Plot Twist on Ehrman vs Wallace Debate

This article in the Atlantic tells a fascinating story of antiquities theft, cover-up, and fraud. The basic topic was attention grabbing. But I was positively arrested by the opening scene, because I remember watching it quite distinctly:

[Read more…]

Infographic – Book of Acts – Comprehensive Relationship & Timeline Diagram

*Updated 09-07-2016*

As part of my ongoing historical research efforts, I found it necessary to develop a comprehensive outline of the book of Acts. This has taken several forms, one of which is the following relationship diagram and timeline for Acts. The notion was simple, but the doing turned out to take a good deal longer than I had anticipated. I’ve decided to pause my research long enough to publish this as an infographic, in the hopes that it may prove useful to others. Feel free to print and repost; all I ask is that attribution to JerichoBrisance be included. Further details and notes are below.

Click on image for high resolution PDF.

Acts RD Preview Whole

Additional Notes:  [Read more…]

Easter Infographic Now Available in Greek

Through the generous volunteer collaboration of blogger Evan T. at On the Way to Ithaca, the Taking Easter Seriously infographic has now been translated into Greek. Much thanks to Evan for his hard work, which can be found here and on the main Easter infographic page. And for those unaware, this Sunday will be the Easter holiday for the Eastern Church.

Taking Easter Seriously Greek Preview

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!]

 

~

References: [Read more…]

Fish that Wriggle

God, but there is a lot of noise out there.

The internet and blogosphere are littered with so many voices, each claiming a supremacy over the attentions of their dear readers. Echo chambers are on offer for any view. As people, just trying to live our lives, we pilot toward these safe harbors and find the affirmation that our souls crave. Our aged tribal impulses are nourished on the village chants uttered from the pulpits, from Fox News, from the New York Times, and from the Academy. Most of our positions are inherited from friends or ancestry – the common property of our communities. We back our sports teams and we back the Bible with equally ardent and unthought loyalties.

But as the tribes sit round their village tables, lapping up communal pablum from silvered urns, the vessels are at intervals shaken to spillage by disquieting questions. These inquiries are voiced by seekers, dissidents, and apostates. Doubt is mustered – that lurking menace which stalks the confidence so painstakingly erected by our rousing battle cries and stadium chants. Communities are organisms in their own right, and inquiries that would atrophy group loyalty are a threat. Doubt shrinks the numbers. Questions disquiet the members. They put static on the loudspeakers of affirmation. They waken the dreamers from their harbor sleep. We must sing together, or not all. [Read more…]

Infographic: Taking Easter Seriously

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. Use Ctrl+ and Ctrl- to adjust zoom.]

JerichoBrisance Easter Infographic 04202014

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 2014, 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!]

 

~

References: [Read more…]

Dismissing the “Fact” of the Resurrection in a Single Sentence

Bankruptcy_Clipped2

In a perfect analogue to the grand assertions of every cult and religious fiction, not one of the astonishing claims regarding the life of Jesus – the Herodian slaughter, the great census, the heavenly star, the many miracles, the raising of Lazarus, the great earthquake, the hours of darkness, the rending of the temple veil, the hordes of walking dead, the mass post-mortem sightings, or the ascension – was recorded by a single contemporary outside of the faith tradition.

~ Jericho

~

SnapThought – Wrested from My Hands

Icthus

My faith in Jesus was wrested from my hands by the three-pronged crowbar of God’s creation + God’s character + God’s texts. These three explode away from each other in a cloud of incompatibility. We have been given clear markers throughout Christianity of a man-made, not God-made, religion. In short, the scriptures and dogmas cannot live up to their billing, and much that is claimed never happened.

In talking to other believers and deconverts, I have found basically three sorts:  (1) Those who do not know the issues and rest untroubled. (2) Those who are aware of the dilemmas and, despite being unable to resolve them, choose a faith of forgetting instead. (3) Those whose faith died in a struggle that refused a surrender to apathy.

“Strictly Speaking, the Gospels are Anonymous” (w/ YouTube)

CaseForChristAs Anonymous as Genesis

“…strictly speaking, the gospels are anonymous”

~ Craig Blomberg, The Case for Christ

This little boulder of information is so frequently passed over. Evangelicals stamp feet and insist that the gospels are eyewitness records. But these are curious eyewitness records indeed, though a person is unlikely to come away from The Case for Christ understanding the following:

  • The gospels never claim to be eyewitness records.
  • They never narrate in the first person.
  • They were written in the wrong language for Galilean disciples.
  • They recount a great deal that the disciples could not have witnessed.
  • But perhaps most disturbing – and perhaps the first flag we should have noticed – is that they are entirely anonymous.

And that makes the first four books of the New Testament a whole lot like the first five books of the Old Testament: they all have unfounded traditions about who wrote them; they were all written in the wrong language; they were all written in the wrong voice; and they all include information that doesn’t make sense for eyewitnesses. Yet we like to say that they are eyewitness records – because, hey, that sounds reliable.

~

A few more quotes to flesh out this interesting issue of anonymity: [Read more…]

Reprise of “Isaiah-Gate” – Catholic Tremors and Affirmation

Infallible StampIn response to my recent post on the virgin birth, a fellow blogger, Arkenaten, was good enough to forward a quite interesting article. It recounts how a group of Jewish inquirers sent three questions to then-pope John Paul II for response. These questions pertained to seemingly conflicting assertions in the New Testament regarding Jesus’ (1) post-resurrection appearances, (2) genealogies, and (3) virgin birth. I highly recommend reading this short web article, for it is insightful from top to bottom. However for our purposes, the well-asked third question was put as follows:

The genealogical line linking Jesus and King David seems to pass through Jesus’ father. But since Jesus was the product of a virgin conception, then he does not share in his father’s Davidic ancestry. How is Jesus a descendent of David?

The Vatican declined to give a direct answer but referred the group to the French Dominican Fathers’ Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem. They also declined comment, but stated that the catholic theologian Raymond Brown could provide appropriate answers. Brown was good enough to direct them to his own theological works at the library of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem. What they found was a catholic position undermining the historicity of the virgin birth altogether. This is what they report:

On the other hand, admits Brown, “The virginal conception under its creedal title of ‘virgin birth’ is not primarily a biological statement.”  He stresses that Christian writings about virginal conception intend to reveal spiritual insights rather that physical facts.  Because record of the virginal conception appears only in two Gospels, and there only in the infancy narratives (which Brown suspects are largely fictional), the Catholic theologian tactfully concludes that “biblical evidence leaves the question of the historicity of the virginal conception unresolved.”

Brown mentions the possibility that “early Christians” might have imported a mythology about virginal conception from “pagan or [other] world religions,” but never intended that that mythology be taken literally.  “Virginal conception was a well-known religious symbol for divine origins,” explains Brown, citing such stories in Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Greco-Roman and ancient Egyptian theologies. He proposes that early Christians “used an imagery of virginal conception whose symbolic origins were forgotten as it was disseminated among various Christian communities and recorded by evangelists.”

~ SimpleToRemember, Judaism Online (link)

[Read more…]

Pontius, Our Pilot – Part 4

<< Continued from Part 3

Summing the Woeful Tally

The gospels simply do not tell a consistent story about the trial of Jesus.

Prophecy: In the first three gospels, a Silent Jesus comports with the prophecy of Isaiah, as intimated by Luke’s record in Acts. In John, a Mouthy Jesus precludes any possibility that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled by the quick-witted Nazarene, who parried questions with a series of paradoxical comebacks that worked circles around a hapless Pilate. Either (1) Isaiah was indeed foretelling the messianic Jesus, and hence John was exaggerating the story for his own dramatic ends; or else (2) John finally told us the truth about just how talkative Jesus was, and the prior three gospels were skewing the trial to make the life of Jesus seem to fit Isaiah’s prophecy, when it really didn’t. In any case, one or more of the gospels was playing fast and loose with historical fact. Either Jesus fulfilled Isaiah, or Jesus out-pointed Pilate. [Read more…]

Pontius, Our Pilot – Part 3

<< Continued from Part 2

Probable Cause

Some 40 years after the death of Jesus, stories about him finally found their way into a heroic written tale, the book of Mark. In the subsequent two decades, these accounts were duly amplified by the later three gospel writers, along with many other non-canonical gospels. But the stories preserved about Jesus, while retaining a good deal of historically implausible content, persistently steer further away from conceding the most probable cause for Jesus’ violent end. [Read more…]

Pontius, Our Pilot – Part 2

<< Continued from Part 1

The Reluctance and Showmanship of Pilate

But now we come to the second focal area of this essay: the purported reluctance of Pilate in condemning Jesus to crucifixion. The scrupulous reader can readily observe that the gospels do not paint the same picture on this question either.

Mark portrays Pilate as reluctant, condemning Jesus to placate the demands of the Jewish leaders.

Matthew amplifies the theatre of the scene by describing Pilate washing his hands, offering a literary opportunity for the Jewish leaders to call down a curse upon themselves and their descendants (a thematic move blamed by many for the later Semitic persecution of the Catholic church). Indeed, Pilate’s wife is even invoked, sending him warning to leave the righteous Jesus alone. And on both counts again – we should ask again how it was that a later account from Mathew seemed able to come up with additional details unknown to Mark. How would Matthew know about a private message from Pilate’s wife? [Read more…]

Pontius, Our Pilot – Part 1

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. [Read more…]

Conversation Transplant… Minimal Facts Discussion

Well, it seems I’ve been ousted from a blog for the first time, ostensibly because I didn’t talk enough about facts. Though for the life of me, I would say it was more because I challenged a few sacred cows than anything else.

In any case, I have found a few belated comments in response to my remarks on the same thread. They were thoughtful and cogent, so I think they deserve a response. No need for good discussion to die.

Sadly, I don’t really have a great deal of my own initial comments. But – *trumpeting heralds* – one of my interlocutors was good enough to copy/paste most of what I said. Those comments will be below, and then I’ll respond in additional comment bubbles following.

Cheers,

Matt

Says Who? … The Baffling Anonymous Bible (3)

Anonymous WriterNow faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

~ Anonymous

~~~

A bit more:

Hebrews had trouble from the beginning. No one really knows who wrote Hebrews, and in the end it became canonized because people held it dear. Though it was ostensibly written by Paul, [Read more…]

iGod, Part 1 – Divine Uplink

The Holy Spirit is that little piece of me that I like to call God.

Red Telephone

Red TelephoneNot long ago, a friend sent an email announcement to me and some others, outlining a plan to go into the missionary field. The email cited God’s leading and their prayerful consideration. It also stated that this consideration had begun when he heard God speak to him, audibly. I’ve heard claims to hear the audible Voice of the Lord before, but I will admit that it has been some time. And as with everyone I’ve known who claimed to have received the Big Call on the red telephone, the experience left my friend brimming with a sense of calling and purpose. The conversation that followed between us was both respectful and quite long. The story sounded so very familiar. It sounded like a story that I myself would once have told.

To Walk by the Spirit

In my younger days, I walked in the Spirit quite fervently, or so I thought. [Read more…]

Pew Research and Thoughts on End Times Expectations

To reprise of my prior observations about Harold Camping’s decease and legacy, Pew Research conducted a poll earlier this year that proves relevant. This was originally brought to my attention by John Zande; thanks John.

PF_13_03_22_JesusReturn-02Today a staggering 41% of US citizens (130,000,000 adults) believe that their Middle Eastern god will commence its mass extinction of all creatures in their lifetime. It’s a ghastly figure but it is a number reflected in the multi-billion dollar Christian apocalypse industry that has in just the last twenty years produced 29 End Times films (with such grand titles as “Tribulation” and “Judgement”), 60 documentaries (like “Racing to the End Times”), and some 1,120+ grotesquely warped End Times books, of which the Left Behind series has alone sold over 40 million copies.

~ JZ

For my own commentary, I will simply observe that I have been in two kinds of Christian groups… [Read more…]

Infographic – Timeline of the New Testament Books

One of the many difficulties the New Testament presents for scholars is dating and sequencing the books in order. Some of the books were written anonymously and did not specify an author. Dating of documents was also not undertaken. Using a range of textual clues, scholars have developed approximate dates for the books. While timelines can be found from a number of sources, I had trouble finding any that were annotated with other significant events of the period. Thus, the following timeline, which combines information from several resources.

My hope is that this may serve as a fairly rich “info-graphic” to help outline the development of Christology and “historical” information about Jesus as contained in the gospels. (please do advise if you find any errors)

New Testament Timeline - JerichoBrisance

The core timeline – which consisted of only the books and their dates – was drawn from Raymond E. Brown’s Introduction to the New Testament (RC); and I found it in a post by Jared Anderson at RationalFaiths.com (LDS). Other sources consulted are cited below. The following is a brief excerpt from Wikipedia on Raymond E. Brown:

The Reverend Raymond Edward Brown, S.S. (May 22, 1928 – August 8, 1998), was an American Roman Catholic priest, a member of the Sulpician Fathers and a prominent Biblical scholar of his era.

Brown was one of the first Roman Catholic scholars to apply historical-critical analysis to the Bible.

He was regarded as occupying the center ground in the field of biblical studies, opposing the literalism found among many fundamentalist Christians while not carrying his conclusions as far as many other scholars.

Theological Evolution

When surveying the letters of Paul and the gospel accounts, it is interesting to note the development of historical claims, as outlined in the orange numbered callouts on the timeline. [Read more…]

Dangled Over a Flame: Jews and Jesus Among Pagan Gods

Justin Martyr

Justin Martyr (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Justin Martyr provides an interesting look at apologetics in the century following Jesus’ life. His First Apology was dated to between 147 and 161 AD. Greek and Roman god worship was alive and well, and Christianity was trying to grow from the same cultural earth as these various competing religions.

To make his case, Martyr compares Christian claims about Jesus to the existent mythology of the culture. It must be noted that the pagan themes and beliefs pre-existed Christianity. They were antecedent, and Christian doctrine blossomed against this backdrop.

Martyr makes it clear that the pagans already had themes that appear in Christianity, for he makes the argument in several ways that “we propound nothing different from what you believe”, and he addresses several key areas:

  1. The Word
  2. Sonship
  3. Divine Conception
  4. Suffering and Death
  5. Resurrection and Ascension

Martyr’s leading argument (all emphasis following mine):

And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth  of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter.

[Read more…]

The Curious Atheist

Freely Seeking Truth After Religion

Class Warfare Blog

I don’t want to start a class war; it started a long time ago and, unfortunately, we are losing.

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