Category Archives: Jesus Christ

Are the accounts of the resurrection contradictory? | Psephizo

One of the favourite arguments against the resurrection of Jesus is that the four gospel accounts are different, thus they are all made up.

One could argue that four witnesses who agree on the essentials are more reliable than those who agree on every word, having ensured there were no differences.

Paul argues that many of the differences are due to the extreme brevity of the four accounts and the need to select evidence when writing it down (or dictating which is more likely)

In 1959 my uncle, Grenville Yarnold wrote a book Risen Indeed, which is a good short book, accepting a real bodily (but not physical) resurrection, but does not discuss the differences between the gospels. He showed how the gospels point to the empty tomb and that Jesus rose from the dead, but not as a conjuring trick with bones!

Enjoy this straightforward but detailed argument

Christ is Risen.

If not Christians make fools of themselves!!

P.S. Grenville’s wife, Dorothy, got a degree in maths and physics from Oxford in the early 1930s , as did her sister my mother. both were also hockey blues.

Source: Are the accounts of the resurrection contradictory? | Psephizo

Keep Climate Change out of Easter

Several years ago the activist group Christian Climate Change organised a “Fossil-free Advent service”. 

Here they are.

even the hymns and carols were re-written to bring in Climate Change and the horrors of deadly fossil fuels.

Silent Night, Holy Night

When will you see the light?

Arctic melting as temperatures rise

Carbon burning and filling the skies

Churches – think of God’s way

For Christ’s sake please hear what we say

I never know what is the best response to things like that, whether to snigger and ridicule  or try to answer the issues they raise. Over the years I have found the last option an impossible task as groups like this take the most extreme and dismal reading of Climate Change and the IPCC reports. By selection and cherry-picking they present the argument that we are all about to fall over a cliff of climate disaster. If you don’t agree with them you are a climate denier and want to destroy the planet. 

We have moved on from the Fossil-free Advent and now  there are attempts to squeeze Climate Change into the services for every sunday, even when the Biblical passages for that sunday cannot be twisted, sorry interpreted, to say anything about Climate Change or Petrol. A search on the web will turn up ways of bring Climate Change into any biblical passage. Often the interpretations are somewhat forced and bizarre and are trying to get oil out of a stone!! (That is done by drilling.)

There is little in the Bible on the environment as it was simply not an issue two to three thousand years ago. There is much on Creation in both testaments but very, very little on how we should care for it.  We can bring out general principles for creation care from the Bible, but nothing in detail.

This is my short and simple summary of how a Christian should care for creation, but I have only given principles and not examples of need; https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/01/03/gods-creation-and-the-environment/

Sometimes attempts to find Creation Care in the Bible gets rather weak. Thus a leading Christian environmentalist argued that the classic verse John 3 vs16 means we should care for creation, because God loved the world and then so should we.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…….

Really!  That is an OK reading by a 12 year old in Sunday School but not an expert! The word “world” often occurs in John’s Gospel and is translated from the Greek word “kosmos”. In Greek kosmos can mean the whole of Creation as it does in Romans chap1 vs 20. However it is used some 70 times in John’s gospel and can mean  the creation, humankind, humans a opposed to God etc. In fact John 3 vs17 uses it to mean (hostile) humanity and not the whole of the natural world. Or take John 18 vs20 when Jesus replied to the high priest. He neither meant the antipodes or anywhere but locally around Jerusalem and Judaea. The use of kosmos in John  18 vs 33 – 38 and John 17 completely undermines this misunderstanding of kosmos.  Even a superficial reading of John and considering the use of kosmos completely undermines the claim that John 3 vs16 is a call for environmental action! That is one thing this verse is not calling for. I have not identified the author but they are a leading Christian environmentalist. But not the same as the Anglican expert on Climate Change who recommends taking garlic to avoid getting covid!!

It is very bad interpretation of the bible to try to squeeze things out of passages which simply are not there. Much of the time if we take a section of some verse, a chapter or even a whole book, they deal with only one or two topics and the other 999 are simply unmentioned. 

In recent weeks in the run up to Holy Week I have seen requests on social media for guidance on how to bring in Climate Change into the appointed bible reading during the Easter period. Considering all the readings which could be used over this period, none bring in Climate Change, even implicitly, and all have another purpose as they are to bring out the meaning of those events from Palm Sunday to Easter Day. If we need to ask, “what do these passages say about care of creation?” The answer has to be zilch and we need to look elsewhere

Yet more and more churches are putting “Climate Justice ” at the centre and thus wish to be able to bring it in to everything in the life of the church. thus Climate Change becomes the controlling narrative and not the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In other words the Gospel is subtly changed in its basis. Initially, one could see, it is Christianity PLUS creation Care with an apparent lack of shift. Gradually certain kinds of Creation Care become dominant, and that becomes the controlling principle squeezing out the core of the faith, though often retaining the words.

 I can hear many say, “Surely protecting the planet is vital?” To which I happily answer YES!! those who know me will know that I do try to protect and care for the planet, whether in economy of use, growing trees to give away, my use of a bicycle, and trying to hold local councils to account by attempting to stop the destruction of flower rich verges.

But though my creation care is integral to my life and faith it is not the guiding principle. That is because faith in Christ includes Creation Care, rather than Creation Care being at the centre, or faith in Christ AND Creation Care. 

Today, Maundy Thursday 2022, we see Green Christian forcing their views on Just Stop Oil on to the remembrance of the Last Supper and the washing of feet. This is misguided, tendentious and judgmental of those who disagree.

May be an image of 9 people, outdoors and text that says "GC Green Christian heenChrleta 18m Just Stop Oil. Christians were involved in the recent Just Stop Oil protests around the country recently. #JustStopOil http:/grencristior.ukjustop.ol On Maundy Thursday, when we celebrate Jesus' washing of the disciples feet, let's commit ourselves once more to sacrificially serving others and God's earth. HDYER Like Comment 1 share Share"

If all is Climate Change and stopping oil then nothing is and everything goes and the claims of both the Christian Faith and the need for Creation Care go out of the window.

The danger of this conflating of issues with major Christian Festivals is that the whole purpose of those festivals is lost. Christians have those in the Christian Year, with high points at Christmas and Easter, to bring home certain central features of the faith. Whether we take a minimalist or maximist view, Christians focus on that aspect, and that aspect alone on the particular day. By doing so reinforces a pedagogic purpose of strengthening Christians on one point and then the other points will dealt at another time. To  photo-bomb these with climate change or stop oil immediately diminishes the purpose of the day and confuses the issue with something else. On this in recent years, many churches have introduced a season of creation in September to fill a hole in the church’s year. 

Thus for the next few days all the focus is on the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and Resurrection. That is more than enough! Throwing in green issues will only diminish the emphasis on these centralities and ultimately may take over from them.

 On this I am reminded of the events of 1933 and 1934 in Germany when the churches were split down the middle by the Nazi movement. Some Christians went the whole swastika and formed the German Christians. A minority opposed this and produced the Barmen Declaration of May 31st 1934. The essence of that wass for a Christian there was only one way and that is Jesus Christ  – John 14 vs6 was their key text – and nothing should be added to that.

Later Karl Barth wrote on that in Church Dogmatics vol II .pt1 pp172ff, which is very pertinent to this question. Going beyond the horrors of the Nazis, Barth pointed out that the German Christians were only a continuation of what had been going on for decades. Little bits, and in Germany that was German nationalism, had been added on to the Christian Faith so that more and more Christianity was becoming Christianity and German Nationalism. It is now seen with the Russian Orthodox Church and the blatant nationalism of the patriarch and is not very pretty as the Ukrainians have found out.

But saw the events of 1933 as the fulfillment of 19th century Christian thought, which added an “also” to the faith, this soon became “and” and as with the German Christians “only”. He said similar things were happening in Britain, USA, and other European countries. (He could have given earlier examples from the Middle Ages.) 

Thus the German Christians were move from Christianity also National socialism, to Christianity and National socialism and, finally, ONLY National socialism – which was Hitler’s ultimate aim. 

This is a perennial risk for the Christian Church and a rooting of church history will give many examples, but few as bad as the German Christians.

The dangerous trap some environmental Christians are falling into is that they are raising their particular environmental concerns (which often align with the most extreme of environmentalists like Extinction Rebellion) in such a way that the centralities of the Christian Faith are downplayed, and, more worrying, that those Christians who don’t accept them are regarded as rather deficient in the faith, both in Christ and Creation care.

That is not on.

Hence my tirade!

This weekend as Christian we focus entirely of the death and resurrection of our Lord and then, and only then, see how it works out in every aspect of our lives both in love of neighbour and love of creation.

Easter - It's Meaning, History & Holiday Symbols Explained

An Indian delegate at the First Council of Nicaea

Anyone who has gone to an Anglican or Roman Catholic service would have recited the Nicene Creed.

The first version was produced at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 near Constantinople. This was called by Emperor Constantine (who became emperor at York) to get the churches in order. What we say is the revised creed o AD381.

The Council of Nicaea: Resolving the crisis in early Christianity | Sky  HISTORY TV Channel

It is usually assumed that the delegates came from the roman empire but this blog says one came from India. He may not have come for India as it could be Iran. Even so , a long way from the empire. Here it in verse 2

What else he did we don’t know, but it is interesting how scatted the delegates were. I am intrigued whether or not he spoke greek

Something else to undermine Dan Brown’s absurdities in Da Vinci Code.

Source: An Indian delegate at the First Council of Nicaea

Darwin’s Wasps and Good Friday

I recently bought the WILDguide to Britain’s Insects. It is a magnificent bulky guide and too big to carry into the field. With its photographs and descriptions it was better than my older guides. It also made me realise how little I knew my insects

The unofficial book club review no 2 | Through 360 Degrees - A blog by Mark  Cocker

At 600 pages it is vast and comprehensive and deals with all the families from the beautiful dragon and maiden flies to the less-enchanting bed-bugs. Much has been known about insects for years and Victorian clergy sometimes spent more time looking for beetles than writing their sermons.

One section took me by surprise. The last section of one hundred pages was on the Hymenoptera – ants, wasps, bees and relatives. Flipping through this I found five pages 472-476 on

Darwin’s Wasps

That was new to me, but these are the delightful parasitic wasps, whose females inject their eggs into some poor caterpillar and the larvae eat the caterpillar from the inside until they pupate, fly off and leave the poor very hungry caterpillar to curl up and die, which caused Darwin so much angst.

Here’s a female in action implanting its eggs into a caterpillar

Coined in Basel: The “Darwin wasps” | by Maridel Fredericksen | sci five |  University of Basel | Medium

Rather than expound these lovely critters here is wikipedia on them https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichneumonidae

I am not a great wiki fan, but it gives enough basic stuff on Darwin’s favourites. They have only been called Darwin’s wasps in the last few years and many articles are behind a paywall.

I cannot see Mrs Alexander including these wasps in her hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful – or this suggestion, which as serious as it is funny.

allthingorrible

Suffering is a problem as we will all encounter at sometime and Darwin felt it so strongly  as over the loss of his daughter Annie and used the Ichneumon fly to highlight his concern. suffering is the greatest challenge to the Christian Faith.

Now to nature red in tooth and claw.

To the cynical, natural history films are a mixture of sex and violence with either animals bonking in exotic ways or tearing each other to bits. Usually it is often a large cat tearing down a buck and then scoffing the gory remains. Yet most will find the ichneumon wasps too much for even the least squeamish. The female lays her eggs in a caterpillar and the larvae eat up the caterpillar from the inside but keeping the poor thing alive until they have metamorphosed into their imagos i.e. flying wasps. Those who have been to the tropics will know jiggers. The first thing you realise that your toe by a nail is very itchy. When you look it is red and the temptation is to scratch. After several days of infuriating discomfort you notice that the centre of the red area is a tiny black circle. Soon after that you can squeeze hard and out plops the larva, and the redness subsides. The ichneumon do it on a bigger scale!

Here is a picture of a caterpillar with the larvae exiting their host. Not a picture for the squeamish!!

ichneumon

Just imagine the larvae chomping away at the caterpillar which is just alive. Very grisly!

But this clip of a parasitic wasp is even more graphic and  takes the violence to an extreme.

Enjoy it!!

http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/body-invaders-caterpillar-edition

This video of maggots eating a caterpillar alive from the inside and then sending it mad is the stuff of horror films and would make most people squirm. It’s bad enough describing how to get rid of jiggers to even the least squeamish, but this!! Yuk, double yuk! Now Charles Darwin was squeamish and that is why he gave up medicine when he witnessed an operation on a child. To Darwin the ichneumon fly casts doubt on the benevolence of God as he wrote to the Christian botanist Asa Gray on 22nd May 1860 on issues raised by The Origin of Species. He wrote;

I cannot persuade myself that a benificient &omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intent of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that cats should play with mice.

Here Darwin lays bare the whole problem of theodicy; how we understand the existence of pain, suffering and death with a loving God. Little did he think when he casually wrote that letter to Asa Gray raising issues of belief in God, that his comments would be read and considered by so many and come to epitomise the question of a loving God, and that these wasps would be named after him. This letter and the reference to the ichneumon is a reminder that Darwin’s doubts about Christianity were less intellectual and more on morality and suffering.

Darwin was a sensitive person and in 1827 gave up studying medicine in Edinburgh because he could not accept the suffering involved in operations, having witnessed one on a child. His sqeamishness turned to a questioning of a benificient God and the death of his ten year old daughter Annie in 1851 is often seen as the last straw for his Christian faith. However Jim Moore argued somewhat too neatly that this extinguished what little Christian faith he had. He had found hard to accept the death of his father in 1848, who as an unbeliever had no place in Redemption. During this period Darwin studied several works of theology which had moved beyond the edges of orthodoxy notably F.W.Newman’s Phases of Faith (1850). As Moore points out “there was no resting place en route from Anglicanism through Unitarianism to a purely theistic belief….Darwin gave up Christianity”(1 ). He did not give up belief in God, but could not reconcile a loving God with such unneccessary death and suffering. This questioning stayed with Darwin for the rest of his life. His religious musings in his Autobiography also show that his problems with Christianity were not so much intellectual as moral, and thus Darwin may be regarded as a typical Victorian moral critic of Christianity (2 ). Nowhere does this come out more poignantly than in his letter to Gray of 22nd May 1860, as the essence of his letter is the question,’How can a loving God allow suffering?’

Darwin had sent Gray a complimentary copy of the Origin in November 1859 and Gray, who had known of Darwin’s natural selection theory for several years, soon made his basic acceptance clear to Darwin. In the first part of 1860 Gray was both arranging the publication of the Origin in the U.S.A. and writing a favourable review for the Atlantic Monthly. Frequent letters passed between them mostly on these preceeding matters, but also openly discussing more religious matters. In a letter dated 22nd May Darwin aired his problems over suffering. Unfortunately the letter from Gray dated 7th May has not been found. Darwin’s letter dealt first with matters of the American edition and then of recent reviews, refering to negative ones by Sedgwick, Clarke, Duns and Owen. The second part of the letter deals with ‘the theological view of the question’ and Darwin dealt with theological rather than scientific problems, stating ‘I cannot see, as plainly as others do,…. evidence of design and beneficence.’ He could not see how a good God could have created an Ichneumon fly or allowed cats to play with mice. Ichneumonidae lay their eggs in live caterpillars which remain alive until the larvae pupate, and gave the basis for the SF film Alien! It is difficult not to feel the force of Darwin’s argument as he required a benificient theodicy, and could not reconcile ‘Nature Red in tooth and claw’ with a loving God. To Darwin a loving and wise God not only had to be an Intelligent Designer, He also had to be a Loving Designer.

Many of Darwin’s scientific predecessors, however, did not feel the problem of suffering so keenly as is evidenced by those who wrote the Bridgewater Treatises a generation earlier. The Bridgewaters represent the height of design and evidential theology in the 1830s. All the authors were Christian, mostly clergy. At least two discussed suffering. Buckland, the Oxford Geologist, who in the 1820s was the foremost proponent of Diluvialism, wrote On Geology and Mineralogy in 1836 which, according to Jon Topham, was the biggest seller of the eight and found in many mechanics’ institutes (3 ). This treatise presented the geological and palaeontological understanding of the mid-1830s through the eyes of one of geology’s foremost Anglican exponents. By 1835 Buckland had rejected his diluvialism and in 1838 became convinced of the Ice Ages proposed by Agassiz, following a visit to the Jura. Theologically Buckland was close to moderate Evangelicalism as was his friend Edward Copleston of Oriel College, whom Simeon considered to share all his essential beliefs. In the 1820s Buckland was encouraged by the Evangelical theologians J.B.Sumner (Archbishop of Canterbury 1848-62) and G.S.Faber, and by the ultra-conservative Bishop Shute Barrington of Durham (4 ). To Buckland and many contemporary Evangelicals predation did not contradict the beneficience of God, as is shown by Chap XIII of his Bridgewater Treatise; ‘Aggregate of Animal Enjoyment increased, and that of Pain diminished, by the existence of Carnivorous Races’. Neither did they accept that passages such as  Genesis 3 or Romans 8 raised problems for the concept of predation (5 ) Buckland is echoing Paley’s view of suffering in Natural Theology where he says without predation we would ‘see the world filled with drooping, superannuated, half-starved, helpless and unhelped animals’ (29 ).

And put satirically by the Oxford professor of chemistry, Charles Daubeny;

It is true  Paradise was delicious and nice,

Yet, if those born on earth had ne’er died,

‘Twould have been such a cram, like the berries in jam,

Pic-a-back men and women must ride.

William Kirby’s On the History, Habits and instincts of Animals (1835 ) was unique among the Bridgwater Treatises for adopting a young earth position to the consternation of other writers. The introductory chapter claimed that all strata were laid down in the Flood. Kirby was the leading early 19th century entomologist and his work was widely used by Darwin. This is borne out by his correspondence with the Rev John Rodwell in late 1860, describing cats and blind rats and how these supported the ideas in the Origin. On discovering that Kirby was Rodwell’s uncle he wrote, ‘whom I for as long as I can remember have venerated’. In 1818 Kirby and Spence had written a four volume Introduction to Entymology of which Darwin had a heavily annotated copy. As his was the first edition he probably used it for his beetlemania at Cambridge. In the second volume of his Bridgwater Treatise Kirby described the Ichneumon and how they destroy pests ‘by the goodness of Providence'(6 ). The chapter on insects speaks of them demonstrating the beneficence of God in their beauty, design and behaviour, especially the maternal care of the female wasp which found a suitable caterpillar for the larvae to feed on , slowly eating the poor beastie from the inside as in the video clip, something Darwin could not accept. However in his letter to Gray on 22nd May 1860 it is far more likely that Darwin was thinking of Kirkby’s account in his Entymology rather than his Bridgewater, as the former was one of Darwin’s most used texts. Kirkby described how, ‘The active Ichneumon braves every danger, and does not desist until her courage and address have insured subsistence for one of her future progeny'(7). Kirkby focussed on maternal care of the wasp and Darwin on the poor caterpillar.

There is not only suffering caused by predation , disease and other aspects of pain for living beings, but that caused by the earth itself, especially volcanoes and earthquakes. 2015 saw the ghastly earthquake in Nepal caused by a small shift in the Indian plate sliding under the Eurasian plate. It was nearly as powerful as the Nepal earthquake of 80 years ago and the Assam earthquake of 1950 (which shook our bungalow to bits). April was also the 200th anniversary of the eruption of Tambora in Indonesia, which killed thousands near the volcano and disrupted the climate and thus harvests for several years , causing even more deaths. No wonder the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which killed some 10,000 to 100,000 people in the city alone made many question a loving God. The repercussion were also theological and philosophical and the common argument that it showed God’s judgement lacked plausibility, especially as Lisbon’s Red Light district got off lightly! Among others Voltaire and Kant wrote on the questions raised, particularly of a totally benevolent creation.

With a growing understanding of geology and the structure of the earth, it was increasingly impossible not to see that these “natural evils” have been there from all time and WRITTEN into the structure of the earth, and not introduced by God after Adam and Eve went scrumping! There was no way anyone could accept the view of theodicy immortalised by Milton in Paradise Lost;

Of man’s first disobedience ,and the fruit

Of the forbidden tree, whose mortal taste

Brought death into the world, and all our woe.

With loss of Eden…….

Without me giving a well-thought out understanding of death and suffering in relation to a belief in a loving God, we have to say that any  philosophical or religious view which does not accept that earthquakes, suffering and death are part of the inherent fabric of this planet is utterly false.

But there are those, who do not say this as Young Earth Creationists will echo the theodicy of John Milton and say there was no suffering or death, and even earthquakes before the Fall. It is the lynchpin of creationist thought and can be persuasive. A good example is Ken Ham’s musings on the Nepal earthquake;

https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2015/04/30/nepal-suffering-after-major-earthquake/

You see, God’s original creation did not contain earthquakes or any other natural disasters. When God saw all that He had made over Creation Week, He called it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). The original creation was free from any death or suffering. It wasn’t until Adam and Eve rebelled against God that death and suffering became a part of our world (Genesis 2:173:1–24). The death and suffering caused by this earthquake is a reminder of sin and the severe consequences that rebellion against our Creator brings.

I cannot buy into that and at this point I am somewhat theologically challenged by suffering, or bewildered  as was Darwin. Thus Darwin wrote ‘With respect to the theological view of the question …. I am bewildered’ as ‘There seems to be too much misery in the world’. A few lines further he wrote, ’On the other hand I cannot ….. conclude that everything is a result of brute force’ (21 May 1860). Perhaps like William Blake, Darwin could accept that God ‘designed’ the lamb, but did not frame the ‘fearful symmetry’ of the tyger (8 ). As Blake’s biographer wrote “Few poems have been scrutinised so closely”, and one reading is that a benevolent God made the lamb but not the tyger. Among critics, there is little agreement to its meaning. However his Book of Urizen seems to accept two creators one benevolent and Urizen the other, thus providing a mythological dualism to explain the negative in creation (9 ).

Suffering was an insuperable problem for belief to Darwin, and in the face of it he was left bewildered as to whether a beneficient God could have designed a world with so much animal pain. Darwin’s theodicy was a baffled reverent agnosticism; Buckland and Kirkby regarded animal suffering as God’s intention for the natural order, but this became less acceptable in a post-Chloroform society.

I originally gave much of this material at a Christians in Science conference in 1996 (when I was introduced to Intelligent Design in the form of Behe’s book). At the conference where this paper was presented the most perceptive and awkward question was on how I, as a minister, tried to minister to people in the midst of suffering. Two days after the conference I was due to bury a little baby of five months, so the questioner touched a nerve. To give a brief outline how I personally grapple with suffering, I start with God as Creator, echoing God speaking to Job out of the whirlwind (Job. 38 -42) and considering the Love of God reflected in the beauty of Creation. I then move to the death of Christ, the Son of God and the Crucified God who not only forgave sins but also entered into all human suffering. I often focus on the cry of dereliction “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ( Mark.15.34.) Pastorally, I look for the appropriate way of considering Christ’s death as entering into suffering and seek what is the right and sensitive approach to the people concerned. I find I have to say things with diffidence rather than a boldness, which would be insensitive. I have found Darwin’s concerns over suffering most helpful and challenging to my own pastoral work. Desmond’s treatment of the poignant correspondence between Huxley and Kingsley over the death of Huxley’s little son Noel has also been spiritually formative for me and gave me the kernel for a sermon at the annual Memorial Service in my Church. (Desmond op cit. p286-9) Darwin and Huxley both raised acute problems over the goodnesss of God in their pain over the loss of young children. No help will be found from an Intelligent Designer or a Cosmic Fine Tuner. Like Job they were angry with God for “taking away” their children, see Job chaps 2 and 3. The beginnings of an answer come in Job chap 38 where God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind and asks Job where he was at Creation. For succour one must go to the Suffering Servant who “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” ( Isaiah 53.4.) Christians need to listen to both Darwin and Huxley over suffering as they raise the deepest of personal issues as well as the less important intellectual ones.

Ultimately, I do not get much further than echoing Jesus’s cry of dereliction;

My God , my god , why have you forsaken me.

Perhaps as we come to good Friday we can think of the bizarre suffering caused by Darwin’s wasps and then think of our suffering. We then need to think of Jesus’s death on the cross and think quietly and deeply on that and not just parrot “Jesus died for our sins.

The passion narratives of the gospels are most poignant in their accounts of Jesus’s death and make us think of the human condition of suffering  and evil, both petty  and on the industrial scale.

I suggest the slow reading of the account of his death in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Here is Mark on the death of Jesus

The Crucifixion of Jesus
21They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
25It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 2829Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
The Death of Jesus
33When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”35When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
I began with a parody of all things bright and beautiful. Here is her hymn on the meaning of Jesus’s death
There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified
Who died to save us all.

We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains he had to bear,
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.

He died that we might be forgiven,
He died to make us good;
That we might go at last to heaven,
Saved by his precious Blood.

There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven, and let us in.

O dearly, dearly has he loved,
And we must love him too,
And trust in his redeeming Blood,
And try his works to do.

But don’t forget, unlike Jesus Christ Superstar, we don’t stop at the death of Christ and move on to the resurrection which makes all things new.

Crucifixion, Failure, and the Revolution of Submission - Catholic Stand

1.) Desmond, A. and Moore, J.Darwin, London: Michael Joseph, (1991), chap 25 ‘Our Bitter & Cruel Loss’ especially p299.

2.) On the “moral criticism” of Christianity see Altholz, J. ‘The Warfare of Conscience with Theology.’, (1976) in Parsons, G. Religion in Victorian Britain. Vol IV. , Manchester: Manchester University Press (1988), p150-169. (Useful, despite howlers on the history of science!)

3) Topham, J. ‘Science and popular education in the 1830s’, British Journal for the History of Science (1992) 25, 397-430.

4.) Rupke ,The Great Chain of History p14.

5.) Buckland. W, Geology and Mineralogy considered in reference to Natural Theology., 2 vols, London, 1836 etc.

Buckland, W. An inquiry whether the sentence of death… London 1839.

See S.J.Gould’s discussion of the same theme in ‘Nonmoral Nature’ in Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes, London, Penguin, 1984, p32-45.

6.) Paley, W. op cit, p312.

7.) Kirkby, W. On the power, wisdom, and goodness of God. as manifested in the Creation of Animals London, various editions, from 1853 edit vol ii, p243.

Kirkby, W and Spence, W., An Introduction to Entomology, London, 1856 (6th Edition), p194.

8.) William Blake, Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright; and Little lamb, who made thee?

9.) Ackroyd, P, BlakeLondon, (1995), pp399, p 143f & p175.

Myth and history in the Epiphany of Matthew 2 | Psephizo

Am I a fundamentalist for accepting that some wise guys came to Bethlehem following something in the sky, and then gave the baby some valuable gifts?

Myth and history in the Epiphany of Matthew 2 | Psephizo

Here Ian Paul et al look at the visit of the wise men from Matthew chap 2 and conclude there was a visit. But they weren’t kings and there weren’t three!

Is the account better history than Shakespeare’s play Anthony and Cleopatra, who put the lovely King Herod in charge of Judea in the first place?

It is fascinating how the Lord , Saviour and son of god Julius Caesar and his successor Augustus is tied up with another Lord, Saviour and Son of God, who dynasty has lasted a bit longer.

According to the Roman Imperial Who’s Who, Herod put down his hobbies as  – killing family members and sometimes little children.

Source: Myth and history in the Epiphany of Matthew 2 | Psephizo

Was Jesus born into a ‘poor’ family? | Psephizo

Just how poor was Jesus and his family?

So often we are told his family was desperately poor, but here Ian Paul stresses that simply ain’t true. Ian quotes this

Homelessness awaited them…Off to the stinking stable, the dank cave. Poverty does stink,

By today’s standards, including the poorer parts of Africa Jesus’ family were poor, but were of average wealth for the time.

(A little aside, we forget how much the so-called Industrial Revolution and the use of fossil fuels has enabled most people to live linger and with greater wealth and comfort. But don’t tell anyone!!)

Above all the popular myth that Jesus was poor and came for the poor is wrong. By our standards Jesus and his family were poor, but Jesus’ mission, ministry and message were for all people, whether rich or poor. His message in challenging for all.

We are all poor before God, whether we are rich or poor

P.S. I reblog Ian’s work because I find it helpful and deals with topics I’ve only dabbled in!!

Source: Was Jesus born into a ‘poor’ family? | Psephizo

Why do Matthew and Luke offer different birth narratives? | Psephizo

This is to shepherd your thoughts on the wise men of Christmas!!

DSCF1384

A blog (not mine) comparing Luke and Matthews’s accounts of the Birth of Jesus, one has wise men and the other has shepherds. Neither have a stable!!

Source: Why do Matthew and Luke offer different birth narratives? | Psephizo

It’s all Greek to me. Reading the New Testament in Greek

Many will have heard the quip about Bibles “If the Authorised Version (KJV) of 1611was good enough for Pau, then it’s good enough for me!!

Some take this seriously think the old version of the bible is the traditional. Others think it the most reliable – which it is not.

Why and how can we learn New Testament Greek? | Psephizo

Yes, the New Testament was written in Greek, not Modern Greek nor the Classical Greek of Plato and Aristophanes, but Koine, or everyday, Greek of the Ist  Century AD or CE if you prefer (CE= Christ’s Era).

The Importance Of Including The Greek Old Testament – The Septuagint – In  One's Study Of The Bible | biblicalexegete

Until recently most people training for ordination had to learn New Testament Greek as part of their course. Many found it a trial and often stopped after having floundered with Mark’s Gospel. Today, at least in the Church of England, fewer and fewer budding vicars are expected to learn even a little greek.

As a result, most clergy are totally dependent on translations. There are a vast number of English translations which vary in quality. Some are more literal than others. One serious issue is that translating committees can impose their biases, whether evangelical, catholic or simply being PC or woke! I use the NRSV with reservations, but get the impression that the latest version is trying to hard to be acceptable, thus rephrasing “slave girl” and “enslaved women” as it is less offensive. I reckon any kind on enslavement or being a slave is offensive! If parts of the Bible offend modern sensibilities then so be it. Some of the worst version are one-man band paraphrases like the Living Bible (now almost dead) and the Message, which pours the author’s interpretations over the text. At times the original meaning is lost.

There are those who argue that many trainee clergy, though having great potential, are not up to learning Greek along with everything else. Is that really so? As a vital part of ministry is preaching and teaching the Bible, then surely some grasp of the original language would be valuable? I can here some readers applauding me and others not.

Reading the New Testament in Greek is tough but very rewarding. It is tough, or very tough, for anyone who’s not a natural linguist. That includes me as I have never found learning foreign languages easy. At school I scraped French at O level/GCSE and failed Latin twice. I did better at German. When in Africa I picked up a smattering  of Swahili, Lutoro and Afrikaans!

At theological college I opted for an Honours degree in theology and was told to learn enough to read Mark’s gospel before starting. In my course I had to study Matthew, John and romans in Greek  and thus left college almost being able to read the Greek Testament.

During my ministry I used the Greek New Testament often, but read it regularly half the time. Some would say I should have used an Interlinear, but didn’t as the temptation is to look at the English rather than the Greek.

Most of the time, I used the 3rd Edition of the Aland, Black etc text of 1975 (United Bible societies). I like that as it had a mini dictionary at the back. If I wanted a bigger dictionary/lexicon the Mens’ Society at St Paul’s Wigan gave me the massive Arndt-Gingrich lexicon when I left in 1978.

The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition (UBS5) with Concise  Greek-English Dictionary [Hardcover]: 9781619701397 - Christianbook.com

And so I have struggled on, reading a bit almost every day. Parts, like John’s writings, I find straightforward, but chunks of Luke and Paul are difficult. I find it valuable as when reading the NT in English it is so familiar that it washes over me and I learn nothing new. When I read it in Greek, I read very slowly because of my indifferent skills in Greek. I often have to look up a word or parse a verb. That means that in my struggle I understand it better.

At times I find translation inadequate, either by putting a bias on the translation , or that something is omitted in the translation. An example is at the end of John’s Gospel, where Jesus is putting Peter in his place. In most versions in Jn 21. vs 19 and 22 Jesus tells Peter “Follow me.” The Greek is much blunter. In verse 19 the Greek is to be translated “Follow me”, but in vs 22 after Peter was trying to be clever Jesus said to him “You follow me” , with an emphasis on YOU. I imagine Peter was annoyed with Jesus at that point. Jesus was telling him “Don’t look over your shoulder at John, look to yourself first and make sure YOU follow me.”

But I needed assistance!

Several decades ago in a Roman Catholic bookshop in Liverpool I found a book by Fr M. Zerwick A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament. It was a great help, but the text was ting and some years ago I found a big print version, which is now somewhat battered.

Then this year I found The Greek New Testament; readers’ edition produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge

It is not the most exiting binding!

Amazon USA https://www.amazon.com/Testament-Produced-Tyndale-Cambridge-Readers/dp/1433564157/ref=sr_1_1?crid=28VU64L00KULL&keywords=greek+new+testament+reader%27s+edition&qid=1639604731&sprefix=greek+new+testament%2Caps%2C245&sr=8-1

Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Testament-Produced-Tyndale-Cambridge-Readers/dp/1433564157/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2GG9T0R5RC1TJ&keywords=greek+new+testament&qid=1639604864&sprefix=greek+new%2Caps%2C167&sr=8-1

Here is the description from Amazon (accurate)

This reader’s edition of the Greek New Testament text combines the new Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge with a running list of glosses of every word in the Greek New Testament that occurs 25 times or less.

Those with limited knowledge of Greek can smoothly read the Greek text without needing to constantly refer to other reference resources–accelerating their facility with the Greek text and making their time more rewarding and more enjoyable as they read the very Word of God.

  • Running glosses of any Greek word occurring 25 times or less in the New Testament, placed below the Greek text
  • Complete morphological parsing of Greek verbs used in uncommon or difficult forms
  • Dictionary in the back defining words occurring more than 25 times
  • 10-point Adobe text
  • Single-column format, in accord with the earliest Greek manuscripts
  • Ribbon marker
  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • Packaging: Slipcase
  • Parsing

This is what the pages look like. The text is in a clear font and below are words which occur less than 25 times in the NT and then parsing less well-known verbs.

Note, there is no apparatus of alternative readings as you find  in the UBS test. (It’s worth having both)

I have now been using my copy for a month. It does make my reading easier and more fluent. I still have to check out common words! The parsing helps me a lot. I still need to use a Lexicon and check the grammar. On the grammar this version makes it easier to understand the parsing and use of the verbs.

If I need to check alternative readings I have to look at my Aland/Black NT, but most of the time I don’t need too. Clearly, if I am doing detail reading I need to but most of the time I want to just read the basic text. It doesn’t make a great deal of difference most of the time as in John 18 vs 5 where most have Jesus saying “I am” rather than “I am Jesus”.

So, to conclude, I have found it a great help in making for easier reading.

To use an alpine climbing analogy, it is rather like climbing on a via Ferrata rather than the north Face of the Eiger!!

But using an Interlinear is like watching a video of an Alpine climb!!

I have found this a great help in my study of the Greek New Testament and it should make the Greek more accessible to far more people.

I hope it does something to reverse the decline of reading the Greek New Testament among clergy. It might even reduce the amount on banal preaching, where bible passages are used as pegs to hang out one’s own ideas rather than preach and teach what the New Testament writers wrote.

To help you more, you can take a DailyDose, a short 2 minute video on a verse of the Greek , explaining and parsing it. It soon adds up to a lot

DailyDoseofGreek.com provides ongoing accountability to busy pastors and other Christians, helping them to read the Greek New Testament daily and progress in their Greek skills.

It is well worth subscribe to the email

Joy to the World, a great carol with a cursed verse!

One of my favourite Christmas Carols or hymns is Joy to the World, with words by Isaac Watts and a tune by the heavyweight composer G F Handel.
In fact it is hardly a Christmas Carol and is based on Psalm 98. Edit. My American friends insist it is not a Christmas Carol but a more general hymn! Maybe they are right, but my comments on the third verse still hold!!

O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
2 The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.
7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.
8 Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy
9 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

When you compare the hymn with the psalm, it is clear that Watts dealt with the words very freely, but has made the psalm into a superb creation hymn with an implicit, but no more than implicit, reference to Jesus Christ. I wonder whether it is more suitable for the Creation Season than Christmas, but I will still use it for Christmas!!

Verse 1
Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
Verse 2
Joy to the earth! The Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

Verse 4
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Recently I read an interesting blog by Albert Mohler on the hymn. Mohler is a Southern Baptist who has shoved the Southern Baptists in a more reactionary direction in the last decade. I am no fan of his, but follow him as he is significant in the USA. He is also a young earther, which does not draw me to him. His recent blog on 8/12/17 caught my attention as he discusses the much-omitted third verse of this hymn. Here it is;

Verse 3
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Image

This painting by   Sr Grace Remington brings out the common symbolism of Gen 3. 15 with the pregnant Mary putting her heal on the serpent. There is no curse in this picture.

I winced as I read this, with its way of reading Genesis 3 with a CURSE afflicting the whole of Creation. I’ve written on this before and especially the influence of John Milton from Paradise Lost; https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/why-the-apple-didnt-kill-adam-and-eve/

paradiselost

Mohler is very much in the tradition of Milton! His blog is found here and included at the end https://albertmohler.com/2017/12/08/far-curse-found/?mc_cid=2244bcb749&mc_eid=9710ba7c22
Mohler takes the typical 6-day creationist view of the Fall as historical, with Adam’s fruit-eating resulting in god cursing the whole of creation, causing thistles and predation! He then stresses that Jesus’s death on the cross not only gives redemption to humans but also reverses the effects of the curse. (not that I can see that when the local cats eat our birds or I struggle with thistles.) Many YECs use their belief in a CURSE as why they must reject all science which demonstrates an ancient earth and evolution. After all, there can be no curse if T Rex munched other dinosaurs.


There are many problems with the so-called CURSE. Why would a loving god inflict all this “suffering” on animals who had never met humans, like Smilodon or even canivorous dinosaurs and trilobites?

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis would totally agree over the CURSE

Of course, Mohler would collapse 4,560,000, 000 years into Ussher’s 6021 years  (4004BC + 2017AD when he wrote it), with creation in a mere 144 hours. More than that, however “literally” we read Genesis 3 it does not actually teach a CURSE as the language of Genesis 3 vs 14-18 is to elusive and poetical to conclude such a firm and harsh conclusion. I also reckon that it is a totally unsuitable reading for the first lesson of the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols. I would replace it with Ecclesiastes 4 vs 1-6.
Mohler then writes,

“Where is the curse found? Everywhere we look, we see the curse and its malignant effects. How far does it extend? To every atom and molecule of creation — from coast to coast, shore to shore, sky to sky, and to every square inch of the planet. That’s how far the curse is found.”

I am trying to visualise how all chemical reactions are CURSED and wonder how the CURSE afflicts the outermost reaches of the universe.
All in all, by emphasising a CURSE Mohler makes everything about Jesus Christ more incredible and rather bizarre, where Jesus seems to have been born in Bethlehem to correct the naughtiness of a pair of prehistoric scrumpers, rather than sorting out the folly and moral stupidity of the human race giving both a new and living hope and a guide for life, far better than any other way. Thus we think of Jesus Christ when we sing;

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

But I couldn’t possibly sing verse 3.

****************************************

Here’s Mohler on the third verse. i simply don’t believe a word of what he wrote!! But then I don’t think god was so miserable to inflict a curse on the whole of Creation. Thorns were there millions of years before Adam!

https://albertmohler.com/2017/12/08/far-curse-found/?mc_cid=2244bcb749&mc_eid=9710ba7c22
Think with me about verse three of the hymn, in which we read,
“No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.”
The reversal of the curse is promised in the coming of the Messiah and the fulfillment of his atoning work. Implicit in this third verse is the promise of the new creation. We live in light of that promise, even as we look back to Bethlehem and as we celebrate Christmas.
But look carefully at the reference to the curse. Christ’s victory over sin is declared to extend “far as the curse is found.” What curse? How far does it extend? Where is it found?
We find the curse in Genesis, chapter 3. After Eve has eaten of the forbidden tree, and then Adam also ate, and after they found themselves facing God in the reality of their sin, God first cursed the serpent:
The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Then, God cursed the woman:
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
Then came to curse to Adam, and through Adam to all humanity:
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
By Adam, our federal head, the curse of sin came upon all humanity. We are dust, who must return to the dust, for the wages of sin is death. All creation is under the effects of the curse. “Cursed is the ground because of you,” Adam is told.
The curse is God’s righteous judgment of sin, and the effect of the curse is death. The curse has fallen upon all human beings, first because of Adam’s sin and then because of our own. In Adam, we all sinned. In Adam, we all died.
Where is the curse found? Everywhere we look, we see the curse and its malignant effects. How far does it extend? To every atom and molecule of creation — from coast to coast, shore to shore, sky to sky, and to every square inch of the planet. That’s how far the curse is found.
Most importantly, every single human being is found under this curse. “For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
So, how can we sing about joy to the world?
Look with me to Galatians 3:10-14:
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Here is the gospel of Christ, the good news. But first, the bad news. All who rely on works of the law are under a curse. All humanity is born under this curse, and under the law. The congregation that originally received Paul’s letter would have understood immediately where Paul grounded his argument, in Deuteronomy 27 and 28. At the end of the series of curses God delivered from Mount Nebo, we find the most comprehensive of all: “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” [Paul in Galatians 3:10, citing Deuteronomy 27:26]
We are born under the curse, we are cursed by the curse, and the law offers no escape. We cannot work our way from under the curse.
So where is the good news? Where is joy to the world? Look at verses 13 and 14.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. What we sinners could not and cannot do for ourselves, Christ has done for us. He removes the curse and the power of the law to condemn us.
How? He redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us. The sinless Son of God became incarnate as the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. That sinless Son of God became sin for us, in order that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). He became a curse for us, by hanging on a tree, in fulfillment of Scripture.

Happy Christmas! Cheer up! Jesus never lived!

o

May be an image of text that says "SMILE THERE s FIELL Atheist Forum @ForumAtheist #AtheistForum Jesus christ isn't coming to save anyone because he doesn't exist. Jesus was created by The First Council of Nicea (325 A.D.). Do your research and stop believing in bullshit"

Viewing wacky fundamentalist and creationist social media is great fun and the source of many a cheap laugh. And so we have Jesus riding a dinosaur and the 15th century Bishop of Carlisle having a pet dinosaur.

However some atheists, especially of the village idiot atheist type are just as risible, as is the clever clogs who posted the tweet above. Along with its incoherence its shows really profound ignorance of the history and the claims of the Christian church.

By stating that “Jesus doesn’t exist” I assume he means that there was no Jesus who lived in Palestine at the same time Augustus was Emperor, rather than implying Jesus never rose so he may have existed once but now no longer! I’ll leave the latter as the resurrection is irrelevant if Jesus didn’t live on this planet for thirty odd years.

Few historians reject the existence of Jesus and one of the few is Richard Carrier an American. Almost all conclude that the was a Galilean wandering God-botherer who ended up being crucified. One of the most thorough works is Geza Vermes , formerly professor of Jewish Studies at Oxford. Rowan Williams thought his Christian Beginnings “a beautiful and magisterial book”. Vermes has a very historical Jesus but rejects “the deifying message Paul, John and the church attributed to him”. The decisions of the council of Nicaea were an even bigger mistake.

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Though he is highly erudite, Vermes argues that the human and divine saviour that is Jesus Christ is simply a mistake and that for 2000 years us Christians have got it wrong, though, perhaps he would argue, the Unitarians were closer to the historical Jesus. Vermes’ Jesus does not save.

Whatever wording you may prefer, the essence o Christianity is that

Jesus came to save

Despite Vermes’ erudition that is the claim of the New Testament , the early church up to Nicaea in 325 and right up to the present day, though there have been various departures like Servetus and the Unitarians, but these struggle to take over!

Most of the imagery of the New Testament are to stress that Jesus “came to save”. (That term “came to save” is often off-putting owing to its over-use by more fundamentalist Christians.) Those who collect Messianic labels like stamps can claim there a four hundred. The dominant one (ones) came to be ;

son of God

Saviour

Lord

In the context of the early first century  – the time of the Twelve Caesars, this can be seen as a sideswipe, or implicit rebellion, to the emperor who was often known by the exact same words, whether in Greek or Latin. So the Christians were say that the emperor was not the Son of god and not divine , nor a saviour, nor Lord, but the Galilean jobbing contractor was, or rather is, as the Christians didn’t change the saviour like underpants as did the Romans with their emperors, whenever they got a knife in their backs. The year 69 must have been amusing to Christians, though it heralded bad times.

then there is the Eastern prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

which sums up what Christian have believed for 2000 years.

But what is the evidence for Jesus?

There is some outside the New Testament but it is very terse

The first outside the church to mention Jesus was the Jewish historian  Josephus, writing in AD93 with two references to Jesus. One was suspected to be inserted by Christian scribes and the other referring to James, the brother of “Jesus, the so-called Christ”. Later  were Pliny and Tacitus, Tacitus says  Jesus was executed while Pontius Pilate was in Judaea (AD26-36)  which fits with the gospel timeline. Pliny says Christians worshipped Christ as a god. Both were almost hostile witnesses and the better for it.

Another favourite claim is that the emperor Constantine sorted out the canon, which books were in the New Testament, at the Council of Nicaea in AD325. That often crops up but notably in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code which is replete with fabricated church history about Nicaea, as is seen in this meme

Da Vinci Code Facts Vs Fiction

At times, others claim the New Testament was written at Nicaea. I don’t think it was

Our friendly village atheists have conflated the writing of the New Testament books with the final formation of the Canon. This took place at Nicaea and settled on the essential 27 books. This has been accepted by the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics and protestant and evangelical off-shoots , though some eastern churches add  to the number. However it was FINALISED at Nicaea  but for 300 years Christians were trying to decide which books were to be in the canon.

There was some variation but all recognised the 4 gospels , Acts, Pauls letters and most of the other letters. They often included some of the apostolic Fathers.

Comparison between earliest biblical canons[edit] from wiki

Books Marcionite canon[39] Muratorian fragment[40] Peshitta
[citation needed]
Codex Vaticanus[41] Codex Sinaiticus[42] Codex Alexandrinus[43] Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus[44]
Composition date c. 130–140 c. 170 ? c. 300–325 c. 330–360 c. 400–440 c. 450
Matthew No Probably[45] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mark No Probably[45] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Luke Marcion[46] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
John No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Acts No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Romans Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
1 Corinthians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2 Corinthians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Galatians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ephesians Laodiceans[47] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Philippians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Colossians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
1 Thessalonians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2 Thessalonians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Maybe[44]
1 Timothy No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
2 Timothy No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Titus No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Philemon Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Hebrews No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
James No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
1 Peter No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2 Peter No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
1 John No Probably[48][40] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2 John No Maybe[48] No Yes Yes Yes Maybe[44]
3 John No Maybe[48] No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Jude No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Revelation No Yes No No Yes Yes Yes
1 Clement No No No No No Yes No
2 Clement No No No No No Yes No
Shepherd of Hermas No No No No Yes No No
Epistle of Barnabas No No No No Yes No No
Apocalypse of Peter No Yes No No No No No
Book of Wisdom No Yes No No No No No

These are the “books” of the New Testament, but when were they written. Few scholars would doubt that most were written in the first Century with some letters of Paul going back to the AD40s. Some, e.g. J AS T Robinson reckon they were written before AD70 – the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Most reckon that all were written by the 90s and a few take dates up to 135. all these dates are slightly earlier than the Council of Nicaea in AD325!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dating_the_Bible

Here is Prof John Barton of Oxford dealing with reference to the Da Vinci code

https://www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk/blog/how-new-testament-was-created/

There are many more

An old (1946) but still valuable book is Are the New Testament Documents reliable? By Prof F F Bruce which is here for free!! It is where I started and most of the arguments in are still valid.

You could surf and find more recent scholars saying much the same.

In the list of Canons above , the last six did not make it! Four form part of the Apostolic Fathers (1 & II Clem. Shepherd of Hermas and Epistle of Barnabas) I am glad that Barnabas didn’t make as he argues for 6000 year old creation more explicitly than in any canonical scripture. That would have upset the geologists!

As well as those four, the Apostolic Fathers contain the seven letters of Ignatius, who was executed in Rome in about AD120, and the Didache which many reckon was written in about AD50, though some extend that by 200 years. The Apostolic Fathers  are mostly from the second century C.E.  (Christ’s Era!)  and cite all NT books except Philemon and 3 John. Several of the writers cite a good 20, so they must have been well known and widely copied.

Sadly many Christians who read their Bible never look at the Apostolic Fathers and there is a fine Penguin edition. They are well worth a read.

In the second century Irenaus quoted 21 of the final 27books and the next century Origen cited a similar number

So before Nicaea there was not unanimity of the content of the canon, all accepted over 20 of the final 27. Thus the decision at Nicaea was the culmination of three centuries of sifting

I think my brief summary above, shows the wrongness of claims that the council of Nicaea made up Jesus and the New Testament! But what was Nicaea all about.

Cryptically it was whether there was ever a time when Jesus was not. Most Christians at that time insisted there was never a time when Jesus was not, but the pugnacious group, the Arians, led by Bishop Arius, insisted there was a time when Jesus was not, and that Jesus Christ was created being and not from all eternity and thus not God.  The Arians saw Jesus not as God but the son of God, Their opponents saw Him as both..

This concerned Constantine greatly as he had only recently become the sole emperor and wanted peace. Many would say his concern was his own back rather than defending Christian belief. Hence he called the Council of Nicaea   to stop divisions in the church, which he saw as liable to cause instability in the empire. and so in the summer of AD325  the council of Christian bishops was convened in the Bithynian city of Nicaea (now İznikTurkey)  800 bishops were invited and between 250  and 320 attended.

Their aim was not to discuss the existence of Jesus as  all sides accepted the 4 Gospel accounts. Thus there all accepted the earthly life of Jesus from the Virgin birth to the Resurrection. What was at issue was the nature of the relationship of Jesus Christ to God.

(Over)Briefly the essence of the disagreement was whether Jesus was fully God – which leads to doctrine of the Trinity – Father Son and holy Spirit. The Arians argued that Jesus was a created being , but an exalted one being the Son of God. As one of the anathemas (condemnations) put it;

  But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’— they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]

This hostile summary is fair as the majority believed that Jesus Christ was there before Creation, hence “there was not a time when he was not” and that he was “begotten, not made/created” and his nature was that he was “consubstantial with the Father” thus divine. And thus a little late the creed says “and was made man”. Here in the womb of Mary the pre-existent Jesus Christ, who was there before creation and thus God, was made man, which stress He is both God and Man i.e God in flesh i.e incarnate. ( A little story here. My theology professor H E W Turner (1907-1995) did not believe this when he was ordained deacon. A year later he concluded that he did and his vicar welcomed him into the catholic church!! After that he spent some years as chaplain of Lincoln College, Oxford, moving to Durham in 1950. He retired in 1974 and had to sell four fantastic oak bookcases which he brought with him from Lincoln. I bought them for £50, but was too late for lunch. I still have them. Hughie was a brilliant teacher and helped me to be totally convinced that the majority at Nicaea were right!! I suppose you could say that Hughie was Arian when ordained and then moved to Nicene orthodoxy. Sensible chappie.)

The key to the argument is Christ being the saviour of humanity. No mere human could do that and thus an Arian Jesus could not ultimately be the Saviour. Only God could save and thus Jesus Christ as Saviour could not be a created being but was God as well. Hence Nicaea re-emphasised what most of the churches had held since the resurrection that Jesus is human and divine. This comes out in the Proluge of John  (John chap 1) read at every Carol service and many other parts of the New Testament and is the thread, with Jesus’s death and resurrection, which runs through the 27 books.

This is, of course, contrary to what any hold, including among many worshippers, that Christianity is simply being good to others. It most definitely is, but if that is all and Jesus as Saviour, Lord and Son of God who died and rose to save humanity is quiwtly side-lined under a vague devotion  all that is left is MTD (Moralistic Therapeutic Deism)

Here’s the Nicene Creed. On the left is that produced in AD325 with a dismissal of Arius. On the right is how it was revised in AD381 nd is what is used in churches today. The ideas go back to the New Testament and were not plucked out thin air in 325.

We believe in one Godthe Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, [God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth]; by whom all things were made;
Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;
He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heavenand sitteth on the right hand of the Father;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead. ;
whose kingdom shall have no end.
And in the Holy Ghost. And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.
In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
[But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’— they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]

[But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’— they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]

Conclusion

Like so much posted by twitting atheists this tweet is simply nonsense in every statement! The really need to improve their “research” and share material of substance rather than stuff so easily contradicted.

Yes , Jesus lived

But who was he? He lived for 30 odd years, a peripatetic teacher who got crucified – the most delightful of all Roman methods of execution.

For 2000 years Christians have said he rose from the dead and came to save us.

That’s enough for now.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Happy Christmas rather than Happy Holidays