Pontius, Our Pilot – Part 1

Resurrecting the Pontius Pilate series for Easter.

Jericho Brisance

What-is-truth02To those who have, of late, recited to me our old evangelical adage – that the scriptures of the Bible are, despite their manifold authors, truthful and without contradiction – I have countered with my standing response: where would you like to begin?

Today we shall turn to one of our preeminent but unacknowledged allies, one who stands as exemplar of the sorrowing fact that the biblical writers were rather making it up as they went along – our old dear villain, Pontius Pilate. Just like Lazarus and Paul, Pontius can help us to pilot up-current, back through the Channel of No Return, to break the siren spell of rose-tinted apologetics.

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Taking Easter Seriously – Revised & Enhanced

It is that time of year again, and so I am reposting the popular “Taking Easter Seriously” infographic. This 2015 version includes slight enhancements and corrections to the prior version.

Many Christians read the Easter stories year upon year, as I did for several decades, yet we never compare them in detail. As a consequence, we often do not realize that they are not telling the same story. There are indeed contradictions in the texts, but it is very important to move beyond “mere contradiction” — the issues with our gospels are far more extensive than that. Comparison against the historical record and assessing the gospels for trends of legend development are probably far more crucial. As with many non-believers, I left Christianity specifically because of the Bible, and because I considered and examined its content very seriously indeed.

Perhaps it is time for more Christians to take the Bible and our Easter stories seriously.

[Click Image for Full Size Version (PNG), Use Ctrl+ and Ctrl- to adjust zoom.] or [PDF Version ]  or [Greek Version]

I am indebted to scholars like Bart Ehrman, Marcus Borg, & Richard Carrier, without whom I would no doubt continue in my own past failures to take Easter seriously. And as always, I look to improve the accuracy of my work wherever possible. Please reply with any factual errors found, and I will correct appropriately. Thanks.

Also See: Infographic for New Testament Timeline

(C) Copyright 2015, JerichoBrisance.com

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

[In other words, feel free to pass along, distribute, etc., just don’t repackage it and sell it. Thanks!]

 

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References: [Read more…]

Christianity and the Roman Empire, a Book Review

As I do background research for my longer term writing project, I decided it would be a useful side exercise to provide snapshot reviews of various resources that I digest along the way.

I picked up a paperback copy of “Christianity and the Roman Empire”, by  Ralph Martin Novak, at Half Price Books a week ago. It offers a substantial volume of well-chosen textual excerpts from historians and writers taken from the period of the Roman Empire, such as Tacitus, Josephus, Seutonius, Justin Martyr, and so on. Novak provides excellent commentary and discussion throughout as a scholar of Roman History with an education from University of Chicago. His presentation is objective and presents material critical of both the Roman and Christian players involved. The chronological arrangement allows the reader to see how views and policies shifted over time. [Read more…]

2014 in Review & Future Plans

Thanks to all who made 2014 a great blogging year at Jericho. The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog, which I’ve auto-posted here.

Followers may have noticed that my attention to blogging has faded during the second half of the year, following the completion of the Paisley series. Over the past couple of months, I have been mulling and planning a more ambitious novel writing project, which I believe I will undertake in 2015. Current plans center around a work of historical fiction with thematic loci of faith, the marrow hope of immortality, and the costs of cult. I believe this task is beyond me, but then, perhaps that is the point. My efforts in this area will largely keep me diverted from blogging, and it may take a year or two for completion, provided I can maintain stamina.

Cheers to all, and may your New Year bring you welcome mountains, an upward press, and the hope of panoramas beyond the grey.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 47,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 17 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

32-F

Raising the plastic shade on my porthole disclosed little but a grey-white blur. Shaking off my dozing grogginess, I stopped the audiobook drone that had napped me away. The low jostle of turbulence needed some libation and a reminisce through familiar old tunes. After the cobwebs began to fully clear, I seconded my check of the world outside, just as those slow jogging chords began to lilt from the lower middle keys. I found myself transfixed by a vision. [Read more…]

Making Sense of Miracle… Paisley, Part 11

I come now to the brass tacks of fact and fiction regarding Paisley’s miracle, which will be the final post in this series. The ranging anecdotes I have recounted thus far may have left the reader with somewhat mixed signals. Had God answered prayer, or was He absent at the darkest hour? Was Paisley saved by a miracle, or by Pasteurian-Darwinian science? Was the experience a glory to God, or a reason to question His existence?

The force of such opposing arrows teaches a parable all its own, underscoring the deficiency of personal experience for navigating the waters surrounding miracles. Within the compass of a single individual (myself), one could distill nearly any moral to the story.

Nevertheless, real answers do exist. We need not wander in the mist between anecdotes. Malleable personal experience must be displaced by the stone of hard fact. To find it requires that we lift our gaze to a broader view. The cure for flat earth viewpoints hovers at high altitude.

So friends, this final post will present facts to make sense of it all. My question to you is whether you are interested in fact and truth, or whether you wish to preserve a favorite but somewhat fictional anecdote. We sadly cannot have both. [Read more…]

Prayer Most Desperate… Paisley, Part 10

If not now…

How gentle the rise, I thought, as they lifted me on that gurney. Two teams of paramedics had swept noiselessly into my kitchen, to find me collapsed on the floor. Chest pains had dragged me to the earth, coupled with strained breathing and the distinct sound of blood rushing through my ears. Crumpled to my knees, and then pulled further down, I had finally been flattened out on the stained concrete. I felt myself on the brink of losing consciousness, coupled with the sense that I would stop breathing if I did. The color had entirely drained from my face, and my frightened wife called for aid. A great hand had reached down and simply flipped the switch, or opened the valve, and the vital force had bled out of me. So they shuttled me by ambulance to the hospital, leaving my tearfully anxious wife alone with her fears until someone could come to relieve her. Paisley had not yet been born, or even conceived, but our three other children had remained fast asleep in their rooms. [Read more…]

Death of the Casual… Paisley, Part 9

Sinking the Old Frigate

I fell silent after reading that book, laying, as Job memorably stated, my hand upon my mouth. I stopped the grinding mental machinery of dismissal. I pulled back from friends and from life, and I dug in to find out what the truth was. [Read more…]

Dissonance Dawning… Paisley, Part 8

Two Standing Questions

My friends, I come now to the turn in the story which will, no doubt, lead to a good deal of seat shifting among you. However, before rounding that bend, I hope to briefly lay to rest two standing questions that have been put to us. [Read more…]

From the Rooftops… Paisley, Part 7

Lyrical Turn

Within a week following Paisley’s homecoming, my irrepressible happiness began to find its way onto the page, where a lengthy poem about the ordeal began to take shape. Following a period of toil, in which I wrangled with seesawing themes of despair and elation, the incubation yielded a grander idea. Feeble as the poetic embryo seemed, I sought out backup, rather clandestinely contacting my brother-in-law, a gifted musician:

I feel that this poem simply falls short of that moment, of what it felt like to actually be there. Do you think you can turn it into a song?

The smile began in his eyes – could he? Such an unnecessary question. [Read more…]

Equilibrium… Paisley, Part 6

It would undersell the truth to say that our Paisley had survived. She had passed through fire and death, to borrow Tolkien’s words, and without a scratch. She was perfect and whole in every way. Joy suffused us, and we felt a permeating thankfulness to God and to her doctors. She was an example both of Providence and of advanced Western medicine. She was our little miracle. But miracles are curious things, tumbling together the oil and water of the improbable and the impossible. [Read more…]

Valley March… Paisley, Part 5

A Different Cadence

You start already tired, as my wife puts it. You have already lost sleep and struggled with anxiety before ever arriving at the hospital. Exhaustion compounds downward from this depleted outset. Crisis-born adrenaline wires you briefly, while borrowing heavily on energy reserves, for which you must soon pay. The shear pressure of decisions, grappling with consequences, and the demands to stay somehow calm – these accruals run all accounts into the red. Long hours of silence chew down fingernails, but they are ever punctuated by medical interruptions, cheering visits from friends, phone calls from concerned family, and sobering consultations from the doctors. The brain must learn a new language: that of meningitis, of bacterial strains, of antibiotic treatments, of dosing intervals, and of prognoses. Night brings the red eyes of unsleep, equipment alarms, and nursing break-ins. By 36 hours into the ordeal, reserves are fully spent. You realize that you haven’t changed clothes or showered.

But people adapt. As those who have known life at the ICU will attest, we find a way. We find a new cadence when the world changes. We normalize to the absurd. [Read more…]

Pockets and Posies… Paisley, Part 4

Yesterday’s Life

Night had fallen while we had been in the windowless ER, somewhere in the belly of the medical behemoth. From there, they transferred us to the intensive care unit.

Centered in the vacant sterility, Paisley lay under a dim overhead lamp, stabbed and wired in places too numerous to count. As we stared down from behind our masks, my wife tried to hold Paisley’s hands and feet still, to keep her struggles from pulling out these lifelines. Digital equipment throbbed and chimed continually. They would have snatched away the hope of sleep, had we wanted it.

I do not know a word for the futility of that place. The soul is tied by the limbs, rent and quartered. Shock and numbness mingle with the welling pressure to scream and to see everything broken. One wishes only for the quiet of home. To go back to yesterday’s life. I wanted to hold Paisley, to stand between her and the demons, and to make them take me first. Instead, you are made to stand there. You are made to feel the emptiness of your hands: a useless guardian keeping futile watch. [Read more…]

Landfall… Paisley, Part 3

Drops of White

Paisley was only twelve days old, and no bigger than two upturned palms. She had that scent that belongs only to infants. Pink skin, with tiny newborn speckles on the bridge of her nose.

And she was writhing. Her eyes were rolled up, and she was clutching against a pain strong enough to quench her cries.

The air became leaden as the doctor and nurse, obscured behind their masks, took up positions across the table from each other. Paisley lay between them, and she was rolled to face the nurse and me. The doctor cleaned the insertion point between two vertebral knobs on her lower back. The nurse cupped her body in his two large hands, with one behind her neck and the other grasping her buttocks. As the needle was bared, my wife could watch no more, and she took her trembling and prayerful tears to the hallway. But I stayed. [Read more…]

Tempest Rising… Paisley, Part 2

Pink Bundle

Paisley arrived in late January, during that time of year when the Texas air feels most out of character. She completed our quartet of children, a collated symmetry of boy, girl, boy, and girl. Being indifferent to sports but fond of cultural idiom, I dubbed her, “the final four.” She did seem to complete us as a family. But owing to events that transpired not long after her birth, she came to occupy a special place in our hearts and memories.

I find it becoming difficult to write already. Eyes moisten; breath comes up short; fingers quaver over the keys. Still yesterday.

Life has a way of trespassing its own character. Just as with the dissonance that Texas winter embodies, there was something about Paisley’s hale and golden dawning that makes befuddlement of that which followed shortly after. Just before her gentle rise pulled free of the rim. [Read more…]

Paisley

The near brush of death leaves upon us an indelible mark. So much more the case, when the noose of jeopardy closes upon a child. Our daughter Paisley hazarded that scaffold just twelve days after being born. This was three and a half years ago.

Medical intervention was swift, bending a potent light upon her affliction. As she fought to live, our church family rallied around us, lending full force to our plight. Much prayer was lifted on her account, and friends gave selflessly to help and to comfort us in whatever way they could. It was a darkness driven back by creeds, both Hippocratic and Christian. [Read more…]

Quote – Neil deGrasse Tyson

Every great scientific truth goes through three phases: first, people deny it. Second, they say it conflicts with the Bible. Third, they say they’ve known it all along.

~ Neil deGrasse Tyson

Reblog: From Fundamentalism to Freedom

Feeling strong kinship with the author, and also being impressed by the balanced, compact, and expressive prose, I found this article worth reblogging.

http://new.exchristian.net/2014/05/from-fundamentalism-to-freedom.html

Jericho now on Facebook

Jericho now on Facebook

Jericho is now also on FB, where I am making daily posts of interesting stuff from a range of news feeds, including articles, YouTube’s, memes and infographics. The Jericho blog will remain the location where I post original articles and contemplations, while the FB page will serve as a real-time venue. Follow by going to this link and “liking” the page. Cheers… 

Heaven is for Real: Odometer of Credulity

It is not snobbish to notice the way in which people show their gullibility and their herd instinct, and their wish, or perhaps their need, to be credulous and to be fooled. This is an ancient problem. Credulity may be a form of innocence, and even innocuous in itself, but it provides a standing invitation for the wicked and the clever to exploit their brothers and sisters, and is thus one of humanity’s great vulnerabilities. No honest account of the growth and persistence of religion, or the reception of miracles and revelations, is possible without reference to this stubborn fact.

~ Christopher Hitchens. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Heaven is for Real. Sigh. Over the weekend my older two kids and I went to a Barnes and Noble to chat over coffee while looking at books and magazines. While there, I thumbed through and read several sections of this abysmal little pamphlet, for calling it a book would grant it far too much dignity. Not since the Prayer of Jabez have I seen piffle more perfectly suited as a litmus test of human credulity.

Basic Criticisms

Criticisms for the book are easy to discern from directly reading it or perusing critiques on the internet. [Read more…]

Secular Wings

My freedom from spiritual abuse happened when I walked away from the abusers. My healing and recovery from the complex trauma of spiritual abusers, spiritually abusive faith and toxic religion happened while I was still a Christian and continues to this day. My deconversion came later after many many years of studying the Bible, Christian apologetics, cults and spiritual abuse. When I realized that the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God, the only honest thing I could do was to stop calling myself a Christian. ~ Zoe

Variant Readings

Thoughts on History, Religion, Archaeology, Papyrology, etc. by Brent Nongbri

Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

A Measure of Faith

Investigating the collision of faith, science and reason

aspiretofindtruth

Seeking answers for some of the big questions of life.

Random thoughts

Random musings about everything.

Victoria NeuroNotes

Into the Gray

Richard Carrier Blogs

Announcing appearances, publications, and occasional thoughts on natural philosophy and ancient history by philosopher, historian, and author Richard Carrier.

kind-ism

adventures in losing Faith & Leaving Christian Science