Sunday, 30 June 2013

Gospels are authentic

Judge Clarrie Briese offers several reasons to think the gospels are authentic. He gives evidence based on
  1. Honesty;
  2. Ability;
  3. Number of witnesses;
  4. Human experience; and
  5. Coincidence of witnesses.
Under ability he argues,
One criticism levelled against these witnesses is that they testified from a position of bias, that being ardent disciples of Jesus their testimony must be greatly affected by that bias and colour everything they wrote about Him. There is the suggestion that this would have resulted in exaggeration and distortion of the facts. On the face of it I suppose that sounds plausible. However, when you read their writings, you do not encounter the language of fanaticism, the language of prejudice, or language normally associated with a lack of objectivity.

Another example: The Gospel writers include in their accounts some of their own stupid actions and mistakes, even recording that Jesus called their leader ‘Satan’. Calculating, subjective and prejudiced men do not operate in this fashion.

Experience teaches us that where a witness divulges material or facts which belittles the witness and puts him or her under criticism or in a bad light, and that material could have remained hidden but for the witness volunteering it, you can be pretty sure that such a person is telling the truth. Men and women do not invent stories to their own discredit. So why would the Gospel writers include incidents which showed up their past weaknesses, mistakes and stupidities? And why would they assert that women were the first witnesses to the Resurrection, when that society regarded women’s testimony as worthless, unless women really were the first witnesses?

They also included difficult sayings of Jesus which could be misinterpreted and place Jesus in a bad light. For example, we think of His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane where He shrinks from the thought of death and again His cry of God-forsakenness on the cross. Men who wrote with a lack of objectivity, for example with the agenda to present Jesus in the most heroic light, would be sorely tempted to omit that view of Him. That the authors of the Gospel did not is a tribute to their honesty, to their obvious desire to be accurate in the facts about Jesus.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Monday quote

Secular ideologies preach liberty, but they practice tyranny.

Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Monday quote

To demand a scientific explanation is to make a philosophical claim that the issue in question can only be rightly understood in terms of material particles interacting according to the laws of physics.

Richard Barnes, The Dawkins Proof, p.120.

Friday, 14 June 2013

High priests during the final two centuries

The last high priests of Zadok's line (2 Samuel 8:17) were about the time of Onias. He was deposed by Antiochus then subsequently murdered. Some time after this the high priests came from the Hasmonaean family. Events around the creation of this dynasty are documented in the books of Maccabees.

The high priests during the final 2 centuries from the time of the Maccabees were as follows (dates approximate).

High priestYear
Judas Maccabeus
Jonathan Maccabeus 153-143 BC
Simon Maccabeus142-134 BC
Hyrcanus 134-104 BC
Judas Aristobulus104-103 BC
Alexander Jannaeus103-76 BC
Hyrcanus 76-67 BC
Aristobulus 66-63 BC
Hyrcanus (restored)63-40 BC
Antigonus40-37 BC
Hananel 37-36 BC
Aristobulus 36 BC
Hananel (restored)36-30 BC
Jeshua ben Phiabi 30-23 BC
Simon ben Boethus23-3 BC
Matthias ben Theophilus3-2 BC
Joazar ben Boethus2 BC
Eleazar ben Boethus2-1 BC
Joshua ben Sie1 BC - ? AD
Joazar ben Boethus (restored)? AD - 6 AD
Annas ben Seth6-15 AD
Ishmael ben Phiabi15-16 AD
Eleazar ben Annas16-17 AD
Simon ben Camithus17-18 AD
Joseph Caiaphas18-36 AD
Jonathan ben Annas36-37 AD
Theophilus ben Annas37-41 AD
Simon Cantatheras ben Boethus41 AD
Matthias ben Annas41-44 AD
Elioenai ben Simon Cantatheras44 AD
Jonathan ben Annas (restored)44 AD
Joseph ben Camydus [?ben Cantos]44-47 AD
Ananias ben Nebedeus47-58 AD
Ishmael ben Phiabi58-62 AD
Joseph Cabi ben Simon62-63 AD
Annas ben Annas63 AD
Joshua ben Damneus63 AD
Joshua ben Gamaliel63-65 AD
Matthias ben Theophilus65-67 AD
Phinehas ben Samuel67-70 AD

There is debate over whether Judas was ever high priest; Josephus states that he was.  After Judas were his 2 brothers Jonathan and Simon, then Simon's son Hyrcanus. Hyrcanus had 2 sons who were high priests. Aristobulus was king of Judea as well as the high priest. Aristobulus married Salome Alexandra. After Aristobulus' death his brother Alexander Jannaeus also became king and high priest. He married Salome according to the policy of levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). Salome Alexandra reigned as queen regent from Alexander's death in 76 BC and she made her son Hyrcanus (II) high priest from that time. There was rivalry between Hyrcanus and his brother Aristobulus (II) after Salome died in 67 BC. Aristobulus become both king and high priest for 3 years. He was deposed and sent to Rome by Pompey when the Romans occupied Judea in 63 BC. The high priesthood was restored to Hyrcanus but not the kingship, and Julius Caesar confirmed Hyrcanus as high priest in 47 BC. The Parthians invaded Judea c. 40 BC and removed Hyrcanus appointing Aristobulus' son Antigonus as high priest and king. Hyrcanus' ears were mutilated to prevent him ever being high priest again (Leviticus 21:16-23). Antigonus remained king and high priest until Herod retook Judea for Rome c. 37 BC after which Antigonus was executed.

Herod (Matthew 2:1) was an Edomite and governor of Galilee who had fled to Rome when Antigonus became king. He was appointed King of the Jews by Rome and returned to Judea to conquer Jerusalem and claim his kingship. As well as putting Antigonus to death, he put away his wife Doris and married Mariamme. Mariamme was daughter of Alexander and Alexandra who were cousins thru their fathers. Alexander was son of Aristobulus (II) son of Alexander Jannaeus. Alexandra was the daughter of Hyrcanus (II) son of Alexander Jannaeus. Herod appointed Hananel high priest which upset Mariamme's mother Alexandra. Alexandra claimed that as her father Hyrcanus was no longer eligible to be high priest because of his mutilated ears, her son (and Mariamme's brother) Aristobulus (III) should become high priest. Herod removed Hananel and gave the position to Aristobulus who was only 17 at the time. He was drowned within a year, possibly at the order of Herod.

Mariamme was convicted and executed in 29 BC for the charge of conspiring to murder Herod. Hananel the high priest was succeeded by Jeshua ben Phiabi about this time. Some time later Herod wished to marry a different Mariamme who was reportedly extremely beautiful. She was a peasant so Herod removed Jeshua from his position and had Mariamme's father Simon ben Boethus made high priest c. 23 BC; alternatively, Herod may have made Boethus high priest who was followed later by Simon. Herod's son Antipater, by his first wife Doris, was charged with conspiring to murder Herod for which he was subsequently executed, though after Herod's death. Mariamme was accused of concealing aspects of the plot which she had become privy to; Herod divorced her and removed her father Simon from his post. Matthias, Simon's replacement, was removed shortly after this for his suspected involvement in removing the golden eagle Herod had placed over a temple gate. Herod's last appointment was Joazar from the family of Boethus.

After Herod's death his kingdom was divided between his sons. Herod's son by Malthace, Herod Archelaus (Matthew 2:22), was tetrarch over Judea and took over the appointment of high priests. Joazar was replaced by his brother Eleazar shortly after Archelaus began ruling because Joazar agitated against Archelaus while he was receiving his ethnarchy in Rome. Eliezer was succeeded by Joshua ben Sie (or See). Joazar returned to the high priesthood replacing Joshua prior to 6 AD.

Quirinius replaced Joazar with Annas ben Seth. Joazar was from the family of Boethus who were Sadducees. Boethus had several descendants who were high priests. Annas also had several immediate descendants who were made high priests. Annas was removed by Valerius Gratus for decreeing capital punishment despite the proscription by Rome. Annas was replaced by Ishmael ben Phiabi who was replaced shortly after by Annas' son Eleazar. Annas had 5 sons who became high priests: Eleazar (16-17), Jonathan (36-37, 44), Theophilus (37-41), Matthias (42-43), and Annas (61-62). His daughter was married to Caiaphas (18-36) making Caiaphas Annas' son in law (John 18:13). Theophilus had a son Matthias (65-68), Annas' grandson, who was also a high priest. There is some indication that the high priesthood should be lifelong. Although Annas was deposed in 15 AD it seems he continued to hold significant power; at least during the office of Caiaphas (Luke 3:2; John 18:13-14, 24; Acts 4:6).

Valerius Gratus made Caiaphas (Luke 3:2) high priest in 18 AD. Valerius was replaced as procurator by Pontius Pilate (Luke 3:1) in 26 AD. In 36 AD Vitellius removed both Pilate and Caiaphas from their posts. He made Jonathan high priest then his brother Theophilus within a year. Herod Agrippa then appointed high priests while he was king, Simon of the house of Boethius, then Theophilus' brother Matthias, then Simon's son Elioenai. After Agrippa died his brother Herod appointed the high priests even though he ruled Chalcis and not Judaea. First Joseph then Ananias before whom Paul appeared (Acts 23:2). After Herod's death Agrippa (II) appointed the high priests until the destruction of Jerusalem. The first high priest appointed was Ishmael, the last high priest to ever sacrifice a red heifer to make ashes for cleansing (Numbers 19). Followed by Joseph Cabi, then Annas (II) the last son of Annas to be high priest. Then Joshua ben Damneus, then Joshua ben Gamaliel, then Matthias who was son of Theophilus and grandson of Annas. The last high priest was Phinehas ben Samuel. He presided during the Jewish war and was killed during the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Monday quote

In the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy.

Portia, The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

A brief outline of climate thru the ages. Part 2

What follows is my current scenario. An outline of how I think the situation has panned out over the millennia. This is based on reasoning from the biblical descriptions and scientific observations I have read. These are not my ideas nor do I offer anything original, it is what I think most likely.

The land was predominantly a single continent at creation. There may have been massive lakes, significant water courses, the presence of fixed and floating islands. Various ecosystems existed based on location such as latitude, altitude and proximity to the coast. Mountains (if they existed) would not have been nearly as high as they are currently. I do not think there was rain before the Fall and I think a strong case can be made for the lack of rain before the Flood.

The Flood brought massive geological change. The continents as they now appear are a result of breaking up either during the Flood or some time following. Sedimentary rocks and fossils they contain are diluvian phenomena. Mountain ranges are a result of this break up and they are much higher than previous ranges.

The release of water from the fountains of the deep was likely associated with significant heat and thus the waters would have been comparatively warmer. This would have led to significant evaporation. Water would have been released from the air in the form of rain and snow, but especially in areas where the air was significantly cooler (as it can hold less water), that is, at the poles where there was less sunlight warming, especially during the respective winters. Massive snow falls over the years would have led to accumulating ice, and cooler poles which may have intensified precipitation of water previously evaporated from the warmer equatorial seas. This process would have slowed as the equatorial seas cooled. The beginning of the ice-age would not be immediately following the Flood as time was needed for animals to migrate and populate various regions. That these animals were trapped in ice in such enormous numbers suggests a reasonably quick progression of the ice-age during at least part of its expansion.

Some current estimates of the ice-age have it commencing within a few centuries of the Flood and reaching a peak over ~2 centuries with an initial melt-back to near current levels over ~5 centuries*.

The initial postdiluvian climate was not in a state of equilibrium. The process of the waters cooling led to the ice-age. It is uncertain whether significant polar ice-caps would have formed had the water not been warm. Polar ice-caps are now present (due to the ice-age) and it is not certain whether they represent a potential equilibrium, or whether they will disappear over time. In other words, given our current global landscape, solar irradiation, and other climatic inputs, the earth may have more than one equilibrium state depending on initial conditions: with or without polar icecaps.

The decline of the ice-age represents an approach to equilibrium. Warm periods in recent centuries, compared to current, suggest we are probably at or close to equilibrium. If we are at equilibrium then there will be variations based on significant external inputs such as solar activity. If we are approaching equilibrium then a (damped) decay curve may model the climate. Either way, the current climate (with its variation) is probably typical.

*Due to difficulties estimating variables for mathematical modelling, and establishing the models, I think that documentary evidence will be helpful in delineating this timeframe.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A brief outline of climate thru the ages. Part 1

Having a right view of biblical history should affect one's thinking in many areas. When we consider climate there are several scriptural and historical data to take into account: the state at creation, the effect of the Fall, the massive changes occurring at the Flood, and reasonable inferences concerning the epochs following, such as the ice age and medieval warm period.

Climate would be affected by the state of creation such as
  • The presence or absence of ice at the poles (including land at the poles)
  • The distribution of land including the possibility of a single land mass (Gen 1:9)
  • The presence, distribution and height of mountains
  • The initial temperature and global variation of temperature
  • Atmospheric conditions favouring cloud formation
  • Atmospheric gas concentration (possibly including carbon dioxide levels)
In Eden there was no rain initially,
When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—(Gen 2:5-6). 
There is debate over whether the word 'ed (אד) means mist or spring (see also Job 36:27). Either way, there was no rain at this time. Rain could have first appeared,
  • After creation but before the Fall
  • After the Fall but before the Flood
  • At the time of the Flood
A possibility may be that the world had a more even temperature with a high water vapour content. Minor cooling (including overnight) would lead to mist and dew formation. If rain occurred shortly following creation or after the Fall (which shortly followed creation) it may have been predominantly warm showers.

The time of the Flood led to a massive outpouring of rain and volcanic-like release of water over 40 days leading to massive global flooding for several months followed by drainage of the land. This is the cause of most of the sedimentary rock that is present across most of the earth.

Antarctica sans ice (Wikipedia).
The ice-age logically is a postdiluvian phenomenon. The Flood markedly altered antediluvian geology and would have destroyed evidence of prior ice-ages. There is documentary evidence for the ice-age as well as geographic features that suggest a much greater extent of current glaciers: glacial valleys, fiords, lower sea levels. The presence of frozen animals suggests that the initial stages of the ice-age were comparatively rapid. The lesser extent of ice in the present day shows the regression of the previous ice-age and (probably) an increasingly warmer global climate.

The medieval warm period followed by cooler periods suggests that the climate has either stabilised since the end of the ice-age with natural variation (predominantly solar), or possibly that we are still warming post-ice-age in a damped oscillating pattern.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Freedom to do what we ought

The May issue of Cato Unbound presents 4 essays on the relationship between conservatism and libertarianism. Aside from the terrible name fusionism, the essays are an important read.

They all bring out different and important (though not necessarily correct) points. The latter essays include responses to earlier essays so are preferably read in order, but if you only have time to read one then read Ballor's. He grasps and explains the fundamental divide. Libertarians want liberty, but often for different reasons
What these differing conceptions of liberty amount to, in my view, is this: one views liberty, particularly political liberty, as an important and yet limited good, while the other views liberty as an end in itself, in fact the highest end of human life itself. The former view of political liberty is primarily that it is an instrumental good that is a necessary condition for the realization of even greater goods in other spheres, like the family, the church, voluntary associations, markets, and so on. The latter view holds liberty in the political realm to be, in some significant sense, the highest expression of human good and a codification of the freedom of choice as a good as such. To put it bluntly, one views liberty as the freedom to do what we ought, while the other views liberty as the freedom to do what we want.
I would add that limitation of the state is an important component of government in a fallen world. It limits the evil of evil men. The Kingdom of God ruled over by Jesus could be quite expansive without the destructive effects that man's imitation of this kingdom causes. That said, love constrains us in the Kingdom of God which suggests that servants of the Lord are given much liberty, liberty to love as they ought.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Monday quote

When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth.

George Bernard Shaw


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