A few days ago at the National Catholic Register, a blog post was put up about the Yuletide star that I have been so interested in. The author of the piece, Jimmy Akin, wrote up about how the text of the Gospel of Matthew does not necessarily talk about a Star that moves around in such a way that it can only be supernatural. Akin, who besides having a cool red beard, is a Catholic apologist, and he categorizes his efforts here about the Star under apologetics (as seen on the blogs tag). I read the blog entry after I saw it come up in a search on Twitter, and the first thing I noted was that he said that the text does not support the supernatural reading, but he never actually cited the Greek text!
Category Biblical Exegesis
It’s been known since the 19th century that there are striking parallels between the Ark story contained in the Bible and a narrative episode included in the Mesopotamian story of the Epic of King Gilgamesh. In Gilgamesh, a hero Utnapishti is tasked with saving both human and animal life from a destructive flood (for which somewhat surprisingly, no reason is given) by the god Ea. Like Noah, Utnapishti builds a boat, fills it with animals, and finds himself lodged on the top of a mountain. What’s more, just like Noah, Utnapishti sends out birds on three test flights to establish that the flood waters were receding:
Jayman, occasional Christian commenter here has replied to my post, The Problem with Yahweh #2. That itself was a second part…
My last post in this series looked at the idea that Yahweh, as the parochial Jewish God of a particular section of the Middle East in time, bears no resemblance to the God that Christians believe in, and is supposedly that exact same God. The Janus-styled god who appears to flip personality, characteristics and general existence at the turn of the New Testament, is fundamentally different from the present-day Christian God. We are all atheists on this god, except Christians don’t seem to realise it.
I am writing a post in reaction to something about which I was talking with my Christian friend (let’s call him Colin). We were talking about homosexuality and his approach to it given his Christian background. Some points were interesting and some I fundamentally disagreed with. Here are his views:
As according to the Bible, homosexuality is wrong.
This morality is grounded in God.
He is not homophobic and detests that label as it automatically halts any further informed discussion.
People can have genetic or environmental variables which help to influence a persons likelihood to homosexuality.
However, to commit to a homosexual act is an act of free will, and thus falls within the moral sphere.
As a result, it is not necessarily the disposition of being homosexual which is wrong, but the decision to act upon it.
He has no ‘problem’ with homosexuals and has / has had homosexual friends.
Hopefully I am not building up a straw man of his position, but it does demand some serious unpicking.
Many people believe ridiculous things. Most of the time, we eventually shuffle off such beliefs. But some remain. In the case of Christianity, this is the belief in Yahweh. I don’t mean to be overly rhetorical, but the belief in Yahweh is patently ridiculous, much more so than the belief in God.
Many people, particularly fundamentalists, still believe in a real and actual Satan. Of course, to everyone else, this is completely incomprehensible. And here’s one reason for why, as John Loftus sets out in his book The End of Christianity (p. 100):
Christmas is upon us, the season of joy and merriment, the season, it seems, of massacres reminding us of other massacres. I have a book out called The Nativity: A Critical Examination, which is available from the sidebar over there. As a result of the book’s release this year, I have been doing a number of public talks on the historicity of the Nativity and have even recorded a radio debate with Randal Rauser which should be available any time soon.
This is the sort of stuff I talk about in my book The Nativity: A Critical Examination, available from the sidebar over there on your right!
From Bart Ehrman’s blog: – Christianity In Antiquity (behind a members only wall):
As you will know from a couple of previous posts, I have edited a book by Aaron Adair about the…
[Just to remind readers that the book I have recently edited, written by contributor Aaron Adair, called The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View. is out now in all formats from a variety of sellers. It is a great book, and one which Richard Carrier has said is “awesome”. Please support our work by buying it! It’ll make an awesome Christmas present! Over to Aaron’s launch piece for those who missed it – JP]
I can’t remember if I let anyone know, but my talk on the Nativity given to the Portsmouth Skeptics in…
Nearly two millennia ago, a story was told of a wondrous star in the heavens, beaming forth to proclaim the birth of an infant, destined to rule. Coaxing priests from an eastern kingdom to travel in search of this infant, the object led them to their destination and allow for the worship of the savior of the world.
Or so the story goes. But did it really happen, and if so, what was this magnificent star? A comet? An exploding star? An astrological portent? Something more bizarre?
This week the next big book in Jesus scholarship hit the stores. Well, I guess it’s big in the sense that it is attached to a well-known name, Fox News’ host/anchor/pundit Bill O’Reilly. Earlier I had heard about his book, Killing Jesus, which was a bit easy to make fun with since the artwork for the cover suggested who the murder was, and his previous major book with a similar title, Killing Lincoln, was considered so riddled with factual errors that Lincoln-connected museums were not willing to sell it.
It’s been a good, long time since I have seen a bright, naked-eye comet in the sky. The last I remember was Hale-Bopp back in 1996, and that was a remarkable sight. But there is a lot of hope now for Comet ISON (aka C/2012 S1), which was discovered only a matter of months ago. Not only it is slated to be a very bright object, but what is more interesting to me is its orbit.
[EDIT] Sorry about this post, because I starting writing it (well, copying it from Aaron’s blog) with a view to…
Here are some notes I made from Tim Callahan’s “The Secret origin of the Bible” some 5 years ago. Excuse the note form and any spelling / syntax errors. It’s still interesting reading and shows how clearly the account is mythological. Samson makes no sense as a stand alone tale, and has no allegorical or symbolic meaning at all, begging the question as to why it’s in the bible at all, if not a story lifted from a nearby culture and adopted to Yahweh.
About two weeks ago I was contacted about participating in a conference next year at the University of Groningen. In 2014 they are celebrating their 400th anniversary so it seems appropriate it relate to something else from 1614. In that year, Johannes Kepler published his tome on chronology, arguing that Jesus was born several years earlier than was the tradition in his time (on Dec 25 in 1 BC). In that book, he also talked about the Star of Bethlehem, and this is the apparent link for this conference.
Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman wrote this article for the HuffPo. The gist of the article is that portions of the New Testament were written by people who lied about their identity. Ehrman also explains why this matters.