ISCA Paper Presentation:A Critique of Christian Transhumanism

This is the paper I presented to ISCA today: The Doctrine of Man A Critique of Christian Transhumanism

Earthquake Data Confirms Holy Friday As A Very Supernatural Day



The events surrounding the crucifixion of Christ have puzzled scholars for millennia. Is there evidence to corroborate the supernatural events described in the Gospels?  This presentation will demonstrate that indeed there are multiple lines of corroborating evidence. The first task of determining the exact date for the death of Jesus is problematic. There are good arguments for both 30 and 33 AD. Luke places the beginning of Jesus’ ministry shortly following John the Baptists’ during “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius” (Lk 3:1). Augustus died in AD 14 and was succeeded by Tiberius.[1] A straight forward reckoning would place Jesus’ baptism in AD 29. However, many scholars believe that Luke may have Tiberius’s reign from the time when Augustus raised Tiberius to be coregent in AD 11.[2] Thus, we arrive at a date of AD 26-27 for Jesus Baptism.

To determine the length of Jesus’ ministry John’s gospel is the most useful. John mentions at least three Passovers during Jesus’ ministry (John 2:23; 6:4; 12:1).[3] This infers a bare minimum of two years. There is an unnamed feast in Jerusalem which many commentators believe to be a fourth Passover (Jn. 5:1).[4] This appears plausible because the Passover in John 2:23 occurred in the spring, hence the soon harvest in John 4:35 indicates 9 months had passed. John also mentions events in Galilee preceding the Passover mentioned in John 6:4.[5]This leads us to postulate a three year ministry.

Thus we can infer a date of AD 30 or 33 depending on how one reckons Tiberius’ fifteenth year.  This is supported by Luke’s assertion that Jesus was about thirty years of age when he began his ministry (Lk. 3:23) given a 5-4 BC birth. Still yet, because his death was on the Friday day of Preparation (Mk 15:42) and the month of Nisan was based on the New Moon, we can derive two possible dates Nisan 14 or 15. Those days possibly fall on Friday in either AD 30 or 33. Hence, the two most probable dates are Nisan 14 (April 3), AD 33, and Nisan 14-15 (April 6- 7), A.D. 30.[6] Perhaps we can find other evidence which will favor one date over the other.

With the dramatic events described one wonders if there is any extrabiblical evidence in the historical record. There is more than you might expect. Phlegon of Tralles was a Greek writer and freedman of the emperor Hadrian, born about A.D. 80 and wrote in the 2nd century AD. The ancient Greeks calculated dates based on their Olympic games every four years. His chief work was the Olympiads, an historical compendium in sixteen books, from the 1st down to the 229th Olympiad (776 BC to AD 137), of which several chapters are preserved in the historian Eusebius’ Chronicle. The early church fathers were well aware of Phlegon’s writings and used his history in their apologetics.

The historian Eusebius quoted Phlegon directly in his chronicles:

Indeed Phlegon, who is an excellent calculator of olympiads, also writes about this, in his 13th book writing thus:

However in the fourth year of the 202nd olympiad, an eclipse of the sun happened, greater and more excellent than any that had happened before it; at the sixth hour, day turned into dark night, so that the stars were seen in the sky, and an earthquake in Bithynia toppled many buildings of the city of Nicaea.[7]

The fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad ran from summer of 32 to summer of 33 AD because the first Olympiad occurred in 776 BC.  Hence, Phlegon’s history favors the 33 AD date. Furthermore, Origen confirms the existence of this data in his debate with the skeptic Celsus:

He [Celsus] imagines also that both the earthquake and the darkness were an invention; but regarding these, we have in the preceding pages, made our defense, according to our ability, adducing the testimony of Phlegon, who relates that these events took place at the time when our Savior suffered.[8]

Julius Africanus further refers to the writings of historian Thallus who wrote concerning the possibility of a solar eclipse:

This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Saviour falls on the day before the passover; but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time but in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last of the old, that is, at their junction: how then should an eclipse be supposed to happen when the moon is almost diametrically opposite the sun? Let that opinion pass however; let it carry the majority with it; and let this portent of the world be deemed an eclipse of the sun, like others a portent only to the eye.  Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Cæsar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth—manifestly that one of which we speak. But what has an eclipse in common with an earthquake, the rending rocks, and the resurrection of the dead, and so great a perturbation throughout the universe? Surely no such event as this is recorded for a long period. But it was a darkness induced by God, because the Lord happened then to suffer.[9]

As Africanus realized, a solar eclipse concurrent with a full moon is a scientific impossibility. In response to this, the christian apologist Tertullian understood this as how those ignorant of Christ explained the mysterious darkness:

In the same hour, too, the light of day was withdrawn, when the sun at the very time was in his meridian blaze. Those who were not aware that this had been predicted about Christ, no doubt thought it an eclipse. You yourselves have the account of the world-portent still in your archives.[10]

Tertullian was confident that the reports were available in the archives, yet he does not think it necessary to view the darkness as an eclipse. Indeed an eclipse was simply the first century skeptics attempt to explain away the supernatural events surrounding Jesus death. While it is nice to have these ancient confirmations I wondered if there was anything modern science might reveal. Indeed there are surprising confirmations.

The Israel Exploration Journal published by the institute of archeology at the Hebrew University published an article “Earthquakes in Israel and Adjacent Areas: Macrosismic Observations since 100 BCE.” On page 265 they list a slight earthquake in Jerusalem in AD 30 and one in AD 33 which affected Judea, Jerusalem including damage to the temple![11]

Indeed it appears scientific analysis has corroborated the Biblical account. There was indeed an earthquake in Jerusalem, one which even damaged the temple. Does this prove the account in the Gospels? Well to claim proof might be too strong… but given the evidence it sure does make putting your trust in Jesus seem like a reasonable proposition. The Bible tells us that all have fallen short of God’s righteous standard. But, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”” (Ro 10:9-11)

 

 


Earthquake Data Reference Key:
S A. Sieberg: Untersuchungen uber Erdbeden und Bruchschollenbau im ostlichen Mittelmeergebiet, Denkschruften der medizinisch-naturwissenschafilichen Gesellschaft zu Jena 18 (1932), pp 159-273. 

R G.L. Araniakis: Essai sur le climat de Jersalem, Bulletin de l’Institut d’Egypte ser. 4,t. 4, 1903, pp. 178-189. 

W B. Willis: Earthquakes in the Holy Land, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America 18 (1928), pp.73-103. Amendment in Science, Vol. 77, No. 1997, 7 April 1933, p. 351.

Footnotes:

[1] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament : Its Background and Message, 2nd ed. (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 96.

[2] Lea, The New Testament,  97.

[3] Lea, The New Testament, 96.

[4] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John Believe and Live, (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2002),43.

[5]Lea, The New Testament, 96.

[6] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 126.

[7] Phlegon, 13th book 202 Olympiad in Chronicle (English Translation by Tertullian Project), Jerome http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/jerome_chronicle_03_part2.htm

[8] Origen, Contra Celsus Book II Chap. LIX http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/origen162.html

[9] Julius Africanus. The Extant Fragments of the Chronography, XVIII  http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Ante-Nicene_Fathers/Volume_VI/Julius_Africanus/Extant_Fragments_of_the_Chronography/Part_18

[11] D.H.K. Amiran; E. Arieh; Turcotte, “Earthquakes in Israel and Adjacent Areas: Macrosismic Observations since 100 BCE,” Israel Exploration Journal 44 (1994):260-305.

 

The Incoherence of Adventist & Watchtower Christology


Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses share the view that Jesus and the Archangel Michael are one and the same:

Michaeal Heb.Mika’el, literally, “who [is] like God?” He is here described as “one of the chief princes [Heb. śarim].” Later He is described as Israel’s particular protector (Dan. 12:1). His identity is not definitely stated here, but a comparison with other scriptures identifies Him as Christ. Jude 9 terms Him “the archangel.” According to 1 Thess. 4:16, the “voice of the archangel” is associated with the resurrection of the saints at the coming of Jesus. Christ declared that the dead will come forth from their graves when they hear the voice of the Son of man (John 5:28). It thus seems clear that Michael is none other than the Lord Jesus Himself .

Francis D. Nichol, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 4 (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978; 2002), 860.
From the Watchtower Bible and Tract society (Jehovah’s Witnesses) :
At times, individuals are known by more than one name. For example, the patriarch Jacob is also known as Israel, and the apostle Peter, as Simon. (Genesis 49:1, 2; Matthew 10:2) Likewise, the Bible indicates that Michael is another name for Jesus Christ, before and after his life on earth.
“Who is Michael the Archangel?”  http://www.watchtower.org/e/bh/appendix_11.htm (accessed 4/19/2011).

Yet one wonders, how they can hold such a view in light of the scriptures. For example, in the book of Jude, an argument is made against false teachers and apostates who have infected the church. Jude makes an argument that they blaspheme “glorious ones”  or beings of higher status themselves. To drive the point home he argues that Michael did not dare pass judgment on Satan:

Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”(Jud 8-9)

If Michael is actually Jesus Christ the eternal glorious second person of the trinity upon whom all fullness of God dwells (Col. 1:19), then how could it possibly be so that he lacked authority to judge the devil?  It is logically incoherent! This argument only makes sense in light of the orthodox position that Satan is a rebel archangel himself giving him equal status to Michael. Adventist and Watchtower theology has demoted Christ. It is heresy.

Jesus had no qualms against rebuking and judging the devil,

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.(Jn 8:44)

Michael is an angel. Angels are created beings. That they were created is clearly implied in Psalm 148:2, 5: “Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts.… Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.” They were in fact created by Christ,

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.(Col 1:16)

Jesus is not Michael. The Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses are preaching a different Jesus.

Cruel Logic: Ideas Have Consequences


While atheism has gained popularity since the bestseller The God Delusion was published, I wonder if its neophytes have truly thought it through. For instance, in his opus on genetic determinism, The River Out of Eden, Professor Richard Dawkins infamously wrote:

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic
replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people
are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason
in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely
the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom,
no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but
blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A. E. Housman
put it:

For Nature, heartless, witless Nature
Will neither care nor know.

DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance
to its music.

Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden, (New York: Harper Collins, 1995), 133.

 

This is precisely where that worldview leaves you… think about it. Now consider this award winning short film Cruel Logic by Brian Godawa:

Atheism invariably leads one to a material reductionist view of reality like that of Dawkins. There can be no real morality if we are merely dancing to the rhythm’s of our DNA. A reductio ad absurdum is a form of argumentation in which you follow an idea to its logical conclusion deriving an absurdity. If the conclusion is absurd to you it is best to discard the idea.

 

Atheism and the Escape From Reason (Craig vs. Krauss)


I watched the William Lane Craig vs. Lawrence Krauss debate on “Is there Evidence for God” hosted at North Carolina State University last week via the live webcast. For more details, and to watch video of the debate, check out the debate website here. William Lane Craig won hands down. It was basically a rout.

I was astonished that Krauss’ first tactic was to deny logic and reason. He even took off his button down shirt to reveal a t-shirt that boasted 2 + 2 = 5. No kidding…

It is a predictable yet unfortunate corollary of God denial. In his treatise on the psychology of atheism R.C. Sproul wrote:

To be sure, the twentieth century has shown a tendency to ignore the law of contradiction as a necessary principle for coherent discourse. In reaction against previous forms of rationalism, many contemporary thinkers, particularly of the existentialist school, have maintained that truth indeed may be contradictory—that is, truth rises above logical categories and cannot be restricted by the law of contradiction. On the other hand, thinkers who have continued to operate using the law of contradiction have been charged with perpetuating Aristotle’s system of truth, which can no longer function in modern thought.” [1]

It also reminds me of Francis Schaeffer’s Escape From Reason. Schaeffer argues that because modern man has separated himself from God he has no rational spiritual connection. However, he cannot really live in his imagined deterministic materialistic universe so he leaps into the irrational upper story. Krauss is using quantum theory as his upper story — his blind faith in the irrational.

It’s so ironic that atheists represent themselves as defenders of reason when they invariably abandon it in their argumentation. It boils down to the fundamental flaw in their worldview. If the universe is a deterministic product of physical laws and matter, then there really is no reason and all science, debate and human thought is completely arbitrary. Accordingly, Intellectually honest atheism must ultimately arrive at nihilism. At 1:02:10 in the debate video Dr. Craig quipped, “if the price of atheism is irrationality then I will leave them to it.” That was amusing… Yet, ultimately it is profoundly sad. Hopefully, we might lead a few out of it as well.  After the debate, William Lane Craig commented on his facebook account:

I was frankly flabbergasted by Krauss’s opening salvo attacking logic and the probability calculus.  Can you imagine what people would think if, in order to defend a Christian worldview, the believer had to reject logic and probability theory?  This was the worst of several outrageous claims Krauss made in the course of the debate.

Then he used the “given an infinite number of universes then there must be one in which contingent beings exist” canard. I always laugh at this sophomoric reasoning. Dr. Craig could just grant that premise and conclude that given an infinite number of universes there must be one with evidence for God. Debate over. But of course you can conclude anything given an infinite, which is why it’s a dumb argument. It just goes to show you the veracity of Paul’s argument from 2000 years ago:

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Ro 1:21)

 

Apologetics 315 has posted full Debate MP3 Audio here


[1] R.C. Sproul, If There’s a God, Why Are There Atheists? : Why Atheists Believe in Unbelief, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1978).