"Bear in mind, Gentlemen, that in questions of science the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." - Attributed to Galileo Galilei by François Arago, 1859.

A Difference of Perspective

April 24th, 2009 Comments off

An Excerpt From Chapter VII of How to Live Forever

…Based on this analysis, Tacitus provides an independent Roman witness to the death of Christ. So, in addition to the four written narratives depicting the crucifixion which were drawn from witnesses sympathetic to Christ, Josephus strongly infers concurrence among the Jewish opposition, and Tacitus confirms the official Roman agreement. Three separate societies with conflicting objectives, yet all three substantiate the fact of Christ’s death by order of the Roman Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate. Having established this material fact, let us examine the four Gospel narratives, each based upon eyewitness testimony, for the details.

Raphael, Christ's Charge to St. Peter

Raphael, Christ's Charge to St. Peter

2. A Difference of Perspective

Ancient testimony agrees that Matthew wrote the first Gospel account in the Hebrew language[1]. This premise strongly infers that Matthew’s Gospel was written when the church was still primarily comprised of converted Jews, before the first major missionary works were begun among the gentiles. So Matthew was written by an Hebrew to a Jewish audience. The same testimony indicates that Mark was written by Peter’s interpreter[2] to an audience that Peter could not address directly. The most likely scenario is that Mark translated Peter’s oral message into Latin during Peter’s stay in Rome, but wrote the Gospel of Mark in Greek with the idea that most literate Romans were also fluent in Greek. Mark, then, was written by an Hebrew for a Roman audience. Paul’s companion Luke was a gentile physician, considered a part of Greek culture before his conversion. Since he accompanied Paul[3] on missionary journeys through Greece and proconsular Asia, we must assume that Luke wrote his works to the Greek world at large. Read more…

The Witnesses to the Witnesses

January 2nd, 2009 8 comments

(Excerpt from Chapter VI of How to Live Forever)

…It turns out that Christians were still being tortured to deny Christ through the first decade of the fourth century[1]. Then in 313 AD, Constantinus Augustus (Constantine) and his brother-in-law, Licinius Augustus, issued

Henryk Siemiradzki. Leading Light of Christianity. Nero's Torches. 1876. Oil on canvas.National Museum, Krakow, Poland.

Henryk Siemiradzki. Leading Light of Christianity. Nero's Torches. 1876. Oil on canvas. National Museum, Krakow, Poland.

the Edict of Milan. With this decree, for the first time in its nearly three-hundred year existence, Christianity was formally recognized as a legal religion within the Roman Empire.

We have previously shown that cessation of testimony was sufficient to save a Christian from the Jewish persecution. Now it appears that simple repentance granted immunity from Roman capital punishment as well. It is logical to conclude that the many Christians slaughtered during the church’s first three-hundred years believed their message was worth dying for.

2. The Witnesses to the Witnesses

In reference to the stated goals of this book, we are very fortunate to possess the written transcripts of these earliest Christians’ message today. The pages of these documents contain the most graphic eyewitness accounts of resurrection ever recorded. All of these writers risked their personal safety, and many sacrificed their lives rather than renounce their beliefs, thus providing compelling evidence of their sincerity. Read more…

Prologue: I Want To Live

December 24th, 2008 5 comments

Prologue: I Want To Live

It is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment…

We are all going to die. We become aware of our mortality at a tender age, and we are taught by society to accept this eventuality as the price of life. Well adjusted individuals reconcile themselves to death as a part of their reality.kalvaria_-_banska_stiavnica4

But instinctively we know that death is our enemy. And no healthy person wants to die.

So we wax philosophic and derive comfort from the axiom that “death is a part of life… (heavy sigh)” – Which it is not. Death is the cessation of life; this precious life being the gift of God.

Many of us believe that if the way we live our life has meaning, Death will seem less bitter at the end. This attitude is both admirable and constructive. The death which follows is still not good. But by all means put the best face on it.

So we live our lives the best that we can, and try to keep our minds off of the sudden stop at the end. We work hard to fill our lives with things, or to pass down to our children. Some may party and chase women or men to fill empty hours with meaning. Or if we are noble, we fill our lives with service. Even so, there is not much that we wouldn’t do to avoid death. But what CAN we do?

Medical science may someday be able to prolong or restore life. Or maybe not. I’m not certain that we even understand the force that we call life. What substance inhabits living tissue which causes it to differ from the dead? I sincerely hope that there are medical professionals who are hot on the trail. But I don’t expect a breakthrough this week. And the fate of men who live a thousand years from now is scant comfort to me.

Literature is replete with examples of man somehow achieving immortality. Mary Shelley introduces us to a world in which science has unlocked the mystery of life. Vampire stories reveal a race of once-men who will live forever, (although usually at the expense of their immortal souls.) Even Shangra La’s promise of a few hundred years seems hopeful to those of us doomed to a life of three score and ten. These stories illustrate our hopes and desires. But they are just stories.

In the real world, where can we turn? A plethora of religions claims to provide insight to an afterlife. An Afterlife! What a wonderful idea if it exists! If dying is just a doorway to a new and possibly better existence, then Death has lost its sting. All that is necessary then is to determine which belief system is correct, and to adhere to that faith. A correct choice guarantees an afterlife in a far better state. Of course a wrong choice might have dire consequences.

A prevalent view today is that all paths lead to God, that one religion is as good as another as long as you are sincere and a “good” person. If you are certain of this view, you may stop reading now. You have nothing left to learn, and your ascent to a positive afterlife is guaranteed no matter what you believe. In the afterlife you may chide me about my vain and fruitless search for the one true path to God. I have noticed though, that those who adhere to this doctrine don’t really believe in anything with certainty. They appear to be just hoping for the best.

These include the “modernists” who first explain away historical written records of the supernatural in terms of the limited understanding of primitive writers, and then use the “lack” of the miraculous to “prove” the lack of the Divine. As well as the “New Agers” who believe that it is arrogant and boorish to claim that your path is any better than the one that they just thought up. Like Aristotle they have no need to test their hypotheses. If it seems right in their head it must be right. It never occurs to them that a true God might just set His own perfect standard for reasons not totally comprehensible to we the finite.

And the testimony of the various religions contradicts this view as well. Many diverse religions claim exclusive access to God. Obviously some are mistaken.

So how do we “test” our hypothesis? How do we make certain that we are on the path to God without having already died? (Which may be too late?) The answer is simple: Just find a man who has overcome Death, and follow His leadership.

To find this man we must commit ourselves to the historical record. Who remembers the splendor of the Tutankhamen exhibits which toured the USA in the late 1970’s? King Tut was an important historical figure. These exhibits from his tomb indicate that Death overcame him. Likewise, a little research provides insight into the deaths of Gaius Julius Caesar, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, Richard Coeur de Lion, Saladin, Zhu Yuanzhang and most other historical figures. History usually tells us how a famous person died. The written record also indicates that they tend to remain dead.

Categories: The Big Question


June 11th, 2010 Comments off

The Lord's Prayer; James Tissot

Work is progressing on the rewrite – replacing all the citations from copyrighted translations with older translations which are no longer subject to copyrights. I am also taking the opportunity to clarify certain sections, add footnotes containing material I either didn’t know how to work in previously or found during later research. I am currently finishing Chapter IV, so an end of summer time frame for completion seems reasonable. I will be in France on business from 21 -30 June, but should be hard at it again starting in July.

Here is a short excerpt from rewritten Chapter III:


The Price of First Century Christianity

…he also subdued Judaea, and made a prisoner of Aristobulus the king. Some cities he built up, others he set free, chastising their tyrants.

-Plutarch, Life of Pompey

Once conquered by Roman General Cnaeus Pompeius Magnus, (Pompey the Great,) in 63 BC, Judea was not destined to regain its independence until the twentieth century AD. The Romans granted some autonomy to local authorities within the empire, but client-Kings and Governors alike ultimately answered to Caesar. Roman tolerance of each various culture thus determined the subject race’s quality of life, freedom, and even their right to exist. The following narrative recounts how difficult life could be for a conquered people whose ways were not approved by Imperial Rome:

Thus Scipio took Carthage; and he sent to the senate the following message: “Carthage is taken. What are our orders now?” When these words had been read, they took counsel as to what should be done. Cato expressed the opinion that they ought to raze the city and blot out the Carthaginians, whereas Scipio Nasica still advised sparing the Carthaginians. And thereupon the senate became involved in a great dispute and contention, until some one declared that for the Romans’ own sake, if for no other reason, it must be considered necessary to spare them. With this nation for antagonists they would be sure to practise valour instead of turning aside to pleasures and luxury; whereas, if those who were able to compel them to practise warlike pursuits should be removed  from the scene, they might deteriorate from want of practice, through a lack of worthy competitors. As a result of the discussion all became unanimous in favour of destroying Carthage, since they felt sure that its inhabitants would never remain entirely at peace. The whole city was therefore utterly blotted out of existence, and it was decreed that for any person to settle upon its site should be an accursed act. The majority of the men captured were thrown into prison and there perished, and some few were sold. But the very foremost men together with the hostages and Hasdrubal and Bithias spent their lives in different parts of Italy in honourable confinement. Scipio secured both glory and honour and was called Africanus, not after his grandfather, but because of his own achievements.

-Cassius Dio Cocceianus, Roman History, Book XXI, 30

Jesus, Jesus’ followers, and the earliest Christians were frequently considered a Jewish sect by their Roman masters, much as the Essenes or the Pharisees. Due to a long tradition of friendly relations between the various leaders of Judea and Rome, the Jews had been granted special privilege to practice Judaism under Roman rule[i]. But even though Rome tried not to interfere with the practice of harmless local customs, she would ruthlessly stamp out any movement which threatened the peace or stability of the empire. Consider this account of Roman General Titus Didius in 98 BC:

…Didius, with the concurrence of the ten legates who were still present, resolved to destroy them. Accordingly, he told their principal men that he would allot the land of Colenda to them because they were poor. Finding them very much pleased with this offer, he told them to communicate it to their people, and to come with their wives and children to the parceling out of the land. When they had done so he ordered his soldiers to vacate their camp, and these people, whom he wanted to ensnare, to go inside, so that he might make a list of their names, the men on one register and the women and children on another, in order to know how much land should be set apart for them. When they had gone inside the ditch and palisade, Didius surrounded them with his army and killed them all, and for this he was honored with a triumph.

-Appian of Alexandria, The Spanish Wars, 100

Or the fate of the followers of the legendary Spartacus, who led slaves against Rome in the third servile war:

A large number of his men fled from the battle-field to the mountains and Crassus followed them thither. They divided themselves in four parts, and continued to fight until they all perished except 6000, who were captured and crucified along the whole road from Capua to Rome.

-Appian, The Civil Wars, Book I, XIV, 120

Rome sometimes found ideas threatening as well. There was no Roman “Bill of Rights” guarantying free speech, or freedom of religion. Roman conservatives rather adhered to Quintus Ennius’ tenet:

Moribus antiquis stat res Romana virisque. – “The Roman State stands on its ancient customs and men.”

Obviously the morals of different cultures do not always agree. And the legality of Judaism under Roman law did not guarantee its compatibility with Roman society. The Hebrew and Christian monotheistic belief systems were hardly in keeping with a polytheistic world-view which believed that gladiatorial contests, frequently to the death, were a method of keeping the citizenry strong and accustomed to violent death[ii]. The Romans, for their part, thought that the exclusivity of monotheistic dogma hindered its adherents’ loyalty to the empire[iii]. Greco-Roman culture even considered circumcision to be a barbaric practice, a ritual mutilation requiring surgical reversal[iv].

Due to these underlying incompatibilities, the Roman records from this period indicate that various regimes fluctuated in practice between disapproval of Judeo-Christian beliefs to armed reprisal against the practitioners of Judaism and Christianity.  Let us examine the policies of first century Rome toward the Christians and the Jews.

Ancient Roman historians attest that Caesar Tiberius expelled the Jews from Rome to prevent them from polluting Roman culture. Here, accounts from three different Roman authors document the degree of Roman tolerance towards Judaism during the time when Jesus of Nazareth taught in Judea and Galilee[v]:

As the Jews flocked to Rome in great numbers and were converting many of the natives to their ways, he [Tiberius] banished most of them.

-Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book LVII, 18.5 [written around 220 AD]

There was a debate too about expelling the Egyptian and Jewish worship, and a resolution of the Senate was passed that four thousand of the freedmen class who were infected with those superstitions and were of military age should be transported to the island of Sardinia, to quell the brigandage of the place, a cheap sacrifice should they die from the pestilential climate. The rest were to quit Italy, unless before a certain day they repudiated their impious rites.

-Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Annals, Book II, 85 [written around 110 AD]

He [Tiberius] abolished foreign cults, especially the Egyptian and the Jewish rites, compelling all who were addicted to such superstitions to burn their religious vestments and all their paraphernalia. Those of the Jews who were of military age he assigned to provinces of less healthy climate, ostensibly to serve in the army; the others of that same race or of similar beliefs he banished from the city, on pain of slavery for life if they did not obey. He banished the astrologers as well, but pardoned such as begged for indulgence and promised to give up their art.

-Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, Tiberius 36 [written 121 AD]

This Roman policy was adopted in 19 AD, nine years before Jesus’ visit to Nain. The distinguished Roman Senator Tacitus [56-117 AD] echoes the prevailing Roman sentiment of his day when he calls the deaths of four thousand Jewish men “a cheap sacrifice.” In the same way, he judges the practice of Judaism “impious” by Roman standards. Tiberius’ edict was the official Roman position throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry. Around the time that Jesus endured a Roman crucifixion for his beliefs, Tiberius rescinded the policy[vi], (31 or 32 AD.)  Tacitus reports that Tiberius was 78 years old when he was smothered to death by Naevius Sutorius Macro, Prefect of the Praetorian Guard, on the 15th of March, 37 AD[vii]… (This was an example of Roman policy towards Jews during the time of Christ’s earthly ministry. More examples of Roman policies towards Christians and Jews are included in Chapter III).

[i] I Maccabees 8, 12, 15; II Maccabees 11; Josephus, Antiquities XIV, x, 1-26; Josephus, Wars I, vii, 6; I,  xx, 1 through xxi, 1

[ii] Pliny II, Panegyricus 33; Suetonius, Tiberius, 7;Suetonius, Claudius, 21.4-6  & 34; Theophilus of Antioch, Theophilus to Autolycus,  Book III, Chapter xv; Athenagoras the Athenian, A Plea for the Christians XXXV; Tatian the Assyrian, Address of Tatian to the Greeks XXIII

[iii] Cicero, Pro Flacco 67-69; Tacitus XV, 44; Pliny II, Letters, Book X, xcvi & xcvii

[iv] I Maccabees I, 14-15; Celsus, On the Practice of Medicine VII, 25

[v] See also Josephus, Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 3, §5

[vi] Philo of Alexandria, on the Embassy to Gaius, XXIV; Emil Shürer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, Second Division, Volume II, p. 235 – 236

[vii] Tacitus, Annals, VI, § 50

Categories: Uncategorized

April 2010

April 10th, 2010 Comments off

The Triumph of Titus by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Oil on canvas, 1885

What’s Happening, April, 2010

I haven’t made many posts lately, for I am in the process of rewriting the How to Live Forever manuscript in a fashion that removes copyrighted materials. I have already identified each of the citations in question; and when they have been replaced, either by public domain translations or through having the passage in question re-translated specifically for this project, I intend to self-publish and advertise online. I would like to have this completed by end of summer, publishing the book by year’s end.

In the meantime, here is an interesting passage implying Roman hostility towards Christianity under the Flavian Emperors. Sulpicius Severus relates that Titus destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in order to eliminate both the Jewish and Christian religions:

Titus is said, after calling a council, to have first deliberated whether he should destroy the temple, a structure of such extraordinary work. For it seemed good to some that a sacred edifice, distinguished above all human achievements, ought not to be destroyed, inasmuch as, if preserved, it would furnish an evidence of Roman moderation, but, if destroyed, would serve for a perpetual proof of Roman cruelty. But on the opposite side, others and Titus himself thought that the temple ought specially to be overthrown, in order that the religion of the Jews and of the Christians might more thoroughly be subverted; for that these religions, although contrary to each other, had nevertheless proceeded from the same authors; that the Christians had sprung up from among the Jews; and that, if the root were extirpated, the offshoot would speedily perish.

Chronica II.30.6. (translated by Rev. Alexander Roberts, D.D.) [c. 401 AD]

Severus drew heavily from non-Christian historians (Chron. I.1.4), including Josephus and Tacitus (comp. Chron. II.28.2 to Annals xv.37.). Since Josephus’ account portrayed Titus as sympathetic to Judaism and opposed to the destruction of the Jewish Temple (Bell. Iud. vi.4.3), a case has been made that Severus’ divergence indicates that he was quoting a passage from the lost books of Tacitus’ Histories. My copy of the Loeb edition of Tacitus (ed. C.H. Moore, vol. III, pp. 220-221) includes both Chron. II.30.3 and II.30.6 as fragments of  Tacitus’ Histories, Book V with no disclaimer, treating the matter as if settled. Whether this is actually the case, it does seem unlikely that Severus would contradict Josephus (whose account he appeared to be following, comp. II.30.5 to Bell. Iud. vi.9.3) on this point unless he had an alternative source. As an interesting aside, Titus might be expected to know more of the origins of Christianity than the average Roman through his mistress Berenice, who had personally heard the Christian message from the apostle Paul in the late 50’s AD (Acts 25:13 – 26:32). For complete discussion on the merits of Tacitean authorship for this passage, see H. W. Montefiore, ‘Sulpicius Severus and Titus’ Council of War’, Historia 11 (1962), pp. 156ff.

The Blood of the Martyrs

February 6th, 2010 2 comments

The Blood of the Martyrs

In ancient Rome, refusal to worship the state sponsored gods was considered ‘atheism’. The crime of atheism was punishable by death. Certain religions were granted various degrees of tolerance at divers times. But the underlying Roman attitude towards such ‘superstitions’ was one of disdain. And one who practiced ‘impious’ rites was considered less than a true Roman.

In western Christian society we are accustomed to the concepts of human rights and guaranteed liberties. This modern bias makes it difficult for us to relate to cultures which not only did not protect freedom of speech or religion, but saw nonconformity in these areas as undesirable – disloyalty to the established order, as it were. For this reason, we tend to downplay the idea that the Romans could have really executed ‘vast multitudes’ of early Christians merely for an observance of custom. Progressive historians such as Gibbon have added to the notion that the tales of martyrdom surely must have been overstated. How could ‘civilized’ Romans, responsible for much of our law and cultural institutions, have really massacred tens or hundreds of thousands of innocents, over what amounts to a difference of opinion?

Rather than debate the inherent capacity of man for good or evil, regaling in the legacies of Stalin, Hitler, Mao, or those up and coming tyrants, Ahmadinejad for instance, I thought I would let the Romans tell the story in their own words. The Christian testimony to these atrocities is far more vivid and comprehensive of course, but how much more compelling to let the culprit, rather than the victim, speak of the crime?

Tiberius, pertaining to the Jews during Christ’s lifetime [19 AD]:

As the Jews flocked to Rome in great numbers and were converting many of the natives to their ways, he [Tiberius] banished most of them.

-Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book LVII, 18.5 [written around 220 AD]

There was a debate too about expelling the Egyptian and Jewish worship, and a resolution of the Senate was passed that four thousand of the freedmen class who were infected with those superstitions and were of military age should be transported to the island of Sardinia, to quell the brigandage of the place, a cheap sacrifice should they die from the pestilential climate. The rest were to quit Italy, unless before a certain day they repudiated their impious rites.

-Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Annals, Book II, 85 [written around 110 AD]

He [Tiberius] abolished foreign cults, especially the Egyptian and the Jewish rites, compelling all who were addicted to such superstitions to burn their religious vestments and all their paraphernalia. Those of the Jews who were of military age he assigned to provinces of less healthy climate, ostensibly to serve in the army; the others of that same race or of similar beliefs he banished from the city, on pain of slavery for life if they did not obey. He banished the astrologers as well, but pardoned such as begged for indulgence and promised to give up their art.

-Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, Tiberius 36 [written 121 AD]

Claudius, when Christianity was still considered to be a sect of Judaism and therefore a ‘legal’ Roman religion [around 50 AD]. ‘Chrestus’ was a common Græco-Roman variant of ‘Christos’ or ‘Christ’:

1After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

2There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them…

-Acts 18:1, 2 (NIV) [written around 62 AD]

Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.

-Suetonius, Claudius, 25.4 [written 121 AD]

Nero, upon recognition in 64 AD of Christianity as a religion separate from Judaism, non-sanctioned by the Roman state, and therefore punishable by death:

Such indeed were the precautions of human wisdom. The next thing was to seek means of propitiating the gods, and recourse was had to the Sibylline books, by the direction of which prayers were offered to Vulcanus, Ceres, and Proserpina. Juno, too, was entreated by the matrons, first, in the Capitol, then on the nearest part of the coast, whence water was procured to sprinkle the fane and image of the goddess. And there were sacred banquets and nightly vigils celebrated by married women. But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed.

-Tacitus, Annals, XV, 44 [written around 110 AD]

He devised a new form for the buildings of the city and in front of the houses and apartments he erected porches, from the flat roofs of which fires could be fought; and these he put up at his own cost. He had also planned to extend the walls as far as Ostia and to bring the sea from there to Rome by a canal…

Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition.

-Suetonius, Nero, 16 [written 121 AD]

After Nero was overthrown in 68 AD, a period of civil unrest followed that claimed the lives of three of his successors within eighteen months[i]. Then in December of 69 AD, Vespasian’s general Antonius Primus defeated Aulus Vitellius’ forces for possession of Rome[ii], thus fulfilling the prophecy of Joseph and establishing the Flavian dynasty. Joseph was given his freedom, an apartment in Vespasian’s own house in Rome, an Imperial pension, and Roman citizenship in recognition of his support[iii]. Adopting his benefactor’s family name, Flavius Josephus proceeded under Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian to write the various histories which have provided us so much source material.

Vespasian, as Emperor, immediately placed his son Titus in command of the War in Judea. When Jerusalem was razed in 70 AD, Vespasian enacted the Fiscus Judaicus, a tax upon Jews which went to support the worship of Jupiter Capitolinus, as punishment to the Jewish People for their rebellion[iv].

Nero’s policy mandating death for those who practiced Christianity was apparently still in effect throughout the reign of Vespasian. There is no evidence that Nero’s anti-Christian decrees were revoked, or that Christianity was ever recognized as an approved religion. Indeed, it is hard to imagine that Vespasian could rescind the anti-Christian policies in the immediate aftermath of the Judean War, when Roman sentiment against all things Judean still ran high[v].

Titus succeeded upon Vespasian’s death in 79 AD. He apparently trusted his father’s policies concerning Christians and Jews throughout his two years of supremacy, as there is no record of any deviation in this regard.

Titus Flavius Domitianus (Domitian) became Emperor when his older brother passed away in 81 AD. Domitian actively hunted Christians early in his reign[vi]; executed many who “drifted into Jewish ways” even toward the end of his reign, and vigorously enforced the Fiscus Judaicus from 81-96 AD. Conversion to Christianity was frequently described by Romans as ‘drifting into Jewish ways’, since Christianity was seen as an offshoot of Judaism. Remember that Judaism was legal although subject to the Fiscus Judaicus, Christianity was punishable by death:

And the same year Domitian slew, along with many others, Flavius Clemens the consul, although he was a cousin and had to wife Flavia Domitilla[1], who was also a relative of the emperor’s. The charge brought against them both was that of atheism, a charge on which many others who drifted into Jewish ways were condemned. Some of these were put to death, and the rest were at least deprived of their property. Domitilla was merely banished to Pandateria.

-Dio, Roman History, LXVII, 14 [written around 220 AD]

Domitian’s agents collected the tax on Jews with a peculiar lack of mercy; and took proceedings not only against those who kept their Jewish origins a secret in order to avoid the tax, but against those who lived as Jews without professing Judaism. As a boy, I remember once attending a crowded Court where the imperial agent had a ninety-year-old man inspected to establish whether or not he had been circumcised.

– Suetonius, Domitian, 12 [written 121 AD]

When Domitian was assassinated, Marcus Cocceius Nerva (Nerva) finally granted some relief to Christians and Jews:

Nerva also released all who were on trial for maiestas and restored the exiles; moreover, he put to death all the slaves and the freedmen who had conspired against their masters and allowed that class of persons to lodge no complaint whatever against their masters; and no persons were permitted to accuse anybody of maiestas or of adopting the Jewish mode of life.

Dio, Roman History LXVIII, i, 2 [written around 220 AD]

Notice that Nerva did not repeal the Fiscus Judaicus, which was still in effect when Tertullian and Origen wrote in the early Third Century[vii]. Neither did he grant legal status to Christianity. Nor did he condone proselytization by Christians or Jews. He merely ended the prosecution of these “crimes” by preventing accusations. Whether he intended an eventual long term policy change we will never know. Due to his age, Nerva’s reign was only to last one year, four months, and nine days[viii]. Shortly after adopting Marcus Ulpius Traianus (Trajan) as his heir, Nerva passed away.

By the time of Trajan (98-117 AD) it was accepted policy that practicing Christians were to be executed, and Jews were to be taxed. There is no reason to infer that some variant of these basic policies were not in effect from the times of Nero and Vespasian respectively until the time of Trajan. The only question is how vigorously offenders were to be sought out.

Gaius Plinius Luci filius Caecilius Secundus, or Pliny the younger, was a Roman statesman, writer, and personal friend of the Emperor Trajan who reigned from 98-117 AD. Appointed legatus propraetore consulari potestate of the province Bithynia around 111 AD[ix], Pliny exchanged a series of letters with the Emperor discussing the problems he faced as Governor. This unique correspondence provides an insightful look into the inner workings and attitudes of Roman administrations during the period immediately preceding 110-115 A.D. Pliny and Trajan agree in Epistles XCVI & XCVII that Christians who denied Christ and worshipped Roman Gods were to obtain a full pardon – those who remained committed to Christ were to be executed:

Pliny the Younger to the Emperor Trajan:

It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.

Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.

Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ—none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to dothese I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.

They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food—but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.

I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.

Trajan to Pliny the Younger:

You observed proper procedure, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those who had been denounced to you as Christians. For it is not possible to lay down any general rule to serve as a kind of fixed standard. They are not to be sought out; if they are denounced and proved guilty, they are to be punished, with this reservation, that whoever denies that he is a Christian and really proves it–that is, by worshiping our gods–even though he was under suspicion in the past, shall obtain pardon through repentance. But anonymously posted accusations ought to have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age.

-The Letters of Pliny, Book X (The Correspondence of Pliny with Trajan,) XCVI & XCVII

It seems unlikely that recantation would have saved a Christian during the reign of Nero, but the policy approved by Pliny and Trajan probably developed gradually during the reigns of Vespasian through Nerva. This policy was certainly still in effect ninety years later (198-204 A.D.) when the Roman jurist Tertullian, having converted to Christianity, presented his famous defense[x] to the Romans:

And then, too, you do not in that case deal with us in the ordinary way of judicial proceedings against offenders; for, in the case of others denying, you apply the torture to make them confess—Christians alone you torture, to make them deny; whereas, if we were guilty of any crime, we should be sure to deny it, and you with your tortures would force us to confession.

-Tertullian, Apology, II

The reign of Hadrian (117-138 AD) seems relatively free from such charges. It is unclear whether Telesphorus, Bishop of Rome, was martyred during the end of Hadrian’s reign, or the beginning of the reign of Antoninus Pius. And there may have been unrecorded instances based upon long standing Imperial policy. But Melito and Justin both reference the following rescript from Hadrian to Minucius Fundanus, proconsul of Asia, dated around 125 AD, as evidence of this Emperor’s leniency towards Christians:

I have received the letter addressed to me by your predecessor Serenius Granianus, a most illustrious man; and this communication I am unwilling to pass over in silence, lest innocent persons be disturbed, and occasion be given to the informers for practising villany. Accordingly, if the inhabitants of your province will so far sustain this petition of theirs as to accuse the Christians in some court of law, I do not prohibit them from doing so. But I will not suffer them to make use of mere entreaties and outcries. For it is far more just, if any one desires to make an accusation, that you give judgment upon it. If, therefore, any one makes the accusation, and furnishes proof that the said men do anything contrary to the laws, you shall adjudge punishments in proportion to the offences. And this, by Hercules, you shall give special heed to, that if any man shall, through mere calumny, bring an accusation against any of these persons, you shall award to him more severe punishments in proportion to his wickedness.” – Attached to Justin’s Apology to Antoninus Pius (written around 140 AD).

By the time of Marcus Aurelius’ reign, Christians were renowned throughout the Roman Empire for their disdain of torture and death. And the knowledge was not confined to the lower echelons of society. Marcus Aurelius, himself, was aware of the problem. Following the Stoic influence of Epictetus[xi], the Roman Emperor echoed the sentiments of Pliny and Trajan when he wrote:

What a soul that is which is ready, if at any moment it must be separated from the body, and ready either to be extinguished or dispersed or continue to exist; but so that this readiness comes from a man’s own judgement, not from mere obstinacy, as with the Christians, but considerately and with dignity and in a way to persuade another, without tragic show.

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, XI, 3 (Translation by George Long)

Or as Lucian of Samosata, a popular satirist to the Greco-Roman world, so eloquently put it [written around 169 AD]:

You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on trust, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.

-Lucian of Samosata, The Death of Peregrine, Paragraph 13, (Translated by H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler)

Written during the reign of Lucius Septimius Severus around 197 AD, Tertullian makes our closing argument:

In that case, you say, why do you complain of our persecutions? You ought rather to be grateful to us for giving you the sufferings you want. Well, it is quite true that it is our desire to suffer, but it is in the way that the soldier longs for war. No one indeed suffers willingly, since suffering necessarily implies fear and danger.  Yet the man who objected to the conflict, both fights with all his strength, and when victorious, he rejoices in the battle, because he reaps from it glory and spoil. It is our battle to be summoned to your tribunals that there, under fear of execution, we may battle for the truth. But the day is won when the object of the struggle is gained.  This victory of ours gives us the glory of pleasing God, and the spoil of life eternal. But we are overcome. Yes, when we have obtained our wishes. Therefore we conquer in dying; we go forth victorious at the very time we are subdued. Call us, if you like, Sarmenticii and Semaxii, because, bound to a half-axle stake, we are burned in a circle-heap of fagots. This is the attitude in which we conquer, it is our victory-robe, it is for us a sort of triumphal car. Naturally enough, therefore, we do not please the vanquished; on account of this, indeed, we are counted a desperate, reckless race. But the very desperation and recklessness you object to in us, among yourselves lift high the standard of virtue in the cause of glory and of fame… But go zealously on, good presidents, you will stand higher with the people if you sacrifice the Christians at their wish, kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust; your injustice is the proof that we are innocent. Therefore God suffers that we thus suffer; for but very lately, in condemning a Christian woman to the leno rather than to the leo you made confession that a taint on our purity is considered among us something more terrible than any punishment and any death. Nor does your cruelty, however exquisite, avail you; it is rather a temptation to us.  The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed. Many of your writers exhort to the courageous bearing of pain and death, as Cicero in the Tusculans, as Seneca in his Chances, as Diogenes, Pyrrhus, Callinicus; and yet their words do not find so many disciples as Christians do, teachers not by words, but by their deeds. That very obstinacy you rail against is the preceptress. For who that contemplates it, is not excited to inquire what is at the bottom of it? who, after inquiry, does not embrace our doctrines? and when he has embraced them, desires not to suffer that he may become partaker of the fulness of God’s grace, that he may obtain from God complete forgiveness, by giving in exchange his blood? For that secures the remission of all offences. On this account it is that we return thanks on the very spot for your sentences. As the divine and human are ever opposed to each other, when we are condemned by you, we are acquitted by the Highest.

Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, Apology, Chapter L

[1] Lightfoot argued that these two Flavia Domitilla’s, one the wife and one the niece of Flavius Clemons, are in fact the same person. He believed that she was the wife of Flavius Clemons and the niece of the Emperor Domitian. He also provides archeological evidence which indicates that Flavia Domitilla dedicated land for use as one of the earliest Roman Christian cemeteries. – (J.B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, Part I, Volume 1, Chapter 2: Clement the Doctor.) Whether niece and aunt shared a family name, as was common, or whether Lightfoot’s mistaken identity occurred matters not to us. Domitian persecuted Christians in either case.

[i] Will Durant, Caesar and Christ, The Story of Civilization, Part III, Simon and Schuster, 1944, eleventh printing, Chapter XIII, Page 284-285

[ii] Dio, Roman History, LXV, 20-22; Tacitus, Histories III, 84-85; IV, 1; Josephus, Wars IV, ix, 2; xi, 4; Suetonius, Vitellius XVII-XVIII

[iii] Josephus, The Life of Flavius Josephus 76

[iv] Josephus, Wars VII, vi, 6; Dio, Roman History LXVI, vii, 2; Appian, The Syrian Wars 50; Origen, Epistle to Africanus 14; Tertullian, Apology XVIII

[v] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History III, xii; Josephus, Wars VII, iii, 1; J.B Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, Second Edition (Reprint), Part Two, Ignatius & Polycarp, Volume 1, Ignatius Chapter 1, Ignatius the Martyr, pp 15-16,  (Hilary of Poitiers on Vespasian)

[vi] Tertullian, Apology, V

[vii] Origen, Epistle to Africanus 14; Tertullian, Apology XVIII

[viii] Dio, Roman History LXVIII, iv, 2

[ix] C. Plinii Caecilii Secundi Epistulae Ad Traianum Imperatorem Cum Eiusdem Responsis, Edited, With Notes and Introductory Essays by E.G. Hardy, M.A., London, Macmillan and Co., 1889, Introductary Biography of Pliny, page 24; Pliny, Letters, Books I-VII, Translated by Betty Radice,  Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England, 1969, Introduction, page xii

[x] See also Tertullian, Ad Nationes, Book I, ii

[xi] Epictetus (Arrian), Discourses, IV, 7.6

Categories: Uncategorized

Christmas 2009

December 25th, 2009 Comments off

Wishing a Rich and Rewarding Christmas to my Readers

Just thought I would post some end of 2009 updates:

I will address the Shreveport, LA chapter of Reasons to Believe on the 3rd Monday of January, 2010 on the subject ‘The Testimony of the Witnesses’, an investigation into the credibility of the Christian Holy Writ. We will consider the weight of the earliest written testimony in regards to the claim of resurrection of Christ. And we will examine how writers such as Bart Ehrman, John Dominic Crossan, and Elaine Pagels can proceed from the the early Christian literature and arrive at results in diametric opposition to the views of both its authors and its recipients.

Sistine Chapel in Rome

Michelangelo - Fresco From The Sistine Chapel

I posted the following on Facebook in response to various discussions. It is not complete, but holds the germ of a theme upon which I would like to expand  in the future, God willing:

People think that because we live in a free society, we may practice Christianity, when actually the converse is true. Because we practice Christianity we live in a free society.

Ultimately we will each act according to our most deeply held convictions. Likewise, a society will be shaped by the ideology of its members. In predominately Hindu society, for instance, there will be little compassion for the downtrodden – after all, they are merely reaping the fruits of their actions in a previous life. In the Islamic world, there exists little tolerance for opposing viewpoints – possession of a Bible is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, for instance; even though that nation is generally considered to be a rational, modern society. Likewise Marxism is a jealous god, accepting no rivals.

“But I believe in nothing,” one might say. “I have a secular viewpoint, bound by no primitive superstition.” Even so, this person has a core ideology. After all, this person believes in and wants good things for their self. And with no outside constraint, ethics for each ‘secular’ person generally devolves into ‘what’s good for me’. This leads to a materialistic, self centered society; such as we see developing in the United States as we renounce our Christian heritage, or as we saw in the Roman world after they left Stoicism.

All of the common principles of freedom that we have come to cherish – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc. were birthed in western Christian society. The rest of the world not only does not practice these ‘freedoms’, they do not see the advantage in practicing these freedoms. They are ‘foolishness’ to the non-Christian world.

We may judge the viability of a belief system by the merits of the society it produces. And before we run headlong to accept an ‘enlightened’ diverse viewpoint, we should examine the societies where it has been established to see where it leads – to see the conclusion of its adoption. Likewise, we should have a BETTER society in clear view before we renounce a way of life that has led us to freedom, prosperity and world hegemony.

November 24 at 6:19am ·

Here is an open letter from Bishop Tobin to Congressman Kennedy which I found quite interesting: Dear Congressman Kennedy

I will be making submittals to major publishers again in January. I have been somewhat remiss and have not contacted anyone in about 9 months. Depending upon which statistics program referenced, this website generated between 22,830 – 28,608 hits during the month of November from 1974 sites and 984 unique visitors. And this for a one year old site whose readership spreads solely through word of mouth. Many thanks to my readers. The increasing readership of the website should at some point provide additional inducement to prospective publishers. I am very interested in IVP Academic, and would be much obliged to anyone capable of a positive referral.

I am also aware that some of the footnote links are not functional. Its on my ‘to do’ list. You can still scroll manually to find the reference.

Best Wishes to all for 2010,

John Takach

Categories: The Big Question

Jesus Raises a Close Friend

December 13th, 2009 1 comment

The Resurrection of Lazarus

John records a third resurrection which was performed by Jesus, shortly before the crucifixion. This is the story of Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus’ from Bethany. Unlike the widow’s son at Nain or Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days prior to Jesus’ arrival. Commanding the removal of a stone which had blocked the entrance of Lazarus’ tomb for over half of the Jewish week of mourning was the most inexplicable of actions. The only possible justification for such a request would have been the resurrection of the occupant. This account demonstrates more clearly than any other the foreknowledge; the prophetic insight that Christ held concerning these miracles.

Vincent Van Gogh: La Résurrection de Lazare (d’après Rembrandt)

Vincent Van Gogh: La Résurrection de Lazare (d’après Rembrandt)

Before we examine the passage from John’s Gospel, a little background is in order. Some have questioned why John alone would chronicle this most remarkable of pre-crucifixion revivifications. One might reason that such an amazing incident should have been a keynote feature in the Synoptic Gospels as well. The answer to this seeming paradox, once again, depends on when each account was written. All four Gospel accounts record that Jesus’ life had been threatened by the Jewish authorities prior to the events at Lazarus’ tomb[1]. In Chapter IV we examined the reasons for this conflict between Christ and the Jewish rulers. John’s account preserves considerable detail of how this underlying premise affected the decisions and actions of the participants. Read more…

The Scientific Treatment of Prophecy

October 31st, 2009 Comments off

The Curious Case of Joseph ben Matthias

In 67 AD, during the Jewish revolt against Rome, Roman legions under Titus Flavius Vespasianus (Vespasian) conquered the Galilean city of Jotapata, the center of resistance for the Jewish armies in Galilee. Taken alive was Joseph ben Matthias, the commander of the Jewish forces in Galilee, a young man of aristocratic lineage and personal friend of Poppea, wife of the reigning Emperor Nero. It was unusual to capture such a leader. Most

Giulio Romano, The Triumph of Titus and Vespasian

Giulio Romano, The Triumph of Titus and Vespasian

Jewish commanders would suicide rather than face the pain and humiliation which Romans were wont to mete out to rebels. In consequence, Vespasian prepared to send this prestigious prisoner to Nero, an Emperor renowned for his merciless pursuit of self-interest[a].

Joseph was in something of a cleft stick. Whether he went to Nero or stayed with the legions, his outlook was torture and execution. Could he have appealed to Poppea for succor? Could he have made ‘a deal’ with the legions? At best he would be a turncoat, traitor to his people and his cause, never to be trusted by either side.

Joseph tells us in his own writings how these events transpired:

However, Vespasian gave strict orders that he should be kept with great caution, as though he would in a very little time send him to Nero.

When Josephus heard him give those orders, he said that he had somewhat in his mind that he would willingly say to himself alone. When therefore they were all ordered to withdraw, excepting Titus and two of their friends, he said, “Thou, O Vespasian, thinkest no more than that thou hast taken Josephus himself captive; but I come to thee as a messenger of greater tidings; for had not I been sent by God to thee, I knew what was the law of the Jews in this case? and how it becomes generals to die. Dost thou send me to Nero? For why? Are Nero’s successors till they come to thee still alive? Thou, O Vespasian, art Caesar and emperor, thou, and this thy son. Bind me now still faster, and keep me for thyself, for thou, O Caesar, are not only lord over me, but over the land and the sea, and all mankind; and certainly I deserve to be kept in closer custody than I now am in, in order to be punished, if I rashly affirm any thing of God.” When he had said this, Vespasian at present did not believe him, but supposed that Josephus said this as a cunning trick, in order to his own preservation; but in a little time he was convinced, and believed what he said to be true, God himself erecting his expectations, so as to think of obtaining the empire, and by other signs fore-showing his advancement. He also found Josephus to have spoken truth on other occasions; for one of those friends that were present at that secret conference said to Josephus, “I cannot but wonder how thou couldst not foretell to the people of Jotapata that they should be taken, nor couldst foretell this captivity which hath happened to thyself, unless what thou now sayest be a vain thing, in order to avoid the rage that is risen against thyself.” To which Josephus replied, “I did foretell to the people of Jotapata that they would be taken on the forty-seventh day, and that I should be caught alive by the Romans.” Now when Vespasian had inquired of the captives privately about these predictions, he found them to be true, and then he began to believe those that concerned himself. Yet did he not set Josephus at liberty from his hands, but bestowed on him suits of clothes, and other precious gifts; he treated him also in a very obliging manner, and continued so to do, Titus still joining his interest in the honors that were done him. – Flavius Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book III, Chapter viii, § 398 – 408

Read more…

Appeal for Assistance…

September 13th, 2009 2 comments

What’s new for September, 2009:

Hi everyone!
I’m in something of a quandary, and I’m asking my readers if they can help. As you know, I am seeking publication for my manuscript, How to Live Forever. As far as I can tell, this is the first COMPREHENSIVE treatment of the Resurrection of Christ based upon historical data. With all of the Discovery and History Channel specials undermining the evidence in favor of the Resurrection, with the conspicuous presence of such anti-Resurrection authors as Crossan, Ehrmann, and Pagel in modern literature, it certainly seems right that someone actually reveal the ancient record in it’s entirety. And that’s what How to Live Forever is about – letting the evidence determine the verdict.

But I am in that classic dilemma: I have never before published in this field, so I have no resume. I have very few contacts among authors and publishers, and have cold contacted fifty-eight publishers thus far, without finding a place for the book. Due to the number of permissions for various citations and translations which will be required, self-publishing seems out of the question – and I would really like to reach a nation-wide audience from the beginning if at all possible.

So here is the request:

If you, my readers, find some merit in these various posts, (which I believe individually fail to capture the elegance of the completed argument, ) and if you have some connection to someone in the publishing business, then I would appreciate a referral. Lead them to the site, let them look at the material, and let’s see if we can’t get this thing published and clear up the record concerning the Resurrection.

Thanking you for your assistance in this regard, I remain

Yours Very Truly,

John Takach

Categories: The Big Question

The Higher Criticism

August 15th, 2009 Comments off

The Higher Critical Method – A Study of Inherent Logical Fallacy

For nearly two-hundred years, since Eichhorn coined the term, higher critical methods have been the accepted means for determination of the authenticity of ancient documents. These techniques as performed by academia today constitute the ONLY procedures for evaluating such documents which are based upon scientific principles. Notwithstanding the pedigree of the work, or ancient testimony to the contrary, the true nature of all ancient literature may be determined ONLY through adherence to this modern approach. So we are told.

But is the higher criticism, as currently practiced, truly the unbiased application of the scientific method to the field of historical literature?  Based upon the examples of higher critical analyses that I have studied, and I have by no means read them all, I have observed a curious systematic acceptance of the sophistic notion that science has somehow disproven the supernatural – that phenomena either unexamined or unproven by modern science have somehow been disproved by the lack of formal treatment. This premise, coupled with the modern prejudice that the ancients were a rather naïve and superstitious lot, incapable of discriminating truth from fable and certainly incapable of teaching anything to a modern man of science, has been invoked to discredit an entire corpus of literature – specifically that literature which claims to be a record of the intervention of the Divine in the affairs of men. “Oh, give me a break,” some might say, “all that buildup to defend a dying faith against the encroachment of science? When will you religious nuts stop being threatened by progress?”

But I submit for your consideration the defense that science does not hold a monopoly on truth. Indeed, the long and chequered annals of science include many embarrassing incidents of entrenched hostility towards new theories by adherents of previous doctrines; and conversely, the acceptance of rather dubious conclusions based upon the prestige of their proponents[a]. Even well supported theories come and go with the passage of time. The Newtonian mechanics that you learned in school were already known to be incomplete, having been augmented by Einstein’s Relativity, long before you were taught Newton.

So to say that something is the ‘accepted’ scientific theory of the day is really no endorsement at all. True science can be built only upon hard data by sound logical arguments. Many things science has yet to measure, so the requisite evidence needed for development of a theory has not even been gathered. As a physicist, one of the ‘hard’ scientists, I am well aware that each of my working theories rests upon data and underlying assumptions. This being said, I may only apply a theory to a problem INSOFAR as that problem does not violate one of the theory’s underlying premises.

Read more…

The Resurrection of the Daughter of Jairus (II of II)

July 30th, 2009 Comments off

The Resurrection of the Daughter of Jairus

(An Excerpt from Chapter VI of How to Live Forever)

Part II

(iii.) The Eyewitness accounts:

With the availability of three eyewitness reports, we have the opportunity to compare the compatibility of the testimony for ourselves. From this point onward it will be much easier to evaluate the testimony of the resurrection accounts, for we have already proven the identity of each author. We have so proven by demonstrating the early acceptance of the four Canonical Gospels through the use of quotations by the earliest church fathers, men who were themselves trained and appointed by Jesus’ disciples. We have shown that these men, and their audience, accepted quotations from the Gospels as a final authority – the words of their Lord as preserved through His messengers. And this acceptance apparently pervaded the Christian world, throughout Rome, Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece at the very least.

The Raising of Jairus' Daughter - Schnorr von Carolsfield

The Raising of Jairus' Daughter - Schnorr von Carolsfield

In addition, we have recovered the testimony of Jesus’ Apostles regarding the origins of the four Gospels as preserved through the succession of elders in Rome, Alexandria, and Asia Minor. We have shown that other such successions probably existed in North Africa, Greece, Syria, and Palestine. And we have found no evidence of any conflicting testimony of apostolic origin concerning the Gospels. Rather, we have observed the confident perception of Justin, Aristides, Irenaeus, Lucian, and others that all Christians were using the same Gospels.

So we are now armed with the knowledge that Matthew, Jesus’ disciple and eyewitness wrote the Gospel of Matthew with an Hebrew audience in mind. Mark was not an eyewitness, but rather the interpreter[a] for Jesus’ Apostle Peter who was. Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark at the request of Peter’s followers, so that they might have a record of the testimony of Peter as regards the risen Christ.  Luke was not an eyewitness, but states in his introduction that his record was written to provide a more complete account of events surrounding Jesus’ life than previous accounts, presumably Matthew’s and Mark’s. Luke was liaison between the church elders at Jerusalem and the Apostle Paul during the latter’s two year imprisonment at Caesarea, (see discussion pp 78-83). During that time, Luke would have had ample opportunity to interview the surviving Apostles as well as Jesus’ family. To make good his claim to have written a more complete account, Luke must have had access to eyewitness testimony of comparable status to the Apostles Matthew and Peter, the witnesses for the accounts Luke intended to complete. Read more…

The Resurrection of the Daughter of Jairus (Part I)

July 25th, 2009 Comments off

The Resurrection of the Daughter of Jairus

(An Excerpt from Chapter VI of How to Live Forever)

Part I

…Having established the genuineness of the four canonical Gospel Accounts; having researched their origins and pedigrees; having looked at every witness, Greek, Roman, Jew, and Christian whose testimony could bear on the subject; and realizing that there exists no contradictory testimony; we may proceed to examine the resurrection accounts of the eyewitnesses. We are not denying the existence of other Gnostic and Apocryphal literature; we are merely recognizing that none of this corpus can produce a respectable pedigree. The literature which cannot be confirmed to be from actual witnesses cannot contribute to this discussion of resurrection as a scientific fact. We will leave the investigation of unsubstantiated legend to others. In our search for evidence of resurrection, we have discovered every source of legitimate testimony concerning Christ’s ministry on earth, and we will now use the confirmed testimony of his witnesses to continue the investigation.

The Raising Of Jairus' Daughter - Ilya Yefimovich Repin

The Raising Of Jairus' Daughter - Ilya Yefimovich Repin

6. The Resurrection of the Daughter of Jairus

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke each preserve a resurrection account involving the daughter of one Jairus, ruler of a local Synagogue. This is the first time that we have encountered testimony from multiple eyewitnesses of the same resurrection event. Before we delve into in-depth analysis of these observations, it is fitting that we should address a modern bias which frequently masquerades as “science”.

(i.) The Synoptic Problem:

With three records based upon eyewitness testimony of the same events, there are likely to be many incidences of overlapping material. These similarities may extend to distinctive nuances in the deeds performed, or striking turns of phrase by the participants. Also, based upon the unanimous testimony of the earliest students of the Gospels, we know that it was quite conceivable that Mark could have possessed a Hebrew version of Matthew when he composed the Gospel of Mark. Luke claimed in his introduction to know of a plurality of previous Gospel accounts, and there is no evidence for any belief that these were other than Matthew and Mark. And whoever translated Matthew into Greek could be expected to have had access to all three records of apostolic testimony. So similarities between the various accounts are to be expected. Read more…