The Pope’s New Book on Jesus’ Birth. Now He’s in Trouble!


There has been a fair bit of press about the newest publication from the current head of the Catholic Church, Joseph Ratzinger, better known now as Pope Benedict XVI (don’t you just hate sequels?). There was even a humorous take on some of the aspects of the new book from the colossus of comedy Stephen Colbert.

But the hub-bub is mostly about how the Pope is saying certain parts of the standard idea of the Christmas scene are not found in the Bible. For example, there are no animals to be seen in the Nativity stories, though you can hardly find a Renaissance painting or Christmas card without them. Pretty small potatoes, really, but it’s really a matter of His Holiness doing some historical criticism related to the Christianity. This is also up his alley. The current occupant of Saint Peter’s position in the church was a bookish man, served as an expert in the Second Vatican Council, and wrote considerably before becoming pope. However, most of what he wrote, going by the bibliography on Wikipedia, is primarily theological rather than historical, especially historical criticism of the Bible itself.

So why care about it, especially if you aren’t a Catholic? Well, the Pope does get into defending historical claims about the birth of Jesus, so it is interesting to find what arguments he makes, supposing his would be better than any given apologist, Catholic or Protestant. But what got me interested when I was contacted by James Sentell (whom I have previously criticized concerning the Nativity stories) and discovered than in this little book His Holiness endorses an astronomical interpretation of the Star of Bethlehem. This is actually a first in the history of this idea, something that I ought to know having written on it in detail. So I wanted to see for myself that that was the case, along with what else is in there.

So, in a few posts I want to highlight some of the things that would get me in trouble with the papacy if I were still Catholic. 🙂 Let’s take a look at the weaknesses of the arguments made by Pope Benedict.

For this post, allow me this observation: his resources. My first interest was to see what he had been reading. Understandably  the references in his book are largely devoted to theological or exegetical literature rather than historical/critical literature. The Pope’s book is mostly a theological discussion, so it makes sense that he care more about the books of exegesis rather than higher criticism. But it was still amazing to see what books are not in there. In the 20th century there were a number of good Catholic Bible scholars that did proper historical criticism, such as Herman Hendrickx. His The Infancy Narratives may be a bit out of date now, but it was still good scholarship and mainstream. The work of John Meier is also not to be found, though this Catholic priest is extremely well-respected (and more conservative than most from the Jesus Seminar). But most importantly, there is no sign of citation (or even reading) the work of the most important study on the infancy narratives in the 20th century, let alone that done by a Catholic, Raymond Brown‘s Birth of the Messiah. Not citing this work is like doing physics in ignorance of the work of Richard Feynman. This is even more amazing considering that the Pope had said back in 1988 (before becoming the pope) how Brown did good work and would be happy to have more exegetes like Brown (see Donahue, Life in Abundance, p. 251 n. 26). If I were Brown, and he were alive, I would feel perplexed and insulted.

What it looks like though by not including these authors, along with many more that publish is worthy journals such as the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, is that His Holiness is avoiding the hard criticism of the Bible. But how can one defend the faith and what it means if you don’t engage with it’s best criticisms, including those in-house? Considering that is now at least one Dominican that thinks Jesus was a myth, you would hope some of that critical thought would make it into the work of the most important living figure in Christianity.

So you can already get the idea that the Pope has not really engaged with the historical criticism of his own theological brothers. He obviously hasn’t dealt with the hard stuff first brought forth by David Strauss over 150 years ago. He also hasn’t read the useful book on the historicity of the Nativity by Jonathan Pearce (see his The Nativity: A Critical Examination to get an idea of what mainstream scholars do say about the tale). And he obviously isn’t reading my papers or blog (yet!).

But with this preliminary look, I’ll get into some of the arguments he makes. Stay tuned.

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57 thoughts on “The Pope’s New Book on Jesus’ Birth. Now He’s in Trouble!

  1. Pingback: The Pope on the Nativity Part 2 | Fleeing Nergal, Seeking Stars

  2. Pingback: The Pope on the Nativity Part 3 | Fleeing Nergal, Seeking Stars

  3. Pingback: The Pope’s New Book on Jesus’ Birth. Now He’s in Trouble! | A Tippling Philosopher

  4. Pingback: The Pope on the Nativity Part 2 | A Tippling Philosopher

  5. Pingback: Searching for More on the Star of Bethlehem | Fleeing Nergal, Seeking Stars

  6. Pingback: Pope Benedict on the Way Out | Fleeing Nergal, Seeking Stars

  7. The Tippling Philosopher is out of his league in his “The Nativity” because of an atheist bias. It\’s called “Methodological Naturalism”, the first “dogma” of Atheism. Its claim has never been demonstrated and the research he has done on the genus litterarium of the Gospels, the composition of the Gospels, especially of Matthew and Luke, is nil. He has no demonstrrated ad experimentum that Methodological Naturalism is true, he just presupposes it as the basis for his denial of the Virgin Birth. He also knows nothing of the Triadic “Q”: on which the Gospels are based and probably does not even know the meaning of Logia, Praxeis and Dynameis. He believes that just raising questions about the Nativity and proceeding to demolish them by revulsion, ridicule and caricature is proof.

    He and I have tangled before about his “scholarship”. His pen is dipped in an unreasoned atheism that he applies to God, religion and other issues with which he it totally unfamiliar.

    Father Clifford Stevens
    Boys Town, Nebraska

    • So, given that you’ve got bored of non-dialectical rants on Amazon about books you hadn’t yet read, you’d thought you’d shift the playing field to someone else’s blog! Liars for Jesus know no bounds!

  8. Your comment is barely related to what I mentioned here, and you attack on Jon, the Tippling Philosopher, is rather disingenuous.

    You state that Jon doesn’t know what Logia are; why is that relevant to the birth stories of Jesus? I bring that up because there are no logia in the first chapters of Matthew or Luke. It’s a red herring. Same thing when it comes to the Q document–it has nothing to do with the birth stories even if it existed. And even if there are logia in those chapters, why does that have any bearing on the historicity of the stories? You provide a red herring to complete a non sequitor, and it doesn’t matter how much Latin or Greek is used along the way to create a logical fallacy.

    As for your attack on methodological naturalism, it is rather strange because it has a long history of working, while supernatural explanations have never proven to be the best explanation. Moreover, the disagreement with naturalism by religious proponents is hypocritical because a Christian is unlikely to believe in the virgin birth of Perseus, for example. And yes, even early Christians recognized the story of Perseus’ origins has having a birth without sex (Justin Martyr, 1st Apology 22, 54). If you believe all non-Christian supernatural birth stories are unhistorical, what basis is that on? If all such stories are false, that must imply a lower prior probability of the Christian version; all else is denial of probability theory.

    If you don’t want to believe Jon because he is an atheist (a logical fallacy again), then you can stick to Catholic sources. As Raymond Brown says in “Birth of the Messiah”, p. 527, the scientifically controllable biblical evidence leaves the question unresolved, meaning you can’t demonstrate the virgin birth from the biblical evidence. He believed it happened, but he agrees he cannot prove it. Brown’s student Jane Schaberg has also argued rather well that Matthew isn’t saying Jesus was conceived without sex, and another Catholic scholar, Robert Miller in “Born Divine” agrees that Matthew isn’t necessarily saying Jesus was supernaturally conceived. But then again, Miller doesn’t consider how Triadic Q proves the whole story is historical. Perhaps because it’s nonsense.

    • Aaron Adair – You are misinformed on this issue. How do you verify somethinf that happened in the past? What is at issue is the Genus Litterarium of the Gospels. I am afraid your Methodical Naturalism is showing. Jonathan Pearce’s “The Nativity” is a farce and is just an Atheist’s view of the Gospels. No more.

      Father Clifford Stevens
      Boys Town, Nebraska

      • How do you verify something happened in the past? You take the prior probability of it happening, consider what evidences favor or disfavor it, and compare with opposing options. When it comes to ranking the evidence, best is the impossibility of the consequences without the event happening (i.e. Julius Caesar starting and winning the civil war by crossing with his army across the Rubicon). Using ancient historians is also good to some degree, but modern historians come to learn more and more to be skeptical of even the best of the ancient historians (for example, Tacitus’ book on Germany is now considered a collection of Roman stereotypes of foreigners). But what we really want is evidence from the event itself, the primary sources (somehow who saw it, an artifact from the event, etc.). We don’t have that for the Gospel stories, especially for the nativity stories. And because they describe things that are unexpected based on biology and physics, and we know false stories happen all the time, we have every reason to be skeptical and no reason not to besides dogma.

        Unfortunately, your method seems to be something is true because that is your dogma, and then you attack others for having a dogma against yours when in fact they are using the best historical methods available. Why else do you think over 90% of the members of the Jesus Seminar said the Virgin birth wasn’t historical? Why do you think Catholic Raymond Brown said he couldn’t prove it? And why is it that you can only defend your position by ad hominem? It doesn’t even matter what you think the genus litterarium is; if the Gospels are bad sources, it matters not how much they intended anything. (Also, there are arguments that the genre of the gospels is that of ancient novel; cf. Vines, “The Problem of Markan Genre”.)

      • Aaron – I do not impose my beliefs or my religion on anyone, but I can answer unfair, unfounded, and ridiculous attacks on God, religion and Christianity. You will filnd no evidence to support such attacks and atheists like Dawkins, Faircloth and Jonathan Pearce are arguing from an unfounded principle called Methodological Naturalism, which is arbitrary and self-serving and lacking any empirical evidence.

        I am familiar with a multiltude of sciences and atheism is not scientific. It is an ideology that is aimed at the jugular vein of Christianity, and of Catholilcism in particular. Science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God and to attack Christianity in the name of “science” is a pure act of the WILL, which Jonathan Pearce denies exists. His attack on the Nativity is simply a catalogue of opinions, which are based on a total ignorance of the documents he is reviewing.

        As for Raymond Brown, whom I admire for the great body of his work: he is known to be a little bit too cozy with German-Continental school of Biblilcal interpretation and a little too taken with the so-called “historical-critical” method, neglecting, both the British and Scandinavian schools, and the diachronic approach to exegetical findings. His use of “theologisms” to explain away the historicity of certain Bible passages overlooks the historical context of these passages.

        That the Gospels are bad sources is your one private opinion and if you want to understand my method of research, you find a short introduction in an article in THE PRIEST MAGAZINE of August 2006. It is the introduction of work entitled; “Jesus Christ in History: The Need for a New Methodology.” The finished work will cover 25 chapters, with an introduction and Epilogue: 30 appendices, and 20 indices.

        I don’t need anyone telling me that the Gospels are bad sources.

        Father Clifford Stevens
        Boys Town, Nebraska

      • Who said anything about imposing beliefs?

        Evidence for methodological naturalism? How about supernaturalism has not successfully explained anything in history, while natural explanations have so far superseded supernatural ones? Lightning and disease used to be said to be caused by demons or divinities; now we talk about barometric pressure and electrical discharges. Are meteorologists guilty of unfounded methodological naturalism, or is it that the naturalistic program has worked? And again, I would say your attack is hypocritical; you don’t give other religions’ miracle claims the time of day (i.e. Perseus’ sexless conception). On what principle do you call to other than dogma or the results from methodological naturalism?

        Science and God: if religions have testable predictions, then science could potentially prove or disprove them. One example: prayer. Does it help in medical trials? The evidence says ‘no’. The God that caused a giant flood and created all creatures without ancestors is also disproven; you may not believe in that deity, but it is one disproven by science. How about the healing powers of Asclepius? Again, you can see if people going to such a shrine of his has more healing power than placebo. The only religious things that cannot be examined by science are ones that have no bearing on the state of the observable world; considering you think that god-made-flesh was a historical event and such a being did all sorts of miraculous things, then you do believe in a god that does things in the observable world. That is then testable and potentially falsifiable.

        So you are going to dismiss Catholic scholars as well. So then the problem isn’t atheism now, is it? You don’t like the conclusions. As for other schools of biblical studies, I am hard pressed to find any significant number of professional Bible scholars thinking the Nativity stories are historical. Also, in Scandinavia there is a significant number there that find most of the Bible unhistorical (the Copenhagen school), so I don’t know what you mean when you refer to Scandinavia. Perhaps they have interesting exegetical methods, but not necessarily historical. When it comes to historical method, I rather look to historians such as C.B. McCullagh, J. Tosh, W. Prevenier, M. Howell, D.H. Fischer, and many others.

        As for the Gospels being bad sources: let’s compare to another historian from antiquity who we don’t think highly of: Suetonius. Historians are highly skeptical of much of what he says. However, unlike the Gospels, we know who he was, why he was writing, what many his sources were, and he even shows critical use of those sources. When Suetonius writes about the birth stories of Augustus, he separates the folklore from the better sources. But again, Suetonius is considered one of the worst historians from the classical era. The Gospels, on the other hand, are written by unknown people writing at unknown times for difficult to uncover reasons, they do not tell us what their sources are, and there is no indication that they treated their sources critically. So, by the standards historians use, the Gospel authors are worse historical sources that Suetonius. But this is even assuming the Gospels are trying to be biographical or historical, to which there is considerable evidence against. Heck, that has been the position of biblical studies since the mid-19th century after the work of David Strauss.

        As for your article, I don’t seem to have access to it via my university, so I cannot comment on its contents, let alone your tome. But when it comes to method, that has been something scholars have been working on for decades, and the most recent conclusions have been that the criteria used for determining that parts of the Gospel stories are historical are not logically sound. Have you engaged in those works? Is your volume going to consider the issues of mimesis and intertextuality? Will it work out the genre of the Gospels using the ideas of chronotope as articulated by Mikhail Bakhtin? What about the work on source criticism, especially the arguments by Mark Goodacre and Dennis MacDonald that does away with Q? When it comes to historical method, will you be using the methods of McCullagh (namely the argument to the best explanation), or perhaps a Bayesian format as recently argued for by Richard Carrier? From the way you have been arguing here, I doubt you are taking these scholarly issues seriously, and these are ones that do touch on points of historicity. If you can dismiss Brown’s work and the consensus from other groups such as the Jesus seminar with the flick of the philosophical wrist, then I have no hope that your work will be more than an expensive doorstop. Now that may be my opinion, but it happens to be informed by the facts rather than a line of logically fallacious attacks as you have used on Jon and myself.

        But because of my naturalism, I can be persuaded by evidence contrary to my initial beliefs. So, feel free to present what you think is something solidly historical from the Nativity stories and the method you used to show that. In fact, could you focus on the Star of Bethlehem since that is what I have studied most closely? I think it would be infinitely more productive to examine something and see where the problem lies rather than attack a person’s theology or philosophy (which should be based on the facts, not contrary to them). I look forward to that should you choose to show how you defend the historicity of the Star of Bethlehem story.

  9. Aaron – Who said anything about “supernaturalism”, and don’t give me that old saw that atheism is “neutral”. You are biased as hell and you know it. We are talking about reality and I don’t have to have the Vienna Circle thrown at me every time an atheist picks up his pen. I was really expecting a little more originality than that. You seem to be parroting the last gasp of that circle that hit the presses in 1996. Please, give me credit for a little more intelligence. I am as familiar in as many sciences as you are and have debated with the best of them. None of you have an original thought of your own. All you can repeat is the party line. You remarks about the Pope are small-minded and a little too cozy.

    Father Clifford Stevens
    Boys Town, Nebraska

    • I have to doubt you read more than a few words of what I said in my last comment, and instead you charge forward with a hundred things I didn’t even say (so no wonder I don’t seem original; you’re acting like Clint Eastwood attacking invisible Obama).

      Where did I say atheism is neutral on naturalism/supernaturalism? To me it’s obvious atheism is naturalistic. Your chest-thumping is also rather amusing, including your claim that you know the sciences as well as I do (did you know I’m getting my PhD this year in physics?).

      I wanted to try to make this dialog a bit more productive, so I’ll try again. Could you show me how you would defend the historicity of the story of the Star of Bethlehem? Show me how your method would apply, and then I can see how coherent it is. That’s infinitely more productive than talking about the Vienna Circle (of which I don’t subscribe to).

      As for what I said about the retiring Pope’s book, there are two other pages of appraisal, and this first one is very preliminary and a bit tongue-in-cheek. You may want to look at that before calling my remarks “small-minded” and “cozy” (what’s wrong with cozy?).

  10. Aaron – You either accept the gospels of Matthew and Luke as historical or not. It’s as simple as that.
    I don’t see what having a Ph.D. in :Physics has anything to do with what we are talking about. We are talking about the historicity of the Gospel accounts. What school of exegesis are you coming from? That is certainly not in the domain of Physics. Of course, it is obvious that Atheism is naturalistic, but that is not a conclusion of any science. You have far more to defend than I do. How in the world does a :Ph.D. in Physics have anything to do witth Atheism?

    Father Clifford Stevens
    Boys Town, Nebraska

    • It looks like your historical method is simply dogma: you believe Matthew and Luke just ‘cuz. Sorry, but that is not a historical methodology. I don’t do that with any ancient source, nor does any other historian. If you are admitting that your position is simply a faith-based dogma, then there isn’t anything to discuss. But you may convince me otherwise. What evidence (not presupposition) can you provide or method can you apply to show the story of the Star of Bethlehem is historical rather than otherwise? It’s important because I can give reasons for my position. Can you?

      Oh, and you forgot you brought up that you were so knowledgeable about science, so I brought up the fact that I’m more-so. Had nothing to do with exegesis or atheism. So I have to doubt either your honesty or literacy. Neither is good for a priest, I should think.

      • Aaron – It is not a matter of dogma, it is a matter of history. If you don;t understand that you don’t understand where our differences really are. I would like to see the reasons for your position, but I think I know them already. But go ahead. I will see what I can do with them.

        You seem to feel that anyone who does not agree with you is either dishonest or illiterate. It is your Atheism and your attempts to discredit Christianity that I disagree with. Your sense of intellectual superiority is a bit strained.

        Father Clifford Stevens
        Boys Town, Nebraska

      • Alright, I’ll just focus on what things make the story of the Star unlikely to be historical.

        First, the story involves something outside the realm of the physically possible (I hope you don’t subscribe to the naturalistic versions of the Star). Since things that are now allowed by physics are initially unlikely to be true, and the stories of the physically impossible are not verified in cases where we can check (i.e. claims about psychic powers), then it is an initially improbable story.

        Second, the Magi in question have several features that make it implausible that they would come and visit Judea to worship a new-born king. They were Zoroastrian priests, not Jews, so they have little reason to care about another religion’s savior figures. Before the Sassinid period in Persia, Zoroastrians had no interest in astrology, and when astrology was re-introduced in the 3rd century CE it was despised; in fact all moving planets, comets, etc. were considered evil. That makes their interest in a moving Star highly unlikely.

        From the historical record of events, we have two major silences. There is no record from the East that shows any homage paid to Jesus by the Magi. In fact, in the 3rd century there were active persecutions of Jews and Christians in Persia. That is the exact opposite of what is expected given that some of the members of that order worshiped Jesus at this birth. In Greco-Roman records, we have nothing about this trip of the Magi, and it would be expected to be mentioned because the event would have caused a war. We have Persian delegates coming from Rome’s archenemy, declaring another person king over the establishment of King Herod by Caesar Augustus. This would have caused a war. The same sort of thing happened in Armenia, and it lead to major diplomatic showdowns and wars, and it was well-recorded in numerous historian’s accounts we have (Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, Cassius Dio, etc.). But we have nothing about this sort of thing happening in Judea. Again, it strongly indicates no such delegation of magi came to Judea.

        On the other hand, we can explain the story by the methods of exegesis that were not uncommon in the 2nd Temple period and beyond, be it midrash or mimesis and intertextuality. The Star fits the prophecy from Num 24:17, including key words in the Greek version of Numbers (anatole/anatello). Isa 60 includes how eastern kings would come to Israel’s brightness and bring gifts of gold and frankincense. This sort of thing is explained well by intertextuality. The story with the king, the prophetic interpreters, the attempt on the life of the child, and even a star at birth, can all be found attributed to Moses. Josephus has a version of Moses’ birth that is similar to the Jesus story (including with a Joseph-like figure), and Samaritan documents include a star indicating to Pharaoh’s scribes that a Jewish savior figure was to be born. This is then explained well by mimesis.

        So, the historical event is initially implausible and has several lines of evidence against it. The thesis that the story is based on exegetical methods used in the first century CE which can explain the story in detail has evidence to favor it (from initial plausibility to the details of the story). Argument to the best explanation (or on Bayesian analysis) forces you conclude with high probability that the Star story is likely unhistorical.

        Now, I haven’t given much in the way of detail or sources, but that is what I will be doing in my own upcoming book about the Star of Bethlehem. I’m sure you’ll want a copy. 😉

  11. Aaron – Your objections ;prove nothing except your objections. You are not dealing with the historicity of the text, but reasons why the text might not be true, but the text still stands. The text does not say that the star was a natural phenomenon and you use the standard of Methodological Naturalism to judge the veracity of the text. So your objection from Physics does not hold.

    Second, we know nothing about the history of the Jews in Babylon, just as we know nothing about the Babylonian Magi. You cannot appeal to lack of knowledge as an objection, and I think your mistaking a study of the stars with Astrology. The Mayans studied the heavens and they were not astrologers, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion.” How long were the Jews in Babylon? According to Jeremiah and Jewish history itself seventy years. And we know the “Persians” were learned. Look at Avicenna and his whole generation. That was in Islamic Persia, but they were “learned”. I think you underestimate cultural cross-ferftilization,.

    The persecution of the Jews and Christians in :Persia under Islam is very complicated. But from my research, they were tolerated and left somewhat alone, even to the point of worship. As a matter of fact, the Moslems received their interest and knowledge of Plato and Aristotle from Christians in Persia. So even here cultural cross-fertilization was at work. Your “strong indication” indicates nothing.

    I simply don’t buy that the Jesus story is built on the Moses story. That is only another excuse not to accept the account of Jesus’ birth as history.

    All you have is a strained implausability and I have a text immersed in history. You can explain away the historicity, but not on the basis of any real evidence.

    I will review your book on the Star of Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus and show that implausabiliity is an argument from “what might have been” but that the text as it is, is more plausible.

    Thank you for your honesty and gracious good will.

    Father Clifford Stevens
    Boys Town, Nebraska

    • My objection based on physics is what you would use to show that astrology is implausible (i.e. can’t fit into what we know how the world works). Would you say that using the argument from physics isn’t a good reason to reject astrology? Also, I noted that all the cases where we can see if a story where physics was broken are untrue, so it isn’t a problem of methodological naturalism but the fact that when we look into such stories we find other reasons why they exist besides they actually happened as stated. It’s not a problem of philosophy but a probability calculation. If every story you can check where physics is supposed to have been undone turns out to be untrue, that makes the probability of another such claim to be true low. See Laplace’s rule of succession, and note that the calculation is world-view independent.

      On Persia: the period of interest I was looking at was before the Islamic conquests. In particular, I considered when Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion there (the Parthian and Sassinid periods), and that is the religion of the magi. Citing Avicenna is thus not relevant. I also talk about astrology because it is the practice of interpreting the stars. The Maya and Aztec did that (such as interpreting what the comets they saw meant), but they may not have produced horoscopes as we come to know about astrology. In ancient Babylonia and Assyria they had astrology before horoscopes as well. But the key thing is that we can see in Zoroastrian literature that there was no interest in the stars for finding auspicious signs, and it was only after the efforts of Sassinid kings in the 3rd century that Zoroastrians looked into astrology. Later they accepted it and their works on astronomy and astrology would be passed onto Islamic scholars. This is relevant to the question of the Magi coming to Judea because the tale has us believe that they interpreted the stars, namely through the rising of “his Star”, to say a new king of the Jews was born. But if the magi had no interest in interpreting stars, that makes this story implausible.

      On the persecutions: those again happened in the 3rd century under Zoroastrian rule. In fact it was the head magi that gladly wrote about his persecutions of Jews and Christians. If the Magi had worshiped Jesus, you wouldn’t expect such vitriol at Jesus’ followers. It indicates that there was no such love for the Jewish religion in the first century BCE nor was there a trip to worship the savior figure from that religion. The Zoroastrians had their own messiah-like figure so why give a fig about another religions? Under Islam, there was greater tolerance, depending on who ruled where and when, but a lot of good science was done by Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians in medieval times. But that isn’t relevant to the period in question.

      You didn’t seem to interact with the point that if the events happened as suggested by Matthew, there should have been a major international incident, perhaps even a war, and it would have been noted by historians of the times. Yet there is a vast silence; heck, not even the other Gospel authors mention it. It would be like hearing a story that in the 1960s the Soviet Union sent delegates to establish a new governor in Puerto Rico against the government accepted by the US. This would be a bigger incident than when Cuba went communist under Castro. If this didn’t make it into the historical record, you would have every reason to think it didn’t happen. In antiquity, I compared the situation of Parthian intervention in Armenia, and that did lead to war and was widely recorded by Greco-Roman historians. That we don’t see that for the events alleged to have happened in Judea indicates that it didn’t happen.

      On Moses: denial just isn’t an argument. Again, this fits into exegetical and literary methods that were practiced at the time. Mimesis of the Moses story can explain the details and why we don’t find the story in historical records. I also pointed to Num 24:17 and Isa 60 to explain details via intertextuality. The point is we can explain the way the text came about rather well based on literary methods, while the historical explanation is implausible on several levels. This is how I treat all such stories from antiquity: look at their initial plausibility, see what evidence is for it, what evidence is against it, and what other explanations could do just as well or better. I’ve rejected even completely non-supernatural stories this way (such as how Tiberius picked his favorite astrologer, which is told in a way that is implausible and can be explained as mimicking stories from the Alexander Romance), so I can at least be consistent when doing this for even more amazing tales.

  12. Aaron – I don’t see that any argument from Physics has anything to do with what we are talking about We’re talking about a text and its historicity. As for astrology, it is simply not science, trying to predict your destiny from the stars. There is no indication in the text of Matthew that the “wise men from the east” were astrologers. I”m sorry, but I don’t see that :Physics has anything to do with what we are talking about. We don’t know anything about the religion of the Magi, and I doubt if such “wise men” would have anything to do with Zoroastrianism. You might look into that particular religion a little more carefully. I think you underestimate the effects of Alexander’s conquest of the East. I think your views about astrology and the Magi are mistaken. “We have seen his star in the east.” The Latin says” Vidimus enim ejus in oriente et venimus adorare eum.” The Greek says (I can’t find Greek letters) ” Eidomen ton astera en te anatole”. We are talking about scientists, not Babylonian priests. But what they saw was not a scientific phenomenon….and it went before them.

    What do you mean about a war? There was a minor war: the slaughter of the Innocentt. A war on the new King of the Jews. Your examples are completely off base.

    Mimesis is a modern concept. I don;t find it anywhere in the Biblical writings. The idea is not very convincing and only detracts from the text.

    You either take the text the way it stands or manufacture reasons not to accept as history. Your basic premise is wrong: take the text as history and try to find reasons not to accept it as history. But your basic premise has its origin in atheism which tells you that the history cannot possibly be true because, if it is, there goes your atheism and atheism’s major premise: Methodological Naturalism.

    There is some kind of circular reasoning here.

    Father Clifford Stevens
    Boys Town, Nebraska

    • I’ll discuss your post backward. I don’t accept the story because of its historical problems. And it is not a proper historical methodology to accept at text as true; historians are skeptical of all the writings by ancient historians, largely because they are much poorer in method and gathering facts and weeding out fantastical tales. Herodotus, for example, speaks of armor coming to life to fight the Persians at Delphi; Suetonius says Nero burned down Rome and played the lyre during the fire, though we know from Tacitus Nero wasn’t even in Rome when the fire started. And there are things made up but kept in because a historian thought it made a point they wanted. About how so much of history from antiquity is questionable, see M. Grant, “Greek and Roman Historians: Information and Misinformation”.

      So when I am skeptical of stories from antiquity, it isn’t because I want to be an atheist, but because we know that the ancients didn’t distinguish history from myth all that well.

      Mimesis is an ancient concept, and it was taught in schools during the Roman era. A grammaticus would have students practice imitating Homer. Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus talk about it. Mimesis is not a new or modern idea, and in fact artists have been trying to break away from it; not being mimetic is more post-modern than anything.

      On war: I mean war between Rome and Persia/Parthia. Parthians from the highest ranks of the empire come and declare some else king in a Roman province. That we would expect to lead to a major diplomatic show-down, if not a war. And such an event would have been noted by other historians of the period.

      On astrology: up until the modern era, astrology was considered a science. The top astronomers were also the top astrologers. This didn’t change until the time of Newton. J. Kepler, for example was a astrologer and cast horoscopes, and so did Galileo. Copernicus learned astrology in his education to become a doctor. And in antiquity, Ptolemy was the most influential astronomer and astrologer. Even though we consider it a pseudoscience, astrology was not so disgraced in the past, though there were skeptics of it (i.e. Cicero).

      On the magi: we know that magi were the priests of the Zoroastrian religion. We know this from the sacred texts of the religion as well as Greco-Roman records. Strabo even tells us that they chose who was to be king among family claimants. Pliny the Elder says a lot about them as well. It is false to say we don’t know much about this religion. Just look at the scholarship of the late M. Boyce or Encyclopedia Iranica. As for the Magi in Matthew’s story being astrologers: they were interested in stars and what they meant; they looked at the rising of “his Star” and knew it was about a Jewish king. That is in basic form what astrologers do: interpret stellar signs. Sure there is nothing said about the Moon being in the Second House and Jupiter aligned with Mars, but we have interpreters of the stars nonetheless in the story.

      On applying physics: again, the point is stories that contradict the laws of physics have been found to be dubious (i.e. psychics, dowsers, astrologers, homeopaths, etc.). Therefore, any other story that has violations of physics is initially dubious. If any story can come along that isn’t consistent with physics is no less dubious than a story which is consistent with known science, then the entire practice of physics is pointless; anything can happen, and we can’t describe it. Is it gravity or is it intelligent falling? We would be back in the medieval mindset with all being magical. But that is irrational; you cannot jettison your background knowledge about how the world works when figuring how likely something said is true. Again, you will be inconsistent if you do not accept that Muhammad flew up to heaven on a winged horse, that Jim Jones resurrected people from the dead (he did claim that), or that “The Call of Cthulhu” is a true story. If a story being inconsistent with our background knowledge isn’t grounds for something being dubious, that you cannot say any story is unlikely without being hypocritical.

      So again, let me repeat my method: the story is initially dubious because it has things we know are in violation to what science has discovered (and we know stories that go against scientific knowledge are almost never true), it comes from an unknown sources for uncertain reasons using methods worse than the worst biographer of the classical era, there are several lines of evidence against the story having happened independent of the supernatural, and it can be explained much better and in detail using what we know about the literary methods of the past. Put that all into Bayes’ theorem, and you get a low final probability.

      Perhaps to make things interesting, what prior probability do you think the story has (that is, how likely is the story true before considering any other evidence)? 70%? 90%? 99.999? 100? How would you justify that? If you can’t justify the initial probability of the story to be better than 50%, then why accept it at all?

      • Aaron

        You will find dealing with this man infuriarating. Not only does he commit untold niumbers of fallacies, but he will not interact with any pertinent point you make. You can see the literally hundreds of posts on my book reviews on amazon. As you can see here, he has concluded his review before you have even finished writing the book! What silly presuppositionalism – utterly unwilling to deal with evidence, and happy to conclude matters a priori.

        You have owned him on every point her, and he has not got the proper honesty to either admit it, or to deal directly with your points.

        The man just hasn’t done enough critical research and he is beyond reason. Just read the arguments for yourself, though you can probably guess from his pitiful engagement here.

        I have tried reasoning politely with him. He is not worth it, really not. I would ignore him, he has a history of this – a most disingenuous approach at best.

        His comments on free will were particularly laughable!

        Regards

        JP

  13. Aaron – ,I see that my friend Jonathan has stepped into the picture to gjive you advice. His denial of free will by using his free will is still a contradiction that he cannot see. Your skepticism about ancient historians is misplaced. The Greeks were great historians and the historical books of the Old Testament are acceptable by modern standards. Your Atheism has much to do with your skepticism, even though you deny it. If Matthew’s Gospel is historical there is a great crack in the whole atheist structure.

    I am familiar with astrology and the fact that Europeans dabbled in it is irrelevant, they dabbled in all kinds of pseudo-sciences. But I have to rush off to the hospital to comfort a man who is dying,so I will have to reply to your post later in the day. You are wrong about the Magi and quote only those sources that seem to support your view. Astrology and science are two different things and to make the Magi superstitious Babylonian priests is unworthy of these men. There are more things in the Encyclopedia Iranica than you have put your fingers on. You are looking through atheist glasses, because if I am right, puff goes the whole stack of atheist cards you have stacked up. The basis of your atheism thus far iis rather fragile,.

    Father Clifford Stevens
    Boys Town, Nebraska

  14. “His denial of free will by using his free will is still a contradiction that he cannot see.”

    This shows you don’t even understand the basics of denial of contra-causal free will. Which we most summarily showed to you (or you showed to us) on amazon. The fact that I write on here does not show that I have free will. What a silly argument. In fact, even without the philosophical argument, your silly comments enrage me so much as to be unable not to.

    Your comments are so naive as to not be worth replying to, but hey ho.

    “Your skepticism about ancient historians is misplaced. The Greeks were great historians and the historical books of the Old Testament are acceptable by modern standards.”

    So ancient historians are as reliable (generally speaking) as modern historians? That despite lack of formal training, historiographical techniques or knowledge, lack of ability to contact source material, lack of access to source material in general, lack research techniques or resources, lack or peer-review, lack of …..

    “Your Atheism has much to do with your skepticism, even though you deny it.”

    Your theism has much to do with believing any old shit some ancient book tells you based on a presupposed commitment. Even though you try to deny it.

    “I am familiar with astrology and the fact that Europeans dabbled in it is irrelevant, they dabbled in all kinds of pseudo-sciences.”

    Typically vague vague assertion. Evasion.

    “You are wrong about the Magi and quote only those sources that seem to support your view.”

    There are very few sources on the Magi, none primary. That is the problem. They do not make sense historically, culturally, common-sensically and so on. They are a clear literary mechanism to get Herod into the story as well as being midrashic interpretations of Balaam (or Daniel, as Carrier would claim).

    “Astrology and science are two different things and to make the Magi superstitious Babylonian priests is unworthy of these men. ”

    Your comments drip with argument from desire and presupposition.

    “You are looking through atheist glasses, because if I am right, puff goes the whole stack of atheist cards you have stacked up. ”

    Hah! Man, that’s so bad. Such hypocrisy.

  15. Jonathan – You cannot deny free with vague generalizations that are not subject to ad experimentum and expect anyone to take you seriously. Really!!! You choose to do something, and that is not using your free will? That’s an absurdity as even a child could recognize. When you can demonstrate ad experimentum with a clear identification of the determinist engines in Physics that affect the human will, you will show yourself at least half-credible.

    David Bohm, my mentor in these matters, denies that the causality on the atomic level is determinist. You cannot indentify a causal relationship between Physics and Biology, much less between nuclear physics, biology and the human psyche. What law of nature are you talking about? Your book is pure speculation based on a false premise. And it is clear that you free will is very active. All you are left with is a comedy of errors and scientific nonesense.

    Father Clifford Stevens
    Boys Town, Nebraska

    • Yawn. I will not talk of free will here – it is a red herring. That said, you were scholled here:
      http://www.amazon.com/review/R3EBO6SEHGA9S4/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0956694802&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=#wasThisHelpful

      and particularly here:

      http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R8LD0Q1XX6K51/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0956694802&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=#wasThisHelpful

      You literally haven’t got a clue what you are on about. It’s sad.

      FYI, I suggest reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Bohmian mechanics (de Broglie-Bohm) – http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qm-bohm/ (“Thus, in Bohmian mechanics the configuration of a system of particles evolves via a deterministic motion choreographed by the wave function. In particular, when a particle is sent into a two-slit apparatus, the slit through which it passes and its location upon arrival on the photographic plate are completely determined by its initial position and wave function.”)

      We could talk Bohm for a long time, and, though I in some ways favour a Bohmian approach, it is well out of fashion, and the deterministic many worlds theory has better adherence (at one conference not a single attendee claimed adherence to Bohmian interpretations). Either way, of course, QM is irrelevant to free will. It’s as simple as that. And you are painfully unaware of this.

      BUT. As Aaron says, this is NOT about free will, so you can take your insane ramblings elsewhere (I am done being polite to you, since you have been libelous to my work, slagging all three books off in publicby review before having read them).

      I warn you, Aaron, stay away from this man. He has no idea about Socratic dialectical approaches. He loves the sound of his own voice. And he listens to nothing, is not critical, and has poor grasp on scholastics.

      • Jonathan – Yes, it is about Free Will, since you deny it, use it, write about it and cannot verify your claims experimentally. Then you use that same free will to nitpick the Deity and ridicule and revile the birth of Jesus Christ. What kind of a game are you playing??? Your work is libelous in its very intent. There is nothing Socratic about it.

        Father Clifford Stevens
        Boys Town, Nebraska

  16. Aaron – You make no distinctiion between the Parthian and Sassanian periods in Iran.

    Father Clifford Stevens
    Boys Town, Nebraska

  17. I’d like to keep the discussion a bit closer to the topic of the blog, so let’s use our free will to not talk about the nature and existence of Free Will. 😉

    Cliff: I did distinguish between the Sassinid and Parthian periods of Iran. I noted when astrology was reintroduced and became accepted among the Zoroastrians in the Sassinid period; that distinguishes it from the earlier, Parthian era.

    On ancient historical sources: you are now in denial about the nature of all past literature. We know that much of the history written by the Greeks is mythological or invented. There probably wasn’t a Romulus and Remus nor a Theseus, for example. Even one of the best historians of the past, Thucydides, said he made up all the great speeches in his history of the Peloponnesian War. Herodotus, on the other hand, accepted almost every story he heard without critical reflection. For example, he told the story of giant gold-digging ants in India, large enough to devour camels. Do you really think there are giant gold-digging ants in India?

    And the Old Testament? The minimalist school has basically made everything from Genesis to Judges non-historical, including the Exodus story. See Finkelstein and Silberman, “The Bible Unearthed”, or the works of J. Van Seters, T. Thompson, N.P. Lemche, P. Davies, and even W. Dever. There is even the question if David or Solomon were historical figures.

    On the Magi: We know when the used astrology, and in the Sassinid period they made new innovations by creating the system of the great conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn. Also, the magi were not Babylonian priests; the latter worshiped gods such as Marduk, not Ahura Mazda. Also we have horoscopes written by Babylonian priests from the 6th to 1st centuries BCE, so we know those figures practiced astrology (in fact invented it). See F. Rochberg, “Babylonian Horoscopes”. They were made by the priests of Bel/Marduk and in the temples of those gods. But again, the Babylonian priests were not magi; they were of distinct religious traditions.

    You also suggest I am being selective in reading of sources on the magi, namely the Encyclopedia Iranica. Have you looked at that source and shown my errors, or are you making things up? If I am wrong, you could at least point to something showing me that I am wrong. Anything else is intellectually dishonest and a very bright example of psychological projection. What do I mean by projection? You keep saying “if Matthew is historical, there goes your atheism”. The reverse seems to be too obvious to point out: “if Matthew is NOT historical, there goes your faith”. I suggest making your arguments less an ad hominem because it is too easy to reverse.

  18. doesn – You are using vague generalizations that don’t hold up under historical scrutiny. The Greeks were very good historians and invented history as we hnow it. I am aware that there are myths and legends mixed in with history – but that does not prove your point You nare csimply wrong about the Magi cannot distinghish them from Zoroastrian devotees.

    Who are you reading about the history in the Old Testament, but it is certainly not the scholars at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and authorssas various as Asher Finkile, David Flusser, Benjamin Mazar and dozens of others. History is being dug up there and, like the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is revealing a scribal tradition that had a firm grasp on history. It is a bit small-minded to believe that the art of historical writing is confined to the modern era. Josephus isn’t too bad and neither is Tacitus and Caesar’s Gallic Wars. I think you are making a boast that cannot be verified.

    I think you had better go back to your Encyclopedia of Iran, Astrology was rampant in the Sassanian period, but astronomy dominated the Parthian Period and give me chapter and verse in the the Encyclopedia that contradicts that. You are reading back into history your own biases. Both Second Temple Judaism and the Babylonian and Persian periods are richer in culture and learning than you give them credit for, and you give no reason why those ancient writers would doctor the books.

    You seem to think that their learned men could not see the difference between science and superstition, and I think there are a number of Sanscrit texts that might embarass you, as well as several Chinese and Indian Texts. Where in the word did Confucius and Michizane Sugawara come from? Michizane was Japanese, but he was a devotee of Chinese literature and was a great man of literature himself. I think you are way off the mark on these ancient culltures and civilizations.

    Horoscopes are still around, even in our days of science and technology, but they certainly d not define our era.

    In the matter of Matthew as in Catholic theology generallly, I am not depending on faith, but on history. You are trying to defend atheism by denying history or trying to interpret history through the lens of atheism. If that is not “projection”, I don’t know what is.

    Father Clifford Stevens
    Boys Town, Nebraska

    • On the magi: I said that the magi only had astrological interests starting in the Sassinid period and not before. Don’t pretend that isn’t what I said. And there is no evidence of astronomical interests before then either. See Mussies, “Some Astrological Presuppositions of Matthew 2: Oriental, Classical and Rabbinical Parallels” in van der Horst, Aspects of Religious Contact and Conflict in the Ancient World, pp. 25-44, esp. pp. 28-37; De Jong, Traditions of the Magi, pp. 397-8; Zaehner, Zurvan, pp. 147-65, 369, 377f, 400f, 410-1; Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, p. 238; Encyclopedia Iranica Vol. 2, pp. 258-9. You also fail to realize that the ancients did not see astrology as superstition rather than science; the best astronomers of the era were also the best astrologers, and they did try to approach it scientifically. Heck, there wasn’t even terms to properly distinguish astronomers and astrologers in antiquity.

      The rest of your post is such a ramble I can’t make sense of it. Best I can say is that we have to treat ancient historical sources skeptically because of just want you said, they sometimes mix in myth and legend. That means we can’t take everything said as true just because someone said it or thought it was true.

      Your citation of mostly dead scholars unrelated to modern studies is again a red herring; I cited scholars that have actively shown most of the history from the OT from Genesis to Judges is not likely historical; there was no Exodus, no Conquest, and no great Davidic kingdom. That has been the consensus since at least the 1990s. Thomas Thompson back in the 1970s showed there were significant anachronism in the story, and Finkelstein has used the same points in his research, including his analysis that showed Jerusalem was barely populated and without a scribal class at the time of David and Solomon. Again, I recommend his “The Bible Unearthed” to get up to speed on that consensus position.

      But at this point I think I am wasting my time. You have provided not a single reason that the events of Matthew Chapter 2 are historical, while I have given several lines of evidence against it. Your presumption that if someone said it in the past it must have been true is so out of line with classicist research that it shows you have no idea what you are talking about (do you really believe in giant gold-digging ants or magical armor fighting the Persian army?). Since you haven’t even a grasp on the information historians and professional biblical scholars are discussing, and you show absolutely no will to learn it but instead attack anyone that disagrees with you, be they Catholic or otherwise, then I might as well argue with a rock. I’ll be taking Jon’s advice from here.

      • What is funny is that he accuses you of being selective in your sources and then he proceeds to be so badly selective, choosing such out of date sources (he did this in other threads, too, so don;t feel you are special!) that it is almost cringeworthy. No, it IS cringeworthy.

      • Aaron -, Yes, you are wasting your time since you are trying to paste an atheist interpretation onto history. It is not true that astronomy was not dominant in the Parthian period, the period of our Magi.
        I have no idea what you are reading but it is certainly not Iranian history. Of course, I don’t believe in giant gold-digging ants, just as I don’t believe in Piltdown Man or the Cardiff Monster. You seem to have mixed up history and fiction because you must find evidence for your atheist interpretation of history.
        We don’t judge our times by the horoscopes in newspapers or advice for the lovelorn columns, but they are as much a part of our culture as the Human Genome Project and Las Alamos. You seem unable to make that distinction in the ancient civilizations, and put their history in the same pile as cultural junk.

        You have not provided a single reason for not accepting Matthew’s Gospel as history, but instead have woven a cloud of uncertainty around it because of your trying to read in ancient history a support for your view that true history cannot be found there. Your view is in support of an atheist interpretation of history and that is your privilege. But history itself gives the lie to your smokescreen, and your atheism remains, a private and personal bias that distorts history to your own personal agenda.

        Father Clifford Stevens
        Boys Town, Nebraska

  19. “Yes, you are wasting your time since you are trying to paste an atheist interpretation onto history.”

    Hilarious. Which is entirely reversible.

    “Yes, you are wasting your time since you are trying to paste an theist interpretation onto history.”

    incidentally, and I SERIOUSLY want you to answer this. What historical methodology do you use for deciphering what is true from what is not, historically speaking? (hint, at the moment, it looks like no visible methodology past “if it’s in the Bible, it’s true”. Ha, and you attack our methodology!)

    • Jonathan – It’s reversible both ways. But we do have a text. We are arguing about whether it is history, not whether it is in the Bible. Aaron is comparing it to astrology in the Parthian period of Iran, where the Magi came from, and he affirms that the Magi were astrologers, which I claim is not true. I claim that he is applying a 20th century methodology to an historical period and that that blinds him in his interpret the historicity of Matthew’s account. Methodological Naturalism has no place in the interpretation of historical documents, Biblical or otherwise. That is our disagreement. Yes, I reject his methodology as improper, out of place, and hugely flawed. I disagree with you for vastly different reasons.

      Father Clifford Stevens
      Boys Town, Nebraska

      • You cannot even get my argument stated correctly and say the opposite of what I have said. You ignore several sources I provide to back up my points and then pretend you have no idea where my info comes from. And you don’t show even the slightest understanding of how ancient history is studied.

        Oh, and you show how you are only disapproving of methodological naturalism selectively. You said you don’t believe in giant gold-digging ants. Why? Because they are biologically impossible? Well, that just your methodological naturalistic bias showing. You can’t prove there weren’t such ants, all you can do is force your ant-hating bias unto history.

        I’m done demonstrating that you are an example of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

      • You have yet to detail your methodology for analysing history. You seem to thin we use methodological naturalism, which makes no sense as a historical tool. Before you embarrass yourself any more, perhaps you should detail your historical methodology. Unless that will embarrass you too in realising that you have no formal technique.

  20. Aaron & Jonathan – Both of you have such arbitrary categories of thought and demonstration that they are beyond proof and beyond identification. You are locked into categories of your own making \and you project those categories into history, into science and into everything human. Yours is a dialogue of desperation, fearful that someone may pull the atheist rug out from under you, and so your reasoning is self-serving and self-defeating.

    I have not heard one original thought or piece of reasoning that is uniquely your own as if you were serving a noble cause that no one has the right to question. You repeat endlessly argoments that can’t hold water, kind of a textbook wired for sound and can’t seem to get your mind around the fact that atheism is an intellectual blackhole where rational thought disappears and raw emotion takes over.

    You are using science for your own personal agendas and like Richard Dawkins repeat endlessly things no one is interested in anymore, while a younger generation is outstripping you, realizing that atheism is a dead dog and that science should get on with the business of serving humanity.

    Father Clifford Stevens
    Boys Town, Nebraska

    • Rewrite that post, but instead substitute our names for yours, and you will see that everything you say is more applicable to you than us. You sound desperate in your ignorance. Yet again you fail to make a single substantive point. 0 from 400 now.

      • Jonathan – Are you using your free will now? I thought you wrote a whole book denying it. I am still waiting for your ad experimentum proof. You have to identify the determinist engines in Physics that you say determine the human will. You can’t do it because it is only a belief, not a demonstrable fact. All your arguments go up in smoke.
        Why can’t you identify what it is that determines the human will???

        Father Clifford Stevens
        Boys Town, Nebraska

      • Aaron – Atheism is the non-sequitur here. Its false claim that there ia a basis in science for atheism is turning off a whole generation of young scientists who see something more in life than the replication of the species. It is the narrowness of the atheist intellect, and its immersion in a nihilism that is constantly turning in on itself, that is the dark angel of its demise.

        Father Clifford Stevens
        Boys town, Nebraska

  21. Anyone reading these posts can get a more realistic version of the history of Jesus Christ in a novel, my own, “The Treasure of Kefer Shimon” which you can order from Amazon. You will find the historical background fascinating and you will not be able to put the book down until the astonishing ending. It is a novel, beginning in the 20th century, but it will tell you things about Jesus that have never been uncovered and it will send you to doing research for yourself to an amazing historical period.

    Father Clifford Stevens
    Boys Town, Nebraska

  22. Aaron – You seem not to be able to distinguish between common sense and Methodological Nafruralism. My rejection of Piltdown Man and the Cardiff Monster is based on evidence, it is NOT an application of Methodological Naturalism, and it’s very ingenuous to identify the two because you should know better. You will strain any gnat and make the most ridiculous comparisons to draw attention of the fact that you are an athiest attacking Christianity under the cover of scholarship.

    Father Clifford Stevens
    Boys Town, Nebraska

    P.S. If you need a miracle to recognize the Divinity of Jesus Christ, well that can be provided. It was established by miracles and that is the only real proof of the historicity of the Gospels. Why don’t you give it a try, or are you so immersed in your atheism to face the real test. Atheists I have found are intellectual cowards and afraid to face the real test of their atheim. Try me.

  23. This is the crocodile season and atheist crocodiles are out in force trying to convince you that they are historians, Biblical Exegetes (what a joke – Anti-Christ claiming to be an Exegate. This is the biggest crocodile of all and they expect to blow Jesus Christ out of the Gospels by blowing Him out of History. This is a crocodile with a voracious appetite

    SO

    If you should meet a crocodile
    Don’t take a stick and poke him.
    Ignore the welcome of his smile,
    Be careful not to stroke him.

    For as he sleeps upon the Nile,
    He thinner gets and thinner.
    Whene’r you meet a crocodile
    He’s looking for his dinner.

    Be careful! These atheist crocodiles are hungry!!!!!

    Father Clifford Stevens
    Boys Town, Nebraska

  24. Pingback: My first commenter banned – and he is an ordained priest! | A Tippling Philosopher

  25. Pingback: My first commenter banned – and he is an ordained priest! | A Tippling Philosopher

  26. Pingback: My banned commenter (ordained priest) is stalking me… | A Tippling Philosopher

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