Contradiction: Was There a Sojourn in Egypt or Not?

Peter, one of the regular readers here, pointed my attention to a post that shows a discrepancy in what the Bible claims about Jacob’s descendants spending 400+ years in Egypt. I won’t try to summarize it here — I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. Just check it out for yourself:

New Information on Literacy Rates in Ancient Judah

A new study using computer-aided handwriting analysis suggests that literacy rates may have been higher in the ancient Kingdom of Judah than previously thought. The story’s pretty fascinating, and you can read more about it at these links (thanks to SPG and Graham for sending these my way):

One of the things that always interests me with these kinds of articles is how wide the gulf is that separates the views of modern scholarship from those of your average fundamentalist congregation. Most of the Christians that live in my area still believe that Moses wrote Genesis through Deuteronomy, Joshua wrote Joshua, Samuel wrote Judges and 1 and 2 Samuel, etc. Most of them are completely unaware that the majority of scholars have a radically different view. On the other hand, while scholars are certainly aware of the traditional view of the Bible’s composition, they’re so far beyond it that they don’t even reference it in these kinds of articles. It’s like they’re living in two different dimensions. I’m one of those who’s crossed from one to the other, and it’s almost disorienting to think back on how I used to view the world.

Family Ties: Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonidus, Belshazzar, and Nitocris

Regular readers of this blog may know that one of the first lines of evidence that caused me to begin questioning my Christian faith had to do with the Book of Daniel. There are a number of issues within the book that have led the majority of scholars to conclude that it was not written by a Jewish prophet living during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and Cyrus of Persia, but that it was written some 400 years later during the Maccabean period. Over the last several days, a few of us have been having an in-depth discussion about those issues at this thread. One of the items we discussed had to do with a woman named Nitocris.

In Daniel 5, we’re told that Belshazzar is now king, and we’re given the impression that he is the son of Nebuchadnezzar. However, from a number of primary sources (some that even date from the Babylonian empire itself) we know that Belshazzar’s father was actually Nabonidus — a king who was not related to Nebuchadnezzar. Christian apologists have suggested a couple of different ways to resolve this issue.
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Jewish Disciples Wouldn’t Have Created the Idea of the Resurrection, So It Must Have Really Happened… Right?

If you’ve discussed the resurrection with Christians before, then you’re probably familiar with the above argument. Since first century Jews didn’t believe in a bodily resurrection like Jesus’s, then they’re no way the disciples would have believed it without actually witnessing it for themselves. William Lane Craig has used this argument several times:

He made the case again in a 2005 debate at California State University. At the 29 minute mark, he says that Jews like the Pharisees believed in a resurrection that would happen to everyone at the end of time. They never believed that an individual could have a bodily resurrection within the course of human history.

But recently, while I was reading Crossan’s The Historical Jesus, he pointed out something that I hadn’t thought of before. It turns out that there are a couple of New Testament passages that really throw a wrench in Craig’s claim. For instance, Mark 6:14-16 says:

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

Here, we have a number of people who are ready to believe that Jesus is actually a resurrected John the Baptist, Elijah, or some other prophet from antiquity. And we find similar passages in both Matthew and Luke as well. So now we have a problem. Either Craig’s argument is totally false, and the idea of a bodily resurrection from the dead is something that people in Jesus’s time were ready to believe with virtually no evidence, or the writers of the synoptic gospels were lying or mistaken. Either way, it illustrates how an actual resurrection is the least likely explanation for the resurrection story.

If you’d like to read about other issues with the resurrection, you can check out this article.

Some Thoughts on Josephus, Jesus, and John the Baptist

Many people are aware that Josephus, a Jewish historian from the late first century, mentions Jesus Christ. In fact, it’s often used as evidence that Jesus really existed. Of course, many of those same people are also aware that Josephus’s most detailed mention of Jesus, called the Testimonium Flavianum, has been embellished by a later Christian (perhaps Eusebius?). We know this because the passage says a number of things that no non-Christian would say, and Josephus was definitely not a Christian. Here it is:

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Christ. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.
Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 3, 3

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