Sunday, July 31, 2005

What good is history anyway?

I got angry about the Jesus myther faction, becasue I believei it's important to accept the existence of Jesus. To me it's like mataining standards. This is the nature of reality in the world, everything can't just be up for grabs all the time. it's not like there's no evidence. Atheists love rhetroicaly state "there's no evidence," but of course there is evidence! Rufus was excepted as a real man in history just by one mention in an inscrition ona plague found by Sir william Ramsey. who is he? He's mentioned in Acts and in Romans 16. So he's not just an obscrute figure, he's been proven to exist. But, the proof wasn't much. Or Pilate who was at one time said to be fictional. Now there is no a scholar who will say that, but only because of two brief mentions in two obscure ms. so it doesn't make much to be proven to exist. There is ample evidence for Jesus; especially since historicity is just a probablistic assumption anyway.

Nevertheless, as I posted about this and proceeded to have a huge arugment on CF, the thread was eventaully clossed because some mythers got mildly hostile and I got very hostile. I tendt overeact. They push me a bit, I push them off the cliff. Now, I'm not saying that's a good trait. I'm saying I am working on curbing it. But it did make me thing, what good is history if people only accept what they want to be true. To me its' a matter of having some kidn of standard that anchors us to reality.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

good mix of visitors

I love to see where people are coming fro. It gives me a kick to see that people in Eruope and asia and all over the world are reading my blog. Yesterday had an interesting mix of places:

Num Perc. Country Name
48 51.06% United States
21 22.34% Canada
15 15.96% United Kingdom
2 2.13% Australia
1 1.06% Denmark
1 1.06% Singapore
1 1.06% South Africa
1 1.06% Uruguay
1 1.06% Netherlands
1 1.06% Luxembourg
1 1.06% Belgium
1 1.06% Norway

Thailand guy isn't reading much anmymore. Let me year form you. I'd love to year from anyone represted by that ilst.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Atheist Truth Regime

My brother and I got together with an atheist friend form the CARM board. We found out that this guy lives in Dallas, so we started talking on the phone, then got together at a restaurant to discuss the existence of God. It was daunting because not being on a message board meant I had to listen to him steak. No, I'm Kidding. It was great because we got a lot further into the discussion than we would have had it been on a board.

The thing is this guy still did the same atheist trick I describe in the post bellow; trying to barrow the area of science as truth finding technique and pretend that it rubs off on atheism via the atheist admiration or science. Everything I would say would be met by "that's not meaningful because you have to assume God to begin with." But of cooers I am assuming God, as the foundation of my belief system, in the expression of any belief that I want to disclose. I can't begin with the cogit and work my way out to God there in causal conversation. I might just as well issue a 1000 page book "how to converse with Metacrock," it could begin with the material in the Russell's Whistehaead's Pinckipa, (which establishes the basis in logic for doing the math problem 1 + 1--said to be the most complex book ever written) and then Wittenstine's Tractatus, which establishes the basis of logic in language, and finally wind up with Descartre's Discourse on the Method which demonstrates how to go from "I think, therefore, I am to the proving the rest of the world. There just might be some who would find it a daunting task to read all these things just to hold a converstaion with me.

In fact the atheist is still doing what I accuse him of doing; setting up a truth regime based upon the presentness ha this world is established because he hitchhikes off the credibility of science. The he accuses me of arguing from incredulity by saying things "that can't be verified." Of course when pressed to verify his own position he resets to his own from of incredulity; dyeing that he has any need to verify the reality of the world or other minds or the meaning of life on the basis that it's not a meaningful question to question these because no one else does. Of course the fact that the majority, the vast majority of world pop accept God as a valid starting point for knowledge isn't enough in his mind to justify assumptions about the divine, but it's far more established because of the larger community that takes these questions seriously.

He would not admit that finding may own experiences significant was enough of a reason to doubt them so, but did admit that a community of believers can't be dismissed merely on the basis of their belief, because they do create a context in which belief is taken seriously. Well, so? Isn't this the same principles? There's nothing to privilege a position on if everything has to have a community of speakers to make meaningful satinets to, then why is my community any worse off than his?

He couldn't answer that that's the way we left it.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Memrois of Star Treck the Original

James Duhaan's death reminded me of the personal nostalgic connection I have with the original version of Star Treck. I dot' necessarily like it better, TNG was much more fun to watch, F/x was better, plots made more sense, even the acting was not as over acted, and the logicistcs worked out better. The TNG Enterprise was so much more luxurious than the original, it was easier to fantasize about living on it, or serving on it or whatever. Yet somehow the original show will always mean more to me than any other version, because of its connection to time and place.

The Spartan like nature of decor, the unappetizing food, the rank furnishings, the original Enterprise would be almost a punishment to live on for months on end. The Federation could actually have used service on the Enterprize as a sentence for criminals. TNG enterprise had a coffee shop (I love to sit in coffee shops) and it had a huge window to look out at the stars, replicators that could provide any sort of goodie to eat or drink; from exotic interplanetary chocolate, to the finest aged scotch whisky. The food on the original Enterprise consisted of little colored squares of something, resembling watermelon and maybe some little chuncks that looked like new potatoes. But TNG replicators could whip up anything, from backed Alaska to a pheasant dinner with truffles and holiday's sauce. TNG Enterprise was definitely better, but Rodenberry had 20 yeas to study how he would improve the old one.

And yet, when TNG went off I felt cheated, when DS9 went off I felt relieved (so many plot twists and I was still pissed over the death of Judzea) and when Voyager went off I just said "glad they got home." I never did get into the other one and don't even know if it's still on, but I cried when Scotty died. I can't stand to watch single episode of the original show. I wont watch it to this day, because I'm sick of them. I know every line by heart, I've seen every one so many times, I just can't stand it. I watch 2 seconds, which is all it takes me to know which one it is, I say "O that one," and turn off; but two seconds is all it takes to give me a lump in the throat, and tear in my eye and to wax eqliquent and philopshical about the place of Star Treck in my life and in American society. I don't go to conventions, I don't dress up in costumes, I don't speak Klingon, I don't collect action figures. I guess in that sense I'm a "Trekie" and not a "Trecker." But I love start treck as much as the most ardent fan in his pointed ears and homemade star fleet uniform.

I think the most important thing for me is the connection to my childhood. The semester that Star Treck came on for the first time I was in fourth grade and it was fall of 1966. I was wavering in sometime support, sometime opposition to the war in Vietnam. That was around the time my political sensibilities definitely took shape. Start Trek did not make my poetical outlook, I was already identifying with the protesters. I had already watched the evening news and seen the protests and taken an interest in SDS. But Star Treck definitely helped me decide, it solidified my view around a lot of things that were int he air and in the music of the day.

It reminds me of the family time, my parents were in good shape. My twin and I were sent to different schools that year, so that year I was learning to be myself and not an extension of my brother. I was sent to a private school ran by our Church of Christ denomination. A friend of mine went to that school so I got to car pool with him, and his Dad took us in the morning, and in the evening his grandfather picked us up and took us to his farm (near by) where the father got us from work and took us on to my house and then his.

While whiling away the one hour or sometimes two hour layover we watched Dobbie Gills, Michael's Navy, and even older shows in rerun, such as Rawhide. (Gilligan was in prime time then and Brady Bunch wasn't thought about yet). In fact Beverly Hillbillies were in prime time. My freind Berry was so excited about Star Treck, he has seen the pilot and that's all he talked about that summer was how he couldn't wait for it to begin. The first episode aired I didn't even see it. I really didn't notice, despite my friend's chatter about it. Other things occupied my mind, such as comic books. I couldn't wait for the next JSA-JLA team up that summer.

The first episode came and went I didn't watch it. I just remember my friend Barry talking about it all day. It was so great. I think it was the salt sucking creature. I may have missed the second one too. the fist episode I saw was the one with the parallel earth where the adults died and children raised thsemlves; the on where they went around saying "bounce on the head." After I saw that I was hooked. That's all I though about the next day at school and I couldn't wait to see the next one. If only I had know how many more times I would see it, whatever it was, maybe I would have put off viewing until the 70s. No, there's something neat about having been a fan of the show since that first season. It will always live in my heart as an integral part of my childhood, a symbol of my world view.

I remember the socially conscious episodes and how they reinforced attitudes I was already coming to hold. The one where an alien entity traps the crew of the enterprise below deck and about 40 men fight some Klingon prisoners who have been freed, and all the weapons are turned into swords. At the end the klingon commander (cant' remeber the name of the actor but when I was about 5 he played Chochese in a Western darma called "Broken Arrow"), said "only a fool figths in a burning house." I had no trouble seeing the allusion to the war in vietnam. And the episodes where Frank Gorshen is colored half blak half white, and his nemesis is half white half black. The stupuidity of racism. I remember at the time being moved by these episodes and realizing the values they taught.

It will always be that orignal series that is the show for me, and all the others are just what happened after the time of Krick and Spock, but it will always be that original show that linves in my heart and defines the Start Treck thing for me.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Why I am not a Christian

"I am not a Christian, but only a poet."

Soren Kerikegaard said that. The context, that no one lives up to the Christian faith as it is portrayed in the NT, but all seek commercial and social advantages form their Christianity. I suppose the situation in contemporary America is a lot more complex than that. I think Anthony Wallace got it right when he spoke of the "changing of the Maes ways" and concluded that this was the primary reason for religious revival. As people find the "maze ways" of society changing, and find it more difficult to navigate in the world because the world they knew before has changed, they reach back to some comforting symbol such as their faith.

I do not think this is an adequate explanation for phenomena such as the second great awakening. That's just leaving out the Spirit of God and the Lord's move on people's lives. On the other hand, it gives a find explanation as to the commitment to right wing politics, and how it can be that conservative Christians are always so fearful of losing their grip on the country, even when they are able to maintain it under circumstances that dissenting justices just almost call illegal.

After all, nothing in the bible ever suggests that the Christian's calling is to take over the government and force people to be good. There is a forcing function of government in terms of keeping peace, but nothing says that Christians should identify themselves with any given political party or any given political agenda. St. Augustness tells us that the city of God is not the city of man. The City of man is not ruled by God, it is not destined for eternal end, and we cannot make it into the city of God by enforcing a political agenda upon it.

The irony is that as soon as we start the attempt to use temporal power to force people to follow God as they ought, we cease to follow God, for the City of God is not the exercise of temporal power. I can understand the urge to stem the tide on abortion, or to mange issues such as pornography. On the other hand, I find so many times Christians become identified with the total party agenda, and, as Reihold Neibuhr would say "cast the aura of the sacred over the profane." In other words they wind up thinking well if stopping abortion is a godly concern, and the Republican party is the godly party because of it, than supply side economics must be the godly economics, and scrapping welfare must be the godly social policy, et.

In the Reagan era I actually got into disputed with Christians who tried to claim that government regulation was sinful and the story of Cain and Able proved it! Such blatant electioneering and all out identification of the temporal with the eternal would make St. Ague turn in his canonization. Paul advised Christians to pray for the leaders and to pray that we could live in peace and spread the Gospel. He never said anything about overturning the government or beaming a political junkie.

In keeping with SK's statement I am not a Christian. That can be taken as a play on words; from a Christian persective it's because I'm not living in the old NT faith. I haven't given my goods to the poor. From the stand point of the conservatives I'm not a Christian because I don't embrace their political philosphy. But I would hope that some "true christians" would think about what we are called to do and get out of the electionaiering business.

ok I'm looking for my flak jackett now.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

More Atheist Tricks

I wouldn't say such disparaging things about atheists if they didn't pull such sneaky tricks. Now of course I don't mean all atheists. But there are atheist fundies just as there are Christian fundies, and there's an atheist atheism of the gaps kind of argument. Right now on CARM I'm being bugged by this guy calling himself "Derek Sansone." he's into atheism of the gaps.

The atheist fundie fools himself into thinking that his view is totally empirical and demonstrated by science but "nothing in Christianity is objective," you know they don't understand anything about epistemology when they start demanding "objectivity." Espeicially to demand it from a world view. I can see asking for "objectivity" in the form of veri similitude for a study on air bags in automobiles, for example, but not backing up a world view! That's as idiotic as believing that you are being scientific because you life white lab coats.

The problem is this kind of atheist fundi fools himself into thinking that eh as some real verification and objective demonstration of his world view, but he's only being fooled by a self induced con job. It works like this. First he imposes a self privileging ideology upon the world. He privies doubt, so in his mind doubt comes to equal truth. Then he orients his world view around a value of accepting "only empirical evidence." He cons himself into thinking that he only accept ideas that are proven with empirical scientific evidence. Then attaches such importance to this concept that he is able to make a leap of faith and pretend that somehow valuing induction proves the materialist conclusions that he leaps to. So he think just because he wants all of his positions to be proven with empirical evidence, they must really be so. And of course he convinces himself that the task of science is to protect form religion and then science becomes his get out of hell free card. Let's review these steps.

(1)Impose ideology privilaging doubt
(2)accepts value of empirical data only
(3)leap of faith from value of emprical data to assumption of emprically based conclusions
(3) sanctions with the arua of science.

Of course he has no such data. There is no data that God doesnt' exist or that there is nothing beyond the material world.He has no of proving this at all. But that's OK he says because it's having a scientific way of life that counts. At least his over all view is supported by his love of "objectivity" so that sanctions his conclusions even if logic doesn't' sanction them.

The truth is he has no such proofs and his bold scientific way of life is a sham because he has many assumptions upon which his world view is predicated, the basis of which cannot be supported by science. I've made lists like this before, they include all the basic epistemic assumptions:

(1) The existence of other minds.
(2) that the future will be like the past
(3) that the sun will come up tomorrow
(4) That a world exists external to his own mind.

Now most of these are reasonable assumptions. But the point is he holds them without the possibility of any sort of real direct empirical scientific evidence, all the while claiming that as the basis of his entire world view.

The thing is, I wouldn't mind that so much, but then he tries to use this in contrast to religious thought. Everything that religious thinkers say or do receives hyper criticism from them. He imagines that theologians like Paul Tallich are just glorified sudayschool teachers with nothing going on up stairs. He waves around the word "objectivity" like there's really something to compare.

But he wont evaluate Christniaity on the terms of its own inner logic and every attempt to expalin what is is met with "but that's not objective, you dont' have anyting objective," that's just the illusion created by their value system.

more latter

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Scotty Beams Up

James Doohan (sorry I can't link to the story but aol wont let me)

I'll miss him. The most loveable character of them all

"aye,that...and a wee bit moore..."

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Refutting the "no Tomb" Theory

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The major argument for the Resurrection as McDowell argued in Evidence that Demands a Verdict, was centered upon the notion of Guards on the tomb: how did they get the body past the guards? One of the major innovations in countering this argument has been a tendency for Skeptics to argue that most crucifixion victims were not buried in individual tombs, but were tossed aside in mass graves or left for dogs to eat. Thus, it is assumed, the narrative of the Tomb was a latter fabrication, one calculated to produce an apologetic which would set up proof of a resurrection.

This argument can be countered in several ways:

I. Some burials for Crucifixion victims did happen and were not that uncommon.

A. The Skeptical Argument that Crucified Criminals were not given burial.In Fact the Romans did leave bodies on the cross often until they diintegrated.

B. Jews were horrified by non-burial of the crucified.

1) Crucifixion comes under heading of hanging.

This point has often been made in a different way by skeptics in argument. They will say that the references to being hung on tree indicate that Jesus was actually hung and not crucified. But hanging on a tree was the euphemism for crucifixion. It came from the OT custom of handing the body of an executed criminal on a tree. When crucifixion was brought in by the Romans the euphemism was created and applied to crucifixion. (See Raymond Brown, Death of The Messiah, Vol. II p.1209)

This means that the Jews had a horror of non-burial.

Deut. 21: 22-23 "if there shall be against someone a crime judged worthy of death, and he be put to death and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree: but you shall bury him on the same day, for cursed of God is anyone hanged."(quoted Ibid.).

2) Burial of crucified mandatory.

The Conflict between Roman and Jewish practices is phrased thus by S. Liberman: "The Roman practice of depriving executed criminals of the rite of burial and exposing their corps to the cross for many days... horrified the Jews." In the first Jewish revolt the Idumeans cast out corpses without burial. Commenting with disgust on this Josephus states: "the Jews are so careful about funeral rites that even those who are crucified because they were guilty are taken down and buried before sunset." [Ibid. and Josephus in War 44.5.2 #317]

Skeptics will quote this horror as though that is the main thing that made Jews fear crucifixion, but they will go on asserting that the Roman practice dominated, whereas the Jews found it mandatory according to their religion to bury the dead, even those crucified after having been found guilty of a crime.

3) Type of burial is the issue.

Brown point out that the guilty were often denied burial among their ancestors but put into common graves. Brown quotes the Mishna, Sanhedrin 6.6 "even if the accused was the King of Kings he shall be denied burial with his fathers." This phraseology may have been intentionally aimed against Christians. Does this mean then, that Jesus' body would have been placed in a common grave such that there was no actual tomb for him rise out of and leave empty?

C. Jews would probably have allowed burial of Jesus in Joseph's Tomb.

1) They key to the issue is the charge against him.

The charge against the prisoner is what would determine where his remains came to rest. If he was a criminal found worthy of death because he committed a crime he would be buried ignominiously in a common grave. However, political desenters crucified by the Romans did not come under this stricture. The Innocent crucified unjustly by foreign powers (Romans) could be given honorable burial. (Ibid. p.1210).

2) Jesus was not exicuted on criminal charges.

Jesus was executed not for criminal charges, but for political insurrection. Thus he would not come under the strictures of the crucified guilty but could be given a decent burial in an honored tomb.

Jesus was executed by the Romans, not for blasphemy, but on the charge of being the King of the Jews. Could this have been regarded as a death not in accordance with the Jewish law and so not subjecting the crucified to dishonorable burial? [Ibid., p. 1211]

"An innocent or nobel Jew might be crucified for something that did not come under the law of God, or indeed for keeping the divine law. We find this issue raised in Talbad Sanhedirin 47a-47b when Abey complians 'would you compare those slain by a [Gentile] govenrment to those slian by the Beth Din? the former, since their death is not in accordence with Jewish law obtain forgvieness...'Such a distinction had to have been made earlier or there could have been no tradition of an honorable burial for the Macabean martyrs. Thus we cannot discount the possibility of an honorable first burial for one crucified by the Romans....Yet would the tendency be to give Jesus an honorable or dishonorable burial? According to Mark/Mat the Sanhedirin found him worthy of death on the charge of blasphemy, and Josephus would have had the blasphemer stoned or hung...on the other hand Jesus was executed by the Romans not for blasphemy but on the charge of being the King of the Jews...."[Brown 1210-1211]

The Sanhedrin believed Jesus guilty of blasphemy, that doesn't mean that he was formally executed for it. That means his he may have been entitaled to honorable burial.

3) Clues in Mark and in Gospel of Peter (GPet).

a) Time indications.

Mark is probably the basis for Synoptic understanding of the events and John may have an account independent from that of Mark. There is a time requirement implicit in the request to get the body buried since the death occurred about 3pm and some time between this time and sunset the body had to be placed in the ground to prevent profanation of the Holy day (Passover). Thus there was a race against time and it was expedient to to follow through with events as quickly as possible.

b) Jospeh of Aramethia.

Brown points out that since the first mention of Jospeh in all the Gospels is at this juncture, his Role in burying Jesus, he was not thought of as a follower or as a supporter, but merely one who wanted to prevent profanation of the Holy Day. He was a distinguished member of the Sanhedrin and would have had a certain degree of political influence. If he was merely concerned with doing his duty he might be willing to offer his own tomb for the sake of expediency. This makes sense of what seems to be a lack of cooperation between two parties, the women and Jospeh. Had both groups been followers it makes no sense why Joseph would not have been there to roll away the stone for the women, or why the women would not have stayed to anoint the body. This also makes sense of the tendency of John and GPet to speak of the Jews burying Jesus, "they drew out the nails, " and so forth. (John 19:38, GPet 6:21).

4) Roman Respect for Jewish Customs.

"During the Roman period decrees were promulgated which prohibited the removal of the stone coverings of tombs and the mutilation of their contents." [R.K. Harrison Archaeology of The New Testament, New York: Association Press 1964, p. 31]

There is an inscription of such a law, called "The Nazareth law" found on the stone covering the entrance to a tomb, which dates to Claudias' time (about AD 41). This may have been in response to the claims of Jesus' resurrection. Brown does not regard that as a serious argument, however, although it does show that the Roman's were willing to respect the Religious practices of the Jews. We do know this from other instances in fact, that exceptions were made to honor the specific religious requirements of the Jews whenever possible. Thus there would probably have been no insistence that Roman custom be followed with regard to the bodies on crosses. IN fact Browns gives an example of three friends of Josephaus' who were crucified and Josephus was able to have them taken down on the insistence that leaving them up violated their religious customs.

While it is true that in some cases the Romans did leave the bodies of crucified victims on crosses for extended periods of time (typically to horrify rebellious locals), the basic rules for how to treat the crucified was laid out in "The Digest of Justinian" 48:24 in which Ulipian tells us that the bodies of those who suffer capital punishment are not to be denied to their relatives, and this is extended by Julius Paulus to include any who seek them for burial (see R.E. Brown, "Death of the Messiah, Vol. 2, pg. 1207).

Basically, the Romans successfully held their empire together in no small part by remaining sensative to local sensibilities, especially in times of general peace and tranquility as we find in Palestine in the first half of the First Century. Adding credence to the historicity of the burial tradition offered in the Gospels is the nature of Jewish Law on the matter, the probable historicity of Joseph of Arimathea himself, and the general lack of legendary development in the account by the Gospel authors themselves. Quoting from The Death of the Messiah, Vol. 2 (Doubleday, 1994):>

"...I suggested that "a respected council member who was also himself awaiting the kingdom of God" meant that Joseph was a religiously pious Sanhedrist who, despite the condemnation of Jesus by the Sanhedrin, felt an obligation under the Law to bury this crucified criminal before sunset. That Mark created such an identification is most unlikely since it runs counter to his hostile generalizations casting blame on all the members of the Sanhedrin for the injustice of sentencing Jesus to death" (Mark 14:55,64; 15:1).... Raymond Brown, DMV2, pg. 1239

The "laws" that Brown refers to include (Joshua 8:29, 10:27, II Samuel 2:12-14; Tobit 1:17-19; 2:3-7; 12:12-13; Sirach 7:33; 38:16) as mentioned by Josephus in Jewish War 4.5.2; #317 "The Jews were so careful about funeral rites that even those who are crucified because they were found guilty are taken down and buried before sunset." These practices arise especially Mosaic Law.

Deuteronomy 21:22-23 "If there shalle be against someone a crime judged worthy of death, and he be put to death and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree; but you shall bury him the same day, for cursed of God is the one hanged."

Further, we have from Josephus again mentioning of the command to bury on the same day one who has been hung on a tree after being stoned to death, in a first-century context Antiquities 4. 202 and Jewish War 4. 317.Brown documents the story of Josephus, who saw three of his freinds hanging on corsses, and was able to have them taken down because it was almost sunset. Two of the three survived, but the one who died was burried honorably.

In his concluding remarks on the burial of Jesus, Raymond Brown had this to say:

"That Jesus was buried is historically certain. That Jewish sensitivity would have wanted this done before the oncoming Sabbath (which may also have been a feast day) is also certain, and our records give us no reason to think that this sensitivity was not honored. That this burial was done by Joseph of Arimathea is very probable, since a Christian fictional creation of a Jewish Sanhedrist who does what is right is almost inexplicable, granted the hostility in early Christian writings toward the Jewish authorities responsible for the death of Jesus. Moreover, the fixed designation of such a character as "From Arimathea," a town very difficult to identify and reminiscent of no scriptural symbolism, makes a thesis of invention even more implausibleŠ While probability is not certitude, there is nothing in the basic preGospel account of Jesus' burial by Joseph that could not plausibly be deemed historical." (R.E. Brown, DMV2, pg. 1240-41)

One of history's most liberal theologians concurs. Commenting specifically on Mark 15:42-47:

"This is an historical account which creates no impression of being a legend apart from the women who appear again as witnesses in v. 47, and vs. 44-45 which Matthew and Luke in all probability did not have in their Mark." R. Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition, (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), pg. 274.

"A straightforward reading of the Gospels' portrait of the burial has been challenged by revisionist scholars, who theorize that Jesus died in a mass crucifixion: the body was thrown into a common, shallow trench, to become carrion for vultures and scavenging dogs. This makes for vivid drama but implausible history. Pilate, after all, had been forced in the face of Jewish opposition to withdraw his military shields from public view in the city when he first acceded to power. What likelihood was there, especially after Sejanus' death, that he would get away with flagrantly exposing the corpse of an executed Jew beyond the interval permitted by the Torah, and encouraging its mutilation by scavengers outside Jerusalem?"Revisionism can be productive. But it can also become more intent on explaining away traditional beliefs than on coming to grips with the evidence at hand, and I think this is a case in point. It is worth explaining why I go along with much of the Gospel's account of Jesus' burial, because doing so will help us grapple with the vexed question of what happened three days after his crucifixion."Time and again, the Gospels reveal the tendancy of the first Christians to shift the blame for Jesus' death away from Pilate and onto the Sanhedrin. Yet when it comes to taking on the weighty responsibility of burying Jesus, we find members of that same council taking the lead, while most of Jesus' disciples had beaten a hasty and ignominious retreat. Joseph's and Nicodemus' public act cost them: they donated mortuary dressing and ointment as well as use of the cave. They also contracted uncleanness for seven days after the burial. On each of those seven days they would have had to explain to curious colleagues where and why they had come into contact with a corpse, a powerful source of impurity."Joseph's act went beyond mere display of ordinary decency. He ensured that Jesus was interred in one of the caves he had recently dug for himself and his family. The significance of this gesture is plain: there were those wihtin the council who had not agreed with Caiphas' condemnation of Jesus to Pilate."[Chilton, Bruce. "Rabbi Jesus: The Jewish Life and Teaching that Inspired Christianity", (New York: Doubleday, 2000) p. 270-272.]

II. The "No Tomb" Theory doesn't account for or explain the early faith in the resurrection.

Had it been common custom for crucifixion victims to always have been left on the cross for several days and finally to be thrown to dogs, one can scarily see how anyone would not know this. Knowing the fate of crucifixion victims to always been lack of any real burial, who in Jerusalem would be convinced by the stories of Jesus and the empty tomb? The very fact of the contradictory nature of the story would turn off any interest in the group from the beginning. It would have been known to most people that crucified and empty tomb just don't' go together, so who would have believed the story? Than to think that they waited 50 years until Mark wrote his Gospel to try and add apologetics touches such as Jospeh of Aramethia volunteering his tomb, is absurd. Clearly the story had to emerge at a very early period, yet if it emerged very early it would have been know to be a lie. No one would believe something that so violated common knowledge and of which they had never heard a word and knew no one else who ever heard of such events. The notion that these aspects of the Jesus story do not have a basis in historical fact just does not hold water.

Of course some sketpics argue that the belief itself was in a non-boily resurrection, in which case the tomb would be irrelivant. That is answered on the next page, Resurrection III:The No Body theory.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Topos of Historicity

Prologomina to Any Future Discussion of The Historical Jesus

History is Probablity

"Topos" is a Greek word that means "location" or "seat." Where is the location of historicity? What is the exact ponit at which one can say "this is historicity?" But there is a more fundamental question implied in finding the topos of historicity, and that is "what is the crucial point at which historicity takes on theological meaning?What aspects of being histoircal are so crucial that, if other wise proven to be not histoircal, the Christian faith would cruble?

All history is probability. No one can empirically prove an "historical fact," for that would require being able to repeat the experiment or to otherwise witness the event for oneself. Obviously history by its nature as part of times arrow does not allow either of these options. Thus history is a non-empirical social science. WE can't go back in time and watch George Washington cross the Delaware, but we can assume that he did so because we have documents that refer to it which contain eye witness testimony and which we have no good reason to doubt.

For this reason history is a matter of documents. Those we call "historians" were writing in the time of Christ, such as Tacitus and Josephus, but they were not professionals nor academics. History as an academic social science has only existed since the 19th century. As a science history still has a ways to go and it will never be the sort of science that one might find in sociology or biology. The major theorists of an academic discipline of history writing in the late 19th century, set forth the model that history is a matter of what can be documented from the past. For this reason history is primarily a matter of documents, but that means that there are huge cracks in our understanding that can never be filled. For that reason historians assess the nature of historical "fact" as a form of probability. George Washington probably did exist and he probably did cross the Delaware to fight the Hesseians at Princeton (and other places) but that is no more an empirical fact that Christ resurrection from the dead. The probably of Washington crossing the Delaware is much higher historically speaking than that of the Resurrection, but it is no more certain in an absolute sense. Yet when all historians agree to it we can place a very high degree of confidence in it and we speak of it as a "fact" because we assume that it is one.

The problem is that when one attaches religious significance to a document some certain group of people will decide that this is intrinsically to be doubted. What these people don't understand is that 90% of what we know about the ancient world comes to us from documents that one could doubt for the same reasons that atheists usually doubt the Bible (because they are recorded in religiously polemical documents).

Consider the case of Jospehus. Most atheists assume that Jospehus is an authority to be trusted and few people anywhere would assert that he didn't exist. This is because we have no reason to suspect that he didn't, and he is our basis for knowledge of about 80% of what happened in the first century. But one could argue that Jospehus didn't exist, or that most of his writings were made up. Using the same criteria that Christ myther's use for deciding that Christ didn't exist or that 90% of what is reported about him was made up, one can make the same kinds of arguments. First, Josephus' writings must have been controlled by Christians from an early period because we have no texts with totally lack the bits about Jesus. If that was made up then certainly Jo's works were controlled by Christians from the earliest times. Now secondly, Jeosphus gets wrong the year that the Roman legions of Vespasian left Palestine, but Jo was there so how could he get that wrong? It must be that his works are made up! The whole of Jospehus works were made up to advocate the Jewish-Christian cause and that explains the passage where he says he got his friend off the cross before sunset, that was put in there to show that Joseph of Aramethia could do the same with the body of Jesus. Why else does he use the name Jospeh so much like the name Jospheus?

Of course I'm being sarcastic. None of these arguments hold water and no historian would accept them, but they cannot be disproved! It's just that historians don't waste their time with BS conspiracy theories or silly assertions. It is also the case that since Josephus forms the bulwark of our knowledge about that period, historians are not eager to lose his testimony. The point is that the same criteria could be used to dislodge Jospehus as have been advocated to dislodge the New Testament (minus the textual proof of redaction, but there some evidence of redaction in some of Jospehus, consider the Slavic and Arabic manuscripts)!

The point is that in deciding the nature of historical fact we cannot let such things as "this document is a religious polemic" decide the matter. We have to assume that the presence of a document is enough to tell us something about the situation under which is was written, and that knowing something about who wrote a document and why, tells us something about the situation. Just being able to point out that a document is religious and is written for religious reasons, even polemical ones, is not enough to assume that the document is forgery or that it has not historical merit or information in it.

Thus we cannot rule out the historicity of the Gospels based upon these criteria. We have to formulate more specific textually critical reason for rejecting the documents of the New Testament. Now of course such reasons exist and are talked about among textual critics, But they don't just blindly rule them out merely because they are the New Testament.

Thus, we have to accept a certain probably about the historicity of the New Testament documents which can be established by textual criticism, but the basic assumption has to be that there is some basis in historical fact, that the writers have some connection with a tradition and that they understand themselves to be in that tradition. We cannot assume that they are engaging in pernicious motive or just making things up. After all, any history could be the result of such a plot but if one assumes this than one doesn't have scientific examination of what happened in the past. To have that one must assume that some things form the past can come to us form those who set out to record at least their understanding of what happened.

Not Historical but History making

The category "history making" is not one used by historians. It is the brain child of German Theologian Jurgen Moltmann from the University of Tubengin. The reason for it is not to "make something true" as has been charged. It is not to over come a dirth of hard evidence, as has been charged on certain message boards. The reason for the category is to overcome a cheat, to get around a cheating argument by European intellectuals. The Marxists historians argue that since history is founded upon naturalistic principles and upon documentary hypothesis (as set out by Marx in The German Ideology) one cannot do history on the basis of the supernatural. Thus the resurrection could never be an historical question because it can never assumed by historians that it happened.

This is true, but it's still cheating in a sense. Because it means that no matter what the truth of that event it can never be understood in the way that Christian doctrine would assert because it just can't be part of history (remember history is not what "really" happened but the interpretation of the documentary trail of what happened).

So Moltmann says "OK we will just change the rules. Instead of grounding our understanding in the category of 'historical nature' we will ground it in the category of 'history making.'" The belief shaped history in the sense that history was shaped by the tradition which understood itself to be witness to the resurrection. Thus it is not the historicity of the event itself that we seek to prove. This can never be proven, it can only be embraced as an act of faith because we cannot go back in time and watch it happen. But we can embrace a certain probabilistic sense of it happening and we can understand it as the self identity of a community which went on to shape history as a result of its understanding of that event. There had to be, therefore, some kind of event for the group to have some kind of self understanding in relation to the event. That means that the arguments about the resurrection must become an attempt to assess the probabilities of various theories as to the nature of this event which prompted such a self definition among the community.

What matters is not history but the history making aspects. That is, it is not an historical question, Was Jesus the son of God? Did he raise from the dead? These are not things that can be proven historically, they are not part of history because they involve transcendence of the naturalistic framework under which history is assumed. That does not mean that I don't believe them, but it does mean that proving them is less important than living them. Should anyone think this is not sufficiently intellectual to justify the brain power it takes to grasp it, it's probably not, but just trying actually doing it. The point is that there is no intellectual shame in an existential encounter with the object of ultimate concern. So that is what really matters, that the teachings bestow Grace, that the church understood itself as the recipient of Christ's teachings (and with no small amount of confirming evidence form history) and it doesn't matter that it isn't "proven" or that the resurrection isn't considered historical. It is history making, history was shaped around that concept and around the churches understanding of itself as the guardian of Jesus' teachings.

Historical fact Vs Historical perspective

Since historical facts are probability in the fist place, the nature of any historical fact is not a matter of absolute proof but of the best evidence forming a degree of confidence in a probabilistic assertion. This means that naturalistic ideology will exclude the possibly of the resurrection a pariori, it also means that we can bring back in a certain probability based upon the category of the history making self understanding of the group.

But it also means that what matters more in terms of the resurrection is not historical fact but historical perspective. This is an observation only a theologian could love. It is not a view point of an historian, but since my first love was theology, I embrace it as a tenet of theological understanding. The historical persecutive I have cultivated tries not to impose the category of "fact" upon the claim of the resurrection, but to create spaces in which the claim can be held as a tenet of faith based upon its history making character. That means, I think it really happened, but the question is how to talk about it really happening when it is to be considered so improbable? Well, that is purely an ideological matter and depends more upon metaphysical assumptions to rule it out rather than any real historical evidence that would rule it out. Through the metaphysical assumption I make I rule it back in, but not as imposed "fact," rather, as the thing with which I fill the spaces created by the history making nature. In other words the history making concept is how we fill the cracks left between the probabalistic assertions of inductive reasoning.


Now what does all of this mean? It means first of all that I don't have to prove the resurrection in order to hold it as a doctrine and a tenet of faith. It also means that I can ground its true theological significance in the symbolic value of its transforming aspects without proving it as "fact" because for me it is an existential fact. I am transformed by it, thus for me it is a fact, if not a historical fact, then an existential one.

Nevertheless, I think the evidence does point to it as an actual fact, a literal resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, but the important thing about that is its theological significance as a symbol. The fact that I think it really happened, although important, is only secondary in terms of having to prove things. I can prove that the affects of believing it are real.

That also means that I don't have to worry about all the details of the New Testament documents being in place. I assume that these documents were not written by those whose names they bare, and I assume that many of the details, are out of place chronologically and perhaps are only suggestive of the actual events. None of that matters in terms of transformative value.

Thus, the real topos of historicity is not in the stories and not in the documents but it is in the tradition which preserved the documents. The leaders of that tradition chose the documents based upon their connection with the original group withwhom the deposit of Christ's teachings were fist entrusted, the Apostles. Thus, we can assert that there is in some sense an historical core to the documents even if we are in the dark as to the exact nature of that core.

What ultimately matters is that the documents themselves are not understood within the tradition as literal epistemology but as a means of bestowing Grace. If Grace is bestowed to the reader then this is all that can be asked in terms of the reason for their preservation. This is all that need be accomplished.*

Nevertheless, we can come at this with an historical persecutive and ask what the documents do tell us about the history of the situation. That Jesus really did die on the cross that that his teachings really were indicative of the Kingdom of God puts a force behind the symbolic value that increases the efficacy of that, and that makes them indicative of a truth which can be demonstrated within a reasonable field of historical probability.

The historicity of Jesus is important, but the question is, what is important about it? Is it really so important to know that on a certain day Jesus did and said this or that? Or is it important to know that we have a generally accurate perception of the kinds of things Jesus did and the basic core of his teaching available to us? I contend that some historical elements are more important than others..

The Topos of Historicity"Topos" is just a fancy Greek term used in arts and hummanities circles for "place," or "location." I bring this up because I think what is most important is the understanding of and acceptance of the Tradition itself. I think the tradition is the safe guard of the historicity. This means that rather than some sort of historically empirical proof (of which there is no such thing) that Jesus really gave the sermon on the mount, the important thing is that the tradition loaded those teachings into its understanding of Jesus from an early period and to be a member of the community means to accept that teaching. This is so because this is what works. To accept Jesus, to accept God's grace through the mediation of Christ's atonement is transformative and offers a power for living which resolves the basic human problematic. The proof of that is in actually doing it, actually receiving it, not in historical arguments.

The Theological Lodown:

As I have said before, I believe that there is one universal experience of the Divine that stands behind all religions. The individual God figures in reach religion don't matter because they are preceded by this experience which is more basic, and they are created by cultural construct through which this experience must be flitted. But that is what happens when man tries to reach out to God mostly unaided. What happens when God decides to make one clear unmistakable statement that demonstrates exactly who he is and what he wants? Perhaps the best way to do that would be to come and tell us himself. That's what I believe happened with Jesus.

Now that still leaves problems of the ambiguity of language. But what is unambiguous is the actions. Not only are the actions of Jesus reflective of the divine in such enstances as forgiving the woman caught in adultery or in healing the sick and so forth, but they are unmistakable in his atonement on the cross. This is a statement of God's solidarity with humanity. That God would be willing to die for the sins of humanity and to die as one of the lowest in the social order demonstrates that God is on our side and is willing to identify with our lot, which is what solidarity is all about. Now never mind the fact that "it didn't hurt cause he was God" and silly arguments like that. The point is that it is a clear expression of God's willingness to identify with us. The only problem is that we have to return the favor and identify with him. It's still a search that can only concluded in the heart. So we must still make a decision and place our solidarity with God through giving our lives to Christ (Romans 6). But it works both ways and all we need to is examine the case to see that. Once having done that we receive transformation and we resolve the problematic involved in being human and that's what really matters because that is a lived experience and can be seen by anyone, it is not a matter of empirical evidence or of demonstration in an "objective" way. I'm not saying the history doesn't matter, and I do believe the historical stuff form the Gospels.

But what matters more than proving it as history is what it means to accept it as history. It doesn't mean being able to prove it (and in fact nothing in history is proven in the way that it is in science--all history is probability in a sense). What matters about accepting the history is understanding what it does for one to accept it. When one finds that this is the case and it does actually mediate transcendence one can find that the claims are at least true. They may or may not be true in a literal historical sense (and I think most of them are) but they are true in a transformative sense. If one is transformed than it would seem to be the point, the whole point involved in why would want to investigate religion in the first place. How to choose a tradition. Now as I have said, it is not a question of which religion is true but of which has the efficacy (I am speaking phenomenologically here--not theologically). That means, all religions mediate transformation to some degree, but some do so better than others. Human sacrifice for example is a less efficacious method, because it involves the necessity of cruelty and murder, and a grace oriented religion is more efficacious because it is more accessible to all. There are two such religions and two only: pure land Buddhism and Christianity. We can compare those two later. But in my view that is the reason to prefer a particular tradition, and to prefer the tradition with which I identify; because it mediates transcendence through Grace, which means one need not be good enough to merit God's favor. That makes it more accessible and in a sense it may make it more transformative. As Jesus said "he who has been foreign much loves much. We can open a new one to do the historical stuff (and don't worry, I will).

____________ *For a discussion transformative value (or Sacramental rather than epistemological understanding of the Scriptures) see Canon and Criterion in Christian Theology, by Willam Abrham, Oxford, 1998/2002.

For discussion of History making see Jurgan Moltmann, Theology of Hope,New York: Harpers, 1967

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Ancient Things Must Be Wrong?

My argument here is that God offers humanity a timeless and universal opportunity to encounter the divine in such a way as to clarify the human condition and to free the individual from the bonds of his/her own darker nature; and through this to offer us a meaning and understanding of our own lives that make life beautiful and worthwhile, regardless of our circumstances. I argue that this promise is embodied in the promised coming of redeemer, which is echoed in all mythologies around the world. In the Bible we see the promise at first veg. "I will put emnity between the woman's seed and the serpent," the serpent will bruise the heal and the heal will crush the serpent's head. Whatever that means. Then it becomes the personal quest of Abraham to carry on his seed, which is of course is the metaphor for the ideal of the nation to explain its Nobel origins and to carry on its seed. Then it becomes the nationalistic desire for a place in he earth, a country of their own. Then it comes the quest to keep the law, once they live in the promised land, and their journey becomes eschatological; a journey through time rather than through the space of a wilderness. It becomes a quest for a return from exile and it becomes a quest for political liberation of the homeland from foreign oppression. In all of these changes and variations the one stable element is the idea of the coming redeemer how somehow he's going to put things right. In all of this we see the ability of the divine to step into our cultural constructs and fill them with meaning and make them gateways to the hopes of promise for future generations. It is the timeless and eternal in the temporal and the cultural.

I advanced the old apologetical argument of fulfilled prophesy on AARM and Scavenger and Hyperbolae jumped all over me. Well, you know Hyperbolae is always exaggerating, and Scav is always picking over what's left of an argument. (yuck).

They thought that fulfillment of prophesy is too old fashioned a concept to take seriously. It's something the ancient Greeks believed in, after all, and look where it got them. Well, actually that's such a lame argument because after 2000 years the Greek pagan religion is on its way back!

But the idea that something must be wrong because ancient people thought of it is silly. I will admit that prophesy is a social construct. It's only because we have our ties to the ancient world that we can still make such an argument. In fact we have dressed the argument up in modern terms. Accent people did not understand prophesy as mathematical probability. They did not lay odds as to the fulfillment. That's all a very modern idea.

The Ancients understood fulfillment of prophetic utterance as merely a sign form the gods, but they did not measure it in mathematical terms, they had no concept of probability. Before mathematical probability there was authority, sicentia. That was the name of the concept that preceded mathatmeical probability (discovered by Blasé Pascal the Christian philosopher). The idea of Scientia is that of relying upon the authority of an expert to offer some margin of truth. The Ancients saw fulfillment's as omen's but they didn't compare the likelihood of an outcome.

I think there is an eve more "up to date" way to understand this philosophical approach to fulfillment of prophesy. In fact I was making the arguments so that I could show another Christian apologist a better way to present the argument than the way he was doing it (attaching mathematical probiablies), not because I actually want to prove to the atheists on AARM that I was right. I don't often argue that sort of thing, because it is kind of old hat. Not that Jesus didn't fulfill the prophesies, but I think there are more sophisticated approaches than saying "Isaiah says messiah would be born in Galilee and Jesus was born in Galilee, amazing!"

(1) Tie it in with the nature of human religiosity and realize that the coming redeemer idea is as old as the notion of redemption itself.

(2) The concept of Messianic fulfillment, which stems from the exile and the desire to return to the land of the ancestors, the Messiah was a political redeemer who would lead the people home and rebuild the temple; that idea is both the social construct of those in that time and place who thought of it, and God stepping into their world and fulfilling their understanding of divine promise, at one and the same time.

(3) The promise of redemption in the Garden (Gen. 3:16) is sufficiently veg that it can be understood as atonement on the Cross, or as coming of Messiah, or both. The early church looked at the scriptures to understand how Jesus' life fulfilled the promise and they saw this fit.

(4) You can see the development chainging in the concept of Messiah between 1st Isaiah and 2 Isaiah. The change is terms of Messiah as a redeeming figure who is a light to the gentiles and savior of all the world, suffering Messiah who atones for the sins of the people (Is. 53) vs. the elementary figure of chapters 7-9 who is merely going to free the people from oppression, and the root of Jessey and David in chapter 11 who is the tirbel answer to Israel's leadership problem. The difference in those two sections is a couple of hundred years. The Assyrians are the enemy at the beginning of the Book, the Babylonians at the end.

What all of this comes to is that even though Messianic fulfillment's are largely a matter of social construction and are rooted in the immediate needs of the people in their time and place, they are also a giant web of all their symbolic universe and all their understanding of the divine, which includes the age old concept of promised redemption and coming redeemer. That's what redeemers do, they came and redeem, they come from some other place, they return, or they come down from the realm above, and redeem.

We can tap into that web. We can add the political redeemer of the exile and the liberationist of Jesus' day, the Zealot's fighting the Romans, to the pool of redeemer myths and for us it makes a context in which Christ's mission makes sense. The inception between "I will put enmity between the woman's seed and the serpent" and the fact of Jesus dying on the Cross as a statement of solidarity between God and all humanity are linked and become a framework in which we can understand the idea of God stepping into a cultural pattern, a cultural temporally bound framework to offer meaning and hope to the ancient world, and to the world, and even to the postmodern world. So we can postmodernize the concept of the messiah and make it into a meaningful framework in which to understand divine/human encounter.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


The taditional arguments for the existence of God, having supposedly been dashed by Kant and Hume, were ignored for almost two centuries. Since the 1960s, however, a whole new breed of intrepid philosophers (the "back to God movement") has been working steadily to revive the arguments. This revitalization of God talk presents a whole new dynamic with which the atheist must deal. Some of these arguments, and more besides, are presented in the following pages. Below I present my own view of God, which is greatly influenced by the work of Theologian Paul Tillich.

It was theologian Karl Barth, who kicked off the back to God movment when realized that Anselm actually had several more versions of his famous argument, whith which Hume, Kant, and Russell never dealt. It Norman Malcom who first realized that Barth's work could revive the arguments, and he soon shocked the philosophical world in the 1960s.He took up Barth's observatoins on Anslem and presented them as serious philosphical arguments.That a philosopher of Malchom's status would revive the ontolgoical argument, lent prestige to the cause, and he was soon joined by the late Charles Hartshorne..

They argue for a rational warrant for belief in a creator who is necessary to the existence of the universe and all that is. But to demonstrate which particular religious tradition we should follow is another argument (see page on Gospel). Nor do they offer absolute proof of a creator, but they do offer rational warrant for belief which is strong enough to offer a prmia facie Justification. Moreover, one concept in particular is important to understand in order to understand these arguments. That is the idea that God is not just a big man on a throne. The great theologians of Christian faith, the Orthodox Church, and theologians such as Paul Tillich, John Mcquarry, believe, as Timothy Ware (The Orthodox Church , New York: Pelican, 1963) quoting St. John of Damascus says, "God does not belong to the class of 'existing' things; not that he has no existence but that he is above existing things, even abvoe existence itself..." McQuarry says that God is Being itself, while Tillich says God is "The ground of being." These are actually the same concepts. The important thing to remember is that God is not along side other beings in creation, is not a being at all, but is on the order of being itself. God is the overarching principle that defines and predicates the universe and in fact of being as a whole. If you consider what it was like before God created anything. There would be nothing else but God. God, therefore, would be the same as being because all being would be defined as God. The only being that ever came to be flowed out of the will and the energies of God, therefore, God is beyond the chain of cause and effect, God is on a par with being itself.

Foolish demands

Many skeptics, including Christian Sketpics, are skeptical about the very possibility of proving the existence of God. In fact, Paul Tillich thought that it was degrading to the notion of God to try and prove his existence at all. Others think that only empirical knolwedge can be trusted. While I always ask them, can even empirical knowledge be trusted? I also feel that the real crux of the issue is not "absolute proof," but the nature of the assumptions that should bemade. If these arguments do not offer the sort of proof to which any rational thinking person must give asscent, they at least offer a rational warrant for belief, and they indicate that the assumptions we should be making are those that we can make in the most logical fashion. Belief meats the prima facie burden when it offers a rational warrant, it than becomes the skeptic's job to show that the burden has not been met. It is hoped that these arguments will provide the reader with information that will provoke thought about God, if not actual belief.

It is foolish of atheists to make the demand that we "prove the existence of God." First, because the idea of God existing is a philosophical violation of what the Christian faith actually affirms about God, at least what major theologians such as Tillich affirmed, and about the nature of reality itself. Secondly, God transcends the contignet level, we should not expect to be able to prove God as though God is some sort of 'thing' along side other things in creation.

My View of God

In a nut shell

God = ultiamte reality: reality just happens to be-- consciousness motivated to produce beings as an expression of the nature of being.

What is my view of God? I beleive that God is ultimate reality, and the ultiamte mystery. I agree with the Greek Orthodox theologians who said that God cannot be described directly, but must be spoken apophatically (we can't say what God is, we can only say what God is not). We can have direct experience of God, but this must come through mystical experince and cannot be put into words (Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Chruch. To speak of these expeirnces one must speak through analogy, which contians both a like and not-like dimesion. God is like a father, but in some ways not like a father. God is like a king, but in some ways not like a King. On the other hand, logical argument is made possible by a direct understanding of the affects of God upon the world, which come to us through the energies of God, which are working in the world. The energies of God are God, they are emmenations, or extentions of God's power, God's thoughts so to speak.

So for me God is a mystery which transcends the threashold of human understanding. All we can have is a hint, but through experience and logic we can have some pretty good hints. Yet, God himself blows away all our pre-concieved notions and our nice little formulas about what can be and what is. To that extent then, God is above and beyond any sort of empirical proof and this is why we can't expect some sort of incontrovertable proof. The best we do is to offer rational reasons to beleive, but we cannot expect these to do that much. Basically all they can do is to open the skeptic to the possibilities, that is all we can ask. They might also bolster the faith of the beleiver, but both things are wastes of time if they are not followed up with prayer and contempalation and seeking through the heart for the trace of God in the universe.

The Prima Facie Standard

1) Prima Facie Justification.

Mattey (Thomas Reid Project):

"Far from concluding that our senses are "fallacious," Reid placed them on the same footing as memory and reason, though they are "undervalued" by philosophers because "the informations of sense are common to the philosopher and to the most illiterate. . . . Nature likewise forces our belief in those informations, and all the attempts of philosophy to weaken it are fruitless and in vain."

"Reid pointed out that when we fall into error regarding the objects of sense, we correct our errors "by more accurate attention to the informations we may receive by our senses themselves." So the "original and natural judgments" that are made on the basis of our constitution lose their original justification in the presence of additional information. Contemporary philosophers call this kind of justification "prima facie," a term from law which describes an initially plausible case that could prove to be entirely implausible given further evidence. A belief of common sense, then, is justified "on the face of it."

"According to the doctrine of prima facie justification, one is justified in accepting that things are the way they appear, when

* it does appear to one that they are that way, and
* there is no reason to think that something has gone wrong.


"But if there is such a reason, one's justification is "defeated." Thus prima facie justification is "defeasible."

"For Reid, our beliefs about physical objects are justified by sense-experience, which he took to be a product of the interaction between the senses and physical objects. Twentieth-century philosophers have been somewhat more cautious, however, and have followed more closely the account of perceptual knowledge given by Reid's predecessors such as Descartes, Locke and Hume: that what justifies our beliefs about physical objects is a mental state such as:

* looking like something is red
* a sensation of red
* seeing red-ly"

"For example, what justifies a person in believing that he sees something red is that it looks to him as though there is something red. The mental state of that person is one in which there is an appearance of red, and just being in this mental state is enough to give prima facie justification to the belief that he really sees something red. On the other hand, what confers justification might be a belief about how things appear."

Why not argue for the Christian God?

Certainly I believe in the God of the Christian tradition. But I also believe that God is an a priori concept. In other words, God is ultimate reality, known treuly though mystical concsciousness. Religion is a cultural construct created by the necessity of filtering mystical experinces though shared symbols that we understand. This is the only way to speak of a reality that is beyond words. Thus, it is the same "ultiate relaity" that inspired all religions. The only difference is, that one tradition is an outgrowth of the teachings of Jesus Christ, who was this ultiamte reality come in the flesh to communicate directly about his nature. But to "prove" that, or to argue for that tradition one must assume the existence of God. Thus I first "prove" God (argue for rational warrant for belief), than I show which tradition best mediates the ultimate transformative expreince. That is what the rest of the Website is for.

Two more crucial concepts must be discussed before the arguments can be understood correctly. Note: If you do not read these next ttwo pages you will miss crucial concepts which will enable you to understand the arguments, and you will not understand the assumptions they make.:

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Saturday, July 02, 2005

answering Peter Kirby and Jay Hawthorne

Responding to Peter Kirby and Jay Hawthorne on my post "Everyting needs a cause, right?"

Peter Kirbysaid...

It's possible that I missed something--how do you establish that Necessary Being has "will"?
best wishes,
Peter Kirby

Yea, you did. p5-7 coveres that:

The argument:

1)True absolute nothingness as a Putative state of affairs is impossible.

a) The concept is self contradictory since a PSA is something and not nothingness.

b) absolute nothingness must proceed time, thus no time = no causality, no sequential events, no movement, no chage. Thus, nothing could ever come to be.

c)You cannot get something from nothing

2) The Universe is contingent upon prior condidtions:

a) Infurred logically from the observation that the universe is nothing more than a collection of contingent things.

b) Consensus in science indicates that the existence of the universe as a whole is contingent upon prior conditions: Matter, energy, all physical phenomena stem from 'gravitational field' the prior condition of which is he big bang, the prior condition of which is the singualirty, the prior condition sof which is...we do not know.

c)All naturalistic phenomena are empirically derived, thus they are contingent by their very nature.

As Karl Popper said, empirical facts are facts which might not have been. Everything that belongs to space time is a contingent truth because it could have been otherwise, it is dependent upon the existence of something else for its' existence going all the way back to the Big Bang, which is itself contingent upon something.(Antony Flew, Philosophical Dictionary New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979, 242.)

3) By defition the "ultimate" origin cannot be contingent, since by defition it would reuqire the explaination of still prior conditions.

4) Therefore, the universe must be produced by some prior cause which always existed, is self sufficient, and not dependent upon anything higher.

5) Naturalistic assumptions of determinism, and the arbitrary nature of naturalistic cosmology creates an arbitrary necessity; if the UEO has to produce existents automatically and/or deterministically due to naturalistic forces, the congtingencies function as necessities

6) Therefore, since arbitrarry necesseties are impossible by nature of their absurdity, thus we should attribute creation to an act of the will; the eternal existent must be possessed of some ability to create at will; and thus must possess will.


7) An eternal existent which creates all things and chooses to do so is compatible with the defintion of "God" found in any major world religion, and therefore, can be regarded as God. Thus God must exist QED!

3:52 PM
J. Hawthorne said...

"Causality requires linear direction and time. A causes B, it follows that a precedes B in a sequential effect. No Time means no sequential order, thus no cause. Time begins sequentially simultaneously with the Big Bang. So there is no way to speak of "before" the big bang because there can't be a "before time."

Things can be sequential and not be in time; for example, numbers. 2 comes before 3 sequentially but not necessarily chronologically. It is not meaningless to speak of the beggining of the universe and the beggining of time. Time as physical time begins in the context of metaphysical time. To be fair here Craig does not adhere to a view of metaphysical time. A good reference on this metaphysical time and causality is God and the Nature of Time by Garrett DeWeese (Ashgate, ISBN: 0 7546 3519 8).

Craig's argument falls right into the trap of that objection, because he doesnt' notinng to exlplain how God could initatate thought in a timeless state.

Now you are just plain wrong. I listed three major authorities on the subject who say it is the conensus of scinece, I mean universally so, I have yet to see a cosmolosit of physicists who take a contrary view, that nothing can happen in a timeless state.

It is also a mistake in conjecture to think that numberilnes are not chronological. Because you preception of 2 before 3 is certianly time bound. You cannot say two and three at the same time. You say, think, write, read, one number and then the other and time goes by.

Although I may not lead off with an argument from cause and effect, I am still not convinced that it is a bad arguement. If you argued that there are no abstract objects, you would possibly undercut my numbers counter arguement.

I don't think I have to say that to undercut it.

Also another problem is 1 does not work. A PSA is not necessarily a something. IF it were would talking about "nothing" refer to something and not nothing in that case?

A putative state of affairs not something? Well I guess that's a matter of how you look at it, but the timeless void thing is enough to pull the argument.

Unicorns don't exist. We have a concept of a unicorn, and we can talk about our concept and think WITH it, but we do not actually think of a unicorn. So, 1a is false. I also don't have any reason to grant 1b.

Unicorn is not being contrasted to an actual void of abolsute nothingness. A conceptof a unicorn is something. A void of true nothingness is not something it is nothing. Although you could say it's something in the way that an overdraft is something. But that doesnt' mean you can handle an overdraft phsyically, and it doesnt' mean we can begin from a PSA of ture nothing.

Also 2a assumes that God is not observable. This seems false. But I am willing to grant 2 in general if you are stipulating that the universe is simply that which is physical. This may give too much away too depending on what you mean(what about the Incarnation?). If you think the "world" is bigger than the universe (contains non-physical entities), and can see this being the sort of distintion you are intending.

So, i guess in the end I just don't think it works. But I do think there is a prior condition for the universe ... it just still feels like a cause in the typical Christian arguments.

3:43 PM

I might gant you that I should tweek it somemore. Maybe I will tweek it somemore. But prior condition does contain a cause soemwhere, I allude to that in my essay. But it doesnt' reurie a strck a = b kind of causality.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Answer to comments by Peter Kirby on Have Tomb Will Argue

Peter Kirby said...
This material was discussed at IIDB. There remains zero evidence from the first century that any tomb, let alone the 'Holy Sepulchre', was venerated as the tomb of Jesus.

By 0 evidence of course you mean after closing your eyes and saying "O this isn't there" when we talk about:

(1) two archaeologial expiditions
(2) the evidence from the edicule
(3) the fact that the place was being called Gallgotha beforoe Constinatine chose it
(4) That Eusebiue was there when the temple of venus was found
(5) the pilgrim's reports Eubuseibus speaks of when he says that the Jewish Christians kept the gentiles aprized of the location.
(6) the fac that the Jewish Christians acknowledged it
(7)the fact that there really is a temple of Venus under the site and that's what they were to look for.

Yea, 0 evidence, just like there's 0 evidence that God exists. That's another good anhteist line.

Archaeology cannot yet identify with certainty the tomb of Christ, but here is strong evidence supporting the Church of the Holy Seplicur as the original site. The site does date back to the fourth century when it was shown to Constantine. Bruce attests to the evidential support.(FF Bruch, New Testament Documents) . More important confirmation comes from Gaalyah Cornfeld in Archaeology of The Bible Book By Book. (1976). Cornfeld tells us that from early times Christians reverenced the site, but it was desecrated when the Romans put up a statue of one of their gods. Jewish-Christians could no longer worship at the site for that reason, but they continued the knowledge of it until the time of Constantine when they were able to point him to it as the original site of the resurrection. Constantine put up a basilica over the original shrine, the Anastasis. Excavations by V. Corbo found a gold ring with the representation of the dome of the original shrine Anastasis. This indicates that this site was venerated by Christians in ancient times as the site of the resurrection. (and there is an empty tomb underneither it). (See Archaeology of The Bible: Book by Book, New York: Harper and Row, 1976, 271-2).

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Dr. Virgilio Carbo, Major figure in his field. New Testament Archaeologist who disocovered temple of Venus under the CHS in 1968 Expitition.


Since Melito also does not evidence veneration of the tomb of Jesus, as I've already pointed out, there is also zero evidence from the second and third centuries. Our earliest account is in the fourth century.

We don't have the original wirtting where he does so, but that doesnt' matter because Eusebius knew to look for the temple of Venus. Did you not read the article Pete? Not having the original is not the same as it not exsiting. Saying that there is no evidence form subsequent centuries is not the same as there being no evidence.


Metacrock uncritically, to the point of naievete, quotes from the 100-year-old Catholic Encyclopedia, which shows on a straightforward reading to have made its claims based on "what must have been" using the assumption (not showing the conclusion) that the 'Holy Sepulchre' was the resting place of Jesus. All in all, Metacrock's entry is hopelessly deficient in providing any kind of reasoning

That's a good point Pete, that says it all, that closes the case, except for one little loose end. they found a temple under the site, like Eusebius said Miltio said they would. Now how do you suppose such a coincidence happened? That's so coincidental, but of of course it doesn't prove anything. because after all there can't be a Tomb of christ. Why if there was someone might actually thing Christianity is ture. We can't have that! can we now?

Pete has fallen into the trap of believing their own hype. He has convenced himself that the mocking oppoents on the secular web message boards really constitute a scholarly gathering of expertise. When they are continent to stop at the surface level, well that's good enough as its "their" argument. Their argument is we don't have that work by Militos, so they must not exist. But when we dig deeper we find that based upon the alledged claims made in those writtings the things Militos suppossedly said to look for really did exist. So there must be something more to it than just "if we don't have them they never existed." Eusebius cliamed to have them and used them to figure out where the tomb was.

Chruch of The Holy Seplechur--Government of Israel site, visited 6/7/01

"This courtyard, outside the present-day Church of the Holy Sepulcher, is partly supported by a large, vaulted cistern. The northern wall of this cistern is very impressive, consisting of large blocks with dressed margins, still standing several meters high. It has been suggested that this early wall served as the retaining wall of the second century Hadrianic raised platform (podium). This appears to support Eusebius' statement that the Temple of Venus, which Hadrian erected on the site of Jesus' tomb, stood here before the original church was built."

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Temple of venus wall found by Corbo under CHS

Alviero Niccacci, O.F.M.

Archaeology, New Testament, and Early Christianity

Tomado de la página del "Estudio Bíblico Franciscano"

"Since 1961 archaeological soundings, excavations and restorations went on in the Basilica of the HOLY SEPULCHRE. The works were done by the three main Communities - the Greeks, the Armenians and the Franciscans. Fr. Virgilio Corbo acted as a supervisor and the archaeologist of the three communities. In 1981-1982 he published a three-volume illustration on the history of the Holy Sepulchre. By combining the Gospel traditions with the archaeological data Fr. Corbo showed that the area of Golgotha was a quarry of malaky stone since the seventh century BC. The quarry was abandoned in the first century BC and all the area was levelled and transformed into a garden. In this garden two kinds of tombs were carved. One is a single burial with an arcosolium arch. It was cut by Joseph of Arimathea, according to the Gospels and eventually became the tomb of Jesus. The other, lying at a small distance, has many burial places, known as kochim. The place remained a garden until 135 AD when, after curbing the second Jewish revolt, emperor Adrian founded a completely new city under the name of Aelia Capitolina. The area of Golgotha was covered under the basement of the Capitolium, a sacred pagan building. In the new layout the Golgotha found itself inside the city while before it was located outside. From Eusebius of Caesarea we learn that Adrian covered with earth the tomb of Christ in order to conceal it. St Jerome tells us that a statue of Jupiter was erected upon the tomb of Jesus and a statue of Venus on the top of the Golgotha. Archaeological excavations revealed sparse remains of these installations. Again, the pagan transformation helped keep the memory of the site."

ST. Jerome that would be some of that O eveident from subsequent centuries that doesnt' really exist.

(1) Venus and Jupiter

J.Randall Price

Th.M. DTS, Ph.D. Middle Eastern Studies Univ. Texas.

"Excavations conducted in the late 1970's at the site revealed further evidence for this being the place where the original Easter drama was performed. In the lower sections of the Church were discovered the foundations of the Roman emperor Hadrian's "Forum," in which his Temple of Aphrodite had been erected around A.D.135. Hadrian followed Roman custom in building pagan temples and shrines to supercede earlier religious structures. This was done at the site of the Jewish Temple, located not far from the Holy Sepulchre Church, and the fourth century church historian and Bishop of Caesarea Eseubius confirms that it was also done in this case: "Hadrian built a huge rectangular platform over this quarry, concealing the holy cave beneath this massive mound." If the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the actual site venerated by Christians as the tomb of Jesus, it would explain this location for the Roman building."

(2) Was it Really a Roman Temple? What kind of Temple was it?

I'm sure atheists will cloud the issue by probing to find what kind of temple. There appear to be "conflicting traditions as to wheather it was a temple of Venus, or of Jupiter, or even another diety. This obscrues the fact that all archaeologists agree there was a pagan temple there. The evidence points to both, statue of Jupiter, temple of Venus.

Basillica of the Anastasis/Resurrection

Franciscan Cybrespot

Church of The Holy Seplecure

(visited 1/12/05)

"Emperor Hadrian suppressed the revolt in 135 AD and decided to demolish the whole city of Jerusalem in order to erase all sites which could incite another revolt by the Jewish people. The emperor also forbade any Jewish presence in the new city. A Gentile-Christian community continued to live in Jerusalem and they ensured the continuity of identification of the sacred sites (the first bishop of this community was Marcus).

A coin minted in Hadrian's Aelia Capitolina - Jerusalem

Hadrian thus prepared a completely new city structured on Hellenistic plans and renamed it "Aelia Capitolina" ("Aelia" in his honour and "Capitolina" because it was to contain a Capitol for the Roman gods). In this new architectural plan the Garden of Golgotha came to be at the centre of the new city. Some authors maintain that the area on this Garden became the Capitol of the new city with altars for the three main Roman gods - Jupiter at the centre flanked by Juno and Minerva. Others, quoting evidence provided by the writings of Eusebius of Caesarea, maintain that the temple was dedicated to Aphrodite. Both schools of thought agree that a pagan temple was erected on this site.

Confirming Biblical Hisotry

Originally quoting

From BreakPoint, May 2, 2002 Copyright © 2002, reprinted with permission of Prison Fellowship, P.O. Box 17500, Washington DC, 20041-7500

"One of the most powerful evidences for the truth of the Gospels is found underneath an ancient church in Jerusalem. Ironically, in attempting to cover up the evidence, the ancient enemies of Christianity preserved it for later generations.

Our story begins in the year 135 AD The Roman emperor Hadrian had just subjugated Judea after the Second Jewish Revolt. Hadrian was determined to impose Roman religion upon the Judeans. After destroying the Jewish synagogues in Jerusalem, he then turned his attention to the Christians. What better way to squelch this upstart religion than to obliterate its holy places? The site of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection was known and venerated by Christians at the time. So Hadrian concealed the site under a massive concrete platform and built a temple to the pagan god Zeus on top of it.

Nearly two centuries later the tables turned: The emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. He decided to build a magnificent church in Jerusalem to commemorate Christ's crucifixion and resurrection—and he insisted that the church be built upon the actual site. When Constantine's architects arrived in Palestine, Christians pointed them to Hadrian's temple, which marked the very spot.

The builders set to work demolishing the pagan temple. Sure enough, underneath they found the ancient quarry called Golgotha—and nearby, the remains of the tomb of Christ. Today, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City still marks the actual site of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. You see, the early Christians knew their faith was rooted in historical events. They built churches throughout the Holy Land for precisely that reason—to mark the actual location.

The pagan temple of Hadrian was built on the east-west axis and was surrounded by a Temenos (a protective wall with its façade on the Cardus Maximus from where you entered into the sacred enclosure). St. Jerome, in a letter to Paulinus in 395 says that: "Since the times of Hadrian up to the empire of Constantine, for almost 180 years, the statue of Jupiter was venerated on the place of the Resurrection and on the rock of the cross a marble statue of Venus placed there by the gentiles. In the intentions of the perpetrators of the persecutions they would have removed our faith in the resurrection in the cross had they profaned the holy sites with idols". From these descriptions, confirmed also by the archaeological research carried out in the area, we know that this pagan temple of Aelia transformed the Judeo-Christian site into a pagan one by placing the cult of Jupiter on the tomb of the Lord and that of Venus on Calvary. This situation continued for about 180 years as is stated by Jerome himself.

B. Biddle Excavation.

Drawing upon work done in the 1980s in relation to accessing damages for repair, one of the most prominate British Archaeologists, Martin Biddle, with his wife, excavated the site and found that it may well be the actual tomb.


"The study by Professor Martin Biddle, Professor of Medieval Archaeology, and his wife, the Danish archaeologist, Birthe Kjobye-Biddle, shows how a tomb found in AD 325–6 under a Roman temple, has a good claim to be the tomb in which the body of Christ was laid on the evening of the crucifixion in AD 30 or 33. It also explores how it has fared over the centuries."

Biddle's data is distilled into a book entitaled The Tomb of Christ

Biddle helps to confrim the authenticity of the site as that of Constantine, he also verifies some of Eusebius' observations. Corbo verifies the site as connected to first century oral tradition and veneration. Thus, the site's authenticity is a high probability. There are no counter arguments and no alternate sites with any real claim to the title.

The evidence for frist century veneration is of two kinds, eithe secondary sources asserting that the Christians marked the spot, (which is borne out because what they predicted would be found was found) and Eusebuis was, while being a secondary source, at least claimed to have read the stuff from Militos. But Eusebius was writting about that before the excavations or the holy land. The area in question was being called "Galgatha" by locals before Eusebius and Contantine got there. So that's a good indication that his infromation was reliable.

This is my Page three of "Have tomb, will argue" from Doxa

Page 3

Dare We Trust Eusebius the "Lair?"

Most of the early evidence for the CHS site comes fro Eusebius. For this reason,I'm sure we can expect this statment, "Dare we trust Eusebius the 'liar'" as the first and major argument of sketpics. Skeptics on the internet, those who fequent organized atheist sites such as Secular Web, have a special hate for Eusebius. This is probably because he's such a lynch pin of early chruch history, but their arguments are based upon a total pack of lies which have been refuted easily by Roger Preice. Be that as it may, I urge the reader to read that page. But let's go on with Eusebius' track record on the CHS and the tomb site, we will see that he was an honest and fine historian.

C. Confirmations of Eusebius

(1) Eusebius knew the contemporary site.

Of course the major recourse of the skeptic will be to just assume that Eusebius made it all up.But what did he make up exactly? Well, the major evidence for the oral tradition of the tomb location comes from a Pilgrim named Melito of Sardis. We do have writtings by him, but we do not have those writtings where he speaks of the Jerusalem elder's revealing to him the traditional locale of the site. If those writtings exist today, I cannot find them. But that doesn't mean Eusebius made them up out of whole cloth. I'm sure teh sketpics will say it does, but why would he?

Why use a writter whose writtings exited in his own day, and then just fabricate that he wrote soemthing? He had no idea that we in this age would not have those writtings. He had no way of knowing that the information couldn't be checked out. Why not just say the Jerusalem elders told him the tradition orally, instead of attributing it to a writter who might otherwise be verified?

Moreover, the descriptions he gives of the stie in his day reflect the kind of work that we know would have been in progress at the time.

Franciscan Cybrespot

The Churches of Jerusale

by Asher Ovadiah

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was investigated for the first time by trial soundings during 1933/34 and has been re-examined from 1960 onwards by various scholars. It is a huge and sophisticated architectural complex consisting of four units: an outer atrium, a basilica (or Martyrium) an inner atrium and a rotunda (around the Anastasis), a circular domed structure separated from the basilica by an second, inner atrium. This latter structure solved the problem of linking the Martyrium (the basilica) to the church complex. (13)

The basilica (martyrium) and the domed structure above the tomb constituted two separate architectural features with the second, inner atrium between them as the connecting feature. On the Madaba Map the entire complex is shown: a propylaeum begins west of the colonnaded street (the cardo maximus), and behind it there is a basilica with three entrances and a domed structure (the Anastasis). (14)

Eusebius' brief description of the rotunda contrasts with his long and detailed description of the basilica (Martyrium), which at that time was already completed. Eusebius' fragmentary description of the rotunda appears to be due to the fact that during his visit to Jerusalem the rotunda was still under construction and surrounded by scaffolding. (15)

I understand that the author is actaully saying that Eusebius account contradicts the nature of the site. But read carefully, he actaully says that due to construction the nature of the site would have appeared this way to Ebusebius at the time. Had he just made it all up, and gotten a general description of the lay out from someone else, chances are he would not have been consistant with the construction going on but would have reflected the pre-construction condition.

Thus, in the time of Constantine the basilica was built and construction of the Anastasis (rotunda) was begun, but this was not completed until the end of the fourth century. It is possible that this is why Eusebius does not mention the structure of the Anastasis. On the other hand, Aetheria-Egeria, who visited the site at the end of the century (395), does give a description, which obliges us to conclude that a structure already stood there. (16) It is plausible to consider that if a straight wall around the aedicula, according to Couasnon's isometric plan, (17) did exist on its south, west and north sides, at sometime during the building of the rotunda, it was almost certainly meant to isolate the ongoing construction of the rotunda and the peripheral wall, to prevent pilgrims or visitors from being injured. This may be another reason for Eusebius' brief description of the rotunda. It would seem that Modestus' building projects after the Persian conquest were limited to repairs and restoration only, and did not include the construction of new buildings. Thus the structure which Arculfus saw in 670 was actually the fourth-century structure, which still stands today in large part.

We may conclude, therefore, that the rotunda with its two rings, the inner ring of columns, the dome, (18) and the outer ring (which is three quarters of a circle) with the three semi-circular niches, belong to the period of Constantinian construction. These conclusions are based on scholarly opinions, the schematic description of the church complex on the Madaba Mosaic Map, (19) and the absence of references in literary sources to changes and/or repairs and restorations of the rotunda between the reigns of Constantine and of Justinian, as well as recent archaeological discoveries. This form was adopted by the Patriarch Modestus in the third and fourth decades of the seventh century, when he restored and repaired the complex after the damage wrought by the Persians. Perhaps the twelve columns, mentioned by Eusebius as symbolizing the twelve Apostles, are those which form the inner ring of the rotunda and supported the hemisphere or the dome. (20

What this all means is that Eusebius either went to the site personally, or he consulted someone who did, and took such amazing notes that he could describe the site so well that it truely reflects the kind of work that would have been done on the site at the time. Chances are, he was an eye witness to the site, and to the discovery of the tomb. That also means he had ample opportunity to research the claims of the oral tradition first hand.

Another example of Eusebius' first hand knowledge of the site is the fill dirt over the tomb and the vestage of the pagan temple; including the fac that it was a temple of Venus.

franciscan cybrespot, the basillica

Christian literary sources recount how the Garden of Golgotha was filled up to level off the area for the construction of the new Roman temple. Here is how Eusebius of Caesarea (265-340 AD), a native of Palestine, describes these events in his Life of Constantine:

"This sacred cave, then, certain impious and godless persons had thought to remove entirely from the eyes of men, supposing in their folly that thus they should be able to effectively obscure the truth. Accordingly, they brought a quantity of dirt from a distance with much labor, and covered the entire spot; then, having raised this to a moderate height, they paved it with stone, concealing the holy cave beneath this massive mound. Then, as though their purpose had been effectively accomplished, they prepared on this foundation a truly dreadful sepulchre of souls, by building a gloomy shrine of lifeless idols to the impure spirit whom they call Venus, and offering detestable oblations therein on profane and accursed altars. For they supposed that their object could not otherwise be fully attained, than by thus burying the sacred cave beneath these foul pollutions." (III, XXVI - see also the account by Eusebius about the Holy Sepulchre)

compare with modern archaeology:

J.Randall Price

Th.M. DTS, Ph.D. Middle Eastern Studies Univ. Texas.

"Excavations conducted in the late 1970's at the site revealed further evidence for this being the place where the original Easter drama was performed. In the lower sections of the Church were discovered the foundations of the Roman emperor Hadrian's "Forum," in which his Temple of Aphrodite had been erected around A.D.135. Hadrian followed Roman custom in building pagan temples and shrines to supercede earlier religious structures. This was done at the site of the Jewish Temple, located not far from the Holy Sepulchre Church, and the fourth century church historian and Bishop of Caesarea Eseubius confirms that it was also done in this case: "Hadrian built a huge rectangular platform over this quarry, concealing the holy cave beneath this massive mound." If the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the actual site venerated by Christians as the tomb of Jesus, it would explain this location for the Roman building."

This shows that Eusebius was right about the fill dirt, the nature of the pagan temple, as well as the platform and other matters.

(2)The Nature of the Claims

(a) The description of the sites and its' place in the community.

Martin Biddle

Tomb of Chist

Israel Review of Arts and Letters

Wesite belonging to:Israel Ministry Foreign Affairs

visited 1/8/05

Biddle:"But is this indeed the Tomb of Christ? All we can say with absolutely certainty is that this is the tomb which has been recognized as such since 325-6. Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea, was surprised by its discovery. It was "beyond all expectation," and he hailed it, apparently without any doubt, as the place where Christ had risen from the dead. Why did he do this? What was the evidence? Eusebius, using the Greek word antron, says only that it was a cave. Perhaps, like the tomb of St. Peter in Rome, found below the papal high altar in the 1940s, the rock-cut tomb in Jerusalem bore inscriptions or graffiti: "Jesus, save us!", or "He is risen!" Eusebius does not say and we do not know."

"It is not as if it was the only tomb there. Some eight rock-cut tombs have so far been found below the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Some have kokhim (Heb.), the deep niches at right-angles to the wall into which a body could be inserted as into the drawers of a modern mortuary. At least one of these tombs (now below the Coptic Patriarchate) seems to be very like the tomb whose remains are still today covered by the edicule. Perhaps Eusebius identified the tomb now preserved within the edicule as the Tomb of Christ because it was near to Golgotha. This is suggested in St. Johns Gospel when it says that there was a "garden" at the place of Crucifixion, and that in that garden there was a tomb. But it may also have been because of the features of the tomb then discovered: a movable rolling stone, a low entrance through which it was necessary to bend down to look in or enter, and a bench on the right-hand side where Christs body could have lain and the "angel" could have sat, matched those described in the Gospel.

What we can say is this: if the events of Jesus arrest, trial and execution in Jerusalem are to be taken as historical fact, then there is no other site which has any significant claim to be the place of his execution and burial.

Some points are crucial to note. First, the site was outside the city walls at the date of the Crucifixion in 30 or 33 CE. Second, the tomb was in an existing Jewish cemetery of rock-cut tombs typical of the Jerusalem area in the Second Temple period. Third, the place-name Golgotha seems to have lived on in local memory, despite the vast changes in the area brought about by Hadrians foundation of Aelia Capitolina in 132 CE. Before the end of the third century, Eusebius wrote in his Onomastikon, the "Place-Names of Palestine," that: "... Golgotha, place of a skull, where the Christ was crucified ... which is pointed out in Aelia to the north of Mt. Sion."

In other words, the site of he CHS fits the site descriptions we have in relation to Eusebius site and it fits what we would expect of the tomb location, including the name Galgotha which has been associated with that place for a very long time. But this is not the best evidence. New evidence has come to light throuh Dr. Biddle

(b) New Evidence that Oral Tradition was Indepdent of Euebius


"It is only in recent years that study of Eusebius text has shown that the writing of his Onomastikon should be dated to the late third century, perhaps to the 290s, long before Constantines workers cleared the Rock of Golgotha and uncovered the tomb.

There was thus a landmark to guide Constantines workmen. They removed the Roman temple covering the site and the masses of earth and rubble forming the platform on which it stood, cleared the Rock of Golgotha and then, to their surprise, found a tomb which fitted the Gospel descriptions. The position is best put by the Israeli scholar Dan Bahat, former City Archaeologist of Jerusalem:

"We may not be absolutely certain that the site of the Holy Sepulchre Church is the site of Jesus burial, but we certainly have no other site that can lay a claim nearly as weighty, and we really have no reason to reject the authenticity of the site."

What happened to the tomb thus discovered? Constantines engineers dug away the living rock leaving the block in which the tomb was cut standing as an isolated monolith in the middle of a broad flat area. They cut away the partly covered forecourt in front of the tomb a feature typical of Jewish tombs of the Second Temple period in the Jerusalem area and surrounded the rock with marble columns to form a small rotunda covered by a facetted conical roof, and in front of it, in the place of the forecourt, erected a pedimented portico.

In other words, Eusebius could not have made up the site and then fit the evidence to the facts, because it was already called "Galgotha" and thus thought to be the place, before any work was done and before Contantine's men even went to the Holy Land. This means that Eusebius was working from a prior tradition. We may now have no reason to doubt his word about the sources from which he derives the oral tradition, or that the Christians of Jerusalem always knew the location of the tomb by the temple of Venus above it.

(c) Eusebius had Multiple Sources

There was certainly no need for Eusebius to make up the information that M of S had provided the oral tradition about the site from pilgrims and Jews (and Jewish Christians) when he also had the Mayer of Jerusalem and others to guide him into the tradition. All he had to do was to say that his sources were not written and they would not need to be confirmed (nor could they disproven to exist).

The mayor of Jerusalem had to have access to this tradition, otherwise, would have dared to ask Constatine to clear the city of pagan cites which were over sacred Christian sites? Doesn't it just stand to reason that if he asked the emperor to do this, he would have a way of providing him with information to the cites? If it was just a matter of making things up, why go thorugh the pretense of asking? Clearly there are multiple sources here with each its own roote into that oral tradition of saved sacred sites.

Franciscan Cybrespot

In 325, during the first ecumenical council of Nicea, the bishop of Jerusalem, Macarius, invited Emperor Constantine to destroy the pagan temples built atop the Christian holy sites in the Holy City. The Emperor, now Pontifex Maximus of the whole Roman Empire and strong in his position decreed the demolition of the pagan temples built atop the Christian Holy Site. This is how Eusebius describe s the event:

"He judged it incumbent on him to render the blessed locality of our Saviour's resurrection an object of attraction and veneration to all. He issued immediate injunctions, therefore, for the erection in that spot of a house of prayer: and this he did, not on the mere natural impulse of his own mind, but being moved in spirit by the Saviour himself.....but calling on the divine aid, gave orders that the place should be thoroughly purified, thinking that the parts which had been most polluted by the enemy ought to receive special tokens, through his means, of the greatness of the divine favor. As soon, then, as his commands were issued, these engines of deceit were cast down from their proud eminence to the very ground, and the dwelling-places of error, with the statues and the evil spirits which they represented, were overthrown and utterly destroyed.....Nor did the emperor's zeal stop here; but he gave further orders that the materials of what was thus destroyed, both stone and timber, should be removed and thrown as far from the spot as possible; and this command also was speedily executed. The emperor, however, was not satisfied with having proceeded thus far: once more, fired with holy ardor, he directed that the ground itself should be dug up to a considerable depth, and the soil which had been polluted by the foul impurities of demon worship transported to a far distant place".(III, XXV-XXVII)

The claims of Eusebius are verified by modern archaeology. That proves he didn't make it up. It can't be proven that there was a resurrection, it can't be proven that there was a tomb, not absolutely, but he odds are strong since the facts stack up with the claims made, and the oral tradition is coming from a veriety of sources (see pervious page).
D. CHS fits the consensus on Holy Sites

Archaeology, New Testament, and Early Christianity

Alviero Niccacci, O.F.M


Tomado de la página del "Estudio Bíblico Franciscano"

"In the fourth century emperor Constantine dismantled the Capitolium and erected a splendid mausoleum on the tomb of Jesus, or Anastasis (resurrection), a basilica called Martyrium (testimony), while the rock of the Calvary remained on open air, having a cross on its top. Around the Calvary Christian legends flourished, especially two of them called “The cave of the treasures” and “The combat of Adam and Eve”. These legends have a strong Jewish background. Theologically they aim to link the first Adam to the second, sin to redemption for all humanity. This first group of holy places is authentic beyond reasonable doubt because we witness a large convergence of data - biblical, archaeological and literary both of ancient authors (such as apocrypha) and of pilgrims during the centuries (different itineraries to the Holy Land)."

Bib Arch. Review
Amos Kloner
Did a Rolling STone Close Jesus' Tomb?

"Scholars generally agree that the site of the Holy Sepulchre Church marks the location of Jesus' burial.*** But the aedicule (shrine) inside the church, which marks the traditional burial site, bears no signs of a first-century burial. The burial shelf in the aedicule is covered with a later slab, which does not appear to be part of the local bedrock and was probably imported into the cave.(15) Until recently, only the bench on the right side of the aedicule was thought to have been original. (The aedicule itself dates to the beginnning of the 19th century.) Recent studies at the site, however, have not shed light on the relationship between the rock, the foundations and the aedicule as they exist today and the original burial cave.(16) The only indication that the spot where the aedicule now stands might once have been a tomb is the presence of a burial cave with loculi a few yards away.(17)

It is worth noting that the profanation of the site by Emperor Hadrian targeted an existing place of worship of the Judeo-Christian community of Jerusalem both at the tomb and on Calvary. This early worship lies at the roots of the apocryphal writings of this primitive Judeo-Christian community of Jerusalem (these writings are known as the Adam and Eve cycle comprising "The Cave of Treasures" and "The combat of Adam").