On Biblical Standards and Natural Understanding

The Bible is a volume of writings which were hand selected (and in some cases hand edited) by the early Roman Church in the 4th century CE, and subsequently deemed as the exclusive and sacred word of God. About a thousand years later, these same writings were divided and organized into chapters, verses, and into a two fold division of an “Old” and a “New” Testament. The earlier major section of these writings reflects the personal, social, and religious values of a relatively isolated, desert people of an era of some two millenniums past; whereas the latter section reflects the ethical values of the Greco-Roman era of a slightly later time. The latter section likewise seems to serve as the subtext for a 2nd CE struggle between two general factions of the then recently conceived religious movement known as Christianity.

Each of the two major sections of the Bible center upon creative tales and embellished claims of the development of a select chosen people of God into an influential and powerful collective. In the first major section, that collective was visualized as the great and powerful nation of Israel. In the latter section, the collective so visualized was the institutional Church. There is a sense of validity to the existence of the respective collectives themselves, though in each case the chronology of the claimed circumstances are debatable, and the actual extent of influence and affluence are seemingly overstated, that is if taken literally.

The writings of the former major section are primarily composed of ancient Hebrew mythology, poetry, preaching, and the biased, fanciful tales of the over exaggerated national empire heretofore mentioned. The humble state of the allegedly once significant people is attributed to sin and faithlessness of the people themselves.

Meanwhile, the latter major section (evidently written primarily in the 2nd century CE) opens with the narrative of a wildly popular itinerant preacher who captured the interest and following of the local peasants, who conversely drew the ire of the religious establishment of the day, and who eventually was executed as a blasphemer. This young cleric’s claims of an impending apocalyptic crisis, coupled with the conclusion to the narrative being an empty grave and a claim that he was resurrected, lead to ever evolving claims of immortality, ascension, and even deity.

Although the content of the biblical narratives are primarily mythical tales, nonetheless there is no denying their worldwide influence even to this day. The first major section of the Bible is the forerunner for and serves as the foundation of the three major global monotheistic religions; namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The latter major section though is primarily the domain of the numerous sects of the Christian religion. In this respect, the influence of these texts in a variety of cultures simply cannot be overstated or underestimated.

Perhaps the most profound such influences have been realized in the realm of social relations. The adaptation of ancient thinking and harsh standards to modern societies has involved a predictable share of problems and unfavorable influence. Unfortunately, a number of unseemly social and systemic issues which plague contemporary cultures have precedent in and therefore may be founded upon biblical ideology.

Such include:

Patriarchy, Sexism, and Misogyny.
State sanctioned murder (aka Death Penalty, Capital Punishment)
Theocratic justifiable murder
Infanticide
Genocide
Religious Bigotry
Institutional Slavery/Exploitation of Labor
Sex Slavery
Militarism
Imperialism
Colonialism
Homophobia
Xenophobia

This list is not necessarily totally exclusive, and by all means some the of cited issues may overlap with each other. For example, the Old Testament authorized (even commanded) that non virgin newlywed wives should be executed for crimes against Israel. Such would constitute both Misogyny and Capital Punishment, which are each social issues to themselves, but in this case, they clearly overlap. There are several other such instances, but this example suffices for the moment.

The presumption then that biblical writings are of a sacred nature unfortunately can leave the false impression that the thinking of the people and the way of life of those depicted in biblical literature are somehow just and correct simply as a matter of record. And so to many people, mere biblical statements and examples are their basis to justify debatable social practices. And so, one might quote “an eye for an eye” to justify Capital Punishment, or “if any will not work, neither let him eat” to justify cutting funding for Food Stamps, with no need for further deliberation or alternative considerations. There is undoubtedly a “the Bible says it, that settles it” mentality among a large demographic of our society, but such is based upon the heretofore mentioned presumption that biblical writings are sacred in and of themselves.

Now, to be certain as to the matter; not all Jews, Muslims, and/or Christians are bigoted, homophobic, or misogynists; and for that demographic of religious monotheists I have the utmost respect. It is not easy for a Christian to take a “live and let live” perspective with regards to the LGBTQ community while they hear homophobic propaganda from their Preachers, nor is it easy for peaceful Muslims to conduct their lives while being slandered for the deeds of extremists Islamists. But the fact remains that the social values of many monotheists; especially here in the Southern region of the US, are based upon the social values of a desert people from an isolated region of over 2,000 years ago.

And thus the conclusion of the matter at hand:

Shall we, as individuals and as collective societies, base our standards upon our own natural understanding of “right and wrong”, or shall we allow our natural senses to be influenced by ancient writings from harsh and somewhat barbaric cultures? Shall we trust our common sense and natural sense of compassion as a moral guide, or shall we trust the harsh standards of a people of antiquity?

I suggest that such queries are not so much a matter of faith or religious ideology, but a much more basic reality of natural existence and common sense.

As for me, I choose to trust my own natural understandings.

But to each their own.

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17 thoughts on “On Biblical Standards and Natural Understanding

  1. It’s worth considering that the metastasis of Secular Humanism through humanity has been accompanied by increasingly horrific destruction and mounting danger not only to civilization, but to all life on this planet. Say what you will about other worldviews, but they are not remotely as destructive as the one you espouse.

  2. Nicely put together. And, yes, I agree. At some point we have to start paying attention to life in THIS world, at a time far removed from Biblical times. We might as well begin emulating the Romans and their multitude of gods and goddesses–who, by the way, the Christians lifted whole cloth and renamed, to help the Roman Emperor feel more comfortable about the new religion. And frankly, that makes perfect sense. Only Christians call them saints.

  3. Research is something uneasy to do with an unbiased mind. Here, there are some clear factual mistakes that can be outlined in this post which seems to me to be a product of invalid research rather than genuine error. For example, this blog articulates the notion of the New Testament being put together in the 4th century AD by the Roman Church, even though the biblical canon had been basically outlined in its entirety by the early second century AD so far as we know from our manuscripts and writings of the early Church Fathers and other early documents. This article also requires that sings such as genocide were founded from the biblical texts, despite the fact that not only is genocide not advocated but even condemned by the Bible, but the fact that genocide, and indeed every other item on the list predates the earliest biblical writing and hence was not founded on any of them.

    Indeed, as I continue, it becomes almost marvel to me to consider that some people truly think the New Testament is sexist when it says things that can only be conceived as the first ever call for absolute equality ever recorded in humanity, explicitly specifically citing equality between men and women as well as a few other specifics;

    Galatians 3:28: There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.

    The first ever recorded notion of equality in all humanity is recorded in the New Testament, and according to its very words, this unifying concept that is the basis of Western civilization was the product of the belief that we are all one in Jesus Christ our God. In other words, it is specifically the belief that we are created in God’s image that established the view of humanity that all are equal, even men and women, slaves and masters, all races, poor and rich, everyone. Secular moral ideology, on the other hand, simply seems to conform to the dominant ideology in the time. During the time of slavery, secularists had no trouble with slavery, and when Christians abolished slavery through their belief in the Bible and the above verse, secularists suddenly conformed. Truly, Christian morality is the foundation of goodness in the world.

    • Scientific Christian,
      I thank you for taking the time to read my post, and I further appreciate your thoughts. A few thoughts of my own in response:

      RE: “Research is something uneasy to do with an unbiased mind.”

      I could not agree more. Actually, a noble and noteworthy quote in my opinion. Words of wisdom with which I wholeheartedly concur.

      RE: “the biblical canon had been basically outlined in its entirety by the early second century AD so far as we know from our manuscripts and writings of the early Church Fathers and other early documents”.

      I think you would have a hard time sustaining this case.

      Actually there are no known complete NT books until the 3rd Century. There is the possibility that the Marcion texts existed before then, but the Church likely disposed of those, hence we will never know for certain.

      Tertullian of course reports that Marcion “discovered” Galatians. Now, based upon the fact that the text of Galatians seems to reflect Marcionite Christology in several places, then I tend to agree with the 19th CE Early Christian Writings Scholar W. C. Van Manen’s theory that Marcion, if not one of his fellow disciples, may have actually written the original Galatians. Consider that: a) God is described as “the Father” in 1.1; b) Jesus’ mission was to “deliver us from this present evil world” 1.4; c) the Law was mediated by “archons”, likely evil archons to the thinking of Marcion, 3.19; d) God sent forth his Son “to redeem them that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as Sons” 4.5. Indeed these texts certainly seem to promote Marcion ideology, and once again; since per Tertullian it was Marcion who “discovered” the letter, then Van Manen’s theory that Marcion wrote Galatians may very well be correct.

      Now, it is admittedly difficult to know just exactly when Marcion showed up in Rome with Galatians under his arm so to speak. However; since the Roman Church allegedly excommunicated Marcion in 144 CE, then perhaps the early 140’s would be a speculative time frame. Either way, since Galatians is regarded as among the earliest New Testament writings, then the theory that “the biblical canon had been basically outlined in its entirety by the early second century AD” seems hardly plausible, pending further evidence to confirm the assertion itself.

      Furthermore, the Church Father Justin, who wrote in the mid 2nd Century CE, seems to have known nothing of Paul, or his epistles. It makes no sense to assume that the Pauline epistles had even been written by the time of Justin, in the light of the fact that as a Christian Apologist he never referenced even one of the Pauline epistles. He was in fact seemingly unaware of even Galatians, which would lend further credibility to the notion that Galatians was Marcion’s private production, or at least was confined to the Marcionite camp at that time. Either way, Justin’s ignorance of the Pauline Epistles seems to further discredit the theory that “the biblical canon had been basically outlined in its entirety by the early second century AD”.

      The Church Father Justin likewise appears to have been ignorant of the Acts of the Apostles. It seems worthy of note that Justin spoke of a Simon who had quite the following among the Samaritans. Justin accuses this Simon of claiming that he himself was the incarnation of God. The description that Justin records sounds much like Simon Magi, who was a recurring character in a variety of early Christian literature of the 3rd Century CE. This Simon likewise was written into Acts 8 as a magician who astonished the people of Samaria, and of whom the Samaritans said that “This man is called the Great Power of God.” (Acts 8.10)

      It then seems odd that Justin never refers to the encounter between Peter and Simon later in Acts 8 where Peter chastised Simon for seeking to purchase the gift of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Acts text claims that Simon had been converted before he attempted to bribe Peter, and consequently he was rebuked by Peter in no uncertain terms. Such would have been an ample opportunity for Justin to have added to his critique of Simon, for whom he clearly held contempt. And as Justin was such a Christian Apologist, the fact that he never mentioned Simon’s conversion seems implausible, unless he was unaware of Acts 8.

      Yet, if Justin in the middle 2nd Century CE was unaware of the conversion and chastisement of Simon by the Apostle Peter, then we can hardly assume that the book of Acts had been written by that time. Thus,the fact that in middle of the 2nd Century CE Justin seemed unaware of the book of Acts, then such seems to further discredit any notion that “the biblical canon had been basically outlined in its entirety by the early second century AD”.

      Then again, consider Theophilus, the Bishop of Antioch throughout the 170’s CE, until his death sometime in the early to mid 180s CE. This Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, never mentioned Jesus in his three part Christian Apology to Autolycus, which was written as late as 180 CE (so noted because in the 3rd Apology he references the death of Marcus Aurelius, which is dated March of 180 CE). The fact that a Church Bishop of a major city as late as 180 CE would have been unaware of an earthly Jesus would seem to indicate that the Gospels, if they were even written by 180 CE, had evidently not been distributed extensively by that time. Regardless, such would seemingly discredit any notion that “the biblical canon had been basically outlined in its entirety by the early second century AD”.

      The Pauline epistles and the book of Acts then being seemingly unknown to a mid 2nd Century CE Christian Apologist such as Justin, and the Gospels being seemingly unknown to a Church Bishop as late as 180 CE, tends then to discredit rather convincingly the theory that “the biblical canon had been basically outlined in its entirety by the early second century AD”.

      RE: “not only is genocide not advocated but even condemned by the Bible”

      Actually, not only is genocide advocate in the Bible, but such was commanded by the Old Testament Creator God himself:

      “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess, and he drives out many nations before you—the Hethites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and powerful than you— 2 and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you and you defeat them, you must completely destroy them.” (Deuteronomy 7.1-2)

      In fact, God’s idea of “smiting” and “utterly destroying” is clearly quite extensive and literal:

      “Samuel told Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you as king over his people Israel. Now, listen to the words of the Lord. This is what the Lord of Armies says: ‘I witnessed what the Amalekites did to the Israelites when they opposed them along the way as they were coming out of Egypt. Now go and attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they have. Do not spare them. Kill men and women, infants and nursing babies, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” (1 Samuel 15.1-3)

      In fact, on this particular occasion, Saul lost favor with God because he did not do enough killing:

      “When Samuel came to him, Saul said, “May the Lord bless you. I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”
      Samuel replied, “Then what is this sound of sheep, goats,[c] and cattle I hear?” Saul answered, “The troops brought them from the Amalekites and spared the best sheep, goats, and cattle in order to offer a sacrifice to the Lord your God, but the rest we destroyed.” (1 Samuel 15.13-15)

      “Samuel continued, “Although you once considered yourself unimportant, have you not become the leader of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel and then sent you on a mission and said: ‘Go and completely destroy the sinful Amalekites. Fight against them until you have annihilated them.’ So why didn’t you obey the Lord?” (1 Samuel 15.17-19)

      “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel 15.23)

      And so as these passages show that Saul was rejected by God from being the king, because Saul rejected his (God’s) word. And what word (message) did Saul caused him to fall out of favor with God?:

      “Now go and attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they have. Do not spare them. Kill men and women, infants and nursing babies, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.” (1 Samuel 15.2-3)

      In other words, because Saul failed to fulfill the genocide of the Amalekites which God commanded, then God in turn rejected Saul from being the king of Israel.

      Then again, note that Moses boasts of leaving no survivors whatsoever when the Israeli Army captured the cities of Sihon:

      “So Sihon and his whole army came out against us for battle at Jahaz. The Lord our God handed him over to us, and we defeated him, his sons, and his whole army. At that time we captured all his cities and completely destroyed the people of every city, including the women and children. We left no survivors.” (Deuteronomy 2.32-34)

      Furthermore, God seems to have been so pleased with how successfully Moses fulfilled his mission of genocide against the cities of Sihon, then he demanded Moses to do so again. Moses dutifully complied, committing genocide against the people of 60 more cities:

      “Then we turned and went up the road to Bashan, and King Og of Bashan came out against us with his whole army to do battle at Edrei. But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not fear him, for I have handed him over to you along with his whole army and his land. Do to him as you did to King Sihon of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon.’ So the Lord our God also handed over King Og of Bashan and his whole army to us. We struck him until there was no survivor left. We captured all his cities at that time. There wasn’t a city that we didn’t take from them: sixty cities, the entire region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan. All these were fortified with high walls, gates, and bars, besides a large number of rural villages. We completely destroyed them, as we had done to King Sihon of Heshbon, destroying the men, women, and children of every city.” (Deuteronomy 3.1-6).

      Then again, further note that genocide was the commanded punishment for any city of Israel who worshipped any god other than the Hebrew Creator God:

      “If you hear it said about one of your cities the Lord your God is giving you to live in, that wicked men have sprung up among you, led the inhabitants of their city astray, and said, ‘Let us go and worship other gods,’ which you have not known, you are to inquire, investigate, and interrogate thoroughly. If the report turns out to be true that this detestable act has been done among you, you must strike down the inhabitants of that city with the sword. Completely destroy everyone in it as well as its livestock with the sword. You are to gather all its spoil in the middle of the city square and completely burn the city and all its spoil for the Lord your God. The city is to remain a mound of ruins forever; it is not to be rebuilt.” (Deuteronomy 13.12-16)

      These several examples of Old Testament literature serve to discredit the theory that “not only is genocide not advocated but even condemned by the Bible”

      RE: “genocide, and indeed every other item on the list predates the earliest biblical writing and hence was not founded on any of them.”

      I could not agree more. I also want to thank you for bringing to my attention that I had some ambiguity with regards to my wording which seems to have left the impression that I am saying that the list of social ills that I itemized had been founded by biblical writing. Such was not my intended meaning, and I have since edited my post accordingly.

      To be clear, I am not saying that the list of social ills that I itemized in this post originated in biblical literature. What I am saying is that any culture which uses the bible as a guide for social relations may incorporate each and every social ill so itemized into their society based upon the precedent and the practice of each such social ill as recorded in biblical literature.

      RE: “Indeed, as I continue, it becomes almost marvel to me to consider that some people truly think the New Testament is sexist”

      I will admit that the sexism of the New Testament is more subtle than is the blatant sexism and misogyny of the Old Testament, yet there are elements of sexism nonetheless that are worthy of consideration for those engaged in New Testament studies:

      (NOTE: My concept of sexism may differ than yours. Nonetheless, I offer the following as examples of sexism in the New Testament, as per my personal perspective)

      “Let the woman learn in silence. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding, she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety” (1 Tim 2.11-15)

      This New Testament passage teaches that women are not to teach men, but to learn in silence, and that they will be saved in childbearing. Reminiscent of that sexist saying “keep ‘em barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen”

      And again, consider this New Testament passage:

      “Let your women keep silence in the assembly, for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also said the Law” (1 Cor 14.34)

      It would seem that both the Law itself and the writer of this passage were mutually sexist.

      Furthermore, consider this New Testament passage:

      “And He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men, for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds” (2 Peter 2.7-8)

      So, this New Testament passage describes Lot as a “righteous” man. Now, this is the same Lot who offered his own flesh and blood daughters to be gangraped, in order to save two male friends who he had just met. There are a number of terms which come to my mind which would describe a man who would offer his own daughters to be gang raped, but “righteous” is certainly not one of those terms. “Sexist” however; is among the most printable of such terms that do come to mind to describe such a man.

      Finally, consider this New Testament passage:

      “But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ.” (1 Cor 11.3)

      This passage clearly teaches patriarchal rule, in that “the man is the head of the woman”. This text simply incorporates the patriarchal rule from the Hebrew Creation Myth of Genesis 3, and serves as a basis for the notion that man has a right rule over the woman. In other words, this is a sexist text which attempts to bind sexist standards on male and female relations.

      These passages serves to confirm the reason that “some people (namely me) truly think the New Testament is sexist”.

      RE: “During the time of slavery, secularists had no trouble with slavery, and when Christians abolished slavery through their belief in the Bible and the above verse, secularists suddenly conformed.”

      With all due respect, this assertion is mere revisionist history. At least as concerns the abolition of slavery here in the USA. As a Son of the South myself, and as a lifelong resident of the Bible Belt, I assure you that the abolition of slavery was not a matter slaves being freed from the clutches of slaveholding secularists by sympathetic Christians. The fact is that most slave owners, as leading Southerners, were church attending, bible believing Christians who believed that God was on their side in the issue. Confederate Generals such as Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jackson most certainly were active church attending Christians, hence the notion that the abolition of slavery was a matter of Christians sparing slaves from the clutches of slave owning secularist is mere revisionist history.

      By the way, the very text that you cited, Galatians 3.28, actually serves to confirm the practice of slavery, and by no means teaches that such is wrong. Other such New Testament passages likewise confirm the practice of slavery, rather than teaching against such:

      “Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as you would Christ.” (Ephesians 6.5)

      “Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.” (Colossians 3.22)

      Finally, RE: “Truly, Christian morality is the foundation of goodness in the world.”

      This statement is preposterous. Goodness is a human quality which dates as far back as humanity itself. There were good people and teachers of the concept of good long before the concept of Christian morality. Greek and Chinese Philosophers who predate the Christian era both wrote regarding and discussed the topic of goodness, oftentimes speculating as to whether human nature is innately good, or whether such was a concept acquired by the experiences of life.

      Indeed, some 500 year before Jesus was alleged to have stated his version of the golden rule of social reciprocity, Confucius is alleged to have said:

      “Do not do unto others what you do not want them to do to you” (Analects 12.2 15.23).

      If one would learn of written material related to goodness in the world which predates the Christian era, I would encourage the study of the Analects of Confucius and The Book of Mencius. Indeed, the very notion that “Christian morality is the foundation of goodness in the world.” is both preposterous and absurd.

      Such concludes my thoughts in response to the comments of Scientific Christian, as posted above.

      Scientific Christian,

      In spite of our philosophical differences, I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on my post. I hope that you accept my counter proposals to your thoughts in the spirit with which they were written.

      I bid you a good day.
      Dave Henderson

      (Note all passages quoted in this response were from the CSB; as per biblegateway.com)

      • Hello Dave. I am very appreciative of your very nice attitude! Indeed, you posted quite a lengthy comment and so my response may be very long as well. I don’t know if you already knew I prefer using the CSB, but I do indeed use the CSB and am happy to see you’re also using it in this discussion. So, let’s discuss.

        ___________________________________________
        The compilation of the New Testament. It appears as if you’re following the theory of the 19th century Irish radicals, that the Pauline letters (or at least Galatians) is a later construct and the Gospels are also second century, etc. Indeed, you seem to think that the entire New Testament was written about 150 AD and after.

        Firstly, let’s note the scholarly opinion. There is not one living Pauline scholar in the world who thinks Paul didn’t write Galatians. There isn’t one Pauline scholar in the world who thinks Marcion wrote Galatians. Every single opinion you put forth on the dating of the Gospels and Pauline letters is not even shared by the most radical modern revionists in the academy, whether they’re Christian, Atheist, Agnostic, Jewish, etc — I’m interested in hearing what you know that they don’t.

        “Tertullian of course reports that Marcion “discovered” Galatians.”

        I have absolutely no clue where you got this concept from — where does Tertullian say Marcion ‘discovered’ Galatians? Until you produce a quotation from Tertullian’s work that says this, I simply cannot take it into account, especially since I’ve never heard of this claim before despite my studies. I just found out that you seem to be just really misunderstanding Tertullian — Galatians was simply the first book of Marcion’s canon. What Marcion did was basically sift through the New Testament books, ignore everything he didn’t like, and then revise everything he did like (Luke, Galatians, etc). He by no comprehensible means wrote Galatians, claimed to write Galatians, or was claimed by Tertullian to write Galatians.

        You quote W.C. Van Manen to support your hypothesis. After doing some research on this, I found that W.V. Van Manen was specifically the only scholar in the history of NT scholarship to suggest Paul didn’t write Galatians — as F.F. Bruce said about Manen, one of the worlds top NT scholars of the 20th century, Manen’s claims were “a critical aberration in the history of NT Study.” The evidence, both internal and external, is overwhelming for showing Paul wrote Galatians. You claim Galatians was the earliest of the New Testament works, however that honor actually goes to 1 Thessalonians.

        It’s obvious these documents by Paul, the Gospels etc are first century. For example, the early Christian Clement of Rome wrote around 95 AD, and quotes from Hebrews, 1 Corinthians, Romans, Phillipians, Ephesians, Mark, Luke, Matthew, 1 Timothy and 1 Peter meaning all of these were written before 95 AD. We know whoever wrote 1 Timothy also wrote 2 Timothy and Titus, meaning 2 Timothy and Titus also predate 95 AD. The earliest New Testament manucript is P52, a manuscript of John’s Gospel dating to 125 AD found in Egypt. That means not only had John been written before 125 AD, but by 125 AD it was around for long enough that it had circulated all the way to Egypt.

        Not necessary to keep pointing out, but again, the evidence for the New Testament being written before the end of the 1st century is utterly overwhelming. These writings had been written by the 1st century, and by the 2nd century, the canon had been sorted out as we know from the writings of the patristics.

        To note, I also found out W.C. Van Manen was also a mostly irrelevant, sidelined scholar even in the 19th century. You contend Marcion wrote Galatians because of this evidence;

        “a) God is described as “the Father” in 1.1; b) Jesus’ mission was to “deliver us from this present evil world” 1.4; c) the Law was mediated by “archons”, likely evil archons to the thinking of Marcion, 3.19; d) God sent forth his Son “to redeem them that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as Sons” 4.5. Indeed these texts certainly seem to promote Marcion ideology, and once again; since per Tertullian it was Marcion who “discovered” the letter, then Van Manen’s theory that Marcion wrote Galatians may very well be correct.”

        However, not a single one of your points applies to only Marcion. Indeed, every single point you make about Galatians is already shared by the other letters of Paul, Gospels, and New Testament writers. It’s clear that Marcion adopted this from the New Testament. Really, there isn’t even a possibility that Marcion wrote Galatians.

        You note Justin doesn’t quote Acts, which is as far as I can tell a red herring. Without fact-checking this claim as true or not, I can readily dismiss it. Clement of Rome, writing 95 AD quotes from Luke, and we know whoever wrote Luke wrote Acts, and thus both documents were ready and available in the 1st century. I also know that Justin quoted from various Gospels as well.

        Theophilus in his letters to Autolycus not mentioning Jesus seems almost completely irrelevant at this point. Jesus had been quoted by innumerable writings before Theophilus ever took up his pen, and Theophilus’s letters had nothing to do with Jesus in the first place — they were specifically responding to a guy named Autolycus and his scorning of Christians, and so it’s absolutely not at all strange he didn’t mention Jesus. Funny enough, Theophilus uses the name ‘Christian’ countless times, a term that derives from the phrase ‘little Christ’ referring to Jesus.
        ___________________________________________

        As for genocide, the Bible nowhere advocates genocide. You quote the Bible commanding the annihilation of the Canaanite’s which is much different — the Bible tells us specifically why the Canaanite’s must be destroyed;

        Deuteronomy 9:5: “It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

        The Canaanite’s are to be destroyed because of their wickedness. This is similar to why the Allies destroyed the Nazi’s — the Nazi’s were evil. The Canaanite’s were probably much worse than even Nazi’s.

        To sexism. You seem to take some verses into account but not others.

        “This New Testament passage teaches that women are not to teach men, but to learn in silence, and that they will be saved in childbearing. Reminiscent of that sexist saying “keep ‘em barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen””

        Actually, this formula barefoot-pregnant-kitchen is entirely non-present in the entire Bible. You only try to support the ‘pregnant’ one with this verse;

        1 Timothy 2:15: Women, however, will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

        You claim this says that women are only saved when they have children, however that is entirely not what the verse says. Indeed, being saved ‘through’ X is a common term used in the New Testament letters of being saved despite enduring a specific type of pain. Likewise, women will be saved through childbearing, meaning they will be saved even through the pains they have in childbirth as long as they hold fast to the faith. Read this for a clear explanation that makes this unambiguous to any reader:

        http://www.desiringgod.org/labs/how-are-women-saved-through-childbearing

        So this argument simply won’t work. Obviously, saying women cannot speak in a Church isn’t exist, the New Testament simply tells men and women what their roles are in life. The men work their butts off to provide for the family, and the women do such and such — not sexist, just a balanced lifestyle that works best for everyone. Sexism is when one race is superior to the other, and that verse does not postulate anything near such a notion. The New Testament also says this;

        1 Corinthians 7:4: The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife.

        This verse makes the entire thing unambiguous, the husband has authority over the body of the wife and the wife has authority over the body of the husband. Looks like that closes the deal on whether or not there’s sexism in the New Testament (and Galatians 3:28 outright says equality between the sexes).

        As for Lot, it is obvious that Lot is righteous despite what he did with his daughters. Lot offered to give his daughters to the men outside the city, but none of them accepted. Why? Because every man in the town knew it was illegal to rape a women, Lot did too and simply diverted away the Sodomites the trying to gang-rape the angels. Lot’s daughters were never in any danger.

        ___________________________________________

        Slavery. Biblical slavery, not man-made slavery is acceptable in the Bible. Biblical slavery is clearly moral when one looks at the guidelines inscribed on it, the Bible ensures beyond any measure of doubt that the slave is treated fairly;

        Colossians 4:1: Masters, deal with your slaves justly and fairly, since you know that you too have a Master in heaven.

        Ephesians 6:9: And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

        Deuteronomy 15:12-15: “If your fellow Hebrew, a man or woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, you must set him free in the seventh year. When you set him free, do not send him away empty-handed. Give generously to him from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. You are to give him whatever the Lord your God has blessed you with. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you; that is why I am giving you this command today.

        Hence, no accusation can be put forth against the Bible and stand. You claim my statements on the Christian abolition of slavery is “revionist history”, when it is exactly true. It’s not relevant that there were some men who were both black slaveowners and Church-goers, they obviously weren’t reading their Bible at Church, the movement to abolish slavery was waged by Christians running into the battlefield with a gun in one hand while reciting the Bible from their other hand. And it’s strange to accuse me of revisionist history considering what you’re saying about Galatians, does that not count as a self-contradiction?

        _________________________________________

        Anyhow, that constitutes my response. I’ve only ready a few of the early Church writers before this (like some 170 AD canon, Clement, some of Irenaeus) but I should probably read a few more now. Considering Theophilus’s letters are rather short and I’m intrigued about learning more of the early church history, you have inspired me to read some of these works to continue increasing my knowledge. Hopefully, you will take my arguments into consideration and perhaps reconsider some of your thoughts, perhaps most specifically on your attitude towards the morality of the Bible (and of course your curious dating of Galatians).

      • Good morning Scientific Christian,

        In a rare moment of brevity, I am mainly replying to merely acknowledge receipt of your reply, and to thank you for the same.

        Maybe a week before I post a reply (work schedule), but I shall begin my notes today if possible.

        Thank you for your kindly spirit, and I look forward to continued gentlemanly discussions of this same sort.

        Have a great day!

        Dave Henderson

      • Thank you for your patience my friend.

        RE: “The compilation of the New Testament. It appears as if you’re following the theory of the 19th century Irish radicals, that the Pauline letters (or at least Galatians) is a later construct and the Gospels are also second century”

        I do confess a deep respect for the 19th Century Dutch Radical school of biblical criticism. W.C. Van Manen is of course the best known representative of that school of thought; such being that everything is to be critically questioned, and nothing is to be assumed in the analysis of any and all Early Christian Writings. This line of reasoning naturally leads to critical questions and subsequent doubts regarding assumed theories such as the historicity of Jesus and the Pauline authorship of the “Pauline Epistles”.

        And yes, you are correct, that line of reasoning does lead to a theory that most if not the entire New Testament was written in the 2nd Century CE.

        That theory based upon:

        A lack of evidence that the material written in the New Testament reflects actual 1st Century CE history.

        And yet several traces of evidence that the material written in the New Testament actually do in fact reflect actual 2nd Century CE history.

        Some such history is cloaked in the form of rewritten material, but regardless the New Testament writings reveal traces of knowledge of such historical realities such as the complete diaspora of Jews from Jerusalem; 132-135CE (cf Acts 8.1-3; 1 Thessalonians 2.14-16; Romans 9-11); the persecution of Christians and the subsequent Church doctrine of Martyrdom which occurred and developed during the reign of Marcus Aurelius in the 160’s through 170’s (Acts 14:21-22; Rom 8:35; 12:14; 1 Cor 4:12; 2 Cor 4:9; 12:10; Gal 6:12; 1 Thess 2:14); the development of an organized and recognized Church hierarchy of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons; unknown of until the mid 2nd Century CE (Philippians 1.1); doctrinal discussions such as whether justification is by faith or by works of the law (Rom 4.1-5; James 2.14-24; cf Tertullian 5.2); the relationship of the Old and New Testaments (Luke 16.16; Hebrews 9.15, cf Tertullian Against Marcion; 5.2); whether one should be circumcised or merely baptized (Justin’s dialogue with Trypho Ch 39; Tertullian’s Against Marcion; Book 5.3; cf Galatians 2.3-4, 5.1-6); and the dual nature Paul (Gnostic Paul of Galatians as contrasted with Catholicized Paul of Acts of the Apostles) which reflects the transformation of Paul from Marcion’s personal false Apostle (Tertullian Against Marcion 5.1) to patron Saint Paul of Catholic Church fame.

        Indeed, when the New Testament is read in the light of verifiable Church and World History, it is as though the history of 2nd Century Christianity is rewritten into the New Testament as alleged 1st Century history.

        RE: “There is not one living Pauline scholar in the world who thinks Paul didn’t write Galatians.”

        A slight overstatement, though you are not far from the truth. Dr Robert Price and Dr Herman Deterring come to mind, and perhaps they are the only two LIVING scholars who hold such a view. No matter though. For if the theory that Paul wrote Galatians stands true, it will not be validated by a tally, but by evidence.

        RE: “where does Tertullian say Marcion ‘discovered’ Galatians?”

        “Against Marcion”; 4.3

        RE: “What Marcion did was basically sift through the New Testament books, ignore everything he didn’t like, and then revise everything he did like (Luke, Galatians, etc).”

        Such is what Tertullian and later Church leaders accused Marcion of doing. Of course, it could have been completely the other way around. We have no way of knowing since we have no writings of Marcion to defend his actions against his after the fact accusers. And of course his accusers would never admit that it was in fact they who tampered with the original texts, even if such were case.

        And of course there is no evidence that the texts which Marcion allegedly altered even existed prior to his texts. We only have the word of hostile witnesses as to the matter.

        RE: “W.V. Van Manen was specifically the only scholar in the history of NT scholarship to suggest Paul didn’t write Galatians”

        Again, a slight overstatement, yet admittedly, seemingly close to true.

        Bruno Baur, A.D. Loman, Pierson, Steck, Gustaf van Eysinga, Thomas Whitaker, Robert Price, Herman Deterring, Elaine Pagels, Walter Schmithals, Dr Winsome Munrowe and Dr Murdoch come to mind. Fairly certain G.S.R. Mead, though I would have to confirm.

        That said, though the number be few, the point remains mute. For again, if there is validity to the theory that Paul wrote Galatians, then such will be maintained not by a tally of believers, but by credible and sustainable evidence. (Beginning with whether there even was a historical Paul in the first place)

        RE: You claim Galatians was the earliest of the New Testament works, however that honor actually goes to 1 Thessalonians.

        Perhaps you are right, though I have no idea as to your basis for conclusion.

        Regardless, 1 Thessalonians shows traces of 2nd Century CE authorship.

        The martyrdom doctrine ideology of the latter 2nd Century CE is present in 3.4 (cf 1.6)
        And there is prior knowledge of the Jewish diaspora (2.14-16). (For that matter, the anti Jewish disposition of vss 15-16 tends to discredit any notion that the writer was a Jew). As to which diaspora is being referenced, the three major such historical events could date to approximately 70, 115, or 135 CE, though the finality indicated in “wrath has overtaken them at last” leads me to believe that such references the complete and thorough diaspora resulting from the crushing of the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 CE. The fact that Jerusalem was razed, rebuilt as a Gentile city, and all the Jews were outlawed from living there at that time; resulted in and represented the end of the Jewish Independence movement dating from approximately 6 CE. Indeed, by 135 CE the Century and a third long Jewish Independence movement had ended in shameful defeat, and the wrath had overtaken them at last.

        RE: “the early Christian Clement of Rome wrote around 95 AD, and quotes from Hebrews, 1 Corinthians, Romans, Phillipians, Ephesians, Mark, Luke, Matthew, 1 Timothy and 1 Peter meaning all of these were written before 95 AD.”

        You refer of course to 1 Clement, another Early Christian document which demonstrates traces of 2nd Century CE authorship.

        Consider the overall theme of obligatory submission to rulers, presbyters, and bishops. There are several such passages throughout 1 Clement, which beg the question as to exactly what point in history the Orthodox Church might have actually developed a recognizable hierarchy and formal structure. It is difficult to pinpoint, but there is little evidence of any clerical hierarchy within Christianity prior to the mid 2nd Century CE.

        1 Clement was of course a treatise which clearly promoted Orthodoxy by both confirming the authority of the Church hierarchy, all the while reminding laymen to know their place. A variety of topics are emphasized including unity, peace, harmony, and obedience, but such was merely laying the groundwork for putting “headstrong and selfwilled persons” (1.1) in their rightful place. Their rightful place of course being in submission to the Church hierarchy.

        The apex of this argument is recorded in Chapters 40-42, in which the notion that all things must be done in order is asserted, even to the extent that the only acceptable worship is done at appointed times, places, and only by the administration of certain people. This was Clergy over laymen, Priests over people, authority over self will. The case for the ultimate authority of the Clergy was sealed tight by an appeal to Apostolic order, and the focal point of the case was a sober reminder to the rubble of the Orthodox Church that “the layman is bound by the layman’s ordinances” (40.5)

        The struggle so described in 1 Clement between those who maintained a respect for order and hierarchy, in direct contrast to those “head strong and self willed persons” is strikingly reminiscent of Tertullian’s similar rebuke of the “heretics” who “are puffed up” and who “all offer you knowledge (gnosis)” as recorded in his “Prescription Against Heretics” (Ch. 41). Tertullian was aghast at the fact that Gnostic Christians (“heretics” per his terminology) allowed women to teach, and made no distinction between who served as deacon, presbyter, or bishop at any particular time in their assemblies. To Tertullian, the ultimate disrespect for the order of the hierarchy was that the “heretics” actually allowed laymen to function as priests!

        Frankly, the general message of 1 Clement fits the setting of the latter 2nd Century CE struggle between the Orthodox and Gnostic Christianity so well, that there is no reason to assume that such was written any earlier.

        Furthermore, the utility of Peter and Paul as mutual examples of martyrs of the faith (Ch. 5) is a clear indicator of latter 2nd Century CE authorship. Firstly, the era of Christian martyrdom as a means of salvation seems to have developed during the persecution of Christians during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, from 161 CE to the latter 170’s,thus this chapter appears suited to that chronological time frame. Secondly, the presentation of Peter and Paul as seemingly equals was the latter 2nd Century CE Orthodox approach to its struggles against the Gnostic Christian movement. In fact, the Acts of the Apostles seems to have been a literary tool utilized to help incorporate “the Apostle of the heretics” (“Against Marcion”; 3.5) into the fold of Orthodoxy by uniting the Pauline and Petrine legends into early Catholic Church compatriots. Thus, the content of Chapter 5 is indicative of latter 2nd Century CE authorship.

        The internal evidence of 1 Clement thus demonstrating traces of 2nd Century CE authorship, there is likewise an additional note of caution with regards to concluding that the New Testament books that were allegedly quoted within the text necessarily prove the existence of those books at the time that 1 Clement was written. A fragment which appears in two texts do not necessarily constitute that one quoted from another. In fact, when phrases are common to two pieces of literature, I would suggest the following possibilities:

        -One of the texts may have quoted from the other. In the case where there is no evidence of the existence of a complete text of one such text, then it does seem reasonable to assume that such a text necessarily existed. (A case made based upon an assumption is of course merely an assertion)

        -Both texts may be quotations from previously written material.

        -Both texts may share a common author, who repeats the same phraseology in more than one place.

        Such as they are, these are my thoughts regarding 1 Clement.

        RE: “The earliest New Testament manucript is P52, a manuscript of John’s Gospel dating to 125 AD found in Egypt. That means not only had John been written before 125 AD but by 125 AD it was around for long enough that it had circulated all the way to Egypt.”

        The P52 fragment you reference consists of approximately 7 verses that are documented in John 18, and the date you reference is based upon palaeography, the dating of material based upon similar handwriting.

        As to the latter, such is not an exact science. I am immediately suspect of any dating system which tries to date a fragment within a certain year. There are a number of theories posited regarding the dating of the P52 fragment, and most seem to be theories composed of 50 year ranges. The range of those ranges vary from 100-150 CE to the latter 2nd Century CE, and possibly even 3rd Century CE.

        So the P52 fragment is a split 7 verse fragment that may be dated to the early 2nd Century CE, and yet may date to the 3rd Century CE. Some scholars indicate that alternative systems as to dating of the Book of John are preferable than a mere 7 verse fragment whose attempts to date are based on the inexact science of palaeography. And I concur.

        RE: “the evidence for the New Testament being written before the end of the 1st century is utterly overwhelming.”

        I welcome you to provide such evidence, so that I can compare such to the utterly overwhelming evidence that the New Testament may very well have been written in the 2nd Century CE.

        RE: I also found out W.C. Van Manen was also a mostly irrelevant, sidelined scholar even in the 19th century.

        W.C. Van Manen was an independent minded 19th Century Dutch Theologian and College Professor, whose specialty was Early Christian Literature and New Testament Studies. He was a Professor of such from 1885-1905 at the University of Leiden, as well as a prolific writer on a variety of such topics. Van Manen was a contributing writer to the Encyclopaedia Biblica from 1899-1903.

        That said, Van Manen’s pedigree neither validates nor invalidates his theories.

        Credible evidence is that which sustains a case, rather than a numeric tally or an impressive portfolio.

        Furthermore, to my knowledge, Van Manen’s theories regarding the authorship of the Pauline letters and the dating of the New Testament letters have never been refuted, but rather merely discarded.

        RE: Indeed, every single point you make about Galatians is already shared by the other letters of Paul, Gospels, and New Testament writers.

        The fact that in time other writers assumed similar positions neither discredits nor validates any theory as to Marcion (or another Marcionite) possibly being the author of Galatians.

        What we do know is that Marcion had the earliest known copy of Galatians in his possession, and that the letter itself reflects Marcionite Christian doctrine in several places. That said, it seems reasonable to at least be open to the the theory that Marcion or one of his followers was the actual author of the treatise itself.

        RE: You note Justin doesn’t quote Acts, which is as far as I can tell a red herring. Without fact-checking this claim as true or not, I can readily dismiss it.

        Since you have chosen to dismiss this fact as irrelevant and unworthy of further research, there is no need for further comment on this topic at this time.

        RE: “Theophilus uses the name ‘Christian’ countless times, a term that derives from the phrase ‘little Christ’ referring to Jesus.”

        Indeed Theophilus did use the description ‘Christian’ several times. In fact, Theophilus even explained why Christians in his time and place were called Christians:

        “Wherefore we are called Christians on this account, because we are anointed with the oil of God” (Apology to Autolycus Bk 1.12)

        The fact is that Theophilus was very thorough in each of his three apologies to Autolycus on behalf of Christianity, and was quite proud to identify himself as a Christian. In fact, Book 1 alone is, in my judgment, a masterpiece of Christian Apology. From the outset, he is clear as to his spiritual sympathies:

        “I, for my part, avow that I am a Christian, and bear this name beloved of God” (Apology to Autlycus Bk 1.1)

        He then proceeds to make his Apology to his heathen friend Autolycus, (Ap Auto 1.1), and in so doing discusses such doctrines as the nature of God (Ap Auto 1.1-1.7), the necessity of faith (Ap Auto 1.8), the deficiencies of idolatry (Ap Auto (1.9-1.10), the need to honor the king and worship God (Ap Auto 1.11), the meaning of the name Christian (Ap Auto 1.12), the case for the resurrection from the dead (Ap Auto 1.13), and the judgment of God against those who do not believe and obey (Ap Auto 1.14).

        Interestingly enough, he discussed each such item without referencing the name of Jesus or alluding to such a person even a single time.

        Theophilus was a meticulous genealogist, who detailed the historic genealogy from Adam to Marcus Aurelius (Book 3.24-27), yet he never mentioned Jesus.

        Theophilus cited the Greek Poets to confirm the Hebrew Prophets (Book 2.38), yet he never mentioned Jesus.

        Theophilus wrote a section regarding loving your enemies, in which he quoted the same text as
        the Sermon on the Mount (Book 3.14), yet he never mentioned Jesus.

        Theophilus spoke of Plato and Epicurus, and quoted notables such as Homer, Hesiod (Book 2.5) and Sibyl (Book 2.31), yet he never mentioned Jesus.

        The very fact that Theophilus, the first Christian writer to cite the Trinity (Book 2.15), wrote as to the nature of God without mentioning the name of Jesus, is a wonder in and of itself.

        And such leads me to wonder why the Church Bishop of Antioch would have written as late as 180 CE that the Logos was a part of the Trinity without mentioning Jesus, if the Gospel of John had already been both written and distributed as far as Egypt some 55 years earlier. For if Theophilus would have had access to John 1.1-17, surely he would have qualified his citation of the Logos as a member of the Godhead by referencing John 1.14-17, which teaches that the Logos became flesh and dwelt among humanity as the person Jesus Christ.

        The fact is that there is no evidence whatsoever that Theophilus, the Church Bishop of Antioch, had even heard of Jesus as late as 180 CE when he wrote regarding the nature of God as the Trinity. Which means that the church doctrine of a flesh and blood Jesus had not as yet been distributed amongst even the Orthodox Church by that time. Which subsequently means that by no means had the New Testament Canon been written and distributed even as late as 180 CE.

        RE: As for genocide, the Bible nowhere advocates genocide. You quote the Bible commanding the annihilation of the Canaanite’s which is much different — the Bible tells us specifically why the Canaanite’s must be destroyed;

        You actually acknowledge that the Bible does in fact advocate genocide: “ the Bible tells us specifically why the Canaanite’s must be destroyed.”

        RE: 1 Timothy 2:15: Women, however, will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
        You claim this says that women are only saved when they have children, however that is entirely not what the verse says.

        The words “Women, however, will be saved through childbearing” are not my words. Those are the words of the writer of 1 Timothy 2.15, so the claim is his, not mine.

        RE: Obviously, saying women cannot speak in a Church isn’t exist,

        “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak,” (1 Cor 14.34)

        RE: “Sexism is when one race is superior to the other,”

        I assume you meant to say “gender” instead of race. If that is what you meant, then I agree. And such was the teaching of the ancient Hebrew culture from which Christianity evolved.

        The Bible taught that a female was less valued than a male (Lev 27.1-7), that a female is twice as unclean as a male (Lev 12.1-5), that a daughter could be sold as a slave, though there were no such allowances with regards to a son (Lev 21.7), that a newlywed woman could be stoned to death if she could not prove she was a virgin on her wedding night, while the male had no such obligation or sentence (Deut 22.13-21), that a woman was the property of the husband, but there is no such description for the man (Exod 20.17), and even allowed a man to have multiple sex partners but did not allow the woman such a privilege.

        Speaking for myself, the double standards imposed upon women and the values so noted in the Bible with reference to women and men are both sexist and misogynistic.

        RE: As for Lot, it is obvious that Lot is righteous despite what he did with his daughters. Lot offered to give his daughters to the men outside the city,

        What is obvious to me is that any man who would offer his daughters to be gangraped is a bad father, a bad man, and a bad human being.

        Lot offered his daughters to be gangraped according to Gen 19, and in another context Moses allowed the Israeli soldiers to take young virgin girls as sex slaves (Numbers 31.17-18)

        In the light of such passages, the fact that the New Testament holds such high regard for both Lot and Moses, reveals that the New Testament is complicit with regards to the sexism and misogyny of each such individual.

        RE: “Slavery. Biblical slavery, not man-made slavery is acceptable in the Bible.”

        And so slavery is acceptable in the Bible.

        RE: “And it’s strange to accuse me of revisionist history considering what you’re saying about Galatians, does that not count as a self-contradiction?”

        If what I was saying about Galatians were in fact revisionist history, then indeed that would be a self-contradiction.

        RE: “Considering Theophilus’s letters are rather short and I’m intrigued about learning more of the early church history, you have inspired me to read some of these works to continue increasing my knowledge.”

        Glad to read these words. I think everyone would be more knowledgeable and informed by expanding their reading beyond the 27 writings known as the New Testament and research such Early Christian writings as the Patristics, the Apocryphal writings the Christian texts of the Nag Hammadi library, and the 1st Century writings of Josephus and Philo.

        Such concludes my reply, except to wish you a good day my friend.

        Dave Henderson

      • Hello, Dave. Just notifying you, as you did for me, that my response will come in the next few days. This response was quite longer than I thought so I’m going to work on structuring my response.

      • Hello again, brother. I’ll be happy to now resume my response, and we’ll see how things go.

        It seems immediately clear that the vast majority of our discussion is going to be restrained to the discussion on the New Testament, and our discussions on genocide, sexism, etc, are coming to an end. Hence, I’ll quickly address both slavery, sexism and genocide and then get to the real issues.

        You note that I agree that genocide and slavery happens, and hence you don’t respond to my argument, thereby missing my point. God commands that the Canaanite’s be destroyed and that a certain form of slavery (unparalleled in goodness and morality towards the slave) is expressed in the Bible and not in any other religion or view. Yes, this is correct, and my post was restrained to debunking any supposed immorality in the Bible, not that God didn’t destroy the Canaanite’s. That’s because the only reason you cite the Canaanite’s and slavery is to try to argue against biblical morality, but since I clearly proved that the Bible is moral on these discussions, it makes any mention of slavery/genocide irrelevant on discussion of whether or not Christianity is literally the greatest religion ever revealed.

        There is a bit of discussion on sexism, though. You repeated your sentiments on Lot and his daughters, but since I already addressed that in my previous response, I have no need to repeat myself here. And again, with 1 Timothy 2:15, I already explained the exact meaning of the phrase “saved through childbearing” and my citation clearly showed that this means that faithful women are going to be saved despite the pains they undergo in childbirth as they will be able to hold fast to the faith even in times of pain. If you read the citation, that would have been clear enough, but I needn’t repeat myself on this issue again. On that, you didn’t address verses I already mentioned proving equality beyond a reasonable doubt such as Galatians 3:28 and 1 Corinthians 7:4, and hence, you could not rebut the existence of biblical equality. I’m pretty sure this settles our entire discussion on genocide, slavery, and exodus, and so we can focus on what really matters now.

        Your views, indeed, were only ever noticed in academia during the 19th century by the Dutch radicals (I mistakenly called them Irish previously). You do claim to have at least two modern proponents of your views however; being Robert Price and Herman Deterring . Of course, Price’s work is not peer reviewed and I’m sure we can both agree he’s a pseudohistorian, and as for Deterring, his work is in German and so I cannot tell whether or not the places he published in are scholarly journals (since I can’t read German). What I can tell, however, is that he isn’t published a thing in two decades. On that note, every continuously publishing respected academic in the world agrees with me, what I consider common sense. According to even the radical Bible critic and atheist Gerd Lüdemann, your view “is mistaken and refuted by the existing sources”, which to me is clear enough. You correctly note that truth can be based on a tally up, but if you’re to trust your own non-professional opinion as someone who was not at all trained in church history (etc) over that of the entire academy, you better have a seriously good reason for doing so.

        So, let’s begin. I’d like to start with P52, of course, since it looks as if this manuscript conflagrates your entire argument by itself. You have a bit to say about this, so I’ll quote you before proceeding;

        “The P52 fragment you reference consists of approximately 7 verses that are documented in John 18, and the date you reference is based upon palaeography, the dating of material based upon similar handwriting.
        As to the latter, such is not an exact science. I am immediately suspect of any dating system which tries to date a fragment within a certain year. There are a number of theories posited regarding the dating of the P52 fragment, and most seem to be theories composed of 50 year ranges. The range of those ranges vary from 100-150 CE to the latter 2nd Century CE, and possibly even 3rd Century CE.
        So the P52 fragment is a split 7 verse fragment that may be dated to the early 2nd Century CE, and yet may date to the 3rd Century CE. Some scholars indicate that alternative systems as to dating of the Book of John are preferable than a mere 7 verse fragment whose attempts to date are based on the inexact science of palaeography. And I concur.”

        Paleography is more than enough to establish a relative date, but not an exact year as you note. However, no papyrologist says P52 can be dated to 125 AD, they all say it can be dated to ca. 125 AD. ‘Circa’ means approximately, and indeed, although there use to be some that date P52 to the third century as you allude to, this view is dated and papyrologists have now settled on a date of ca. 125 AD for the manuscript. As S.E. Porter says in his 2015 monograph titled ‘John, His Gospel, and Jesus’;

        On the basis of these comparisons, as well as the pertinent evidence that Nongbri marshals, I would hold firm to the early second century date of P.Rylands Greek 457 [p52], placing it around 100-120… This reestablished date for P.Rylands Greek 457– admittedly on the basis of of comparison of manuscripts, although in this case with some dated ones — also reaffirms a date for composition of the Gospel before the turn of the first century.

        It seems to me, thus, that this is rather hard to deny. Paleography puts it at ca. 125 (+/- 25 years, meaning 100-150), and specific manuscript comparisons reveals that P52 is specifically close in its writing to manuscripts that specifically range from about 100-120 AD, corroborating and consistent with our paleographic date. The manuscript can hardly be pushed after 125, but pushing it after even Marcion is entirely unwarranted given the evidence we have. A date of 120 is most fair given the evidence, and since it was found in Egypt, that would require John to have been around long enough by 120 AD to have circulated all the way to Egypt, giving us a terminus ante quem of John of 100, perhaps 110 if you really want to push it, which would imply a composition date of about 70-100 AD, which coincidentally, is perfectly in line with the consensus dating by both papyrologists and Johannine scholars. I’m pretty sure that should very well settle this to a rather large degree of probability, and the only reason I can possibly think of that someone would have to deny this date is solely for maintaining the specific view you’re claiming despite the data. Since John can be dated to a maximum of 110 AD, likely between 70-90 AD, that puts all four Gospels in the first century since John is the latest Gospel.

        Moving on. I asked where Tertullian says Marcion “discovered Galatians”, and you referred me to Against Marcion 4.3. I read it, and have found that you seem to have taken the phrase out of context. In context, Tertullian says;

        Since, however, it was on its course previous to that point, it must have had its own authentic materials, by means of which it found its own way down to St. Luke; and by the assistance of the testimony which it bore, Luke himself becomes admissible. Well, but Marcion, finding the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians (wherein he rebukes even apostles ) for not walking uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, as well as accuses certain false apostles of perverting the gospel of Christ), labours very hard to destroy the character of those Gospels which are published as genuine and under the name of apostles, in order, forsooth, to secure for his own Gospel the credit which he takes away from them.

        Tertullian is not in any sense claiming Marcion produced Galatians, rather he is simply quoting Galatians to condemn certain apostles. Tertullian flat out attributes Galatians to Paul in both 4.2 and 4.5. Indeed, in this very passage, Tertullian refers to “the epistle of Paul to the Galatians”, in other words this very passage attributes Galatians to Paul. Furthermore, Tertullian repeatedly quotes from the Book of Galatians as scripture, which would be impossible if Tertullian had any concept that it was written by the heretic Marcion that he was writing five whole books against.

        That brings me to my next point. In the New Testament, there are at least seven undisputed letters of Paul — 1 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans, Galatians, Philemon and Phillipians. These books all have the same author since it has been established that their writing style is incomprehensibly similar, their theology is flat out exact, everything between them correlates so grandly that there is truly no doubt that whoever wrote one wrote all. So, whoever wrote Galatians also wrote the other six books. That means if Marcion wrote Galatians, he wrote the other six — an impossibility in its making, obviously, especially given that they are almost all quoted before Marcion anyways. Secondly, if a single one of them was authored in the first century, that necessarily means all of them were, since the same man wrote all seven.

        Anyhow, you spend a lot of time trying to date Clement, 1 Thessalonians, and the rest of Paul’s epistles and other New Testament books by identifying “second century characteristics”. The problem of course is that every single characteristic you claim is ‘second century’ is not second century at all. For example, you label the concept of martyrdom something that spurred under Marcus Aurelius, even though this is flat out false. Nero, in the 60’s AD first persecuted the Christians in Rome (Cornelius Tacitus, Annals 15.44; Tertullian, Apology 5), and then in the 90’s AD, an empire-wide persecution of Christianity instigated under Domitian (Dio Cassius, 67.14.1-2). No more clear of Christian persecution is Pliny the Younger’s letter to Trajan in 110 AD, or Trajan’s very own persecution of Christians in the same period. I can give more and more and more examples, but martyrdom is something that not only existed in the first century but the earliest days of Christianity, something historically indisputable.

        You then say that Clement reveals a Church hierarchy, which only existed by the middle of the second century. Yet, Ignatius, who died in 110 AD was not only the bishop of Antioch, but he was the third bishop of Antioch, and this alone shatters the idea of the Church hierarchy being a later development. Ignatius, by the way, was a martyr himself in 110 AD.

        Here’s another one of your ‘second century characteristics’;

        “Some such history is cloaked in the form of rewritten material, but regardless the New Testament writings reveal traces of knowledge of such historical realities such as the complete diaspora of Jews from Jerusalem; 132-135CE (cf Acts 8.1-3; 1 Thessalonians 2.14-16; Romans 9-11)”

        In Acts 8:1-3, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, and Romans 9-11, I see absolutely no valid allusion to the events of the 130’s AD, this only looks to be like an excessively vague parallel you’re trying to cite, and without any actual evidence of an allusion besides a vague connection with a few words here and there throughout the New Testament and some event of the 130’s AD, the case simply isn’t there. What’s worse, of course, is that I recall reading a paper that specifically shows that 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 reveals the circumstances of the late 40’s AD. Read for yourself, and realize that there’s a much better period of time to explain this passage than the 130’s (or even 70’s):

        http://tyndalehouse.com/tynbul/library/TynBull_2001_52_1_01_Bockmuehl_1Thess2.pdf

        Therefore, the only characteristic that 1 Thessalonians has is those of the mid first century AD, effectively establishing a date for it in this period, and because it shares authorship with the rest of the undisputed letters, all other undisputed letters therefore can also be pinned to about the middle of the first century AD.

        Again, literally every single thing you claim to represent second century characteristics, I see no evidence of being actually second century at all (and all experts don’t see the evidence, either, which is rather problematic for yourself).

        Let’s go back to continuing to pile on more and more evidence for first century authorship here. Regarding 1 Clement, you seem to make some general comments about the document, followed by a bit of talk about things that Tertullian says that don’t appear in 1 Clement, and conclude 1 Clement is Gnostic. Huh? Did I miss the parallels? I’ve already shown that the Church hierarchy was well around in the first century with Ignatius, who not only was a bishop in the late first and early second century, but speaks quite a lot about the Church hierarchy and his death can be dated no later than 110 AD, his writings to 105. Thus, we can return to the actual established evidence by scholars, and easily date Clement to the 90’s AD which is the only period where we have serious evidence for (Clement’s allusions to Domitian’s persecution). Clement quotes the NT a lot. And since I mentioned Ignatius, Ignatius too quotes the NT a lot in his extremely early period. Not only that, but Papias also makes reference to the Gospels, and he wrote as early as 95 and as late as 130.

        That’s all external documentation which I find cannot be at all explained away, it seems as if perhaps the best evidence for 1st century authorship is the internal evidence for the New Testament itself. Whereas you try to make very, very vague parallels of New Testament passages, the New Testament itself could not more clearly have been written in the 1st century if you actually read it. Every single figure mentioned in the entire New Testament was around no later than the 60’s AD. Perhaps one of the most famous figures in the Gospels — Pontius Pilate, whose reign as prefect ended in 36 AD. If the Gospels were written in the second century, then they couldn’t comprehensibly have noted Pilate since Pilate was utterly unknown after the first century outside of the biblical documents themselves. Indeed, recently (as in the last two weeks), an important scholar from Purdue University documented all the political figures mentioned in the New Testament that have been proven to exist;

        https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/new-testament-political-figures-the-evidence/

        They’re all first century, in fact, none of them go any later than the 60’s AD (besides Herod Agrippa II who died in the 90’s). For example, what about Marcus Antonius Felix, a procurator somewhere in Rome who ruled shortly between 52-59 AD and is mentioned in Acts 23-24? How would a second century Christian be remotely familiar with any, let alone so many early first century figures, especially such obscure ones (like Herod Agrippa I’ daughter, Berenice)? This is totally unparalleled in the history of forgery, it’s simply far too implausible to take very seriously. In fact, every single time, literally every single time that an ancient document tries to set itself in the world of a century before it, it makes numerous anachronisms, flat out historical errors about the positions and reigns of basic figures, etc. None of this can be found in the New Testament, it’s home is clearly the first century and no other. So, externally, the New Testament is first century (quotations by earliest Christians, earliest manuscripts etc), and internally, everything about the New Testament is first century. That makes a non-first century dating completely out of question especially given the overwhelming evidence against it, and the fact that from what I see from your very arguments, it is only supported by the vaguest of parallels to later time periods.

        By the way, I’m going to backtrack to Clement for a second and find how you try to explain away Clement’s numerous quotations of the New Testament works:

        “-One of the texts may have quoted from the other. In the case where there is no evidence of the existence of a complete text of one such text, then it does seem reasonable to assume that such a text necessarily existed. (A case made based upon an assumption is of course merely an assertion)
        -Both texts may be quotations from previously written material.
        -Both texts may share a common author, who repeats the same phraseology in more than one place.
        Such as they are, these are my thoughts regarding 1 Clement.”

        Your first option seems to say “one text quotes the other” — I agree, Clement clearly quotes Paul. The second option is both texts are quotations, which is to say, both Clement and Paul quote earlier sources. Impossible, since the verses in Paul’s letters aren’t even quotations in the first places, they’re the general text. The third option is that the same author wrote both texts. I’m sure that not even the most radical Dutchmen wouldn’t say Clement wrote the Pauline epistles. When we have such a clear quotation as we have in Clement, where Clement actually outright tells us he is quoting other sources, I think you’re simply going to have come to terms with the evidence we have here.

        Hence, as I have demonstrated, the case is overwhelmingly favoring first century authorship. I find the probability that the New Testament is 1st century to be flat out 100%, I mean, anyone who claims otherwise has a LOOOT of explaining to do and so far I have not seen adequate explaining.

        To Theophilus. Here, you seem to make a lot of non-sequiturs trying to prove that Theophilus should have mentioned Jesus.

        “Theophilus cited the Greek Poets to confirm the Hebrew Prophets (Book 2.38), yet he never mentioned Jesus.”

        Since Jesus wasn’t a Greek poet, why would this show Theophilus should have mentioned Jesus? As I explained before, the three short letters of Theophilus (which are so short we can hardly make any conclusions) are intended to defend Christian doctrines, not talk about Jesus, and so it’s not very surprising at all that they don’t talk about Jesus. If you go through my own blog and read many of my posts about Christianity… You’ll see a lot of them simply don’t mention Jesus. Theophilus, of course, does use the word ‘Christian’, and as I explained earlier, the title ‘Christian’ derives from the phrase ‘little Christ’, meaning that the language Theophilus uses necessitates knowledge of Jesus before himself, since the very name/designation ‘Christian’ couldn’t even have been around until ‘Jesus Christ’ was. I also think your appeal to Theophilus is special pleading, since out of the literally hundreds of Christian and apocryphal texts of the second and third centuries AD, you seem to quote the very one that doesn’t mention Jesus by name and conclude that … Jesus wasn’t known in 180 AD (or something like that). This is special pleading and refuted by our overwhelming corpus of apocryphal and Christian sources from the second century (see Irenaeus, for example, who wrote about the same time as Theophilus and can’t get enough of Jesus). I would argue that the very fact that Theophilus was a Christian necessitated he knows about Jesus, because ‘Christianity’ is a figment of the imagination without Jesus, since the entire religion revolves around Him.

        Thus, I think I’ve done enough to outline the unending evidence of first century composition. I’m sure that an actual historian of church history would be able to produce myriads more evidence than I’m familiar with, but this is what I have to offer. This is obviously more than enough to establish a dating, many ancient texts are dated based on a single mention of a contemporary figure, but given all we have about 1st century figures in the New Testament, where is the debate? The evidence seems to be in verdict here.

        By the way, you say;

        “Furthermore, to my knowledge, Van Manen’s theories regarding the authorship of the Pauline letters and the dating of the New Testament letters have never been refuted, but rather merely discarded.”

        No, it has completely been refuted (as the quote I gave earlier from Ludemann notes). If there were one tiny crevice of hope for this theory, then the radicals of today (like the Jesus Seminar) would be all over it, since there are literally some scholars around that take the most radical possible positions they can find as long as they see a glimmer of hope for it, so long as it counteracts the increasingly proven reliability of the Gospels.

      • Good morning Scientific Christian,

        I look forward to further discussions regarding the topics at hand, but will likely do so in sections and more by specific topic than heretofore. The time constraints of my vocation all too often conflict with my proclivity for verbosity, so I shall pace myself for the duration! I would venture to say 1-2 weeks should allow me sufficient time for my first such response, perhaps sooner, perhaps later.

        Just for the record, I am enjoying our discussion very much. Friendly dialogue and the exchange of philosophies and theories is for me both enjoyable and educational.

        That said, I bid you and yours a wonderful day my friend,

        Dave

      • Thanks for the notification, Dave. I am not at all intending to pressure you to write a response earlier, indeed, I would insist that you take your time so that you can produce the best possible response and so I can address your best possible arguments.

        Friendly dialogue (since you mention it) is something that may be rare, at times, when discussing with people online. So, this is truly a moment to savor! I’ll wait your next response, good brother.

        By the way, to let you know, I’ve only read the first book of Theophilus to Autolycus by now. This is because I started reading the works of Origen before starting Theophilus, whose books are rather hefty in length.

        Until next time, friend.

      • Good morning Scientific Christian,

        Hope all is well in your world.

        Just to touch on a few items in your most recent reply

        As to Price and Detering. There is plenty of material by Price to be peer reviewed; hence any lack of such is neither a discredit to Price or his theories. As to Detering, you are correct, he writes primarily in German. In fact, I have more than once told my German wife that I am tempted to learn her native tongue so that I can read more Detering! The few writings that he has written in English are excellent works, and as I am an old dog who is more and more less inclined to learn his native dialect, I doubt that I will read more of his thoughts beyond what he may write in my own from here on out.

        I enjoy each man’s works, I don’t agree with all conclusions of each, but I respect the approach that each takes to Early Christian Literature. Critical analysis, and a demand for evidence in order to support a theory.

        You 7 “uncontested” letters of Paul. The theory has been contested, and likely always will. Some regard only 6 as authentic. Some regard 4 as authentic (the “hauptbriefe”: Galatians, Romans, 1 & 2 Cor). Some question the authenticity of each and every product of the “Pauline Corpus” so to speak.

        You make your point quite well as to paleography. The P52 fragment nonetheless is difficult to date prior to early 2nd Century, and is but a fragment. There are no known manuscripts of New Testament which can be dated to 2nd Century, though some material is quoted mid to late 2nd Century

        As to Tertullian and Galatians, the theory that Marcion (or one of his peers) may have written Galatians is my theory, not Tertullians. But Tertullian does acknowledge Marcion (a man whose memory he hated) as having discovered such.

        The doctrine of Martyrdom as a direct line to heaven is a late 2nd Century development, and there is little evidence of any expansive persecution against the Christians before the regime of Marcus Aurelelius. Even the accusations of such during that era may be over exaggerated, as the source for such accusations are biased claimants.(The main source being the Early Church Fathers themselves)

        Ignatius I have to reacquaint myself with.

        As to Tacitus and Pliny, I have posted a few thoughts on each as per the following links:

        https://earlyjudeochristianwritings.blogspot.com/2017/09/on-letter-of-pliny-younger-to-trajan.html

        https://earlyjudeochristianwritings.blogspot.com/2017/09/thoughts-on-theory-of-testimony-of.html

        Just a final thought for today:

        I honestly don’t think that my theory that most if not all New Testament material may have been written in the 2nd Century can be proved as such. I merely refuse to assume any conclusions without evidence. I propose theories based upon the evidence at hand, while at the same time I reject any assumed theories of the past or present which lack evidence to confirm.

        Have a great day my friend,

        Dave

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