Archive for the ‘history’ Category

>Herod's slaughter of the innocents

2009 December 22 2 comments

> National Geographic did an article on King Herod last year. I didn’t find the writing style particularly riveting though it was variably informative. The article started with this comment about Herod.

An astute and generous ruler, a brilliant general, and one of the most imaginative and energetic builders of the ancient world, Herod guided his kingdom to new prosperity and power. Yet today he is best known as the sly and murderous monarch of Matthew’s Gospel, who slaughtered every male infant in Bethlehem in an unsuccessful attempt to kill the newborn Jesus, the prophesied King of the Jews. During the Middle Ages he became an image of the Antichrist: Illuminated manuscripts and Gothic gargoyles show him tearing his beard in mad fury and brandishing his sword at the luckless infants, with Satan whispering in his ear. Herod is almost certainly innocent of this crime, of which there is no report apart from Matthew’s account. But children he certainly slew, including three of his own sons, along with his wife, his mother-in-law, and numerous other members of his court. Throughout his life, he blended creativity and cruelty, harmony and chaos, in ways that challenge the modern imagination.

The claim that Herod is innocent of this crime because there is not further documentary evidence of the event betrays an unjustified anti-biblical bias.

That Herod was capable of commanding the murder of infants is mentioned in the paragraph above: 3 sons, a wife, etc.

Herod had these people killed,

  • Mattathias Antigonus
  • Several leaders of Antigonus’ group
  • John Hyrcanus
  • Aristobulus (brother-in-law)
  • Kostobar (brother-in-law)
  • Alexandra (the mother of Herod’s wife Mariamme)
  • Miriamme (wife)
  • Alexander (son)
  • Aristobulus (son)
  • 300 military leaders
  • Several Pharisees
  • Antipater (son)

Many of these were killed to prevent a perceived challenge to his kingdom.

And if these examples do not suffice to document Herod’s paranoia and blood-thirst, Josephus records a well known story how Herod had many men imprisoned in Jericho shortly before his death with instructions they be executed when he died. The reason? So there would be mourning at the time of his death. This was not carried out.

So it is apparent that Herod was capable of ordering the death of children if he perceived a threat to his throne.

However the bigger issue here is the illegitimate implication that documentary evidence from the Bible has second class status. Or even errant status. Not only is any other contemporary (or not so contemporary) document held up as the primary standard that the Bible is judged by, the Bible is often assumed to be in error when it touches on aspects of history that no other historian has mentioned.

Matthew was roughly contemporary with these events. He wrote of Herod earlier than Josephus did.

There is documentary evidence of Herod slaughtering the children. It is recorded in Matthew 2. There is no evidence that Herod did not do such an action. There is no good reason to exempt him of this crime.

Categories: bias, Bible, history, testimony

>Chronology of Abraham and his descendants

2009 April 19 3 comments

>Abraham was born about 2000 years after creation, nearly 2000 years BC. He was the son of Terah, son of Nahor, son of Serug, son of Reu, son of Peleg, son of Eber, son of Salah, son of Arphaxad, son of Shem, son of Noah.

Here is a chronology of the events of his life followed by that of his son Isaac, Isaac’s son Jacob, and Jacob’s son Joseph. The age of the relevant patriarch is given until their death and then in italics for comparison.

Event Abraham Isaac Jacob Joseph
Abraham born 0
Sarah born 10
Reu dies 18
Serug dies 41
Terah dies. Abraham goes to Canaan 75
Abraham visits Egypt ?
Hagar conceives 85
Ishmael born 86
Arphaxad dies 88
God renames Abraham, Abraham and household circumcised. Sarah conceives 99
Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed 99
Isaac born 100 0
Isaac to be offered on Moriah ? ?
Salah dies 118 18
Sarah dies 137 37
Isaac marries Rebekah 140 40
Shem dies 150 50
Esau and Jacob born 160 60 0
Abraham dies 175 75 15
Eber dies 179 79 19
Esau marries Judith and Basemath 200 100 40
Ishmael dies 223 123 63
Jacob flees to Aram 237 137 77
Jacob’s 1st year for Laban 238 138 78
Jacob’s 7th year for Laban 244 144 84
Jacob marries Leah & Rachel 245 145 85
Jacob’s 14th year for Laban. Joseph born. 251 151 91 0
Jacob’s 20th year for Laban 257 157 97 6
Jacob returns to Canaan and meets Esau 258 158 98 7
Rachel dies ? ? ? ?
Joseph sold into slavery and goes to Egypt 268 168 108 17
Joseph interprets butler and baker’s dreams in jail 279 179 119 28
Isaac dies 280 180 120 29
Joseph ruler 281 181 121 30
1st year of plenty 282 182 122 31
7th year of plenty 288 188 128 37
1st year of famine 289 189 129 38
2nd year of famine. Jacob goes to Egypt 290 190 130 39
7th year of famine 295 195 135 44
Jacob dies 307 207 147 56
Joseph dies 361 261 201 110

Points to note.

  • Most of Abraham’s postdiluvian ancestors are alive during Abraham’s lifetime: all from Shem bar Peleg and Nahor.
  • The Israelite sojourn in Egypt begins when Jacob shifts to Egypt age 130. Some argue for 430 years from then (Exo 12:40), though a better case can be made for the 430 years starting from Abraham’s shift to Canaan.
  • Levi was the 3rd son of Leah and was probably born in the 11th year of Jacob working for Laban when Jacob was 88. This is helpful information as Levi age when he died was 137 (Exo 6:16).
Categories: chronology, history

>Flat earth cosmology and other assumptions

2009 January 29 9 comments

> Michael Patton posted recently that he thinks that people lose faith because of lack of discipleship and he mentioned in passing that Christians used to believe the world was flat. That Christianity didn’t teach a flat earth doesn’t change the thrust of his argument. Nevertheless, I offered my thoughts as this lie needs to die.

In response to this others claimed that the Bible teaches a flat earth.

Greg made this comment,

…the idea of a “flat” earth is presented in the Bible, simply because that’s how the people envisioned it back then. They’d go up onto a mountain top, look around, and see a round, disk-shaped earth. That’s all they knew, and God no where in His Word sought to obviously correct that understanding. I think any “scientific” statement in the Bible is best understood by the science of their day, not ours.

The cosmology presented in Genesis is incredibly similar to Egyptian and Babylonian cosmology. Not in its theology, just in its structure. Sometimes we like to think that the Israelites developed their culture and wrote the Bible in a vacuum, that there was no influence or sharing of ideas between others in that same era and geographical location.

I’ve noticed that Christians tend to try and explain this kind of stuff away so we can make the Bible conform to our modern understanding of science. We have this misplaced idea that to be reliable, the Bible needs to match our understanding of everything, or that if there’s some borrowed stuff from Babylon or Egypt that its any less inspired. We sometimes forget that the Bible was written for us, but not to us. God inspired in a manner that would be meaningful to ancient Israelites. He accommodated Himself to them by taking their cosmology and reinterpreting it in light of Himself.

Its really quite fascinating when you read Genesis with this in mind. You come across a whole mass of information and meaning that we moderns tend to overlook because we just don’t think that way anymore.

And he recommended the article A Common Cosmology of the Ancient World. I have only read some of this and would like to respond to it in more depth at a later stage. For now I wish to make a few comments about assumptions in Greg’s quote and then a few thoughts on the flat earth question.

The phrase

any “scientific” statement in the Bible is best understood by the science of their day

poses problems. Firstly science in the modern sense dates back a few hundred years. Rather statements of this type in the Bible are factual claims. Granted they may come from inference rather than direct observation but they are not scientific in the way we understand the term. Further many modern “scientific” claims are claims of history not operational science. There is much truth in understanding the Bible on its own terms not ours, but “own terms” is about how the Bible uses language, not its objective claims. The ancient Israelite concept of what constitutes “life” may not fully correspond to ours, but Jesus either rose from the dead or he did not.

The related comment

He accommodated Himself to them by taking their cosmology and reinterpreting it in light of Himself.

is a significant claim. Agreed, God does not have to correct our misconceptions. And not doing so does not give tacit approval. But statement says that God tells us our misconceptions are correct when they are not. I disagree.

What about cultural influences?

Sometimes we like to think that the Israelites developed their culture and wrote the Bible in a vacuum, that there was no influence or sharing of ideas between others in that same era and geographical location.

I am not certain who holds to the Bible being written in a vacuum. Israel clearly interacts with the nations thru-out both Testaments. They constantly shared ideas with their neighbours, much to God’s displeasure. The proposal that God hated the behaviour of the pagan nations and constantly told Israel not to emulate them and repeated told them not to worship foreign gods or adopt their practices, yet borrowed their incorrect structural cosmogony seems unlikely.

To flat-earthism. I note that the objection is a slightly different point to the one I made. I have previously posted that the sphericity of the earth was documented as least as early as 500 BC. Patton’s comment was about Christianity teaching a flat earth. The history is that Christianity has, by and large, taught a spherical earth when addressing the topic. The most that can be said is that some argued against antipodean lands and/ or inhabitants for reasons unrelated to the earth’s shape.

As mentioned, I hope to post later about the claim about the Bible teaching a flat earth. For now I have several general comments.

  1. Because the flat-earth myth was invented by infidels in an attempt to discredit Christianity, in any discussion about earth topology Christianity should be given the benefit of the doubt.
  2. Geocentricism is not the same as flat-earthism.
  3. “Evolutionary thinking” is much more pervasive than we realise. For example the idea that polytheism developed into monotheism is an social evolutionary idea not a biblical one. The Bible suggests the reverse.
  4. Why should every other text (and theory) be the standard to which the Bible is compared? If the Bible and any particular text disagree why is it assumed the Bible is in error?
  5. Accounts recorded by Scripture and other cultures could be due to common memory. If there is borrowing going on it may be from the Bible (or possibly source texts in the case of Genesis) to other nations than vice versa. A comparison of texts is helpful.
  6. We must be careful about forcing poetry. As I previously wrote:

    Poetry frequently talks about real events and uses literal wording at times. However features of poetry include the frequent use of symbolism and metaphor. When reading poetry it is important to understand the point being illustrated, not insist on the literal meaning of the underlying wording. If a poem uses a phrase that is intended to be literal or does indeed coincide with reality then it is not unreasonable to use the passage as support that the author understood this particular concept. It is not valid, however, to force literalism on a poetical passage.

>Bethke on manuscript history

2008 December 14 3 comments

>Bruce Bethke writes an interesting post titled Relevance. Expanding how a simple question can have so many underlying assumptions.

Some days you can ask what seems like a simple question, and find that instead of plucking off a loose thread, you’ve started unraveling the entire sweater. For example, this morning I asked my wife one simple question, and before I knew it, we were deeply into a wide-ranging discussion of Old Testament history, subtext, context, and translation issues.

…To begin comprehending her answer, then, we should first examine the embedded subtext of the question I didn’t even know I’d asked: does a book written 2,000 years ago really have any relevance to our lives today?

…It was the Septuagint that was widely read and circulated in the early Christian Era and used as the basis for the Latin translation (the Vulgate) written by St. Jerome in the 4th century CE,… The King James version in turn became the basis for almost all subsequent English-language Protestant Bibles except the Lutheran version, which is based on Luther’s German translation, and a careful reader will note many subtle differences between the English-language Catholic, Lutheran, and other Protestant versions of the Bible. (For example, even today the Catholic version of the Ten Commandments omits the prohibition against worshiping graven images, while the Episcopalian version has been shortened to the Nine Suggestions.)

It is worth reading for his conclusion, a modern application of an ancient biblical passage.

>The unreasoning atheist

2008 October 11 1 comment

>Sam Harris of End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation fame is studying functional magnetic resonance imaging of brains with a focus on belief. I have my doubts this methodology has the ability to discover anything of worth. Part of Harris’ process is to come up with questions that give a predictable response. Of interest was the question about the reliability of the Bible concerning ancient history.

I guess I don’t find this surprising but it is somewhat irrational. About 90% of self proclaimed atheists agree with the proposition:

The Bible is a very unreliable record of ancient history.

It may be anticipated that atheists do not give the Bible much credibility concerning its theological teaching—else they might be theists. And it probably is not unexpected they disagree with the first few chapters of Genesis given that abiogenesis and macroevolution is the major competing worldview, and Darwin is the darling of atheists worldwide. But to insist that Bible history is generally unreliable, let alone very unreliable, reveals an irrational anti-biblical bias.

Other ancient texts with obvious internal errors are often treated as generally reliable. People read Herodotus, Plato, Thucydides, and Manetho; and refer to records of ancient nations; and consider the material reliable, or at least give it the benefit of doubt. These ancients write with their own agendas, with religious claims, and often times refuse to document the failings of favoured men. At minimum it seems reasonable to give the biblical historians a similar standing—especially given they frequently document the failings of their people and leaders!

Further, the archaeological confirmation of several biblical claims should increase the biblical authors’ secular credibility.

I think this atheistic response originates not from the realms of reason for which they pride themselves, but is the emotional reaction of their intense antitheism.

Categories: atheism, bias, history

>Vanquishing Atheism's Vanguard

2008 June 28 5 comments

>I reviewed Vox Day’s book The Irrational Atheist for Tekton Apologetics Ministries and the review has recently been uploaded. The Tekton rating system is a 1–3 thumbs down for negative reviews and 1–3 thumbs up for positive reviews (with no neutral option). I gave the book 2+ (ie. a 4 on a 0–5 scale)

The review is at Tektonics and I have reproduced it below.

Vanquishing Atheism’s Vanguard

A Review of Vox Day’s The Irrational Atheist

by Joel Bethyada

I had high expectations for this book. This concerned me somewhat as it increased the chances of being disappointed on reading it. Suffice it to say that it met my prior elevated expectations.

Vox is witty. He is both very clever and very funny. When you are laughing just reading the contents page you know it is going to be a good book.

What is useful in this foray into the New Atheist territory is that Vox lets them choose the battlefield and the weapons. And while Vox has no hesitancy in demolishing the arguments with his opponents’ swords, he frequently just sharpens them before handing them back leaving the New Atheists to eviscerate themselves!

The first few chapters cover the ground rules. Subsequent chapters are devoted to various popular atheists exposing their foolishness or duplicity. Despite the subtitle (Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens), Vox also has chapters on Dennett and Onfray. That they are not referred to in the title is due to Vox’s admiration of the former’s honesty, despite his mistaken conclusions; and the consistency of the latter’s position, albeit a horrifying one.

He then discusses objections to Christianity that have been raised by several of New Atheism’s statesmen or are commonly used by contemporary atheists. Vox suggests that Hitler was neither Christian nor atheist, but likely pagan; briefly dismissing the genetic fallacy that Hitler was raised Christian by noting that so were Dawkins and Hitchens. The Inquisition is dismissed mentioning themes that have previously been raised by other apologists, and also making the astute observation the the precipitating cause had a higher body count than all the inquisitors over several centuries combined. He then covers the Crusades. And finally human sacrifice in religion suggesting that often times political subjection was a primary motivation over piety. I am less certain the ancients made as great a distinction from the spiritual as modern day secularism.

Following along the lines of the Christians-behaving-badly arguments, the tables are turned and the New Atheists are forced to answer for unprecedented mass murder of the more powerful atheists (and only atheists!) of the 20th century.

As a theological addendum, Vox takes on theodicy and determinism using analogy with computer games. The analogy is quite a useful one but because of some theological errors, minor equivocation and pushing the analogy further than it is capable of, this section, while interesting reading, is less compelling than the atheist trouncing.

The style is slightly difficult at times (but made up for in the humour); the arguments are reasonable to follow but some sentences take slow focused concentration or re-reading. Vox makes frequent reference to his vast knowledge of topics and persons and reading the electronic version may be preferable to allow quick searches on esoteric comments. (The electronic version is available free online).

The book’s strengths include a offence approach—though perhaps a little aggressive, if one is going to take someone to task about minor mathematical errors he best be sure to make none himself—and arguing within the atheist paradigm. Weaknesses include allowing his opponents to label scientific that which is certainly not empirical evidence and better labelled historical, and the discussion of complexity where Vox fails to identify the real flaw in Dawkins’ argument and his fractal designer rebuttal is incorrect.

Will this book affect persons on either side of the debate? I hope so. Certainly the more noble of the atheist crowd will ponder its conclusions and it may perhaps draw them away from the dogmatic assertion that “God is not.” It will certainly encourage Christians who have thought the New Atheist arguments held water to realise they are hot air—if they can overlook any theological disagreements they have with the author. And for those who were already convinced of the New Atheist stupidity it certainly adds more ammunition to their armoury.

>Did Jesus believe in a flat earth?

2008 May 11 1 comment

>When responding to Tilling earlier, I indicated that as well as discussing the characterisation of knowledge I wanted to correct other false statements in his post. The 2 errors were the flat earth claim and the idea that metaphors would puzzle Jesus. Here I address the flat earth.

The flat earth claim probably is unfounded. That Christianity promoted a flat earth was in large a lie propagated by the likes of Andrew Dickson White in his anti-Christian polemics. Jeffery Burton Russell has discussed this in detail (summary here) and even an atheist site has acknowledged the false claims against the church. The latter’s view of Christianity remains somewhat hostile.

The knowledge of the sphericity of the earth can be currently dated at least as early as ~500–600 BC in Greece. Pythagoras (~500 BC) and Aristotle (~350 BC) believed the earth was a sphere; though spherical claims may have easily predated this, especially in other regions. I am not aware of extant documents that inform us what other empires before Greece which include Persia, Babylon, and Egypt, thought of the earth’s shape. I do dispute the claim that much of Hebrew theology and cosmology derives from Babylon; these ideas are partially based on (what I would consider) false synchronisms. Reviewing knowledge earlier than Egypt, we have Josephus claiming that Abraham introduced astronomy to the Egyptians. I doubt we have enough information to adequately judge Josephus’ claim but the assumption of ignorance of the ancients is tired and likely reflects modernist arrogance. Even the events at Babel suggests that astronomy was a significant feature there.

Given that the Greeks knew the earth was a ball centuries before the Roman empire existed it is highly likely that the Roman world at the time of Christ believed in a spherical earth. The occasional theologian in the centuries after Jesus suggested a flat earth but this was the exception. Perhaps more commonly, opposition arose at times against the idea of the antipodes. One must be careful not to view this as evidence that the person was arguing for a flat earth. There were (false) reasons for arguing against men living on the other side of the earth unrelated to the shape of the earth. Men could hold to a spherical earth and disbelieve in either antipodean lands and/ or inhabitants.

The Bible makes very little comment of the shape and structure of the earth. Most of the passages referenced are poetical. Poetry frequently talks about real events and uses literal wording at times. However features of poetry include the frequent use of symbolism and metaphor. When reading poetry it is important to understand the point being illustrated, not insist on the literal meaning of the underlying wording. If a poem uses a phrase that is intended to be literal or does indeed coincide with reality then it is not unreasonable to use the passage as support that the author understood this particular concept. It is not valid, however, to force literalism on a poetical passage. This is also true with the use of metaphor in prose, though this is generally more obvious.

In summary we have documentary evidence for the knowledge of a spherical earth for more the last 2500 years and it was common knowledge at the time of Christ. The idea of a flat earth has never been seriously held by the majority of people since before the time of Christ and the medieval flat earth myth was invented by infidels in their attempt to discredit the church.

>What did Jesus know? Part 2

2008 April 19 3 comments

>In my previous post I posited 4 categories which we can reasonably split the concept of knowledge into (there are others such as mathematical/ logical but this is unnecessary for our purposes here):

  • History
  • Future events
  • General facts
  • Personal thoughts

Of these, men usually only have access to 2 categories: history, if it has been documented; and general facts, if they have been discovered.

Men in general do not know the other 2 categories. Future events can only be known by God and those whom he chooses to reveal them to. Personal thoughts are only known to the man who has them and those to whom he reveals his thoughts; as well as God and those whom God chooses to reveal them.

Therefore discussion about whether Jesus knows facts concerning Joe Future is irrelevant to whether he knows historical events and whether he believes them. Now I happen to think that Jesus did not know every future event during his sojourn on earth. He knew a lot because the Father revealed it to him. Further, he could easily have known about Michael, Chris and James in the same way he knew about the way Peter was to die—revelation. But being human limited his ability to know everything in the universe at that time. And even if he did not give thought to every person he redeemed as he died on the cross, he certainly did in heaven before the incarnation and does so now.

Jesus’ opinion about Genesis is not so much a question of knowledge in general but the knowledge of historical events and general facts (though predominantly history). Did Jesus concede to the worldview of the day and the documents of the past? If he was taught false belief the Father was able to correct him, whether the Father did so a further question. We need to deal with history versus myth and fact versus pseudofacts.

Dealing with factual knowledge first: I am not certain that many of the beliefs of the ancients were incorrect. What needs to be remembered is incomplete knowledge is not false knowledge. Further, an alternative classification scheme is neither incomplete nor false, it is just different. Examples of these:

  • Thinking we need to breathe air to survive is incomplete knowledge, thinking that oxygen is the component of air required for respiration is more complete knowledge.
  • Categorising animals based on locomotion or habitat is correct knowledge even though moderns prefer to use a more complete body plan for classification. (This is type of knowledge is always true because it involves making definitions).
  • Thinking maggots spontaneously generate from the essence of rotten food is incorrect knowledge.

Not knowing something and deferring an opinion till more information is available is not incorrect knowledge.

It is my suspicion that much of the ancients’ factual knowledge was correct, even if, at times, it was incomplete. One could find several ancient ideas that were incorrect, however I suspect they would predominantly be amongst the speculations of the philosophers of the age. The reason for this is that most factual knowledge is merely observation, and the ancients were perfectly able to do as such. Errors are more likely to creep in where the gaps in knowledge were unobservable and speculation was made. Of course men are free to refrain from speculation and acknowledge ignorance. I do not see evidence in Scripture that Jesus held to false views of the world.

When considering history it matters if the history recorded is indeed accurate; and if not, is it inappropriately accepted, or dismissed for suspicion of error. That Jesus held to the truth of Scripture is easily provable. Whenever Jesus references Scriptures that record historical events he clearly believes they accurately describe reality.

Evidence that Jesus thought the biblical narrative reflected reality is seen in 2 ways in which Jesus interacted with it.

Firstly, Jesus’ claims are based on the truth of the historical record. That Jesus’ contemporaries will be judged harshly is based on the fact that Jonah was a real prophet and the Ninevites really repented. Examples could be extended to other historical personages such as Abel, Abraham and Zechariah. The form of Jesus’ argument is based on the activities of these people really happening.

Secondly, Jesus affirms the truth of Scripture. Claims like,

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,… (Joh 5)

presuppose that Scripture is a reliable witness. More striking is how Jesus states that Scripture itself can prove men are in error:

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? (Mar 12)

When we suggest that Jesus falsely believed the historical nature of the Bible because of cultural considerations we both invalidate the premises on which Jesus corrects error, and deny his claim that Scripture is the arbiter of truth. If we destroy the premises our options become:

  • Jesus’ comments were based on the incorrect views of the day therefore we can disregard them, or
  • we believe Jesus conclusions even though they were based on faulty logic

That the Father revealed the heart of Nathanael to Jesus yet did not inform him that parts of the Bible were untrue, or that passages that Jesus assumed were literal for his argument were in fact metaphorical, seems to stretch credibility.

Categories: history, inerrancy, knowledge, truth

>What did Jesus know? Part 1

2008 April 17 Leave a comment

>Chris Tilling blogged on his journey from creationist to evolutionist. He was challenged about the fact that Jesus believed claimed the creation narratives were historical. So the question arises how does one reconcile this with an evolutionary perspective if one also is a Christian. A solution proposed is that Jesus could be wrong. Tilling’s entry is worth reading in its entirety to garner his perspective though I will only quote part of it.

Jesus’ worldview was in so many ways that of other 1st century Palestinian Jews. Had you asked him if the earth was flat, he would have almost certainly said ‘yes’ (cf. here on James’ blog). Had you asked him if there was a literal Adam or Eve and serpent, I think he would have been puzzled by the ‘literal’ tag, but I suspect that if you had pressed him he would have said that he believes in a literal Adam and Eve (though I cannot prove these statements. I am making historical judgments, and I see no reason why he would not have believe these things – modern science did not develop for centuries. Though as noted, the whole metaphorical / scientific categorisation would have probably puzzled him). This is why, had you time travelled and asked 1st century Jesus to tell us about Michael or Chris or James, he would not have turned around and said ‘Oh yes, Michael/Chris/James will be born in almost 2,000 years from now’, and then proceeded to tell the details of your life to Peter and the disciples. He wouldn’t have had a clue about you or me as he was fully human.

My concern with these types of responses is that they fail to grasp the various aspects of what they are discussing. Here we have several types of knowledge presented and a discussion of 1 type used as an example of another without consideration of the validity. Further there is lack of processing of the solution to all the corollaries. There are also false statements that need to be corrected.

There are 3 types of knowledge discussed in this example.

There is historical knowledge. This is information about the past that was recorded so it was accessible to people. The people who were aware of it knew these claims existed. They could believe them or disbelieve them but they are aware of the claims. That Jesus points to Adam and Eve to illustrate marriage means that he was aware of the Edenic narrative and it is clear that he agreed with it.

There is generalised knowledge about facts. The structure of the universe. The sphericity of the earth. The anatomy of a platypus. The flight path of the albatross. These facts exist but our knowledge of them increases as we investigate the world. If these facts have been discovered an individual can potentially know them, if they have not been discovered then men do not know them. One could ask Jesus how avian lungs work and short of revelation from the Father he likely would say he did not know. It is possible that being asked whether the world was flat or spherical he would respond that he did not know, if it was the case that Jesus did not know. I am not so certain however people at the time did not know.

Then there is knowledge about the future. One could consider this similar to the first category: history that is yet to be revealed. Other than educated guesses, there is no way for any mortal to have this knowledge. Jesus as man did not know these facts other than revelation from the Father. As part of becoming man there were aspects of the divinity that were not available to him in the same way. That Jesus did not know some things is evident by his statement that he did not know the exact date of his return:

But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Mar 13)

Interestingly Jesus was actually aware of many things in this category. Being close to the Father he was informed of much in the future such as the Olivet discourse and contemporary events that he would not have yet heard about such as Lazarus’ death.

This divine knowledge extended to knowledge of the hearts of men. This was current rather than future knowledge, but only accessible to those thinking the thoughts. Jesus did not need the testimony of man because he knew what was in a man:

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (Joh 2)

Categories: history, inerrancy, knowledge, truth

>Bible glasses

2008 April 11 6 comments

>Young Earth Creationism claims that the world is about 6000 years old and God created it in 6 24-hour days. Geology is interpreted as being in a large part due to Noah’s flood. These views are held because it is claimed that the meaning of the Bible, especially Genesis, demands this chronological interpretation and that the Noachian deluge was global in its extent. There is good grammatical reason to assert this belief. And I see few difficulties with scientific data finding it more compatible with this belief than biological or stellar evolution.

While my initial creationist beliefs were strengthened thru scientific evidences, my conviction is probably stronger now because of biblical considerations. Not because the science is less convincing than the biblical evidence but because philosophically I think that truth is more firmly grounded in Scripture.

This change to a more biblical approach has been quite helpful. When I was younger I wondered how the Bible could be reconciled with secular evidences, especially archaeological “facts” that pre-date creation, ie. are “older” than 6000 years. This “problem” is actually more acute as these “facts” only need to pre-date the Flood to cause a dilemma given the Flood’s removal of antediluvian artefacts. This led to ideas like favouring the Septuagint chronology because it “gives more time.” My approach now is, “How can secular claims be reconciled with Scripture?” The Bible is assumed to be true and contrary claims are treated with scepticism.

This is actually quite reasonable. Why should every secular interpretation be held up as the standard that the Bible is judged by? Especially given that these interpretations change, are inconsistent with each other, and often derive from an anti-biblical bias. Further, the Bible has been vindicated multiple times, and its documentation of the failings of its heroes points even more so to its authenticity.

The Flood was approximately 4500 years ago. Any claim for artefacts that pre-date this I assume is incorrect. I assume some bias by the claimants, even if it is not revealed. And I think that the true solution will be compatible with the biblical record.

This is my default position. I think that God intended for Scripture to be a true description of reality: historical, moral and prophetic. It is not exhaustive for sure, but correct in what it does assert.

Is this a biased approach? Definitely. But all approaches are biased. Do I base my bias on the pride of men or on the revelation of the true God? The secular bias is very real. It assumes that its foundations are firm, that Middle East dating should be based a reconstructed Egyptian dating, that any ancient historical text should have precedence over the Bible. All of these assumptions are based in the ideas of men and there are even good non-biblical reasons to reject them.

It is astonishing how much of what we read and hear has this bias. Claims about history are especially affected by secular assumptions. These secular biases are frequently present in study Bibles which give a multitude of unlikely synchronisms, conservative reasoning based on underlying liberal theology, wrong assumptions about the the origins of monotheism. I think it is prudent to hold secular historical claims and several other factual claims very tentatively.

And there is a need for developing a completely biblically based history and chronology thru which all claims, historical, archaeological, and others, can be filtered.