I didn’t write this. It is a guest post from Mrs Lambert, so be nice.

Everyone knows the Christmas story. Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem, the Inn is full so Mary has to give birth in a stable. The story sounds sweet, emphasizing the humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth.

But that’s not the message people got from the story two thousand years ago. Here’s the way they would have seen it:

Mary is pregnant, but Joseph, the man she is engaged to, is not the father and everyone knows it. Mary would have been labeled a whore.

Joseph didn’t reject her despite the huge social pressure on him to do so. When Joseph and Mary got to his hometown Bethlehem, no relatives took them in. At that time the rules of hospitality were that if you travel to another town your relatives take you in, and if you have no relatives there then strangers take you in. You would think that at least someone would take pity on a heavily pregnant woman but if she was known as promiscuous- well, no one would want anything to do with her.

So, they had to resort to trying to find room in an inn. Inns at that time were disgusting, flea infested, rat infested places that only merchants and criminals would stay at. No self respecting person would want to stay there. But even there they were rejected. It is possible that the inn was full because of a census but there are no records of a census taking place at that time.

So they got permission to stay in the barn. Let’s look at the situation through Mary’s eyes. Here she is, about to give birth to her first child. She must have been terrified. And hurt. She’d been rejected in her own town, now she’d been rejected in Bethlehem and was giving birth to her child like an animal without even a midwife to help her through this new and excruciatingly painful experience. Yes, it helped that Joseph was there. But still.

OK, the baby Jesus is born. A time for rejoicing right? Well, not necessarily for Mary. By Jewish law Joseph would have to leave her, so Jesus would grow up without him. Her son would grow up forever being called a bastard. He wouldn’t be allowed to play with normal kids- he’d have to play with the children of other outcasts. Also, his marriage prospects would be bleak. He couldn’t marry just anyone- he had to marry someone of questionable parentage or mixed marriage. And he had to grow up knowing that the Torah said that no bastard to even 10 generations would be a part of God’s people. So his children would be cursed this way as well.

But surely she knew he was the Son of God. Well, if she could have seen into the future, I doubt she would have been comforted by it. She would have seen that he would rebel against the rabbis and start a movement that would lead to him being worshiped all over the world by Gentiles and that millions of her own people would be slaughtered directly because of him… hardly something she’d be proud of.

So the real Christmas story is one of humiliation and rejection – something not so sweet and certainly not something you’d want to tell your children. So don’t.

Personally I think Jesus was a gift to the Gentile world. His message of compassion towards the poor and the outcasts has lasted to this day and leads to social cohesion. He was against organized religion and the hypocrisy that it lead to. You read the Sermon on the Mount and his criticisms of leaders are still very relevant today. His rules of living are simple and relevant- love God, love and help others no matter what their religion or social status or beliefs, make peace with your enemies, forgive people when they hurt you, live simply, do not judge others. He was against violence in in no way would have supported all the cruelty that was done in his name. Maybe one day everyone will live by his principles and then Mary, seeing into the future, could have been happy to bear him. May that be soon!
Merry Christmas!

Comments

  1. #1 ben
    December 24, 2007

    “…millions of her own people would be slaughtered directly because of him.”

    Say what?

  2. #2 dhogaza
    December 24, 2007

    Say what?

    Ben’s lack of education shows once again.

    And these are the kind of people who are going to lead us unwashed lefties into the true bliss of modern conservatism?

  3. #3 ben
    December 24, 2007

    Alright then dhogaza, care to spill some of your education that I apparently missed?

    Remember the claim is that millions of Jews were slaughtered directly because of Jesus.

  4. #4 ben
    December 24, 2007

    I am in full agreement with this statement:

    “His rules of living are simple and relevant- love God, love and help others no matter what their religion or social status or beliefs, make peace with your enemies, forgive people when they hurt you, live simply, do not judge others.”

    That is exactly true.

  5. #5 Tysen Woodlock
    December 24, 2007

    Interesting post. The inherent link between orthodox Christianity and anti-Semitism is more contentious than your post implies, but the social contextualisation stuff is well written.

    Mary and Joseph were courageous individuals in anyone’s terms.

  6. #6 dhogaza
    December 24, 2007

    The inherent link between orthodox Christianity and anti-Semitism is more contentious than your post implies

    Inherent, perhaps (obviously Christianity need not lead to anti-semitism).

    Historically, there’s no doubt that Christianity and anti-semitism have gone hand-in-hand in much of Europe.

    Ben sayeth

    Alright then dhogaza, care to spill some of your education that I apparently missed?

    Remember the claim is that millions of Jews were slaughtered directly because of Jesus.

    Where to start? You could start by researching the term “Sephardic Jews”, and by pondering the fact that these were the surviving minority. That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

    Jesus, of course, wasn’t anti-semitic. After all, he was a Jew, not a Christian. And he would’ve been horrified by the slaughter of Jews carried out in his name over the course of centuries.

    But without Jesus, there would’ve been no Christianity, and without Christianity and tales of the passion of Christ and other Church-supported myths about Jews many fewer would’ve been killed in the pogroms of central and eastern Europe, not to mention the Holocaust (the roots of which go deep into German’s history as a Christian nation). Martin Luther was a virulent anti-semite, something my protestant sunday school learning failed to cover for some reason or other (perhaps there would be no point, he was no more anti-semitic than the Church).

    Perhaps it’s wrong to blame Jesus, though. There’s a fair amount of evidence against the historical accuracy of the resurrection (the accounts were written long after the supposed event) and without that bit of magic, the worshipping of Jesus probably would not have taken hold the way it did.

    On the other hand, perhaps he really is the all-seeing, all-powerful son of God, in which case you’d think he could’ve done a bit more over the centuries to cool down the Jew-slaughtering tendencies of those who claim to worship the Prince of Peace …

  7. #7 smally lerned
    December 24, 2007

    dhogaza, you still haven’t explained why being skeptical that millions of jews really were slaughtered *directly* because of Jesus is a position only the uneducated would hold.

  8. #8 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 24, 2007

    Part of Jesus’s message was about himself: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Treating other people nicely is certainly part of Christian ethics, but it’s part of nearly every other major religion’s ethics as well. Jesus’s major message was theological, not ethical.

    The statement that the gospel accounts were written long after his death does not hold up to modern textual criticism. None of the gospel writers is aware that the Temple at Jerusalem has been destroyed — John’s explanation for what Jesus was talking about in predicting its destruction is especially lame (“he meant the temple of his body”). That means all the gospels were written before 70 AD, which places them less than 37 years after Jesus’s death at the very most. And we have a good bit of the story, with no contradiction to the gospels, in Paul’s letters as well, which were written in the 50s and 60s.

    Attributing the Holocaust to Christianity is especially stupid. The Nazis hated Christians and Christianity, which is why they went to great lengths to destroy the confessing church and substitute a church where crosses were taken down off the walls and replaced with swastikas, each sermon had to be vetted by a political officer, and prominent church leaders disappeared. Martin Niemoller went to a concentration camp. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged in Dachau for plotting to assassinate Hitler. Hitler himself compared Christianity to venereal disease and held that, once people realized the distance to the stars and the comparative unimportance of mankind, the superstition of Christianity would fade away. For more details, try here:

    http://members.aol.com/bpl1960/Hitler.htm

  9. #9 mgr
    December 24, 2007

    Barton:

    Talk about ignorant. No one was referring to the 20th century treatment of the Jews (Ashkenazi)but you, but the murder and expulsion of Jews from Spain that occurred in the 15th century (Shepardic). Pay attention to details. You could at least recall Ivanhoe which is on most high school reading lists, and pretty well captures what daily life may have been for Jews in Europe.

    Can you elaborate on how theology differs from ethics (and say metaphysics)?

    Mike

  10. #10 Alexandra
    December 24, 2007

    As Hans Küng noted, “Nazi anti-Judaism was the work of godless, anti-Christian criminals. But it would not have been possible without the almost two thousand years’ pre-history of ‘Christian’ anti-Judaism

  11. #11 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 24, 2007

    Mike posts:

    [[Talk about ignorant. ]]

    Okay, you’re ignorant.

  12. #12 mgr
    December 24, 2007

    Barton said: “Attributing the Holocaust to Christianity is especially stupid.” (#8)

    “Okay, you’re ignorant.” (#11)

    On the Shepardic expulsion from Spain, just what religion were Ferdinand and Isabella?

    As to the Nazis, maybe you should read Goldhagen–Hitler’s Willing Executioners. Pretty ugly reading.

    Was Pius implicit or explicit in his condemnation of Hitler; or what was the reason behind JP II’s apology? What occurred with the Catholic Workers Party that permitted Hitler’s ascent?

    One true church is like one true Scot. Yes, Bonhoffer and Niemoeller are exemplars, but do they represent the entire body of the laity and secular?

    Did the church teach that it was the Jews that killed Christ, not the Romans? A papal encyclical in the 1960′s does not exonerate the intervening history. Isn’t there a historical litany of Christian nations expelling the Jews during the dark ages and medieval periods? Was Jew hatred promulgated by this history, that the one true church tacitly endorsed?

    Mike

  13. #13 Jesus
    December 24, 2007

    So the real Christmas story is one of humiliation and rejection – something not so sweet and certainly not something you’d want to tell your children. So don’t.

    sure honey, better stick to baking cookies

  14. #14 Boris
    December 24, 2007

    Post good; comments (mostly) stupid.

    Happy holidays everybody.

  15. #15 dhogaza
    December 24, 2007

    Attributing the Holocaust to Christianity is especially stupid. The Nazis hated Christians and Christianity, which is why they went to great lengths to destroy the confessing church

    The very same confessing church that Martin Luther, anti-semite, was trying to destroy.

    Sorry, the confessing (institutional catholic) church isn’t the only one in town. And, in Germany, in the 1930s, the confessing church, in germany and in Rome, did nothing to stem Hitler. The church, conservative as always, had little to say against the über-german regime until it was too late.

    You can’t understand Hitler’s anti-semitism absent, as was said above, 2000 years of church history in what was, for most of that time, the Holy Roman Empire.

    And, no, I’m not anti-Christian. I was raised in a fundy family and my sister’s a pastor in the four-square church. But millions have been slaughtered in the name of Christ over the centuries, and yes, that includes the root causes of Nazi anti-semitism. Sorry for the reality lesson.

  16. #16 S2
    December 24, 2007

    Thanks for a thoughtful and timely post, Mrs Lambert.

    The sad thing is that so much pain and suffering has been caused in Christ’s name over the last two millenia. It’s not just persecution of the Jews, or wars against Islam, or repression of other faiths – Christian factions have done a pretty good job of killing each other as well in the last couple of centuries.

    But, as Mrs Lambert pointed out, none of this is in tune with the preachings of Jesus.

    Season’s greetings to all – and if you have a faith, may your god (or gods) be with you.

  17. #17 Bill O'Slatter
    December 24, 2007

    You have to be careful about counterfactuality and causality when talking about the victims of brutal regimes. The question is whether the same number of people would have been killed without Christianity. That is did Christianity served as a useful labeling device and historical validation for the brutal treatment of outcasts/witches/homosexuals/mentally ill. As Rwanda demonstrated the political tool of outclass generation can be very swift, so it would be probable that Christianity hasn’t been essential to this process at all.

  18. #18 Arie Brand
    December 24, 2007

    “The statement that the gospel accounts were written long after his death does not hold up to modern textual criticism. None of the gospel writers is aware that the Temple at Jerusalem has been destroyed -”

    How do you know. What did that great textual critic Rummy Rumsfeld say? – “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.

    Here is Wiki’s take:

    “Estimates for the dates when the canonical Gospel accounts were written vary significantly; and the evidence for any of the dates is scanty. Because the earliest surviving complete copies of the Gospels date to the 4th century and because only fragments and quotations exist before that, scholars use higher criticism to propose likely ranges of dates for the original gospel autographs. Scholars variously assess the consensus or majority view as follows:

    Mark: c. 68-73,[5] c 65-70[1]
    Matthew: c. 70-100.[5] c 80-85.[1] Some conservative scholars argue for a pre-70 date, particularly those that do not accept Mark as the first gospel written.
    Luke: c. 80-100, with most arguing for somewhere around 85,[5], c 80-85[1]
    John: c 90-100,[1] c. 90-110,[6] The majority view is that it was written in stages, so there was no one date of composition.
    Traditional Christian scholarship has generally preferred to assign earlier dates.”

    So with the partial exception of Mark it is, according to this, not ‘modern textual criticism’ but ‘traditional Christian scholarship’ that prefers the earlier (pre Temple destruction ?) dates.

    If you have more solid up to date information that has survived the ‘peer review’ of well established theological journals you should add it to the Wiki.

  19. #19 z
    December 25, 2007

    Yeah, I was just thinking of that “born in a manger” meme. (Result of watching the Blind Boys of Alabama sing that Gospel on PBS). It’s a seminal concept of the whole Jesus “thing” that he should be from the lowliest of the lowly, to become exalted; rather than come from the ranks of the wealthy, powerful, and hereditary rulers, as was so common at the time. After all, it was the ruler of Egypt who was their hereditary God, not the kid they pulled out of the reeds in the marsh. It’s central to the message; the emptiness and meaningless, even more, the negative value of the distraction caused by earthly wealth and power and the pursuit thereof, and the supremacy of the intangibles; love of humanity and God, and oneself. A message that is, obviously, still not being well received today. And, one that was not foreign to the religion of the Hebrews; after all, when they originally clamored for a king after having been ruled by prophets and prophetically inspired judges for 400 years and several books full, the response of God was “they have not rejected you but they have rejected Me from reigning over them.” Nonetheless, King Saul was selected because he was not only a simple farmer, but one who was known among the farmers as the most humble. His first appearance is asking the prophet Samuel if he might be able to “see” the whereabouts of his lost donkeys; not an auspicious beginning for him, either.

    So, the message is clear, regarding materialism. Odd how it turns out now; the majority of those who tend to proclaim their religion the most vocally are the most heavily materialistic and the least open to the concept that the poor are as worthy of respect and kindness as the rich and powerful; while those who, without necessarily avoiding material posessions, attach less significance to them as signs of a superior person are considered antireligious. And, to add to the irony, we here in the scientific realm, most of whom are of this “socialist” bent according to the self-appointed of Jesus’ messasge regarding material rewards…. would be described as having a very materialistic world view; evolution versus “intelligent design”, for example.

    Well, let the world crank around the sun one more time, and everybody enjoy it.

  20. #20 Ian Gould
    December 25, 2007

    “Attributing the Holocaust to Christianity is especially stupid. The Nazis hated Christians and Christianity, which is why they went to great lengths to destroy the confessing church and substitute a church where crosses were taken down off the walls and replaced with swastikas, each sermon had to be vetted by a political officer, and prominent church leaders disappeared.”

    A minority of Nazi leaders were anti-Christian, the overwhelmingly majority of Nazis were practising Christians.

    A small minority of German Christians opposed Nazism, tens of millions of others were enthusiastic participants.

    Neimuller was an enthusiastic supporter of Nazism until they switched from persecuting the Jews to also going after Christians. His “when the came for the Jews…” piece isn’t just a call for action in the future – it’s a confession of his own complicity in the crimes of the Nazi regime.

  21. #21 Ian Gould
    December 25, 2007

    >”My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.

    – Adolf Hitler, in a speech on 12 April 1922 (Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1 of 2, pp. 19-20, Oxford University Press, 1942)

  22. #22 Ian Gould
    December 25, 2007

    “…God has struck [the Jews] with ‘madness and blindness and confusion of mind.’ So we are even at fault in not avenging all this innocent blood of our Lord and of the Christians which they shed for three hundred years after the destruction of Jerusalem, and the blood of the children they have shed since then (which still shines forth from their eyes and their skin). We are at fault in not slaying them. Rather we allow them to live freely in our midst despite all their murdering, cursing, blaspheming, lying, and defaming; we protect and shield their synagogues, houses, life, and property. In this way we make them lazy and secure and encourage them to fleece us boldly of our money and goods, as well as to mock and deride us, with a view to finally overcoming us, killing us all for such a great sin, and robbing us of all our property (as they daily pray and hope).”

    Martin Luther “On the Jews and their lies” 1543

  23. #23 Arie Brand
    December 25, 2007

    “it’s a confession of his own complicity in the crimes of the Nazi regime.”

    Aren’t you exaggerating a bit here? Hitler came to power in 1933. Already in that year Niemoeller was engaged in church activities that led, a year later, to the foundation of the ‘Confessing Church’ (‘Bekennende Kirche’). Apparently Hitler received various church leaders in January 1934 and made it clear on that occasion that he regarded these church activities as against the NAZI-state. Niemoeller was the one then who spoke up for that church and said that its main concern was to retain the purity of doctrine.

    As far as I know the ‘mea culpa’ he and others came up with after the war did not have to do with ‘complicity in the crimes of the Nazi regime’ but with the fact that he had initially not done more to render assistance to the Jews.

    It is true that he had been a NAZI-voter from 1924 onward.He had been a U-boat officer during the First World War and was, after that war, definitely not of a democratic persuasion.

    It is also true that he advised Jewish ministers at a certain stage to stay in the background a bit and not to strive for higher church functions. But on the other hand he was, in 1933, instrumental in the foundation of the ‘Ministers’ Emergency Alliance’ (‘Pfarrernotbund’)that had as its primary function to protest against the first bits of anti-Semitic legislation (the ‘Arierparagraph’)as far as it concerned church offices.

    Not being a Christian myself I have no other ax to grind here than concern with a bit of historical accuracy.

  24. #24 Ian Gould
    December 25, 2007

    Voting for and actively campaigning for the Nazis for the better part of a decade makes him complicit in my eyes, sorry.

  25. #25 Ian Gould
    December 25, 2007

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

    “Niemöller’s behaviour in this time is assessed critically and remains a continual subject of controversy. Professor Werner Cohn states:

    >”I lived as a Jew under the Nazis in the very years that he [Martin Niemöller] told his Dahlem congregation that we Jews were race aliens, and also that we deserved what we got, having murdered Christ. I lived not too far from his church, and his name was mentioned in my home.”[12]

    Historians quote from one of Niemöller’s sermons in 1935: “What is the reason for [their] obvious punishment, which has lasted for thousands of years? Dear brethren, the reason is easily given: the Jews brought the Christ of God to the cross!” [13] According to Holocaust scholar Robert Michael, Niemöller agreed with the Nazis’ position on the Jewish question.[3] Michael notes:

    >”These kinds of statements are a result of traditional antisemitism, and beliefs such as these corrupted average people as well as the elite and made them all not just victims of Nazis but active or passive collaborators in the Holocaust.”[14]

    However, despite his anti-Judaistic remarks, Niemöller decidedly opposed the Nazis’ Aryan Paragraph. In 1936, he signed a petition of a group of Protestant churchmen which sharply criticized Nazi policies and declared the Aryan Paragraph incompatible with the Chrisitan virtue of charity.[4] The Nazi regime reacted with mass arrests and charges against almost 800 pastors and ecclesiastical lawyers.[15] In 1933, Niemöller had founded the Pfarrernotbund, an organization of pastors to “combat rising discrimination against Christians of Jewish background.”[11] By the autumn of 1934, Niemöller joined other Lutheran and Protestant churchmen like Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in founding the Confessing Church, a Protestant group that opposed the Nazification of the German Protestant churches.[11] The famous author and Nobel Prize laureate Thomas Mann published Niemöller’s sermons in the United States and praised his bravery.[4]

    However, Niemöller’s motives are disputed. According to the historian Raimund Lammersdorf, “Niemöller had exposed himself as an opportunist who had no quarrel with Hitler politically and only begun to oppose the Nazis when Hitler threatened to attack the churches.”[16] Niemöller’s ambivalent and often contradictory behaviour during the time of Nazi Germany makes him one of the most controversial of all Protestant enemies of the Nazis and contrasts sharply with the much more broad-minded attitudes of other Confessing Church activists such as Hermann Maas. The pastor and liberal politician Maas – contrary to Niemöller – belonged to those who unequivocally opposed every form of antisemitism and was was later accorded the title Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.[17] Ironically, Maas has been mostly forgotten while Niemöller remains the one who is remembered as a symbol of resistance against Hitler by many.”

    I leave it to others to judge.

  26. #26 Arie Brand
    December 25, 2007

    “Voting for and actively campaigning for the Nazis for the better part of a decade makes him complicit in my eyes, sorry.”

    Where did you get that ‘actively campaigning’ from? Also: he was no doubt deluded but primarily in the decade in which the NAZI’s hadn’t come to power yet.

    Thomas Mann who as a contemporary was far more able to judge local circumstances than most post war commentators and above suspicion himself, praised him, according to the article you quoted, for his bravery.

    You might not realise, living in a safe Western democracy, how brave he actually was.

    As to his guilt: he has confessed to that himself. He was also brave enough for that.

    Your self righteous remarks annoyed me, sorry.

  27. #27 dhogaza
    December 25, 2007

    The question is whether the same number of people would have been killed without Christianity. That is did Christianity served as a useful labeling device and historical validation for the brutal treatment of outcasts/witches/homosexuals/mentally ill. As Rwanda demonstrated the political tool of outclass generation can be very swift, so it would be probable that Christianity hasn’t been essential to this process at all.

    Without Christianity, there would’ve been no Passion, no Church to say “Jews murdered Jesus”. There would’ve been no auto de fe in Spain. There would’ve been no history of church (and state) encourage pogroms in those parts of eastern Europe controlled by the Russian Imperial state.

    On and on.

    On what basis do you claim that it’s “probable” that it would’ve happened without Christianity? Rwanda? Really? Recent history in Rwanda argues against a couple of millenia of history in Europe?

  28. #28 JC
    December 25, 2007

    Gouldiechops, hoggise.

    err…… the biggest mass murderers in the 20th century with atheists. Mao, stalin etc were atheists.Going by your premise then we need to be worried about these people more.
    The person who created the manual was an etheist. That was marx by the way.

  29. #29 Arie Brand
    December 25, 2007

    Arie Brand
    “According to the historian Raimund Lammersdorf, “Niemöller had exposed himself as an opportunist who had no quarrel with Hitler politically and only begun to oppose the Nazis when Hitler threatened to attack the churches.”[16]”

    I have now read Lammersdorf’s essay (“The Question of Guilt 1945-1947 – German and American answers”
    http://www.ghi-dc.org/conpotweb/westernpapers/lammersdorf.pdfhttp://www.ghi-dc.org/conpotweb/westernpapers/lammersdorf.pdf).

    The way you have put it in your post, as Lammerdorf’s own opinion, viz. that of a non-partisan historian, is definitely misleading.

    Lammersdorf was merely sketching here American attitudes not long after the war when more details regarding N’s past had come to light. During the war he had been built up as the pastor ‘who defied Adolf Hitler’ and this image had played a role in allied war propaganda. When it turned out that there were unexpected sides to this hero a mass media that has never been noted for its subtlety, turned around and dragged him from the pedestal it had earlier put him on.

  30. #30 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 25, 2007

    Mike posts, not unexpectedly:

    [[As to the Nazis, maybe you should read Goldhagen--Hitler's Willing Executioners. Pretty ugly reading.]]

    Yes, books animated by bigotry do make pretty ugly reading. Goldhagen’s blaming all Germans for Naziism makes about as much sense as the Nazis blaming Jews for the depression. The answer to prejudice is not to reverse the prejudice, it is to treat people as individuals.

  31. #31 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 25, 2007

    dhogaza posts:

    [[And, no, I'm not anti-Christian. I was raised in a fundy family]]

    Who wants to bet he doesn’t see it?

  32. #32 Ian Gould
    December 25, 2007

    “You might not realise, living in a safe Western democracy, how brave he actually was.

    As to his guilt: he has confessed to that himself. He was also brave enough for that.

    Your self righteous remarks annoyed me, sorry.”

    Yes and as a Jew who lost family in the holocaust your defence of a German anti-semite who was preaching about the blood guilt of the Jews at the time of Krystalnacht offends me.

  33. #33 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 25, 2007

    Arie quotes that great source, the Wikipedia:

    [[scholars use higher criticism to propose likely ranges of dates for the original gospel autographs]]

    I have news for you, Arie. “Higher Criticism” is a school, not a subject or a technique. “Textual criticism” is an area of scholarship. The first is a subset of the second. Like many people who haven’t looked deeply into the subject, the Wiki author mistakes the Higher Criticism for the consensus — something aided by the fact that writers of the H.C. school tend to represent their findings as the consensus whether they are or not.

    Here are some scholarly sources that suggest early dates for the gospels:

    Albright, William Foxwell 1955. Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands. NY: Funk & Wagnalls.

    Carmignac, Jean 1987. The Birth of the Synoptic Gospels. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press.

    Duggan, George H. 1997. “The Dates of the Gospels.” Homiletic & Pastoral Review, May 1997.

    Hemer, C. J. 1989. The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History. Tubingen: Mohr.

    Reicke, Bo 1972. “Synoptic Prophecies on the Destruction of Jerusalem.” Studies in New Testament and Early Christian Literature: Essays in Honor of Allen P. Wikgren, 1972., Ed. D. E. Aune, Leiden: Brill.

    Robinson, John A. T. 1976. Redating the New Testament. London: SCM Press.

    Thiede, Carsten P. and D’Ancona, Matthew 1996. Eyewitness to Jesus: Amazing New Manuscript Evidence about the Origin of the Gospels. NY: Doubleday.

    Thiede, Carsten P. and D’Ancona, Matthew 1996. The Jesus Papyrus. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson.

    Tresmontant, Claude 1989. The Hebrew Christ. Franciscan Press.

    Tresmontant, Claude 1996. The Gospel of Matthew. Christendom Press.

    Wenham, John W. 1991. Redating Matthew, Mark & Luke: A Fresh Assault on the Synoptic Problem. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

    If Thiede and Ancona in particular turn out to be right, it would mean Matthew was already in circulation in the 60s — which, of course, would put Mark even earlier. Nor are all the authors conservative theologians — certainly John A.T. Robinson was not.

  34. #34 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 25, 2007

    Ian Gould posts:

    [[A minority of Nazi leaders were anti-Christian,]]

    That minority included Hitler, Goebbels, Bormann, and Himmler. Was Goering pro-Christian? I tend to doubt it.

    [[ the overwhelmingly majority of Nazis were practising Christians.]]

    This must be some weird new definition of “practising [sic] Christians” I never heard before. Considering that the largest German church had been destroyed and replaced with a “racial” church, what were the “Nazi Christians” actually practicing?”

  35. #35 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 25, 2007

    Ian Gould quotes an early Hitler speech:

    “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter”

    So Ian apparently takes Hitler at his word when he was speaking for public consumption, but ignores what he said privately when he was among friends:

    http://members.aol.com/bpl1960/Hitler.htm

    So, Ian, if you trust Hitler’s public statements, I assume you think the Sudetenland really was Hitler’s last territorial demand in Europe?

  36. #36 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 25, 2007

    dhogaza posts:

    [[Without Christianity, there would've been no Passion, no Church to say "Jews murdered Jesus". There would've been no auto de fe in Spain...]]

    Let’s take a quick history quiz, boys and girls. What was the chief motivation of Ferdinand and Isabella, according to historians of medieval Spain?

    A. A deep attention to Christian theology and values.

    B. The desire to make Spain into a modern nation-state, run entirely by the crown, by uniting the people against scapegoats.

  37. #37 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 25, 2007

    I’d like to thank so many of you for making me spend an hour Christmas morning defending my people and my religion. Really helped me celebrate the birth of Christ.

    Love & kisses,

    BPL

  38. #38 Arie Brand
    December 25, 2007

    If you are dissatisfied with the use of the term ‘higher criticism’in this context you should address Wikipedia, of which you speak down your nose as a ‘great source’. Why don’t you contribute your great insight there that Mark et al’s alleged ignorance about the destruction of the temple definitely dates the gospels. I am curious how long it would remain there. You have, incidentally, not provided any further arguments for this, only thrown a bibliography at me.

    Looking at that I wonder at your term ‘modern textual criticism’. Four of your sources date from the nineties, three from the eighties, three from the seventies and one from the fifties. But all right, in theology that might all rank as ‘modern’.

    You don’t seriously expect of course that I would attempt to scrutinise any of these items. You are even dissatisfied with the Wiki-author who allegedly didn’t look deeply into the subject. I cringe when I think of your condemnation of my shallowness.

  39. #39 dhogaza
    December 25, 2007

    And thank you, Barton, for your asshole remark about me and my family, on the one day of the year on which the fact that my mother died of breast cancer twenty-four years ago hurts the most.

    You’re right: I don’t see her.

    And you want us to believe that christians aren’t assholes, with comments like that?

    Let’s take a quick history quiz, boys and girls. What was the chief motivation of Ferdinand and Isabella, according to historians of medieval Spain?

    The Jews were kicked out of Spain (or forced to convert) in 1492, before the Inquisition, oh ye who would lecture us on history.

    I’d like to thank so many of you for making me spend an hour Christmas morning defending my people and my religion. Really helped me celebrate the birth of Christ.

    If you can’t differentiate between your faith, and the actions of some who claim to share that faith, that’s your problem, not ours.

  40. #40 speedwell
    December 25, 2007

    I remembered reading something about Jewish law, and I had to track it down because it bugged me. Turns out I was correct. Jesus probably would not have been considered a bastard (mamzer) under the law. Simply being the child of unmarried parents would not have been sufficient.

    Here’s how it works: A person is a mamzer if he is the product of a union forbidden by Jewish law. These unions include:

    - a priest (kohan) with a divorced woman
    - Incestuous unions as defined in the law (Mary and Joseph were related, but not closely enough for this to be a consideration)
    - any man with a woman who was “illegally” divorced, that is, if she did not get an “official” halachic divorce

    There are some other wrinkles added by particularly zealous moderns, but consider that if they had not been an eligible couple, they wouldn’t have been considered betrothed in the first place.

  41. #41 z
    December 25, 2007

    “I’d like to thank so many of you for making me spend an hour Christmas morning defending my people and my religion. Really helped me celebrate the birth of Christ.”

    Oh no, it’s that secular war on christmas again. secular means, of course, jewish.

    ya know, a lot of folks celebrate christ’s birthday by doing something in His spirit, as in feeding the homeless at a shelter on christmas day, etc. rather than just sitting back and feeling smug. Oddly enough, a lot of the people I know who do so are Jewish.

    Here’s how other folks have reacted to the war on christmas:
    “A Muslim man jumped to the aid of three Jewish subway riders after they were attacked by a group of young people who objected to one of the Jews saying “Happy Hanukkah,” a spokeswoman for the three said Wednesday.
    The New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating Friday’s incident on the Q train.
    Friday’s altercation on the Q train began when somebody yelled out “Merry Christmas,” to which rider Walter Adler responded, “Happy Hanukkah,” said Toba Hellerstein.
    “Almost immediately, you see the look in this guy’s face like I’ve called his mother something,” Adler told CNN affiliate WABC.
    Two women who were with a group of 10 rowdy people then began to verbally assault Adler’s companions with anti-Semitic language, Hellerstein said.
    One member of the group allegedly yelled, “Oh, Hanukkah. That’s the day that the Jews killed Jesus,” she said.
    When Adler tried to intercede, a male member of the group punched him, she said.
    Another passenger, Hassan Askari — a Muslim student from Bangladesh — came to Adler’s aid, and the group began physically and verbally assaulting him, Hellerstein said.
    “A Muslim-American saved us when our own people were on the train and didn’t do anything,” Adler said.
    http://edition.cnn.com/2007/US/12/12/subway.attack/

    but of course, it would be probable that Christianity hasn’t been essential to this process at all. and besides, it brought jews and moslems together.

  42. #42 Arie Brand
    December 25, 2007

    Gould wrote: “a German anti-semite who was preaching about the blood guilt of the Jews at the time of Krystalnacht (sic)”

    It is once again apparent that you do not bother very much about historical accuracy. The offensive text you quoted dates from 1935. ‘Kristallnacht’took place at the end of 1938. By that time Niemoeller had been in a concentration camp for at least a year.

  43. #43 Hermenauta
    December 25, 2007

    “Let’s take a quick history quiz, boys and girls. What was the chief motivation of Hitler and Himmler, according to historians of II WW’s Germany?

    A. A deep attention to arian heritage and values.

    B. The desire to make Germany into a worldwide empire, run entirely by the Fuhrer, by uniting the people against scapegoats.”

    See Barton, this is exactly how that sort of things work. Except that you can’t have B without pretending A, however. Now try the same paragraph substituting “Fuhrer” by “Church” (mutatis mutandis) and you get the pragmatic flavor behind the use of religion for secular purposes.

  44. #44 jc
    December 25, 2007

    If Gouldiechops equates christians/Christianity with nazism, he would need to explain how he doesn’t equate Jews/Judaism with the Stalin regime. Stalin had and over-representation of atheist Jews in his murderous regime.

  45. #45 luminous beauty
    December 25, 2007

    Jesus’ birthday? I thought it was Mithra’s birthday.

    Dang! This old Chaldean calender has just got to go!

  46. #46 dhogaza
    December 26, 2007

    If Gouldiechops equates christians/Christianity with nazism, he would need to explain how he doesn’t equate Jews/Judaism with the Stalin regime. Stalin had and over-representation of atheist Jews in his murderous regime.

    JC, as usual, misses the point. Pointing out that many leading Nazis were xtian, and that anti-semitism’s roots in Germany were very deep, were fed and nourished by the medieval church and by the established church’s main antagonist, Luther, in no way “equates christianity with nazism”.

    History is full of genocidal assholes. Some have been motivated by hatred they believe to be justified by their belief in the xtian God. That’s it. Many others take the teachings of Jesus to heart and do good works. But as they say, it only takes one rotten apple …

    I wonder if Barton, JC, et al would protest so vehemently if we were to suggest that Mohammed’s God has also been used to justify killing on a large scale?

  47. #47 JC
    December 26, 2007

    I wonder if Barton, JC, et al would protest so vehemently if we were to suggest that Mohammed’s God has also been used to justify killing on a large scale?

    In a word, no, Hoggsie.

    First off I’m no practicing Christian. In fact I consider it bad luck to set foot in a church unless it’s to take pics of some old architecture.

    I can’t recall Jesus teaching people to go and kill Jews and non-believers. I also can’t recall Jesus telling people to go off to do a jihad or two and end up with 72 versions of an “untouched” Sharon Stone uncrossing her legs. Maybe you have and could enlighten us Hoggsie.

    Maybe even your bigoted friend the Christian hater (Gouldichops) could help us find the relevant verse.

    Oh and Gouildiechops, don’t come crying, screaming or yelling abuse about my latest characterization of your beliefs. From the crap you’ve said here I actually being very light on.

    You know Gouldiechops, the abhorrent nazi- Albert Speer- was right about one thing. He said Fascism would return eventually and when it does it will come back in the form of anti-fascism. You’re the number one case study in proving Albert Speer right..

  48. #48 Climatepatrol
    December 26, 2007

    Thank you Mrs. Lambert for this insightful post. Christmas is definitely the time to think about organized Christianity and true individual faith in Christ. May I add that we can’t live by the Sermon of the Mount without accepting the preacher of it as the Son of God and – after all these comments here – as a Jew. Jesus’ was against all sorts of hypocracy – whether it be under the label ‘Jew’ or ‘Christian’ or ‘Church’ or ‘Political Correctness’. By the definition of Jesus, ‘church’ is where two or three gather together in His name – say it again – in His name, not because anybody pressures them to do so. What ‘the church’ did in Jesus’ name throughout history is sometimes no better than what the pharisee Jews did whom Jesus accused so hard. Among many comments worthy to be ignored, I was shocked by #22. It can’t be ignored, it is true what Martin Luther said. This strikes me because I sometimes read from his Bible translation in German. No need to justify what Luther said but I like to give the whole context from the Jewish Virtual Library: < http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semitism/Luther_on_Jews.html>. It was said a lot about the killing of people in the name of Christianity. Even Luther did not encourage such thing at all. Read above what he suggested instead. After all this diffamation, he probably had a point that we cannot reconcile nowadays. One thing is sure, it was not racism at that time. Luther started off saving the Jews from persecution, hoping that they would turn to Christ, but they didn’t. He finally realised that he cannot convert the Jews but just pray and hope that Jesus Christ will at least save a few of them from hellfire. My comment is – what goes for the Jews goes for all of us who do not accept the full Gospel of Jesus. A child was born, may it be born in our hearts.

  49. #49 Deech56
    December 26, 2007

    Nice post, Mrs. Lambert. About your comment “So the real Christmas story is one of humiliation and rejection – something not so sweet and certainly not something you’d want to tell your children.” In teaching Sunday School to middle school kids) I’ve actually done that. Kids that age are ready for the real meanings, and this kind of brings the whole Christmas story (and what followed) more meaning.

  50. #50 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 26, 2007

    Arie writes:

    [[You don't seriously expect of course that I would attempt to scrutinise any of these items.]]

    No. In order to do that, you would have to be someone genuinely interested in the question.

  51. #51 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 26, 2007

    Dhogaza posts:

    [[And thank you, Barton, for your asshole remark about me and my family, on the one day of the year on which the fact that my mother died of breast cancer twenty-four years ago hurts the most.

    You're right: I don't see her.]]

    The asshole is in the eye on the beholder. My remark, “who wants to bet he doesn’t see it?” did not refer to seeing your family. It referred to the fact that you claimed not to be prejudiced against Christians, then immediately used the word “fundy” to refer to your family. It was aimed at you and your false praise of yourself, the fact that you were, and are, so blind to your own bigotry.

  52. #52 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 26, 2007

    Dhogaza writes:

    [[The Jews were kicked out of Spain (or forced to convert) in 1492, before the Inquisition, oh ye who would lecture us on history.]]

    No kidding, were they? Gee, I’m glad you let me know that. I was in total denial.

    You seem to be reading what you expect me to say in my posts, rather than what I actually said. It’s happened a few times now. Slow down and read carefully.

  53. #53 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 26, 2007

    jc posts:

    [[If Gouldiechops equates christians/Christianity with nazism, he would need to explain how he doesn't equate Jews/Judaism with the Stalin regime. Stalin had and over-representation of atheist Jews in his murderous regime.]]

    jc, try googling “Doctors’ plot” if you want to find out how much Stalin cared for Jews.

  54. #54 jc
    December 26, 2007

    Barton

    Unlike you I don’t need google to tell me Stalin was a murdererous deranged thug.

  55. #55 luminous beauty
    December 26, 2007

    “May I add that we can’t live by the Sermon of the Mount without accepting the preacher of it as the Son of God…”

    “If Christ hadn’t delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a human being. I’d just as soon be a rattlesnake.”

    —-Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

    Vonnegut was well known as an atheist. The challenge for you, my dear Climatepatrol, is to demonstrate he didn’t live by the message of the Sermon better than the typical professing Christian.

    A quote I would have you consider is from Nietzche:

    “There was only one true Christian, and he died on the cross.”

  56. #56 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 26, 2007

    Nietzsche on Christianity? Isn’t that like Streicher on Judaism?

  57. #57 luminous beauty
    December 26, 2007

    It is somewhat peculiar of the dualistic Western monotheistic tradition (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) to presume that the central meaning and purpose of religion is predicated on the existence or non-existence of the One True God.

    It’s not. It is really, really, really about the evolving spiritual growth (and by spiritual growth, I mean moral, ethical and perceptual development) of living, breathing and ultimately, mortal, sentient beings.

  58. #58 luminous beauty
    December 26, 2007

    “Nietzsche on Christianity? Isn’t that like Streicher on Judaism?”

    Not really. Nietzche was actually training for the clergy until his experience of war gave him a healthy sense of skepticism.

    If you don’t like Nietzche, perhaps you might be more comfortable with Kierkegard, who mirrored similar criticisms while explicitly confirming his faith, although I’m unaware of Nietzche ever specifically denouncing Christianity, other than to criticize the churches of his day for their hypocrisy and subversion by the Will to Power.

  59. #59 Arie Brand
    December 26, 2007

    BPL wrote “Arie writes:

    [[You don't seriously expect of course that I would attempt to scrutinise any of these items.]]

    No. In order to do that, you would have to be someone genuinely interested in the question.”

    You came with a certain thesis about the dating of the gospels. What was it again ? Yes here it is:

    “The statement that the gospel accounts were written long after his death does not hold up to modern textual criticism. None of the gospel writers is aware that the Temple at Jerusalem has been destroyed…”

    You assured us that it was based on ‘modern textual criticism’. When I confronted you with Wikipedia’s point of view that this early dating was, in fact, a matter of traditional Christian scholarship rather than, as you have it, ‘modern textual criticism’ you came back with a bibliography that appears to be a bit dated – to say the least.

    You are quite right in assuming that I have only a tangential interest in these matters. So the onus is on people like you, who apparently give more time to them than I ever would be prepared to do, to provide us with a bit of reliable information.

    The suspicion aroused by the Wiki deepened when I googled
    a bit around. It cost me all of three minutes to come up
    with this (from an article in the Journal of Biblical Studies, Oct.-Dec.2001, Vol.1 no.4, by Andrew Bernhard entitled “Dating Early Gospels”):

    This is what Bernhard said:

    “Terminus post quem. Only two known events are helpful for determining how soon early gospels may have been written after the death of Jesus: the fall of Jerusalem (70 C.E.) and the martyrdom of Peter (ca. 64 C.E.). Yet, these events are useful for dating only two gospels and a portion of a third. Matthew and Luke must have been written after Titus’ siege of Jerusalem because they allude to it (Matt 22:7; Luke 19:43-44, 21:20-24), but it is not clear that Mark was aware of the event.[15] John 21 must have been written after Peter’s death,[16] but the final chapter may have been added to the gospel long after the rest had been written.[17] There are no certain references to any datable historical events in John 1-20.”

    Thus:

    “Three gospels[37] must have been written after 70 C.E.; how long after is anybody’s guess.”

    This is exactly the opposite of what you said. So your thesis seems a bit controversial.

    I repeat my recommendation to expose it to criticism in Wikipedia.

  60. #60 jc
    December 26, 2007

    …..Nietzche was actually training for the clergy until his experience of war gave him a healthy sense of skepticism.

    Oh Pleaszze. Stalin was a theology student.

  61. #61 Eli Rabett
    December 26, 2007

    Allow an innocent Rabett to pour some Halon on this conflagration. First it is unseemly to stomp on your host’s wife’s post. Second you there are deep historical scabs which many innocently do not recognize and all should admit are best not scratched in a public area. At most they should be discussed tete-a-tete at tea, preferably with over a piece of plum pudding. Third sometimes you just swallow and move on.

    So, in the spirit of the season, as mom Rabett would say on Boxing Day, when everyone was getting rabettbuncious from burrow fever and associating with the unkempt stoat relatives

    BEHAVE YOURSELVES!!!!!

    And yes that means you.

    Moving on. . Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  62. #62 Bill O'Slatter
    December 27, 2007

    Eli have to disagree with you here. If we can’t discuss religious intolerance there is no hope for humanity. It is unlikely the majority will give up their religion any time soon .as we atheists would wish, so we need practical philosophies of religious tolerance. Thanks to Mrs Lambert for the post.

  63. #63 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 27, 2007

    luminous posts:

    [[I'm unaware of Nietzche ever specifically denouncing Christianity]]

    Then you can’t have read much of his work. He said Christianity was a religion for slaves.

  64. #64 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 27, 2007

    Arie quotes some Higher Critic:

    [[Matthew and Luke must have been written after Titus' siege of Jerusalem because they allude to it ]]

    This is one of my favorite types of Higher Criticism illogic. They assume that anything which mentions a historical event, including prophecy of that event, must have been written after it. They then use the late dating to show that prophecy never happens. Circular reasoning. If you start by assuming that real predictions never happen, then of course you’ll always wind up with that as a conclusion. But tautologies don’t convince anybody.

  65. #65 JC
    December 27, 2007

    Rabbet:

    Don’t apportion the blame to all of us for the bad manners. Park that car in the right garage, dude.

    Go read what your Christian bigot friend had to say. Gouldiechops is now equating Christianity with nazism. So Christians closet Nazis and racists.

  66. #66 Eli Rabett
    December 27, 2007

    Bill you can discuss religious intolerance, however this is an inappropriate place. There is an open thread. By doing it here you are insulting the host and his family.

  67. #67 Lance
    December 27, 2007

    BPL,

    You say, “This is one of my favorite types of Higher Criticism illogic. They assume that anything which mentions a historical event, including prophecy of that event, must have been written after it.”

    Are you implying that it is more “logical” to assume that a manuscript is supernaturally prophetic rather than written after an event it describes?

    Perhaps you don’t understand the meaning of logic. It is a system based on reason. Prophesy is an irrational concept and hence lies beyond the boundaries of logical thought.

    Christianity is a mystical belief system. This doesn’t mean that it is necessarily invalid, just that one cannot apply logical constructs to validate it.

    If I told you that I had a list of all the victims of 9/11 would it be logical to assume that I was a “prophet” or that I had written it after the event?

  68. #68 Sock Puppet of the Great Satan
    December 27, 2007

    “Here are some scholarly sources that suggest early dates for the gospels:”

    Barton, no disrespect, but none of you sources are less than a decade old: given the changes in textual analysis due to technology this seems like a flaw. Do you have more recent cites?

  69. #69 Eli Rabett
    December 27, 2007

    How about moving this discussion over to the open thread folks. Philosophy and its interaction with religion is open ended after all

  70. #70 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 27, 2007

    Lance posts:

    [[Are you implying that it is more "logical" to assume that a manuscript is supernaturally prophetic rather than written after an event it describes? ]]

    No, I’m saying it’s more logical not to assume your conclusion.

    [[Perhaps you don't understand the meaning of logic. It is a system based on reason.]]

    “Logic” and “reason” are synonyms, Lance.

    [[ Prophesy is an irrational concept and hence lies beyond the boundaries of logical thought.]]

    What is irrational about it? Specifically?

    [[Christianity is a mystical belief system. This doesn't mean that it is necessarily invalid, just that one cannot apply logical constructs to validate it.]]

    If Christianity were internally inconsistent, that would make it invalid. Logic applies to any belief system. Conclusions either follow validly from premises or they do not. No area of human thought is exempt from logic.

  71. #71 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 27, 2007

    Sock puppet posts:

    [["Here are some scholarly sources that suggest early dates for the gospels:"

    Barton, no disrespect, but none of you sources are less than a decade old: given the changes in textual analysis due to technology this seems like a flaw. Do you have more recent cites?]]

    Does the fact that they’re more than a decade old mean they have been overturned? Who demonstrated the flaws in them? Can you give me a citation of some study that shows those sources are wrong?

    Copernicus was right that the Earth orbits the sun, even though he wrote about 500 years ago. Darwin was right that evolution works primarily by natural selection, even though he wrote about 150 years ago. When you’re right, you’re right. Date has nothing to do with it. Unless you’re following fashion.

    BTW, the late dates for the gospels which you are defending were proposed in the 18th century.

  72. #72 Sock Puppet of the Great Satan
    December 27, 2007

    “Does the fact that they’re more than a decade old mean they have been overturned?”

    Then you shouldn’t have a problem giving a more recent cite.

    “Copernicus was right that the Earth orbits the sun, even though he wrote about 500 years ago.”

    And a major tool in the Copernican revolution was the invention of the telescope. Now that we can do automated textual analysis faster and with more granularity than two decades ago. So the scholarship should reflect that. As well as the recent scholarship on the Nag Hammadi papyruses as more scholars have access to them or to their images. Again, is there a reason why you chose relatively dated sources, or is it a lack of recent scholarship supporting your position?

  73. #73 Sock Puppet of the Great Satan
    December 27, 2007

    ” the late dates for the gospels which you are defending were proposed in the 18th century.”

    I’m not defending the late dates, Barton. I’ve said exactly nothing on them, because my knowledge of the subject is too limited to make an assessment. Why did you automatically assume I was taking the opposite

    But the fact you didn’t provide any recent cites made me wonder whether your position was supported by recent scholarships using newer sources and newer technology, in the same way as an article on climate which didn’t cite anything more recent than 1997 would make me wonder “what isn’t he telling me here?”

    Feel free to shut me up by providing recent peer-reviewed scholarship.

  74. #74 Arie Brand
    December 27, 2007

    BPL wrote:
    “This is one of my favorite types of Higher Criticism illogic. They assume that anything which mentions a historical event, including prophecy of that event, must have been written after it.”

    Barton, you started this discussion by claiming that ‘none of the gospel writers is aware that the Temple at Jerusalem has been destroyed…’ And when then a scholar working in the field points to some texts which show awareness of this event you turn around and say: Ah, but that was prophecy.

    In addition you then have the cheek to accuse these critics of illogic.

    And there is another thing. When it is pointed out to you that your references are a bit dated you say: does it matter? Copernicus was right even though he wrote 500 years ago. But didn’t you talk of ‘MODERN textual criticism’ making us, ignorant folk, believe that we were dealing here with a late result of biblical scholarship?

    Remember, the Wiki said about the dating that “traditional Christian scholarship generally preferred to assign earlier dates”. Nothing you have said since I quoted this has persuaded me that this statement was wrong.

  75. #75 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 28, 2007

    Arie and Sock,

    If you want to know how to write a radiative-convective model of a planetary atmosphere, you read Manabe and Strickler 1964, or Manabe and Wetherall 1967, or, if you really want to be sure, Ramanathan and Coakley 1978. Scientific findings don’t come with warning labels that say “this data not good after December 2003.” Until a finding is overturned, it stands. Ditto textual criticism.

    If someone has refuted the arguments of, say, John Robinson in Redating the New Testament, show me who and where, preferably with a complete cite. If you can’t do that, all your carping about the dates of my sources is moot. You said the gospels were written long after the events. I showed you that plenty of scholars disagreed with that. If all you can do is whine that my sources are old, it just shows your general ignorance of the whole field.

  76. #76 Arie Brand
    December 28, 2007

    BPL wrote “… it just shows your general ignorance of the whole field.”

    Yes, and we counted on you to enlighten us …

  77. #77 z
    December 28, 2007

    “If Christianity were internally inconsistent, that would make it invalid. Logic applies to any belief system. Conclusions either follow validly from premises or they do not. No area of human thought is exempt from logic.”

    Then any religion that believes that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and infinitely good/loving/kind/charitable would be invalid. I don’t believe I’m the first to have noticed this.

  78. #78 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 29, 2007

    z posts:

    [[Then any religion that believes that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and infinitely good/loving/kind/charitable would be invalid. I don't believe I'm the first to have noticed this.]]

    You’re not the first to propose it, but it’s not actually correct. When you phrase the problem of pain as a logical argument, there are at least five major ways to come to a different conclusion. Want a list?

  79. #79 ben
    December 30, 2007

    yes.

  80. #80 Dr Zen
    December 30, 2007

    This is my favourite comment snippet:

    “This is one of my favorite types of Higher Criticism illogic. They assume that anything which mentions a historical event, including prophecy of that event, must have been written after it.”

    It is such wonderful self-parody that it defies further comment.

  81. #81 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 30, 2007

    Ben: Here’s the problem of pain as an extended argument in the propositional calculus:

    e: God exists.
    g: God is completely good.
    o: God is omnipotent.
    s: Undeserved suffering exists.
    w: A good God would eliminate undeserved suffering.

    1. e -> (g & o) Premise.
    2. (g & o) -> w Premise.
    3. (e & w) -> ~s Premise.
    4. s Premise.
    5. e Premise.
    6. g & o 1, 5, Modus Ponens.
    7. w 2, 6, Modus Ponens.
    8. e & w 5, 7, Conjunction.
    9. ~s 3, 8, Modus Ponens.
    10. s & ~s 4, 9, Conjunction.

    This type of argument is known as a “reductio ad absurdum.” If you start with a certain premise or set of premises, and your premise-set leads to a contradiction (statement 10 above), then you must have at least one false premise. If A) God exists, and B) is omnipotent, and C) is good, and D) a good God with unlimited power would eliminate undeserved suffering, then we must conclude that no undeserved suffering exists. But it obviously does, so one or more of the premises must be wrong.

    Not everyone accepts the atheists’ favored conclusion, which is that God does not exist (premise A is wrong). Rabbi Harold S. Kushner (1981), as far as I can understand his argument, appears to feel that God is not omnipotent (premise B is wrong). Pantheists feel God is not necessarily good, or is both good and evil (premise C is wrong). The traditional Judaeo-Christian response to the problem of pain is that premise D is wrong — a good God would not necessarily eliminate all suffering. You can probably think of others yourself.

  82. #82 luminous beauty
    December 30, 2007

    barton,

    Quite an interesting exercise in tail chasing. The result seems to be the problem of suffering has little to do with the existence or non-existence of God.

    I believe you would be better served, if the problem of suffering is one you really wish to address rather than merely defend your belief in God, to make the initial syllogism of your argument thus:

    Suffering exists.

    Suffering has a cause.

    Eliminate the cause of suffering and suffering ceases to exist.

    May God help you understand the cause of suffering and the means to it’s end.

  83. #83 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 31, 2007

    luminous writes:

    [[May God help you understand the cause of suffering and the means to it's end.]]

    The cause of suffering is the Fall, and the means to its end is the Second Coming of Christ, plus whatever we can do to alleviate suffering in the meantime.

  84. #84 luminous beauty
    December 31, 2007

    Barton,

    Yes, that is the formalization of orthodox Christian dogma based on Enochian constructions of implied metaphysical interpretations of Biblical text, but it is not much of a scientific explanation.

    I suggest two causes that can actually be observed.

    1. Clinging to extreme beliefs concerning the nature of reality, i.e., either purely mechanically deterministic or purely spiritual and guided by divine whim. (this is much of Nietzche’s thesis that by engaging in unmitigatable conflict the churches and the secular scientific establishment are on a path leading to a futile struggle for dominance in which whatever is of human value in either camp is subsumed by the will to power, which has enslaved humanity since the rise of civilization. It is in this context of the churches involving themselves in such a power play and failing to live up to the teachings of Jesus [the only true Christian] that he says Christianity is slavery.)

    2. Clinging to belief in the nature of the self as separate and categorically different from the nature of sensate reality.

    To avoid confusion, I am distinguishing suffering as an unhealthy psychological pathology by which people interpret trauma as compared to physical pain, which is the physiological response of a healthy nervous system to trauma.

    One can experience intense pain without suffering psychological trauma, or one can be driven to despair by a conditioned response to perceived psychological trauma which has no component whatsoever of physical pain.

    I know from personal experience that emotional suffering can be overcome by not clinging to extreme either/or beliefs as being accurate or necessary descriptors of reality, and not clinging to belief in the separate and eternal individual soul. I cannot say the same about expecting a physically re-incarnated Jesus hopefully making everything better in the indeterminate future (this seems to me little more than a rationale for not doing anything to improve the human condition), but I do find remarkable references in the teachings of Jesus that imply these immediate and profound methods of overcoming suffering.

  85. #85 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 31, 2007

    luminous posts:

    [[he says Christianity is slavery]]

    Who does, Nietzsche? Tell someone who cares.

  86. #86 luminous beauty
    December 31, 2007

    Well it’s none of my affair, but I’d like to believe that a thinking follower of Jesus would care about rationally and critically re-examining, re-invigorating and keeping vital and alive the central core of Jesus’s teachings, and unsentimental about removing and discarding the stifling and lifeless detritus of old and useless doctrine and dogma.

    There are a few Christians who are willing to shed the oppressor’s chains of the Nicene Creed. Always have been. The orthodox can’t kill them all, brand them as heretics or burn their books these days, thankfully.

  87. #87 mgr
    December 31, 2007

    Barton at #81:

    Sloppy argument and presentation.

    Please define what ‘~s’ is, is it the negation of undeserved suffering, or is it deserved suffering? One can clearly see a Judeo-Christian tradition that allows for a good and powerful god to impose suffering on those that deserve it.

    It is not pantheists that believe God may be good and evil, but also deists that see him as indifferent. Both would relax proposition C whatever that is.

    What quality is existence? If I conceive of something, doesn’t it exist, it doesn’t necessarily make it real? Atheists don’t have the market on this position cornered.

    Mike

  88. #88 mgr
    December 31, 2007

    Barton at #30:

    Get your books straight. In Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Goldhagen argues for active rather than tacit German support for the Shoah, both the motive for the book and his argument are not based in bigotry. I have not read his second book, but there he addresses the role the Catholic Church had.

    I suspect that all commentators on the role Pius XII played with the Shoah is that he succeeded as a good man in saving some jews, but failed as a good pope in not using the see to condemn Hitler. It is from the wellspring of this contradiction that John Paul II’s apology flows. Of course those that stongly make such an argument stressing the second point while downplaying the first would be bigots if one views the first action as sufficient.

    I can see where if you are a practicing Catholic that you may experience qualms with this apology stuff given the belief in papal infallibility, but I think a claim of bigotry is a little beyond the pale. After all, Hitler never personally murdered anyone, was a vegetarian, and liked animals. It is just that as ruler of Germany he ordered several million people to die that we find him abhorrent and a monster. I assume you see the parallel, and why citing Niemoller and Bonhoffer does not spare all German Christians at that time.

    Of course how many righteous men does it take to spare a city, ten? You are one fifth of the way there.

    Mike

  89. #89 cen
    December 31, 2007

    . The offensive text you quoted dates from 1935. ‘Kristallnacht’took place at the end of 1938. By that time Niemoeller had been in a concentration camp for at least a year.

  90. #90 z
    January 1, 2008

    ” The traditional Judaeo-Christian response to the problem of pain is that premise D is wrong — a good God would not necessarily eliminate all suffering. You can probably think of others yourself.”

    Yeah, that’s kind of where I was leaning; it hinges on one’s definition of good. I’m sure the infant who thinks of mommie as the deliver of ultimate goodness feels betrayed and bewildered when mommie stands by as the doctor sticks a needle in, but at that point mommie and infant have different interpretations of what’s good.

    Now, on a more thorny note, there’s the concept of determinism/free will, vs. omniscience. As in the Calvinist (IIRC) dogmas, wherein man is irretrievably contaminated and even the best human’s ultimate goodness cannot nearly be enough to earn the ultimate reward of God’s grace and redemption; and further, God as omniscient must know from the beginning of time, before the universe was created, who will be saved in the end; therefore, from both premises, one’s actual decisions/actions can clearly not affect one’s status vis a vis being saved. So, either we don’t have free will, in the sense that our actions are merely acting out exactly a script that was written before the universe existed, or we do have free will but it’s not of any consequence.

  91. #91 Arie Brand
    January 1, 2008

    Mgr at #88:
    “In Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Goldhagen argues for active rather than tacit German support for the Shoah, both the motive for the book and his argument are not based in bigotry.”

    Oh yes they are. It is bigotry to ascribe a criminal trait, in this case what G. himself calls “eliminationist anti-semitism”, to a whole nation.

    I am aware that Goldhagen says somewhere that he is not trying to suggest that there is some kind of supra-temporal German character.

    But what is the use of such assurances when he, in his actual so-called analysis, continuously generalises about THE GERMANS who, one and all, were burdened with a “cognitive model” of which “eliminationist anti-Semitism” was an integral part? It is this generalisation which prevents him from doing what he claims he is going to do viz. giving an analysis of the”political culture” in that era.

    There can be no doubt about Goldhagen’s bigoted tendency to generalize here.
    It comes out strongly, for instance, in his discussion of the view that most Germans were indifferent about what happened to the Jews. Goldhagen on p439: “Those who postulate that “indifference” governed the German people proceed as if all these Germans, who either openly assented to or were complicit in the eliminationist program, were a trivial number of people, and as if we learn from these Germans’ actions nothing about THE CHARACTER OF THE GERMAN PEOPLE IN GENERAL” (My emphasis. A.B.).
    On p.443 he refers to a Hitler-speech in which the man had referred to German “instinctive antisemitism”. Goldhagen says then: “With these prophetic words, Hitler displayed his acute insight into THE NATURE OF THE GERMAN PEOPLE …” (my emphasis A.B).
    One cannot blame those who, in view of Goldhagen’s generalisations and statements like this, maintain that his discourse was about the “character” of the German people, though I think that “psyche” would be a better word, seeing Goldhagen’s emphasis on a “cognitive model” they were allegedly all burdened with (more references to cognitive models etc., in addition to those I have already given here, can be found inter alia on pp. 28, 31, 34,45,47, 55, 69, 73, 77 of the 1996 edition).

    So what happened to Goldhagen’s pretence that he was going to provide an analysis of the ‘political culture’ of that era.
    The Weimar Republic was a relatively liberal Western democracy and one would think that a prime task for an analyst of “political culture” would be to explain how its set up could be turned around to become a tyranny governed by a clique of political thugs. An acknowledged expert on the holocaust such as Raul Hilberg asks, for instance, the question how established German civil servants could overwin their “scruples’” in giving their services to those thugs. Goldhagen p.385: “Raul Hilberg, … asks: “Just how did the German bureaucracy overcome its moral scruples?” He assumes that the “German bureaucracy” naturally had “moral scruples” regarding the treatment of Jews …”

    Yes, this assumption was the corollary of that other assumption of Hilberg viz. that not all Germans were alike. He just wondered how a bureaucracy that until very recently was based on the idea of the equality of all citizens before the law could be turned around in this fashion. Here was a real task for an analyst of ‘political culture’. For Goldhagen there is simply no problem here. They were all rabid anti-Semites. A somewhat more subtle analyst would have tried to disentangle the various mechanisms through which this bureaucracy was made an instrument for tyranny.

    Hilberg asserted that G. with this type of explanation went back to the immediate postwar level of scholarship about this matter and Mattson and Loader could already in the Review Journal of April 12 1998, point to a sort of consensus on this point (“…his approach is viewed by the best scholars in the field as a return to the approach of scholars just after World War II who looked for a ‘German character” which could explain the holocaust”).

    Nevertheless I believe that all those commentators who actually used that word, who have held that Goldhagen generalized about the German “character” in his search for an “explanatory model” (Atina Grossman, Stephen Haynes, Dinitia Smith, Christopher Hitchens, David G. Dalin among others) would have been better off with my word ‘psyche’, because Goldhagen frequently uses the word ‘cognitive model’ whenever he refers to the anti-Semitism in the “nature of the German people”.

    But “character” or “psyche” there certainly was bigotry at work here.

  92. #92 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 1, 2008

    luminous posts:

    [[There are a few Christians who are willing to shed the oppressor's chains of the Nicene Creed. ]]

    Actually, if they don’t follow the ecumenical creeds, they are not Christians, by definition. The question of who was and wasn’t a Christian was one of the earliest questions to come before the church, and the answer was the development of the ecumenical creeds. That’s the whole point of having creeds.

  93. #93 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 1, 2008

    Mike writes:

    [[Get your books straight. In Hitler's Willing Executioners, Goldhagen argues for active rather than tacit German support for the Shoah,]]

    I know what he argues.

    [[ both the motive for the book and his argument are not based in bigotry.]]

    Sorry, if he says Germans as a whole or as a group were responsible for the Holocaust, that is a bigoted statement to make. That’s what “bigoted” means, you know.

  94. #94 luminous beauty
    January 1, 2008

    Barton,

    The Nicene Creed was decided by Constantine on an extremely arcane point of metaphysics that anathemized most ordinary Christians as heretics. Not Jesus nor Peter nor Paul. Constantine wasn’t even a professing Christian.

  95. #95 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 2, 2008

    luminous writes:

    [[The Nicene Creed was decided by Constantine on an extremely arcane point of metaphysics that anathemized most ordinary Christians as heretics. Not Jesus nor Peter nor Paul. Constantine wasn't even a professing Christian.]]

    Whenever any pseudo-Christian cult or crackpot pushing a new theory about Jesus finds something they dislike in mainstream Christianity, they blame it on Constantine.

    Constantine’s sole role in the Council of Nicaia was that he called it. He didn’t appoint the bishops who attended, he didn’t vote, he didn’t direct the vote, and he had nothing to do with writing the creed. And it wasn’t an “arcane point of metaphysics,” the question was whether Jesus Christ was God or not. If he’s not, that pretty much does away with Christianity in any meaningful form.

    I’d suggest you read the Oxford History of Christianity, or the works of Roland Bainton on church history. I don’t know where you’re getting your ideas, but they’re not accurate.

  96. #96 Sock Puppet of the Great Satan
    January 2, 2008

    “Scientific findings don’t come with warning labels that say “this data not good after December 2003.”‘

    There’s no controversy within the scientific community on the validity of the theory of evolution, but both theory and data are accelerating our understanding of the mechanics.

    You’re asserting that the dating of the gospels is (1) uncontroversial and settled within the biblical scholar community and (2) not subject to advancements in techniques. This would be surprising in the least, given the advances in automated textual analysis, the increased availability of ancient texts like the Nag Hammadi manuscripts and the advances in non-destructive analysis of documents.

    Frex, you cite Theide’s 1996 and 1994 books. But Graham Stanton and other critics dispute his dating of papyrus fragments in books issued round the same time. Who won the argument? Who gets cited now by biblical scholars

    Show me the cite in a review paper written within the past decade saying something along the lines of “As XYZ has shown, definitively bitch-slapping his critics…”. Even an admission like ‘devoted believers like me believe this, but other schools adhere to date N would do”. Otherwise I’m going to continue to wonder what your lacuna is.

    “You said the gospels were written long after the events. I showed you that plenty of scholars disagreed with that.”

    Actually, I didn’t. If this is your standard of textual criticism, then I’m unimpressed.

  97. #97 luminous beauty
    January 2, 2008

    Constantinople twisted arms to make sure some decision was made. He didn’t care what the decision was as long as it was made. The whole affair was a power play to establish the Church of Rome as the single and absolute hierarchical authority of Christianity. So Constantine could exercise some power over what until then had been an unruly herd of cats.

    This led to extended bloody civil war, (still not over) as most Christians, if not many bishops, believed in some form of what was suddenly official heresy. They thought their version of Christianity was meaningful, if you don’t.

    Metaphysical opinions can vary because they are founded on belief, whether based on reason, tradition or just having a hair up one’s ass. It doesn’t make one set of beliefs wrong and another true, just different. None of it makes any difference in reality, but in the framework of human perception of reality.

    It’s only my opinion, but I believe the ‘Truth’ of any religion is if it supports it’s adherent’s spiritually in a way they can ultimately bear the singularity of reality without any discriminating perceptual framework. It is only by getting beyond the narrow frames of our selves and the hall of mirrors that is our socio-cultural self image that the human necessity of wisdom and loving-kindness, or just plain friendliness becomes clear. One cannot get that just from clinging to the exoteric beliefs of any religious system.

    If Jesus and God are of the same substance, co-existent and co-eternal, then why shouldn’t one suppose the same of the Creator and the Creation? Is there one reality or two or many?

  98. #98 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 2, 2008

    Sock puppet posts:

    [[You're asserting that the dating of the gospels is (1) uncontroversial and settled within the biblical scholar community]]

    No, YOU’RE asserting that. I’m asserting that there’s no consensus, and that I personally go with the early dates. And your repeated demands for recent citations is silly in view of the fact that I’m quoting sources up to 1997 and you’re quoting the 18th and 19th century Higher Critics. Are you sure your posts aren’t some kind of subtle self-parody?

  99. #99 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 2, 2008

    luminous posts:

    [[Constantinople twisted arms to make sure some decision was made. He didn't care what the decision was as long as it was made. The whole affair was a power play to establish the Church of Rome as the single and absolute hierarchical authority of Christianity. So Constantine could exercise some power over what until then had been an unruly herd of cats.]]

    You can assert that all you want, but it remains untrue. BTW, Constantinople didn’t twist anybody’s arms. Constantinople was a city.

    [[This led to extended bloody civil war, ]]

    Funny, I studied Roman history and I’m not aware of such a war. Constantine was the last guy standing after the civil wars of the early 300s.

    [[(still not over) as most Christians, if not many bishops, believed in some form of what was suddenly official heresy.]]

    If that’s so, it’s hard to understand why only 2 bishops voted in favor of Arius and several hundred voted against.

    [[Metaphysical opinions can vary because they are founded on belief, whether based on reason, tradition or just having a hair up one's ass. It doesn't make one set of beliefs wrong and another true, just different. None of it makes any difference in reality, but in the framework of human perception of reality.]]

    You are assuming, a priori, that religious beliefs have no reality. Sorry, but I’m obviously not going to agree with that.

    [[It's only my opinion, but I believe the 'Truth' of any religion is if it supports it's adherent's spiritually in a way they can ultimately bear the singularity of reality without any discriminating perceptual framework. It is only by getting beyond the narrow frames of our selves and the hall of mirrors that is our socio-cultural self image that the human necessity of wisdom and loving-kindness, or just plain friendliness becomes clear. One cannot get that just from clinging to the exoteric beliefs of any religious system.]]

    Oh, man, I feel like I’m back in 1974. Have you gone beyond the doors of perception and perceived a separate reality, visualizing your spiritual expansion in terms of quantum thought evolution?

    [[If Jesus and God are of the same substance, co-existent and co-eternal, then why shouldn't one suppose the same of the Creator and the Creation?]]

    Because we have empirical evidence that the creation had a start date. We know it’s not eternal, and we’ve pretty much been sure of that since the cosmological background radiation was detected in 1965.

    [[ Is there one reality or two or many?]]

    Just one.

  100. #100 Sock Puppet of the Great Satan
    January 2, 2008

    “you’re quoting the 18th and 19th century Higher Critics”

    When did I quote 18th Century higher critics, Barton? You’ve reacted like I’m opposing you in the debate, when I’m just wondering where the recent scholarship is.

    “I’m asserting that there’s no consensus, and that I personally go with the early dates.”

    You’ve claimed above that those decade-or-more papers/texts have the status of established scientific fact or methodology, akin to Copernican earth-goes-round-the-sun. If you’re switching that to there’s no consensus, then fair play to you, but that’s a substantial moving of goalposts that you’ve done.

    And who won the argument between Theide and Stanton? Now Theide’s dead, who’s carrying on his work?

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