Category Archives: Bible

How to write a biblical fairy tale

Fantastic Landscape With Mushrooms. Illustration To The Fairy Tale "Alice In Wonderland"

(image courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

WriteShop gives this advice on how to write a fairy tale:[1] Kim, on this blog, states a fairy tale contains these elements:

The fairy tale genre needs to include certain basic elements. Otherwise, it may not be a fairy tale at all!

These characteristics mark a story as a fairy tale:

  • It usually begins with “Once upon a time,” “Long ago,” or “Once there was a …”
  • The story takes place in a distant or make-believe land.
  • It features imaginary characters such as dragons, fairies, elves, and giants.
  • Things happen in threes and sevens (three bears, three wishes, seven brothers).
  • Wishes are often granted.
  • A difficult problem is solved at the end of the story.
  • Good triumphs over evil.
  • The story has a happy ending.

In addition, a fairy tale will often include:

  • Royal characters such as kings and princesses
  • Talking animals
  • Magical elements such as magic beans, fairy dust, enchanted castle

J.J. Sunset’s Blog gives these steps:[2]

Instructions

clip_image003 Step 1

Decide what lesson your fairy tale is going to teach before you write it. At their core, fairy tales are morality tales from the horror of stepmothers to not talking to strangers. They are generally teaching something and yours should do the same.

clip_image003[1]Step 2

Create a good character. A fairy tale needs someone to root for. They don’t have to be perfect. Just think Jack in “Jack and the Beanstalk” or Red in “Little Red Riding Hood” but your readers should like them and want them to succeed.

clip_image003[2]Step 3

Devise an evil character. A fairy tale must have an evil character that works as an antagonist to the good character. The evil character usually has special powers of some sort and they must use those powers in a way to cause the good character pain.

clip_image003[3]Step 4

Design a magical character or object to write into the fairy tale. The magical character can be the evil character but many fairy tales have both good and evil magical characters that work to off-set the other’s influence.

clip_image003[4]Step 5

Identify what obstacles your good character is going to have to face. Whatever the obstacle, it should seem insurmountable and genuinely require a bit of creativity by your good character and a little magical assistance.

clip_image003[5]Step 6

Cute Cartoon Castle. FairyTale Cartoon Castle. Fantasy Fairy Tale Palace With Rainbow. Vector IllustrationWrite a happy ending. A fairytale isn’t a fairytale unless it has a happy ending. Your good character must succeed and your evil character must lose and lose in a big way so you can write your “happily ever after.”

I gave these two examples of how to create a fairy tale because sometimes scholars state the Bible is a fairy tale.

How to pick fiction from nonfiction

Matt Grant explained:

For writers and readers alike, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between fiction and nonfiction. In general, fiction refers to plot, settings, and characters created from the imagination, while nonfiction refers to factual stories focused on actual events and people. However, the difference between these two genres is sometimes blurred, as the two often intersect.

He further made the assessment that nonfiction is factual, based on true events such as histories, biographies, journalism and essays. If fiction has “a few smatterings of fact” in it, that does not make the nonfiction true. However, “a few fabrications” in nonfictions “can force that story to lose all credibility.”

Here are a few indexes to use to determine the historical reliability of an historical writing.

Indexes (criteria) of historical trustworthiness[3]

These include:

1. Early Multiple Attestation

Multiple Attestation refers to a fact or event that appears to have been preserved down multiple lines of independent tradition is more likely to be true than one that is only preserved down a single line.

2. Dissimiliarity

The ‘criteria of dissimilarity’ . . . essentially contains two different criteria, that of the ‘criteria of distinction from Judaism’(CDJ ) and ‘Criteria of distinction from Christianity‘(CDC) [Swales 2008].

3. Embarrassment

A fact or event that appears to cause embarrassment to the theology of the gospel authors is less likely to have been invented by them than a fact or event that bolsters their theology.

For example, since the Jews had a low view of women, the women who were waiting for Jesus at the empty tomb, makes the account more credible.

4. Coherence

Coherence: A fact or event that appears to be consistent with our present understanding of the historical context is more likely to be true than one which appears to be at odds with it.

5. Semitisms

This criterion states that the historicity of a New Testament sentence p is more probable if it contains traces of an Aramaic or Hebraic origin. Since the New Testament was written in Greek and Jesus spoke Aramaic, traces of Aramaic in the Greek of the New Testament argue in favour of a primitive tradition that originates in Jesus. We see this, for example, in Paul’s quotation of a creedal tradition in Corinthians. “I delivered to you,” he reminds the Corinthians, “what I also received,” suggesting the transmission of an oral tradition. Paul then recites a list of eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus which, as Habermas and Licona point out, contains numerous hints of an Aramaic origin that would seem to vouch for its authenticity—including the fourfold use of the Greek term for “that,” hoti, common in Aramaic narration, and the use of the name Cephas (“He appeared to Cephas”) which is the Aramaic for Peter (Miles 2018).

Conclusion

I’ve shown how to write fairy tales in that genre. We are being absolutely unreasonable with language and research if we want to turn biblical research into making fairy tales. The Gospels are stoutly historical – based on the indices of authenticity applied to them.

Works consulted

Mines, Ben 2018. Thinking Matters, “The Criteria of Historical Authenticity,” 4 February, accessed 8 October 2021, https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2018/02/the-criteria-of-historical-authenticity/.

Swales, Jon 2008. Theological Ramblings, “The Quest for the Historical Jesus: Criteria of Dissimilarity,” 10 March, accessed 8 October 2021, https://ordinand.wordpress.com/2008/03/10/the-quest-for-the-historical-jesus-criteria-of-dissimilarity/.

Notes


[1] Available at: https://writeshop.com/genres-how-to-write-a-fairy-tale/, accessed 8 October 2021.

[2] Available at: https://jjsunset.wordpress.com/sunsets-factory/writing-a-fairy-tale-step-by-step-instructions/, accessed 8 October 2021.

[3] These are based on: Ben Mines 2018. The criteria of historical authenticity, Thinking Matters (online), 4 February. Available at: https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2018/02/the-criteria-of-historical-authenticity/ (Accessed 5 August 2019).

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 08 October 2021.

Was the Apocrypha in the Hebrew Old Testament Bible?

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Copies of the Luther Bible include the deuterocanonical books as an intertestamental section between the Old Testament and New Testament;

they are termed the “Apocrypha” in Christian Churches having their origins in the Reformation (image courtesy “Wikipedia”)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Why would the issue of the contents of the Apocrypha become important for a Christian? Should Christians be reading the Apocrypha as a normal part of Bible reading?

I was alerted to this when I was interacting with an Eastern Orthodox Church (EOC) person or priest on a Christian Forum. He stated:

Church of St. George, Istanbul (August 2010).jpg

Saint George’s Cathedral, Istanbul, Turkey (courtesy Wikipedia)

I am personally not prepared to say that nobody outside the EOC, who has heard the Gospel and believed and lived as a Christian, was never saved. Note that the EOC also believes that growth toward God continues after death. I will not say that John Wesley or Mother Theresa will be cast into a lake of fire because they were not under a particular bishop. I will say, though, that I believe that the EOC has the fullness of Christian truth and worship, and that it is where all Christians should be. I also believe that there is need for great humility on all sides, including and maybe especially on ours, as we strive to actually understand what others are saying, and recognize what we have in common rather than focus on what keeps us apart.[1]

In this response, he proceeded to advocate prayer for the dead, praying to the dead, prayer to angels, icons as a meeting point between the living and the dead, the grace of God being active in the relics of the saints, salvation only in the EOC or not.

In an earlier response he stated:

You’ve once again hit on the key difference between us. And it was the key difference for me also, when I first encountered Orthodoxy.
It isn’t what you’re saying, but rather what you are not saying. If I can fill in as best I can, based on our past interactions…
“You provided too many examples…regarding icons…etc…that are not compatible with [my interpretation of Scripture, which is informed from Evangelical Protestant traditions about Scripture, its interpretation and applications, and presuppositions about what the Church is and where it is found, and based on a hermeneutical method of Critical Realism, which largely dates to the 20th Century and is mostly the product of Evangelical Protestant theologians].”
Without mincing words, your hermeneutic (and the philosophy behind it) is a TRADITION. So I have to ask, on what basis is your tradition–or that of McGrath or Wright or other “critical realists”–to be preferred over the much older and much broader orthodox/catholic tradition?

The fact that the answers I gave above, don’t measure up to your understanding of Scripture, could mean that I (and a huge portion of Christians going back to the early Church Fathers on most of those topics) are all wrong. Or, it could mean that your tradition of protestant hermeneutics and critical realism fails to measure up to the tradition of the Church.
Just something for consideration. But really, I’d like to hear your answer on why your tradition of interpreting Scripture, is better than Orthodoxy’s. Where is Critical Realism found in Scripture?[2]

My rejoinder was:

I object strongly to what you did here. I stated:

You provided too many examples in your response regarding icons, communicating with the dead, angels, etc. that are not compatible with Scripture. I would not be pursuing any EOC action.

So what did you do? You distorted and contorted this with your interpretation of what I DID NOT state:

You provided too many examples…regarding icons…etc…that are not compatible with [my interpretation of Scripture, which is informed from Evangelical Protestant traditions about Scripture, its interpretation and applications, and presuppositions about what the Church is and where it is found, and based on a hermeneutical method of Critical Realism, which largely dates to the 20th Century and is mostly the product of Evangelical Protestant theologians.

That is your imposition on what I stated. It is eisegesis of my writings.
Your foray into Critical Realism is a red herring logical fallacy. It doesn’t relate to the topic of the thread. If you have difficulty with a critical realist epistemology, please start a separate thread to address your concerns.
My authority for determining the boundaries of doctrine is Scripture. I do not find these doctrines in Scripture that you affirmed that the EOC teaches:

  • praying to the dead;
  • prayer to angels;
  • icons as a “meeting point” between the temporal and the eternal;
  • prayer for the dead;
  • The grace of God being active in the relics of the saints;
  • salvation is to be found in the EOC;
  • The presence of God himself is made real to us in the sacraments.
  • growth toward God continues after death;
  • I believe that the EOC has the fullness of Christian truth and worship, and that it is where all Christians should be;
  • I hold baptism to be necessary but not sufficient [for salvation];

I think that we’ll need to agree that the teachings of our various denominations are incompatible with each other. [3]

Scripture or tradition?

I asked this person:[4] 2 Tim 3:16-17 states: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (ESV).
To which Scripture is Paul referring that is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”?
He is not telling us which tradition is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
To which Scripture is Paul telling us to go for teaching?

Part of his response was:

In context, he’s referring to the Jewish scriptures with which Timothy had been taught from childhood. I’m not entirely sure just which books Timothy would have considered canonical, but I believe there’s a good chance that the LXX including what came to be called “deuterocanonical books” [the Apocrypha] were part of that corpus. We can’t be 100% sure of the exact bounds of the canon of Scripture at the time this epistle was written. Clearly, Timothy was meant to infer from his own situation, just which Scriptures were being referred to….

As early as Ignatius of Antioch, we see a letter written to the church in Ephesus likely only a few generations after Timothy himself had been a bishop…admonishing his readers to continue in submission to their bishops, elders and deacons.
Clearly, the sufficiency of the Scriptures is not at odds with the authority of the Church’s ordained ministry. It is the task of the entire Church, led by those ordained to that ministry through the laying on of hands, to safeguard the entire tradition received from the Apostles, within which the Scriptures can be properly understood and lived out.[5]

What about the Apocrypha?

What were the books of the Jewish Scriptures? Did they include the Apocrypha?[6]
My copy of The Apocrypha (The Oxford Annotated Apocrypha, New York: Oxford University Press, 1973, RSV) states in the Preface and Introduction that:

  • “They are not included in the Hebrew Canon of Holy Scripture” (1973:vii); “none of these fifteen books is included in the Hebrew canon of holy Scripture. All of them, however, with the exception of 2 Esdras, are present in copies of the Greek version of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint. The Old Latin translations of the Old Testament, made from the Septuagint, also include them, along with 2 Esdras. As a consequence, many of the early Church Fathers quoted most of these books as authoritative” (1973:x);
  • “In the Old Testament Jerome followed the Hebrew canon and by means of prefaces called the reader’s attention to the separate category of the apocryphal books. Subsequent copyists of the Latin Bible, however, were not always careful to transmit Jerome’s prefaces, and during the medieval period the Western Church generally regarded these books as part holy Scriptures” (1973:x);
  • “In 1546, the Council of Trent decreed that the Canon of the Old Testament includes them (except the Prayer of Manasseh and 1 and 2 Esdras)” (1973:vii-viii);
  • ‘”the Apocrypha” is the designation applied to a collection of fourteen or fifteen books, or portions of books, written during the last two centuries before Christ and the first century of the Christian era’ (1973:ix);
  • ‘The terms “protocanonical” and “deuterocanonical” are used to signify respectively those books of Scripture that were received by the entire Church from the beginning as inspired, and those whose inspiration came to be recognized later, after the matter had been disputed by certain Fathers and local churches’ (1973:x);
  • ‘The introductory phrase, “Thus says the Lord,” which occurs so frequently in the Old Testament, is conspicuous by its absence from the books of the Apocrypha’ (1973:xii).
  • “In the fourth century many Greek Fathers (including Eusebius, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nazianzus, Amphilochius, and Epiphanius) came to recognize a distinction between the books in the Hebrew canon and the rest, though the latter were still customarily cited as Scripture” (1973:xiii).
  • “In the Latin Church, on the other hand, though opinion has not been unanimous, a generally high regard for the books of the Apocrypha has prevailed” (1973:xiii).
  • “At the close of the fourth century, Jerome spoke out decidedly for the Hebrew canon, declaring unreservedly that books which were outside that canon should be classed as apocryphal” (1973:xiii).
  • “Disputes over the doctrines of Purgatory and of the efficacy of prayers and Masses for the dead inevitably involved discussion concerning the authority of 2 Maccabees, which contains what was held to be scriptural warrant for them (12:43-45)” (1973:xiv).

The facts are, based on this publication, that the Hebrew canon at the time of the NT writing did not include the Apocrypha.

Some valid questions:

This EOC person left me with some valid and provocative questions:

The list of things from your copy of the apocrypha demonstrates clearly that (a) there were different canons of the OT between the Hebrew-speaking and the Hellenic Jews, (b) that it was the latter that the Early Christians accepted as normative and authoritative.
1. Why do you assume that Timothy, a Greek-speaking Jew from the region of Ephesus, would have not “been taught from his youth” from the Greek translation and canon of the Jewish scriptures?
2. Why grant greater authority to the canonical tradition of the Hebrew-speaking Jews, than to the Greek-speaking?
3. Why grant greater authority to one particular Jewish tradition, than to the Christian tradition itself?
I’d appreciate clear answers to the above, in what little time you can spare. Oh, and one more, a simple yes/no.
*** Do you consider your canon, your methods of interpretation, and your philosophical outlook brought to the texts, to be traditions, or not?[7]

We need to remember that the Apocrypha was from the last 2 centuries before the NT and was not included in the Hebrew canon. It was in the Greek LXX but not the Hebrew canon.
I have not been able to find any NT books that make a direct quotation from any of the 15 books of the Apocrypha although there are often citations from the 39 books of the Hebrew canon of the OT. There may be allusions to some apocryphal books in some NT writers (e.g. Romans 1:20-29 with Wis. 13:5.8; Rom 9:20-23 with Wis.12:12.20; 15:7; 2 Cor 5:1, 4 with Wis. 9:15).

Paul was a Jew and it could be expected that he would communicate with his child in the faith, a Greek-speaking Jew, Timothy, what was in the Hebrew canon. It did not include the Intertestamental books of the Apocrypha.[8]

Eastern Orthodox Church and the Apocrypha

The outlook of the Orthodox Church in America is:

The Old Testament books to which you refer—know[n] in the Orthodox Church as the “longer canon” rather than the “Apocrypha,” as they are known among the Protestants—are accepted by Orthodox Christianity as canonical scripture. These particular books are found only in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, but not in the Hebrew texts of the rabbis.

These books—Tobit, Judah, more chapters of Esther and Daniel, the Books of Maccabees, the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon, the Book of Sirach, the Prophecy of Baruch, and the Prayer of Manasseh—are considered by the Orthodox to be fully part of the Old testament because they are part of the longer canon that was accepted from the beginning by the early Church.

The same Canon [rule] of Scripture is used by the Roman Catholic Church. In the Jerusalem Bible (RC) these books are intermingled within the Old Testament Books and not placed separately as often in Protestant translations (e.g., 1611 version of KJV).[9]

The Orthodox Christian Information Center provided this assessment:

All Scripture is inspired and, in both St. Paul and St. Timothy’s mind, that meant the LXX. So much is clear. But the LXX included the books we know today as the Apocrypha.

The earliest copies of the Greek Bible we possess, such as the Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Siniaticus [sic] (4-5th centuries) include the Apocrypha. And it is not placed in a separate section in the back of the codex but is rather interspersed by book according to literature type—the historical books with Kings and Chronicles, the wisdom literature with Proverbs and the Song of Solomon, and so forth.

These books were used by the Hellenic Jewish communities and certain Palestinian Jewish groups such as the Essenes. The Apocrypha retained respect in various Jewish communities until around thirty years after Paul’s death when the Pharisees, in the council of Jamnia, and discussed a number of issues, among which was the Jewish canon. Although the influence of this council is disputed, what is clear is that in its aftermath the Apocrypha was decidedly rejected by the Pharisees, who then proceeded to dominate Judaism.[10]

These kinds of comments lead one to accept the Deuterocanonical books (Apocrypha) because:

  • These books, being part of the longer canon, were accepted from the beginning of Christianity by the early Church.
  • The earliest copies of the Greek Bible (the Septuagint – LXX) include the Apocrypha, not in a separate section at the conclusion of the OT but the books are interspersed throughout the OT according to literature type.
  • The Apocryphal books were used by Jewish communities until about the time of Paul.
  • See below for an assessment why the Apocrypha should be rejected.

Roman Catholic Church and the Apocrypha

There’s a pretty good overview of the issues surrounding the Apocrypha from a Roman Catholic point of view by A Catholic Response Inc in ‘Apocrypha?’ (1994). The conclusion reached is that

the Catholic Church did not add to the OT. The Catholic OT Canon (also the numbering of the Psalms) came from the ancient Greek Septuagint Bible. Protestants, following the tradition of the Pharisaic Jews, accept the shorter Hebrew Canon, even though the Jews also reject the NT Books. The main problem is that the Bible does not define itself. No where in the Sacred Writings are the divinely inspired Books listed completely. (The Table of Contents is the publishing editor’s words, like the footnotes.) The Bible needs a visible, external authority guided by the Holy Spirit to define both the OT and NT Canons. This authority is the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. As St. Augustine writes, “I would not have believed the Gospel had not the authority of the Church moved me.”

This article also affirms that

the Catholic Church is not alone in accepting the Books which Protestants label as “Apocrypha.” The Coptic, Greek and Russian Orthodox churches also recognize these Books as inspired by God. In 1950 an edition of the OT containing all these Books was officially approved by the Holy Synod of the Greek church. Also the Russian Orthodox church in 1956 published a Russian Bible in Moscow which contained these Books.

I recommend a read of the CatholicCulture.org article, ‘What are the Apocrypha?’ (Hugh Pope 2015).[11] In it, Pope cites St Augustine’s view of the Apocrypha:

Emblem of the Holy See
Catholic Church

Ecclesia Catholica

Saint Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City (image courtesy Wikipedia)

Let us omit, then, the fables of those scriptures which are called apocryphal, because their obscure origin was unknown to the fathers from whom the authority of the true Scriptures has been transmitted to us by a most certain and well-ascertained succession. For though there is some truth in these apocryphal writings, yet they contain so many false statements, that they have no canonical authority. We cannot deny that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, left some divine writings, for this is asserted by the Apostle Jude in his canonical epistle. But it is not without reason that these writings have no place in that canon of Scripture which was preserved in the temple of the Hebrew people by the diligence of successive priests; for their antiquity brought them under suspicion, and it was impossible to ascertain whether these were his genuine writings, and they were not brought forward as genuine by the persons who were found to have carefully preserved the canonical books by a successive transmission. So that the writings which are produced under his name, and which contain these fables about the giants, saying that their fathers were not men, are properly judged by prudent men to be not genuine; just as many writings are produced by heretics under the names both of other prophets, and more recently, under the names of the apostles, all of which, after careful examination, have been set apart from canonical authority under the title of Apocrypha (The City of God 15.23.4).[12]

CatholicAnswers asks: ‘Didn’t the Catholic Church add to the Bible?’ (2015). Part of its answer is that

the canon of the entire Bible was essentially settled around the turn of the fourth century. Up until this time, there was disagreement over the canon, and some ten different canonical lists existed, none of which corresponded exactly to what the Bible now contains. Around this time there were no less than five instances when the canon was formally identified: the Synod of Rome (382), the Council of Hippo (393), the Council of Carthage (397), a letter from Pope Innocent I to Exsuperius, Bishop of Toulouse (405), and the Second Council of Carthage (419). In every instance, the canon was identical to what Catholic Bibles contain today. In other words, from the end of the fourth century on, in practice Christians accepted the Catholic Church’s decision in this matter.

By the time of the Reformation, Christians had been using the same 73 books in their Bibles (46 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New Testament)—and thus considering them inspired—for more than 1100 years. This practice changed with Martin Luther, who dropped the deuterocanonical books on nothing more than his own say-so. Protestantism as a whole has followed his lead in this regard.

So, for these Roman Catholic cites give these reasons for accepting the deuterocanonical books:

  • The Roman Catholic canon of the OT came from the ancient Septuagint – the OT in Greek that included the Apocrypha.
  • The Roman Catholics did not add to the OT books but the Protestants at the time of the Reformation deleted 7 OT books (the Apocrypha) that had been accepted as part of the canon for 1100 years.
  • The Bible itself does not define what books should be in or out of the Bible. That is left to the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. So, from the end of the 4th century to the Reformation, the books contained in the Roman Catholic Bible were accepted as the canon.
  • Orthodox churches also accept the Apocrypha.
  • However, it was conceded what St Augustine stated of the Apocrypha that they contain so many false statements that they cannot have canonical authority.

Hebrew canon of Scripture and the Apocrypha

What did the Hebrews of the Old Testament era consider was the list of books in the Hebrew canon of Scripture?

Why the Apocrypha should be rejected

Ryan Turner has provided an excellent summary on ‘Reasons why the Apocrypha does not belong in the Bible(CARM). His major points are:

  • Rejection by Jesus and the apostles;
  • Rejection by the Jewish community;
  • Rejection by many in the Catholic Church;
  • False teachings, and
  • Not prophetic.

He refers to:

Norman Geisler and Ralph E. MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995, pp. 157-75.

Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999, pp. 28-36.

Wayne Jackson has written an excellent assessment: ‘The Apocrypha: Inspired of God?’ (Christian Courier 2015).

Notes


[1] Ignatius#21, 9 June 2014, Christian Forums, General Theology, Salvation (Soteriology), ‘Reasons why you are very unwise to trust your church’s doctrines’ (online). Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7825081-4/ (Accessed 24 December 2014).

[2] Ibid., Ignatius21#39.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#43.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#57.

[5] Ibid., Ignatius21#58.

[6] These details are in ibid., OzSpen#62.

[7] Ibid., Ignatius21#65.

[8] I mentioned this in ibid., OzSpen#67, #70

[9] Orthodox Church in America, ‘Canon of Scripture’ 2015. Available at: https://oca.org/questions/scripture/canon-of-scripture (Accessed 2 June 2015).

[10] ‘All Scripture is inspired by God’. Available at: http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/otcanon.aspx (Accessed 2 June 2015).

[11] The Catholic University of America Press 2015. Available at: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=9069 (Accessed 2 June 2015).

[12] The citation from The City of God in CatholicCulture.org is shorter than this version this Augustine publication which I have taken from the Roman Catholic website, New Advent.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 08 October 2021.

Biblical authority: On Line Opinion

(The Isaiah scroll, which is a part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, contains almost the whole Book of Isaiah. It dates from the 2nd century BCE.)

Spencer D Gear PhD

I write articles for and engage with those who make Comments to the articles in On Line Opinion. It is here that I meet those with, (1) A low or skewed view of biblical authority, and (2) A twisted understanding of biblical content concerning demon possession.

I’ll deal with two of them:

A. “Alleged biblical text”

Firstly, this poster is a constant biblical antagonist and often he gets his facts badly skewed as seen here with his statement: “In the days when alleged Biblical text was written, some 350 years after the event? Many books were left out at the behest of Constantine and or, his hand-picked minions!”[1]

This was a response to my article: Have politics changed ScoMo’s Christianity?

Notice what Alan did! He didn’t write of biblical texts with questionable dates but they were “alleged Biblical texts.”

Then he asked a question but it reads more like a narrative, “They were written 350 years after the event.” Not one example was given to prove what he wrote. Not even one book of the Bible was given as a source for his outrageous claim. Was he talking about the writing of Joshua, Isaiah, Luke or Titus?

Joshua

If Joshua was the author [internal evidence suggests so], then the date of writing the book is a fairly simple matter: it must have been written before his death and after the last event narrated in the book. Joshua was 110 years old when he died (24:29) [Madvig 1992:243].

This is nowhere near the 350 years the adversary Alan B suggests. Alan B is outrageous in his lack of biblical knowledge:

Love never ever demands obedience or blind unquestioned faith! But only asks you follow example. Never ever demands you ignore your God-given, natural instincts![2]

The God who is love (1 John 4:8 ERV) commanded (demanded) the ethical standards of the Ten Commandments for God’s OT people. Even for the NT, God’s commandments included, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:33-35 NIV; John 15:12, 17) and “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44 NIV). Both of these examples are in the imperative mood (commands) for the verbs, “love.”

So the God who is love commands His New Covenant people to love not only other Christians but also enemies and those who persecute them.

For the NT, God also provides blessings for those who keep the Beatitudes (Matt 5-7):

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(Image courtesy Crosspoint Community Church)

Nadvig suggests some other issues with dating.

Isaiah

Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, the only text available to the Jews was the Masoretic Text (MT). At Qumran, two Isaiah MSS were discovered: IQIsaa and IQIsab. These two MSS thus were older than the MT by 1,000 years, thus dating them to before Christ. This is an important issue since the standard text of the OT is dated by the Talmud to about A.D. 100.

The Qumran texts “show a large measure of agreement with the MT, revealing extreme care with which the text of the book must have been copied by the scribes over the centuries but there are occasional interesting agreements with the LXX. The majority of variations from the MT are, however, in spelling, which make no real difference to the text” (Grogan 1986:22).

Let’s now examine a couple NT books for a timeline of authorship.

Luke

Don Stewart’s assessment was:

If Acts were written about A.D. 62, then this helps us date the four gospels. The Book of Acts is the second half of a treatise written by Luke to a man named Theophilus. Since we know that the Gospel of Luke was written before the Book of Acts, we can then date the Gospel of Luke sometime around A.D. 60 or before (Stewart 2021).

Titus

The Epistle to Titus was written in approximately AD 66. Paul’s many journeys are well documented and show that he wrote to Titus from Nicopolis in Epirus. In some Bibles a subscription to the epistle may show that Paul wrote from Nicopolis in Macedonia. However, there is no such place known and subscriptions have no authority as they are not authentic (Got Questions Ministries, Summary of the Book of Titus).

So a survey of four books, two from the OT and two from the NT, reveals Alan B is right off base with his claim the books were written 350 years after the actions described. Thus, it makes him an ignoramus concerning biblical scholarship.

B. Kill witches, but witches do not exist.

This is a comment regarding my article, Intolerant intolerance. LEGO’s view was:

God told his followers to kill witches, but witches do not exist. The whole idea is potty and it had extremely tragic consequences for the numerous innocent victims of this stupid thinking. Ozspen seems to imply that witches do exist, so I will leave that to the judgement of our readers to judge Ozspen’s mental state.[3]

Notice what LEGO does:

  • He doesn’t reference his “no witches” source in Scripture. I’ll do that for him. “In 2 Chronicles 33:6, King Manasseh is condemned for his many evil practices, including sorcery: “And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger” (Got Questions Ministries, What does the Bible say about sorcery?)

This is under the Old Covenant where God wanted to keep His people holy.

So LEGO believes “witches do not exist.” That is nothing more than his opinion or assertion. He should go to Peru and meet with some witches to decide if they exist or not. Missionaries in this country regularly encounter the reality of witchcraft.

Then he engaged in his use of logical fallacies:

  •  “The whole idea is potty” and
  •  “it had extremely tragic consequences for
  •  “the numerous innocent victims of this stupid thinking.”

Instead of “stupid thinking,” I’m creating examples of reality in the Western world as well as Peru. The Encyclopaedia Britannica describes the movement:

Wicca is a predominantly Western movement whose followers practice witchcraft and nature worship and who see it as a religion based on pre-Christian traditions of northern and western Europe. Adherents of Wicca worship the Goddess, honour nature, practice ceremonial magic, invoke the aid of deities, and celebrate Halloween, the summer solstice, and the vernal equinox (Contemporary witchcraft).

It is LEGO who is acting the potty and engaged in the “stupid thinking” that witchcraft does not exist.

Walter Martin told of an example that happened with him in Southern California, recorded by the Berean Bible Church. It was published after his death:

He discussed a call he received stating:

“We have been praying for this girl for four hours; we’re simply exhausted. Please tell us what to do.”

“What has happened so far?” Martin asked.

“Well, she is possessed by multiple devils.” “Did you get a count?”

They said “Yes. We asked them in Jesus Christ name how many they were and they told us 56.”

Martin said, “Well, that’s a good beginning. Did you get their names?”

“Every one of them named themselves (screeching) whenever we commanded them in the name of Christ.”

“Good. Have you been exorcising them one at a time?”

“Yes, and quite a few of them are gone.”

“What is the girl’s background?”

“She is involved in Satanism. We found the Satanic Bible in her bureau drawer; she has been on drugs for some time. “We also found some symbols of satanic worship.”

The story continues on about how they continued removing the demons one at a time, having the most struggle with the final one, but ultimately removing it, releasing the girl from the bondage of drugs, and how she dedicated her life to Christ and ministry. Martin concludes the story by stating:

These things happen. They are real. Denying them does not make them go away, and the skepticism of modern society has no power to dismiss them; it simply amuses them. Viruses are invisible to the naked eye, but we know they exist because we developed the equipment that enabled us to see them. We may not be able to place a demon under a microscope, but God gave us the means to see them:

1. Demons speak in multiple voices and in multiple languages unknown to the person they possess.

2. Demons exhibit superhuman strength.

3. Demons have access to private information that a possessed person could never know.

4. Demons respond to and obey authority in the name of Jesus Christ.

This experiment has been repeated countless times and it has been proved, beyond doubt, that evil, sentient beings called demons do exits. (Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Occult, 2008 Thomas nelson edition, Pgs 423-425).

Martin states:

Demons are quite literally Satan’s children; fallen angels or spirits who followed Lucifer in his rebellion against the throne of God. They worship the devil, not God.

Demons most definitely were active in Southern California. LEGO doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Works consulted

Grogan, Geoffrey W, “Isaiah,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986.

Madvig, Donald H. “Joshua,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Stewart, Don. “When Were the Four Gospels Written?” Blue Letter Bible, accessed 4 October 2021, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/stewart_don/faq/historical-accuracy-of-the-bible/question10-when-were-the-gospels-written.cfm, 2021.

Notes


[1] Posted by Alan B., Wednesday, 6 November 2019 9:50:01 AM, https://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20592.

[2] Ibid., Posted by Alan B., Wednesday, 6 November 2019 2:57:05 PM.

[3] Posted by LEGO, Thursday, 28 February 2019 11:28:40 AM, https://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20172&page=8.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 05 October 2021.

My New Book Is Coming!

My New Book Is Coming!

Title: How to ruin your education and TV viewing: Five easy lessons[1]

Spencer D Gear PhD

What will you do as a parent if your 14-year-old comes home from school and says, “You and the teachers have been telling me Columbus discovered the Americas? You’ve lied to me because that isn’t true. There are no such things as facts and I decide the meaning of what is written in my text books? I’m the one who chooses the interpretation of any writing, including history.”

How are you going to answer, especially in light of what the Encyclopaedia Britannica states about Columbus?

Enter John Dominic Crossan

This leading historical Jesus’ scholar provides a creative definition of history: “History is the past reconstructed interactively by the present through argued evidence in public discourse.”[2]

clip_image001(image courtesy Wikipedia)

Chew over that definition at dinner tonight as you discuss its application or rejection to the terrorism and what happened with the twin towers in New York City on 11 September 2001, the Nazis slaughter of 6 million people in World War 2, and who won the Super Bowl in 2000.

Another piece of information grabbed my attention and that is Crossan’s belief that Jesus’ resurrection was not a bodily resurrection but an apparition.[3]

An Application

Are these details fact or fiction? Can we create other versions of these incidents that are as valid as the information above, by introducing deconstructionist free play? This book investigates why this traditional model of history is being questioned and pursues an alternate view promoted as outdated. The key question is: Should the historical evidence be deconstructed?

The book is a critique of the danger of free play and the need to return to a traditional version of history.

Notes

[1] Wipf and Stock Publishers, https://wipfandstock.com/.

[2] Crossan, “Historical Jesus as risen Lord,” 3, emphasis in original.

[3] Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, xxviii-xi. An apparition is a ghost or ghostlike appearance of a person or “a remarkable or unexpected appearance of someone or something ” (Oxford English Dictionary 2021, “apparition.”)

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 30 September 2021.

clip_image002clip_image002

Holy Books of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism & Hinduism: Which are most reliable?

The gilded “Emaciated Buddha statue” in an Ubosoth in Bangkok representing the stage of his asceticism

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I’ve written extensively on this topic. See:

The Bible passes the test of reliability, using the tests any ancient historian uses. Some historians call them indices while others call them criteria.

See my articles that investigate this topic to demonstrate the Bible is a reliable book:

clip_image001[17]Can you trust the Bible? Part 1

clip_image001[17] Can you trust the Bible? Part 2

clip_image001[17] Can you trust the Bible? Part 3

clip_image001[17] Can you trust the Bible? Part 4

clip_image001[18] Secular assaults on the Bible: The inerrant Bible battles

 clip_image001[19]Bible bigotry from an arrogant skeptic

clip_image001[19] The Bible: fairy tale or history?

clip_image002[5] Why Christianity is NOT a religious myth promoted by dim-witted theists

In On Line Opinion this “comment” stated: ‘The Bible is no more reliable than the Muslim Koran, the Buddhist Tripitaka or the Hindu Bhagavad Gita’.[1]

How historically reliable is the Quran?

Matthew Wong, Christian, answers questions on the Bible:

The Quran

?????? al-Qur??n

Quran opened, resting on a stand

Just look at the crucifixion of Jesus and you already see where the evidence leads.

Islam vehemently denies the crucifixion as a historical event while most historians, both secular, Jewish and Christians find it to be an almost indisputable part of Jesus’s life – in fact perhaps the most verifiable event in his life, other than his baptism.

Islam instead proposes that Jesus never died on the cross but that it was made to appear that way, and someone else was put on the cross instead to look like him. According to the Quran, Allah did this to trick the Jews into thinking they killed him:

That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-
Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.

Quran, Surah 4:157–158

Of course this already has problems in the very verse. First, why on earth would Jews admit to killing not only Jesus as a person, but to killing the Christ and Messenger of Allah? Those involved would not have made such confession that he was the Messiah and prophet from God, because they didn’t believe him to be such.

Muslims believe this account because it has been written in the Quran but all other historical sources say the crucifixion happened and the resurrection has strong support as well. There are no sources outside the Quran and Islamic works to indicate their version of things (emphasis added). Certainly, one would think if someone else had been switched with Jesus, that person could not possibly say the things on the cross like, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” or “Into your hands I commit my spirit”. Also, who was standing before Pontius Pilate up to the accusations of the Sanhedrin and High Priests? Would not such a person protest. Jesus remained silent for much of the trial before Pilate. And certainly the person who switched with Jesus would certainly have to undergo the scourging that took place BEFORE Jesus was raised onto the cross. Or did Allah allow Jesus to be scourged and then decide to replace him before the cross?

To explain away the following events afterwards, namely the resurrection and teaching of the death, resurrection and deity of Christ, Muslims claim the gospel was then lost and corrupted and that Muhammad had the final revelation of Allah in its perfectly preserved form. This leads to problems though in understanding reliability of Allah’s revelations.

If Jesus is proclaimed by Muslims to have been the Christ, born of a virgin, righteous and having performed so many miracles, how it is that he barely leaves a footnote with his mission and none of his disciples could transmit the gospel (Injeel) that Allah intended to give to the people? The truth is that this Jesus could be none other than a failure as he (and Allah) lead to the start of a false religion. Is Allah not strong enough to preserve past revelations and then suddenly gained powers to preserve these through the Quran after learning from past mistakes? This video presents clearly why Islam shoots itself in the foot through their version of the crucifixion and what the Quran says about Jesus:

https://youtu.be/O2tYAgboOrI

Muslims deal the same way towards the Torah and other writings of the Old Testament. They were revelations from Allah which Muhammad is told to verify the Quran is correct by, and also state Muhammad was promised in these past revelations, yet the revelations were corrupted.

I have also encountered various Muslims responses’ in relation to the Ahadith, collection of writings about Muhammad and expands on some of the Quranic revelations. While Ahadith is considered important to Muslims and certainly they get a lot of their customs including the Five Pillars from there, many accounts Muslims will say are simply fabricated or da’eff (weak). Thus less than kind reporting from various narrators of Muhammad’s life in the Hadith are dismissed as being tales and not to be taken seriously, despite some of these hadiths being from Sahih (verified) sources:

https://youtu.be/UzzLXPTVQFY

https://youtu.be/HaOsB2nlzaY

Islam’s revelations from Allah lack consistency and distort the revelations from Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, i.e. it cannot be trusted as a reliable revelation of the Islamic religion.

Reliability of the Buddhist Tripitaka

The Pali tipitaka was an open canon for several hundred year after the Buddha’s death, so later developments were added to the canon. Even after the cannon (sic) was closed there has been extensive editing. Additionally, many of the oral texts were not in pali, but were in other prakrit languages and had to be translated to pali.

The Abhidhamma is a later development. Some early schools rejected the Abhidhamma system, because they felt it was not the Buddha’s teaching. Additionally, the Theravada Abhidhamma shares very little in common with other existent Abhidhammas.

The Pali Suttas are very similar to the early cannon (sic) preserved in other languages, e.g. Chinese. Some Suttas are though to be older for a number of reasons. One is simplicity of doctrine, e.g. no lists. Another is, it is unlikely the sutta was added to the cannon (sic) at a later date, because it doesn’t fit into Theravada orthodoxy. Signs of editing help date texts or understand what an earlier version looked like. The Sutta Nipata is thought to be some of the of the oldest texts by both academic and religious scholars.

The vinaya is felt to be an early text, because existent versions are very similar.

At this point in time it is very unlikely we can tell what suttas are the original words of the Buddha. The critical textual study of the Suttas is just starting and is immature compared to critical biblical studies.[2]

Since it was ‘an open canon’ where words were added, it cannot be a reliable document related to the original document. Quartz India indicated the atheism of Buddhism:

While Buddhism is a tradition focused on spiritual liberation, it is not a theistic religion.

The Buddha himself rejected the idea of a creator god, and Buddhist philosophers have even argued that belief in an eternal god is nothing but a distraction for humans seeking enlightenment.

While Buddhism does not argue that gods don’t exist, gods are seen as completely irrelevant to those who strive for enlightenment.

A similar form of functional atheism can also be found in the ancient Asian religion of Jainism, a tradition that emphasises non-violence toward all living beings, non-attachment to worldly possessions, and ascetic practice. While Jains believe in an eternal soul, or jiva, that can be reborn, they do not believe in a divine creator.[3]

Reliability of the Hindu Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita (“Song of God” or “Song of the Lord”) is among the most important religious texts of Hinduism and easily the best known. It has been quoted by writers, poets, scientists, theologians, and philosophers – among others – for centuries and is often the introductory text to Hinduism for a Western audience.

It is commonly referred to as the Gita and was originally part of the great Indian epic Mahabharata. Its date of composition, therefore, is closely associated with that of the epic – c. 5th-3rd century BCE – but not all scholars agree that the work was originally included in the Mahabharata text and so date it later to c. 2nd century BCE.

The Gita is a dialogue between the warrior-prince Arjuna and the god Krishna who is serving as his charioteer at the Battle of Kurukshetra fought between Arjuna’s family and allies (the Pandavas) and those of the prince Duryodhana and his family (the Kauravas) and their allies. This dialogue is recited by the Kauravan counselor Sanjaya to his blind king Dhritarashtra (both far from the battleground) as Krishna has given Sanjaya mystical sight so he will be able to see and report the battle to the king.[4]. . .

The Gita combines the concepts expressed in the central texts of Hinduism – the Vedas and Upanishads – which are here synthesized into a single, coherent vision of belief in one God and the underlying unity of all existence. The text instructs on how one must elevate the mind and soul to look beyond appearances – which fool one into believing in duality and multiplicity – and recognize these are illusions; all humans and aspects of existence are a unified extension of the Divine which one will recognize once the trappings of illusion have been discarded.[5]

How accurate is the Gita?

P. R. Sivakumar wrote:

All versions of Srimad Bhagavad Gita is (sic) correct. There is nothing like accurate or inaccurate Bhagavad Gita. It is the interpretation that differs. And even if you read the original verses of Srimad Bhagavad Gita, you are not understanding its meaning – instead, you are forming your own interpretation of the Sanskrit verse.

Personally speaking, I would try to understand an acharya’s (like Adi Shankara, Ramanuja or Madhvacharya) interpretation, rather than my own, given my limited knowledge of Sanskrit and spirituality.

My suggestion will be for you to seek a guru, as per your spiritual inclination and try to understand the message through them. As far as Sanskrit verses go, there are many websites. You can also find them here – http://www.bhagavadgita.org/[6]

Therefore, it is impossible to speak of the accuracy of the Gita.

Conclusion

I have confirmed the reliability of both Old and New Testaments. However, Got Questions Ministries summarised it concisely:

The books of the Bible were written at different times by different authors over a period of approximately 1,500 years. But that is not to say that it took 1,500 years to write the Bible, only that it took that long for the complete canon of Scripture to be penned as God progressively revealed His Word. The oldest book of the Bible, according to most scholars, is either Genesis or Job, both thought to have been written by Moses and completed around 1400 BC, about 3,400 years ago. The newest book, Revelation, was written around AD 90 (Got Questions).[1]

There is a 400 year gap between the end of OT revelation and the beginning of the NT. During this time, God was not revealing himself to his people – for his reasons (Got Questions).

Both OT and NT deal with historical facts and spiritual reality.

With Islam, it is based on a ‘revelation’ to Muhammad but includes too many inaccuracies when compared with the Bible (see above).

For Buddhism, the Pali tipitaka was an open canon for several hundred year after the Buddha’s death where writings were added that did not come from Buddha. In addition, Buddhism is an atheistic religion.

For Hinduism, “there is nothing like accurate or inaccurate Bhagavad Gita,” we can’t discuss the reliability of the Gita as it is outside the realm of Gita’s parameters. Interpretation is what matters for Gita.

Works consulted

[1] Got Questions Ministries 2021. “How long did it take to write the Bible?” accessed 15 September 2021.

Notes


[1] Available at: Posted by david f, Friday, 20 September 2019 7:23:54 PM, https://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20505&page=5, accessed 14 September 2021.

[2] Reddit, bucon, “How much of the tipitaka is reliable, and be reliable i mean true to the buddha’s words?” accessed 14 September 2021, https://www.reddit.com/r/Buddhism/comments/28dj7v/how_much_of_the_tipitaka_is_reliable_and_be/.

[3] Quartz India 2019, “The ancient connections between atheism, Buddhism and Hinduism,” 3 April, accessed 14 September 2021, https://qz.com/india/1585631/the-ancient-connections-between-atheism-buddhism-and-hinduism/.

[4] Joshua J Mark 2020, World History Encyclopedia, “Bhagavad Gita,” 15 June, accessed 14 September 2021, https://www.worldhistory.org/Bhagavad_Gita/.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Quora 2016. “Where can I find the most accurate book on Srimad Bhagavad Geeta?” accessed 14 September 2021, https://www.quora.com/Where-can-I-find-the-most-accurate-book-on-Srimad-Bhagavad-Geeta.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 September 2021.

Why Christianity is NOT a religious myth promoted by dim-witted theists

The Gutenberg Bible, the first printed Bible (mid-15th century)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Is Christianity based on mythology? Are Christian believers dim-witted followers of their alleged Almighty God?

I was persuaded to pursue this subject, based on a ‘Comment’ made by Daffy Duck in response to my article on Jesus’ resurrection in On Line Opinion. This person wrote that of ‘the usual dim-witted “theists”’ and ‘dim-witted “religion”’. The latter designation is from another author.

Daffy wrote: ‘the multivarious (sic) “religious” myths of humankind, especially in the case of “Jesus” then everything that one says is mere conjecture and hearsay’.[1]

It was my suggestion that the person write an article to support his ideology: ‘Why Christianity is a religious myth promoted by dim-witted theists’.[2]

1. Elements of mythology

The third edition of the Australian, The Macquarie Dictionary (1997:1425), gives this as the first definition of myth: Myth is

a traditional story, usually concerning some superhuman being or some alleged person or event, and which attempts to explain natural phenomena; especially a traditional story about deities or demigods and the creation of the world and its inhabitants.

One such scholar who pursues this understanding of myth in the Gospels is Burton Mack. He stated that “the narrative gospels can no longer be viewed as the trustworthy accounts of unique and stupendous historical events at the foundation of the Christian faith. The gospels must now be seen as the result of early Christian mythmaking” (1993:10).

Please understand that this perspective contains Mack’s presuppositions about the Gospels. He admits that in the early church ‘an explosion of the collective imagination signals change’ in the creation of these new myths that formed the gospels.

These are indeed challenging days when postmodern deconstructions like these intrude into discussions about Scripture and the historical Jesus.

Using this kind of definition of myth, scholars of the Jesus Seminar or of similar persuasion, have made comments like this by John Dominic Crossan:

What happened after the death and burial of Jesus is told in the last chapters of the four New Testament gospels. On Easter Sunday morning his tomb was found empty, and by Easter Sunday evening Jesus himself had appeared to his closest followers and all was well once again. Friday was hard, Saturday was long, but by Sunday all was resolved. Is this fact or fiction, history or mythology?

Do fiction and mythology crowd closely around the end of the story just as they did around its beginning? And if there is fiction or mythology, on what is it based? I have already argued, for instance, that Jesus’ burial by his friends was totally fictional and unhistorical. He was buried, if buried at all, by his enemies, and the necessarily shallow grave would have been easy prey for scavenging animals. We can still glimpse what happened before, behind, and despite those fictional overlays precisely by imagining what they were created to hide. What happened on Easter Sunday? Is that the story of one day? Or of several years? Is that the story of all Christians gathered together as a single group in Jerusalem? Or is that the story of but one group among several, maybe of one group who claimed to be the whole? . . .

The Easter story at the end is, like the Nativity story at the beginning, so engraved on our imagination as factual history rather than fictional mythology. (Crossan 1994:160-161).

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “myth” means: “A traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events” (lexico.com 2021. “myth”).

This dictionary provides various subsidiary meanings including, “A widely held but false belief or idea”; “A misrepresentation of the truth”; “A fictitious or imaginary person or thing”; “an exaggerated or idealized conception of a person or thing” (lexico.com 2021. “myth”).

Therefore, because of these multitudinous meanings, I find it confusing to use in attempting to define the truth of Christianity.

2. Differences between myth and narrative

A narrative refers to “a spoken or written account of connected events; a story” (lexico.com 2021. “narrative”). The narrative of Captain Cook’s voyages to what was to become Australia is not myth but historical narrative. Cook’s voyages could be called mythology but that confuses the meaning of myth and narrative.

3. Show Christianity does not have these elements

Christianity does not have a foundational myth or falsehood but historical narrative of its beginning and spread in the Middle Eastern territory – to begin with. See the Book of Acts for examples of the early expansion.

4. Christianity is a historical religion.

Christianity is a historical religion because it intersects with historical persons and events of the Old and New Testament era.

This is fleshed out in my articles,

3d-red-star-small Old Testament documents confirmed as reliable again[1]

3d-red-star-small The Bible as reliable history.

3d-red-star-small Does the New Testament contain history or myth?

5. Enter logical fallacies to obscure the argument

If you want to frustrate a discussion, try the use of logical fallacies. That’s what Daffy did here:

3d-red-star-small To speak about ‘dim-witted theists’ reveals: (a) his use of an ad hominem (abusive) fallacy. These people need to be called out for what they do to a discussion.

3d-red-star-small and (b) demonstrates his presuppositions of shaming Christian religion, but without providing evidence to support his claims. To call a theist a ‘dim-wit’ without evidence is to demonstrate shallowness of the claim.

6. Works consulted

Crossan, John Dominic 1994. Jesus: A revolutionary biography. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Mack, Burton 1993. The Lost Gospel: The Gospel of Q & Christian Origins. New York: HarperSanFrancisco.

7.  Notes


[1] Daffy Duck’s comments on 4 April 2018 to the article, “Cynicism about Jesus as an Easter ‘treat’” by Spencer Gear. Available at: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=19656&page=0 (Accessed 5 Apil 2018).

[2] ‘Cynicism about Jesus …’, OzSpen, 5 April 2018. My penname is OzSpen.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 September 2021.

Why the Apocrypha should not be in the Bible.

Copies of the Luther Bible include the deuterocanonical books as an intertestamental section between the Old Testament and New Testament; they are termed the “Apocrypha” in Christian Churches having their origins in the Reformation.

By Spencer D Gear

Which books should be in the canon of Scripture? Should the Apocrypha be included?

1. Meaning of canon[1] of Scripture

‘Canon’ refers to a collection of books that describes the faith and practices of the Christian Church, e.g. Old and New Testaments. In classical Greek (prior to NT koine Greek), the word referred to ‘a straight rod’, ‘a rule’ in a fairly wide sense, such as ‘the rule of the Church.’

The first known use of ‘canon’ to refer to the Scriptures was by Amphilocius (ca. AD 380) where he referred to ‘the rule by which the contents of the Bible must be determined’. It also referred to the index of the books in the Bible

(Smith’s Bible Dictionary 1901. s.v. Canon of Scripture, The).

2. What is the Apocrypha?

See Gleason L Archer Jr, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (rev ed) 1974.

Renowned theologian and early church father, Athanasius (ca. AD 298-373) made a clear distinction between the books of the canon and those not included in the canon with these words:

But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read; nor is there in any place a mention of apocryphal writings. But they are an invention of heretics, who write them when they choose, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as ancient writings, they may find occasion to lead astray the simple (Select Works & Letters of Athanasius, Letter 39, in A.D. 367, Available from: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204.xxv.iii.iii.xxv.html).

2.1 Bibles and the Apocrypha

The Roman Catholic Church includes the deuterocanonical books (Apocrypha). See the Roman Catholic translations here to check out the deuterocanonicals (second canon):

pink-arow-small Original King James Version of 1611 with Apocrypha.

pink-arow-small Douay-Rheims Bible with Apocrypha (Roman Catholic Bible)

pink-arow-small New American Bible with Apocrypha (Roman Catholic Bible)

pink-arow-small New Jerusalem Bible with Apocrypha (Roman Catholic Bible).

Also,

pink-arow-small Good News Translation

pink-arow-small New Revised Standard Version

Revised English Bible (update of New English Bible) – unable to locate online

pink-arow-small Revised Standard Version

pink-arow-small The Common English Bible

pink-arow-small Third Millennium Bible (updated KJV 1611)

pink-arow-small The Great Bible (1539)

pink-arow-small Wycliffe Bible (1382)

Deuterocanonical books are supported by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

A person asked on a Christian forum:

How or why did the disagreement of which books belong in the OT begin 1500 years later if us (sic) Christians have known since the 1st Century which books belong in the OT? Did God change his mind 1500 years later (which is when the dispute started)?[2]

Why did the debate about the content of the canon of Scripture become more intense around the Reformation period? It was because of a formal statement made by the Roman Catholic Council of Trent and the Protestants responded with a strong voice. What is contained in the canon is relevant in the 21st century because to have a legitimate faith, one must have a legitimate canon from which that faith gains content. The legitimacy of faith is in the balance.

The Roman Catholic Church, at the Council of Trent (1546 – 1563), decreed certain apocryphal writings to be canonical (authoritative). The books of the Apocrypha included were…

1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus or Sirach, Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah, the Prayer of Manasseh, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees. Greek additions to Esther and several additional sections of Daniel, including the Prayer of Azariah, the Song of the Three Young Men, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon.

Twenty-two books in Old Testament

Josephus (ca. AD 37-100) indicated in his writing that this was the view that was generally accepted in his day about fellow Jews. He wrote:

For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from, and contradicting one another: [as the Greeks have:] but only twenty two books: which contain the records of all the past times: which are justly believed to be divine.  And of them five belong to Moses: which contain his laws, and the traditions of the origin of mankind, till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years. But as to the time from the death of Moses, till the reign of Artaxerxes, King of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the Prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times, in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God; and precepts for the conduct of human life. ’Tis true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly; but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers; because there hath not been an exact succession of Prophets since that time. And how firmly we have given credit to these books of our own nation, is evident by what we do. For during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold, as either to add any thing to them; to take any thing from them; or to make any change in them. But it is become natural to all Jews, immediately, and from their very birth, to esteem these books to contain divine doctrines; and to persist in them: and, if occasion be, willingly to die for them (Flavius Josephus, Against Apion, 1.8, emphasis added).

What were contained in these 22 books?

In their efforts to force fit the Old Testament Canon into the alphabetic pattern, the Jews had to combine certain sets of books. This was very natural in most cases because some books, like First and Second Kings, were originally undivided. Likewise, the Twelve Minor Prophets, known since ancient times as the Book of the Twelve because they were written on a single scroll, could naturally be counted as one book. But when all such books were combined and the tally taken, the total came to twenty-four. To arrive at the desired set of twenty-two books, they had to combine two more pairs, which turned out to be Judges with Ruth, and Jeremiah with Lamentations according to Jerome in his Prologue to Samuel and Kings clip_image002. The first pair made some sense because they treated the same time period (which is the reason given by Jerome), and the latter pair made some sense because they were written by the same prophet. But the combination just would not stick (The Twenty-Two Books of the Jewish Canon, Richard McGough).

In The Twenty-Two Books of the Jewish Canon Richard McGough stated these early church fathers accepted 22 books in the OT Jewish canon:

  • Melito 170 AD, cited in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, 4.26.14
  • Origen 210 AD (in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, 6.25).
  • Hilary of Poitiers 360 AD, Tractate on Psalms, Prologue 15
  • Cyril of Jerusalem, 386 AD, Catechetical Lectures 4.33
  • Epiphanius 400 AD, Del Nensurius et Ponderibus, 4

Jerome’s statement in support of the OT canon, which did not include the deuterocanonicals, was:

And so there are also twenty-two books of the Old Testament; that is, five of Moses, eight of the prophets, nine of the Hagiographa, though some include Ruth and Kinoth (Lamentations) amongst the Hagiographa, and think that these books ought to be reckoned separately; we should thus have twenty-four books of the old law. And these the Apocalypse of John represents by the twenty-four elders, who adore the Lamb, and with downcast looks offer their crowns, while in their presence stand the four living creatures with eyes before and behind, that is, looking to the past and the future, and with unwearied voice crying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who wast, and art, and art to come (Jerome, The Books of Samuels and Kings).

Why did the Protestants have to defend the OT Scriptures excluding the Apocrypha after the time of Reformation? It relates to the anathema pronounced by the Roman Catholic Council of Trent on those who did not accept the deuterocanonical / Apocrypha books:

And it has thought it meet that a list of the sacred books be inserted in this decree, lest a doubt may arise in any one’s mind, which are the books that are received by this Synod. They are as set down here below: of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, to wit, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first book of Esdras, and the second which is entitled Nehemias; Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidical Psalter, consisting of a hundred and fifty psalms; the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch; Ezechiel, Daniel; the twelve minor prophets, to wit, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of the Machabees, the first and the second. Of the New Testament: the four Gospels, according [Page 19] to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of John the apostle, one of the apostle James, one of Jude the apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the apostle.

But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately condemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema. Let all, therefore, understand, in what order, and in what manner, the said Synod, after having laid the foundation of the Confession of faith, will proceed, and what testimonies and authorities it will mainly use in confirming dogmas, and in restoring morals in the Church (The Council of Trent, Fourth Session, Decree Concerning the Canonical Scripture, emphasis added).

Assessment of the Apocrypha

I don’t plan a detailed assessment as others have done that.

With such a curse pronounced by the Council of Trent, ‘If any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts . . . Let him be anathema,‘ it was important to make sure that all Christians had the correct books in the Bible. As it has turned out, it was the Roman Catholic Church that has added to the Scriptures of the OT, based on the evidence provided above.

For an excellent overview of how to determine which of the religious books of the world’s religions is the most reliable, see Got Questions Ministries (2019): How do we know that the Bible is the Word of God, and not the Apocrypha, the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, etc.?

Notes


[1] ‘Canon’ must not be confused with ‘cannon’ which is ‘a heavy automatic gun that fires shells from an aircraft or tank’ (Oxford Dictionaries Online 2019. s.v. cannon).

[2] Christianity Board 2016. When did the universal Church first mentioned in 110AD stop being universal?(online), 13 October, tom55#243. Available at: https://www.christianityboard.com/threads/when-did-the-universal-church-first-mentioned-in-110ad-stop-being-universal.22752/page-13#post-284648 (Accessed 4 April 2019).

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 09 September 2021.

Using common ground to reach secular people with the Gospel

Viola sororia, Common Blue Violet, Howard County, Md,

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Secular Aussies are reluctant to talk about religious things involving Christianity and seem to be unwilling to engage in discussion about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s my experience.

A. Introduction

clip_image001Social researcher, Hugh Mackay (b. 1938), in 2013. Photograph courtesy Wikipedia.

Chloe Brant (2016) wrote an article for ABC News, Brisbane, Qld., in which she highlighted some of the details in Hugh Mackay’s new book, Beyond Belief (2016), and interviewed him. She wrote:

In his new book Beyond Belief, Australian social researcher Hugh Mackay argues a growing number of people, particularly young people, are abandoning religion in favour of a different kind of spirituality — one not restricted by institutions or guidelines.

We still crave answers and seek happiness, Mackay says, but more of us are finding it in secular realms: yoga, meditation, music.

Here, Mackay discusses why young people are embracing the Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR) movement, why we still call upon God when luck fails us, and whether it is possible to find meaning without religion.

In her interview with Mackay she asked:

Where do you see faith, religion and spirituality in Australia venturing in the next decade? Mackay’s response was:

I think there will be ‘SBNR’ boxes on the census in the future. Twenty per cent of Australians tick “no religion”.

Of course, this is bad news for churches, but good news for society.

Although people are not as drawn to churches, they still believe there is a spiritual dimension out there … they are thinking of everyone as a whole. They are seeing us all as connected, as one.

Do you personally believe we can find meaning without religion? Mackay replied:

I believe we can find meaning without religion. When people say they are SBNR, almost always they say they care for others and not about “me” or “us”.

I believe we can all think beyond ourselves, where faith is no larger than self or some non-religious pathway.

So this social scientist is confident in affirming that meaning is possible without religion and that that this increasing consensus of ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ is ‘bad for churches, but good news for society’. Mackay was born in 1938. He’s moving towards older age and death one day. When he meets the Lord God almighty at death, he’ll be wishing he had pursued life after death issues as found in Christianity.

See my articles:

clip_image002 Ecclesiastes 9:5 and what happens at death

clip_image002[1] Is hell fair?

clip_image002[2]What is the nature of death according to the Bible?

clip_image002[3]2 Thessalonians 1:9: Eternal destruction;

clip_image002[4]Hell & Judgment;

clip_image002[5]Hell in the Bible;

clip_image002[6]Should we be punished for our sins?

clip_image002[7]Paul on eternal punishment;

clip_image002[8]Where will unbelievers go at death?

clip_image002[9]Torment in Old Testament hell? The meaning of Sheol in the OT;

clip_image002[10]Eternal torment for unbelievers when they die;

clip_image002[11]Will you be ready when your death comes?

clip_image002[12]What happens at death for believer and unbeliever?

clip_image002[13]Does eternal destruction mean annihilation for unbelievers at death?

clip_image002[14]Refutation of Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine of what happens at death;

clip_image002[15]Near-death experiences are not all light: What about the dark experiences?

clip_image004 See my article, “Evidence for the afterlife.”

Remember God’s assessment: ‘It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb 10:31 NASB).

Here we have a big, big challenge to the churches to present the Gospel, declare why religion without God is disastrous for the individual and society, and deal with the objections against Christianity and religion.

See also Joel Keep (2017), Australia with ‘no religion’: In the aftermath of God. Joel Keep cited the 2011 census where ‘over 22 per cent of the national population’ nominated ‘no religion’. That’s almost 5 million out of 23 million Aussies who were counted.

B. How do we reach those who don’t know the Gospel?

On the other side of the world in the USA, I encountered Mark, on a Christian forum, where the topic was, ‘If someone said to you they want to become a Christian’. He responded to this topic by writing:

I would tell them to read the Bible, understand, and live – in this day the scripture is fulfilled
Isaiah 29:18
In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.
This is that day.[1]

1. Go read the 1,500 pages of the Bible to understand the Gospel

That’s how many pages there are in my copy of the ESV (2001, Crossway). Therefore I responded:[2] In my very secular country, that advice would be one of the supreme ways to turn peole right off the Gospel.
I suggest that we approach a secular society like Paul did on the Areopagus (Acts 17:22-34 NLT). He found common ground with them:

‘Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, 23 for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about’.?

Then he moved towards proclamation of the true God, God’s creating human beings, and calling all people everywhere to repent for there is a day of judgment coming.
Paul did not say: Here’s a MSS of the Scripture; go away and read it. He engaged in proclamation, starting with establishing common ground. I’m convinced that is where we should begin also.

I find it quite bizarre that in a secular country of Australia where about 5 million of the 24 million people[3] chose ‘no religion’ at the 2011 census that any person in his or her right mind would hand people an entire Bible and say, ‘Go read it to understand the Gospel and then come back and we’ll discuss’.

C. It’s an evil generation

Mark’s comeback was complete with religious sloganeering:

Why would it turn people off? The premise is they want to be a Christian. Are you saying they want to be a Christian, but they don’t want to read the Bible? OK. Isa. predicted that too – Those who can read will say it can’t be read. Those who can’t read will say they can’t read. Isa. 29:11-12
Isa. 29:9
Stupefy yourselves and be in a stupor,
blind yourselves and be blind!
Be drunk, but not with wine;
stagger, but not with strong drink!
10 For the Lord has poured out upon you
a spirit of deep sleep,
and has closed your eyes, the prophets,
and covered your heads, the seers.
11 And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” 12 And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.”
13 And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their fear of me is a commandment of men learned by rote;
14 therefore, behold, I will again
do marvelous things with this people,
wonderful and marvelous;
and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hid.” Isa. 29:9-14
It’s an evil generation. But that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Prophecy doesn’t give us any choice in the matter. People are always going to come up with different ways, but prophecy tells us what will be, and if it comes from God, it will take place. Makes sense too because there are so many views and denominations. The prophecy is, ‘In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.’ Isa. 29:18 And it is so, and I believe reading the Bible is the only way.[4]

D. That was a red herring fallacy.

You didn’t address what I wrote[5] that Paul’s approach at the Areopagus is a better way to deal with secular unbelievers today. Use the common ground to proclaim the Gospel. See Acts 17:22-34.
Telling secular people to go read that extensive book, called Scripture, is like telling them to forget the discussion and go to hell.
As people who love the Lord, we have a biblical responsibility to move from common ground to the Gospel in our discussion and proclamation: ‘For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16 NLT).
I consider this is a better approach to non-Christians in my secular Australia, rather than your, ‘I would tell them to read the Bible, understand, and live’ (see #59).

E. This is the day of the book!

What would a fundamentalist do to promote evangelism?

What do you want me to say? My way is to follow the Lord, and what he said by the prophets. Sorry, but the Lord said the words of a book will open the eyes of the blind. Isa. 29:18 This is the day. We have the book. Read it! In Paul’s day people believed in the gods. They were very religious. Acts 17:22 Obviously they wanted to hear what Paul was teaching. So this is a very different time, a time of darkness. There’s never been anything like it.
This is the day of the book. You’re telling me your friends can’t read? I have no sympathy for that. Your secular friends are condemned already if they do not believe in the name of the only Son of God.

John 3:18, “He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”[6]

F. I also use THE BOOK.

I’m also following the Book.[7] Acts 17 is in The Book.
I did not say a word about my secular friends not being able to read. Not a word! That’s a straw man fallacy.

Asking secular people to read a book the length of the Bible is as unrealistic as my asking you to consider another approach to reaching non-Christians. I encourage you to use the Areopagus model of Acts 17 from THE BOOK.

G. We can assume they have heard the good news.

This is a response from someone who lives in a country as Christianised as the USA, but who doesn’t know how to interact with people in a very secular culture.

If they are not religious, if they deny God even exists, then what are you talking about common ground for? The Athenians were religious men, so Paul could talk to them about God. What are you going to say to those who deny God exists?
You say it’s unrealistic to ask them to read a book the length of the Bible. That’s a good one. But we can assume they have heard the good news. The premise is they want to be Christians. So I said, read the book, understand and live. But if they are not willing to read the book, then what can you do?
The Lord said it will happen, that in that day the words of a book will open their eyes. But before that can happen, I believe in confession, so that might work. Ask God for forgiveness. But there must be a believing heart in them.[8]

How should I reply to a number of false premises in this post?

H. Bunk! I don’t have religion.

I will use a few of your statements[9] to demonstrate that we can take the Areopagus common ground model, even with secular Aussies who deny the existence of God and don’t know the Gospel.

Mark: ‘If they are not religious, if they deny God even exists, then what are you talking about common ground for?’

Oz: We can have common ground with secularists. To my Aussie secular mate, Johnny, I can say, ‘I observe that you are very religious. What is religion? Oxford dictionaries online gives one definition of religion as, ‘a pursuit or interest followed with great devotion’ (Oxford dictionaries online 2017. s v religion). What is one thing that you follow, Johnny, with great passion? (wait for an answer to which I will respond). I see that over the summer months you, Johnny, have followed cricket on TV with great interest. You loved the T20 Big Bash; the ODI (one day internationals) between Australia and Sri Lanka is what enthuses you right now. You plan to watch the Australia vs India tests and ODI on Fox Sports.

Johnny. Bunk! That’s not religion. That’s just a keen interest that I have in a sport that I love.

Oz. So you have a great love for cricket? That’s what the Oxford dictionary describes as religion. What say we discuss this further at a time convenient for you? I’d also like you to think about how God knows you cannot be an atheist. No people in the world are atheists, even though they claim to be. What do you think God’s view would be? (I’ll be heading to the content of Rom 1:18-32 NLT.) Johnny, does God believe in atheists? Next time we’ll get into that one.

Mark: He stated, ‘But we can assume they have heard the good news’.

Oz: It’s time you took a visit to a very secular country like mine and walked down the main street of Brisbane CBD, Queen St., and asked 10 people these two questions: ‘Would you please tell me the content of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What must happen for any person to gain eternal life and go to be with God at death?’ You will get an answer that is outside of your assumption. Many, many people in Australia have NOT heard the good news because it is not proclaimed publicly very often. About 5 million Aussies out of 23 million identify as having ‘no religion’ (Keep 2017).

Mark: ‘The premise is they want to be Christians. So I said, read the book, understand and live. But if they are not willing to read the book, then what can you do?’

Oz: Nobody will want to be Christians until they have had the bad news explained. Then the Good News, the Gospel, is proclaimed and they see their need. Asking a God-denying antagonist to the Christian faith to read this book of 1252 pp (that’s how many pages are in my ESV) is like asking a drowning man in the ocean to take another drink of salt water.

I do wish you would get out of your gold-fish bowl and encounter people who are secularists who don’t have a clue about the content of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I. Conclusion

There are reasons why Aussies are rejecting the Gospel and in our conversations with them, we had better listen to what is turning them off. Then use the Acts 17 (ERV) model of how to reach them.

Paul used a common point of contact to try to reach them:

Some of the Epicurean and some of the Stoic philosophers argued with him. Some of them said, “This man doesn’t really know what he is talking about. What is he trying to say?” Paul was telling them the Good News about Jesus and the resurrection. So they said, “He seems to be telling us about some other gods.”

19 They took Paul to a meeting of the Areopagus council. They said, “Please explain to us this new idea that you have been teaching. 20 The things you are saying are new to us. We have never heard this teaching before, and we want to know what it means.” 21 (The people of Athens and the foreigners who lived there spent all their time either telling or listening to all the latest ideas.)

22 Then Paul stood up before the meeting of the Areopagus council and said, “Men of Athens, everything I see here tells me you are very religious. 23 I was going through your city and I saw the things you worship. I found an altar that had these words written on it: ‘to an unknown god.’ You worship a god that you don’t know. This is the God I want to tell you about (Acts 17:18-23 ERV)

In talking to Aussies, I have not found them as overt as the Epicurean philosophers about their beliefs. Try these kinds of questions:

clip_image004[1] Where will you be 2 minutes after your last breath?
clip_image004[2] From where did you obtain that information?

clip_image004[3] How reliable is it?

clip_image004[4] What will it be like to be in heaven?

clip_image004[5] How could you avoid being damned in hell?

J. Works consulted

Brant, C 2016. Beyond Belief: Why Australians don’t go to church, but call upon God in times of crisis. ABC News (online), Brisbane, Qld., 22 May. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-22/hugh-mackay-beyond-belief/7432866 (Accessed 21 February 2017).

Keep, J 2017. Australia with ‘no religion’: In the aftermath of God. SBS (online), 6 February. Available at: http://www.sbs.com.au/topics/life/culture/explainer/australia-no-religion-aftermath-god (Accessed 21 February 2017).

Mackay, H 2016. Beyond belief. Sydney, Australia: Macmillan.

K.  Notes

[1] Christian Forums.net 2017. ‘If someone said to you they want to become a Christian’, 21 February, MarkT#59. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/if-someone-said-to-you-they-want-to-become-a-christian.68364/page-3 (Accessed 21 February 2017).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#60.

[3] See the Australian Bureau of Statistics ‘Population Clock’ at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/0/1647509ef7e25faaca2568a900154b63?opendocument (Accessed 21 February 2017).

[4] Christian Forums.net 2017. MarkT#61.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#62.

[6] Ibid., MarkT#63.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#64.

[8] Ibid., MarkT#65.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#66.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 07 September 2021.

The Bible as reliable history

The ancient Near East

Relief on the Ishtar Gate, Pergamenmuseum 4.jpg

Regions and states

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Does the Bible pass the test of being a reliable historical document? Can it be trusted as an historical event to be trusted as accurate as history in the Bible?

What indices would ancient historians use to check the trustworthiness of any historical document – especially that from ancient history?

This is the type of analysis I encountered on a Christian forum by an atheist who challenged the historical accuracy of the Bible:

The Bible doesn’t pass the modern tests for historicity. Using those tests, the Bible is an unreliable witness at best. Faith is required to accept quite a few historical accounts in the Bible, for instance. The Bible’s focus is on the reason behind God’s actions far more than in the chronological accuracy of the raw narrative. It’s why God does certain things that lies in the message contained in the Bible. Biblical scholars know, for instance, that the synoptic gospels are not always chronologically accurate – that the order of certain events has been altered to more clearly express the message contained in that narrative. Little serious argument exists that such events didn’t happen at all, only that they don’t always occur in the order presented, and that is just one way the Bible fails to meet modern historicity standards. It’s much more about faith and God’s message, and how best to present that message with the greatest clarity and continuity. Absolute historical accuracy takes a back seat to that.[1]

When asked about the kinds of events to which he was referring, he clarified:

No, I wasn’t referring to miraculous events, only strictly historical nuts and bolt events like when the Israelites left Egypt, or the existence of Abraham and all the other characters in the Biblical narrative, as well as Jesus, being real individuals and not must (sic) myths, etc..

Things such as the walled city of David actually were built and were destroyed. In other words, the basic stuff of history that any good history book would cover. With regard to events such as the mass murder of the Canaanites by the forces under Joshua, those glorified stories are more embellished stories to make a point.  The chronology isn’t faithful to actual events, since recently unearthed archeological evidence in Israel tells a somewhat different story (the Israelites were originally Canaanites themselves, for instance).[2]

Assertions are not evidence

Bible open vector image(Bible, public domain vectors)

My response was:[3]

Those are your assertions and you do not provide sourced historical evidence to support your allegations.

Dr K A Kitchen, Professor Emeritus of Egyptology and Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Archaeology, Classics, and Oriental Studies, University of Liverpool, England, refutes your perspective BIG TIME in his carefully documented 662pp publication, On the Reliability of the Old Testament 2003. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

What was Kitchen’s assessment of the Bible’s dependability, based on his discipline as an Egyptologist and archaeologist? After examining the evidence from the Hebrew Bible in the light of historical information available from Near Eastern antiquity, he concluded his investigation with this summary:

It is time to return to the questions posed at the beginning of this book: whether or not the existing Old Testament writings were composed (and their contents originated) entirely within the brief and late period of circa 400-200 B.C., or whether or not their contents are pure fiction, unrelated to the world of the Near East in circa 2000-400 B.C.

To pursue such questions, the only practical method of inquiry was to go back to those ancient times and compare the data in the Hebrew Bible with what we have from its putative world. Merely theorizing in one’s head can achieve nothing. Looking back, we do have some definite results. On the independent evidence from antiquity itself, we may safely deliver a firm “No” to both questions posed above. Namely, the Old Testament books and their contents did not exclusively originate as late as 400-200 B.C.; and they are by no means pure fiction – in fact, there is very little proven fiction in them overall.

What can be said of historical reliability? Here our answer – on the evidence available – is more positive. The periods most in the glare of contemporary documents – the divided monarchy and the exile and return – show a very high level of direct correlation (where adequate data exist) and of reliability. That fact should be graciously accepted by all, regardless of personal starting point, and with the firm exclusion of alien, hence irrelevant, modern “agendas.” When we go back (before ca. 1000) to periods when inscriptional mentions of a then-obscure tribal community and its antecedent families (and founding family) simply cannot be expected a priori, then chronologically typological comparisons of the biblical and external phenomena show clearly that the Hebrew founders bear the marks of reality and of a definite period. The same applies to the Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt and appearance in Canaan, with one clear mention, of course (Israel on the stela of Merenptah). The Sinai covenant (all three versions, Deuteronomy included) has to have originated within a close-set period (1400-1200) – likewise other features. The phenomena of the united monarchy fit well into what we know of the period and of ancient royal usages. The primeval protohistory embodies early popular tradition going very far back, and is set in an early format. Thus we have consistent level of good, fact-based correlations right through from circa 2000 B.C. (with earlier roots) down to 400 B.C. In terms of general reliability – and much more could have been instanced than there was room for here – the Old Testament comes out remarkably well, so long as its writings and writers are treated fairly and evenhandedly, in line with independent data, open to all (Kitchen 2003:499-500).

Another Old Testament scholar, Dr Walter C. Kaiser Jr, has provided a lesser summary of the evidence to positively answer the title of his book: The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant? Downers Grove, Illinois/Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press 2001.

The atheist seemed to be pushing an anti-biblical reliability agenda. Here I have provided samples of evidence, from the writings of Kitchen and Kaiser, that contradict the view the atheist promoted.

George, the atheist, did come back with more responses at #135, #136, #137 which I did not answer. Here his replies are. They deserve a comprehensive response, for which I did not have the time to respond when he made the posts.

>>Who said? Which historical scholars are promoting that perspective?<<

I would think, probably most do.   A few points here would be illustrative:

1.  The stories about the promise given to the patriarchs in Genesis, for example, are not historical, nor do they intend to be historical; they are rather historically determined expressions about Israel and Israel’s relationship to its God, given in forms legitimate to their time, and their truth lies not in their facticity, nor in the historicity, but their ability to express the reality that Israel experienced.” Thompson, Thomas (2002) [1974]. The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham. Valley Forge, Pa: Trinity Press International.

2.  The historicity of Genesis as the ultimate authority on primeval earth and prehistory, to mention another example, has been thoroughly “dethroned” by modern Geology. No single flood ever simultaneously covered the entire earth. If one did, there would be ample evidence of it in the buried strata, and the is exactly nothing in the geological record to support a world wide flood event.  One would have to dismiss science in it’s entirety to believe the Biblical account, and no responsible scientist accepts the diluvian theory today. Gillispie, Charles Coulston (1996) [1951]. Genesis and geology: a study in the relations of scientific thought, natural theology, and social opinion in Great Britain, 1790–1850. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

3.  The earth is billions of years old, not around 6,000.  Human beings have existed in our present form for over 25,000 years alone.

[That’s a straw man argument as I have never stated that is my position.]

4.  Modern archeology overturns the book of Joshua in its account of a rapid, destructive conquest of the Canaanite cities, since “by the 1960s it had become clear that the archaeological record did not, in fact, support the account of the conquest given in Joshua: the cities which the Bible records as having been destroyed by the Israelites were either uninhabited at the time, or, if destroyed, were destroyed at widely different times, not in one brief period.”

The most high profile example, in fact, would be the “fall of Jericho.”  Thomas A. Holland (1997). “Jericho”. In Eric M. Meyers. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East. Oxford University Press. pp. 220–224.

[NOTE: This view about the conquest of Jericho not being factual is refuted in Geisler & Howe, When Critics Ask, pp 136-137]

5.  Finally, we can determine more about the accuracy of the Bible in terms of its historicity by examining other sources and analytical tools made available starting less than 2 centuries ago, including but not limited to:

  • Other Near Eastern texts, documents and inscriptions
  • The material remains recovered throughout the Near East by archaeological excavation, analysed by ever more sophisticated technical and statistical apparatus
  • Historical geography, demography, soil science, technology studies, and comparative linguistics

George wrote: In historical geography, the preeminent book in English is Anson F. Rainey and R. Steven Notley, The Sacred Bridge: Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World (Jerusalem: Carta, 2006).

  • Anthropological and sociological modelling
  • Non-canonical texts

Let me make things simple here.   I know you don’t believe the above, and I’d be wasting my breath trying to convince you of it, which is why I’m not making any effort to do that here.  All I did was try to answer your question as briefly as possible. The number of scholars “advancing” this kind of Biblical historicity analysis are too many to list here, I’m sure, but I really don’t want to get into an argument with you about this, that, or the above, OK?[4]

And again:

>>George, you do seem to be pushing an anti-biblical reliability agenda. Here I have provided samples of evidence, from the writings of Kitchen and Kaiser, that contradict the view you are promoting. <<

I’m not “pushing” anything, so I would appreciate it if you would quit trying to mischaracterize my intentions as some “anti-biblical agenda,” which you seem to have a rather presumptive way of doing.  I provided references for the sources of my most recent response to you, with considerable effort, so you can go ahead and dismiss them if you think you can, and politely quit trying to call them “my assertions.”  I accept them, of course, and I also know, as a Biblical literalist, that you do not.  Let’s leave it at that, OK?[5]

And finally, George makes another attempt to debunk Christianity, while giving it a nod of the hat, saying of the OT that ‘a great deal of it is true’; it was not ‘a work of pure fiction’, but it does not immediately pass ‘the modern test for historicity’.

>>Dr K A Kitchen, Professor  Emeritus of Egyptology and Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Archeology, Classics, and Oriental Studies, University of Liverpool, England, refutes your perspective BIG TIME<<

Not even close.  You might want to consider reading my responses more carefully, instead of scanning them dismissively as if they don’t “rate” your undivided attention.  That’s because the article you quoted from agrees completely with the line of reasoning I’m representing in my posts.  I never said the OT was a work of pure fiction.  That’s preposterous.  A great deal of it is true.  In fact, I’d say, as a single body of work, it bears a very high correlation with actual events that occurred over it’s (sic) historical time span (even if minor errors appear concerning exact chronology, of course). 

That doesn’t mean the Bible suddenly passes the modern test for historicity though. It contains, however few or relatively minor, errors – a few of them glaring., and here’s the thing:  There’s no real argument among scholars concerning Biblical inaccuracies about certain events and physical facts so easily checked against contemporary  archaeological evidence from that period we now have at our disposal which we didn’t have before. Furthermore, there are a determinate number of interpolations in certain scriptures which no modern technically accurate historical document should have.

Please refer to my recent post for a more detailed analysis.[6]

Note his generalities, without specific examples, of:

  • Biblical inaccuracies about certain events and physical facts;
  • A determinate number of interpolations in some Scriptures which no accurate historical document should have.

This is a pathetic attempt to debunk Scripture without being explicit.

The Bible passes the test of reliability, using the tests any ancient historian uses. Some historians call them indices while others call them criteria.

See my articles that investigate this topic:

clip_image002 Can you trust the Bible? Part 1

clip_image002[1] Can you trust the Bible? Part 2

clip_image002[2] Can you trust the Bible? Part 3

clip_image002[3] Can you trust the Bible? Part 4

clip_image002[4] Secular assaults on the Bible: The inerrant Bible battles

clip_image002[5] Bible bigotry from an arrogant skeptic

clip_image002[6] The Bible: fairy tale or history?

Conclusion

George pushed his non-reliability of the Bible while I provided links to evidence of its reliability. I discuss some of the indices for historical reliability in my article, Evidence for the afterlife.

For those with open minds to the evidence, the Bible can be put to the test of any historical document and found to be reliable in what it states in both Old and New Testaments. That reliability applies to all that is in the Bible, not just to historical narratives.

Notes:


[1] George#87, Christian Fellowship Forum, ‘The decline in the Gospel’, August 19 2015. Available at: http://christianfellowshipforum.com/ (Accessed 12 September 2015). When I checked this link on 5 August 2019 the forum had been closed.

[2] Ibid., George#89.

[3] Ibid., ozspen#131.

[4] Ibid., George#135, 12 September 2015.

[5] Ibid., George#136, 12 September 2015.

[6] Ibid., George#137,12 September 2015.

Works consulted:

Geisler, N & Howe, T 1992. When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Kaiser Jr., W C 2001. The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant? Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Kitchen, K A 2003. On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 07 September 2021.

Slamming Biblical Authority: On Line Opinion

The Honourable

Scott Morrison

MP

Scott Morrison 2014.jpg

Morrison in 2014

30th Prime Minister of Australia

Incumbent

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I wrote this article for On Line Opinion, “Have politics changed ScoMo’s Christianity?” in 2019.

Here are some of the comments that were posted:

Ttbn replied:

“Notice how he dodges the journalist’s questions”.
Morrison dodges questions on everything. He is the most secretive PM we have ever had. His happy clapping in the midst of a sweaty mob doesn’t make him a Christian either.
Anyone trying to analyse the man is doomed to failure: there is nothing there to latch onto. Morrison is a void.
[1]

Alan B jumped in with his comment, part of which read:

No!
He like the Author is still welded to the Christian/ (Constantine) manifesto. And like the Author? Is able to cherry-pick from Contatine’s cherry-picked Dogma for convenience?
In the days when alleged Biblical text was written, some 350 years after the event? Many books were left out at the behest of Constantine and or, his hand-picked minions!
One needs to understand that it was once required of believers to believe that planet earth was just 6,000 years old, at the centre of the universe which revolved around it! And those who challenged such irrefutable sacred text could be excommunicated!
[2]

Alan B is inaccurate with his view of the biblical text being written 350 years after the event and Christians required to be Young Earth Creationists. See my articles:

clip_image002 How were the New Testament documents transmitted in the first century AD?

clip_image002[1]The New Yorker’s biased journalism on Jesus

A sympathetic Christian Not-Now-Soon responded:

If Christians were united on many of these issues then I agree that the standard should be shared by politicians claiming their faith to be Christian. Unfortunately, I’ve come across too many types of christians to hold a standard of what counts as Christian and what doesn’t. Some don’t believe in the bible, because of social preasure to call it outdated and an old book. Others don’t believe in miracles, the very works that God does that are above and beyond the natural element of the world. And many without a tradition, a church foundation, or a devote study to ground them, mix up popular ideas with their faith. Things like “God looks after those who look after themselves” instead of that “God looks after the poor, the sick, and the widowed.”
With such confusion in the ranks one question needs to be asked, what makes a person a Christian? Is it a base knowledge and understanding that is agreed with? Go past that line and reject some of that and you are no longer a Christian? Is it obedience to teachings and the laws? Is it faith in God and Jesus? I’m sure whatever answer to the question “what makes a Christian a Christian,” will overlap the three aspects above with faith, understanding, and obedience (behavior), all summing up a minimum for what it means to be a Christian.
[3]

I think it is good for Christians to hold each other accountable in order to strengthen them in their faith. But I also know that kindness and understanding should be there too. Very few Christians can say they are great at understanding God’s direction, great at acting according to their faith, and great at having faith that is stronger then the difficulties and the opposition we face in life.
The trouble with ScoMo is probably the same trouble many Christians face. They believe but are not strong in their beliefs. They have faith but are not always confidant in that faith. Or they compromise their behaviors and do not follow the direction they know is right.
I know these are just a bunch of excuses for anyone regardless if they are a PM, or are anyone else, but excuses or not this is the situation we find ourselves in. Our weaknesses are easy to over power most of us.
OzSpen, from what you’ve shown in this article it seems ScoMo is along the same lines. He dodges some of those questions because he’s not strong in his Christian foundation to stand up to the opposition. A quality that unfortunately many of us share. If you can, pray for him. Even in light of his stumbling. If you can do more then that too, awesome. Encourage him when you can, and confront him when he’s in the wrong. But still pray for him even if you can do more also.
[4]

“Ponder” raised a couple good questions for us to ponder:

Why the obsessive attention to a belief system?
Does Christianity relate to facts and truths, or is it just a fantasy of faith?
We have need in our society for governments to manage and oversee policy on our behalf, not to indulge in rhetorical persuasion.
[5]

A brief reply

Ponder, an obsessive attention to a belief system is paid by Christians because our eternal destiny depends on our beliefs in the Trinitarian God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Scripture exhorts us: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes (continues to believe) in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

For the unbeliever and the person who does no good, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt 25:46).

The eternal destinies of human beings are determined in their belief or disbelief in Jesus, the Son of God. “Ponder” has treated the eternal destinies of human beings too lightly.

I wrote again to Not_Now_Soon,

Not_Now.Soon,
<<… from what you’ve shown in this article it seems ScoMo is along the same lines. He dodges some of those questions because he’s not strong in his Christian foundation to stand up to the opposition. A quality that unfortunately many of us share. If you can, pray for him. Even in light of his stumbling. >>
You’ve made a perceptive assessment. ScoMo, as our Aussie Christian Prime Minister, faces challenges similar to those of us in any workforce. Will we look at work and the rest of life through the lens of Scripture and make the necessary adjustments? Or, will we compromise our standards for the sake of popularity. It must be so much harder for a prominent Christian in the public arena.
I pray for ScoMo to keep strong under the pressure but I also call on him to be more overt in what he believes. Perhaps he’s not sure how he can be a public face for Christianity and not offend many in our multicultural society. It seems to me he needs a couple introductory courses in Christian apologetics.
Wouldn’t it be good to hear that he listens to podcasts by John Dickson, William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel?
[6]

To Ponder I wrote:

<<Why the obsessive attention to a belief system? Does Christianity relate to facts and truths, or is it just a fantasy of faith?>>
Out of your and my beliefs will flow actions. Christianity is based on facts & truths. The Apostle Paul made that clear:
‘If Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins’ (1 Corinthians 15:14-16).
Without the fact of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, preaching for Christ is useless, as is Christian faith.
That’s why it’s important to understand the faith of anyone, whether atheist, pantheist or theist. All such world views impact on what we do in life.
[7]

There are more comments for you to address I this thread. I leave that for you to raise and then provide answers but here are a couple suggestions:

clip_image004 “Emeritus professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, Dr Paul L. Maier, concludes:

‘If all the evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable, according to the canons of historical research, to conclude that the tomb in which Jesus was buried was actually empty on the morning of the first Easter. And no shred of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources, epigraphy, or archaeology that would disprove this statement.’[8]

How would you refute this evidence?

clip_image004[1] “What my comment had to do with your article is that your trying to use the same peer pressuring ideology to force our PM into acting in accordance with religion.
It’s not his job to act in accordance to his religion.
In his personal private life yes, sure.
As our PM its his job to act in the citizens best interests, as well as his own, if he wants to get re-elected.”
[9]

This statement violates the scriptural mandate, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31 NLT). For the Prime Minister, it comes under the umbrella of “whatever you do.”

Notes:


[1] Posted by ttbn, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 9:26:39 AM.

[2] Posted by Alan B., Wednesday, 6 November 2019 9:50:01 AM.

[3] Posted by Not_Now.Soon, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 1:04:06 PM.

[4] Posted by Not_Now.Soon, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 1:06:19 PM

[5] Posted by Ponder, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 1:24:55 PM.

[6] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 8:38:22 PM.

[7] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 8:48:27 PM.

[8] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 7 November 2019 8:28:11 AM.

[9] Posted by Armchair Critic, Thursday, 7 November 2019 7:09:45 PM.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 06 September 2021.