Abusing Science

Number 66 of a series

As promised, I purchased a Kindle edition of Perry Marshall’s Evolution 2.0, and now I will post a few installments of this series based on the book. Glancing through the table of contents, one thing that struck me was a 375-page book ended on page 280. Following are 66 pages of appendices. I had a look.

  • Appendix 1:​All About Randomness
  • Appendix 2:​Genesis 2.0
  • Appendix 3:​Recommended Books
  • Appendix 4:​The Origin of Information: How to Solve It and Win the Evolution 2.0 Prize

I found Appendix 2: Genesis 2.0 most interesting, so I went there first. The core of the book may be revealed here.

We are stardust, billion-year-old carbon,
We are golden, caught in the devil’s bargain,
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden —JONI MITCHELL

Marshall, Perry. Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design (p. 307). BenBella Books, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

That’s the intro to the appendix. In case you miss the point, all we know from science brings us back to the Garden of Eden. In Appendix 2 Marshall is going to demonstrate what we know from modern science reconciles perfectly with Genesis in the Bible. He recounts a conversation with a very tech guy, a person of obvious intellect, and successful in business.

Paul said to me, “My conviction is that the Bible teaches a young Earth. I believe the Earth is 6,000 years old. I take this position because I feel it is necessary for me to be intellectually honest as a Christian.” He leaned back in his chair and continued, with a perplexed look on his face. “But Perry, I will readily admit to you that I cannot defend that with empirical science; I’ve never been able to see any way to work it out.”

Marshall, Perry. Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design (p. 307). BenBella Books, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Marshall proceeds to inform Paul the Earth really is something like 4.5 billion years old, but that’s OK. Genesis tells the true story, if you squint like this. Another excerpt:

I prefer the reading of Genesis 1 and 2 that follows, because it matches modern cosmology, geology, and the fossil record nicely. In this chapter, I’m going to share with you what I said to my friend Paul, the chemical engineer turned high-tech company president.

As we read Genesis together, let’s make two assumptions:

1.​The writer is describing events as they appear from the surface of the Earth starting with verse 2, which establishes the point of view for the remainder of the chapter.

2.​“Day” is a period of time, not 24 hours. The Hebrew word for day (yom) has a variety of meanings in Genesis. A day can be a moment, an era, or a thousand or even a billion years (949). In Genesis 2:4, for example, the word day is used to refer to the entire Creation sequence!*

Marshall, Perry. Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design (p. 310). BenBella Books, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

And there you have it. If “day” is interpreted to mean “billions of years,” then Genesis is spot on. By extension, if “created” is interpreted as meaning “imagined by some people in a Bronze Age tribe living in the Eastern Mediterranean about 3000 years ago, then the God of Abraham is real, and he is a man (not a woman), and he really is his own son, and really did (not) die by crucifixion and later ascend into the outer reaches of space so he can watch over all of us in the minutest of detail, and we can all do as we please while alive—committing any number of heinous acts—but if we accept Jesus as our savior, then when we die we will live happily ever after, along with the innocent children we have raped and murdered.” Also if your grandmother had knobs and an antenna she would be a 1950s TV set, but now I am allowing my mind to wander aimlessly.

This is science from a religious point of view. You don’t want to buy the book—$9.99 plus tax for the Kindle edition—but you want to see more, shoot me an email, and I will send you a few pages.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Graham

Number 5 of a Continuing Saga

Stuff like this takes some getting used to:

Franklin Graham to Buttigieg: Homosexuality ‘sin’ to be ‘repentant of’ not ‘flaunted’

The evangelical preacher Franklin Graham has taken aim at presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg for being a self-described gay Christian.

Specifically:

Presidential candidate & South Bend Mayor is right—God doesn’t have a political party. But God does have commandments, laws & standards He gives us to live by. God doesn’t change. His Word is the same yesterday, today & forever. 1/3

Mayor Buttigieg says he’s a gay Christian. As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man & a woman—not two men, not two women. 2/3

The core of the Christian faith is believing and following Jesus Christ, who God sent to be the Savior of the world—to save us from sin, to save us from hell, to save us from eternal damnation. 3/3

The Reverend Franklin Graham has some history. For example:

I appreciate Reverend Graham’s observation concerning “numerous instances from the Bible where people turned the tide of history by prayer.” Here’s one from Ezekiel 9:

Which refers to:

Ezekiel 9:4-6 King James Version (KJV)

And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity:

Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.

“God does have commandments, laws & standards He gives us to live by….” The god that commanded, “Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women …” Yes, this is the god we should follow. I’m feeling more comfortable already.

It’s also the same god, according to Franklin Graham, that “says marriage is between a man & a woman—not two men, not two women.” Actually, that god does not say any such thing.

2 Samuel 5:13 King James Version (KJV)

13 And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to David.

But that’s the Old Testament. Graham is a follower of Jesus, who was decidedly against homosexuality. Here is what Jesus had to say about homosexuality.

Anyhow, true Christians know marriage is between one man and one woman:

“When the Christian Church came into being, polygamy was still practiced by the Jews. It is true that we find no references to it in the New Testament; and from this some have inferred that it must have fallen into disuse, and that at the time of our Lord the Jewish people had become monogamous. But the conclusion appears to be unwarranted. Josephus in two places speaks of polygamy as a recognized institution: and Justin Martyr makes it a matter of reproach to Trypho that the Jewish teachers permitted a man to have several wives. Indeed when in 212 A.D. the lex Antoniana de civitate gave the rights of Roman Citizenship to great numbers of Jews, it was found necessary to tolerate polygamy among them, even though it was against Roman law for a citizen to have more than one wife. In 285 A.D. a constitution of Diocletian and Maximian interdicted polygamy to all subjects of the empire without exception. But with the Jews, at least, the enactment failed of its effect; and in 393 A.D. a special law was issued by Theodosius to compel the Jews to relinquish this national custom. Even so they were not induced to conform.

If you think Reverend Graham is making stuff up, you are in good company.

And the horse you rode in on.

Deconstructing Robert Ingersoll

Number 7 in a Series

Continuing a review of Robert Ingersoll’s collected works

Ingersoll demonstrates additional proof that people have created their gods rather than the reverse.

Man has not only created all these gods, but he has created them out of the materials by which he has been surrounded. Generally he has modeled them after himself, and has given them hands, heads, feet, eyes, ears, and organs of speech. Each nation made its gods and devils speak its language not only, but put in their mouths the same mistakes in history, geography, astronomy, and in all matters of fact, generally made by the people. No god was ever in advance of the nation that created him.

Ingersoll, Robert Green. The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, (Complete 12 Volumes) (Kindle Locations 166-169). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.

It brings to mind an old joke. Here is my version:

Herbie was born and grew up in Queens, more properly Queens Borough, New York. His friend Nathan from time to time pestered Herbie with wacky ideas. One day Nathan came in all excited.

“Herbie,” he exclaimed. You have got to come to see this woman I met yesterday. Her name is Miss Yarna, and she tells me fantastic things. She tells me things about myself that only I know.”

Herbie was nonplussed. He told Nathan that business was fake and nonsense. But Nathan was persistent. “Herbie, she can put you in contact with your grandmother, your Bubbe.”

Herbie figured he needed to get Nathan clued up, so he went along with him to visit Miss Yarna. Miss Yarna was properly impressive. She wore a long, flowing gown, and her hair was stacked almost to the ceiling. Nathan introduced Herbie, and he told Miss Yarna that Herbie wanted to communicate with his Bubbe, who had been dead five years.

Miss Yarna told the two she would enter a trance and would speak to them in Bubbe’s voice. She closed her eyes and rocked back and forth. Finally she began to speak. She reminded Herbie how she told him to always eat his vegetables and to not run around with fast women. And much more. Finally Bubbe asked Herbie if he had a question he wanted her to answer.

Herbie, obviously entranced, thought for a moment and then spoke. “Bubbe, when did you learn to speak English?”

Wacko Right Wing Religious Fanatics Say The Darndest Things

Number 22 of a continuing series

They really do, readers. These wacko right wing religious fanatics say the darndest things. In that light, here is some old news:

Roy Moore says ‘we’ve asked for’ shootings and killings by turning away from God

As I mentioned, that was last year, but it is no less worth reminiscing about. It serves as a notice to how close American society has come to the brink. Not clear? Here is a bit of analysis.

As Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Judge Moore repeatedly broke the law by using the power of his office to promote religion at public expense. After being overruled by the United States Supreme Court and after defying the Court’s order, Judge Moore was removed from office, twice. His second term in office came about when Alabama citizens chose personal preference over the rule of law and elected the disgraced judge back to his previous position. There is more.

Out of office, Judge Moore saw a new opening. President Donald Trump nominated his staunch supporter Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama to be Attorney General of the United States. After a contentious confirmation process, Senator Sessions obtained the appointment. Then he fell immediately into President Trump’s disfavor owing to his preference of the rule of law over Mr. Trump’s desire to rule by decree.

Anyhow, that left open a Senate seat in Alabama, and Judge Moore made a run for it. Fortunately for the country, Judge Moore’s fondness for young girls proved to be enough to bring Alabama voters to elect Judge Moore’s Democratic opponent to the Senate, shaving the Republican majority in the Senate by one more count.

Let’s double the irony. Donald Trump subsequently fired Jeff Sessions, so now the once Republican Senator from Alabama is now a private citizen. I am sure Donald Trump never saw this coming or possibly did not care.

Anyhow, this nation narrowly dodged a bullet, in the form of a carbon life form who believes removing a fictional character from public adulation had the direct result of mass killings in the United States. To which thinking I would respond, really? Let’s take a look at what we lose by shunning this bit of biblical fiction. Start with this:

Judges 19:29 New International Version (NIV)

29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel.

But that is not strictly speaking mass murder. This is:

1 Samuel 15:3 King James Version (KJV)

Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

 This is how we avoid mass killings in this country? Never was “wacko” so well-defined.

Dying to Believe

Number 134 in a series

Hey! I’m quitting putting these out on Tuesdays. Tuesdays are going to get a different series starting this week. These Dying to Believe posts will be coming out whenever something along those lines pops up. Which are likely to be often.

I am told that God helps those who help themselves. Apparently Jesus feeds those who feed themselves:

South African pastor dies after 30 days fasting; wanted to beat Jesus Christ’s record

A pastor in South Africa who wanted to break the fasting record held by Jesus Christ ended up killing himself from hunger.

Published: Isaac Dachen

A popular pastor in South Africa, Alfred Ndlovu, took the temptation of competing with God too far when he decided to embark on a dry fasting that would break the 40 days and 40 nights Jesus Christ underwent, when he died after just 30 days into the programme.

This seems to be old news. Maybe 2000 years old. But hey, people, don’t go believing stuff your read in the Bible. That book is filled with stories of animals that can talk, dead people coming back to life and people turning wine into water. Or was it water into wine? Doesn’t matter. It’s a bunch of foolishness, and you don’t want to be pulling down a Darwin Award for killing yourself through false belief. Take it from me and have a nice bowl of multi-grain cereal with skim milk for breakfast, and have a glass of orange juice on the side. I won’t guarantee you will live forever, but you might maked through the remainder of the month.

And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Lotz Wife

A Recurring Appearance—Number 4

This is a bunch to unload, but here’s a start, from The Intellectualist:

Billy Graham’s Daughter: We Deserve To Be Hit With A Nuclear Strike

Evangelist Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, said God will punish America’s immorality with a nuclear strike.

Lotz says she believes severe judgment is coming and has partly begun. “And I’m talking about something like a nuclear strike, an earthquake that splits us in two, an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack that devastates our electrical grid. Something major that would be a game-changer for America, because we are so defiant and rebellious and idolatrous and immoral, and we know better.”

I don’t know about you, but I am glad to receive the heads up.

Deconstructing Robert Ingersoll

Number 6 in a Series

Continuing a review of Robert Ingersoll’s collected works

Ingersoll discusses the perceived influence of Jehovah and the devil with respect to human welfare. It is claimed that God has people’s best interest at heart, but his dealing with Adam and Eve is one of suppression and retribution, while the devil rewards the pair with knowledge, freedom, and advancement. Don’t take my word for it. Read the Bible. Ingersoll did.

The account shows, however, that the gods dreaded education and knowledge then just as they do now. The church still faithfully guards the dangerous tree of knowledge, and has exerted in all ages her utmost power to keep mankind from eating the fruit thereof. The priests have never ceased repeating the old falsehood and the old threat: “Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” From every pulpit comes the same cry, born of the same fear: “Lest they eat and become as gods, knowing good and evil.” For this reason, religion hates science, faith detests reason, theology is the sworn enemy of philosophy, and the church with its flaming sword still guards the hated tree, and like its supposed founder, curses to the lowest depths the brave thinkers who eat and become as gods.

Ingersoll, Robert Green. The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, (Complete 12 Volumes) (Kindle Locations 150-156). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.

He has a keen sense for picking out absurdities that should be obvious to the most casual of readers yet remain hidden in plane sight to the faithful. May Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Deconstructing Robert Ingersoll

Number 5 in a Series

Continuing a review of Robert Ingersoll’s collected works

His analysis of the Bible as the supposed work of an overarching intellect is keenly observant.

All that is necessary, as it seems to me, to convince any reasonable person that the Bible is simply and purely of human invention—of barbarian invention—is to read it Read it as you would any other book; think of it as you would of any other; get the bandage of reverence from your eyes; drive from your heart the phantom of fear; push from the throne of your brain the cowled form of superstition—then read the Holy Bible, and you will be amazed that you ever, for one moment, supposed a being of infinite wisdom, goodness and purity, to be the author of such ignorance and of such atrocity.

Ingersoll, Robert Green. The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, (Complete 12 Volumes) (Kindle Locations 112-116). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.

A person would have to wonder how it would be possible to take advice from the Bible after reading it while leaving behind the prejudice from conviction. May Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Deconstructing Robert Ingersoll

Number 4 in a Series

Robert Ingersoll, writing in the 19th century,  was a notorious critic of the Bible, raising criticism that portended major issues that confront us today. From The Works of Robert Ingersoll:

The book, called the Bible, is filled with passages equally horrible, unjust and atrocious. This is the book to be read in schools in order to make our children loving, kind and gentle! This is the book to be recognized in our Constitution as the source of all authority and justice!

Ingersoll, Robert Green. The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, (Complete 12 Volumes) (Kindle Locations 89-91). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.

Deconstructing Robert Ingersoll

Number 3 in a Series

Robert Ingersoll employed considerable energy picking apart the absurdity of religious faith. An example from The Works of Robert Ingersoll:

Few nations have been so poor as to have but one god. Gods were made so easily, and the raw material cost so little, that generally the god market was fairly glutted, and heaven crammed with these phantoms. These gods not only attended to the skies, but were supposed to interfere in all the affairs of men. They presided over everybody and everything. They attended to every department. All was supposed to be under their immediate control. Nothing was too small—nothing too large; the falling of sparrows and the motions of the planets were alike attended to by these industrious and observing deities. From their starry thrones they frequently came to the earth for the purpose of imparting information to man. It is related of one that he came amid thunderings and lightnings in order to tell the people that they should not cook a kid in its mother’s milk. Some left their shining abodes to tell women that they should, or should not, have children, to inform a priest how to cut and wear his apron, and to give directions as to the proper manner of cleaning the intestines of a bird.

Ingersoll, Robert Green. The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, (Complete 12 Volumes) (Kindle Locations 50-58). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.

This series will continue to explore comments from this 19th century speaker. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Deconstructing Robert Ingersoll

Number 2 in a Series

The first volume of The Works of Robert Ingersoll is titled “Lectures.” The first of these dissects “The Gods: An Honest God is the Noblest Work of Man.” Ingersoll stands aghast at how little the gods know about the realm they are credited with creating.

These gods did not even know the shape of the worlds they had created, but supposed them perfectly flat Some thought the day could be lengthened by stopping the sun, that the blowing of horns could throw down the walls of a city, and all knew so little of the real nature of the people they had created, that they commanded the people to love them. Some were so ignorant as to suppose that man could believe just as he might desire, or as they might command, and that to be governed by observation, reason, and experience was a most foul and damning sin. None of these gods could give a true account of the creation of this little earth. All were wofully deficient in geology and astronomy. As a rule, they were most miserable legislators, and as executives, they were far inferior to the average of American presidents.

Ingersoll, Robert Green. The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, (Complete 12 Volumes) (Kindle Locations 40-46). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.

Ingersoll concludes, as does any honest person, that God was created by man and suffers all of man’s shortcomings.

People Unclear

This is number 63 of a series

Everybody hold up for a second. Somebody didn’t get the memo. Let me do a quick check. Yes, here he is. It’s Matt Shea, representing Washington’s 4th District:

I believe in limiting government and empowering the free enterprise system so that the people of Washington state can retain and create private sector jobs. Allowing the economy to grow, increasing our tax base, is what should fund our state budget – NOT tax increases. The Freedom Agenda, the most successful slate of conservative legislation in Washington state, is based on defending the Constitution, private property rights, gun ownership, veterans, and the sanctity of human life, while promoting lower taxes, less government and more freedom.

Hold on. That’s not all. Mr. Shea of the great state of Washington has more to say:

Biblical Basis for War

  1. God is a warrior.
  2. When is the time for war? When God says it’s time…Prayer Council.
  3. Fight to win so you don’t have to fight again.

And more, including some very interesting points:

c. Make an offer of peace before declaring war.

[Leading to…]

iii. If they yield – must pay share of work or taxes.

iv. If they do not yield – kill all males.

Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you want, but something tugs at me that says this is going beyond any amount of reason. But wait. Haven’t we seen this before?

12 And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:

13 And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:

14 But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.

Yeah. That explains a lot. Representative Matt Shea has been reading the Bible again. Apparently he did not get the memo.

And what a relief is to learn that Matt Shea is not allowed to handle sharp object, or to operate heavy machinery. Or to vote. But then, I’ve been wrong before.

Dying to Believe

Number 120 in a series

Just a friendly reminder: don’t believe all that stuff you read in the Bible. That is, unless you are looking for an early exit:

Watch: Rattlesnake attacks Christian conservative pastor who thought Jesus would ‘save him’

In Middlesboro, Kentucky, a pastor was seen collapsing to the ground after he was bitten by a rattlesnake in front of his congregation.

Back in 2014, the pastor’s father had also died within seven minutes after being bitten by a rattlesnake at the same church.

The church is inspired by Mark 16:18 that reads, “They will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them.”

Listen to Jesus if you want, but there is no getting around hard chemical and biological reality.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 230 of a series

This has to be just about Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s worst move. Then, I never saw any of the Conan films. This is End of Days, and it came out in 1999, at the appropriate time for such a movie. Recall that as the 20th century closed down all kinds of doom was projected, not counting four-digit date software issues. The deal was 2000 was supposed to be the 2000th anniversary of Jesus of Nazareth (born in the year -4). 2000 was supposed to be the beginning of the new millennium, and it was, except the new millennium started at the end of 2000, not the first of January 2000. Anyhow, this is about the religious notion of end of days, and there is more on this topic than you care to hear. The movie is currently streaming on Hulu, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

When the movie opens we see a priest (or a monk) at the Vatican pulling out cannisters of ancient scrolls. He finds the one he is looking for.

He takes the document to the Holy Father with startling news. The girl that was prophesied is about to be born. It’s 1979, twenty years prior to 1999, and the girl is going to grow up to bear the child of the Prince of Darkness. Many churchmen declare the girl must be killed to forestall this prophecy. The Pope decides (since when?) it would be immoral to sacrifice an innocent. The girl must be protected.

It’s a few days before New Year’s Eve in 1999, and a Nameless Banker (Gabriel Byrne) is having dinner at a swanky Manhattan eatery, along with a business acquaintance and a most charming woman. He gets up and goes to the men’s room. While he is inside relieving himself, a disturbance in the fabric of time and space comes down the street and enters the restaurant. It follows the banker into the men’s room and engulfs him. The banker becomes the host of the Prince of Darkness.

The man exits the restroom, strides to his table, kisses the woman passionately, and goes outside. As he strolls away the restaurant is demolished in a fiery explosion.

Meanwhile, super cop Jericho Cane (Arnold) and his partner capture a crook. Here is Arnold doing his True Lies stuff, snagging the bad dude in mid-air while dangling from a cable attached to a helicopter overhead.

The girl is born, and now she is 20 and most likely still a virgin. Her parents are dead, and she is being raised by a mysterious woman, soon to be revealed as working for the Holy See. The church is dedicated to protecting the girl, but at the same time to prevent her being impregnated by the Dark Prince. The impregnation must occur between 13:00 p.m. and midnight on 31 December 1999. The reason for this is never adequately explained.

Here young and virginal Christine York (Robin Tunney) rides a subway train, confronted by an apparition. It’s a manifestation of the dark side, and Christine has been plagued with this kind of thing for years. From outward appearances she is schizophrenic.

Back at her apartment some men break in with the intent to kill Christine. But first they must administrate the last rites. These are people from the church, and their intent is to keep Satan from humping her and getting her pregnant.

But Cane and his partner, following up on a related case, happen by, and Christine is saved. Cane becomes interested in Christine.

And the movie plot is off and running as Cane must prevent the girl from getting knocked up during the critical hour, and the rest is cinema FX, packed with scenes such as this one of a subway car crashing in a tunnel.

Come the critical hour, and Cane destroys the banker, but the manifestation invades his body, and he prepares to impregnate Christine, by force, on a church altar.

By sure will power Cane overcomes the dark force and tells Christine to run. It is seconds before the ball drops in Times Square. The church is half wrecked, and Cane impales himself upon the sword of a fallen statue. This is most gruesome.

The ball drops, and the magic hour expires for another 1000 years.

Cane has given all and has atoned for his years of denial of the power of faith. It’s a tale for the ages.

Yes, and that is all the movie has going for it. Based on a legend concocted by people unknown at a time unknown and having no basis in fact or scripture. It is a bad movie.

As I watch through this I was struck by the many ways the prophecy could have been forestalled. Cane could have screwed the girl and gotten her pregnant. She could have gone on the pill (except the church would object).

Also, this Prince of Darkness is such an omnipotent being, how come he has to go through all theis rigmarole to impregnate the girl, and how come he is unable to use his vast powers to defeat some bumbling cops? If this shows the limitations of the Prince of Darkness, why are we so concerned that he could possibly dominate the world.

And finally, this planet is one of possibly billions of habitable worlds in the universe, and it just happens to be the center of all this attention? Tell me more.

My favorite Arnold film tends to be Kindergarten Cop, where Arnold does comedy well. The Terminator is good, also, but there he’s a stand-in for  machine and not a real person. True Lies was another comedic tough guy role for Arnold. I need to review Total Recall.

The Years of Living Stupidly

Number 5 in a series

Did I mention I previously attended meetings of a creationist group in Dallas? I’m sure I did. Here’s more of the same.

There’s a group called the Metroplex Institute of Origin Science, MIOS, and they had program meetings on a Tuesday night most every month. Often times there were presentations on why creation is true and evolution is wrong, not only wrong but usually evil. These were what I call creationists of the first type. They hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible, which is the origin of the creation story. So they need to continually confirm the truth of biblical stories, including the famous flood of Noah. Also other stories. Including the story of Joshua.

A presentation one night was a bizarre explanation of how the story of Joshua at the Battle of Jericho has been proved true. I have a copy of the handouts from the meeting, and here it is, as verbatim as my ability allows:

THE SUN DID STAND STILL

Did you know that the space program is busy proving that what has been called “myth” in the Bible is true? Mr. Harold Hill, President of the Curtis Engine Co. in Baltimore, Maryland, and a consultant in the space program, relates the following development:

“I think one of the most amazing things that God has for us today happened recently to our astronauts and space scientists at Green Belt, Maryland. They were checking the position of the sun, moon, and planets out in space where they would be 100 years and 1,000 years from now. We have to know this so we don’t send a satellite up and have it bump into something later on in its orbits. We have to lay out the orbits in terms of the life of the satellite, and where the planets will be so the whole thing will not bog down! They ran the computer measurement back and forth over the centuries and it came to a halt. The computer stopped and put up a red signal, which meant that there was something wrong either with the information fed into it or with the results as compared to the standards. They called in the service department to check it out and they said, “It’s perfect.” The head of operations said, “What’s wrong?” “Well, they have found there is a day missing in space in elapsed time.” They scratched their heads and tore their hair. There was no answer!

One religious fellow on the team said, “You know, one time I was in Sunday School and they talked about the sun standing still.” They didn’t believe him; but they didn’t have any other answer so they said, “Show us.” He got a Bible and went back to the Book of Joshua where they found a pretty ridiculous statement for anybody who has ‘common sense’. There they found the Lord saying to Joshua, “Fear them not; for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee.” Joshua was concerned because he was surrounded by the enemy and if darkness fell they would overpower them. So Joshua asked the Lord to make the sun stand still! That’s right — “The sun stood still, and the moon stayed . . . and pasted not to go down about a whole day.” Joshua 10:8,12,13. The space men said, “There is the missing day!” They checked the computers going back into the time it was written and found it was close but not close enough. The elapsed time that was missing back in Joshua’s day was 23 hours and 20 minutes — not a whole day. They read the Bible and there it was -­”about (approximately) a day.”

These little words in the Bible are important. But they were still in trouble because if you cannot account for 40 minutes you’ll be in trouble 1,000 years from now. Forty minutes had to be found because it can be multiplied many times over in orbits. This religious fellow also remembered somwhere in the Bible where it said the sun went BACKWARDS. The space men told him he was out of his mind. But they got the Book and read these words in II Kings: Hezakiah, on his death-bed, was visited by the Prophet Isaiah who told him that he was not going to die. Hezekiah asked for a sign as proof. Isaiah said, “Do you want the sun to go ahead ten degrees?” Hezekiah said, “It’s nothing for the sun to go ahead ten degrees, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees.” II Kings 20: 9-11. Isaiah spoke to the Lord and the Lord brought the shadow ten degrees BACKWARDS! Ten degrees is exactly 40 minutes! Twenty-three hours and 20 minutes in Joshua, plus 40 minutes in II Kings make the missing 24 hours the space travelers had to log in the logbook as being the missing day in the universe! Isn’t that amazing? Our God is rubbing their noses in His Truth!”

The above article was copied from “The Evening Star”, Spencer, Indiana. It is verified by Mr. Harold Hill, who gave permission for reprinting, February 22, 1970.

References Cited for “The Missing Day in Time”

Did the Sun Stand Still? Tract No. 1211. North Syracuse, N.Y.: Book Fellowship [n.d., 7 pp.] *Mentions Irwin H. Linton, A Lawyer Examines the Bible.

Apologetics. By Harry Conn. Minneapolis: Men for Missions [tract, n.d., 9 pp.]

The Missing Day /Behind the Missing Day. Minneapolis: Osterhus Pub. House [tract, n.d., 4 pp.]

Harold Hill, as told to Irene Burk Harrell. How to Live Like a King’s Kid. Plainfield, N.J.: Logos International, 1974. Ch. 13, “How to Find the Missing Day,” pp. 65-75. On pp. 75-77: “Book Report ‘Long Day of Joshua’ C. A. L. Totten,” by V. L. Westberg, August 1970, Sonoma, Cal.

Joshua’s Long Day. In Five Minutes with the Bible & Science. Daily Reading Magazine. Supplement to Bible-Science Newsletter. Vol. VIII: No. 5 (May, 1978). Caldwell, Id. [2 pp.] *Mentions Robert L. Odem, “The Lost Day of Joshua,” Ministry (November/December, 1970), and J. B. Dimbleby, All Past Time.

Harry Rimmer. The Harmony of Science and Scripture. [1927] 4th edn., Berne, Ind.: Berne Witness Company, 1937.

Charles A. L. Totten. Joshua’s Long Day and the Dial of Ahaz. A Scientific Vindication. [1890] Study No. 2 of “The Our Race Series—The Voice of History.” Merrimac, Mass.: Destiny Publishers, 1968 edn. with a foreword by Howard B. Rand.

Dan A. Oren. Joining the Club: A History of Jews and Yale.New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.

“A Clergyman Insane. He is a Graduate of Yale and one of Lieut. Toten’s [sic] Disciples.” The New York Times. 26 June 1891. p.l.

“No Rest for Totten.” The New York Times. 13 March 1892. p. 4. “Lieut. Totten’s Vagaries.” The New York Times. 30 March 1892. p. 1

*I have not yet located these three publications, mentioned in works consulted. I would be grateful for information about them, and for copies of “Missing Day” fliers or tracts.

Jan Harold Brunvand Department of English University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT 84112

All right. You’ve read it. So, maybe you didn’t read it. Maybe you read part of it. Let’s take it from there. I was in the room when this presentation was handed out. There were fully functional adults in the room. And nobody laughed. Nobody. I must have held my breath. How about some Skeptical Analysis. Where to start? Let’s start with this bit of unreason:

They ran the computer measurement back and forth over the centuries and it came to a halt. The computer stopped and put up a red signal, which meant that there was something wrong either with the information fed into it or with the results as compared to the standards.

The computer stopped? Really? Why? Computers don’t just stop. They get finished, and they pause, waiting for something new to come along. The computer put up a red signal? This is massively intriguing. I am, most of us are, accustomed to error messages on computers. They tend to be in the order of:

  • Unexpected “{” in line 32.
  • File not found.
  • Segmentation fault—core dumped.
  • Blue screen of death.

Some forgiveness may be due. Permission for reprinting was given in 1970, so the events preceded Windows 3.2. Maybe a red light (flashing or not) was all that was available.

Anyhow, the explanation for the computer’s stopping comes off the rails quickly. There was a missing day? Really? How does a day turn up missing? What information could the computer possibly have been chewing on to make it conclude there was a missing day? Yeah, that’s curious. Fortunately I have done some of this stuff. I took celestial mechanics and interplanetary navigation in college, and I also did a term project much like the one described above. It goes like this.

You provide the data for the simulation. There are celestial bodies with these masses in these positions and traveling at these velocities. You press the start key, and the simulation launches, predicting where the bodies will be in one-minute (or whatever) intervals. One of the inputs includes a condition that signals the simulation to stop. A condition such as “Simulate 500 hours.” You can easily run the simulation backwards in time. Just reverse the velocities of all the bodies and hit the start key. The simulation will tell you where the bodies were in the past. That is what the NASA simulation must have been doing. And NASA and astronomers and curious amateurs like me do this sort of thing. For one thing, you might want to know where the moon’s shadow crossed the Earth’s surface. Here’s one:

12 June 2000 BC 03:14:51 5 Total 1.0733 06m 37s 6.0°N 33.3°W 247 km (153 mi)

I don’t know if anybody was around to see that, but we can all be sure it happened. Celestial mechanics is a well-developed science.

And no, there is no missing day.

The remainder of the story requires scrutiny. I will scrutinize partially.

The above article was copied from “The Evening Star”, Spencer, Indiana. It is verified by Mr. Harold Hill, who gave permission for reprinting, February 22, 1970.

Permission was given in February 22, 1970. Compare that with this:

Harold Hill, as told to Irene Burk Harrell. How to Live Like a King’s Kid. Plainfield, N.J.: Logos International, 1974. Ch. 13, “How to Find the Missing Day,” pp. 65-75. On pp. 75-77: “Book Report ‘Long Day of Joshua’ C. A. L. Totten,” by V. L. Westberg, August 1970, Sonoma, Cal.

Permission was given to reprint prior to when Harold Hill told the story to Irene Burk Harrell. I will not belabor. Feel free to spot the additional discrepancies.

I was able to verify the “Totten” references appearing in the New York Times back in the 19th century. Apparently there was a C.A.L. Totten back then, and he caught the attention of the Times often. This is from Wikipedia:

Charles Adelle Lewis Totten (February 3, 1851 – April 12, 1908) was an American military officer, a professor of military tactics, a prolific writer, and an influential early advocate of British Israelism.

Finally, there is this item’s signatory:

Jan Harold Brunvand Department of English University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT 84112

We know Jan Brunvand. He’s the person who created the concept of the urban legend. Is it possible “The Sun Did Stand Still” is a sample from his studies blown up into something to impress fellow creationists? I shudder to think.

Stronger Than Dirt

Restating the obvious – 3

Reece has responded to my previous post. See the link above. He sent an email, which follows:

Thanks for sharing and taking the time to respond to my comment. I’d just like to respond to a few of your points made in the article…

“When we say “God,” what do we mean.”

You already know what God I mean, because out of the many that exist, there’s only one God which atheists focus on with their attacks 99% of the time. I know this wasn’t a straight out argument, but I see the point you were making. The problem with this statement, and the common argument about the thousands of other gods that atheists make, is that it’s like saying to a prosecutor of a murder trial: “You believe John Smith killed this man? Well, I don’t think anybody killed this man; he died accidentally. I mean, think about it. There are 7 billion potential murderers out there, and you believe that 6,999,999,999 of them did not kill this man. I just believe in one less murderer than you do .” The prosecutor doesn’t just arbitrarily pick one suspect out of billions, each of whom is equally guilty. Instead, she has good reasons for choosing this one suspect out of all the others. Just because there are thousands of false gods or billions of people who are innocent of a certain crime, it doesn’t follow that there is no true God or no single person who is guilty of a crime.

 

Now you’ve listed a list of some of the usual ‘so called’ Bible contradictions. First, let’s be clear that there are viable and intellectually plausible answers to every supposed Bible contradiction and error. See: https://answersingenesis.org/contradictions-in-the-bible/scripture-index/ or http://defendinginerrancy.com/bible-difficulties/ 

So we can’t really use apparent contradictions to disprove the Bible’s reliability if we are being honest here. For example:

Who incited David to count the fighting men of Israel?
God did (2 Samuel 24: 1)
Satan did (I Chronicles 21:1)

1. This would appear to be a contradiction, however, when we know God’s nature from other verses, and that all temptation is permitted by God, but not caused by God. We realize that Satan provoked David to number the people, and God allowed him to do so. God allows those things which serve to advance His holy and perfect will. 

In that count how many fighting men were found in Israel?
Eight hundred thousand (2 Samuel 24:9)
One million, one hundred thousand (I Chronicles 21:5)

How many fighting men were found in Judah?
Five hundred thousand (2 Samuel 24:9)
Four hundred and seventy thousand (I Chronicles 21:5)

2. It is possible that this 1,100,000 describes the grand total for Israel including the standing army which consisted of 12 units of 24,000 men each (288,000, 1 Chron. 27:1-15) plus 12,000 especially attached to Jerusalem and the chariot cities (2 Chron. 1:14). These 300,000 subtracted from 1,100,000 would yield the 800,000 figure in 2 Samuel 24:9. Also the chronicler may not have included the 30,000-man standing army of Judah (6:1) whereas they were included in chapter 24. This would raise the 470,000 total of Chronicles to the 500,000 of Samuel. 

God sent his prophet to threaten David with how many years of famine?
Seven (2 Samuel 24:13)
Three (I Chronicles 21:12)

3. The solution to this one can be solved when we look at the verse before it. It says,
 
“Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David inquired of the Lord. And the Lord answered, “It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites.” (2 Samuel 21:1)
 
Clearly, Israel had already experienced three years of famine before David numbered the people of Israel and Judah. 2 Samuel 24:1–7 record the initiation of the census, but we find in verse 8 that “when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.” 
 
So according to the text, numbering the people was nearly a year-long process, and there is no clear indication that God had suspended the initial three-year famine prior to the events in chapter 24. Now if God had combined three additional years of famine (1 Chronicles 21:12) with the three years of initial famine, and a possible intervening year while the census was conducted, the resulting overall famine would have totaled about seven years (2 Samuel 24:13).

How old was Ahaziah when he began to rule over Jerusalem?
Twenty-two (2 Kings 8:26)
Forty-two (2 Chronicles 22:2)

4. We aren’t given too much information here, but there are two solutions which clear up this apparent contradiction. Either the 42 is in reference to the beginning of the kingly reign of which Ahaziah is a part, or this was a copyist error which changed the original 22 in 2 Chronicles 22:2 to 42.

I could go on, but please do take a look at those two links above and check out the answers for yourself. 
 
The trouble is, myself and Christians who believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of the Word of God, know that all of these can be reconciled, whereas skeptics will most likely deny again and again. But as long as you can admit, we can’t use the so called contradictions to disprove the Bible because there are answers to everyone of them. Also, do you think if someone went to all the effort to make up the Bible, they would put in such obvious contradictions?

“We have to justify the existence of God (the God of Abraham) without resorting to the Bible. How?”

It seems to me like you think the Bible, and nature are the only ways to prove God’s existence. That’s true, but I can prove God on many other factors excluding the Bible. If I prove the Bible is true and God exists, would you want to become a Christian?
 
Can I show you some evidence for God, John? I’m not going to force you to believe, but if you are willing to look open mindedly I’ll show you some.
 
Regards, Reece

I responded to Reece’s email, and I promised to post his comments and to respond. Here is my response.

Regarding my need to establish which God is being discussed, too much is made of asking the question. It is standard and good practice before entering a discussion to  establish that both parties are using the same terminology. Of course we are talking about the God of Abraham. I never doubted that. I wanted Reece to say it, so I posed the question. That’s the only reason.

Reece talks of “apparent contradictions.” No. These are actual contradictions. Reece links to two sites dealing with apparent contradictions. I will proceed for now without digging into those. I will address those matters in a separate posting. Follow the blog to catch it when it gets posted.

Reece’s number 1. “This would appear to be a contradiction…” It is an actual contradiction. I will not allow anybody to explain this away with another made-up story. Introducing a made-up story to explain another made-up story does not accomplish anything. To explain away a made-up story what you need to do is to demonstrate that it is not made up.

Reece’s number 2. “It is possible that this 1,100,000 describes the grand total for Israel…” Again, no. This is a real contradiction and it cannot be explained away by a wave of the hand. Any serious reader will come to the conclusion that the Bible first says one thing and then later says something that contradicts what was said previously. Any reasonable and coherent text would include an explanation were there one to be given. There was not.

Reece’s number 3. “The solution to this one can be solved when we look at the verse before it.” All right. Let’s examine the context from BibleGateway.com:

1 Chronicles 21 King James Version (KJV)

21 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.

And Joab answered, The Lord make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?

Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem.

And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword.

But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king’s word was abominable to Joab.

And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel.

And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.

And the Lord spake unto Gad, David’s seer, saying,

10 Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things: choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.

11 So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Choose thee

12 Either three years’ famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee; or else three days the sword of the Lord, even the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel. Now therefore advise thyself what word I shall bring again to him that sent me.

13 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the Lord; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.

14 So the Lord sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men.

15 And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.

16 And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the Lord stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces.

17 And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O Lordmy God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued.

18 Then the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the Lord in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.

19 And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the Lord.

20 And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat.

21 And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshingfloor, and bowed himself to David with his face to the ground.

22 Then David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of this threshingfloor, that I may build an altar therein unto the Lord: thou shalt grant it me for the full price: that the plague may be stayed from the people.

23 And Ornan said unto David, Take it to thee, and let my lord the king do that which is good in his eyes: lo, I give thee the oxen also for burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for wood, and the wheat for the meat offering; I give it all.

24 And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take that which is thine for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings without cost.

25 So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight.

26 And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the Lord; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering.

27 And the Lord commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof.

28 At that time when David saw that the Lord had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there.

29 For the tabernacle of the Lord, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, were at that season in the high place at Gibeon.

30 But David could not go before it to enquire of God: for he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the Lord.

2 Samuel 21 King James Version (KJV)

21 Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David enquired of the Lord. And the Lord answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.

And the king called the Gibeonites, and said unto them; (now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; and the children of Israel had sworn unto them: and Saul sought to slay them in his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah.)

Wherefore David said unto the Gibeonites, What shall I do for you? and wherewith shall I make the atonement, that ye may bless the inheritance of the Lord?

And the Gibeonites said unto him, We will have no silver nor gold of Saul, nor of his house; neither for us shalt thou kill any man in Israel. And he said, What ye shall say, that will I do for you.

And they answered the king, The man that consumed us, and that devised against us that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the coasts of Israel,

Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up unto the Lord in Gibeah of Saul, whom the Lord did choose. And the king said, I will give them.

But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the Lord‘s oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul.

But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bare unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite:

And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the Lord: and they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest.

10 And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night.

11 And it was told David what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done.

12 And David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the men of Jabeshgilead, which had stolen them from the street of Bethshan, where the Philistines had hanged them, when the Philistines had slain Saul in Gilboa:

13 And he brought up from thence the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son; and they gathered the bones of them that were hanged.

14 And the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son buried they in the country of Benjamin in Zelah, in the sepulchre of Kish his father: and they performed all that the king commanded. And after that God was intreated for the land.

15 Moreover the Philistines had yet war again with Israel; and David went down, and his servants with him, and fought against the Philistines: and David waxed faint.

16 And Ishbibenob, which was of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of brass in weight, he being girded with a new sword, thought to have slain David.

17 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah succoured him, and smote the Philistine, and killed him. Then the men of David sware unto him, saying, Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel.

18 And it came to pass after this, that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob: then Sibbechai the Hushathite slew Saph, which was of the sons of the giant.

19 And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.

20 And there was yet a battle in Gath, where was a man of great stature, that had on every hand six fingers, and on every foot six toes, four and twenty in number; and he also was born to the giant.

21 And when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimeah the brother of David slew him.

22 These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants.

2 Samuel 24 King James Version (KJV)

24 And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

For the king said to Joab the captain of the host, which was with him, Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number of the people.

And Joab said unto the king, Now the Lord thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, and that the eyes of my lord the king may see it: but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?

Notwithstanding the king’s word prevailed against Joab, and against the captains of the host. And Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the king, to number the people of Israel.

And they passed over Jordan, and pitched in Aroer, on the right side of the city that lieth in the midst of the river of Gad, and toward Jazer:

Then they came to Gilead, and to the land of Tahtimhodshi; and they came to Danjaan, and about to Zidon,

And came to the strong hold of Tyre, and to all the cities of the Hivites, and of the Canaanites: and they went out to the south of Judah, even to Beersheba.

So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.

And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.

10 And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O Lord, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.

11 For when David was up in the morning, the word of the Lord came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying,

12 Go and say unto David, Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.

13 So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days’ pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.

14 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the Lord; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.

15 So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.

16 And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite.

17 And David spake unto the Lord when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house.

18 And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, Go up, rear an altar unto the Lord in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite.

19 And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the Lordcommanded.

20 And Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him: and Araunah went out, and bowed himself before the king on his face upon the ground.

21 And Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, To buy the threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar unto the Lord, that the plague may be stayed from the people.

22 And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood.

23 All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The Lord thy God accept thee.

24 And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

25 And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.

So there is the verse from 1 Chronicles and the two verses from 2 Samuel, and a reasonable person who reads these three will come to the conclusion that in one case the Bible says there were three years of famine during the time of David, and in the other case the Bible says there were seven years of famine in the time of David.

Reece’s number 4. “We aren’t given too much information here, but there are two solutions…” Again this appears to be searching for an explanation other than the one apparent to even a careful reader.

Reece states, “I could go on, but please do take a look at those two links above and check out the answers for yourself.” I will do that, and I will give my findings in a future post.

Reece says those “who believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of the Word of God, know that all of these can be reconciled.” Those who believe so are invited to do so.

He also says, “[W]e can’t use the so called contradictions to disprove the Bible because there are answers to everyone of them…” Let’s not use these contradictions to disprove the Bible. Let’s use those contradictions to demonstrate the Bible was written by people who made mistakes. The Bible is the work of people, and it is not the work of an infallible being, natural or supernatural. Fallibility has been demonstrated. Where does this logically lead us?

Also, do you think if someone went to all the effort to make up the Bible, they would put in such obvious contradictions?” Apparently so. Not by design but through human fallibility.

If I prove the Bible is true and God exists, would you want to become a Christian?” If you can accomplish this I will do just about anything you command. I have currently posted an award of $12,000 payable to anybody who can do such a thing. That can be for starters if you like.

Can I show you some evidence for God.” Please do. That is what this blog site is all about. It is for critical analysis of all things that need such.

Keep reading. There will be more to follow.

Stronger Than Dirt

Restating the obvious – 2

Many months ago I posted the following:

Would that you had provided more of a challenge. I congratulate Michael Snyder, who is credited in the post I copied these from. He has dredged up what may be the most comprehensive collection of creationist nonsense I have come across in many years. This has been a refreshing tour and a reminder to me, and others as well, of the shallowness of the creationist argument. If there is any demonstration of the standing of modern science with respect to superstition and myth, these kinds of postings stand out. They are sorely appreciated.

Heartening to witness, a number of people commented. Most recent has been a comment from Reece Stevens:

All I’m seeing are some uneducated responses to famous scientists. And were they supposed to be arguments or just some one silly sentence with your uneducated opinion? Because all I was seeing were true scientific facts from Snyder, which you couldn’t even rebut, and silly little one sentence opinions from someone who doesn’t want to believe God exists.

That was worth a response, and I approved Reece’s comment, and I sent him an email:

I invite you to amplify on your statement. I will also respond in more depth where you believe clarification is necessary. For example,you mention “someone who doesn’t want to believe God exists.
On this point you completely misunderstand me. I have no desire to believe one way or the other. I am content to believe or not to believe. It just so happens I do not believe, since that is the way the evidence points.
Additionally, you may want to bring up why there should be a connection between God and biological evolution. The two would appear to exist in different fields of study. Can you expand on your thoughts about this?
Thanks for reading, and especially thanks for taking the time to comment.

Best regards and all that sort. He responded:

The reason I connected God into it is because I am just shocked by the fact there is lack of any evidence for evolution, and you’d expect people to recognise it straight away, but they still believe it. And really the only explanation as to why this is comes down to a quote from zoologist, D.M.S Watson: “Evolution is a theory universally accepted not because it can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.” It makes me think the reason evolution is accepted despite lack of evidence is because the only alternative requires believing in a God.

My response:

I finally got your name right. My apologies.
Your response is appreciated. I will post this dialog to a future item on Skeptical  Analysis.
First, I need to dispute D.M.S. Watson. There are alternatives besides God. That said, I do not believe in  God, and I have good reasons for doing so, and those reasons do not involve biological evolution. Details on request.
You mentioned “true scientific facts from Snyder, which you couldn’t even rebut…” I am thinking that at the time I made no attempt to rebut Snyder, because I wanted to give other readers the opportunity to chime in. In my future post I will address Snyder’s remarks.

So I promised  to  spell out at some length why I don’t believe in God, and biological evolution is not at the heart of it. To start, we need some definition. When we say “God,” what do we mean. We will assume we mean the God of Abraham, as described in the Bible. I’m going to say I do not believe in that God, and I will ignore all other Gods, besides which I do not believe in them either. And we start.

Before I can believe in God I need to know about God. You can’t not believe in something if you have never heard of it. There are a number of ways you can know about God in order to not believe:

  • You never heard of God before, but you made him (it?) up on your own.
  • You observed God first hand.
  • Somebody told you about God, else you would never have known about God.

I’m picking the third choice, because that’s how I learned about God. Somebody told me. If I want to believe in God I have to believe what somebody told me. This sort of thing generally needs some convincing. Here is something you would not consider on your own without outside advice from dsomebody, and it’s also something you never observed. Somebody told you. Are you convinced?

That depends. That depends on how convincing is the presentation from the person who told you about God. Is this person’s word reliable, and should you take this person’s word at face value without investigating? That depends. If the person is known to tell a fib from time to time, or if the claim is so outlandish as to boggle the mind, you might want additional evidence. In my case the person who first told me about God was a family member known to fabricate stories, but not often. Also, the story about God turned out to very hard to believe, with emphasis on very.

Of course I was informed I should not merely take this person’s story about God. There must be a higher authority. I will gloss over the number of church people of high standing who vouched for God, and I will go to  the ultimate source, because that is the source these preachers always gave. That source is the Bible. There is where God ran into  real trouble. If the Bible is the ultimate and true source, and if the Bible turns out to be an unreliable source, then it is going to be difficult to believe in God, especially when the concept of God lacks credibility. Let’s start with the Bible.

Genesis 1:1-5 King James Version (KJV)

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

And also:

Genesis 2:4-9 King James Version (KJV)

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,

And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

On the very first page the Bible gets into trouble both with fact and with internal consistency. To begin with, the two stories do not agree with known facts. They presume this planet is slightly more than 6000 years old. Also, here you have conflicting stories of the same events. There are additional places where the Bible contradicts itself. Take this example of the Bible attempting to tell who incited David to count the fighting men of Israel:

Who incited David to count the fighting men of Israel?

  • God did (2 Samuel 24: 1)
  • Satan did (I Chronicles 21:1)

The Bible appears to give differing accounts of the same event. It’s worth seeing the exact wording:

2 Samuel 24:1 King James Version (KJV)

24 And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

1 Chronicles 21:1 King James Version (KJV)

21 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

And this goes sort of thing recurs in multiple instances. One source cites 100 more such instances. Here are some:

  1. In that count how many fighting men were found in Israel?
  • Eight hundred thousand (2 Samuel 24:9)
  • One million, one hundred thousand (I Chronicles 21:5)
  1. How many fighting men were found in Judah?
  • Five hundred thousand (2 Samuel 24:9)
  • Four hundred and seventy thousand (I Chronicles 21:5)
  1. God sent his prophet to threaten David with how many years of famine?
  • Seven (2 Samuel 24:13)
  • Three (I Chronicles 21:12)
  1. How old was Ahaziah when he began to rule over Jerusalem?
  • Twenty-two (2 Kings 8:26)
  • Forty-two (2 Chronicles 22:2)

God is omnipotent:

Genesis 1 King James Version (KJV)

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

And God has limited abilities:

Judges 1:19 King James Version (KJV)

19 And the Lord was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.

There is all this and more. The Bible does not seem to be a reliable source of information.

But suppose. Suppose one of the following:

  • The Bible was transcribed by people, and from  time to time they made errors in transcription. The original intent of the Bible is correct, even if the wording is sometimes confusing.
  • The Bible was written by godly people who wanted to tell their story and to establish a basis for orderly life. What they wrote was a work of fiction with good intentions.

Other possibilities may exist, but the Bible should not be taken literally as a set of instructions for righteous living. That needs to come from those who interpret the Bible. But that abandons the Bible as a testimonial for the existence of God, and it’s the existence of God that is in  question.

We have to justify the existence of God (the God of Abraham) without resorting to the Bible. How?

First turn to the wonders of nature. How did all this marvelous stuff come into existence all by itself? The argument goes something like this.

  1. We don’t see airplanes assemble themselves.
  2. Animals, even the simplest living cell, are all more complex than an airplane.
  3. If an airplane cannot be assembled by purely natural means, it’s absurd to think a living cell can be.
  4. Some supernatural power must be at work here.
  5. That supernatural power must be the God of Abraham.

The argument for the existence of God moves steadily from points 1 through 4, but it hits a road bump at 5. It does not logically follow that God is the supernatural power argued for in 1 – 4. Any supernatural power of sufficient capability will suffice.

But then it will be argued that God is the only supernatural power acclaimed by people far and wide. And that’s your argument for God? But now you need to ask why God is acclaimed by people far and wide, and the answer is the biblical tale, demonstrated (see above) to be insufficient to demonstrate the existence of God.

You may argue that what is important is not the existence of God (the God of Abraham), but the divinity of Jesus. Really? Supposing Jesus was a real person, and I do not intend to disprove that, then we can conclude that at the least Jesus was a worthy philosopher and teacher, and we should live according to Jesus’ teachings. But not all of them. If the Bible is accurate in what it says, then Jesus had some distinctly unrighteous views. Jesus saw nothing immoral with slavery and never preached against it:

Luke 12:47-48 King James Version (KJV)

47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

Additionally:

Ephesians 6:5 King James Version (KJV)

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

A group called Focus on the Family a few years ago produced a series of videos featuring creationist Stephen C. Meyer. The first came out in 2009 and is titled “Does God Exist?” That “season” comprised 10 episodes, and I reviewed each, hoping to settle the question. My conclusion was that, at the very least, Meyer failed to make his case for the existence of God. If God exists, God exists without the benefit of creationist Stephen C. Meyer. The postings are back-linked, and you can start with Episode 11, which is a bonus feature concerning challenges fundamentalist Christians encounter when they leave home and venture into the outside world, particularly to college. A link to the previous post heads each posting, and you can click links until you arrive at the review of Episode 1. Then follow the entire series.

Focus in the Family released another video, this time in 2010, and the title is “Is the Bible Reliable?” There are ten episodes, and I reviewed them over four postings. Again you can start with number 4 and work your way back to the beginning and then review the entire series.

Readers can follow the remainder of my argument against the existence of God by reading these 14 reviews. Comments and questions are invited.

False Testament

Number 4 of a series

This is the fourth and last of my reviews of the video series, “Is the Bible Reliable?” The series is produced by Focus on the Family and features creationist Stephen C. Meyer. The video is marketed as a DVD containing ten episodes. The first six episodes cover the Old Testament, hitting on some high points that Meyer believes will make a case for the reliability of the Bible. As noted (see the above link) Meyer skips a large body of biblical  text that would sink any other publication.

The final four episodes deal with the New Testament, the contribution by Christians, telling the story of Jesus of Nazareth, his teachings, his trial and execution, and his return from the dead. Meyer wants to assure viewers all those doubts about the validity of the New Testament are groundless.

He wants to demonstrate the New Testament is reliable as a source of information due to several  characteristics:

  • A documentary style rather than a piece of satire (for example)
  • A reliable transmission—not a bunch of stuff mangled in retelling
  • Contemporaneous or as nearly contemporaneous with the events described
  • Corroboration  from  other sources
  • Reputable character of those telling the story

He demonstrates that Luke comes off as a historical work.

From BibleGateway.com:

Luke 1:1-4 King James Version (KJV)

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,

Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;

It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,

That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

He offers up early manuscripts to demonstrate the New Testament is truly an ancient work.

He references:

  • Codex Alexandrinus, 5th century A.D.
  • Complete Manuscript of the New (and Old) Testament in Greek

From Wikipedia:

The Codex Alexandrinus (London, British Library, MS Royal 1. D. V-VIII; Gregory-Aland no. A or 02Soden δ 4) is a fifth-century manuscript of the Greek Bible, containing the majority of the Septuagint and the New Testament. It is one of the four Great uncial codices. Along with the Codex Sinaiticus and the Vaticanus, it is one of the earliest and most complete manuscripts of the BibleBrian Walton assigned Alexandrinus the capital Latin letter A in the Polyglot Bible of 1657. This designation was maintained when the system was standardized by Wettstein in 1751. Thus, Alexandrinus held the first position in the manuscript list.

The Magdalen Papyrus, Gospel of Mathew (P64)

The “Magdalen” papyrus was purchased in Luxor, Egypt in 1901 by Reverend Charles Bousfield Huleatt (1863–1908), who identified the Greek fragments as portions of the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 26:23 and 31) and presented them to Magdalen College, Oxford, where they are cataloged as P. Magdalen Greek 17 (Gregory-Aland {\displaystyle {\mathfrak {P}}}{\mathfrak {P}}64) and whence they have their name. When the fragments were finally published by Colin H. Roberts in 1953, illustrated with a photograph, the hand was characterized as “an early predecessor of the so-called ‘Biblical Uncial'” which began to emerge towards the end of the 2nd century. The uncial style is epitomised by the later biblical Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus. Comparative paleographical analysis has remained the methodological key for dating the manuscript: the consensus is ca AD 200.

And possibly the earliest, the John Rylands (P52) Fragment.

The Rylands Library Papyrus P52, also known as the St. John’s fragment and with an accession reference of Papyrus Rylands Greek 457, is a fragment from a papyrus codex, measuring only 3.5 by 2.5 inches (8.9 by 6 cm) at its widest; and conserved with the Rylands Papyri at the John Rylands University Library ManchesterUK. The front (recto) contains parts of seven lines from the Gospel of John 18:31–33, in Greek, and the back (verso) contains parts of seven lines from verses 37–38.[3] Since 2007, the papyrus has been on permanent display in the library’s Deansgate building.

Meyer wants to compare the meager New Testament holdings with those of other famous works.

A favorable Comparison

  • Gallic Wars by Caesar, written  in 55 B.C., earliest manuscript from 850 A.D. 10 mss extant.
  • Histories by Tacitus, written in 100 A.D., earliest manuscript from 900 A.D., 2 mss extant.
  • History by Thucydides, written in 430 B.c., earliest manuscript from  900 A.D., 8 mss extant.

This last part echoes from a few years back when Michael Shermer debated Douglas Geivett at the University of Texas at Arlington.

This was our first encounter with Douglas Geivett, but a number of the more erudite have studied his writings and arguments. Richard Carrier has reviewed In Defense of Miracles. In “Geivett’s Exercise in Hyperbole” Carrier takes issue with Geivett’s lack of understanding of history:

He then issues a comparison, in the voice of a mock critic, asserting that the resurrection of Jesus is as historically evidenced as Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon in 49 B.C. 3

Geivett’s over the top comparison of the resurrection with this well-established historical event severely blunts the credibility of any other arguments he might make, and it takes some of the shine off his professed piety. Whether he will continue to be an effective proponent of the reality of God will depend on how well he controls his handling of the truth. His standing as a creationist, however, is looking brighter all the time.

That footnote reference links to this:

It should be clear that we have a huge number of reasons to believe that Caesar crossed the Rubicon, all of which are lacking in the case of the resurrection. In fact, when we compare all five points, we see that in four of the five evidences of an event’s historicity, the resurrection has no evidence at all, and for the one kind of evidence it does have, it has not the best, but the very worst kind of evidence–a handful of biased, uncritical, unscholarly, unknown, second-hand witnesses.

In Episode 8 Meyer addresses the early composition of Luke and Acts. He argues there is evidence they are (nearly) contemporaneous.

People, Positions and Places

And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:

Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.

The biblical quotes are from BibleGateway.com.

Roman Rule of Cyprus

  • Up to 22 BC, Imperial Province. Legate.
  • 21 BC and after, Senatorial Province According to Luke.
  • Paul and Barnabas meet the proconsul Sergius Paulus in Cyprus.

The point here is that differing Roman territories were ruled either by Caesar, and the local ruler was call a legate, or they were ruled by the Senate, and the local ruler was called a proconsul. Paul got it right when referring to the ruler as a proconsul for the date of his supposed visit.

There is the Temple Warning Inscription.

The Temple Warning inscription, also known as the Temple Balustrade inscription or the Soreg inscription, is an inscription from the Second Temple in Jerusalem, discovered in 1871 by Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau and published by the Palestine Exploration Fund. Following the discovery of the inscription it was taken by the Ottoman authorities, and it is currently in the Istanbul Archaeology Museums.

From BibleGateway.com:

Acts 21:27-28 King James Version (KJV)

27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,

28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.

Luke, writing for Acts, got this right.

In Episode 9 Meyer takes up external corroboration.

There is the Miracle of Cana:

The transformation of water into wine at the Marriage at Cana or Wedding at Cana is the first miracle attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of JohnIn the Gospel account, Jesus, his mother and his disciples are invited to a wedding, and when the wine runs out, Jesus delivers a sign of his glory by turning water into wine.

The location of Cana has been subject to debate among biblical scholars and archeologists; several villages in Galilee are possible candidates.

 

Miracle at Cana

“Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification …”

– John 2:6

Meyer observes John 2:6 got that right. This was the time stone water pots were used, rather than clay ones.

I was amazed Meyer brought up the James Ossuary:

The James Ossuary is a 1st-century chalk box that was used for containing the bones of the dead. The Aramaic inscription: Ya’akov bar-Yosef akhui diYeshua (English translation: “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”) is cut into one side of the box. The inscription is considered significant because, if genuine, it might provide archaeological evidence for Jesus of Nazareth. However, the authenticity of the inscription has been challenged.

Meyer apparently made this video in  2010, seven years after this artifact was demonstrated to be a fake:

In 2003, The Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) determined that the inscriptions were forged at a much later date. In December 2004, Oded Golan was charged with 44 counts of forgery, fraud and deception, including forgery of the Ossuary inscription. The trial lasted seven years before Judge Aharon Farkash came to a verdict. On March 14, 2012, Golan was acquitted of the forgery charges but convicted of illegal trading in antiquities. The judge said this acquittal “does not mean that the inscription on the ossuary is authentic or that it was written 2,000 years ago”. The ossuary was returned to Golan, who put it on public display.

Meyer notes some key facts.

Some Key Facts

  1. Paleographical analysis of the inscription dates the ossuary between 20 B.C. and 70 A.D.
  2. Reburial by ossuary was done primarily in the city of Jerusalem between the late 1st century B.c. and 70 A.D.
  3. Only wealthy and prominent people had their bones placed in ossuaries. Inscriptions incurred further expense and expertise.

Episode 10 concludes the video series with the trial of Jesus.

I  will mention some artifacts and some quotes that Meyer asserts attest to the reliability of the scriptural account of Jesus. First there is the authenticity of Herod Antipas.

Herod Antipater (GreekἩρῴδης ἈντίπατροςHērǭdēs Antipatros; born before 20 BC – died after 39 AD), known by the nickname Antipas, was a 1st-century ruler of Galilee and Perea, who bore the title of tetrarch (“ruler of a quarter”) and is referred to as both “Herod the Tetrarch” and “King Herod” in the New Testament although he never held the title of king. He is widely known today for accounts in the New Testament of his role in events that led to the executions of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth.

There is the finding of Peter’s House in Capernaum:

Capernaum (/kəˈpɜːrniəm/ kə-PUR-nee-əmHebrewכְּפַר נַחוּם‎, Kfar NahumArabic: كفر ناحوم, meaning “Nahum’s village” in both languages) was a fishing village established during the time of the Hasmoneans, located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It had a population of about 1,500. Archaeological excavations have revealed two ancient synagogues built one over the other. A house turned into a church by the Byzantines is said to be the home of Saint Peter.

Peter’s House

  • 4th century A.D. writings of the Pilgrim Egeria, say, “And in Capernaum, what is more, the house of the prince of the apostles [Peter] has been turned into a church, leaving its original walls however quite unchanged.”

Josephus is one person who is presumed to have spoken with people who knew Jesus:

The works of Josephus include material about individuals, groups, customs, and geographical places. Some of these, such as the city of Seron, receive no mention in the surviving texts of any other ancient authority. His writings provide a significant, extra-Biblical account of the post-Exilic period of the Maccabees, the Hasmonean dynasty, and the rise of Herod the Great. He refers to the Sadducees, Jewish High Priests of the time, Phariseesand Essenes, the Herodian Temple, Quirinius‘ census and the Zealots, and to such figures as Pontius PilateHerod the GreatAgrippa I and Agrippa IIJohn the BaptistJames the brother of Jesus, and to Jesus (for more see Josephus on Jesus). Josephus represents an important source for studies of immediate post-Temple Judaism and the context of early Christianity.

From Tufts University:

[63] Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.

Finally, there are historians mentioning Jesus.

Historians Mentioning Jesus

  • Titus Flavius Josephus, Yosef Ben Matityahu (ca. 37-100 A.D.)
  • Publius Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (ca. 56-117 A.D.)
  • Mara Bar-Serapion (late 1st century A.D.)
  • Flavius Lustinus, Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165 A.D.)
  • Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (ca. 9230 A.D.)
  • Pliny the Younger, ca 61-113 A.D.)

Taking them in turn.

Titus Flavius Josephus, already noted.

Publius Gaius Cornelius Tacitus.

A survey of the literature indicates that this citation by Tacitus has not been given enough regard, having often been overshadowed by the citations in Josephus (see next entry). Respected Christian scholar R. T. France, for example, does not believe that the Tacitus passage provides sufficient independent testimony for the existence of Jesus [Franc.EvJ, 23] and agrees with G. A. Wells that the citation is of little value.

It is unfortunate that France so readily agreed with Wells’ assessment. An investigation into the methods and background of Tacitus, as reported by Tacitean scholars (whose works, incidentally, France does not consult), tells us that this is an extremely reliable reference to Jesus and for early Christianity.

Mara Bar-Serapion:

The letter has been claimed to include no Christian themes[2][4] and many scholars consider Mara a pagan, although some suggest he may have been a monotheist.[3] Some scholars see the reference to the execution of the “wise king” of the Jews as an early non-Christian reference to Jesus. Criteria that support the non-Christian origin of the letter include the observation that “king of the Jews” was not a Christian title, and that the letter’s premise that Jesus lives on in his teachings he enacted is in contrast to the Christian concept that Jesus continues to live through his resurrection. Another viewpoint is that he could be referring to the resurrection recorded in Jesus’s teachings which say he lived on, that would mean we don’t know if he believed the resurrection happened or not and leaves it up to speculation whether he was a Christian or a non-Christian who agreed with Christians as regarding Jesus as a “wise king” according to the Gospels.

Flavius Lustinus:

The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia notes that scholars have differed on whether Justin’s writings on the nature of God were meant to express his firm opinion on points of doctrine, or to speculate on these matters. Specific points Justin addressed include that the Logos is “numerically distinct from the Father” though “born of the very substance of the Father,” and that “through the Word, God has made everything.” Justin used the metaphor of fire to describe the Logos as spreading like a flame, rather than “dividing” the substance of the Father. He also defended the Holy Spirit as a member of the Trinity, as well as the birth of Jesus to Mary when she was a virgin. The Encyclopedia states that Justin places the genesis of the Logos as a voluntary act of the Father at the beginning of creation, noting that this is an “unfortunate” conflict with later Christian teachings.

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus:

The Roman historian Suetonius (c. AD 69 – c. AD 122) mentions early Christians and may refer to Jesus Christ in his work Lives of the Twelve Caesars.

One passage in the biography of the Emperor Claudius Divus Claudius 25, refers to agitations in the Roman Jewish community and the expulsion of Jews from Rome by Claudius during his reign (AD 41 to AD 54), which may be the expulsion mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (18:2). In this context “Chresto” is mentioned. Some scholars see this as a likely reference to Jesus, while others see it as referring to an otherwise unknown person living in Rome.

Pliny the Younger:

In any event, the value of the Pliny letter as “evidence” of Christ’s existence is worthless, as it makes no mention of “Jesus of Nazareth,” nor does it refer to any event in his purported life. There is not even a clue in it that such a man existed. As Taylor remarks, “We have the name of Christ, and nothing else but the name, where the name of Apollo or Bacchus would have filled up the sense quite as well.” Taylor then casts doubt on the authenticity of the letter as a whole, recounting the work of German critics, who “have maintained that this celebrated letter is another instance to be added to the long list of Christian forgeries…” One of these German luminaries, Dr. Semler of Leipsic provided “nine arguments against its authenticity…” He also notes that the Pliny epistle is quite similar to that allegedly written by “Tiberianus, Governor of Syria” to Trajan, which has been universally denounced as a forgery.

Despite Meyer’s enthusiasm for his list of historical reference to Jesus, these seem paltry at times. However, in religion enthusiasm counts for a lot.

Suppose…

Suppose we grant Meyer all his points about when the texts were written and how these place names and these people are as told in the Bible (including the New Testament). There is one thing he cannot get past. The details can be demonstrated to have been fabricated. Some examples are in called for. Refer to previous posts for examples I am not repeating here. These are new.

A talking donkey:

Numbers 22:26-30 King James Version (KJV)

26 And the angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.

27 And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.

28 And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?

29 And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.

30 And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? and he said, Nay.

Nay, indeed. Here is another:

Luke 22:41-44 King James Version (KJV)

41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,

42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

You may have noticed Jesus was by himself, with nobody around to hear him. So, who is writing down what he’s saying?

Jesus was born in Bethlehem? Really? Why? Mary and Joseph were required to travel to Bethlehem (from Nazareth) for a census (for tax purposes). Really? Since when did the Romans, or any other government require this? From all appearances this is made up in order for Jesus to fulfill the prophesy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

The nativity of Jesus or birth of Jesus is described in the gospels of Luke and Matthew. The two accounts agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the time of Herod the Great to a betrothed virgin whose name was Mary. There are, however, major differences. Matthew has no censusannunciation to the shepherds or presentation in the Temple, implies that Jesus’s parents’ home is Bethlehem, and has him born in a house there, and has an unnamed angel appear to Joseph to announce the birth. In Luke there are no Magi, no flight into Egypt, or Massacre of the Innocents, Joseph is a resident of Nazareth, the birth appears to take place in an inn instead of the family home, and the angel (named as Gabriel) announces the coming birth to Mary.[1] While it is possible that Matthew’s account might be based on Luke, or Luke’s on Matthew, the majority of scholars conclude that the two are independent of each other.[1]

From where I observe, Meyer is clawing at the air to validate the Bible to a bunch of Christian youth. His aim is to ensure they (and viewers) retain their faith in the Bible and thereby retain their faith in Christianity. Were I a cynic among them this sort of hoax would only put me off the message of The Lord. Which is pretty much what happened with me, about 60+ years ago.

I watched to  the end of Episode 10 streaming on Amazon Prime Video (where I obtained these screen shots), and when that finished another episode started up, featuring not Stephen C. Meyer, but Del Tackett, former president of Focus on the Family. It’s Episode 1 of Season 3, with Season 3 having the title, “Who is Jesus?” Season 3 does not appear on Amazon’s Prime Video menu. You may have to do a search to find it. I make no promises I will watch and review Season 3, except.. Except that Amazon may have this available for a limited time, and I  would hate to let slip the opportunity to watch it without having to  pay the $25+ to purchase a DVD.

Keep reading. God may grant your wish.

False Testament

Number 2 of a series

This is the second part of my review of the video “Is the Bible Reliable?” from Focus on the Family. In the first installment I reviewed creationist Stephen C. Meyer‘s presentation purporting to demonstrate the validity of the biblical story of the Patriarch. Next up, in episodes 2 and 3, Meyer seeks to validate the biblical story of the Exodus and the Conquest of Canaan by the Israelites.

By this time I have found Meyer’s justifications tiresome, and in response I am not going to produce a point-by-point rebuttal. I will post a few points of his presentation and conclude with what should be obvious.

Meyer discusses the skeptical view of the Exodus. He presents two different views.

The Exodus: The Skeptical Views

  • There was no exodus of the nation of Israel from Egypt.
  • The Exodus happened, but it happened later than the Bible indicates.

I hold to the first view. The Israelites were never in Egypt, and there was no Exodus. Archaeological evidence is that the Israelites always lived in region west of the Jordan River. From Daniel Lazare’s recount of the archaeological findings:

Finkelstein and Silberman concluded that Judah and Israel had never existed under the same roof. The Israelite culture that had taken shape in the central hill country around 1200 B.C. had evolved into two distinct kingdoms from the start. Whereas Judah remained weak and isolated, Israel did in fact develop into an important regional power beginning around 900 B.C. It was as strong and rich as David and Solomon’s kingdom had supposedly been a century earlier, yet it was not the sort of state of which the Jewish priesthood approved. The reason had to do with the nature of the northern kingdom’s expansion. As Israel grew, various foreign cultures came under its sway, cultures that sacrificed to gods other than Yahweh. Pluralism became the order of the day: the northern kings could manage such a diverse empire only by allowing these cultures to worship their own gods in return for their continued loyalty. The result was a policy of religious syncretism, a theological pastiche in which the cult of Yahweh coexisted alongside those of other Semitic deities.

For Meyer it is necessary first to demonstrate the Israelites were once enslaved in Egypt. Among other things, he puts up a graphic from the period that is supposed to  show an Egyptian master holding sway over Semite slaves.

Semitic Slaves in Egypt

Semitic slaves as builders and brickmakers with a quota to fulfill under the command of task masters in 16th to 13th century B.C. texts such as the Tomb of Rekhmire, Louvre Leather Roll and Papyrus Anastasi III.

“But the quota of bricks which they were making previously you shall impose on them”

Exodus 5:8

Meyer does not link to the mass of counter evidence, as he is not required to in this instance, it being a polemic seeking to counter denial of the Exodus. However, the Wikipedia entry for the Exodus has a lengthy rebuttal with links to authoritative sources:

The consensus of modern scholars is that the Bible does not give an accurate account of the origins of Israel.[26] There is no indication that the Israelites ever lived in Ancient Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula shows almost no sign of any occupation for the entire 2nd millennium BCE, and even Kadesh-Barnea, where the Israelites are said to have spent 38 years, was uninhabited prior to the establishment of the Israelite monarchy.[27] Such elements as could be fitted into the 2nd millennium could equally belong to the 1st, and are consistent with a 1st millennium BCE writer trying to set an old story in Egypt.[28] So while a few scholars, notably Kenneth Kitchen and James K. Hoffmeier, continue to discuss the historicity, or at least plausibility, of the story, arguing that the Egyptian records have been lost or suppressed or that the fleeing Israelites left no archaeological trace or that the large numbers are mistranslated, the majority have abandoned the investigation as “a fruitless pursuit”

Meyer pursues the same line as Kitchen and Hoffmeier, arguing the absence of records only enforces the validity of the biblical claim. He presses his case for the existence of Israelites in Egypt by displaying a graphic, depicting the reconstruction of a dwelling in the Nile Delta. This dwelling is in a style known only to the Israelites.

To the rankest of amateurs, that would include me, this is not evidence of in excess of 600,000 Israelite slaves in Egypt. At the most it indicates somebody, possibly from the land of the Israelites, constructed a home here on the plan of an Israelite style.

God, with the help of Moses, freed the Israelite slaves from their Egyptian masters and struck off to the east, where God promised them they could have the land of Canaan. Forty years later they arrived there, without leaving a trace of their 40-year habitation during the interim. Upon arriving at the east bank of the Jordan river, with Moses now dead, Joshua took charge and engaged, with God’s approval and connivance, in a war to obliterate the people already living west of the Jordan. This is the story of The Conquest.

The Israelite Conquest

  • Before entering Canaan, God commanded the Israelites to drive the Canaanites out of the land and to settle it (Numbers 33:50-53).
  • With Joshua as their leader, the Israelites began the conquest of Canaan by destroying and burning Jericho, on  the west side of the Jordan River (Joshua 6:1-21).
  • The next city the Israelites destroy by fire is Ai in the central hill country (Joshua 8:3-28).
  • The third and final city that the Israelites under Joshua burn and destroy is Hazor in the north (Joshua 11:10-14).
  • During the Judges period, the Israelites slowly gain control over more of Canaan.

The Israelite Conquest

And here’s the good part.

Joshua 11:10-13

“Then Joshua turned back at that time, and captured Hazor and struck its king with the sword; for Hazor formerly as the head of all these kingdoms. They struck every person  who was in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them; there was no  one left who breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire.”

What I find so amazing is this is the same Stephen C. Meyer who in the previous video cautioned us against moral relativism.

Moral relativism, according to Meyer and also according to most who give thought to the matter, holds there is no fixed and true morality. Moral values are at best set by societies and in the worst cases are set by individuals. Individuals who set their own moral values may become social outcasts and usually do harm to themselves, with harm being a relative term.

How come this reminds me of ISIS? I have no better way to describe moral relativism than stories of God, the giver of moral absolutes, condoning, yeah facilitating, the slaughter of innocents. “If he does it to me, then it’s wrong.” I said that.

Meyer goes on to persuade us the Conquest, described in the Bible, has a factual basis. Readers are invited to scratch the surface of this argument and see what lies beneath.

The order of books in the Old Testament is:

  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
  • Joshua
  • Judges

And more. I’m thinking Meyer has now taken us through Judges, but there may be more. I have not previewed the video. In all this Meyer has presented what is surely his strongest case, but in doing so he has passed completely by the most onerous claims against the Bible. This book cites events and circumstances even Meyer would disavow. To cite some:

  • In Genesis the creation of the Earth a little over 6000 years ago.
  • The story of Noah and the flood that never happened.
  • The parting of the Red Sea.
  • The story from Joshua of the sun standing still in the sky.

Watching the video you will come to acknowledge that Meyer is a master presenter. He delivers faultlessly and with earnest commitment. If he suspects for a moment that what he is telling his student is a massive fraud, he never lets on. Look into his eyes as he presents, and you will see that if he knows it is not true, he also knows it has to be true.

The next review will start with Episode 4: “Israel’s Rise to Prominence through David and Solomon.” From Amazon:

Discover that if one can discount the historicity of the bible, its theological implications and message can also be dismissed. But if these stories prove to be true, then the message and meaning of the Bible must be taken seriously as well.

Keep reading.