist’ historians have been portraying his beliefs to be to the general public:

    David Barton responds to critics during interview with Glenn Beck on GBTV – Aug, 2012
    http://t.co/FPk503pp

    As impressive as the preceding is to establishing Christ’s positive ‘actual, real’ impact on human culture, and on modern science, for the better, I find the greatest proof for the authenticity of Christ’s ‘actual, real’ resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven, from modern science itself, and not from historical arguments on the authenticity of scripture (as impressive as it has become), or on Christ’s impact on culture throughout history (as impressive at that is), I find that Christ’s resurrection from the dead, although it should not even be on the ‘radar scope of reason’, as far as the atheistic mindset is concerned, offers the best evidence for the reality of Christ. Amazingly, a very credible reconciliation to the number 1 problem in physics and mathematics today, of a ‘unification of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, is found in the resurrection event of Christ, though Christ’s resurrection should be nowhere near offering such a credible solution in the atheistic mindset:

    General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Entropy, and The Shroud Of Turin – updated video
    http://vimeo.com/34084462

    i.e. when one allows God into math, as Godel indicated must ultimately be done to keep math from being ‘incomplete’, then there actually exists a very credible, empirically backed, reconciliation between Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity into a ‘Theory of Everything’!,,, As a footnote; Godel, who proved you cannot have a mathematical ‘Theory of Everything’, without allowing God to bring ‘completeness’ to the ‘Theory of Everything’, also had this to say:

    The God of the Mathematicians – Goldman
    Excerpt: As Gödel told Hao Wang, “Einstein’s religion [was] more abstract, like Spinoza and Indian philosophy. Spinoza’s god is less than a person; mine is more than a person; because God can play the role of a person.” – Kurt Gödel – (Gödel is considered one of the greatest logicians who ever existed)
    http://www.firstthings.com/art.....ematicians

    further notes:

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

    The End Of Christianity – Finding a Good God in an Evil World – Pg.31
    William Dembski PhD. Mathematics
    Excerpt: “In mathematics there are two ways to go to infinity. One is to grow large without measure. The other is to form a fraction in which the denominator goes to zero. The Cross is a path of humility in which the infinite God becomes finite and then contracts to zero, only to resurrect and thereby unite a finite humanity within a newfound infinity.”
    http://www.designinference.com.....of_xty.pdf

    Philippians 2: 5-11
    Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    Music:

    Empty (Empty Cross Empty Tomb) with Dan Haseltine Matt Hammitt (Music Inspired by The Story)
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=F22MCCNU

  6. As far as Paul’s historical accuracy, it is interesting that not only was Paul interested in the details of Jesus, and not only does he share them, we also get to know the chain of evidence. Paul doesn’t just tell us what he knows, he tells us where he got his information! It turns out that Paul got his information five years after Jesus’ death, and he got his information straight from Peter and James.

    In addition, Paul cites eyewitnesses whom Jesus appeared to, who were still alive at the time, and presumably one could go and check the facts if one wanted.

    So, Paul got his information about Jesus only 5 years after his death, from the two people who knew him best.

  7. Scoffing is the atheists main argument. It’s surprisingly powerful, psychologically, but it tells us nothing about the truth of the matter. It only draws a laugh, like an anvil on a cartoon character.

  8. On the Dawkins playboy thread these relevant links were posted by r2d3 and Gregory:

    Dawkins Owned By Lennox: Admits Jesus Existed – video
    http://youtu.be/lbLRE_SIMMU

    Start at 08:37 mark.

    On March 30/04 Dr. Paul Maier (recently retired Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University) said on the 100 Huntley Street telecast:

    “And you realize that 99.9% of scholars across the world will acknowledge that Jesus is an historical person. They may not say that Jesus is the Son of God, but they will say there was an historical figure named Jesus of Nazareth. But Tom [Harpur] has very grave doubts about this, so he claims. Now that floored me right there. Because, we have copious evidence for Jesus’ existence. If you don’t like the gospels, go to the Roman historian, Tacitus, who talks about the great fire of Rome and how Nero got blamed for it. To save himself, he blames the Christians. This Roman historian says that they are named for a Christus, who was crucified by one of our governors, Pontius Pilate. What more do you need? That quote alone would establish the historicity of Jesus. Suetonius mentions Christ in connection with the riot of those for or against Jesus across the Tiber. Pliny, the younger, Governor of Asia Minor, says that these Christians get up on Sunday morning and sing hymns to Christ as to a God. The Jewish rabbinic traditions mention Jesus of Nazareth in their own language. Whatmore do we need of witnesses? Josephus mentions Jesus twice.
    I want to point out that Christian faith is based upon fact and not on fiction. The problem nowadays is that so many people are trying to turn fact into fiction.”

    And from April 2011:

    Easter Discussion — Dr. Paul Maier — 1/2
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBmAWwpZqXk

    Easter Discussion — Dr. Paul Maier — 2/2
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..0&

    Dr. Paul Maier
    http://www.paulmaier.com/

  9. Dawkins knows the Bible really well, just not what’s in it.

  10. I know Playboy like Dawkins knows the Bible.

  11. The earliest of Paul’s letters (probably 1st Thessalonians) was written about 50 to 55AD, twenty or so years after Christ’s death and the Gospels were complete by about 90AD. Would Dawkins say “The evidence that Alexander the Great existed is surprisingly shaky”? After all, the first written account of his life was written by Plutarch some 400 years after his death. We could say the same about the “shaky evidence” for the existence of perhaps most famous people of the ancient world.

  12. OT: ID The Future has a special treat, Michael Denton, on today’s podcast:

    “Dr. Michael Denton on Evidence of Fine-Tuning in the Universe” – podcast
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....3_59-07_00

  13. StuartHarris:

    …the Gospels were complete by about 90AD.

    No orthodox Christian should accept that.

    Matthew; ????
    Mark: ????
    Luke: ????
    John: ????

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J.....oolwich%29

  14. Robinson concluded that much of the New Testament was written before AD 64, partly based on his judgement that there is little textual evidence that the New Testament reflects knowledge of the Temple’s AD 70 destruction. In relation to the four gospels’ dates of authorship, Robinson placed Matthew at 40 to after 60, Mark at about 45 to 60, Luke at before 57 to after 60, and John at from 40 to after 65.[14][15] Robinson also argued that the letter of James was penned by a brother of Jesus Christ within twenty years of Jesus’ death, that Paul authored all the books that bear his name, and that the apostle John wrote the fourth Gospel. Robinson also opined that because of his investigations, a rewriting of many theologies of the New Testament was in order.[16][17][18]

  15. David Anderson:

    Agreed, that Dawkins’s statement is foolish and worthy of satire.

    Regarding some inessential points in your post, I remark, just for the sake of scholarly accuracy, that almost no Biblical scholars think that Paul wrote Hebrews any more, and that the Pauline authorship of several other epistles has been seriously questioned by a number of the world’s best NT scholars. The same would apply to the idea that the disciple John wrote 5 NT books — almost no one these days — I’m talking about serious Biblical scholars who teach at major universities, not teachers at little Bible colleges in the Ozarks — thinks that the disciple John wrote Revelation, and a good number of scholars doubt that the same person wrote the letters as wrote the Gospel.

    Not that it matters — the truth of a book doesn’t depend on who wrote it. That’s why all the arguments about Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch are a waste of time. The books themselves don’t claim to be written by Moses, so if they aren’t, nothing is lost. And even where books claim to be written by someone that they weren’t written by, their contents still might be true. It wasn’t uncommon in the ancient world for writers to attribute their work to an earlier great name, to draw attention to it.

    I assume that you did not respond to my extensive analysis of your argument in your previous column either because you did not notice my post or because you did not think it worth entering into debate on the points I raised. If you don’t respond again, I’ll assume the same.

  16. High priest Dawkins has clearly traded in his soul, or should that be his mind?

  17. Timaeus @15
    In this case I must disagree with you that the authorship is irrelevant. At least some of those writings explicitly state who wrote them (the Epistles mention Paul by name a number of times). If they were not really written by the person who is credited with them in the text itself, then they could legitmately be charged with falsehood, damaging their credibility. Also, while I respect scholarship, it must be pointed out that merely because a certain idea has traction in academia, even if there is a concensus (where have we heard that before:-P), that hardly makes it true. There is a long and glorious history of biblical criticism that was found to be grossly in error. At one point in time, prominent Bible critics disputed the very existence of certain Assyro-Babylonian monarchs, impugning the Bible’s credibility, only to later be shown up by the light of archaeological study. The point of all this is merely that there is a pattern of academics saying silly things about the Bible, so it doesn’t seem wise to invest too much energy in what they say, specifically when it contradicts the Bible itself.

  18. Timaus: I might think about replying, but since I’m a teacher at a small Bible school in the Ozarks, I don’t pass your threshold of whose opinion counts… so you can stop reading now.

    For anyone else reading, who doesn’t have that threshold: obviously if Revelation itself contains a claim to be authored by John, then the truth-value of Revelation and the authorship cannot be independent questions. The claim that pseudopigraphy was common in the ancient world needs to be further evaluated in the light of whether it was accepted in the early Christian church, and whether it was acceptable to write in the name of an apostle (an authoritative teacher of the church) when you were not an apostle, and whether we also need to read Revelation not only as ancient literature but also as divinely inspired Scripture. When those questions are also allowed to be raised, that puts a rather different light on it, to say the least.

    Similarly, to note that there is no straightforward and explicit claim to Mosaic authorship inside the Pentateuch is one thing. However, another thing is to note that Jesus and his apostles explicitly endorsed such claims. That then brings a whole sequence of other, wide-ranging consequences into play.

  19. I don’t understand the direction of this thread. Is it aiming to defend the historical status of Jesus, or the value of Christian moral teaching.

    If the former, then Dawkins is certainly making a contentious but defensible point. If the latter, then you should at least provide the full quote (as you did on the other part of your site). He said this:

    The evidence he existed is surprisingly shaky. The earliest books in the New Testament to be written were the Epistles, not the Gospels. It’s almost as though Saint Paul and others who wrote the Epistles weren’t that interested in whether Jesus was real. Even if he’s fictional, whoever wrote his lines was ahead of his time in terms of moral philosophy.

    What are you seeking to establish? The historical existence of Jesus, or the value of the Christian moral code? I assume that most people here believe in Christianity as a moral philosophy, and Dawkins clearly agrees that some or even most of it (though not all of it) is a valuable legacy for our society.

  20. Mung:

    J A T Robinson had good reasons for arguing for re-dating in correction of a hyperskeptical and dismissive tendency. Of course, the main weight of those who adhere to a school committed to latest “possible” dating, kept on being dismissive.

    For me, the Rylands fragment is decisive, and I have no problem with Jn being c 90 AD, shortly before John’s death. Same, for the Revelation.

    Since we are dealing with a codex here from c 125, in Egypt, 300 miles from place of likely composition, we have good reason to see the NT as complete within C1, making it all eyewitness lifetime materials, i.e. historical materials of the first rank of prime source quality.

    That is the context in which I see the hyperskepticism as telling far more about the critics — and none of it good — than the matters on the merits.

    On the synoptics, what took it how to me is to see the clear historical line where Luke was in Palestine c 57 – 59 at the time of Paul’s charitable trip that ended up in a near lynching, arrest and attempted assassination leading to his appeal to Ceasar’s seat of judgement. Luke is a conscious history, and is explicitly based on testimony and earlier sources. Some of that testimony obviously traces to knowledgeable women, and some of it seems to use Mk as a source. But the Ac is the sequel and it terminates at AD 62 (suggesting use as a background brief for the defense). So, we have a pivot for dating the synoptics, and that puts us in JAT R’s dates.

    Paul’s epistles are practically self-dating and indeed plainly fall in the window AD 50 (maybe a bit earlier) to 67 or so when Paul was beheaded.

    In the epistles are inclusions that go much closer to the events, most importantly 1 Cor 15:1 – 11, where we have what can be described as the early church’s official testimony from Peter and James as leading culturally acceptable witnesses, among twenty identifiable witnesses in the core circle of 500 witnesses. (We know from other documents, that Mary Magdalene — whom I think is also very possibly Mary of Bethany — is the actual temporal first witness. But of course, women were not accepted as official witnesses. That is one reason why Luke’s work was so important as it captured a perspective we would otherwise never have got.)

    1 Cor 15:1 – 11, with context, points to a date of c 35 – 38 AD, in Jerusalem, in the teeth of the Judaean elites’ opposition. And it is not without significance to note that Paul had formerly been their sword, but was by AD 55 — the time of 1 Cor — one of the leading missionaries and teachers of the Christian faith. So, we have in this text the consensus view of Peter, James, John, Paul and other leaders, dating to AD 35 – 38. men who would willingly die as peaceful martyrs rather than recant what they were convinced of was true.

    You don’t get better prime source documents than that.

    The rough handling of these documents over the past 250 or so years speaks volumes, and little or none of it to the advantage of the hyperskeptical critics.

    As for Dan Brown and ilk, and now Mr Dawkins and ilk, sadly, what they are advertising to the world is their willingness to assert talking points convenient to their preferred views and agendas, without having done due diligence under duties of care to truth and fairness.

    And, we have not even got to the summation of the non-Christian sources up o the turn of C2. I like Barnett’s summary:

    On the basis of . . . non-Christian sources [i.e. Tacitus (Annals, on the fire in Rome, AD 64; written ~ AD 115), Rabbi Eliezer (~ 90's AD; cited J. Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth (London: Collier-Macmillan, 1929), p. 34), Pliny (Letters to Trajan from Bithynia, ~ AD 112), Josephus (Antiquities, ~ 90's)] it is possible to draw the following conclusions:

    1 Jesus Christ was executed (by crucifixion?) in Judaea during the period where Tiberius was Emperor (AD 14 – 37) and Pontius Pilate was Governor (AD 26 – 36). [Tacitus]
    2 The movement spread from Judaea to Rome. [Tacitus]
    3 Jesus claimed to be God and that he would depart and return. [Eliezer]
    4 His followers worshipped him as (a) god. [Pliny]
    5 He was called “the Christ.” [Josephus]
    6 His followers were called “Christians.” [Tacitus, Pliny]
    7 They were numerous in Bithynia and Rome [Tacitus, Pliny]
    8 It was a world-wide movement. [Eliezer]
    9 His brother was James. [Josephus]

    [Is the New Testament History? (London, Hodder, 1987), pp. 30 - 31.]

    KF

  21. David Anderson:

    No, you’re not a teacher in the Ozarks; last time I checked, you were a British-trained missionary in Africa. Or are there two David Andersons posting on UD?

    The book of Revelation claims to have been written by *a* John. But the identification of Revelation’s John with the disciple John comes from church tradition, not the text itself. And even the church tradition is not unanimous; if it were, Revelation would have been accepted into the canon immediately (as having the authority of one of the apostles), but in fact, there was quite a delay, and Revelation almost didn’t make the cut.

    In any case, anyone who has worked on the Greek of both the Gospel and Revelation, as I have, is struck by the massive difference in style, including the large number of solecisms in Revelation. I suppose it is possible that the author of the Gospel deliberately chose to write bad Greek in Revelation, for some purpose which now escapes us, but I find such explanations contrived.

    Not that it matters. Revelation is a wonderful book; its visionary quality makes it a treasure among NT books. I can forgive the clumsy and inelegant Greek because the author’s spiritual imagination is so rich.

    Optimus:

    I didn’t mean to suggest that Biblical scholarship should automatically be accepted. Much of it, as you say, is questionable. It strikes me, however, that the scholarship which puts the book of Revelation too late to have been the disciple John, and wrong in style and contents compared with the Gospel of John, is sound scholarship. So I’m not accepting it because it’s scholarship; I’m accepting it because I think it’s correct. (Just as I reject the longer ending of Mark because I think the scholars have argued rightly in rejecting it.)

    Regarding the letters of Paul, I guess it depends on why someone accepts that the letters of Paul teach truth. If one accepts that they teach truth only because they are verified as letters of Paul, rather than of someone else, then of course authorship will matter. But if one accepts the truth of, say, Ephesians (one of the books frequently regarded as non-Pauline) on its own merits, one won’t really care whether it was written by Paul, or a student of Paul, or some independent person.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say that all 13 of the letters *couldn’t* be Paul’s; I would say that I don’t really *care* if they are Paul’s.

    Of course, I’m not a Protestant and don’t hold to a Protestant doctrine of the Bible, so it’s not surprising if many people here would disagree with me.

    Anyhow, I’ve been a naughty boy, because I’ve drawn this discussion off-topic. Yes, Dawkins is silly to say what he says about the Bible. But then, surely anyone who knows even a tiny bit about the Bible would know that Dawkins can’t be taken seriously on the subject. So, yes, he’s making it easy for us.

  22. Why would someone be credible enough to interact with if their small Bible college is stationed in Africa rather than in the Ozarks?

    I’ve noted that you’ve shifted the grounds of your argument. Your first post proposed pseudopigraphy. The second proposes it was not the apostle John, but a different John, writing in his own name. You moved the goalposts.

    Claims to be able to differentiate authorship based on stylistic differences between two documents of wildly different genre and presentation are a glaring example of scholarly over-reach.

  23. timothya: I was establishing that Dawkins makes bold claims about what he knows, that can be trivially demonstrated to be bunk. Where the conversation goes after that is something else.

  24. What is amazing to me about the Bible is the resilience to which is has stood up to the criticisms of,,

    serious Biblical scholars who teach at major universities, not teachers at little Bible colleges in the Ozarks

    As I mentioned previously greater scholarship into the Bible, and greater evidence into the ‘historicity of Jesus’, has fostered what has been called, as Gary Habermas has put it, ‘The Resurrection Argument that Changed a Generation of Scholars’

    The Resurrection Argument that Changed a Generation of Scholars (Gary Habermas) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVivZB5OhBc

    And, as mentioned previously, William Lane Craig has several videos on this wholesale shift in attitude of “serious Biblical scholars who teach at major universities”. Here is one of his videos,,,

    The Historicity Of The Resurrection Of Jesus – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYdzUYyIKMM

    The obvious point being in all this, from the wholesale shift in attitude of “serious Biblical scholars who teach at major universities”, is that it is the attitude of the serious scholars that changed towards the actuality of historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus, it is not the Bible which changed in its claims about the reality of the resurrection of Jesus! This is not a minor concession from ‘serious Bible scholars’, for as Paul put it:

    1 Corinthians 15:14
    If Christ hasn’t come back to life, our message has no meaning and your faith also has no meaning.

    somewhat related note:

    The Oldest Known Fragment Of The New Testament – ‘Serendipitous’ Gospel – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/6517637

    ,,, But there is a fairly peculiar characteristic that has always struck me about “serious Biblical scholars who teach at major universities” that I would like to point out. They, these alleged experts which are above reproach in many skeptics eyes, seem to be experts in ‘Nitpicking the Bible’ just so to try to find any alleged errors in the Bible, just so, at least it seems to me, that they may say to believers “‘AHA, gotcha’ the Bible can’t be the word of God! you ignorant believer from the Ozark” (all the while ignoring what can be known for absolute certainty from the Bible, i.e. the resurrection, which is certainly not trivial). In fact, ignoring the fiasco of ‘serious Biblical scholars’ that was called the Jesus Seminar, more recently Bart Ehrman, whom is often a favorite ‘serious Bible scholar who teaches at a major university’ that the secular media likes to use whenever they need a ‘Bible expert’ to cast doubt on the Bible, Bart Ehrman has made quite a name from himself in this whole ‘nitpicking the Bible business’. In fact Bart Ehrman has ruffled quite a few feathers in his nitpicking the Bible work as this fairly lengthy list of videos responding to his claims of Biblical errors testifies:

    The (Bart) Ehrman Project – several videos defending various Biblical texts and Historicity of Jesus
    http://www.youtube.com/user/ehrmanproject

    ,,, but My favorite defence to this whole ‘nitpicking tactic’ of those ‘serious scholars’, scholars who seem to specialize in casting doubt on the integrity of the Bible as a whole, has been from Dr. Timothy McGrew,

    Alleged Contradictions in the Gospels by Dr. Timothy McGrew – lecture
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJizWvoGCIg

    Who Wrote the Gospels? by Timothy McGrew – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gldvim1yjYM

    The reason why Dr. Timothy McGrew has become a favorite ‘defender of the Gospel’ of mine is because of a series of he has done on ‘undesigned coincidences’ of the Bible. Here is a video and interview along that line:

    Tim McGrew – radio Interview
    http://www.brianauten.com/Apol.....mcgrew.mp3

    The Gospels and Acts as History by Dr. Timothy McGrew – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAPG3eECaxw

    As Dr. Peter Williams points out in this following video,,,

    Accuracy Of The Bible – Feeding 5000 – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/6745194

    ,,,that these ‘undesigned coincidences’, for someone not given over to overbearing skepticism of the Bible, are fairly convincing evidences for the authenticity of the Bible, and more importantly, evidence for the ‘integrity’ of the Bible,,, integrity that is retained ‘through the fire’ of many of the ‘nitpicking criticisms’ of ‘serious bible scholars’. But more importantly, at least for me, in these ‘undesigned coincidences’ is that they border on being a ‘supernatural watermark’ for the authenticity of the Bible. i.e. on being exactly a type of ‘supernatural watermark’ that one would expect find in a Book claimed to be written by men who were inspired by Almighty God! Along this line of ‘supernatural watermarks’ for the Bible, here is another interesting ‘watermark’ point of authentication for the Holy Bible. The New Testament gospel is actually hidden within Genesis:

    The New Testament Hidden In Genesis – Chuck Missler – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4193378

  25. What is amazing to me about the Bible is the resilience to which is has stood up to the criticisms of,,

    serious Biblical scholars who teach at major universities, not teachers at little Bible colleges in the Ozarks

    As I mentioned previously greater scholarship into the Bible, and greater evidence into the ‘historicity of Jesus’, has fostered what has been called, as Gary Habermas has put it, ‘The Resurrection Argument that Changed a Generation of Scholars’

    The Resurrection Argument that Changed a Generation of Scholars (Gary Habermas) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVivZB5OhBc

    And, as mentioned previously, William Lane Craig has several videos on this wholesale shift in attitude of “serious Biblical scholars who teach at major universities”. Here is one of his videos,,,

    The Historicity Of The Resurrection Of Jesus – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYdzUYyIKMM

    The obvious point being in all this, from the wholesale shift in attitude of “serious Biblical scholars who teach at major universities”, is that it is the attitude of the serious scholars that changed towards the actuality of historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus, it is not the Bible which changed in its claims about the reality of the resurrection of Jesus! This is not a minor concession from ‘serious Bible scholars’, for as Paul put it:

    1 Corinthians 15:14
    If Christ hasn’t come back to life, our message has no meaning and your faith also has no meaning.

    somewhat related note:

    The Oldest Known Fragment Of The New Testament – ‘Serendipitous’ Gospel – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/6517637

    ,,, But there is a fairly peculiar characteristic that has always struck me about “serious Biblical scholars who teach at major universities” that I would like to point out. They, these alleged experts which are above reproach in many skeptics eyes, seem to be experts in ‘Nitpicking the Bible’ just so to try to find any alleged errors in the Bible, just so, at least it seems to me, that they may say to believers “‘AHA, gotcha’ the Bible can’t be the word of God! you ignorant believer from the Ozark” (all the while ignoring what can be known for absolute certainty from the Bible, i.e. the resurrection, which is certainly not trivial). In fact, ignoring the fiasco of ‘serious Biblical scholars’ that was called the Jesus Seminar, more recently Bart Ehrman, whom is often a favorite ‘serious Bible scholar who teaches at a major university’ that the secular media likes to use whenever they need a ‘Bible expert’ to cast doubt on the Bible, Bart Ehrman has made quite a name from himself in this whole ‘nitpicking the Bible business’. In fact Bart Ehrman has ruffled quite a few feathers in his nitpicking the Bible work as this fairly lengthy list of videos responding to his claims of Biblical errors testifies:

    The (Bart) Ehrman Project – several videos defending various Biblical texts and Historicity of Jesus
    http://www.youtube.com/user/ehrmanproject

    ,,, but My favorite defence to this whole ‘nitpicking tactic’ of those ‘serious scholars’, scholars who seem to specialize in casting doubt on the integrity of the Bible as a whole, has been from Dr. Timothy McGrew,

    Alleged Contradictions in the Gospels by Dr. Timothy McGrew – lecture
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJizWvoGCIg

    Who Wrote the Gospels? by Timothy McGrew – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gldvim1yjYM

    The reason why Dr. Timothy McGrew has become a favorite ‘defender of the Gospel’ of mine is because of a series of he has done on ‘undesigned coincidences’ of the Bible. Here is a video and interview along that line:

    Tim McGrew – radio Interview
    http://www.brianauten.com/Apol.....mcgrew.mp3

    The Gospels and Acts as History by Dr. Timothy McGrew – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAPG3eECaxw

    As Dr. Peter Williams points out in this following video,,,

    Accuracy Of The Bible – Feeding 5000 – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/6745194

  26. ,,,that these ‘undesigned coincidences’, for someone not given over to overbearing skepticism of the Bible, are fairly convincing evidences for the authenticity of the Bible, and more importantly, evidence for the ‘integrity’ of the Bible,,, integrity that is retained ‘through the fire’ of many of the ‘nitpicking criticisms’ of ‘serious bible scholars’. But more importantly, at least for me, in these ‘undesigned coincidences’ is that they border on being a ‘supernatural watermark’ for the authenticity of the Bible. i.e. on being exactly a type of ‘supernatural watermark’ that one would expect find in a Book claimed to be written by men who were inspired by Almighty God! Along this line of ‘supernatural watermarks’ for the Bible, here is another interesting ‘watermark’ point of authentication for the Holy Bible. The New Testament gospel is actually hidden within Genesis:

    The New Testament Hidden In Genesis – Chuck Missler – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4193378

    Interestingly, and more controversially, the Bible also has a ‘hidden watermark’ of a ‘heptadic structure of sevens’ which ‘automatically authenticates’ it as inspired by God:

    The Holy Bible – God’s Watermark Of Authenticity – Ivan Panin – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4136566

    IS GOD A MATHEMATICIAN? – Ivan Panin
    Excerpt: It was in 1890 that Dr Panin made the discovery of the mathematical structure underlining the vocabulary of the Greek New Testament. He was casually reading the first verse of the gospel of John in the Greek: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with the God and the Word was God…”. Dr Panin was curious as to why the Greek word for “the”‘ preceded the word “God”‘ in one case and not the other. In examining the text he became aware of a number relationship. This was the first of the discoveries that led to his conversion and uncovered the extensive numeric code.
    http://www.wordworx.co.nz/panin.html

    Here is a defense of the integrity of Ivan Panin’s impressive work on Bible Numerics from some ‘higher level’ criticisms from, you guessed it, ‘serious Bible scholars who study at major universities’:

    BIBLE NUMERICS EXAMINED — PART 2
    http://www.cuttingedge.org/news/n1363.cfm

    As well interestingly, and very much more controversially, there is a very mysterious ‘Bible Code’ watermark in the Bible that has some very interesting results:

    Bible Codes (Yacov Rambsel) – (Jesus name found in Isaiah 53) – video
    http://vimeo.com/4470170

    Chuck Missler – Hidden Torah Message Bible Code – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBjjnC8DiSo

    In my personal opinion for what its worth, although the Bible Code is certainly a very interesting ‘supernatural watermark’ when used in a very restricted sense, as the two preceding examples I gave were used in a restricted sense, the ‘Bible Code’, when used in a ‘unrestricted’ manner, has been the source of, in my personal opinion, much rampant unfounded speculation that has been ripe for abuse.

    But to continue on to what we can know for sure, the mystery of ‘supernatural watermarks’ in the Bible doesn’t stop there, this following videos show how pi and e are found in Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1 (in the two main creation verses in the Bible)

    Fascinating Bible code – Pi and natural log – Amazing video (of note: correct exponent for base of Nat Log found in John 1:1 is 10^40, not 10^65 as stated in the video)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wg9LiiSVaes

    This following website has the complete working out of the math of Pi and e in the Bible, in the Hebrew and Greek languages respectively, for Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1:
    http://www.biblemaths.com/pag03_pie/

    Moreover, as is fitting, Pi and e are foundation to the ‘the most famous of all formulas’ in mathematics:

    God by the Numbers – Connecting the constants
    Excerpt: The final number comes from theoretical mathematics. It is Euler’s (pronounced “Oiler’s”) number: e*pi*i. This number is equal to -1, so when the formula is written e*pi*i+1 = 0, it connects the five most important constants in mathematics (e, pi, i, 0, and 1) along with three of the most important mathematical operations (addition, multiplication, and exponentiation). These five constants symbolize the four major branches of classical mathematics: arithmetic, represented by 1 and 0; algebra, by i; geometry, by pi; and analysis, by e, the base of the natural log. e*pi*i+1 = 0 has been called “the most famous of all formulas,” because, as one textbook says, “It appeals equally to the mystic, the scientist, the philosopher, and the mathematician.”
    http://www.christianitytoday.c.....ml?start=3

  27. Due to trying to be brief, I won’t go into how this formula is found to coincide with the overall ‘macro-structure, and operation’, of the universe, but just to say, this equation, when compared to physical reality, rightly deserves to be called ‘the most enigmatic equation’ in all of mathematics.

    As well, on top of all the ‘supernatural watermarks’ I’ve just listed (I’m sure I’ve missed some others that are probable more spectacular) that give proof of the Bible’s ‘supernatural dimension’, many people, including myself, argue that the Bible itself is proof of God’s supernatural and personal involvement with man because the Bible is ‘alive’, and I mean that in a way that specifically differentiates the Holy Bible from other inanimate objects or books. This is because the words of the Holy Bible have literally, at a very low point in my life when I turned to the Bible for guidance through some very difficult times, in a event that turned my worldview completely upside-down, ‘came alive’ as I was reading them: This following testimony reveals one such time this ‘supernatural watermark’ occurred:

    Strange But True – Miracle Testimony
    https://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AYmaSrBPNEmGZGM4ejY3d3pfNTNocmRjZGtkdg&hl=en

    Thus, perhaps that is why, when anyone appeals to ‘real Bible scholars’ in order to try to cast doubt on the integrity of the Bible, I am far less than impressed as to their ‘unbiased criticism’ of the Bible than perhaps they personally think I should be impressed of their opinion on the Bible.

    Verse and Music:

    Hebrews 4:12
    For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

    The Word – Sara Groves – music video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ofE-GZ8zTU

  28. Bornagain77 posted this:

    Due to trying to be brief, I won’t go into

    and then goes into it.

    I know I shouldn’t post this, but I can’t resist. Are you being ironic?

  29. David Anderson posted this:

    I was establishing that Dawkins makes bold claims about what he knows, that can be trivially demonstrated to be bunk.

    Bunk trivially demonstrated how?

  30. TA:

    Try the OP, then 20 above for a tad more details.

    If you want more, try the 101 here (notice, e.g. the summary from NON-Christian sources).

    There is MUCH more out there.

    And recall the “fundies” — in context, a smear in itself — in question include Lennox who wiped the floor with CRD twice, at length, and probably the third time (anyone got a link to the vid?), as well as Craig, whom CRD is obviously terrified to go on the same debate stage with. Not to mention Habermas, Evans, Moreland, and any number of others.

    Suggesting that there is not adequate evidence for the basic historicity of Jesus of Nazareth (and suggesting that “fundamentalists” know less about the Bible than he does) is a real clanger, even for CRD.

    KF

  31. David Anderson:

    You wrote:

    “I’ve noted that you’ve shifted the grounds of your argument. Your first post proposed pseudopigraphy [sic]. The second proposes it was not the apostle John, but a different John, writing in his own name. You moved the goalposts.”

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear. When I was proposing an artificial adoption of the name “John” — where John the disciple was to be understood — I had in mind the author of the Gospel, and also of the letters supposedly written by that disciple. This *could* also apply to the John of Revelation — *if* the John of Revelation is making himself out to be John the disciple. But he may not be doing so. In the latter case, the other argument I gave is the relevant one: if he doesn’t claim to be John the disciple, how can we safely infer that he was? Especially when there are strong reasons on other grounds (style and contents) for doubting that he could have been?

    You also wrote:

    “Claims to be able to differentiate authorship based on stylistic differences between two documents of wildly different genre and presentation are a glaring example of scholarly over-reach.”

    I already granted that sometimes scholars are guilty of over-reach in their conjectures about authorship. However, sometimes their inferences are quite sound. For example, George Bernard Shaw wrote plays. He also wrote Prefaces to those plays. The plays and the prefaces are in “wildly different genres.” But neither the plays nor the prefaces contain grammatical errors that would embarrass a ninth-grader. If the prefaces contained such errors, we would rightly suspect that they had been tacked on later by an author pretending to be Shaw.

    Apply this to Revelation. There is nothing in the “genre” of Revelation that requires such bad Greek. So your “explanation” is no explanation at all.

    You may think you are defending the Bible by championing Johannine authorship of Revelation, but in fact you are merely defending a traditional opinion about the Bible. This is not uncommon among Protestant apologists. The Bible doesn’t say that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, either, but conservative Protestants get apoplectic when anyone doubts it. I can understand this in the case of Jews, who are not committed to “sola scriptura” and for whom Oral Law is binding; but there’s no excuse for a Protestant to think that the truth of the Pentateuch depends upon Mosaic authorship.

    More generally, there’s no requirement that a Biblical book be written by anyone great or famous in order for it to be true. The book could even be by an anonymous author. One of the greatest wastes of time in the history of Biblical study is the pointless battle, going on since the Enlightenment, between skeptics denying that X wrote such-and-such, and traditionalists affirming that X wrote it. Who cares who wrote any of the books? It is not Moses, or John, or Mark, or Luke, or Paul who guarantees the truth of the words written in the associated books; it is the Holy Spirit. If it turns out that every book in the Bible were written by butchers, bakers, and candlestick-makers, would you stop believing in the Bible? Don’t you think God could inspire hoi polloi? Authorship is irrelevant.

    It’s different in the case of a technical field. If you give me a set of equations for flying to Mars, and tell me that Einstein wrote it, and I believed you, I’d be inclined to steer my rocketship based on it; but if I doubted your word that Einstein wrote it, and suspected that maybe your little brother in seventh grade wrote it, I’d be inclined to take it to a mathematician and have him check it out, since little brothers in seventh grade aren’t usually competent in celestial mechanics. But in religious texts, that doesn’t matter, because God could inspire someone with no native intellectual ability to write something that was wholly true.

    That’s why I don’t give a hoot who wrote Paul’s letters, or Revelation. If God can inspire Joe Blow as easily as he can inspire John or Paul, it doesn’t matter. The famous Ode to Charity is no less true if we find out tomorrow that it was written by Timothy rather than Paul. When Thomas Paine “proved” to Richard Watson, Bishop of Llandaff, that a number of the Biblical books couldn’t have been written by the authors who were supposed to have written them, Watson replied: “It may be so; and what then?” I.e., “Why should I care?”

    I doubt there is any point in your replying to my comments on the other thread. Those comments concerned Biblical self-references, and Jesus’s references to the Bible. I thought you made some arbitrary and undefended statements which were motivated by conventional piety rather than sound scholarship. Based on our current discussion, I suspect we would simply end up agreeing to disagree. I’ll leave you in peace.

  32. Timaeus, this is a bit tedious. In each fresh post, you ignore the issues and shift the goal posts. I answered your point about Mosaic authorship in the Pentateuch (and thus the wider point about the importance of the question of the author in general) far up the discussion, but you’ve simply repeated your position at greater length without interacting with the point made.

    “Your first post proposed pseudopigraphy [sic]” – why did this merit a ‘sic’ ?

  33. KF

    Dawkins doesn’t use the term “fundie” anywhere in the text quoted from the Playboy interview. Evidently you aren’t above a bit of smearing on your own account.

    In any case, I am not concerned with whether or not there was a historical Jesus – just whether this thread is primarily concerned with that question, or defending the Christian moral code (in other words, if the latter is true, then why would the former matter?).

  34. TA: Please, we were not born yesterday. I used the short form of the word he DID use, which is just as much a smear word, one that is so twisted and abused from its original meaning in most usage that AP’s guidelines say to avoid it . So, kindly drop the immoral equivalency tactics. KF

  35. PS: Onlookers, if you look at 30 above, you will see that when I paraphrased what Dawkins said, I used the full form essentially as he did. TA has some explaining to do, especially as he went into a twist-about accusation at a time when I am dealing with a smear.

  36. David Anderson:

    “Pseudepigraphy” is the correct spelling.

    I did attempt to deal with every one of your points, and in sufficient detail that you should have recognized the intellectual seriousness of my attempt. But I don’t think most of my objections have even registered. The clear refutation of your point about the genre of Revelation, for example, has garnered no reply from you.

    The stuff you wrote in your other column, which I referred to already, contains outright errors, but I have no expectation that you will retract them.

    You’re right; this is tedious. I did my Ph.D. in religion at the 5th-ranked graduate department in North America, and I’ve taught Greek and Hebrew in a seminary as well as Religious Studies in secular universities. I don’t enjoy debating the Bible and theology with clergymen, and I should have known better than to publically criticize one for his comments on the Bible. I’ll take the blame for leading this discussion into unprofitable waters. My apologies.

    In the future let’s concentrate not on what divides us — our very different understandings of the Bible and Christian faith, which are not likely to change radically — but on what unites us — thumping Dawkins and upholding ID. Best wishes.

  37. KF

    I will repeat for emphasis:

    I am not concerned with whether or not there was a historical Jesus – just whether this thread is primarily concerned with that question, or defending the Christian moral code (in other words, if the latter is true, then why would the former matter?).

    Dawkins’ quote in the original post suggests that he thinks there is moral value in the Christian code, whether or not Jesus actually existed or actually spoke the words attributed to him.

  38. The total sum of atheists’ contributions to the field of theology consists of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that atheists make very poor theologians.

  39. Dear David,

    You might remember me. I count you among many who helped rescue me from the curse of Dawkins’ philosophy, which poisoned my life for 43 years.

    The death of Christianity and Judeo-Christian values in the UK and the EU means the collapse of civilization in your part of the world in the not-distant future. It’s really that serious. I fear that the point of no return has already been reached.

    The U.S. is not far behind. Only a major reawakening can save us.

    The irony is that the science Dawkins proposes as the foundation of his nihilistic atheism was a major factor in my conversion from his worldview to a theistic one.

  40. TA:

    I point out that there is such a thing as a duty of care to be accurate and fair in public speech especially.

    Where, CRD plainly failed this in his dismissal of the evidence pointing to the historical reality of a certain civilisationally significant Jesus from a small town in C1 Galilee called Nazareth. He then proceeded to dismiss those he called “fundamentalists” as ignoramuses — which directly echoes his earlier contempt laced characterisation of people who take the Bible seriously as ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked. Not to mention some very incendiary language — and frankly, proverbial village atheist talking points — directed at the God of the Bible and those who take him seriously.

    Worse, as the leading New Atheist, he is utterly failing to cogently and satisfactorily address the basis on which evolutionary materialism makes both cognitive and moral judgements, the latter in light of the is-ought gap faced by evolutionary materialism.

    And, pardon, that is before I touch on your attempt to push me into the same immoral boat as those who have set out to slander me over at TSZ. (And remember you are here dealing with someone who has to deal with hate sites and clearly unhinged denizens thereof who — as the recent shooting at FRC shows, if that was necessary — credibly pose threats.)

    This is a lot more serious than neat little talking points exchanges in a faculty seminar room.

    G’day sir.

    GEM of TKI

  41. Gil, you are right. We need a miracle, to recover through a reformation. KF

  42. David,

    In regard to “teachers at little Bible colleges in the Ozarks,” I’d love to visit the Ozarks someday!

    Re: #32 – I’ve had some of the same difficulties with Timaeus that you mention, David.

    He puffed his chest at you in #36 and said: “I did my Ph.D. in religion at the 5th-ranked graduate department in North America.”

    I know where he did his PhD in Religious Studies and have visited there. It is *NOT* ranked that highly. It’s a decent school, but don’t let him bully you as if you are a hick from the countryside who doesn’t understand the Bible and Christian faith.

  43. KF posted this:

    And, pardon, that is before I touch on your attempt to push me into the same immoral boat as those who have set out to slander me over at TSZ. (And remember you are here dealing with someone who has to deal with hate sites and clearly unhinged denizens thereof who — as the recent shooting at FRC shows, if that was necessary — credibly pose threats.)

    I have no idea what you are talking about.

  44. 44

    DAWKINS: “I haven’t read it all, but my knowledge of the Bible is a lot better than most fundamentalist Christians’.”

    Just another in a long litany of unsupported, self-serving claims made by Anti-Christians like Dawkins. Good grief, what unsupported, unmitigated arrogance.

  45. TA: There is a whole parallel thread on the matter, with Petrushka as poster child no 1 on the problem I am highlighting. In addition, there has been a matter of hate sites and more playing out for at least the past year and more. KF

  46. Timaeus: Pardon a note but in dealing with C1 Christian writings, I think it is necessary to observe the role of secretaries who did a bit more than take dictation, i.e. were in some cases co-authors under the supervision of the primary responsible party; which still obtains in organisational contexts to this day. Silvanus comes to mind and I suspect that Mark, Luke and Timothy played that sort of role too. That is one reason why I tend to take some of the discussions on who wrote what with a grain of salt. KF

  47. WJM: Yup, sadly. BTW, good stuff in your exchange with LT. I am too busy with Math Remediation curriculum design. KF

  48. William J. Murray,

    Are you the William J. Murray, son of Madeline Murray O’Hair or is that just your handle? I will be posting something on Madeline Murray O’Hair soon. I want to be respectful of her family member in my essay.

    Sal

  49. 49

    No relation. We just share the same name.

  50. kairosfocus:

    I have no objection to your point in 46. I have no stake in whether the NT books were written by single authors or were collaborations with secretaries. My point is a very simple one: if someone believes that the Holy Spirit guarantees the truth of what is in the Bible, the identification of individual human authors doesn’t matter — for the reliability of the teaching of the Biblical book in question. So why fight over it? Why not let the literary scholars at Harvard, Tel Aviv, Heidelberg, Oxford, etc. — who know the background history and the philological issues better than anyone else — offer the most probable inferences regarding authorship and other compositional issues, while all the while affirming that the Holy Spirit guided both the writing and the editing process in such a way that everything that made the “final cut” is spiritually true?

    People who fiercely hang onto “Moses wrote the Pentateuch” or “The disciple John wrote Revelation” or “Paul wrote Hebrews” seem to believe that if the alleged authors didn’t write these works, the works themselves lose reliability. I think that is simply wrong-headed.

    I’m not had any disagreement with David Anderson about the *meaning* of any of the works we are discussing. I’m merely indicating disagreement with his views on authorship.

    Of course, I’m aware of Biblical scholarship which, based on hypothetical reconstruction of sources, says or implies that parts of the Bible are incoherent rubbish, but I’ve never defended such conclusions. All I said was that it’s unlikely that the disciple John wrote Revelation, that it’s not certain Paul wrote all 13 letters attributed to him (and virtually certain that he did not write Hebrews), and that the Pentateuch does not claim to have been written by Moses — and that such questions, while interesting, ultimately don’t matter, because the truth or falsehood of the teaching doesn’t depend on what human vehicle God used to transmit it.

  51. T: The problem comes in when skeptical hypotheses are suggested as though they were established fact and where such imply fraud. I think it is not proper to imply such without definitive evidence, and that speculations are not facts. We do have very clear indications of co authors with epistles, e.g. 1 Thess 1:1 — “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,” 1 Pet 5:12 “By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you”. KF

  52. kairosfocus:

    For me, the Rylands fragment is decisive, and I have no problem with Jn being c 90 AD, shortly before John’s death. Same, for the Revelation.

    But were they written pre-70, and what does it mean for Christian theology if they were?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Before_Jerusalem_Fell

    I think it’s free online.

  53. Timaeus:

    I’m not had any disagreement with David Anderson about the *meaning* of any of the works we are discussing. I’m merely indicating disagreement with his views on authorship.

    But doesn’t who wrote it factor into when it was written? And doesn’t when it was written factor into “what does it mean”?

    ;)

    I’d be interested in reading this prior exchange between the two of you of you can post a link.

  54. kf:

    I understand your point in 51. I’m not claiming that there is any “fraud,” i.e., any deliberate attempt to mislead people about authorship. My view is that there would be no fraud even if the writer of Revelation *was* representing himself to be the disciple John, because it was just accepted literary practice in ancient times to father one’s writings on famous names, and all the readers of the day would be “in” on this. There is no more fraud in that than in adults co-operating at Christmastime regarding Santa Claus. No one is *lying* about Santa Claus, in any morally meaningful sense of “lying.”

    In any case, all that the writer of Revelation said was that his name was John. To argue that someone is claiming to be Bob Hope because he signs his name “Bob” would be ridiculous. We have no warrant — within the text, I mean — for equating John of Revelation with John the disciple. So no matter what way you look at it, in my view, there is no fraud.

  55. Mung:

    The thread you are asking about is:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....elieve-it/

    There was no exchange on the thread. I criticized Mr. Anderson, and he declined to reply.

    As for the rest, I fail to understand why, say, the claim that as in Adam all fell, so in Christ all are redeemed, depends on who made it. Whether Paul said that, or his secretary, or some anonymous writer of the Pauline school, or someone else entirely, it’s either true or false. If people share Mr. Anderson’s belief that the Bible is wholly reliable and that everything in it is true, the statement can be trusted no matter who said it. And the same applies to the book of Revelation; suppose it was not written by John the disciple, but some later John. Does that mean the vision recorded in it was from Satan, rather than God? What’s authorship got to do with truth? Can’t God take any old John and make him a vehicle of divine truth?

  56. Timaeus,

    Thank you for your response.

    I fail to understand why, say, the claim that as in Adam all fell, so in Christ all are redeemed, depends on who made it.

    So if Charles Manson, or Jeffrey Dahmer, made that claim, it makes no difference.

    I could nor disagree more.

    The truth of a proposition is intimately associated with the individual who states the proposition.

  57. Mung (56):

    You may not be doing it intentionally, but you are arguing demagogically, appealing to popular sentiment rather than to reason.

    Are you saying that if Dahmer or Manson argued that 2 + 2 = 4, you would deny that 2 + 2 = 4, on the grounds that if someone so horrible believed it, it must not be true?

    And are you denying that God could take someone like Dahmer and Manson and illuminate their soul with truth, so that they could speak something true, despite the evil of their past lives? Are you denying that God could have chosen to give the book of Revelation to us through a mass murderer, rather than through the disciple John? Is God not free to use what vessels he wills? Even a “man of unclean lips”?

    Or are you perhaps arguing something purely hypothetical, i.e., that if we had never seen the book of Revelation before, and Dahmer or Manson produced it, we might well be suspicious of its spiritual reliability?

    If you are arguing the latter, I understand your point. Yes, I *would* give close scrutiny to something produced by evil people when they were still in their unregenerate state. But that is not the situation we are in. We are in a situation where the book of Revelation is accepted as a canonical, inspired, and reliable part of the Bible, not an unknown writing that has yet to prove itself. The Church decided, long ago, that Revelation was inspired.

    Bear in mind that *I’m* not the one laying down the implicit ground rules of this discussion. David Anderson believes — he can correct me if I’ve misinterpreted his position — that the Bible in its entirety is the inspired word of God, and that all of its teachings are true. If he believes that, then he must believe in the truth of the teaching of the book of Revelation. Now, does his belief in the truth of Revelation come from his opinion that John the disciple wrote it? Or is his belief independent of that opinion? (An opinion, by the way, which has no basis in the book of Revelation itself, but comes only from later tradition.)

    If his belief in the reliability of Revelation comes solely from his opinion that John the disciple wrote it, then, if a proof comes along that John the disciple did not write it, he must yank Revelation out of his Bible, denying it canonicity. On the other hand, if his belief in Revelation comes from his view that the Holy Spirit guided the Church to select only divinely revealed books for the Bible, so that, *whoever* wrote it, Revelation is guaranteed to be true by the Holy Spirit, then the authorship doesn’t matter.

    I’m not sure that David Anderson is claiming that Johannine authorship *does* matter; he may actually agree with me that it doesn’t. If so, then our only disagreement is over the fact of Johannine authorship, not over its significance. But if that has no spiritual cash value, then the disagreement is religiously trivial, and is simply a matter for historical scholarship to wrestle with.

  58. DAWKINS: I haven’t read it all, but my knowledge of the Bible is a lot better than most fundamentalist Christians’.

    Dawkins: Of course, Paul wasn’t really that bothered about whether Jesus existed. Trust me, I know the Bible really well.

    Uh, about that…

    There have been many controversies surrounding Jesus Christ, but his historicity should not be one of them. People as diverse as Malcolm Muggeridge, Wil Durant, and even Napoleon Bonaparte have talked about him; if he never existed, then please enlighten me as to whom they were talking about.

  59. Timaeus,

    You do bring up some interesting points.

    You seemed to be arguing that it does not matter who said it, and I objected.

    But then I reflected upon the fact that Balaam’s ass spoke.

    Should I cede that the words of known liars and murderers should be taken as truth over those of an ass, never known to have lied before?

    I think not, but I shall reflect upon what you have written.

    God bless.

  60. Timaeus,

    Contrary to general scholarly opinion, Ford identifies the writer as the Hebrew prophet and forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptist, not John the Evangelist.

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/0385509197

  61. Thanks for agreeing to reflect upon my argument, Mung.

    Thanks also for the book reference. An interesting hypothesis regarding the authorship of Revelation, to be sure! It may even be true. But I can’t comment without examining it.

    Bear in mind that I’m assuming that David Anderson, being a conservative evangelical Protestant, accepts the doctrine of sola scriptura and the 66-book canon of the Protestant churches. The web site he is associated with — which is extremely conservative — bears this out. If he holds to the beliefs announced on that site, he must believe that all the books of the Bible speak truth, and speak truth in their entirety. God has guaranteed their veracity.

    Think of it this way. If your father, or anyone in whom you placed a very high degree of trust, came up to you and said: “Son (friend, etc.), this man here used to be a liar and a murderer, but I tell you from personal knowledge that he has changed, and that you can now risk your life on the truth of anything he tells you” — would you not treat such a man differently than someone whom you knew to be *still* a liar and a murderer?

    It’s like that with the Bible. If you are a conservative evangelical Protestant, the truth of every word of the Bible is guaranteed. The *authorship* is not, because the Biblical books don’t always tell us who wrote them, but the *truth* is. So, if you are an orthodox Protestant, the author of Revelation could have been Jack the Ripper or Charles Manson or the Son of Sam in his previous life, but the truth of the book of Revelation is still binding upon you. If you would deny that God could use such shabby human material to convey truth, you are denying the power of God. And if God *tells* you (as your Dad did in my example) that the author of Revelation is trustworthy (which God does, by placing the book of Revelation in the Bible), your opinion on whether or not the author of Revelation is trustworthy (which is based on your knowledge of his previous misdeeds) shouldn’t matter at all. If you set your judgment of his trustworthiness against God’s, you’re in effect defying God’s orders. If you are a conservative evangelical Protestant, you must believe that the Bible is true — all completely true — no matter how depraved the persons were who recorded it.

    Of course, if you are *not* a conservative evangelical Protestant, then you are free to judge the reliability of the books of the Bible in line with your opinion of the moral character of their authors (though how you would determine the authors and their moral biography, I don’t know). You can eject from the Biblical canon any books that you like. But I was debating with David Anderson, who does not allow himself such freedom of private judgment, and my conclusions are, I think, inevitable, given the religious axioms he accepts. Authorship shouldn’t matter; if it’s in the Bible, it’s true. And probably the author of Revelation was *not* anything like Charles Manson — though for all we know he might have been like Charles *Colson* at some point in his life — but even if he was exactly like Charles Manson prior to his illumination, that doesn’t matter.

    Therefore, even if the John of Revelation is not the disciple John, his words are as reliable as they would be if he were. And the same applies to the authors of the Letters attributed to John. And to all 13 Letters attributed to Paul, whether he wrote them or not. And to all 5 books of Moses, whether Moses had anything to do with them or not.

    Thus, authorship should be a purely academic discussion, one having nothing to do with the essentials of faith. If David Anderson believes that John the disciple wrote 5 of the NT books, that’s his right; I think differently, as is my right. But to make the belief that John the disciple wrote all 5 of those books a test of the genuineness or purity of faith — that would be wrong. In denying that John wrote all 5 books, I wasn’t attacking Christian faith as such, not even fundamentalist Protestant faith. I was attacking only a certain intellectual opinion which has become attached to faith, and is not necessary to it.

    I see that David Anderson is not interested in continuing the conversation with me, on either thread. That’s fine. Such conversations are off-topic for UD anyway.

    The only reason I entered into the conversation is that if UD is going to allow columnists to assert propositions from their Biblical and Christian faith on a site which is supposed to be dedicated to intelligent design (which loudly proclaims to the world that it is a *scientific* not a *religious* doctrine), then others whose religious understanding is different from the columnists’ should have a right of rebuttal. Either religion should not be discussed at all here, or one should be allowed to disagree with the religious views expressed by the columnists.

    I’ll never criticize conservative Biblical Christianity *per se* here, but if conservative Biblical Christians try to pass off as fact religious interpretations which are in fact only hypotheses (i.e., that John the disciple wrote 5 NT books), I think I have the right (and duty, as a trained Biblical scholar) to point out the difference between fact and hypothesis. The reader has the right to be alerted.

    Thanks again for the discussion.

  62. Timaeus, don’t know if you’re still monitoring:

    Think of it this way. If your father, or anyone in whom you placed a very high degree of trust, came up to you and said: “Son (friend, etc.), this man here used to be a liar and a murderer, but I tell you from personal knowledge that he has changed, and that you can now risk your life on the truth of anything he tells you” — would you not treat such a man differently than someone whom you knew to be *still* a liar and a murderer?

    Having once been a liar and a thief (and perhaps, according to the heart, a murderer), and having experienced the saving grace of Christ Jesus, I would have to take that claim seriously.

    It’s like that with the Bible. If you are a conservative evangelical Protestant, the truth of every word of the Bible is guaranteed. The *authorship* is not, because the Biblical books don’t always tell us who wrote them, but the *truth* is.

    But isn’t it the case that the truth is guaranteed not because of the human author, but because they all share the same divine Author?

  63. Timaeus:

    Either religion should not be discussed at all here, or one should be allowed to disagree with the religious views expressed by the columnists.

    It seems to me that religious content frequently appears, and I never hesitate to point out when I think it is mistaken.

    As a preterist, if someone here asserts that the book of Revelation is inspired, I ask how that can possible be so. The author clearly states on numerous occasions that the events described in it will soon take place and are “at hand.”

    As for Ford, I don’t agree with her, but I thought it would be an interesting way to acquaint you with the fact that my horizons are broader than the most recent Jack van Impe broadcast on TV.

    Considering your background, I hope we have occasion to come across each other in future discussions.

    God Bless

  64. Mung @62:

    “But isn’t it the case that the truth is guaranteed not because of the human author, but because they all share the same divine Author?”

    Quite. But my disagreement with David Anderson wasn’t over whether all five books attributed to John the disciple were inspired by God, as the ultimate Author; it was whether all five book attributed to John the disciple were written by John the disciple, as the mediate author. And maybe that’s ultimately unimportant. But as he was representing as historical fact something which I deem to be at best unlikely and almost certainly false, I offered my correction.

  65. Mung @63:

    “As for Ford, I don’t agree with her, but I thought it would be an interesting way to acquaint you with the fact that my horizons are broader than the most recent Jack van Impe broadcast on TV.”

    I’m sorry; I’m lost. I don’t recall discussing anyone named “Ford.” You’ll have to clarify this reference.

  66. An interjection into this debate. When Timaeus uses “Evangelical Protestant” as a substitute for “Scriptural inerrancy” I would have to remind him that “Sola Scriptura”, and not “Scriptural Inerrancy”, is the Protestant distinctive. The latter has never been doubted by the historic traditions.

    For example, the Catholic position, evidenced by Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, for which there’s unfortunately only room for a short quote, says:

    It will never be lawful to restrict inspiration merely to certain parts of the Holy Scripture, or to grant that the sacred writer could have made a mistake. Nor may the opinion of those be tolerated, who, in order to get out of these difficulties, do not hesitate to suppose that Divine inspiration extends only to what touches faith and morals, on the false plea that the true meaning is sought for less in what God has said than in the motive for which He has said it.

    The Catholic position is that Councils and Popes have sole authority to interpret Scripture. But no Pope has ever had the authority to say, “the Holy Apostle was in error in writing this Scripture.”

    In the Orthodox statements of faith I’ve seen, little is said of Scripture itself, but they do state that it has equal status with tradition. That is to elevate the authority of tradition, not to lessen the authority of Scripture – in essence it is saying that God has ensured that the Church correctly interprets his word. And of course, though Orthodox writers love to toss Patristic sources around, those Patristic writers usually bring their arguments from “the divine word”.

    One more thing: I believe the authorship of the New Testament Scriptures was a key issue for the early Church, though not a simple one. That’s because they were dealing with (a) the reality of key, miraculous, historic events and (b) the authenticity of dominical and apostolic teaching. There would have been no point in attaching names to the texts otherwise.

    In the specific case of the Johannine corpus, we may assume that the early Church knew the John (or Johns) who wrote, or authorised, it, which was why it was universally accepted (leaving aside the time it took for 2 & 3 John and Revelation to gain universality, for which there are specific reasons). The fact that we don’t know his identigty means we have to hypothesise on inadequate data, and/or take the Orthodox step of trusting the tradition got it right.

    Richard Bauckham makes a good case for “John the Elder” being a key early eyewitness, and therefore a small-”a” apostle able to write all or some of it. Be that as it may, he was not just some 2nd century prophet adopting the name for extra clout.

  67. Jon Garvey:

    Thank you for the fraternal correction regarding “evangelical” and “inerrancy.” I do understand the various uses of these terms, but from time to time, when writing in a hurry, and thinking of a certain *kind* of evangelical, and a certain *kind* of inerrantism, I don’t define my terms, which is unwise, because not all readers will immediately recognize my usage. So let me define my terms, as I’ve been using them here:

    By “evangelical” I mean a certain style of Christianity, which is strong in sectarian Protestantism in America, and present in some of the mainline denominations as well. The emphasis is on missionary work, conversion, and on celebrating one’s own conversion and the joys of Christian life. Evangelicals come in many varieties, from liberal to conservative, from virtually all denominations (even some American Catholics style themselves “evangelical” in this sense), and on origins their positions are all over the map, from TE through ID and OEC to YEC.

    By “inerrant,” I refer to the view that the Scriptures are without error. This view can be subdivided into two versions:

    (i) The Scriptures are inerrant in all that they *teach* — and they *teach* doctrines of the faith, morality, and some historical events. This implies that there may other things in Scripture, incidental things, which are not *taught* by Scripture, e.g., certain Scriptural passages may imply local beliefs in geocentrism or waters above the heavens or the spontaneous generation of flies or the wrong date for the founding of a Canaanite city or the like — but a Christian may deny those things because they are not what Scripture is trying to convey;

    (ii) The Scriptures are inerrant in everything they *say*, which means that not only what they say about faith and morals, and key historical events such as the Resurrection, but also what they say about light before the sun and waters above the sky and all dates and places and genealogies mentioned or recorded in Scripture are without error and must be accepted as given.

    Some — not all — “evangelicals” are “literalist-inerrantist,” by which I mean, they not only hold to the traditional understanding that the Scriptures are “inerrant,” but hold to type (ii) of inerrancy above. They read the Scriptures in a rather mechanical way, where every statement is read off as a sort of videotaped record of past events. (I’m aware that in the ancient and medieval church the “literal” interpretation included more that what “literalist” means in the context I’m using it, but in the common understanding today, “literalist” doesn’t mean that any more.)

    One can believe that the Scriptures are “inerrant” without taking what I’m calling a “literalist” reading of them. For example, the Catholic Church upholds the “inerrancy” of the Scriptures, but its Catechism allows that some of the language of the Garden story in Genesis is “figurative.” That term, “figurative,” is compatible with the older use of “literal” interpretation (in the patristic and medieval periods), but it’s not compatible with the way “literalist” is used today. A literalist today is convinced that a snake had an audible conversation with Eve, and that knowledge of good and evil and eternal life were hanging there in the form of edible fruits. A Catholic, following the Catechism, need not accept that degree of photographic realism when interpreting the Genesis text. (Some Catholics do, and the Church doesn’t forbid that; but it is no part of Catholic doctrine that every single statement made in the Garden story is a perfect snapshot of a material thing or historical event.)

    I’m no expert on historical Protestantism, but there is a famous passage in Calvin about Genesis, whose meaning is sometimes debated, but which seems to be that Moses wrote about the cosmos after the manner of common perception, and not in the manner of a natural philosopher, and therefore that strict accuracy was not to be expected from some of Moses’s statements. I have always taken this passage to imply that Calvin would be an inerrantist in sense (i) above rather than sense (ii), but I’m open to further instruction on the fine points of Calvin’s view.

    I agree with your remarks about Scripture and tradition. Certainly the Pope has no authority to say that Paul was in error in his interpretation of Adam. However, for the professional Biblical scholar, as opposed to the confessional theologian, this often poses a problem, because it sometimes at least *appears* that a later Scriptural writer is misinterpreting an earlier Scriptural passage. And from the pure Biblical scholar’s point of view, the unity of the Bible cannot be assumed, but must be proved, whereas for the systematic theologian the unity of the Bible not only can be but must be assumed. From a Biblical scholar’s point of view, then, “Paul got Genesis wrong” is always an interpretive option, whereas for the Pope, for Calvin, for Luther, etc., that is never an interpretive option.

    But we don’t have to insist that Paul made any error, in order to resist the traditional teaching about Adam and Christ. It is also possible that Paul correctly understood Genesis, but that the Church — at least the Western Church (I don’t know the Eastern tradition well enough to comment) — has misinterpreted the meaning of Paul’s use of Genesis. I won’t try to argue that here, but it is a logical possibility.

    Regarding your other remarks about authorship, I neither affirm nor deny them. I think we in fact know very little about the authorship of New Testament books, and the usual sources of information (Eusebius, Papias, etc.) I regard as, not wrong, but unreliable. And what “the early Church” knew about the various “Johns” of course depends on how “early” we are talking about. Church authorities living in AD 90 may well have known the author of the Gospel of John personally. But we don’t have any documents (other than the New Testament and one or two other near-canonical writings) from that period, so we have no contemporary confirmation that “John” was the disciple. And we have no contemporary confirmation concerning the writers of the other Johannine books; only later reports, and modern scholarly assessments of probabilities.

    Finally, I think your last sentence may be correct, as an interpretation, but I don’t see how you can assert it as a fact. A second-century writer might well have done such a thing — *if* such a device had the approval of the Church authorities of the time. We simply don’t know enough about the conditions of composition of the books, and we don’t know enough about the relationship between the authors of the books and the early Church command structure. For example, were these authors writing the Gospel and Revelation *on the instructions* of the Church? Or were they “freelancers” whose work later came to be recognized as inspired by the Church? Was there some degree of “committee writing” involved? Etc. I certainly concede that *later* writings (from about 180 or 200 on) seem to discuss authorship in the conventional way, but in the period I’d most like to hear from (ca 50 AD – 150 AD) we have almost no contemporary documents discussing the production of the Biblical books.

    All I can say is that it strikes me as very unlikely — based on my own study and literary instincts — that the author of John’s Gospel wrote Revelation. It would take a lot of close exegetical argument to convince me otherwise. The Letters of John, I haven’t thought about enough, and have no view on the subject.

    Again, I’m not representing my position as orthodox or conventional. I’m just sharing my thoughts. I don’t expect anyone to agree with me, unless their thoughts have run along similar lines and driven them to the same conclusions. And I don’t consider any of these historical ruminations to be very important for the essence of Christian faith. I don’t really care who wrote any of the books of the Bible, and I think that any “inerrancy” that it contains comes from divine sources rather than human ones.

    I actually think that the language of “inerrancy” is filled with connotations that the Church is better off without. I think the language of “inspiration” is sufficient, and avoids all kinds of unnecessary polemics, and all kinds of misadventures into a “literalism” of a bad type (my type ii above). When a self-styled “conservative evangelical” Protestant proudly boasts that he is also an “inerrantist,” I assume — unless he immediately states otherwise — that he is an inerrantist of type ii, and I know that I am not going to get far with him in any conversation about the meaning of Genesis.

  68. Timaeus

    I’d go along with most of that. The problem of using “inspiration” is that some (even those who should no better) use it in the same sense that people use of Liberace – “It lifts my heart” (as opposed to being breathed out by God!). Interestingly the Catholic church also defines “inspiration” carefully, distingusihing it from “revelation proper”. It seems to have much the same content as Charles Hodge’s view.

    Authorship questions will always, like the Synoptic question, be difficult to unravel, especially given the strong authorial contribution of amanuenses and secretaries at that time. But as ever conclusions depend on presuppositions (eg Papias is unreliable because he’s a traditional Christian source, rather than because we have the dirt on how unreliable he is).

    Incidentally Bauckham thinks Revelation has a separate author from the rest: not sure who.

  69. I’m sorry; I’m lost. I don’t recall discussing anyone named “Ford.” You’ll have to clarify this reference.

    @60 and @61 above.

  70. Mung:

    Ah, now I see it. I remembered your mention of the thesis of the book, but I didn’t remember the name of the author, and when you used the pronoun “her,” all I could think of was Betty Ford!

  71. hehehe

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