Monday, November 14, 2016

The Logic of Christianity 14: The Parousia is True until Proven False

One of the premises on which the Logic of Christianity is founded is the argument that Jesus fulfilled multiple Old Testament prophecies (see the Gospel accounts). So, what about Jesus’ own prophecies, regarding his “Coming” (aka, the Parousia)? According to a Pew Research poll published August 24, 2016, the vast majority of individuals (78%) who now say that they have no religion were actually raised in religious families.

 Furthermore, "About half of current religious 'nones' who were raised in a religion (49%) indicate that a lack of belief led them to move away from religion.” Prominent among those issues that led to a lack of belief were “learning about evolution when [they] went away to college” and “lack of any sort of scientific or specific evidence of a creator.” That is why I focused the previous post on the truth of “Creation.” I believe the Creation issue is unquestionably essential to the Logic of Christianity.

 Having been an active member for nearly 50 years of the extremely critical academic society—The Society of Biblical Literature—I have been exposed to the onslaught of negative biblical scholarship. I have concluded (as I mentioned at the close of my last blog) that “Along with issues of the end of time apocalypses, and with questions about the historicity of the Gospel accounts, Creation issues are the front lines of the war.” In this blog post and the next, I turn to “issues of the Parousia of Christ and the end of time in Paul, Revelation, and the Gospel mini-apocalypses.”

 Jesus is reported in the Gospels to have predicted that his Parousia would occur within a generation:

1. In Matthew 16:28, Jesus predicts: “[T]here shall be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming (ERCHOMAI) in his kingdom.” This appears to place a serious time limit for the fulfillment of Jesus’ Parousia prophecy. In the parallel accounts, Mark 9:1, using a different grammatical form of ERCHOMAI, offers the additional detail that this coming would be in “power.” Luke 9:27 doesn’t mention a specific “coming” of Jesus, but states that they will see the “kingdom of God.” Scholars have interpreted Luke’s phraseology as an attempt to “delay the Eschaton.” Eschaton is a word meaning “the End.” These scholars are suggesting that, by the time Luke wrote his Gospel, the church was beginning to back away from a belief that Jesus would return within decades of his Resurrection. But why would Luke (more clearly than the other two evangelists) spell out exactly a time frame for the appearance of the kingdom of God: “when you see Jerusalem compassed with armies” (Luke 21:20, a clear reference to the war on Jerusalem that began in 68 AD, within the “lifetime” of some who heard Jesus’ prophecy)?

\2. Paul, writing in I Corinthians 15, verses 51 and 52 corroborates the expectation that Jesus’ Parousia would happen within the lifetime of some first generation Christians: “51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” Scholars agree that Paul (by using the term “we” in all three instances) is expecting the Parousia within either his lifetime or the lifetime of his contemporaries. Earlier in this chapter (15:23), Paul previews what he expands on in the verses just cited: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming (PAROUSIA).” Paul wrote his epistles before the Gospels were written down. Clearly, an expectation of an early Parousia of Christ was pervasive in the Early Church.

3. Combine these predictions of the Parousia occurring within the lifetime of Jesus’ contemporaries with the several statements to the effect that Jesus’ contemporary “generation” would not pass until his Parousia had occurred (Matthew 23:36 and 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32). Of the three Synoptic Gospels, only Matthew (24:3, 27, 37, and 39) actually employs the term PAROUSIA (as does Paul) to name what all three gospels describe as “the Son of man coming (ERCHOMENON) in the cloud/s with power and glory.” Revelation 1:7 agrees that he is coming on the clouds.

4. The amount of time required for the accomplishment of the actual event called Parousia to occur, however, seems to be negligible. Even though the Synoptic Gospels speak of seeing Jesus “coming in the clouds,” which could suggest a “noticeable” time period, Matthew 24:27 suggests the time frame of the Parousia as “lightning” going from the east to the west. Matthew 24:39-41 offers a glimpse of two men in the field or two women at the mill—one taken and the other left—something that seems to imply a split-second disappearance. As cited earlier, Paul, in I Corinthians 15:52 suggests a split-second Parousia: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”

5. John, the author of Revelation, writing in 69 AD, (within the “lifetime” of some who heard Jesus’ prophecy), indicates that the time is “near” or “short” for the fulfilling of the apocalyptic prophecies (Revelation 1:3, 12:12). Jesus repeatedly states: “I am coming (ERCHOMAI) quickly” (Revelation 3:11, 22:7, 12, and 20).

6. It is true that some New Testament books, such as James and II Peter acknowledge the impatient frustrations of some in their audiences that Jesus’ Parousia has not yet occurred. James 5:7-8 states: “7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” James not only reasserts the predicted coming, but also states that it is “drawing near.” II Peter 3:4 addresses the point: “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. . . . 8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

7. The strongest argument critical scholars have for suggesting that New Testament Christianity abandoned hope in a Parousia that would occur within the generation to whom Jesus prophesied it is to claim that New Testament books, such as Luke and Revelation, were written well after the time of first generation Christians. While that position has been advanced by some critical scholars, it is by no means proven. For example, while many critical scholars want to date the writing of Revelation at 96 AD, I point out in my book Revelation: The Human Drama (Lehigh University Press, 2001, p. 37): “According to (an apparently private conversation with) John A. T. Robinson, [the renowned British scholar, F. F.] Bruce ‘now inclines’ in the direction of the earlier date [69 A.D.]. Robinson's own thesis is that Revelation (and all other New Testament books) should be redated prior to 70 A.D. Robert M. Grant . . . criticizes Robinson's work . . . Yet, Grant is only critiquing Robinson's book--he is not disavowing the possibility that the date of Revelation was prior to 70. Robinson even cites Grant as allowing for the possibility of an early date for Revelation: ‘Grant, INT, 237, is prepared to say 'a situation between 68 and 70 is not excluded.'"

8. If one redates “all . . . New Testament books . . . prior to 70 A.D.,” there is absolutely no proof in the New Testament that the prophesied Parousia did not occur. On the contrary, if all New Testament books were written prior to 70 A.D., there is a missing link between the New Testament church and the Early Catholic Church. Indeed, renowned church historian S. G. F. Brandon, in his book The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church (London: S.P.C.K., 1957), claims that any record of the church existing actually disappears for a period of twenty years. What happened to the Christians?

9. In my book on Revelation, page 36, I observe: “Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza claims that ‘New Testament scholars generally agree that the author of Revelation [was writing] . . . at the end of the first century.’ But this consensus is mistaken. If this general consensus view were correct, presumably the intended audience would be primarily gentile in makeup. [However,] R. H. Charles . . . contends that the author of Revelation is Jewish and J. Massyngberde Ford questions whether or not the work is Christian at all, or a thoroughly Jewish book. If any portion of Ford's argument is accepted, what Fiorenza claims to be the consensus view regarding the date, and hence the intended audience of Revelation, needs to change. The Church at the end of the first century appears to be quite gentile in makeup. In this regard, S. G. F. Brandon notes: ‘[T]he author of the Acts in his presentation of the tradition of Christian Origins never gives any indication that the numbers of the Gentile converts were large, while he makes several statements about the considerable numerical strength of the Jewish Christians in Palestine, which . . . must be fairly interpreted as genuine indications of the comparative situation. Yet, Justin Martyr, writing in the second century at approximately 135 A.D., can have a debate with Trypho, the Jew, in a context that seems to clearly indicate the almost total absence of Jews in the Church! What happened to the Jewish Christians?

10. In 1878, a British exegete named J. Stuart Russell published a book entitled The Parousia. Still in print (now, with a Foreword by Reformed leader R. C. Sproul), the author concludes, quite logically (p. 565): “[T]he predictions of our Lord in Matt. xxiv . . . had a veritable accomplishment. . . . These predictions are bounded by certain limits of time. The time is explicitly declared to fall within the period of the then existing generation. . . . And why should it be thought incredible?” Russell anticipates that skeptics of his suggestion will offer an answer to the question just asked: “Because there is no historical evidence of the fact.” However, if such an event were predicted to occur in a negligible period of time—such as “lightning” going from the east to the west or “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” how could there possibly be any historical evidence? The answer to that question, which J. Stuart Russell reached in the 19th Century, is the same answer that I reached, entirely independently of Russell, in the 21st Century: It’s the 20 year absence of the evidence that a Church existed following the Jerusalem War of 66 to 73 A.D. It’s the fact that, once the Church reemerges, it is almost entirely Gentile; whereas, it had been dominated by Jews in the New Testament period. Russell writes: “The principal, if not the only, portion that seems to come within the cognizance of human sense, is the removal of a great multitude of the disciples of Christ from this earthly scene. . . . [T]here should be some trace in history of this sudden disappearance of so vast a body of believers. . . . a blank in history. . . . a failure, at the least, in the continuity of the records of Christianity. [T]he predictions do not require an absolute and universal removal of the whole body of the faithful (for it is manifest that there is a clear distinction made between the watchful and the unwatchful, the ready and the unready . . .) . . . .” Such a huge gap does exist, as seen by the church historians.

11. Does the historical gap in the records of the existence of the Church prove that the Church was raptured? No. That proposition could not possibly be proven, historically. But, it does argue the POSSIBILITY. Everything else in Jesus’ prophecy occurred within a generation: the Temple was both profaned and destroyed, there were wars and rumors of war as the Roman Empire progressively attacked the Land of Israel, Christians were delivered up to councils and synagogues, and beaten, but gave their testimony before kings and governors.

The view that the Parousia predicted by Jesus actually occurred sometime around 70 A.D., is not only my own view and that of J. Stuart Russell, but also (with variants) the view of the 16th Century Jesuit Catholic theologian, Luis del Alcázar and 17th Century Reformed exegete Hugo Grotius. F. F. Bruce observes: "Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) . . . was the first Reformed exegete to give up the identification of the Papacy with the Antichrist and he held that some of the visions of Rev[elation] reflect the period before, and others the period after, the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70." Bruce continues, "[Grotius] may thus be regarded as the pioneer of the literary-critical approach to the book [of Revelation]." No less than the most respected Revelation scholar of the 20th Century—R. H. Charles--indicates that Revelation should "be taken as referring first and chiefly to the times in which it was originally written." This assertion by Charles summarizes the position of the Contemporary-Historical methodology of interpreting Revelation. Along with the scholarly consensus, the Contemporary-Historical methodology is what I personally follow, even though I agree with Charles’s earlier (69 A.D.) datings, but not his later (96 A.D.) datings.

Unlike Charles (but like Russell and others), I suggest that the predictions of John regarding those times in which Revelation was originally written actually occurred. I offer strong evidence of that view in my book Revelation: The Human Drama. Merrill C. Tenney of Wheaton College refers to the view of R. H. Charles, which he calls the “view of the majority of liberal scholars,” as the Preterist School of Revelation—that the book’s symbolism “relates only to the events of the day in which it was written.” It is with that view of the Parousia—that it was predicted to happen within the generation of Jesus—that I am dealing with this post. It is the majority interpretation of critical scholars. Most of these critical scholars use this interpretation of the Parousia prophecies to discredit the Bible and Jesus. They say that the Parousia, while predicted, did not happen within the first generation. I am arguing that, if one offers the Bible the “presumption” of “truth”—that the Bible is true unless proven wrong—the truth of the Bible must stand. If the Parousia was predicted to occur in a “moment,” in the “twinkling of an eye,” as a “lightning” flash, there is no way that it could be proven that it did not occur . . .

UNLESS there is evidence that the whole church continued in existence uninterrupted from the day it began.

 BUT . . . there is evidence that the existence of the church WAS INTERRUPTED for about 20 years!

Therefore, I conclude that the Parousia very well may have happened around 70 AD, and continue to hold to the presumption of Biblical truth.

So, if the Parousia has occurred (around 70 AD), what does the Bible say about the rest of human history? Revelation offers a very interesting sketch of the remainder of human history, which has occurred with startling precision. The Battle of Armageddon is misunderstood; the Battle of Gog and Magog is yet to occur. It was not predicted to occur until after the 1000 year incarceration of the Dragon. What does all of that mean? These issues will be the subject of my next post.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Logic of Christianity 13: Creation is True until Proven False

So, what elements of the Genesis creation account do unbelievers doubt? 1. They doubt that the universe was created by any “god.” (They prefer a non-purposive Big Bang theory, instead.) 2. They doubt that the universe came into existence within the time span indicated by Genesis. (They prefer a much longer time frame than they think Genesis supplies.) 3. They doubt that the order of the elements of the universe coming into existence is correctly indicated in Genesis. (Specifically, they object to the timing of the appearance in Genesis of the Sun, Moon, and Stars.) 4. They doubt that any “god” was active in the progressive expansion of life forms. (They prefer a non-purposive “evolutionary” model instead.) 5. They doubt that man was made “in the image” of any god. (They prefer a behaviorist view of man: that like all other animals, man behaves in predictable, non-creative ways.) 6. They doubt that Adam was a specific distinct creation. (They prefer an evolutionary model of the development of man/Homo sapiens: from Neanderthal or Heidelberg man.)
My book Disneology: Religious Rhetoric at Walt Disney World tackles all of these issues. It approaches the “creation” issues from the premise that Walt Disney and his company did not seem to flinch at the notion of holding both a Scientific Realist position and a Christian Realist position, simultaneously. Furthermore, I demonstrate that—apart from their removal of God from the picture—Scientific Realists can be easily accommodated within the interpretive possibilities in the Bible. It is possible for a Scientific Realist to be simultaneously a Christian Realist, if s/he follows the gauntlet I laid down. In short, if the Scientific Realist accepts the “presumption” that the Bible is true unless and until proven false, s/he can and will continue, simultaneously, to be a Christian Realist.
On page 4 of Disneology, I point out: “Disney was a huge fan of President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln is the president who receives the greatest attention in the ‘Hall of Presidents’ at the Magic Kingdom . . . . Lincoln asserts that all men are ‘created’ equal. He identifies the Declaration of Independence as the ‘truth.’ . . . Mention of the ‘creator’ in the Declaration of Independence is reiterated in the ‘American Adventure’ in EPCOT.” Yet, on page 5, I continue: “The ‘Universe of Energy’ attraction at EPCOT presents the origins of the universe from a wholly god-less perspective. The perspective of physics informs riders that originally, there was a ‘big bang’ in which a great amount of energy was converted into huge supplies of mass. . . . The perspective of Geology (the study of the Earth) then takes over. This originally very hot planet was a fiery, molten, and gaseous mixture. The gasses surrounded the planet until the planet cooled; then, water condensed onto the surface of the earth and became the seas. (Not too many years ago . . . WDW had corroborated these views of physics and geology in a preshow to ‘The Living Seas’ exhibit. Again, no mention of a creator was to be found.) The perspective of Evolutionary Biology is/was presented in both the Energy and Seas shows, as plant life is followed by water life, then amphibian life, etc.”
THE EVOLUTION ISSUE. Many followers of my blog have anticipated one of my next links in the Logic of Christianity series by revisiting my earlier blogpost: Disneology #8: What About Evolution? That specific post, written and published years ago, has enjoyed a major resurgence in hits in the past month or so. I begin that post (and its corresponding Chapter in my book Disneology, p. 55) with the following comment: “The most stressful and emotionally divisive debate between scientists and theologians is over the issue of evolution.” For those who are not inclined to accept any semblance of evolution, those who believe that any evolutionary explanation of biological existence is counter to the Bible, I offer the following encouragement (p. 57):
“Believers in gradual evolution have been hoping that the study of fossils (paleontology) will yield scientific evidence of the various transitional stages of development each genus and species went through as it evolved. They are searching for ‘missing links.’ The website ( reports: ‘Stephen J. Gould, America's most famous evolutionist . . . stated, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary . . . textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils. I wish in no way to impugn the potential validity of gradualism. I wish only to point out that it was never seen in the rocks.”’”
Nevertheless, for those who would dismiss the Bible because they are persuaded by the evolutionary argument, I submitted also the following (pp. 57-58): “Genesis 1:11 indicates ‘how’ God made plants. He SPOKE to the land: ‘Let the land produce vegetation.’ Genesis 1:12 confirms: ‘The land produced vegetation.’ One way of viewing this phenomenon is to say that God delegated to land the capacity for producing plant life. . . . In a somewhat similar manner (but with a curious departure in the way it is phrased), in Genesis 1:20, God SPOKE to the waters: ‘Let the waters teem with living creatures.’ . . . Water animal life was the first level of animal life. . . . In Genesis 1:24, we return to a formula similar to the formula for making plants. God SPOKE to the land: ‘Let the land produce living creatures.’ If God delegated to land the capacity for producing plant life, and then (later) the capacity for producing living creatures, it may be that once God created elemental animal life (in the waters), the land was given the capacity for developing that animal life. In other words, there appears to be some room for a somewhat theologically-based evolution/gradualism theory.”
THE HUMAN ISSUE. Genesis, however, does NOT say that God SPOKE humans into existence. On pages 58-59 of Disneology, I observe: “Genesis 1:27 states: ‘God created man in his own image . . . male and female created He them.’ Genesis 2:7 adds the detail that God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life before man became a living being. . . . The term ‘create’ is used by Genesis only in terms of creating the ‘heavens and the earth’ in 1:1 . . . creating ‘the great creatures of the sea and every living’ thing in the sea in 1:21 (the beginning of animal life), and God creating ‘man in his own image’ in 1:27. . . . [A]ll creation seems to have been accomplished by God ‘speaking,’ with the lone exception of the creation of Adam.”
To the matter of what it means to be in the “image of God,” I devote several chapters of Disneology (Chapters 10-15). My observations on the senses in which man is unique from all other animals are not the musings of a theologian; rather, they are the observations of a Twentieth Century (agnostic) genius in the field of Communication, Kenneth Burke. Burke asserts that the human is the symbol-using (symbol-making) animal. Skeptics are hard-pressed to find any other animal species that “creates” or “makes” its own communication, as does the human. Since God, in Genesis, also creates/makes, human communication is effectively an image of God. Burke asserts that since the human is the only animal capable of using the hortatory negative (Thou shalt not!), and since the hortatory negative is the basis of morality, the human is “moralized” by the negative. Morality makes the human into the image of God. Burke asserts that the human is the “tool-making, tool-using” animal. Other animals may use tools that are found in nature or created by man, but humans (using symbolicity) actually make and use their own tools. They are, thus, separated from their natural condition by instruments of their own making. This “creative” nature is, again, the image of God. Burke asserts that human are goaded by a “spirit of hierarchy.” His use of the word “spirit” here is akin to his use of “symbol-making.” While other animals have natural, instinctive, hierarchies (back-biting for wolves, pecking order for chickens, etc.), humans symbolically create zillions of hierarchies. This creative function, along with the hierarchal element evident in all creation, makes humans the image of God. Burke asserts that the human is “rotten with perfection.” He is not saying that the human is, by any means, perfect—just that he has an innate notion of what perfection means in many situations. This is also the image of God. The Dedication of my book Implicit Rhetoric: Kenneth Burke’s Extension of Aristotle’s Concept of Entelechy reads: “To God, the Ultimate Symbol-User.”
THE HOMO SAPIENS/NEANDERTHAL ISSUE According to the Smithsonian Institute website, human evolution researchers/paleoanthropologists admit that they still do not know “Who was our direct evolutionary ancestor? Was it Homo heidelbergensis, like many paleoanthropologists think, or another species? . . . [or] How much interbreeding occured between our species and Homo neanderthalensis?” In other words, it is clear that Homo sapiens is a separate “species,” originating thousands, not millions, of years ago. That some interbreeding between the Homo sapiens and the (older and extinct species) Neanderthals occurred is accepted by paleoanthropologists: According to Charles Q. Choi, “Why Neanderthals Likely Fathered Few Kids with Modern Humans,” Live Science []: “Humans today often carry around a small chunk of DNA from Neanderthals, suggesting we interbred with our closest known extinct relatives at some point in our history. So why isn't there more Neanderthal DNA in modern humans? Turns out, the Y chromosome may have been key in keeping the two lineages apart by creating conditions that might often have led to miscarriages if or when the two got together, researchers now say.” The very point that the two species were separate species and that interbreeding was a rare and difficult possibility suggest that Homo sapiens was a distinct creation. But what about the Bible and God making man “in His own image”? Doesn’t the very existence of Neanderthal, Heidelberg, Floresiensis, Erectus, Rudolfensis, and Habilis fossils disprove that notion? In my forthcoming book Angels and Demons: The Personification of Communication, I address the issue of the marriages in Genesis 6 between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of man,” drawing on the suggested interbreeding between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, while at the same time considering the Hebrew language: “Genesis 1:26 quotes God: ‘Let us make man INTO our image.’ The Hebrew consonant (ב) that I have translated ‘into’ is typically translated ‘in.’ Nevertheless, ‘into’ is a perfectly legitimate translation. . . . Due to the . . . fossil record that seems to provide evidence of the existence of a non-symbol-using version of man that predates the symbol-using variety, a translation of ‘into’ . . . could accommodate such evidence. In other words, a possibility exists that God originally made a man . . . who did not have symbol-using capacities. He could not speak a language, make tools, paint pictures on cave walls, etc. Then, at some point, God made the same type of being WITH symbol-using capacities (i.e., with His image: He created Adam). . . . The sons of God, in this scenario, would be the offspring of Adam—those who were created ‘with’ [or ‘made into’] God’s image, and hence, could be thought of as his ‘sons.’ The daughters of men, in this scenario, would be the female offspring of the purely ‘animal’ man, the Neanderthals or some such. . . . What would happen if one bred a very intelligent (. . . son of God) man with a very physically adapted (. . . daughter of man) woman? Would their offspring not have the capability of being ‘heroes’ and ‘men of name?’” My point is not that one must accept the preceding explanation/interpretation, but only that the Hebrew text is capable of one or more interpretations that could accommodate the views of paleoanthropologists. THE BIBLE IS TRUE, UNLESS AND UNTIL IT IS PROVEN FALSE.
THE BIG BANG ISSUE In Disneology (pp. 31-34), I point out: “’Big Bang,’ Einstein’s E=MC², Aristotle’s HULĒ, Disney’s Universe of Energy, and Kenneth Burke’s Logology all converge. . . . According to Einstein, Mass (or Aristotle’s HULĒ) can be changed into Energy, and vice versa. Einstein explains his theory of relativity, as follows: ‘It followed from the special theory of relativity that mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing -- a somewhat unfamiliar conception for the average mind. Furthermore, the equation E is equal to m c-squared, in which energy is put equal to mass, multiplied by the square of the velocity of light, showed that very small amounts of mass may be converted into a very large amount of energy and vice versa. The mass and energy were in fact equivalent, according to the formula mentioned above. This was demonstrated by Cockcroft and Walton in 1932, experimentally.’ . . . The Big Bang theory of the origins of the universe is based on the notion that ‘in the beginning’ there was a huge conversion of Energy into Mass—a Big Bang. But what was the source of this tremendous supply of Energy? Theological answer: God. Even more specifically, for John, the energy present in the spoken Word of God. . . . This view . . . supplies an important answer for adherents of the Big Bang Theory that physics . . . [does] not supply—the source of the tremendous supply of Energy that was converted into Mass.”
THE AGE OF THE UNIVERSE ISSUE In Disneology (pp. 25-28), I comment: “Certainly, it is possible to interpret the Genesis account of creation as stating that the entire universe and its inhabitants (up to and including humans) were completely created in six twenty-four hour periods, just a few thousand years ago. This translation is possible because the word ‘day’ (YOM, in the Hebrew) most frequently refers to ‘one twenty-four hour period. . . . unless the term day/YOM can mean something other than a twenty-four hour period.’ . . . In addition to the twenty-four hour denotation, the word YOM also, at times, simply means ‘light,’ as opposed to ‘darkness’(Genesis 1:5). YOM also refers to time periods other than the twenty-four hour variety. In the first chapter of Genesis, God created man—both male and female—and gave them instructions to multiply and fill the Earth, all in one YOM (Day Six). In the second chapter, there is an expanded discussion of several steps in this process. First, God creates Adam, a male, and instructs him to keep the Garden of Eden, to name the animals, to refrain from eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, etc. Then, God . . . brings a deep sleep upon him, removes a rib from his side, fashions it into a female (Eve), and brings her to Adam. Later (when Adam and Eve are not together), a serpent successfully induces Eve to eat from the Tree, and Eve subsequently successfully tempts Adam to do so. They invent clothing and hide from God. God discovers them and interrogates them. They are cast from the Garden of Eden and FINALLY told to be fruitful and multiply in the Earth. These are quite a few events to have all been completed in one twenty-four hour period. Nevertheless, Genesis 5:1-2 confirms that Adam and Eve were created in a YOM. Consider another example of YOM lasting longer than twenty-four hours. In Genesis 2:17, God tells Adam that “in the day you eat” from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, you shall surely die. Since (according to Genesis 5:8) Adam lived 930 years, the YOM in which he ate and died appears to be quite long. In fact, this nearly-one-thousand-year-long YOM appears to be close to the famous formula found in Psalm 90:4: ‘For a thousand years are in [God’s] eyes as a YOM . . . .’ Changing the Hebrew word YOM/day to the Greek term HEMERA/day, Second Peter 3:8 declares: ‘One day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day. . . . A third example of YOM lasting longer than twenty-four hours is found in Genesis 2:4. This verse seems to suggest that ALL of creation—heavens, Earth, plants, animals, and humans—occurred in a single YOM. Even those who suggest that God created all things in 144 hours are hesitant to assert that it all happened within 24 hours. While sound Biblical scholarship certainly permits the interpretation that the heavens and Earth and all varieties of inhabitants were formed in 144 hours, this is not the ONLY possible interpretation . . . . Furthermore, the first word of the Bible has [possibly] been mistranslated.’ The first word of the Bible in the original language of Hebrew is BERESHIT. It is almost always translated: ‘In the beginning.’ There is, however, a problem with that translation. The problem lies in the fact that the term BERESHIT is a Hebrew ‘construct’ form. This means that the term ‘Beginning’ should be connected with another noun by the word ‘of.’ The second word of Genesis is NOT, however, a noun; it is the word BARA’, a verb, translated as ‘He created.’ . . . It [also] is quite permissible [by changing vowel pointings] . . . to read BARA’ as a noun (or Gerund): ‘the creating.’ This is how the translation of Genesis 1:1-2 might, thus, read: ‘In the Beginning of God’s creating the heavens and the Earth, the Earth was formless and void.’ If the translation just offered is true, we do not know for certain exactly where the Genesis creation account begins. What is the exact point in the beginning of creating that the first day described in Genesis actually begins? It’s somewhere in the beginning, but the Earth is apparently already in existence, albeit in a formless and chaotic state. Of course, this is not the ONLY possible translation/interpretation of Genesis 1:1-2, but NEITHER is the translation: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.’”
THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE SUN ISSUE I note, on page 43 of Disneology: “The order of Creation in Genesis mirrors the order of the origins of the universe as depicted by science in Disney’s Epcot exhibits.” Nevertheless, some take issue with the introduction by Genesis of the Sun, Moon and stars on Day Four. This, they assert is out of order in the origin of the universe. I point out (pp. 45-46): “The Bible does not say plants were ‘created’ before the sun, moon, and stars. The term ‘create’ is used by Genesis only in terms of creating the ‘heavens and the earth’ in 1:1 (which seems to imply [in the term ‘heavens’] that the Sun, Moon, and stars were already created by Day One), creating ‘the great creatures of the sea and every living’ thing in the sea in 1:21 (the beginning of animal life), and God creating ‘man in his own image’ in 1:27. The Bible only implies that on the 4th day, the sun, moon, and stars were made visible in the firmament, to divide day from night. On the implication of ‘visibility’ in Day 4, what else could lights dividing day from night, being markers for seasons, days, and years, and shedding light upon the earth be? This chronological issue of when the Sun, Moon, and stars came into being seems to be the only serious objection non-believers cite regarding the order of creation in the first chapter of Genesis. Disney’s exhibits provide a visual tour of prehistory: The big bang happens, the earth is hot, there is light (from the hot magma and volcanoes) and the ‘waters’ are so hot, they are nothing but vapors surrounding the earth so dense that no light from sun-moon-stars is visible, the earth starts to cool, water vapors begin to condense and gather into seas, vegetation begins, and finally the condensation is so thorough the sun-moon-stars are visible from the surface of the earth. The point I am making has to do with the fact that, at some time prior to the sun-moon-stars becoming visible from the surface of the earth, the earth’s waters were in a gaseous form, hovering above the land surfaces. We know that these water vapors, if they were suspended above the surface of the Earth in gaseous form would be impenetrable by sunlight since we can see that, after they condensed and became the sea, we need only go below the surface of the sea a few thousand feet before we encounter absolute darkness.” The now-discontinued Disney pre-show film of the Living Seas (replicating the order described by physicists) shows this exact order—with vegetation beginning to grow PRIOR TO the emergence of the visibility of sun, moon, and stars. For further reading on creation issues, I refer you to my book Disneology: Religious Rhetoric at Walt Disney World.
Creation issues are extremely important for Christian Realists. If even the Ten Commandments assert that God created, and with all of the theology in both testaments predicated on the Genesis account of Creation and Adam and Eve, how could any Christian dismiss these issues as unimportant? Along with issues of the end of time in Revelation and the New Testament mini-apocalypses, and with questions about the reliability of the Gospel accounts, Creation issues are the front lines of the war. With regard to creation issues (and to the other issues), the Bible is true until proven false.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Logic of Christianity 12: In God’s Own Handwriting

According to the Bible, God, PERSONALLY, only wrote two messages to mankind, one message in ARAMAIC and one message in HEBREW. The message in Aramaic was the “Handwriting on the Wall” incident recorded in the book Daniel (5:25): “MN’ MN’ TKL PRS PRS.” So far as we know, the handwriting of God, in this instance, was preserved only long enough for Daniel to decipher it and interpret its meaning for the Babylonian king Belshazzar. It had to do with God’s warning of the impending break-up of the Babylonian Empire. (God has had an inclination toward breaking up mighty human institutions of power, over the millennia: the Tower of Babel; the Greek and Roman Empires; perhaps even, the Catholic Church in the Reformation? Nazi Germany? the Soviet Union? Are the American political parties next? But, I digress.) This blog post is not primarily concerned with the Daniel handwriting.
Instead, this blog post focuses on the PREMIER HANDWRITTEN MESSAGE FROM GOD: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. We begin the discussion of the defensibility of the presumption that the Bible is true and divine until proven false with the single piece of divine communication that was so revered that it was carried before the people of Israel for centuries in its own protective container, the Ark of the Covenant, which was itself most highly revered:
"And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee." Exodus 25:16 "So I made the ark out of acacia wood and chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I went up to the mountain with the two tablets in my hands. The Lord wrote on these tablets what He had written before, the Ten Commandments He had proclaimed to you on the mountain, out of the fire, on the day of the assembly. And The Lord gave them to me. Then I came back down the mountain and put the tablets in the ark I had made, as The Lord commanded me, and they are there now." Deuteronomy 10:3-5 (NIV) "...which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant." Hebrews 9:4 (NIV)
Jewish scribes, from the time of the New Testament and before, prioritized the importance of the messages they had received from God. They distinguished, even in their Bible, which they called the TaNaCH ( an alliteration), between the T (for TORAH—translated “Law”—the first five books), the N (for NEVI’IM—translated “Prophets”), and the CH (for CHETUVIM—translated “Writings” or “Hagiographa”—which included Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and First and Second Chronicles). The CHETUVIM were not considered as authoritative as the Law and the Prophets. According to the statistics found in Nestle-Aland’s Greek New Testament, even the New Testament fails to cite any text or make literary allusion whatsoever pointing to such Old Testament books as Ruth, Ezra, Song of Solomon, or Ecclesiastes. Other CHETUVIM, such as First and Second Chronicles, Nehemiah, Esther, and Lamentations each receive only one slight (and fairly unimportant) literary allusion apiece in the New Testament. On the other hand, there are numerous citations and allusions in the New Testament to Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and Daniel, among the Chetuvim, as well as numerous citations and allusions to ALL OF THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS. Therefore, other than the Chetuvim books—Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and Daniel—some Christians might not spend a great deal of effort defending the inspiration and infallibility of the Chetuvim. I would not personally excommunicate someone who believes s/he may have found a problem in one of these books (for example, a narrative account in Chronicles that differs with one in Samuel or Kings). It is not absolutely necessary that such a specific problem should negatively impact that person’s faith in the Bible as the inspired Word of God. There is no incontrovertible argument to be made that Paul had in mind these Chetuvim texts that are barely alluded to—if even alluded to, at all—in the New Testament, when he stated that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Samaritans, Sadducees, Pharisees, and the New Testament all appear to give these Chetuvim texts less priority.
Although the New Testament cites and alludes to Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and Daniel (among the Chetuvim) as well as to all of the Law and the Prophets, it should be pointed out that the Samaritans believed that only the Torah/Law/Pentateuch was inspired (See John 4). If the Sadducees believed that there was any inspiration in the Prophets, they held that the inspiration was inferior to the inspiration of the Torah/Law/Pentateuch (See Acts 23:5-7). The Pharisees, as well as Jesus and the Christians, believed that both the Law and the Prophets were inspired. Furthermore, the Pharisees expanded the “Law” to include the “Oral Law.” They claimed that Moses had handed down more laws than were written in the first five books, and that these laws were passed on by oral tradition from rabbi to rabbi (until finally written down in the Talmud). The New Testament rejected this “oral law” tradition (See Matthew 15, Mark 7, and Galatians 1). The Pharisees, however, believed the Law (or legal sections of the Law) to be superior, and even in the Law, they made the distinction between halakhah (the sections of actual laws) and aggadah (everything else).
So, to begin at the very beginning of inspired scripture, we start with the actual HALAKHAH from the hand of God: The Ten Commandments, or Decalogue. How could any message of God be attributed a higher priority! Moses first received the Decalogue on Mount Sinai, as God carved out two stone tablets and wrote the Commandments on them with his own hand (Exodus 31:18). But when Moses came down the mountain with the first two tablets, he found the Israelites worshipping idols. In his wrath, Moses smashed the two tablets to the ground (Exodus 32:19). After purging the evil from Israel, God told Moses to cut out two more tablets, like the first two, and God again wrote in his own handwriting on the tablets, in Hebrew, the Decalogue (Exodus 34:1-4). The words of the Decalogue are found in Exodus 20:2-17: “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. 7Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. 12Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. 13Thou shalt not kill. 14Thou shalt not commit adultery. 15Thou shalt not steal. 16Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. 17Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.” The first three commandments (verses 2 through 7) pertain to the argument that God/YHWH is the one true god. I have already argued this truth in my earlier blog posts—The Logic of Christianity 5: The God of Logic vs. Jeffrey Dahmer, and The Logic of Christianity 6: WHODUNNIT? Responding in the proper manner to the one true God is our FIRST PRIORITY. Commandment Five reminds us that our SECOND PRIORITY is to respond to our source—our father and mother—in the proper manner. Commandments Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, and Ten seem to PRIORITIZE THE MORAL LAWS we must live by: First, don’t murder. Second, don’t have sex with someone who is not your spouse. Third, don’t steal someone else’s property. Fourth, don’t falsely testify against another human. And, Fifth, avoid even the practice of actually desiring something that belongs to another human.
Stuck in between our responsibilities to God and our parents and our responsibilities to our fellow human beings is a curious commandment that pertains to our responsibilities to ourselves: Remember the Sabbath Day. Jesus tells us that the Sabbath Day was made for US, not vice versa. Rest (one definition of Sabbath) is something we are required to do for ourselves. Isn’t it great that God gave us a law that we must obey for our own good! We need a day of rest, at least once per week. But, one thing that might be easily overlooked in this Sabbath commandment is the interesting basis upon which God gave us the Sabbath—THE FACT THAT HE “CREATED” THE WORLD IN JUST SIX DAYS, AND THEN RESTED ON THE SEVENTH.
There it is! Right there, in God’s own handwriting! God CREATED the world! This is not aggadah! This is halakhah! This is the one passage to which everyone gives priority—the Ten Commandments! The handwriting of God! Creation is not a myth. It is not folklore. It is LAW. In my next post, I’ll explore some of the attacks that have been made on the Creation Account, keeping in mind our presumption: True until proven False!

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Logic of Christianity 11: Are there Proofs that the Resurrection Never Happened?

The first historical attempt to deny that Jesus actually rose from the dead is described in Matthew 28:11-15. Matthew’s audience (living decades after the crucifixion) is, apparently, still well aware of an explanation offered among Jews for the disappearance of Jesus’ body: The Roman Guards who were securing the tomb holding Jesus’ body, according to the explanation, all fell asleep during their watch. Jesus’ disciples, sensing that this likelihood would “probably” occur (wink and nod), had the cunning, alertness, and presence of mind to immediately capitalize on the Guards’ temporary lapse to sneak in quietly, roll the stone away, and steal Jesus’ body, thus violating the Commandment against working on the Sabbath at the same time they were violating Roman law, since the purported theft involved the illegal breaking of the seal of the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate. How the Guards who were soundly asleep could possibly have known that a “theft” of the body had occurred is not explained. If the Guards were truly asleep during this purported theft, they would not know at all what had happened to the body. If one of them had awakened during the process (and, hence, noticed the theft occurring), he would have, most certainly, alerted his fellow guards and disrupted the theft. Surely, at least one of the thieves would have been captured or some physical evidence of a dead body being moved would have been discovered. Furthermore, if a theft of a dead body that had been sealed in a tomb by Pilate were actually accomplished, where would the disciples hide this dead body that, by now, had begun to stink? Why is it that, even decades after the purported theft (in Matthew’s account), no physical evidence of the stolen body of Jesus had ever been located? The only “proof” offered in this scenario is the “EYE-WITNESS TESTIMONY” of Guards WHO CLAIM TO HAVE BEEN “ASLEEP” WHEN IT HAPPENED.
Abdullah Kareem, in his web post, “The Resurrection Hoax” ( argues that the resurrection of Jesus is a hoax because Mark, the earliest gospel, “never contained the story.” Mr. Kareem’s use of the term “never” is quite clearly erroneous. (If Kareem were a biblical author, the anti-Christian forces would surely swoop down to demonstrate that he can have no claim to inerrancy!) The fact is, you see, that some early manuscripts of Mark definitely contain Mark 16:9-20, which recounts resurrection appearances to Mary Magdalene, the Eleven apostles, and two men walking in the country. So, one cannot say that Mark “never” contained the story. Kareem’s claim might be better phrased: “The earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark do not contain the accounts of resurrection appearances to Mary Magdalene, the Eleven apostles, and two men walking in the country.” That much is true, but that does not mean that Mark did not contain the resurrection story. In a passage that is not disputed by textual critics, Mark 16:1-8 contains the early Easter morning story of Mary Magdalene and two others coming to anoint Jesus’ body. They found the stone rolled away from the mouth of the tomb, and upon entering, they saw a person robed in white who said to them, “Be not afraid. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He is risen; He is not here; see the place where they laid him.” Mr. Kareem’s argument, therefore, is again erroneous. Even without Mark 16:9-20, Mark still contains the resurrection story. Mr. Kareem continues with innuendo and slanted arguments, none of which are particularly compelling, and then closes with this challenge: “We challenge Christians to prove his resurrection.”
The problem with Mr. Kareem’s challenge is that it presumes that the burden of proof rests upon Christians. Who says it does? Who gets to decide what “presumptions” should take precedence? In American jurisprudence, we constitutionally grant a “presumption of innocence” to anyone who is accused of a crime. We say that s/he is presumed innocent, until proven guilty. But, who could prove that this presumption is the best presumption? Why not presume that anyone who is accused is guilty, until proven innocent? The answer is that “cultures” decide which presumptions the cultures will accept. In my book, ArguMentor (p. 69), I discuss “those ‘starting points’ of Perelman’s argumentation—those facts, truths, and presumptions—that each specific culture unconsciously admits.” Put differently, there are no “facts,” unless the culture in which one states the fact admits that it is a fact. Especially, in the postmodern era, there are no “truths,” unless the culture in which one states the truth admits that it is a truth. And, we cannot “presume” anything unless the culture in which we expect the “presumption” to hold sway admits that it is the acceptable presumption. Foss, Foss, and Trapp (p. 89) note: “[T]he audience’s adherence to presumptions falls short of being maximum; thus, presumptions, unlike facts and truths, can be reinforced by argumentation. Speakers engage in preliminary argumentation to establish certain presumptions or to reinforce the presumptions in the minds of the audience. . . . [P]resumptions can be violated, whereas facts and truths cannot.” Perelman states on pages 24-25 of the Realm of Rhetoric that presumption “imposes the burden of proof upon the person who wants to oppose its application.”
So, I disagree with Abdullah Kareem’s assessment of the presumptions when it comes to the resurrection of Jesus. My position is that, given the 2000-year-long general acceptance in western culture of the resurrection, the burden of proof is on Mr. Kareem to prove that it did NOT happen. And, I challenge anyone to prove that the resurrection did not happen. How would someone even begin to go about proving such a thing? For that matter, how would someone prove that God did NOT create the universe? How would someone prove that the Bible is NOT inspired of God? These are some of my presumptions: • The resurrection did occur. • God did create the universe. • The Bible is inspired of God. Furthermore, they are presumptions held by a massive Christian Culture. My presumption is that these premises are “true, until proven false.”
I will stipulate that NOT ALL who study the Scriptures admit these presumptions. There was a major paradigm shift in biblical studies around the turn of the 20th Century—probably, the result of (a now discredited) modernist philosophy and the application of Occam’s Razor. In his book Between Faith and Criticism, Mark A. Noll writes of two biblical studies cultures operating under opposing presumptions (p.7): “The story of these clashing communities is, however, really two stories. Of most interest to outsiders is the record of traditional Bible-believers first competing in the intellectual marketplace as full partners in the academic discussion of Scripture (roughly 1880 to 1900); then retreating from that world to the fortress of faith (roughly 1900 to 1935); then slowly realizing the values of some participation in that wider world (1935 to 1950), finding the strategies to put themselves back in the professional picture once again (1940 to 1975), and finally confronting new spiritual and intellectual dilemmas because of success in those ventures (1960 to the present). This part of the story is largely an account of . . . conflicting ASSUMPTIONS about the Bible.” On page 45, Noll observes that, after 1900, “a new paradigm emerges for the practice of normal science (The Bible, however sublime, is a human book to be investigated with the standard ASSUMPTIONS that one brings to the discussion of all products of human culture).” Replace the term “assumptions” in the quotations I have cited above (and placed in all caps) with the term “presumptions” and you will have a better grasp of the “logical” situation I am describing. The big difference is that when the new paradigm emerged, the term “assumption” for the advocates of considering the Bible to be a human book became much more of a “premise” or a “creed” than an “assumption” or “presumption.” That is to say, advocates of considering the Bible to be a human book leave no room for the possibility of being proven wrong. For them, the description of the Bible is not “human until proven divine” in a way analogous to our legal formula: “innocent until proven guilty.” They simply allow no room for the possibility of their assumption being wrong. There is no way they would grant the Bible any divine nature. It is as if their “assumption” takes on the full weight of “truth.” It is, therefore, with much more humility that I advance the “presumption” formula concerning the Bible that it is “divinely inspired until proven human;” that it is “true until proven false.” This more humble “presumption” of mine is akin to the postmodern view expressed in 1974 by University of Chicago Professor Wayne C. Booth in Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent: “It is reasonable to grant (one ought to grant) some degree of credence to whatever qualified men and women agree on, unless one has specific and stronger reasons to disbelieve” (101).
“Granting some degree of credence” is another formula for defining the term “faith.” In my first blog post in this series, The Logic of Christianity 1: The Shroud, the Pope, and the Faith Continuum, I remarked: “Even miniscule faith in a tiny possibility is still faith.” I offered extreme examples: “Faith is a continuum. It runs all the way from the tiniest, faintest possibility that something is true (such as the faint possibility that I was within 15 to 20 feet of the actual DNA of Jesus [at the Shroud of Turin]) to the almost certain probability that something is true (such as the almost certain fact that I was within 15 to 20 feet of Pope Francis [in St. Peter’s Square of the Vatican]).” I cited Aristotle to the following effect: “Faith . . . must admit at least two possibilities. In his book, On Rhetoric, Aristotle teaches how rhetorical logic works. In rhetoric (as opposed to dialectic), the aim is not to provide absolute truth, but only possible or probable truth. It applies only to matters of which we cannot be certain. Nevertheless, although certainty is impossible, we can logically conclude that something is ‘probably’ or ‘possibly’ true. Aristotle says that the goal of this type of logic is to achieve ‘faith.’” With this post, I am further positing that “faith” is the accepting of presumptions. I stated that some of my presumptions include the following: • The resurrection did occur. • God did create the universe. • The Bible is inspired of God. Furthermore, I pointed out, they are presumptions held by a massive Christian Culture. My presumption is that these premises are “true, until proven false.” That, for me, is the essence of effective Christian faith. Although I argued that even atheists possess a small degree of faith in God, I would not consider such miniscule faith to be “effective Christian faith.” Effective Christian faith begins at the point one chooses to join the culture that accepts presumptions such as those identified above. Accepting these presumptions does not mean that one must relegate his or her brain and cognitive powers to the closet. It means simply that Christians give God, Jesus, the Bible, the Resurrection, etc. the benefit of the doubt. We will believe that these presumptions are “true until proven false.”
Simply shifting the burden of proof from the believers to the unbelievers produces stunning results. If unbelievers must prove that the resurrection did not occur, I believe they would need some powerful evidence: the physical remains of Jesus’ body, uncontested confessions from some of his close followers that a hoax had been perpetrated, etc. If unbelievers must prove that there is no God or that He did not create the universe, they would need to produce evidence that it is impossible to produce. If unbelievers must prove that the Bible is false, they must first determine every possible meaning of every Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic word in the Scriptures. Then, they must consider every conceivable grammatical combination in which those words may be found. Next, they must consider every possible trope, every figure of speech, as a means of determining the multitudinous possible interpretations of every verse of scripture. And, they must disprove not just one or two interpretations that they might prefer to debunk, in a “straw man” logical fallacy approach. They must disprove every single interpretation that is remotely possible—that has been previously advanced or that will be advanced at any point in the future.
In my academic career, I frequently pursue the interpretive “possibilities” of biblical texts, and my pursuits are often guided by the debunking activities of some of my fellow scholars who have chosen to follow unbelieving presumptions. If unbelieving scholars attempt to debunk a “young earth” interpretation of Genesis, I pursue the possibilities in the Hebrew text to see if any evidence of an “older earth” interpretation is possible. If unbelieving scholars attempt to assert evolutionary biological theories, I investigate the language used in Genesis. My goal is not to cave on creationist theologies, but to investigate the range of possibilities. What if the interpretations accepted by generations of Christians are incorrect—as, for example, Christians still mistakenly identify “Lucifer” in Isaiah with “Satan”? I was raised in a non-denominational Christian movement that pledged no allegiance to man-made creeds. I am not committed to defending the various Christian creeds developed over the last two millennia. I do not presume them to be inspired. I do, on the other hand, presume that the Bible is inspired, and in the next few blog posts, I will offer some of the new perspectives I have pursued in investigating some of the texts unbelieving scholars have attacked. My faith remains unscathed.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Logic of Christianity 10: Full Circle Logic: The Resurrection

The LOGIC OF THE UNIVERSE IS CIRCULAR. This is not the same as saying that the universe uses “circular reasoning” (also known as “circular logic”), which is what logicians call a “logical fallacy.” A logical fallacy is an incorrect form of logic. Circular reasoning takes two opposing-but-incapable-of-being-absolutely-proved assertions, negates one, and then proves the one by citing the negative of the other. For example, the argument that “atheism is correct because there is no god” is circular reasoning, a logical fallacy. The argument that “women are smarter than men because men are dumber” is circular reasoning. The argument that “broccoli tastes better than peas because peas taste worse” is circular reasoning.
When I suggest that the logic of the universe is circular, I mean that everything in the operation of the universe employs circularity/cycles. I offer empirical evidence: Virtually everything that operates in the physical world is circular. I point out in my blog post, “Hidden Mickeyisms 1: Cosmic Circles and Mickey Mouse”: “We understand a ‘circle round the sun’ [from Epcot’s fireworks theme song] to refer to a year, 365 days. . . . Not only does the earth circle the sun, but other planets do, as well. The ‘thousand circles’ may refer to a millennium, but each millennium is exponentially compounded by the thousand circles of other planets. How many millennia has the earth existed? And isn’t every decade, century, and millennium also a circle of sorts? The number of circles in the universe is again exponentially compounded. For that matter, while the earth is circling the sun once, it is also rotating in a circle on its axis 365 times. These are 365 additional circles to factor in. And once, every 28 days, the earth’s relationship to its moon creates another circle—a month . . . . Remember also that the sun is only one of billions of stars, all of which have their own circling planets, and those planets, their moons. . . . Don’t forget that these stars all seem to be circling within their own galaxies. The Milky Way is only one circular galaxy, with countless circles occurring within. . . . Now, consider the atom with its nucleus, and circling protons and neutrons, and . . . every planet, moon, star, asteroid, and meteor is comprised of countless atoms. . . . Each circle has a beginning, middle, and end. And, once each circle completes one entelechy (one circle), it begins a new entelechy (a new circle). . . . Of course, Aristotle is not content to consider . . . only astrophysical circles. He is primarily interested in geophysical and biological entelechies. The circle of a drop of rain falling from the sky, running from a stream of water into a creek, then into a river, then into the sea, after which it evaporates into the atmosphere and helps form a cloud, until it becomes too heavy and eventually condenses and becomes a drop of rain again is an entelechy, a circle. A kernel of corn is planted in the earth. It puts forth roots, then a blade, which becomes a stalk. The stalk develops leaves, tassels, and ears—composed of husks, silks, and cobs. The cobs develop rows and rows of kernels. Once these kernels of corn have matured, these kernels are ready to begin new entelechies, new circles. . . . There is the biological ‘Circle of Life,’ as Disney’s Lion King names it. That circle includes not only the circle of biological reproduction and maturation of every single animal, followed by another reproduction and maturation, etc. It also includes the circle of the food chain, the circular nature of the respiratory, circulatory, and digestive systems of each biological organism, and so on.”
On the front cover of my book, Revelation: The Human Drama (Lehigh University Press, 2001), is the image of a circular snake (Ouroboros) with its tail being swallowed by its head, signifying that a circle starts at the head and proceeds to end at the tail, which, in turn begins again at the head. In the center of this circular snake is an image of Eve picking the forbidden fruit. The point of the image is that the entire human drama is a circle. When Revelation refers to the “Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End,” it is referring to the CIRCULARITY OF THE HISTORY OF MANKIND, even the circularity of the history of the universe (from creation to destruction to new creation). Logically, in terms of the circle of the history of mankind, Genesis begins with Adam and Eve, living an immortal (or, at least, a non-dying) life. Their free-will is tested with the first hortatory negative—“Thou shalt not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”—combined with the threat of “Death” should they violate this rule. They, with their free will, respond by eating and the dying process begins. Immediately, a new (inferior) circle begins. This INFERIOR CIRCLE is the biological, birth-maturation-reproduction (followed by death) circle—the same biological circle that is found in all biological forms. We notice that the biological circle has begun, according to Genesis, in the respect that the reproductive impulse is present in Adam and Eve immediately following the eating of the forbidden fruit—for the first time, they notice their own nakedness. To this day, the biological circle for humans is invoked for consolation purposes at funerals: “S/he lives on through his/her children!” But, this biological circle is a substitute for what was originally presented as the beginning of an ETERNAL LIFE CIRCLE. The immortal beings (Adam and Eve) became mortal (through a lapse of faith). The full-circle logic of the eternal life circle would be the reclaiming of immortality through the exercise of absolute faith (the single failure to exercise of which Adam and Eve were guilty). Hence, Revelation presents its Conquerors as those individuals who had so much faith in Jesus that they were willing to be martyred. Just as Adam had lost faith in God’s word to him and received Death in the bargain, these Conquerors were willing to accept Death as a martyr as the ultimate proof that they believed in God and Jesus, and received Eternal Life in the bargain.
The COSMIC CIRCLE OF THE LOGIC OF ETERNAL LIFE begins with the very first man, Adam. He is created in the image of God. That is to say, he possesses free will, communicates using symbols/words that he himself creates, is capable of making not only his own symbols-words-grammar, but also his own tools and his own tools for making other tools, etc. He is also in the image of God in the sense that he is IMMORTAL. Then, in his exercise of free will, he CHOOSES to doubt God. Upon choosing to eat that which God had warned him not to eat, he becomes mortal, and within his inferior circle (biological reproductive circle), he begins to procreate as a FALLEN MAN. His offspring, being the product of his inferior biological reproductive circle, is born into the same FALLEN STATE as Adam and Eve (the biological product of the Original Sin). A very few individuals (Enoch, Elijah, and possibly Moses) prove that, by following God’s explicit commands verbatim throughout their lives, that it is possible—through living perfect lives—to regain immortality (at least, for themselves) through translation (Enoch) or fiery chariots (Elijah), etc. Then, Jesus as a human being accomplishes the same feat as Elijah, and is rewarded with TRANSFIGURATION. Unlike Elijah who had achieved immortality on his own, Jesus gives back his own personal prize. He accepts the penalty of death by crucifixion to satisfy the judgments and sentences that were pending for all mankind that had not, like Elijah, earned eternal life, for themselves. So, with the RESURRECTION OF JESUS, we come FULL CIRCLE—bringing mankind (THE SEED OF ADAM) back to IMMORTALITY. The tail of the snake Ouroboros has, once again, reached its head. Adam was immortal, at first, and now, Adam and his seed have had the immortality restored. The Alpha is the same as the Omega. The First is the same as the Last. The Beginning is the same as the End.
[As an aside, I now return full circle to my very first blog post in this series, “The Logic of Christianity 1: The Shroud, the Pope, and the Faith Continuum.” The Shroud of Turin, whether or not it is ACTUALLY the burial shroud of Jesus, at the very least, REPRESENTS the burial shroud of Jesus. And, as has been proposed by some of the archaeological scholars who have examined it, may show signs of a photographic light image on the shroud (which would be the equivalent of film). The light that may have produced this photographic effect could have been produced by a resurrecting Jesus. Once again, whether this postulation is considered 99% credible or only .00001% credible, even the hint of faith in the possibility that it is true is still “faith.”]
I will leave to others the responsibility of marshalling the evidence that Jesus’ resurrection actually occurred. Many have done excellent work, in that respect. But since this is a blog series on the “Logic of Christianity,” I will be content with presenting the logic of the resurrection. The Toulminian logic looks like this: WARRANT: The logic of the universe is circular, not linear. DATA: If mankind began in an immortal state, and then was reduced forever to mortality, that would be linear movement, not circular. CLAIM: Therefore, the concept of an immortal beginning with a mortal ending is illogical. REBUTTAL: Unless there is no hint in the biblical account that recorded the First Man’s early immortal state and fall to mortality that there would be a return to the immortal state. BACKING: But, there is a hint of a future return to immortality: Genesis 3:15, just nine verses after the account of the eating of the Forbidden Fruit, hints at the circular logic: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Is Genesis 3:15 suggesting that the inferior act of [the Serpent] taking away man’s immortality will be supplanted by the superior act of bruising the Serpent’s head [understand: killing the killer of mankind?] by one of woman’s seed. QUALIFIER: “Definitely”-- Therefore, the concept of an immortal beginning with a mortal ending is DEFINITELY illogical.
While the earliest foreshadowing of the route this ETERNAL LIFE CIRCLE will take is found in the words of Genesis 3:15, Genesis 5:22-24 records the account of Enoch who “was not for God took him”—an indication that the writer of Genesis believed in immortality, at least, for some. There is the further hint in Deuteronomy 34 that the mysterious disappearance of Moses’ corpse at the end of his life was pregnant with possibilities of immortality. Job 19:25-26 indicates that resurrection was expected by non-Israelites, since Job was a descendent of Esau, not Jacob (Israel): “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Abraham appears to believe that God will resurrect Isaac after he sacrifices him. He tells his servants in Genesis 22:5: “Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” Hebrews 11:18-19 interprets this hint: “Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him . . . .” Three Old Testament individuals were actually resurrected (albeit, to mortal bodies, not immortal bodies, even as, in the New Testament, Lazarus, the daughter of Jairus, and the son of the widow of Nain were raised by Jesus, and Peter and Paul each raised individuals—to mortal bodies). Daniel 12:2, however, makes the explicit promise of a future resurrection to immortality: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Jesus’ resurrection accomplishes the first such resurrection to immortality and, thus, ushers in FULL CIRCLE LOGIC.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Logic of Christianity 9: The Justice Link: Crucifixion

DID JESUS RECEIVE JUSTICE? One of the three major genres of rhetoric, according to Aristotle, is JUDICIAL RHETORIC. Here, Aristotle asserts that LOGOS (or logic) is the major proof used to persuade a judge or jury that JUSTICE has been or will be enacted.
If the Transfiguration is the Missing Link in the Logic of Christianity, the Crucifixion and Resurrection combine to form the Key Links. The Transfiguration account is referred to in more parts of the New Testament than Jesus’ birth, pre-existence, baptism, genealogy, Ascension, miracles, parables, healings, Great Commission, Last Supper, childhood, or even his mother Mary. His Lordship, Messiahship, and Twelve Apostles (although, often, only two of them by name) are mentioned in more parts of the New Testament than the Transfiguration, but these are not events (as is the Transfiguration). Only two historic events receive mention in more parts of the New Testament than his Transfiguration: his Crucifixion and his Resurrection. In my next post, I will consider the key logical link of the Resurrection. This post, however, will focus on the key logical link related to the ISSUE OF JUSTICE: the CRUCIFIXION. This, then, is Judicial Rhetoric.
The term “crucify,” along with its cognates, is mentioned in all 4 gospels, Acts, Hebrews, Revelation and four of Paul’s letters (I and II Corinthians, Romans , and Colossians). An additional five letters of Paul (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, II Timothy, and I Thessalonians), plus I Peter, use a cognate of the term “die” to refer to Jesus’ death. Another Pauline letter, I Timothy, speaks of Jesus before “Pontius Pilate.” The book of James mentions the “killing” of Jesus. I John speaks of our redemption through the “blood” of Christ. Other (short) New Testament books just appear to take it for granted that Jesus died by crucifixion. No New Testament book appears, in any way, to dispute his Crucifixion. Even though we have not yet thoroughly established the logical link that the New Testament is fully inspired and trustworthy in every respect (which we will get to, in time), this textual evidence shows virtually unanimous support from the writers of the New Testament for the proposition that Jesus was indeed crucified. He died one of the cruelest deaths of any human. Jesus was mortal.
You may ask, “Why does this matter?” Well, to begin with, there were early heretics, according to Charles S. Clifton, “particularly Gentile converts [who] refused to believe that Jesus had a mortal body, a position that has come to be known as Docetism . . . . The Pagan gods . . . had occasionally appeared in mortal form and vanished when their purposes were accomplished; with them there was no death and resurrection . . . . To these Christians [heretics], who included many of the so-called Gnostics, the crucifixion was only a show, a hallucination projected to observers. It was unthinkable that a divine being could physically suffer and die” (Clifton, Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics, xii). Clifton continues later: “The reverse of Docetism might be said to be those explanations of the crucifixion that claim that Jesus himself was not crucified but died a normal death at some other time and place. Parts of the New Testament appear to have been written to counter Docetic teachings . . . . [I John] 4:2-3 . . . says, ‘This is how we may recognize the Spirit of God: every spirit which acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit which does not thus acknowledge Jesus is not from God.’ Likewise, . . . [II John] says, ‘Many deceivers have gone out into the world, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. . . . If anyone comes to you who does not bring this doctrine, do not welcome him into your house or give him a greeting; for anyone who gives him a greeting is an accomplice in his wicked deeds.’”
Following the Logic of the Transfiguration as I presented it in my previous post: Jesus, while personally earning eternal life by living a perfect life, refused to accept the immortal “form” (i.e., like “God’s” immortal “form” [Philippians 2:6-8]) and returned to the “form” of a human/servant who was capable of death (being mortal). He was obedient to death—even the death of the cross. The Transfiguration was the ULTIMATE PROOF that Jesus was RIGHTEOUS. Jesus did not sin at any point in his life.
There are other INNOCENT humans who die, however. Couldn’t the death of one of these other “innocents” have sufficed as a sacrifice? Babies, according to Jewish (Rabbinic) and Christian (New Testament) teachings are “innocent.” That is to say that THEY HAVE NO SIN CHARGED AGAINST THEM. Setting aside, for the moment, the Catholic doctrine of “original sin,” which prompts the Catholic Church to baptize babies to secure forgiveness for their sins, the dominant Judeo-Christian view at the time of the New Testament was that babies were innocent. According to Rabbinic Judaism, it was necessary for an individual to have both the good and evil “inclinations” in order to be held accountable for sin (and for that matter, to be deemed righteous for passing the test/temptation). The rich young ruler, with whom Jesus interacts regarding eternal life in Luke 18:18-21, insists that he has kept the “commandments” from his “youth” up. It is possible (perhaps, probable) that he means from the time of his bar mitzvah forward. Hebrews 4:15 asserts that Jesus himself was tempted in every respect, as we are, but was without sin. We know nothing, however, about the childhood of Jesus. After the birth narratives, there is no discussion of Jesus’ actions until we near his bar mitzvah. Luke picks up the narrative again, in 2:41, when Jesus was age twelve. Why was Jesus taken to Jerusalem when he was twelve? Why didn’t Mary and Joseph wait until he was thirteen, the appropriate age for a bar mitzvah? The Mishnah supplies the answer in Yoma 8:4: “Young children [anyone just born through 13 years for boys and 12 years for girls] are not made to fast on Yom Kippur, but we should train them a year or two before [they reach age 13, for boys, 12 for girls], so that they become used to (the observance of) commandments.” I encouraged my four children to be baptized immediately following the 12th birthday of my daughters and the 13th birthday of my sons. As I understand Jewish and New Testament teachings, they were innocent before those ages.
A second category of “innocent humans” who die follow the Isaac pattern. Isaac had just reached the appropriate age for a bar mitzvah. Theoretically, he was still sinless, but was responsible for any sin after that time. The same theology allows Jewish writers to tell a story of a “lass” [a young girl age 12] being righteous in one temptation following her “youth” and being awarded eternal life. Since the “lass” possessed only the “evil inclination” prior to her twelfth birthday, any selfish behavior committed prior to this time must NOT have been considered “sinful.” This is precisely the view (the sinlessness of children) that prevailed at this time of the New Testament. Even the second book of Maccabees 8:4 speaks of the “sinless infants.” And the Mishnah (Yoma 8:4) agrees, concerning the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It is a simple deduction that, if little children are not required to participate in the yearly atonement exercise, they must not be held guilty of any “sins” for which they would need atonement. Jesus corroborates this view of sinless children when he commands his disciples to “suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-14; Luke 18:15-16;). In Mark 10:15, Jesus elaborates: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein.” While many interpretations of this comment have been offered, it is possible that he is saying that one must be innocent, as a little child is, to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew’s version of this comment (Matt. 18:1-6) puts it this way: “In that hour came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, ‘Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And he called to him a little child, and set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such child in my name receiveth me: But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea.” In Matthew 21:15-16, Jesus comments on the fact that children were shouting, “Hosanna to the son of David,” as Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus cites saying: “Did you never read ‘Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings you have perfected praise’?” Alluding to Psalm 8:2 (“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings has thou established strength”), Jesus appears to be confirming a point I made in my previous post on the Transfiguration: “The only ways that God still spoke freshly to humans, for Rabbinic Judaism, were through children, fools, and the Bat Qol (or mysterious voice from Heaven).” It seems that both children and fools were considered innocent, because they lack the good inclination. Therefore, the Holy Spirit (which inspires prophecy) is able to dwell inside these humans—they are innocent—in the same logical move that prompted Acts 2:17-18 to report that (after Jesus’ death and resurrection) “the Spirit” could be “poured out” on all flesh. Once Jesus’ death provided the forgiveness, the “innocent” believers could receive the Holy Spirit. Apparently, the death of neither children nor those who remain innocent for a short while following their bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah will suffice as an appropriate sacrifice for the sins of the world. Otherwise, Isaac would have been an appropriate sacrifice.
So, we come to Jesus of Nazareth. Of what sin was Jesus guilty? A few charges were floated: 1. “Sedition” against the Roman Empire (the official charge pertaining to his crucifixion), 2. Violating the Sabbath (by healing and harvesting grain; hence, working on the Sabbath), 3. Blasphemy, and 4. Not showing proper respect to the High Priest
SEDITION: While no term for “sedition” (STASIS, DICHOSTASIA, OR STASIAZO) is ever used to charge Jesus for a crime in the New Testament, one or another of these terms is applied variously to Barabbas, Paul, the Pharisees and Sadducees, and others. Paul is accused by his Jewish opponents of fomenting sedition against Rome, but he is never actually accused of taking up arms against Rome, as is Barabbas. Yet, the sign that hung above Jesus on the cross stated “King of the Jews” in three different languages. Clearly, the justification that Rome used for killing Jesus was that he was leading a revolt against Rome. Yet, Jesus rebuked Peter for drawing his sword and severing the ear of a guard who came to arrest Jesus. Jesus healed the wound. Indeed, to the frustration of modern-day Christians who surely see in the Old Testament their right to use weapons, and even kill, in self-defense (Exodus 22:2) and who see Moses killing an Egyptian to defend an Israelite, the behavior and teachings of the Prince of Peace were totally non-violent. Never mind that even Abraham led his household and others in war against the invaders from Mesopotamia who attacked his nephew, Lot, and rescued him from their grasp. For this act of war, Melchizedek “blessed” Abraham and Abraham paid Melchizedek a tithe from the booty. Yet, Jesus was not even a self-defense war monger (although he did permit his disciples to be armed with swords, apparently). Jesus told his followers to “love their enemies,” to “turn the other cheek.” No reputable evidence exists that Jesus was fomenting sedition against Rome. To the contrary, when Jesus was confronted by his enemies with the “gotcha” question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?”—an attempt to prove that Jesus was seditious because he would oppose paying the required tax to Rome—he asks for a coin, observes that the “image” on the coin is of Caesar, and probably alluding to the fact that man is made in the “image” of God—he ingeniously replies: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21; Mark 12:17). Translation: Give your money (with Caesar’s image) to Caesar, but your life and body (with God’s image) to God. There is no sign of Jesus mounting a revolt against Rome. Even though he readily confessed to Pilate that he was a “king,” he quickly stipulates that his kingdom is not of this world. Jesus was not seditious. But, even if he were mounting a revolt against Rome, that would not have been a SIN! Jesus is not guilty of a sin, here.
BLASPHEMY: Even James Still, who writes a blog hostile to Christianity in which he argues that Jesus was politically seditious against Rome admits: “It was not blasphemous to declare oneself a ‘Messiah’ or a ‘Son of God’ any more than it would have been to claim to be an angel. The Pharisees who composed the majority of the Sanhredrin would dismiss such a charge at once since blasphemy could only be applied to anyone who claimed to be God Almighty. Jesus' declaration that he was a Messiah, merely referred to his earthly desire to ascend to the throne of David--an act of sedition against Rome surely, but not one of blasphemy.”
Jesus certainly does claim to be the SON OF GOD. This position is argued in various ways in the New Testament. Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 1 both present birth narratives in which Jesus is the Son of the Most High/God via Mary’s virgin birth, after she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. While Mark begins his gospel at Jesus’ baptism and does not include a birth narrative, Mark 1:1 speaks of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God. The Gospel of John actually traces Jesus’ existence to the LOGOS that became flesh and dwelt among us. That LOGOS, according to John 1:1 was WITH GOD in the beginning and WAS GOD. Matthew 2:15 cites Hosea 11:1: “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” Even though Hosea’s prophecy originally applied to Israel, Matthew extends it to apply to Jesus after his infancy flight to Egypt to escape Herod. At Jesus’ baptism, Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, and Luke 3:22 report God stating (in the Bat Qol): “This is My beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” John 1:34 has John the Baptist testify: “I have seen and bore witness that this is the Son of God. Immediately following his baptism, Matthew 4:3-6 and Luke 4:3-9 present Jesus’ 40 days of fasting and temptation in the wilderness with Satan saying, “If you are the Son of God . . . .” Matthew 8:29, Mark 5:7, and Luke 8:28 have the Gadarene/Gerasene demoniac/s (and Mark 3:11 and Luke 4:41 have other demon possessed) proclaim that Jesus is “Son of God.” John 1:49 quotes Nathanael as saying “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God.” Matthew 14:33 records Jesus’ disciples concluding, after the calming of the sea, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” Matthew 16:16 supplies Simon Peter’s Great Confession: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” In one of the most famous New Testament verses of all, John 3:16 states: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son . . . .” and John 3:18 stipulates that to be saved one must believe “on the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 5:25, 9:35, 10:36, and 11:4 have Jesus stating that he is the Son of God. In John 11:27, Martha, the sister of Lazarus whom Jesus had raised from the dead, confesses “Yes Lord, I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God. Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:35, and II Peter 1:17 report God, at the Transfiguration, stating (in the Bat Qol): “This is My beloved/chosen son in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” When High Priest Caiaphas questioned Jesus in an attempt to condemn him, Matthew 26:63-64 and Luke 22:70 provide the exchange: “’Tell us whether thou art the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus replied: ‘Thou sayest.’” John 19:7 has the Jewish chief priests demanding that Pilate crucify him because “he made himself the Son of God.” While Jesus hung on the cross, mockers, according to Matthew 27:40-43, derided Jesus, saying, “He said, “I am the Son of God.” Mark 15:39 tells us that the centurion who witnessed Jesus’ death on the cross exclaimed, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.” In John 20:31, the gospel writer states that he has written his words “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” In Acts 8:37, the Ethiopian Eunuch offers up the good confession—“I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God”—prior to Philip baptizing him. In Acts 9:20, the Apostle Paul, after his Road to Damascus experience, begins proclaiming that Jesus is the Son of God. An example of Paul’s preaching this creed is found in Acts 13:33, citing the second Psalm: “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten thee.” If Luke’s account of Paul’s belief is insufficient, Paul’s own writings (Romans 1:3-9, 5:10, and 8:3 and 29-32, I Corinthians 1:9, II Corinthians 1:19, Galatians 1:16, 2:20, and 4:4-6, Ephesians 4:13, and I Thessalonians 1:10) corroborate the fact. Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5 cite the same Psalm 2 that Acts 13:33 had quoted Paul preaching: “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten thee.” Hebrews 4:14, 6:6, 7:3, and 10:29 reiterate the claim, as do I John 1:3-7, 3:8 and 23, 4:9-15, 5:1-20, II John 3, and Revelation 2:18.
This is the claim made not only by Jesus, but also by many others: that JESUS IS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD. The question is: Is making such a claim “Blasphemy”? Not even James Still, who writes a blog hostile to Christianity, believes that. Even if Jesus were the biological son of Mary and Joseph, Jesus points out from Scripture that there would be nothing wrong with a human claiming to be the Son of God. Jesus is quoted in John 10:33-36 as clearly implying that the term “sons of the Most High” (from Psalm 82:6—a passage I discussed in an earlier blog post, Angels & Demons 13: Who Are the “Sons of God” in Genesis?) refers to “human judges.” Human judges are even called “gods/ELOHIM” in both Psalm 82:6 and Exodus 22:28. Jesus was making the point that it was not blasphemous for him to be called either “god” or “son of God,” if even human judges could be called “gods” and “sons of the Most High.” In that same earlier blog post, I was pointing out that the “Sons of God” in Genesis 6, often mistaken as a reference to angels, is actually a reference to humans. With these multiple biblical references to humans as “sons of God,” there is nothing blasphemous in Jesus calling himself “Son of God,” even if Jesus were the biological son of Mary and Joseph. Jesus is not guilty of blasphemy.
Is making such a claim a “sin”? Only if it is a lie. Among the Ten Commandments is the prohibition against “bearing false witness.” Essentially, if Jesus, his disciples, the Bat Qol, John the Baptist, the evangelists, Paul, and the authors of Hebrews, I and II John, II Peter, and Revelation were all bearing false witness, they would ALL have been sinning. The logic of Christianity says that is not the case. These multiple witnesses (which include God, Himself, in the Bat Qol) assert that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
VIOLATING THE SABBATH: Another commandment from the Decalogue is the Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8-11): “8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
What, then, constitutes “working” on the Sabbath? During the Exodus, the Israelites were commanded to harvest an extra portion of MANNA on Friday, so that they would not be harvesting on the Sabbath. Nehemiah 13:15 states: “In those days saw I in Judah [some] treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all [manner of] burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified [against them] in the day wherein they sold victuals.” It seems, by these examples, that “harvesting” and “selling” are considered work that violates the Sabbath. Actually, Jesus’ disciples are accused of “harvesting” on the Sabbath, but not Jesus. Mark 2:23 reports: “23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. 24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? 25 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungered, he, and they that were with him? 26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? 27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” Matthew’s version of this account is found in Matthew 12:1-8. Luke’s version of this account is found in Luke 6:1-5. Jesus does not PERSONALLY harvest on the Sabbath, but neither does he condemn his disciples for doing so. His argumentation is presented in the Mark account. Nowhere do we find an Old Testament situation in which “healing” or “saving” an individual is forbidden on the Sabbath. Yet, the gospels present narratives in which Jesus heals on the Sabbath (and even tells one of his healed persons to “take up his bed and walk” on the Sabbath). Jesus argues: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good, or to do harm? To save a life, or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9). Luke 14:5 presents Jesus as arguing: “Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?” Matthew 12:11 substitutes a “sheep” for the animals who fell into a pit. Luke 13:15 presents Jesus as continuing the analogy: “Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?”
DISRESPECT FOR THE HIGH PRIEST: Did Jesus sin by disrespecting the High Priest? You be the judge. John 18:19-23 gives the account: “The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, ‘I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.’ 22 When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ 23 Jesus answered him, ‘If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?’” Beyond the fact that this exchange did not suggest any disrespect, Caiaphas was not even a legitimate High Priest. I point out on page 27 of my book Revelation: The Human Drama: “It was common knowledge among Jewish leaders that the High Priestly family was indebted to Herod's family for its prestige and power. Antipas' father, Herod the Great, had deposed the then-current (Hasmonean) High Priestly family in the years preceding Jesus' birth. In its place Herod (the Great) had installed a High Priest from among the Jews of the Babylonian Diaspora (those Jews who had been ‘carried away’ into Babylon in the sixth century B.C. and who had not yet returned to Palestine). It is possible that the term ‘Babylon’ in Revelation and I Peter is a code word for this High Priestly family and/or Jerusalem, the city controlled by the (Babylonian?) High Priestly family.”
THERE IS NO PROOF THAT JESUS COMMITTED ANY SINS. To the contrary, there is the evidence of the Transfiguration that Jesus lived a perfect life. So, did Jesus receive JUSTICE? The best definition of “justice” that mankind, throughout history, has ever been able to formulate is called the LEX TALIONIS (An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life). It means that an individual who has injured another may be punished only to the degree s/he has injured. It is found in the Law of Moses (Leviticus 24:19-21, and other places). But it is also found in the ancient Code of Hammurabi, a Babylonian law code carved in stone from about 1750 B.C. It served not as a “requirement” that someone be avenged to the same degree as the injury; rather, it was the maximum “limit” of revenge (or reTALIation—a word stemming from the same root as TALIonis) that could be exacted. This would be the full extent of JUSTICE. Therefore, if Jesus committed no sins, no injuries to anyone, JUSTICE could not allow him to even be KILLED, much less be CRUCIFIED! Indeed, true JUSTICE for a person who committed no sins would be something like the TRANSFIGURATION, which Jesus was offered but did not seize hold of. One might guess that Elijah, Enoch, and (perhaps) Moses were offered this sort of JUSTICE. Of those three, Enoch was the only one to live prior to the Law of Moses, so it is easy to argue that (since he was living under fewer laws) he had an easier pathway to translation than did Moses or Elijah. Elijah, while living under the Law, reached the point in his life at which God took him to heaven in a Fiery Chariot. Hence, Elijah received justice. One would think that, since Moses was the actual Law Giver, he would be well aware of the full ramifications and details of every single law he gave. Therefore, he might be capable of living a perfect life according to the Law. If the fact that he appears with Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration suggests that he did live the Law, Moses received justice. But, alongside these three righteous individuals, Jesus as a righteous individual, suffered one of the most degrading and excruciating punishments known to man.
It may surprise you, but my ANSWER to the question “DID JESUS RECEIVE JUSTICE” is YES! Based upon the principle of the LEX TALIONIS, Jesus received “justice,” but not justice for any sin he personally committed. Crucifixion is a horrible punishment, reserved for only the WORST CRIMINALS in the Roman Empire.
I return to the very first blog in this series: The Logic of Christianity 1: The Shroud, the Pope, and the Faith Continuum. I recall the point at which my wife and I were shown the evidence contained in the Shroud: “Using a variety of scientific methods, we were able to observe visible signs of a face with thorn wounds around the head, of hands and feet that had been pierced by nails, of a back that had been scourged by whips, of a stab wound in the side--a victim of crucifixion identical to the biblical description of Jesus’ crucifixion.” Part of the awe-inspiring experience of viewing the Shroud of Turin was just gaining a glimpse into the physical signs of what a crucifixion victim experienced.
Before Jesus was nailed to the cross, to experience the excruciating pain of having large iron nails hammered through the flesh in each of his wrists and through both of his feet securely into the wood of the cross . . . . Before he—nailed to the cross—was, hanging by only these nail points, lifted skyward, and dropped joltingly upon his cross into the hole in the ground at the base of the cross . . . . Before he was degraded, humiliated, and exposed naked on the cross (a factor that we don’t even share among Christians, due to the embarrassment caused by even thinking of the picture) . . . . Before he thus hung, suspended above the Earth, for hours, while his body experienced dehydration, pain, and the slow process of dying . . . . Before he was forced to carry the agency of his crucifixion—a wooden cross large and heavy enough to hold the full weight of a man—through the streets of Jerusalem and uphill, all the way to Golgotha . . . . Before he was mocked, dressed in purple, slapped repeatedly, and given a crown, comprised of nail-like thorns, which was jammed painfully into the flesh of his head . . . .
Before he was scourged to the limit with flesh-tearing whips and scourges until the open wounds on his back bled profusely . . . . He had to witness one of his closest friends and disciples curse and deny any connection with him. Now, that is probably JUSTICE . . . . Justice for a bin Laden who masterminded the mass murder of thousands on 9-11. Justice for a Hitler who ordered the genocide of six million Jews. Justice for a Jeffrey Dahmer, whose atrocities I recounted in The Logic of Christianity 5: The God of Logic vs. Jeffrey Dahmer. None of those three were forced to go through a punishing death anywhere near as severe as Jesus’ crucifixion. They received nothing remotely near what would be allowed under the LEX TALIONIS.
So, think retrospectively. What sins have you committed? Have you even unintentionally committed murder? Have you committed manslaughter by driving under the influence of alcohol? Have you performed, recommended, or decided to have an abortion? Have you had to make a decision to remove life support for a family member, and experienced conscientious stress over the decision? Have you had to issue a command to send men or women into combat in which they lost their lives, and experienced conscientious stress over the decision? Have you cheated on your husband or wife? Have you practiced homosexuality? Have you embezzled money or committed fraud? Have you dishonored your father or mother? Have you taken the Lord’s Name in vain? Have you coveted another person’s wife or husband, house, money, etc.? Thinking of the LEX TALIONIS, what do you think the fair maximum penalty could possibly be? Could it be any worse than CRUCIFIXION? What kind of sin or crime could one possibly commit that would suggest a fair maximum penalty greater than Crucifixion? I cannot think of one. If that is so, Jesus’ Crucifixion was JUSTICE for any sin known to mankind. Jesus did receive justice. He received justice, not for his own actions, but for the actions of any human that has ever lived. He paid the price.
The CRUCIFIXION, then, is Judicial Rhetoric/The Justice Link in the Logic of Christianity.