Archive for the ‘Apologia tou Kristou (Christian Apologetics)’ Category

Am I A Jew?

May 29, 20

amiajew

Radical Hyperskeptical Criticism of the Bible Would Demolish All Literature It’s Applied To

May 29, 20

Excerpt from https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwiUiMXolNjpAhXOH7cAHZGXAiQQFjAAegQIAxAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fissuesetc.org%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2018%2F04%2F22Responding-to-Bart-Ehrman%25E2%2580%2599s-New-Testament-Forgery-Theory22-Dr.-John-Warwick-Montgomery.pdf&usg=AOvVaw1z99bIksxKeo6ZZ8vhnM4v

WILKEN: Before we get to some of what Dr. Ehrman had to say recently on the program, we recently had your colleague, Craig Parton, on the program. And he said that this method, the historical-critical method, to which Dr. Ehrman and so many other of the skeptical scholars subscribe, has been tried in many different fields of literature and rejected in all except Biblical scholarship, where somehow it still hangs on. Is that true?

MONTGOMERY: Oh, yes, this certainly is true. In Ugaritic scholarship, for example, the use of divine names, the difference between the use of one divine name and the use of another, in order to establish authorship was rejected after attempts were made to determine the true authors of Ugaritic materials. Cyrus Gordon, the greatest authority in that field, said before he died that if they didn’t stop doing this, it would destroy all Ugaritic literature.

And when I was at Cornell as an undergraduate, I had a Classics professor by the name of Harry Kaplan, who was quite a wag, and Kaplan said for seventy-five years we tried to find by literary criticism and stylistic differences and interpolations and this kind of thing the true authors of The Iliad and The Odyssey. And after seventy-five years of this we came to the conclusion that either The Iliad and The Odyssey were written by Homer or they were written by someone of the same name who live about the same time.

In other words, an attempt to use this sort of technique got absolutely nowhere. And in the history of the English ballad, for example, attempts were made along this line, and even though in some cases the oral tradition is six and seven centuries in length, it’s been concluded that these methods will not work.

C. S. Lewis said that critics of his work had tried to discover through similar analysis the real origins of the Narnian material. He said even though they are writing in my own time and in my own language, they’ve never been right once. Now how is it possible, then, to pull this kind of thing off when one’s dealing with Biblical materials that are well over 2,000 years old and written in languages that are not the language of the critic?

And I have, finally, an illustration that you’re going to love. A few years ago in England two liberal scholars along Ehrman’s line, a gentleman by the name of McGregor and another by the name of Morton, produced a book in which they took Romans and Corinthians and Galatians as the basis, stylistic basis, and they fed the style into a computer, and then they compared the other letters that are attributed to Paul in the New Testament. They compared the styles of those letters against the basic style that they had put in. And they concluded that not a single one of those other letters was written by Paul. Okay?

Then, a few years later, at Harvard, their book – McGregor and Morton’s book – was analyzed. The style of the introduction and preface of the book were fed in as a basis. And then the style of the succeeding chapters were fed in, and the conclusion was that McGregor and Morton had not written the rest of the book. The rest of the book must have been written by other people.

Now, of course, this was done as a wag, but it shows that you can’t use vocabulary and style as any kind of solid basis for determining authorship. What you need are external evidences that will provide you with guidance. And that’s exactly what the early Church relied upon, and that’s why we have the New Testament as we have it today.

The Bible vs Harry Potter

May 29, 20

What is the fundamental difference between the literature of The Bible and that of Harry Potter?

After all, as the skeptic’s argument goes: Harry Potter contains truthful claims such as London being in England (geography), or Churchill leading Britain in WW2 (history). But does that mean that it’s true about wizards doing battle using magic?

So, the skeptic continues: Just because the Bible contains truthful claims about Jericho (archaeology/geography), or the Cyrus decree (history)… Does not mean that it’s true about God creating humanity, or Jesus dying and resurrecting.

So instead of trying to postulate a fundamental difference, The Bible and any other piece of literature should be tested on equal scales. It is my confidence that not only does The Bible outstrip any other book in terms of verifiable facts, it will eventually be proven true on EVERY verifiable fact.

We already see an amazing track record of skeptics having claimed that, e.g. the Sojourn, Opression, Exodus, Conquest, Israelite nation, Davidic dynasty, Hittites, Sargon II, etc did not exist – only for new discoveries to vindicate the Bible. (SKEPTICS ARE ARROGANT, BUT THE BIBLE ALWAYS WINS! – me)

And if we can trust The Bible on ‘earthly things’ (verifiable facts), then we should also have confidence in what it says about ‘heavenly things’ (unverifiable claims) – to paraphrase John 3:12.

NB: In fact a better comparison than Harry Potter would be The Quran – as it is a competing claimant to being a divinely inspired book containing both unverifiable claims about spiritual truths and testable claims about history, geography, archaeology, science etc.

Modern Jewish Scholars on the Embodied, Multipersonal Old Testament God

May 29, 20

Several quotes by Jewish scholars who affirm that the Old Testament teaches, and pre-modern Judaism adherents believed, in an embodied and multipersonal YHWH.

The purpose of this is not to uphold what ancient or modern Jews think as some sort of infallible authority. Rather, it is to point out that:

1) The Old Testament is far from indisputably clearly portraying a unitarian God;
2) What modern Judaism teaches is not what previous eras of Jews believed (and hence tying back in to point 1);
3) The concept of a multipersonal, embodied God is not conjured up out of paganism by polytheists-in-disguise Christians (which ties in to points 1 & 2).
4) Why don’t the NT writers seem to spend any time explaining or arguing how one God can be many (multiplural), or be embodied? The Unitarian would of course argue that it’s because the NT doesn’t actually teach the Trinity or God in human form. But what if the reason is simply because it wasn’t an issue for Second Temple Jews because they already accepted such a concept? So arguing for God being embodied and multiplural would be like arguing to the Jews that God created the universe – unnecessary preaching to the choir. The only ‘innovation’ was to declare that the one who was the embodied multiplural YHWH was Jesus of Nazareth.

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It became clear that “two powers in heaven” was a very early category of heresy, earlier than Jesus, if Philo is a trustworthy witness, and one of the basic categories by which the rabbis perceived the new phenomenon of Christianity. – Alan F Segal, Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports About Christianity and Gnosticism

Although official rabbinic theology sought to suppress all talk of the Memra or Logos by naming it the heresy of “Two Powers in Heaven” (b. Hag. 15a), before the rabbis, contemporaneously with them, and even among them, there were many Jews in both Palestine and the Diaspora who held on to a version of monotheistic theology that could accommodate this divine figure linking heaven and earth. Whereas Maimonides and his followers until today understood the Memra, along with the Shekhinah (“Presence”), as a means of avoiding anthropomorphisms in speaking of God, historical investigation suggests that in the first two centuries CE, the Memra was not a mere name, but an actual divine entity functioning as a mediator. – Daniel Boyarin, Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity

Philo, writing in first-century CE Alexandria for an audience of Jews devoted to the Bible, uses the idea of the Logos as if it were a commonplace. His writings make apparent that at least for some pre-Christian Judaism, there was nothing strange about a doctrine of a manifestation of God, even as a “second God”; the Logos did not conflict with Philo’s idea of monotheism… Other versions of Logos theology, namely notions of the second god as personified Word or Wisdom of God, were present among Aramaic-, Hebrew-, and Syriac-speaking Jews as well. Hints of this idea appear in Jewish texts that are part of the Bible such as Proverbs 8.22–31, Job 28.12–28 – Daniel Boyarin, LOGOS, A Jewish Word: John’s Prologue as Midrash

No Jew sensitive to Judaism’s own classical sources, however, can fault the theological model Christianity employs when it avows belief in a God who has an earthly body as well as a Holy Spirit and heavenly manifestation, for that model, we have seen, is a perfectly Jewish one. A religion whose scripture contains the fluidity traditions, whose teachings emphasize the multiplicity of the shekhinah, and whose thinkers speak of the sephirot does not differ in its theological essentials from a religion that adores a triune God. Note that the Christian beliefs that Judaism rejects are not specifically theological in nature. The only significant theological difference between Judaism and Christianity lies not in the trinity or in the incarnation but in Christianity’s revival of the notion of a dying and rising God, a category ancient Israel clearly rejects. – Benjamin D Sommer, The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel

There can be little doubt however that early Jewish theologoumena related to such a [hypostatic, supernal] son existed, as the books dealing with Enoch – in particular the Ethiopian one – and Philo’s views… concerning the Logos as Son or firstborn convincingly demonstrate, and likewise there can be little doubt that they informed the main developments in a great variety of the nascent Christologies. In the course of time, due to the ascent in Christianity of both the centrality and cruciality of son ship understood in diverse forms of incarnation, it seems that Jewish authors belonging to rabbinic circles attenuated and in some cases even obliterated the role of sons as cosmic mediators. Nevertheless, some of these earlier traditions apparently survived in traditional Jewish writings that were subsequently transmitted by rabbinic Judaism… An explanation of a verse from Exod. 23:21, and its adoption in the Talmudic passage… served as one of the anchors for the return of older material dealing with the Great Angel as son of God, into the Judaism of the Middle Ages. – Moshe Idel, Ben: Sonship and Jewish Mysticism

It may be said that the Jewish mystics recovered the mythical dimension of a biblical motif regarding the appearance of God in the guise of the highest of angels, called ‘angel of the Lord’ (mal’akh YHWH), ‘angel of God’… or ‘angel of the Presence’ (mal’akh ha-panim) which sometimes appeared in the form of a man. Evidence for the continuity of the exegetical tradition of an exalted angel that is in effect the manifestation of God is to be found in a wide variety of later sources. – Elliot R Wolfson, Through a Speculum That Shines: Vision and Imagination in Medieval Jewish Mysticism

In the passage from Nahmanides’ Commentary to the Torah discussed by Pines, Nahmanides explicitly takes issue with Maimonides (and with the tenth-century sage Sac adia Ga’on by inference), and seeks to characterize the fundamental difference between his tradition and Maimonides’ Aristotelian world view. The difference centers around the inclusion or exclusion of the divine manifestation within the godhead. Nahmanides posits an organic or continuous relationship between God’s being and that of the angel – that is, they are both immanent in the same divine substance. – Daniel Abrams, The Boundaries of Divine Ontology: The Inclusion and Exclusion of Metatron in the Godhead, Harvard Theological Review (Volum 87, Issue 3, 1994)

From several texts it is clear that the demarcation between God and his angel is often blurred. – Nahum M. Sarna, Genesis, JPS Torah Commentary

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Also, here is Daniel Boyarin from 5:00 and especially 7:00 to 9:18 stating that it’s Maimonides and his fellow medieval rabbis who overturned Tanakh, Talmud and Mishna up to that point and gave modern Judaism its non-embodied God.

And from 1:36:00 for about a minute he outright states that Maimonides’ main influence was the surrounding Islamic thinkers.

[Note too that the Islamically-influenced Maimonides also replaced echad (compound one) in the Shema with yachid (absolute one).]

General Patton’s Speech & the Gospel Accounts

May 29, 20

General Patton is famous for giving a very well-received, inspirational speech to the soldiers. Here’s one rendition of it from the 1970 film Patton:

However in reality, this ‘speech’ was not one speech but a series of them that Patton gave to multiple audiences. What is taken to be his famous speech is actually a conglomerated, edited, harmonized combination fron the notes and memories of several listeners: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_S._Patton%27s_speech_to_the_Third_Army#The_speech

Compare this to the sermons and lessons given by Jesus in the Gospel accounts. It is possible that His disciples summarized or combined phrases and key points from multiple teachings on similar topics – resulting in what we have recorded in the New Testament.

The point of this being, there is nothing wrong or deceptive about things like telescoping by a Gospel author, or our harmonizing between Gospel accounts – people do this all the time in everyday life.

That Time the Quran Made Jesus MORE Divine

May 29, 20

It’s a well attested fact that much of the Quran’s stories about Biblical characters are taken from apocryphal sources. For instance, stories about Jesus’s infancy and childhood are from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, a Gnostic fabrication.

But do you notice something unusual about the Quranic account below?

And a messenger to the Children of Israel, ‘Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allah. – Sura 3:49 https://quran.com/3/49

Note the part about breathing into the clay to give it life. Where else do we see that happening except with God Himself in Genesis 2:7, breathing life into Adam?

And note that this detail is not in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, where Jesus merely claps:

3 And a certain Jew when he saw what Jesus did, playing upon the Sabbath day, departed straightway and told his father Joseph: Lo, thy child is at the brook, and he hath taken clay and fashioned twelve little birds, and hath polluted the Sabbath day. 4 And Joseph came to the place and saw: and cried out to him, saying: Wherefore doest thou these things on the Sabbath, which it is not lawful to do? But Jesus clapped his hands together and cried out to the sparrows and said to them: Go! and the sparrows took their flight and went away chirping. – http://www.gnosis.org/library/inftoma.htm II, 3-4 (near the start of the page)

So the Quran added a detail that makes Jesus MORE divine, when the Quran supposedly denies Jesus’s godhood!

Gravity & the Trinity

May 29, 20

Allow me to ask you: What is ‘gravity’?

Most of us will probably answer that it is a force. After all, Isaac Newton described it as the force which makes an apple fall to the earth. You might even remember your high school Physics calculations for this, F=ma (Force = mass x acceleration).

But guess what, gravity is NOT a force. Rather, Albert Einstein stated that gravity is the bending & warping of spacetime itself so that objects that would travel in a straight line through space STILL DO travel in a straight line – it’s just that space itself is bent, so the object seems to travel around a large gravitational mass!

Does this make sense? Can you wrap your mind around it? Can you envision it? Even if you can’t, experiments proved Einstein correct and Newton incorrect. It is plain fact even if you can’t comprehend it.

Now if this is true for a fundamental part of the universe, then what’s so difficult about accepting the truth as revealed in God’s word – e.g. about the Trinity? There is one God but He is three persons. You might not fully comprehend it, but that in itself does not make it untrue or impossible.

(More info on gravity: https://www.science.org.au/curious/space-time/gravity )

See also my comparison of 3D space with the Trinity: https://scottthong.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/3-dimensional-space-as-a-metaphor-for-the-christian-trinity/

Using Islamic Philosophy to Defend Biblical Theology

May 29, 20

Just like Paul in Athens used the prevailing worldview to present the gospel, many common Islamic criticisms of Christianity can be defended using concepts from Islamic philosophy.

1) Bila kaifa – Meaning ‘without how’, this was the term coined by Muslim philosophers to settle the issue of how the Quran can be Allah’s word, eternal, uncreated, yet not itself Allah – by not settling the issue, as it basically means there’s no understanding it. (To be fair, they needed it to stop the bloodshed of the Mihna over the issue.) Similarly, the Trinity may seem to escape comprehension – but bila kaifa!

2) Kun faya kun – Allah says “Be!” and it is. Allah can do anything he pleases. Similarly, although it may seem impossible that YHWH is one being in three persons or the infinite God could take on human form, nothing is impossible to God!

3) Tanzih – meaning transcendence. Unique, incomparable, beyond imagination or conception. “Nothing is like him” as Sura 42:11 states plainly. Similarly, although in human experience no single human being can be more than one person, God is not like anything conceivable.

4) Tawhid – meaning to unify. The Islamic doctrine of a singular, unitarian Allah. However this key word does not appear anywhere in the Quran, and in fact it took centuries after the death of Muhammad for Muslim philosophers to fully flesh out this doctrine by deriving the concept from the text of the Quran. Similarly, although the word Trinity does not appear in the Bible and it took centuries for the doctrine to be fully fleshed out by theologians and church councils, it is derived from the text of the Bible.

Our God of the Bible works in mysterious and quite cheeky ways!

J Warner Wallace and the Cold Case Christianity Series

August 18, 17

I’ve been listening to the many talks by J Warner Wallace, author of Cold Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene and Forensic Faith.

He speaks logically, clearly and factually. As a staunch atheist who was convinced by the forensic evidence for the Gospels and God, I will be adding him to my list in Christianity – The Faith of Famously Intellectual, Logical, Reasonable Thinkers.

So here are four videos that I recommend in this order.

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First, how Jesus’ resurrection is a ‘cold case’ – it happened so long ago that no living witnesses are around now to testify. But we do have eyewitness testimony recorded, it’s called the Gospels. Can we trust them though?

Best part: Demonstrating how the writing of the Gospel accounts can be dated to within years of Jesus’ crucifixion – meaning that any they could be disputed by still-living eyewitnesses if any details were false.

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Second, how the many hallmarks of the universe, life and biology cannot be explained by ‘staying in the room’ – it’s obvious that an intruder from outside the universe’s space-time-matter intervened.

Best part: The bacterial flagellum, which when I showed a friend without context, made him think “Wow what cool (human) machine is this?”

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Third, can it be reasonably argued that Jesus didn’t die on the cross?

Best part: Details about Jesus – sweat like drops of blood, and water and blood coming out when He was pierced by the spear – that the Gospel writers and early church couldn’t explain, yet left in the accounts as they were true events… And modern medicine finally finding out that those details actually can happen in real life.

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And fourth, how the problem of evil actually points towards the existence (and defends the righteousness) of God.

Best part: Putting all life experiences into the correct context of eternity

Some Additional Bible Info on Lot and Daughters for RPK

April 16, 14

So RPK has a piece today entitled Islam bashing is actually Christianity bashing, in which he actually kinda does bash Christianity’s morals.

The relevant portion of his article, bolded portions for emphasis done by me:

Take the story of Sodom and Gomorrah from Genesis as one example. Malays know what the Qur’an has to say about this episode. But do they know what the Bible says? Not many do.

Genesis tells us that God wanted to test the people of Lot’s community so He sent two angels disguised as very ‘jambu’ men to that community (if you do not know what jambu means then go ask your Malay friends). And Lot took these two jambu as his guests for the night.

The men in Lot’s community then went berserk. They wanted Lot to surrender these two jambu to the wild crowd so that they can gang rape them. Lot refused and instead offered his two virgin daughters as replacements. They can gang rape his two virgin daughters if they leave the two angels disguised as jambu alone. But the crowd refused Lot’s two virgin daughters. They still wanted the two sexy men.

So God told Lot to take his family and leave that community because He was going to destroy the entire community. Lot and his family were told to leave and not look back. Unfortunately, Lot’s wife did not follow God’s wishes and looked back so she was turned into a pillar of salt.

Lot and his family were spared because they were all righteous people even though Lot had offered his two virgin daughters to be gang raped by the horde of sex-crazed people. Offering your two virgin daughters to be gang raped does not make you unrighteous.

After they had escaped, Lot’s two virgin daughters got him drunk and then had sex with him. Then they became pregnant. But God did not destroy them because they were righteous although they had sex with their own father and got pregnant. Only if you have gay sex will God destroy you.

That is what Christianity teaches us. So what the government did to Anwar is not as bad as what God did to the people of Lot’s community. So why are we complaining about what the government did to Anwar when God did worse? God did not punish Lot for offering his two virgin daughters to be gang raped. In fact, God said Lot was righteous. God did not punish Lot’s daughters for having sex with their own father. In fact, God said they were righteous. God only punished those who have gay sex.

Although RPK goes on quite a bit in his article about reading the Bible, taking comparative religions and understanding religions other than one’s down, here his understanding is lacking and/or coloured by his Islamic background. I don’t blame him really, as many self-proclaimed Christians similarly would not know the following:

Righteousness as defined by Christianity has nothing to do with your deeds, save one: Faith in Jesus (and by extension, God).

There relevant passage:

What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. – Romans 4:3-5

This is probably a very foreign, counter-intuitive and perhaps even downright wrong concept to a Muslim or someone steeped in an Islamic background. I know, as I’ve encountered such a different worldview before: Differences in Worldviews of Christianity vs Islam – As Supplied by menj

But the whole concept of Christianity is that nothing we do makes us worthy or forgiveness or salvation or heaven, it’s 100% about what Jesus did on the cross.

Sacraments? Good karmistic works? Five Pillars? None of these matter, for how can we ever compare to the holy and infinitely perfect Creator? (This is something that a Muslim can probably agree with.)

As Isaiah 64:6 laments, all our righteous acts are like filthy rags to Him! A single drop of our filth would contaminate His perfectly pure heaven – only Jesus’ divine redemptive sacrifice can truly and fully cleanse us.

All the ‘Heroes of Faith’ in Hebrews 11 are commended for believing in something they had no assurance of other than God’s word of honour. God promised it, and they lived like they believed it.

Hence when Lot is considered ‘righteous’ in 2 Peter 7-8, it is because he heard God’s message through the angels (leave town!) and believed (he left town).

And on a related point, it is not correct either to assume that the daughters’ de facto rape of their unale-to-give-legal-consent father did not result in any punishment or ill effects. An observant reader will realize just how serious the result of Lot’s family’s sin was – the children born of the incestuous, extra-marital act were named Moab and Bene-Ammon (Genesis 19:36-38). Generations later, the Moabites and the Ammonites were some of the most vicious enemies of their cousins Israel (i.e. the daughters’ father Lot’s uncle Abraham’s son Isaac’s son Jacob aka Israel).

So while faith leads to eternal salvation, earthly actions do have (often serious) consequences.

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PS. This is not relevant to my points above, but I’m pretty sure the piece RPK cites that got him so riled up, Council of Islamic Ideology declares women’s existence anti-Islamic… Is actually satire.

PPS. Come to think of it, RPK keeps focusing on the ‘Sodom condemned for its homosexuality’ angle… But seems to ignore that Sodom involved attempted forcible gang rape too! Or is he saying that sort of thing should be ok?


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