Monday, 18 June 2018

Monday quote

Imagine a town with a certain level of crime. You divide the crimes into serious ones and less serious ones. Over a period of time, the rate of serious crime increases by 20% and the rate of less serious crime increases by 40%. This is clearly a development for the worse. But although more people are exposed to serious crime and more people are exposed to less serious crime as well, a trickster would say that, as there are now relatively fewer cases of serious crime, the situation has improved.

Peter C Gøtzsche

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Cosmological argument

Alexander Pruss proposes 2 versions of the cosmological argument:
  1. There are no infinite causal regresses or causal loops.
  2. Every ordinary entity has a cause.
  3. So, there is an extraordinary entity.
And
  1. There is a causal explanation why there are any ordinary entities.
  2. Causal explanations are not circular.
  3. So, there is an extraordinary entity.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Monday quote

As regards sexual morality, we have reached a point at which it is no longer sufficient for us to criticize modernity’s poor answers. Like our Lord in the gospel narratives, we must also correct its terribly impoverished questions.

Michael W. Hannon

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Papias and John the Elder

We have little of what Papias wrote, and all of it indirectly from others quoting him. Quotes can be accessed in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library here. Papias makes comments about authorship and date which have been variously understood. Lacking the original we lack context, and because other authors quote him we are reliant on their interpretation of Papias' words.

Papias lived c. 60–130 AD. He was the bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia and a contemporary of Polycarp (69–155). Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John. Iranaeus (130–202) was a disciple of Polycarp. We have fragments of Papias from the writings of Iranaeus and Eusebius (c. 260–340).

In Church History chapter 39 Eusebius writes,
1. There are extant five books of Papias, which bear the title Expositions of Oracles of the Lord. Irenaeus makes mention of these as the only works written by him, in the following words: “These things are attested by Papias, an ancient man who was a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp, in his fourth book. For five books have been written by him.” These are the words of Irenaeus.
2. But Papias himself in the preface to his discourses by no means declares that he was himself a hearer and eye-witness of the holy apostles, but he shows by the words which he uses that he received the doctrines of the faith from those who were their friends.
3. He says: “But I shall not hesitate also to put down for you along with my interpretations whatsoever things I have at any time learned carefully from the elders and carefully remembered, guaranteeing their truth. For I did not, like the multitude, take pleasure in those that speak much, but in those that teach the truth; not in those that relate strange commandments, but in those that deliver the commandments given by the Lord to faith, and springing from the truth itself.
4. If, then, any one came, who had been a follower of the elders, I questioned him in regard to the words of the elders,—what Andrew or what Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the disciples of the Lord, and what things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I did not think that what was to be gotten from the books would profit me as much as what came from the living and abiding voice.”
5. It is worth while observing here that the name John is twice enumerated by him. The first one he mentions in connection with Peter and James and Matthew and the rest of the apostles, clearly meaning the evangelist; but the other John he mentions after an interval, and places him among others outside of the number of the apostles, putting Aristion before him, and he distinctly calls him a presbyter.
6. This shows that the statement of those is true, who say that there were two persons in Asia that bore the same name, and that there were two tombs in Ephesus, each of which, even to the present day, is called John’s. It is important to notice this. For it is probable that it was the second, if one is not willing to admit that it was the first that saw the Revelation, which is ascribed by name to John.
7. And Papias, of whom we are now speaking, confesses that he received the words of the apostles from those that followed them, but says that he was himself a hearer of Aristion and the presbyter John. At least he mentions them frequently by name, and gives their traditions in his writings. These things we hope, have not been uselessly adduced by us.
8. But it is fitting to subjoin to the words of Papias which have been quoted, other passages from his works in which he relates some other wonderful events which he claims to have received from tradition.
9. That Philip the apostle dwelt at Hierapolis with his daughters has been already stated. But it must be noted here that Papias, their contemporary, says that he heard a wonderful tale from the daughters of Philip. For he relates that in his time one rose from the dead. And he tells another wonderful story of Justus, surnamed Barsabbas: that he drank a deadly poison, and yet, by the grace of the Lord, suffered no harm.
10. The Book of Acts records that the holy apostles after the ascension of the Saviour, put forward this Justus, together with Matthias, and prayed that one might be chosen in place of the traitor Judas, to fill up their number. The account is as follows: “And they put forward two, Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias; and they prayed and said.”
11. The same writer gives also other accounts which he says came to him through unwritten tradition, certain strange parables and teachings of the Saviour, and some other more mythical things.
12. To these belong his statement that there will be a period of some thousand years after the resurrection of the dead, and that the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this very earth. I suppose he got these ideas through a misunderstanding of the apostolic accounts, not perceiving that the things said by them were spoken mystically in figures.
13. For he appears to have been of very limited understanding, as one can see from his discourses. But it was due to him that so many of the Church Fathers after him adopted a like opinion, urging in their own support the antiquity of the man; as for instance Irenæus and any one else that may have proclaimed similar views.
14. Papias gives also in his own work other accounts of the words of the Lord on the authority of Aristion who was mentioned above, and traditions as handed down by the presbyter John; to which we refer those who are fond of learning. But now we must add to the words of his which we have already quoted the tradition which he gives in regard to Mark, the author of the Gospel.
15. “This also the presbyter said: Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord’s discourses, so that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.” These things are related by Papias concerning Mark.
16. But concerning Matthew he writes as follows: “So then Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and every one interpreted them as he was able.” And the same writer uses testimonies from the first Epistle of John and from that of Peter likewise. And he relates another story of a woman, who was accused of many sins before the Lord, which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. These things we have thought it necessary to observe in addition to what has been already stated.
Specifically Eusebius quotes Papias as saying,
But I shall not hesitate also to put down for you along with my interpretations whatsoever things I have at any time learned carefully from the elders and carefully remembered, guaranteeing their truth. For I did not, like the multitude, take pleasure in those that speak much, but in those that teach the truth; not in those that relate strange commandments, but in those that deliver the commandments given by the Lord to faith, and springing from the truth itself. If, then, any one came, who had been a follower of the elders, I questioned him in regard to the words of the elders,—what Andrew or what Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the disciples of the Lord, and what things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I did not think that what was to be gotten from the books would profit me as much as what came from the living and abiding voice.
Eusebius then states that Papius is referring to two distinct Johns—the disciple (Apostle) John and John the Presbyter (Elder). Gundry argues otherwise in The Old is Better: New Testament Essays in Support of Traditional Interpretations. Gundry translates the relevant passage thus,
And by way of guaranteeing their truth to you [sg.] I will not hesitate to concatenate for the Expositions [of the Lord's Oracles] both as many things as I once learned well from the elders and [as many things as] I remembered [or 'noted down'] well. For I was not delighting in those who were saying many things, as the majority [of people were delighting in them]. Rather, [I was delighting in] those who were teaching the truth. Nor [was I delighting in] those [who were remembering] the commandments given to the faith by the Lord and deriving from the truth itself. And if somewhere anyone who had followed the elders happened to come, I was examining the words of the elders, what Andrew or what Peter had said, or what Philip or what Thomas or James or what John or Matthew or any other one of the Lord's disciples [had said], and what things Aristion and the elder John, the Lord's disciples, are saying [with reference to the time when Papias was examining these reports]. For I was not assuming that the things from books would benefit me so much as the things from a living and surviving voice.
Another modern translation,
But I will not shrink back [from telling] you even as many things as I have already well learned from the elders—and [as many things as] I have ably remembered to arrange systematically by interpretation, while [at the same time] confirming the truth concerning them. For I was not pleased with those who say many things (even though such is popular with the masses), but with those who teach the truth. Nor was I pleased with those who remember the other commandments, but [only] with those who [remember the commandments] from the Lord which have been given in faith and which come from it in truth. But if somewhere someone would come who has heeded the elders, [let it be known that] I [too] have often examined the words of the elders—[namely,] what Andrew or Peter or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples had said, even what Aristion and the elder John, the Lord’s disciples, were presently saying. For I did not entertain [the idea that] the words from books would benefit me nearly as much as those from a living and abiding voice.
Now the existence of a second John does not imply that the Apostle John did not write Revelation (if we only consider Papias' words). However if these two references to John are the same John then we do not have another John who could have written Revelation. That is, two Johns is not evidence against a single author for the Gospel and Revelation (and the letters) but one John is evidence for it.

A reason to consider that there is only one John is that Papias is talking about different times.

Papias calls the following elders [presbuteron]:
  • Andrew
  • Peter
  • Philip
  • Thomas
  • James
  • John
  • Matthew
and adds "or [what] any other of the Lord’s disciples had said. Note he is referring to them as disciples as he contrasts them with other disciples. He is also specifying previous words of theirs.

Next Papias specifies these two as the Lord's disciples
  • Aristion
  • the elder John, 
and refers to what they "are saying." We do not otherwise know who Aristion was. The Johns mentioned are both called disciple and elder. But Papias is discussing how he was interested in examining the words of what the former group had said in times past and examining the words of what the latter group were saying currently. It is possible that at the time Papias was examining such words, many of the former group had died. Yet the Apostle John was likely still living. In fact Eusebius mentions that Papias had handed down traditions of Aristion and the Elder John which may imply Papias had heard these two directly. Elsewhere Eusebius says that Papias was a disciple of John. From Jerome's translation of Eusebius' Chronicles,
Bishop Irenaeus writes that John the Apostle survived all the way to the time of Trajan: after whom his notable disciples were Papias, Bishop of Hieropolis, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Ignatius of Antioch. (Chronicles)
If Papias had heard them directly this explains why their current sayings are distinguished from the earlier sayings of the disciples. Irenaeus also documents that Papias has heard directly from John.
Now testimony is borne to these things in writing by Papias, an ancient man, who was a hearer of John, and a friend of Polycarp, in the fourth of his books; for five books were composed by him. (Against Heresies 5:33)
Others also claim that Papias heard John. Jerome writes,
Papias, the pupil of John, bishop of Hierapolis in Asia, wrote only five volumes,... (Illustrious Men)
If John was still alive at the time of Papias, and moreover if Papias had listened to John in person, then it seems reasonable, even likely, that he is referring to John the apostle in this passage: both mentions of John refer to the same man.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Monday quote

The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre has observed that there is now so little common ground shared by the various schools of thought that rational ethical debate has been reduced to exclamatory cheering sections that, faced with an ethical proposition, erupt into “Hurrah!” or “Boo!”

Professors in countless classrooms in many different disciplines report that students have already been well taught that, when they are faced with any moral proposition, the proper response is, “That’s just your opinion.” They are resistant, then, to resolving disagreements by reasoned arguments. They aver, “You choose your good, and I’ll choose mine.” Reasoned debate is replaced by naked will. I choose. Don’t ask me to give reasons—I just choose.

Michael Novak

Monday, 28 May 2018

Monday quote

Envy is always at the bottom of every discontent.

Douglas Wilson.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Monday quote

Political Correctness is not merely false, it is moonbat-barkingly, outrageously, openly, in-your-face false.

John C. Wright.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Monday quote

The question isn’t “If God is perfectly loving, why would he allow all those people to die?”. Rather, we should marvel at the amazing love of God to save anyone, especially when the price was the death of the Son of God.
Lita Cosner.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Monday quote

Thankfulness is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.

Michael Ramsey

Monday, 30 April 2018

Monday quote

If our rationality and morality do not come from God they come from chance permutations of some basic stuff or from the working of mindless forces. In either case, they have no validity.

R.L. Purtill

Monday, 23 April 2018

Monday quote

If we believe in the Bible’s authority, then shifts in public opinion should not matter. The Christian faith will always be offensive to every culture at some points.

Tim Keller.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Monday quote

You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

Rick Warren

Sunday, 15 April 2018

The infinities of God

It is common to say that God is infinite or that his attributes are infinite. He has infinite knowledge and infinite strength.

The problem with this is that actual as opposed to ideal infinities do not exist in the material. It is not apparent to us that infinities can actual exist in God.

There are also things God cannot do by virtue of them being illogical, against his nature, or definitionally irrelevant to God.

It seems preferable to say that God has no limits, which does not seem to mean the same as God is infinite (other than metaphorically).

For example, there may not be a limit on the size of the universe (assuming no logical problems with this) God could choose to create, at the same time it also be impossible for God to make an infinite universe.


Monday, 9 April 2018

Monday quote

God is supremely rational, and the human being is also rational, being created in the image and likeness of God. Hence religion, which is the expression of the deep relationship between God and humankind, cannot be but rational.

Johannes Kepler

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Did the Hebrew day begin in the morning or evening?

Modern Jews start a new day at sunset. It is thought that this calendar convention also existed at the time of Jesus although there may have been more than one calendar at that time with different sects giving preference to one over another.

Genesis 1 describes the completion of each day's creative acts by God with the words: there was evening and there was morning, the nth day. Some commentators have argued that the day began at evening and Genesis is saying that the beginning of the day is at evening, then morning occurred, and the day therefore ended at the next evening. This sounds strained. Evening and morning occur after the creative act. It seems more logical to read the verses as saying that the creative acts occurred during the daylight followed by evening after the creative acts have finished* followed by night followed by the next morning which is the terminus of the day.
And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. (Gen 1:20-23)
The day begins at dawn, then God creates the fish and birds, then the evening comes, and then the day completes with a new morning.

I suspect that this was the case at creation and was still in place at the time of the Exodus. That is, the Hebrew day started at dawn and finished the following dawn. A transition to a calendar where the day commences at dusk occurred sometime later: prior to the current era, possibly before the time of Jesus; perhaps around the time of the Exile to Babylon. There is evidence of a different possible calendar change at the time of the Exile: the year start switched from the first month (Nisan) to the seventh month (Tishri).

If the day started at dawn, at least from the time of creation to the exodus, there could be evidence of this in Scripture.

I would argue that the instructions concerning Passover and Unleavened Bread make the most sense if the day commenced at dawn. I will call a day commencing at dawn a dawn-day. That is, at dawn when the sun comes up a new day begins. Likewise dusk-days commence in the evening.

English Bibles often use the term "twilight" whereas the literal text uses the phrase "between the evenings". There is considerable debate about what this phrase means. It may be that the first evening occurs when the sun goes down and the second evening when it gets dark. Or from sundown to midnight. Or from noon until sundown. Perhaps even between noon and midnight. For the passages we will discuss the interpretation does not significantly affect our calculations.

There are three instructions concerning the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. These occur in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. These instructions were all given during the same epoch which means that the time the day began was almost certainly the same for all three episodes. This is unless Exodus uses an Egyptian calendar which changed after the Hebrews left Egypt.

God gave Moses instructions for the Passover,
Yahweh said to Moses and to Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month [Abib, Nisan] will be the beginning of months; it will be for you the first of the months of the year. Speak to all the community of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month, they will each take for themselves a lamb for the family,...

“You will keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and all the assembly of the community of Israel will slaughter it between the evenings... And they will eat the meat on this night;...

“And I will go through the land of Egypt during this night, and I will strike all of the firstborn in the land of Egypt,...

“And this day will become a memorial for you, and you will celebrate it as a religious feast for Yahweh throughout your generations; you will celebrate it as a lasting statute. You will eat unleavened bread for seven days. Surely on the first day you shall remove yeast from your houses, because anyone who eats food with yeast from the first day until the seventh day—that person will be cut off from Israel. It will be for you on the first day a holy assembly and on the seventh day a holy assembly; no work will be done on them; only what is eaten by every person, it alone will be prepared for you.

“And you will keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because on this very day I brought out your divisions from the land of Egypt, and you will keep this day for your generations as a lasting statute. On the first day, on the fourteenth day of the month, in the evening, you will eat unleavened bread until the evening of the twenty-first day of the month. For seven days yeast must not be found in your houses, because anyone eating food with yeast will be cut off from the community of Israel—whether an alien or a native of the land. You will eat no food with yeast; in all of your dwellings you will eat unleavened bread.” (Exo 12)
Passover was on the fourteenth day of Nisan. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was for seven days. They were to start eating the unleavened bread on the evening of Nisan 14 and continue until the evening of Nisan 21.

In Leviticus God gives further instructions,
These are Yahweh’s appointed times, holy assemblies, which you shall proclaim at their appointed time. In the first month, on the fourteenth of the month at the evening is Yahweh’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of this month is Yahweh’s Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day there shall be a holy assembly for you; you shall not do any regular work. And you shall present an offering for Yahweh made by fire for seven days; on the seventh day there shall be a holy assembly; you shall not do any regular work. (Lev 23:4-8)
This reiterates the command in Exodus but clarifies that Passover is on Nisan 14 and the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on Nisan 15. Exodus states that unleavened bread is to be eaten from Nisan 14, that is from Passover proper; yet they are to eat it for 7 days. Leviticus states that the Feast of Unleavened Bread proper starts on Nisan 15.

Again, in Numbers, at the end of 40 years of wandering, God commands,
On the fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover for Yahweh. On the fifteenth day of this month is a religious feast, unleavened bread must be eaten for seven days. On the first day there will be a holy assembly you will not do any regular work.... On the seventh day you will have a holy assembly you will not do any regular work. (Num 28:16-18,25)
These passages give similar commands. What is notable is that while all three give 7 days as the duration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Exodus specifies that this is to be from the evening of Nisan 14 to the evening of Nisan 21. There is also to be a holy assembly on the first and seventh days of Unleavened Bread.

Using dawn-days we have Nisan 14 starting in the morning and the passover lamb being killed between the evenings (ʿereb) and eaten that night (layil). Unleavened bread would be eaten that evening with the Passover meal (Exo 12:8,18). The following morning starts the next day: Nisan 15. Nisan 15 is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread when they have a holy assembly with the attendant sacrifices. Nisan 16 is day 2 of the feast, Nisan 21 is day 7. There is a holy assembly that day also. In the evening the feast ends and unleavened bread only needs to be eaten until that evening (Exo 12:18).

DateTimeFeast dayComments
Nisan 14morning


eveningPassover sacrificeunleavened bread begins
Nisan 15morningFeast Day 1holy assembly

evening

Nisan 16morningFeast Day 2

evening

Nisan 17morningFeast Day 3

evening

Nisan 18morningFeast Day 4

evening

Nisan 19morningFeast Day 5

evening

Nisan 20morningFeast Day 6

evening

Nisan 21morningFeast Day 7holy assembly

evening
unleavened bread ends
Nisan 22morning


Using dusk-days the entire feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread must last 8 days. Nisan 13 changes to Nisan 14 at dusk. The lamb is slaughtered and eaten that night along with unleavened bread. In the morning it is still Nisan 14 which is still Passover day. The Feast of Unleavened Bread does not start until that evening Nisan 15 (Lev 23:6). The holy assembly occurs that day but not until the following morning because they were not to work and the sacrifice of the first day of Unleavened Bread occurs at the same time as the morning sacrifice (Num 28:23).

Nisan 15 is the first day of the feast and Nisan 21 the seventh day. Nisan 21 starts in the evening but the evening of Nisan 21 is also when the the consumption of unleavened bread ceased. From the evening of Nisan 21 the Israelites were no longer required to eat unleavened bread even though the Feast of Unleavened Bread still had one day to go. The following morning they had the holy assembly on the final day of the feast. If unleavened bread was to be continued to be eaten until the end of Nisan 21, just before Nisan 22 started, then the command to eat for seven full days (Exo 12:19) is actually eight full days. 

DateTimeFeast dayComments
Nisan 14 evening Passover sacrifice unleavened bread begins

morning

Nisan 15 evening Feast Day 1

morning
holy assembly
Nisan 16 evening Feast Day 2

morning

Nisan 17 evening Feast Day 3

morning

Nisan 18 evening Feast Day 4

morning

Nisan 19 evening Feast Day 5

morning

Nisan 20 evening Feast Day 6

morning

Nisan 21 evening Feast Day 7 unleavened bread ends

morning
holy assembly
Nisan 22 evening


All three passages concerning Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread make sense if the Israelites were using dawn-days. Dusk-days imply that there is a morning after Passover begins prior to the holy assembly, and that the second holy assembly occurs after the time of unleavened bread ceases.


*This may not be the case on day 2.

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