Sunday, 19 June 2016

Morality and Evolution


Evolution

I do not know how morality arose in mankind, but I offer this as a possibility. Firstly, evolution gave us the basics. Our morality is based on empathy and a sense of fairness. We want the best for ourselves, but we can appreciate that others want - and deserve - the same. That empathy and sense of fairness is something we have got from evolution.

Man is a social animal; he survives best by co-operating in a group or tribe. And co-operation is going to work best if members of the group get on with each. If in one tribe the members empathise with each other, and so share food fairly, they will co-operate better than in a tribe who do not share food fairly, but are constantly fighting each other for the better share.

Thus, if empathy and a sense of fairness are inherited, they will be selected for.

Is there a reason to think this is true? Absolutely! Chimpazees, our closest relatives, have empathy and a sense of fairness, as these links show.
http://www.onekind.org/education/animal_sentience/empathy/empathy_in_chimpanzees/
http://www.livescience.com/26245-chimps-value-fairness.html

This indicates that empathy and a sense of fairness are indeed inherited traits. However, we would also expect our nearest relative on the evolutionary tree to be similar in this regard, so this is also a confirmed prediction. Two good reasons to think this evolutionary scenario is true.

Culture

We have a much more advanced morality than chimpazees. Can we really credit evolution with that? Perhaps not, but we do not need to. What sets mankind apart from chimpazees is the ability to preserve ideas from one generation to the next. We live in a world of computers and aerolanes and skyscrapers! But we do so because of the achievements of the last generation, who in turn relied on the generation before that.

Our morality is the same. It has developed over millenia, just as our building skills have. Primitive man lived in crude huts and had a crude morality that encompassed his own tribe only (and we can see that in the Old Testament, when the Israelites would cheerfully slaughter an entire tribe to capture their lands).

The advanced morality we have today is not a product of evolution, not directly anyway, but a product of our intellect. If there is an objectve morality, it is an abstract concept, like mathematics. If morality is grounded, it is grounded in mankind and nothing more than that. We "ought" to behave morally because people have value, and they have value because we say they do. People have rights because mankind says they have rights.

Friday, 17 June 2016

JP Holding is getting sued

I stumbled across something today that I felt was worth noting. Most Christians are, of course, good people, and even when you meet them on line, they are usually pretty decent. A notable exception is JP Holding. He is the least Christian Christian apologist I have ever come across, and a lot of his interactions with non-Christians come down to bullying and intimidation. Unfortunately, he has a bunch of cronies on TheologyWeb who love to emulate him, calling their behaviour "riposte". He seems to work a lot with someone called Nick Peters, also on TheologyWeb, who in contrast seems a really nice guy.

So I was interested to learn that someone who used to post at TheologyWeb is suing JP Holding.

A couple of interesting web pages:
http://lawsuitagainstjamespatrickholding.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/thanks-for-stopping-by-ill-get-right-to.html
https://lawsuitagainstjamespatrickholding.wordpress.com/2016/04/

This from the other side, with some discussion:
http://vridar.org/2016/02/27/j-p-holding-being-sued/

Also:
http://www.mythicistpapers.com/2016/02/27/j-p-holding-is-sued-for-libel-and-the-increasing-polarization-of-biblical-studies-pt-1/

More on JP Holding here:
http://the-anointed-one.com/dishonesty.htm

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Post-crucifixion sightings of Jesus in Jerusalem

What I find curious about the sightings of Jesus in Jerusalem is that they are absent from the original account. The first resurrection account we have is in Mark:
Mark 16:5 Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. 6 And he *said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” 8 They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
The subsequent verses are generally recognised to be a later addition.

So what we have is a guy in white, perhaps an angel, telling the women that Jesus would see the disciples in Galilee. Not only does the original not mention Jesus being in Jerusalem, it specifically indicates Jesus was not there. Why would the man send the disciples to Galilee if Jesus was to meet them in Jerusalem?

And this fits with what Jesus had said earlier:
Mark 14:27 And Jesus *said to them, “You will all [k]fall away, because it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.’ 28 But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”
This is in Matthew too:
Matthew 26:31 Then Jesus *said to them, “You will all [i]fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.’ 32 But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”
The shepherd in this metaphor is clearly Jesus, and the sheep are his disciples. Jesus is saying that when he dies, his disciples will be scattered, but that he will see them again in Galilee. According to the gospel accounts, though, they did not scatter. They were supposedly still in Jerusalem when the empty tomb was found, and they remained there, as a group, where they met Jesus. The scattering is a remnant from an early narrative.

What probably happened is the prophecy got added to the narrative to fit what actually happened, and then the account of what happened got embellished so the prophecy subsequently became wrong!

Matthew stays closer to the original narrative, with a brief glimpse of Jesus, before they meet again in Galilee, and no suggestion of any other sightings than that.

Luke and Acts skip the whole Galilee trip altogether, with Jesus in and around Jerusalem. But then, Luke was writing for a gentile audience, and a cosmopolitan setting like Jerusalem would be far preferable to a cultural backwater like Galilee.

John does likewise, except for chapter 21, which looks very much like a later addition, apparently harking back to the earlier tradition.

All this points the the sightings in Jerusalem to being embellishments, made up some time after the Gospel of Mark, when the people who were around at the time could be assumed to be dead, and so unable to say otherwise.



A quick note about Matthew 28:17:
17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.
Some were doubtful? I have seen the claim that what they doubted was whether they should worship Jesus or not, rather than whether it was Jesus or not. I think the text is sufficiently ambiguous that we cannot say one way or the other, so would not use this as evidence against Christianity (of course, if this was God's inspired word, we would expect it to not be ambiguous, but that is a lot different argument).








Thursday, 4 February 2016

Jesus versus Christianity

Christians sometimes say that if you want to understand Christianity, just read what Jesus said. Is that really going to work? Modern Christianity has deviated from Jesus quite a way, a process that started with Paul. This page lists some ways Christianity if different to what Jesus preached.

A Religion For Everyone?

Jesus said his message only for the Jews:
Matthew 15:24 But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Christianity, starting with Paul, decided otherwise. Paul wanted to sell this religion to the gentiles. He ignored that Jesus had said he was sent to the Jews only, he told the gentiles that God's commands did not apply to them. He had to to get the converts to his religion.


The OT Laws No Longer Apply (Well, Some Of Them)

Jesus was quite clear that all the laws of the Old Testament still apply:
Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.


The disciples, whose who actually knew Jesus, observed the Jewish laws even after the pentecost. Why? Because they had heard Jesus say he had not come to change the Law. They knew the laws - the commands given by God - were just as important 10 years after Jesus' death as they were a century before.

While Jesus protested the strict adherence to the law of the Pharisees, his protest was about strict following of the letter of the law, not the spirit. When it came to divorce, Jesus sided with School of Shammai that it was only for certain cases, rather than the prevailing School of Hillel.
https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semitism/jesus.html










Christianity says there is a new covenant, and that lets Christians (as a group) pick and choose the laws they want from the Old Testament.

Jesus is God

Jesus never said he was God. Rather, he was the King of the Jews, the adopted son of God. This was according to the custom established in the OT:



2 Samuel 7:12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me.[c] Your throne shall be established forever.’”

Messiah means "anointed one". The Jewish Kings were anointed with oils. All Jewish Kings were messiahs, all were considered the adopted sons of God. Jesus did claim to be the messiah, i.e., the King of the Jews, who was traditionally the adopted son of God, and so we see:
John 5:17 But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”

Mark 14:61 But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and [ab]saying to Him, “Are You [ac]the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
See more:
https://outreachjudaism.org/did-jesus-claim-to-be-god/

Christianity has elevated Jesus to being God himself, a part of the divine trinity. This is theology Christianity invented after Jesus was death, and has nothing to do with what Jesus actually said!

The Afterlife

Christianity promotes the idea that when you die, if you are a good Christian, you will go straight to heaven. Jesus was expecting God's kingdom to come to earth, not that the dead would go to heaven. The Lord's Prayer is asking that:
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Paul's epistles also make clear that Paul too was looking forward to an afterlife on earth, albeit in a new heavenly body.

Standing Up To Bullies

Anyone who stands up to bullies is ignoring what Jesus said.
Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take your [am]shirt, let him have your [an]coat also. 41 Whoever [ao]forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
When the Nazis threaten to conquor the whole of Europe, the Christian thing to do was to let them. On the other hand, the moral thing to do, the right thing to do, was to stand up to them. I am thankful Christians ignore this advise from Jesus, but it is still clear that they do ignore it.

Saving Money

Jesus was against saving money.
Matthew 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
No need to save money for the future, God will provide, or so Jesus states:
25 “For this reason I say to you, [n]do not be worried about your [o]life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the [p]air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single [q]hour to his [r]life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But [s]seek first [t]His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be [u]added to you.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will [v]care for itself. [w]Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Anyone with savings or a pension is ignoring Jesus.

Give Away Your Stuff

Jesus was clear that his followers should give all their belongings to the poor. That was how he lived, and that was how his disciples lived.
1 John 3:17 “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

Matthew 5:42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

Matthew 14:16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.”

Matthew 15:41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not [e]take care of You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

More here:

http://oncreationism.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/wealth-and-christianity.html

See also here:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/phil-zuckerman/why-evangelicals-hate-jes_b_830237.html

Finally:
Matthew 19:24 “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”



Of course, most modern Christians ignore these verses, and live in big houses with cars, computers, etc. Who wants to live in poverty, right? Sure, God specifically told you to, but...

Judging Others

Jesus said:
Matthew 7:1-2 Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Ever since a Christian judging some one? Or should I said, do you know a group of people more judgmental than Christians?

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Antisemitism and Christianity

There is good evidence that antisemitism in Europe (and later America) has its roots in this verse:
Matthew 27:25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
The author of the gospel was probably trying to exonerate Pilate, to make the text palatable to the gentiles, but the effect was to have the whole Jewish race pronounced guilty of deicide. The so-called "Blood Curse".

We can see the early church fathers took it that way in many quotes:
If someone had killed your son. could you stand the sight of him or the sound of his greeting? Wouldn't you try to get away from him as if he were an evil demon; as if he were the Devil himself? The Jews killed the Son of your Master......... Will you so dishonor Him as to respect and cultivate His Murderers, the men who crucified Him?
- John Chrysostum C. 390 CE

You can hear the wailing and lamentations of each of the prophets, wailing and lamenting characteristically over the calamities which will overtake the Jewish people because of their impiety to Him who had been foretold. How their Kingdom . . . would be utterly destroyed after their sin against Christ; how their Father's law would he abrogated, they themselves deprived of their ancient worship, robbed of the independence of their forefathers, and made slaves of their enemies instead of free men.
- Eusebius c. 340 CE

For the circumcision according to the flesh; which is from Abraham, was given for a sign, that you may be separated from other nations and from us, and that you alone may suffer that which you now justly suffer, and that your land may be desolate and your cities burned with fire, and that strangers may eat your fruit in your; presence and not one of you may go up to Jerusalem.'
- Justin Martyr C. 160 CE

Quotes from here:
http://www.sonoma.edu/users/g/goodman/lowe.htm
We may thus assert in utter confidence that the Jews will not return to their earlier situation, for they have committed the most abominable of crimes, in forming this conspiracy against the Savior of the human race…hence the city where Jesus suffered was necessarily destroyed, the Jewish nation was driven from its country, and another people was called by God to the blessed election.
- Origen of Alexandria

The synagogue is worse than a brothel…it is the den of scoundrels and the repair of wild beasts…the temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cults…the refuge of brigands and dabauchees, and the cavern of devils. It is a criminal assembly of Jews…a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ… a house worse than a drinking shop…a den of thieves, a house of ill fame, a dwelling of iniquity, the refuge of devils, a gulf and a abyss of perdition."…"I would say the same things about their souls… As for me, I hate the synagogue…I hate the Jews for the same reason.
- John Chrysostom

How hateful to me are the enemies of your Scripture! How I wish that you would slay them (the Jews) with your two-edged sword, so that there should be none to oppose your word! Gladly would I have them die to themselves and live to you!
- St. Augustine

Yes, you Jews. I say, do I address you; you, who till this very day, deny the Son of God. How long, poor wretches, will ye not believe the truth? Truly I doubt whether a Jew can be really human… I lead out from its den a monstrous animal, and show it as a laughing stock in the amphitheater of the world, in the sight of all the people. I bring thee forward, thou Jew, thou brute beast, in the sight of all men.
- Peter the Venerable

Their rotten and unbending stiffneckedness deserves that they be oppressed unendingly and without measure or end and that they die in their misery without pity of anyone.
- John Calvin

Quotes from here:
http://www.yashanet.com/library/fathers.htm

This page details numerous anti-semitic events through history (note: the first few were not at the hands of Christians, but the vast majority were):
http://www.hearnow.org/caljp.html

A page detailing a number of attacks of Christians against Jews in Russia (Pogroms) between 1880 and 1920, when some 60,000 Jews were murdered:
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/pogroms.html

As Jesus said,  Ye shall know them by their fruits. We can certainly see the fruits of the anti-semitic core of Christianity.

Luther's blueprint for the holocaust:
First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. ...
Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. ...
Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. ...
Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. ...
Fifth, I advise that safe­conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. ...
Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. ...
It is worth noting Martin Luther's influence on Hitler:
I do insist on the certainty that sooner or later—once we hold power—Christianity will be overcome and the German church, without a Pope and without the Bible, and Luther, if he could be with us, would give us his blessing.

To them belong, not only the truly great statesmen, but all other great reformers as well. Beside Frederick the Great stands Martin Luther as well as Richard Wagner.
The horror of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany - a predominantly Christian country - was the ultimate outcome.

Observations by other commentators:

These anti-Semitic statements were and still are the principal cause of all persecutions, oppressions and pogroms in which Jews have suffered.  These anti-Semitic accounts in the New Testament have taught mankind to hate the Jew.  As long as the New Testament continues in print (at least in its present form) the Jew will be hated.  Here are but a few verses from where Christianity borrowed its anti-Semitic sentiments.
“The children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8.12)
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!  Behold your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matthew 23.37,38) Then answered all the people (Jews) and said, “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25). 1 “But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you to councils, and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten” (Mark 13.9)
http://jdstone.org/cr/files/antisemitisminthenewtestament_1.htm

As a Christian, it seems to me that Christianity has sadly played a significant role both in anti-Judaism and the persecution of the Jewish people. The teachings of various established churches included the charge that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus, and thus they deserved to be punished. The prolonged suffering and dispersal of Jews among the nations were seen as just retribution for their monumental crime of killing God.
http://int.icej.org/news/commentary/sad-legacy-christian-anti-semitism

In the first millennium of the Christian era, leaders in the European Christian (Catholic) hierarchy developed or solidified as doctrine ideas that: all Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Christ; the destruction of the Temple by the Romans and the scattering of the Jewish people was punishment both for past transgressions and for continued failure to abandon their faith and accept Christianity.
http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007170

Friday, 18 December 2015

A Virgin Birth?

With Christmas so near, I thought it would be interesting to review the evidence for the virgin birth.

Paul

The earliest writing we have is Paul, who says nothing of a virgin birth, but then again says nothing of Jesus' life at all, so we cannot really draw any conclusions there.

Mark

I think it is more significant that the virgin birth is missing from Mark, who, afterall, wrote a lot about Jesus' life. Mark is supposedly the account of Peter told through Mark. Peter was not there at the birth, so one might excuse Mark on this basis, but Peter was also not there at Jesus' baptism, and that is present in Mark.

The reason, as argued here, is that Mark believed Jesus was adopted the Son of God at the baptism. To Mark, Jesus' birth was of no great significance, and when Mark was writing it is likely that the story of a virgin birth had yet to appear in the Christian community.

None of the early texts mention a virgin birth because no one had heard of it at that time.

Matthew

Okay, so Matthew. You probably know what I am going to say here already. Matthew tries to link Jesus to Old Testament prophecies numerous times. In Isaiah 7, as discussed here, two great kingdoms, Israel and Syria, are threatening Jerusalem, and Isaiah prophesies that both will soon fall - before the unborn Immanuel can tell right from wrong. That prophecy is the basis of the virgin birth, when you add in the LXX using the Greek for virgin, when the Hebrew said young woman.

It is very doubtful the author was the apostle Matthew (see here). Instead we have an anonymous author writing a polemic perhaps 90 years after the birth. The author of Matthew's gospel gets his evidence from the Old Testament - and a poor translation of it at that - and not people who were actually there.

Luke


The account in Luke is rather strange:

Luke 1:6 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[b] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[c] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
It was actually very common back then for virgins to become pregnant, all they had to do was have sex with a guy a few times. Did Mary really not know that?

Suppose we exclude that sentence from the account... Let us suppose she is not as dumb as a sack of hammers, and she had a clue about the birds and the bees. Is it possible the verse was added later, to agree with Matthew?

Without that one verse the virgin birth becomes less certain. The passage continues:
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[e] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[f] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
I see nothing in there to indicate sex was not also involved. No one thinks John the Baptist was the product of a virgin birth, and the angel is relating the two pregnancies.

I well may be wrong here, but the fact is that the gospel of Luke does not actually make Mary a virgin when Jesus was conceived; it only makes Mary look very naive about how babies are made.

Of course, the Gospel of Luke was written around the time the Gospel of Matthew was. Another likely scenario is that stories of a virgin birth were circulating in the Christian community sometime between Mark's gospel, and Matthew's and Luke's, and so both authors adopted it into their narratives.

Acts

There is no mention anywhere in Acts of the apostles talking of Jesus' virgin birth. They cite all sorts of evidence of Jesus' significance to the crowds they preach to, but none of them mention the virgin birth.

Perhaps because none of the disciples had heard of it.

Why Did Mary Claim A Virgin Conception?

The simple answer is that she never did. The virgin birth story probably only circulated after she was dead, some time after Mark's Gospel was written.

Jesus might have been born out of wedlock, but if we believe the nativities, she was already betrothed, and in that culture betrothal was as big a deal as marriage. I am not aware of anything in the OT that prohibits sex between a man and woman once they are betrothed (and the story of Ruth gives a precedent even outside of betrothal). If it was not forbidden, it is sure to have happened, and if it happened, there are sure to be times when the girl ended up pregnant.

Mary's Reaction to Jesus' Ministry

 The evidence for the virgin birth is therefore pretty slim. Is there any evidence against it? The best evidence is from the Bible itself.
Mark 3:21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."
According to Christian doctrine, an angel appeared to Mary saying Jesus was the Son of God, and she conceived him whilst still a virgin. And yet when Jesus is healing people and casting out demons, she somehow forgets that, and declares he is mad!

Remember, this was supposedly the woman who was selected for her faith,and yet despite the appearance of an angel and having a virgin birth, she still does not believe Jesus is the messiah!

Perhaps we should hail Mary as the greatest skeptic ever...

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Did the Author of Mark Believe in Adoptionism?


Modern Christianity asserts an eternal Jesus, existing through all time as part of the trinity, however, groups of very early Christians believed Jesus was adopted by God, originally around the time of his crucifixion/resurrection or ascension, and later at his baptism. The Gospel of Mark indicates that its author subscribed to the latter view.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adoptionism

The Adoption Account

From the first chapter:

Mark 1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son;[d] with you I am well pleased.”
This is a description of the adoption. God is choosing Jesus, and then the dove descends to confirm or bestow Jesus' special status.

Bear in mind that Mark explicitly states that the beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ was John the Baptist preparing the way, quickly followed by the baptism of Jesus. The good news did not begin with Jesus' birth, according to Mark.
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.[a]
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,[b]
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare[c] the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
The prophecy says the messenger, John, would be around before God appears. Jesus was already around before John was preparing the way, but it was only after that that Jesus as the Son of God appeared.

Furthermore, why would God incarnate even need to be baptised? The Gospel of Matthew gives an answer to that thorny problem. Because the author believed that Jesus was divine from birth, he needed to explain it. For Mark, however, no explanation was necessary; Jesus was just a man getting baptised until the dove descended.

Precedents in the Old Testament

This was not a one-off! The Ancient Hebrews believed all their kings were adopted by God as his sons (everyone had divine kings back then). This is made clear here:

2 Samuel 7:12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me.[c] Your throne shall be established forever.’”

 Look at Psalm 2:

2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
...
7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you
.
 Here is Mark again:
Mark 1:11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son;[d] with you I am well pleased.

God's Anointed, the messiah, is the King of The Jews, a man adopted by God as his son.

This parallel was noted by Paul, by the way, as recorded in Acts 13:33.
Acts 13:33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

How Jesus' Family Reacted

The fact that Mark says his family thought him mad indicates no miraculous birth, or indeed anything miraculous at all until his baptism.
Mark 3:21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."
If we believe the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an angel appeared to Jesus' mother and on another occasion to his step-father stating that Jesus will be God incarnate, and then Mary got pregnant from the holy spirit whilst still a virgin, and yet, when Jesus starts preaching, healing and casting out demons, his family think "He is out of his mind."

It only makes sense when we realise that, in Mark's gospel at least, Jesus become the Son of God at the start of his ministry, and his family had no hint of his divine destiny until then.

Other Verses

Some other verses of note:
Mark 2:10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—
Jesus forgives because he has been given that authority from God, not because he is God.
Mark 2:27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
The connection between these two verses is the word ὥστε, indicating that the second verse is a consequence of the first. But the first verse is talking about a man not a god, and so that only makes sense if Jesus is human, rather than God Incarnate.

But Jesus Says "I have come..."

Some apologists point to verses in Mark where Jesus says "I have come...". They argue they only makes sense if Jesus has come from somewhere, specifically from heaven. However, this is the standard phraseology of the prophets. See here for example:
Isaiah 61:1The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;[a]
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
In a prophetic sense, Isaiah was sent by God to the Jews, but he did not actually come from anywhere. In Jeremiah too we see that God "sends" prophets to his people (or at least false prophets are not sent from him):
Jeremiah 14:14 And the Lord said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.
When Jesus says "I have come..." he means he is here as God's representative, not that he has travelled from some distant place.

Differences in Early Manuscripts

It is pretty well established that the ending of Mark was a later addition, but there is evidence of other tampering. Some early manuscripts omit "the Son of God" from Mark 1:1:
Mark 1:1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,
http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/manuscript_evidence.html

This could be a copying error, but it could reflect the fact that Mark did not believe Jesus was the son of God at that time, as this was before the adoption. Several early church fathers (eg Origen) quote Mark 1:1 without the "son of God" phrase (though Irenaeus quotes it with).