Just to let my British readers know… I will be speaking in Bournemouth to the Dorset Humanists, co-presenting an Understanding…
A few weeks ago on the History Channel’s sister station, H2, the astronomy-based series The Universe went on a quest to solve an ancient mystery. Previous episodes in the previous few weeks had covered the construction and purpose of the pyramids (which was pretty good), Stonehenge, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The first two certainly have an astronomical connection, such as the solstice alignment of Stonehenge, but explaining Sodom’s ruin via astronomical body begs the very serious question: was this simply a theological story or etiological myth? Apparently that skepticism couldn’t find its way to the heart of the show.
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!
As part of the continuing efforts to get the message out about the Star of Bethlehem and the failure to explain it with astronomy, I was interviewed on the Exposing Pseudoastronomy podcast, run by Stuart Robbins, an young planetary scientist and skeptic. In the past, the podcast has tackled lots of material from Coast to Coast AM and some of their top guests, such asRichard Hoagland, in great but comfortable detail. That should be enough reason to subscribe to this skeptical outlet.
It’s been a while since I have posted, but I have been super-busy with getting my PhD and other research-related activities. But there has been some great news when it comes to my work on The Star of Bethlehem. Over on Amazon, the reviews have been very positive, with one exception–though that person has proven to not be a charitable reader to put it nicely.
[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.
In my last post about the various ways that the Star of Bethlehem from the Gospel of Matthew had been imagined, I talked about the folks that thought it was some sort of alien craft or UFO. When I wrote it, my best efforts to find the earliest claim to that came from Rev. Barry Downing in 1968. However, Jason Colavito had discovered a slightly older reference. From there, I continued the search.
[EDIT] Sorry about this post, because I starting writing it (well, copying it from Aaron’s blog) with a view to…
Randal Rauser, with whom I have had a radio debate about the Nativity, is running a series on his blog asking atheists why they are atheist (or not Christian). He has asked several atheist bloggers and authors, including myself, to produce a paragraph. Justin Schieber, Counter Apologist and Ed Babinski did a little more than that, so I added a tiny bit extra to mine, but it still remained more concise than theirs! See what you think – it is hard to be super concise:
This is Part 3 of a critical examination of the MMEL hypothesis of the Star of Bethlehem. Go to the index here.
So far in this critical appraisal of the MMEL hypothesis, there has not been much attention paid to the actual theory of what the Star of Bethlehem was other than to say it deals with conjunctions of Jupiter and Venus in the years 3 and 2 BCE. While already it is falsified as an explanation of Matthew’s account since it takes place after the death of Herod the Great (see Part 1 & Part 2), I shall not ignore what possible astronomical or astrological explanations are here. Perhaps they can explain the Star in another way (including helping create the narrative based on a back-calculation rather than an authentic historical tradition), or the conjunctions of another type can be related to what the Magi were interested in.
Here is my latest video offering to the world of You Tube. Let me know what you think.
In one of my recent posts about the Nativity, JohnM has been defending a particular harmonisation of a biblical difference.…
I thought I’d re-post this thread from when I was regularly contributing to John’s original Debunking Christianity blog. See what you think:
I was recently talking, an a thread or two, about the historical implausibility of pretty much all of the claims in both Luke and Matthew with regards to the infancy accounts of Jesus’ birth.
The situation is this. I maintain that, to hold to the notion that the accounts are historical, one has to jump through hoops. However, the Christian might say that one or two claims in the accounts may be false, but that does not mean that the other claims are false. But in this approach lie many issues. For example:
1) If we accept that some claims in the accounts are false, does the Christian special plead that the other claims are true?
2) The claims are so interconnected that to falsify one or two of them means that the house of cards comes tumbling down.
3) If we establish that at least some of the claims are false, how does this affect other claims within the same Gospel? How can we know that claims of Jesus’ miracles are true given that the reliability of the writer is accepted as questionable?
And so on.