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Old Feb 17, 2007, 03:21 PM   #161
Quasar1011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ozymandias View Post
More "amusing" is the entire notion of the Virgin Birth, which results from the mistranslation of a word meaning "maid" or "young woman" into "Virgin".
It's not mistranslated at all. The Hebrew word in question, almah, can mean either a young maiden (which in those days were assumed to be virginal) or an actual virgin. The translation then would be determined by the context. Let's look at that. I will place the word almah where it should be.

Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The almah will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Now, if this simply means maiden, (married or not) how would this qualify as a sign from god Himself? Thousands of young women would have been pregnant in Israel at any given time. Which one of them would qualify as a sign unto Israel?

Virgin fits better, because of at least 4 reasons. First, a virgin birth would truly be a sign! Secondly, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Christ child to a virgin named Mary. Thirdly, the New Testament translates Isaiah 7:14 using the word virgin:

Matthew 1:22-23
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Fourthly,
Genesis 3:15 prophesies that a Redeemer would come through the seed of a woman- not through a man. The only way that could happen is through a virgin birth.

Fifthly... well let's go to another quote first...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Veritass
That, and there are plenty of "virgin births" in other mythologies as well, according to Joseph Campbell.
Well of course there are; Satan loves to twist God's truth. The idea of the virgin birth of the Redeemer precedes all human literature. How do I know that? God wrote it in the stars! The constellation Virgo is a virgin, and that is where the true zodiac begins. The brightest star in Virgo is Spica, which means "branch". Go to a star atlas, and you will see Virgo the virgin shown holding a sheaf of wheat, where Spica is located. What is the significance of Spica?

No less than 6 times in the Old Testament, the coming redeemer was referred to as the "Branch" (capitalized, especially in the King James version).

Isaiah 4:2
In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.

Isaiah 11:1
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

Jeremiah 23:5
"The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.

Jeremiah 33:15
In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line; he will do what is just and right in the land.

Zechariah 3:8
Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.

Zechariah 6:12
Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD.'

Another place that Virgo is seen in Scripture, is Revelation 12:1
Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.

In this sense, Virgo is not just Mary, but the nation of Israel. Keep in mind that in the Old Testament (esp. Hosea) Israel was said to be God's wife. So she is clothed with the sun (glory of God), with the moon (the church) under her feet, and a garland of 12 stars (12 tribes of Israel) on her head.

Anyway, I don't want to get too off topic here. Suffice it to say, that Christianity didn't borrow any concepts from pagans- it is the other way around!
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Old Feb 17, 2007, 03:26 PM   #162
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So you are saying that, although Satan caused other cultures to have the idea of the Virgin Birth as a form of deceit, that God used Greek astrology to make the concept obvious?
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Old Feb 17, 2007, 04:18 PM   #163
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Originally Posted by Eran of Arcadia View Post
So you are saying that, although Satan caused other cultures to have the idea of the Virgin Birth as a form of deceit, that God used Greek astrology to make the concept obvious?
No. The zodiac precedes astrology, Greek or otherwise.

Stars have many names given to them by ancient man. But the stars all have original names, given to them by God Himself:

Psalm 147:4
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.

God even mentions certain constellations and asterisms:

Job 9:9
He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.

Job 38:31-32
"Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion?
Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?

Amos 5:8
(he who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns blackness into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land— the LORD is his name-)

Now, in Hebrew, there is a word, mazzaroth, which means zodiac. It appears in Job 38:32, which I quoted above, and is translated as "the constellations in their seasons". God has His own purposes for the zodiac, but the enemy opposes Him.

This is getting quite off topic, and is supposed to be Plotinus' thread. If you like, I can start a new thread about this subject.


P.S. Here is the King James Version of Job 38:32
Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?
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Old Feb 17, 2007, 04:33 PM   #164
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Following along the truthfulness of the bible.. I once started a thread asking for why people think the bible is truth because someone here (maybe Quasar?) said that it was 1) because it was old and 2) because it said so. I tried to get the specifics of this concept explained in the thread, but never did.. I'm still kind of interested.
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Old Feb 17, 2007, 05:46 PM   #165
Eran of Arcadia
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The idea of associating specific attributes or images (like a virgin or a sheaf of wheat) is a Greek idea, or at least the images used are. At least, it seems not to be Biblical.
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Old Feb 17, 2007, 07:31 PM   #166
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Eran, Job lived even before there was a Greece! And Job mentioned several constellations- and God mentioned some to Job. Sometimes they used the constellations' proper names, but sometimes they used the star pictures (e.g., Bear). So how can you say it is a Greek idea? Even the ancient Egyptians, Persians, and Babylonians had star charts, and they preceded Greek astronomy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wikipedia
Virgo is the sixth sign of the Zodiac
In astrology, that is the case. But astrology is false. In astronomy, which is a true science, Virgo is the first sign of the zodiac.
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Old Feb 17, 2007, 08:05 PM   #167
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Wow, looks like not everyone spent last night celebrating Chinese New Year...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Veritass View Post
I consider myself a philosopher at heart, but I have been struggling lately with the question of: What is the point of philosophy?

What is the point of trying to study such a huge field whose body of already-existing knowledge is much larger than I will be able to absorb in a lifetime? Many of the discussions we have been having go something like this:
  • What about the question of X?
  • That was explored most thoroughly by philosophers A, F, and H, in their works...
  • What about the question of Y?
  • Exploring that fully requires distinguishing and defining M versus N, and P versus Q. Of course that brings up the question of R-S-T.

This is quite a bit of learning, and quite a bit of work. Given the limited number of hours in a day, I allocate other parts of it to work, eating, learning music and dance, racquetball, acting, etc. Don't get me wrong: I still enjoy it. I just started reading a collection of essays on myth by Joseph Campbell for my bedtime reading.

But I can certainly understand how people just stop progressing. One day you just get tired of exploring even further, and decide, "OK, this is what I believe." People with a very low tolerance for such exploration we call "fundamentalists," and people with a very high tolerance we call "Ph.D. in Theology." As with most things, there is a big bell curve of those of us in the middle who seek to have some growing understanding of the world, tempered with the other realities of daily life.
Lots of interesting questions there. I'd say that the "point" of philosophy is simply curiosity, the desire to know. I think the archetypal philosopher was Aristotle. Aristotle simply wanted to know everything and was incurably curious about everything that came his way. He collected information on different political systems and tried to analyse them. He was the first person to do a systematic study of natural history, performing dissections and other experiments. He tried to establish what forms of argument are valid and which ones are fallacious. He tried to work out what the happiest way of life is. He even examined the nature of truth itself. Now did he succeed in any of these things? Maybe, maybe not. But Aristotle would never have asked what the point is of any of it. It's simply what he wanted to do.

Now today, of course, philosophy has had such a long history and has become so specialised that you do need a lot of background knowledge to be able to do those things. But the basic idea hasn't changed. It's wanting to know simply for the sake of it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Veritass View Post
I believe that belief is a choice we make, and that we (hopefully) evolve that choice over our lifetime of learning and experiencing the world. My question for the theologian is:

What do you believe?

In 100 words or less, what beliefs do you hold, and hold most dear?
Ha, you're going to have to be more specific! I believe lots of things, such as "I am sitting at my desk right now," "Every thing is identical to itself," and many more. My beliefs about what?

As for what I hold most dear, why, I must be unbearably slushy and say my girlfriend...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eran of Arcadia View Post
It could be argued that God communicates perfectly, but we, being imperfect, don't understand.

. . . which raises the question of why a perfect being would have imperfect creations. Yes, it doesn't bother me, but it is a problem for the "omnificists" (great word by the way).
The standard answer to that is that it is logically impossible to have a perfect creature. If something is created then it is by definition imperfect, inasmuch as it is created; and if something were truly perfect it would be God. I'm not sure that's much of an answer, at least to this problem, though. Even if God can't create something that is perfect simpliciter, he surely could create something that is perfect in one way, and he I don't see why he couldn't create something that understood all communication perfectly even if it was imperfect in other ways.

By the way, "omnificist" is a great word, but it's a bit confusing given that there is already a word "omnificent", meaning "doing everything". Some theologians have believed that God is omnificent, that is, everything that happens is done by God. Malebranche would be the most well-known example although Muslim theologians such as al-Ghazali also believed this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Machinae View Post
What version of the Bible do you think is the most accurate?
The Revised Standard Version (RSV) or New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) are the best. I think the New English Bible (NEB) is pretty good too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Machinae View Post
Edit: it looks like Luke and Matthew are quoting Q when they have Jesus talk about Noah, then, no?
I think so. You'll notice that those passages are not only absent from Mark but are in different contexts in Matthew and Luke. Matthew sticks it in the middle of the eschatological discourse from Mark 13, while Luke gives it together with other material not found in either of the others. So it looks like Luke is here reproducing a longer passage from Q while Matthew has just chosen one bit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CartesianFart View Post
I think theology is trivial unless reading of the subject at a mere minimal will do good instead of majoring it.Majoring theology is not much different as learning how to pick your nose after observing an ape.
I don't really understand this. Explanation?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CartesianFart View Post
I do suggest reading Aberlard and Anselm.Especially the former having influenced me on "nominalism" on many problems in metaphysics;eventhough i am starting to think that metaphysics is becoming meaningless to me as i am being even more engrossed and transversed into the waters of postmodern literatures.
How very literary of you: but Abelard wasn't really a nominalist. On the contrary, he sought to find a middle way between the extreme nominalism of Roscelin and the extreme realism of William of Champeaux, his two teachers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ozymandias View Post
More "amusing" is the entire notion of the Virgin Birth, which results from the mistranslation of a word meaning "maid" or "young woman" into "Virgin".
I don't think this is true. People often confuse the justification of a doctrine with its basis. Now the passage from Isaiah was indeed used to support the doctrine of the virgin birth. But it doesn't follow from that that the doctrine was based on that passage in the first place. You'll notice that Luke also claims that Jesus' mother was a virgin, but does not cite Isaiah in support of this.

A parallel case would be the Arian controversy of the fourth century. The Arians cited Proverbs 8:22 in support of their belief that the Son is a creature, not divine. But they hardly believed that in the first place because of Proverbs 8:22. What typically happens is that people believe something and only then do they search for "proof texts" to back it up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ozymandias View Post
On another matter entirely - Plotinus, IIRC the Synoptic Gospels et. al. were selected at the Council of Nicea while the rest (Thomas, Judas, Mary) were relegated to the theological scrap heap. Do you have a recommendation for a decent source on this, encompassing, e.g., political pressures etc. for how Tau Biblia came to be?
I'm afraid you're quite wrong for once. Whatever Dan Brown says, the Council of Nicaea did not meet to decide what books to put in the canon; in fact it did not address the question in the slightest. The canon was approximately established in a de facto way some time before Nicaea, and it was formally and definitively established at two African councils in the 390s.

As far as I know, there were no political pressures involved in the decision over which books to put in and which to leave out. As I suggested earlier, the main criterion seems to have been whether a book was considered the work of an apostle or an apostle's immediate disciple. Now in the case of the non-canonical Gospels, most Christians right from the word go regarded them as spurious. Thus, the only people who used (say) the Gospel of the Saviour were Gnostics; no-one else accepted it. And they were quite right, too, because that Gospel, like virtually all the non-canonical ones, are not remotely historical. As far as I know, the only non-canonical Gospel which may possibly preserve authentic traditions about Jesus not found in the canonical Gospels is the Gospel of Thomas. But that Gospel itself shows clear theological prejudices on the part of its author (it's quite Gnostic, though not so much as some of the more outlandish ones).

Certainly the choice of the four Gospels was effectively made in non-Gnostic circles by the end of the second century AD. In around 180, Irenaeus was arguing that there had to be exactly four Gospels since there are four winds (or something); he was arguing against the Gnostics. It seems that by his day pretty much all non-Gnostics accepted this position. You do not find quotations from non-canonical Gospels in any non-Gnostic Christian writings from this period on, or indeed from before then either (before Irenaeus you don't find many quotations from Gospels at all, presumably because they hadn't become quite authoritative yet).

The only major exception to all this was the Syriac-speaking church, based in Edessa and spreading into Persia. From the second century onwards, this major wing of the church used not the four canonical Gospels but the Diatessaron, a sort of harmony of the four canonical Gospels into a single narrative, which was made by Tatian the Syrian in the middle of the second century. The Diatessaron contained virtually everything in the four canonical Gospels and added no new material. It was the standard Gospel in the east until after the fourth century, when Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Rabbula of Edessa (two highly revered bishops) ordered it replaced with the four canonical Gospels, to bring their church in line with everyone else.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ozymandias View Post
- Likewise a source on Biblical contradications (IIRC Mark and Matthew have the Last Supper set on different nights) would be most welcome.
Gosh, it would, but I'm probably not the person to do it. I bet it's easy to find a site on the Internet that already does that, although of course vehement anti-Christian sites are just as dubious as vehement Christian ones. I'll have a look... [EDIT] I mentioned a few later on in response to Quasar.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ozymandias View Post
P.S. While I'm pestering you, is there anything accessible on the confabulation from the hallucinatory insanity of Revelation to the American-Generic-Protestant mythos of the "End Of Days"?
Not as far as I know. However, try looking up William Miller, the archetypal nutty American eschatologist - that'll be bound to bring up some relevant material...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quasar1011 View Post
Any Christian theologian will tell you that, in the New Testament, Jesus is the Son of Man. This is a title He used of Himself in humility.
Not necessarily in humility, given that the title is used in Daniel to refer to an eschatological figure sent by God to ride the clouds ahead of the end of the world; on the contrary, to call oneself that would be to make a very bold claim. Of course the term is also used in Ezekiel frequently, referring to the prophet, to mean something like "mortal man". Now it's not certain that Jesus really did use it to refer to himself, although in fact it seems very likely that he did, from the quotes you provide and others. But quite what he meant by it is very hard to determine.

Nevertheless, you haven't answered my point. You originally claimed that Daniel and Jesus were backing each other up, that is, both saying the same thing, and so this thing was likely to be true. I responded that this is not the case. Daniel makes a prediction about a "Son of Man". Jesus restates the prophecy and implies that he is the "Son of Man" himself. This isn't an independent prediction of the same event, it's simply a repetition of the same prediction. How do you know, for example, that Daniel believed himself to be talking about Jesus? I, right now, could take some obscure text from the Old Testament and claim that I am going to fulfil it myself. Would that be a good reason to suppose that the Old Testament text was true? Would it be a good reason to suppose that I really am going to fulfil it? Of course not!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quasar1011 View Post
Surely you don’t mean that. Mark is 13 chapters long; Luke has 24 chapters and Matthew has 28. If Luke and Matthew simply copied Mark, where did the 11-14 extra chapters come from?
You know perfectly well I didn't mean that there is nothing in Matthew and Luke at all which is not also in Mark. I meant that that passage is copied from Mark. You can't cite the forms of this text in Mark, Matthew, and Luke as if they are all independent witnesses to the same thing: in fact Mark wrote it and Matthew and Luke both copied it. So it is really a single piece of evidence, not three.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quasar1011 View Post
Please cite me a case when Jesus was ever wrong. (I will address the Wailing Wall later).
Well, I'm not convinced by your explanation of the Wailing Wall: a supporting wall is clearly part of a building, at least as far as I can see. As for cases where Jesus was wrong, I'm not sure what their absence would prove. The Gospels contain the teaching and sayings of Jesus that his followers wanted to preserve. They would hardly be likely to preserve anything he said that was wrong. So if you're trying to argue that Jesus was always right, based on an argument from silence, then you're going to be on very shaky ground.

Still, I'd say that Mark 13:30, where Jesus tells his followers that this generation will not pass away before the kingdom comes, looks like a prophecy that proved very wrong. Note that the early Christians certainly believed that they would still be alive when Jesus returned: the Thessalonian church were worried when some Christians died, evidently having expected everyone to be alive when Jesus came back (1 Thess 4:13-15). Note that Paul, writing to console them, thought that he would be alive (1 Thess 4:13, 17). It's an interesting fact to note that the Christian church survived the non-fulfilment of one of its key expectations surprisingly well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quasar1011 View Post
If Jonah’s message was that the city of Nineveh would be destroyed, regardless of the actions of the Ninevites, what then of this?

Jonah 3:10
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

God said He threatened destruction, not promised it. Obviously, we have only one sentence of Jonah’s message to the Ninevites, "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." Do you think that is all Jonah said to Nineveh’s inhabitants? Or that based on one sentence, the Ninevites believed the message and repented?
Obviously, Jonah’s entire message was not saved for posterity- just the crux of it.
I don't think this is a very good argument. The text you cite doesn't say that Jonah's original prophecy was conditional. It simply says that God basically changed his mind when he saw how the people of Nineveh changed their ways. Your interpretation seems to be based on the word "threatened". However, I do not find that word in other translations. I don't have the RSV or NEB with me and I cannot read the Hebrew so I don't know what the original says; however, Jerome's Vulgate has "quam locutus fuerat", that is, "which he had said he would do". The Authorised Version has the same thing, "that he had said that he would do unto them". Now I don't like to throw translations at each other, but I'm willing to bet that the Vulgate (normally highly accurate) and the King James get the sense better than whatever translation you're using. I have already pointed out a clear mistranslation in your version, where the translators translate a text wrongly in order to make Jesus say what they want him to say and not what the text actually says. It seems to me likely that the same thing is happening here: the translators want it to seem that God only "threatened" the destruction of the city rather than predicted it, in order to avoid the apparent problem of an unfulfilled prediction.

Is that all that Jonah said to the Ninevites? Who knows? But what difference does it make? If I say X, then no matter what else I say, I have still asserted that X. Jonah told the Ninevites that God would destroy the city after forty days. I don't see what else he could have said to make this not a prediction. The fact is that, according to this book, Jonah made a prediction and it did not come true. The reason why it didn't come true (God changed his mind in the face of everyone's repentance) is really neither here nor there.

Of course, it's passages like this that lead Hartshorne and others to argue that the "classical" view of God as timeless and omniscient is false. Passages like this suggest that God is inside time and does not have perfect knowledge of the future. This book implies, for instance, that God did not know how the Ninevites would respond to Jonah's preaching; otherwise we wouldn't have this "And God saw their works..." business.

And quite apart from this, you haven't answered the points about the other unfulfilled prophecies I mentioned. I take it you don't think there has ever been a period since the writing of Ezekiel when Egypt remained unoccupied for forty years - and what of the three chapters describing Nebuchadnezzar's non-existent conquest of Tyre?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quasar1011 View Post
1st Kings 22:19-23
Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left. And the LORD said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The LORD said to him, ‘In what way?’ So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the LORD said, ‘You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.’ Therefore look! The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you.”

[...]

The passage from 1st Kings says that the Lord (Jehovah) was sitting on His throne. Did prophets go to Heaven to talk to God while He was seated on His throne? No. And the account clearly states that it was not a prophet that God commissioned. Rather, “a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD”. A spirit in Heaven can be either an angel, or a demon (fallen angel). As soon as the spirit said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets,’ we can identify the spirit as a demon. Demons and even Satan himself have to get God’s permission before they can do certain acts against God’s people. [...]

So the demon went out, and was ‘a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets,’. This is where false prophets get their information from- demons. The question becomes one of, who were the true prophets in Israel at that time, and who among the prophets were false? Earlier in the chapter, we see that 400 prophets were false!

1st Kings 22:6-8
Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go against Ramoth Gilead to fight, or shall I refrain?”
So they said, “Go up, for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king.”
And Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not still a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of Him?”[a]
So the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.”
And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say such things!”

Micaiah was the only true prophet identified in Israel at that time. If you go back to the first post from 1 Kings, you will see that it was the prophet Micaiah who relayed the heavenly account of the lying spirit! So, Satan instructed his prophets to lie to the King, and Jehovah God allowed it, for the wicked King Ahab died in battle only hours after this prophecy was issued!
I don't really see what any of this gets you. What difference does it make if it was an evil spirit or even the devil who conveyed the message to all those prophets? God commissioned him to do so. Does it make any difference that the spirit suggested this plan, and God merely authorised it, rather than thinking it up himself? Of course not. If a general suggests to the president that they invade country X, and the president gives it the nod, then the president is responsible for the ensuing invasion, no matter whose idea it was in the first place.

Were they true prophets of God? That entirely depends on how you define "true prophet of God", and it seems to me that your exegesis depends on a very strange definition. These prophets who told the king that he would win the battle were conveying genuine information that was actually brought to them by supernatural means. Furthermore, the information that was given to them came to them on God's orders, as it were. You say that a prophet who says something false is not a prophet of God. Yet it wasn't their fault that what they said was false. They were saying what God told them to say!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quasar1011 View Post
The wailing wall was never a part of the temple. The wall was built to help support the temple’s structure; it is a retaining wall. Besides, Jesus' prediction was made in reference to the disciples comments about the grandeur of the temple itself- the subject is the building, not the retaining wall.
As I said, I'm not convinced by that. A wall that helps support a building is part of that building. Besides which, many other parts of the Temple survive - in fact, parts of all the outer walls. It is certainly not true that there is not one stone of the Temple still resting on another stone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quasar1011 View Post
Alright, then what criteria do you suggest we use to test the Bible (or Koran or any other holy book) is true or not?

If a book, being a collection of books written by many different writers, in many different countries, using several different languages, across many centuries, were to be found to be entirely consistent; what would that say about the veracity of that book?
You're asking the wrong questions. We don't normally ask whether "a book" "is true". For example, Russell's History of Western Philosophy was mentioned earlier in the thread. No-one would ask whether the book, as a whole, "is true". That would be just peculiar and naive. You could ask whether Russell's account of (say) Aquinas is accurate and fair, or whether his selection of material to include is representative, or whether his historical information on the politics of the Middle Ages is reliable. But you can't just ask, tout court, if the book "is true". And that's just one book by one author.

Similarly, I don't understand the question "whether the Bible is true". I can understand a question such as "Does the history of Israel recorded by the Chronicler match what is known from other sources?" or "Did King David really exist, and if so, did he do the things that 2 Samuel says he did?" or "Does the Sermon on the Mount reflect the genuine teaching of Jesus?" or "Was Pilate really in the habit of releasing dangerous criminals during major festivals?" and so on and so on. Those are sensible questions that can, at least in principle, be answered, at least provisionally. You're asking a question that is so broad it is virtually meaningless and completely unanswerable.

If lots of books written by different people at different times are found to be consistent, that doesn't prove anything at all. The mathematical writings of Diophantus are entirely consistent with Mill's On liberty. This is because they are about completely different subjects and couldn't be inconsistent if they wanted to.

If, on the other hand, you're talking about lots of books written at different times by different people which are on the same subject and which are consistent, you should say so. However, the books of the Bible aren't all on the same subject; it's hard, for example, to see much in common between Esther and the letter to the Hebrews. When it comes to consistency on the same subject the texts in question, within the Bible, are actually a relatively small portion of the whole. And when we compare different texts that speak of the same things (such as the books of Chronicles as compared to those of Samuel and Kings), we do in fact find lots of inconsistencies. Here are just a few:

1 Sam 16:10 - David was Jesse's eighth son.
1 Chron 2:13 - David was Jesse's seventh son.

2 Sam 24:9 - Joab reported that Israel had 800,000 warriors and Judah had 500,000.
1 Chron 21:5 - Joab reported that Israel had 1,100,000 (!) and Judah had 470,000.

1 Kings 5:16 - Solomon put 3,300 men in charge of building the Temple.
2 Chron 2:18 - Solomon put 3,600 men in charge of building the Temple.

1 Kings 7:15 - Solomon made two pillars for the Temple, 18 cubits high.
2 Chron 3:15 - Solomon made two pillars for the Temple, 35 cubits high.

1 Kings 7:26 - Solomon made a swimming pool at the Temple that held 2,000 baths.
2 Chron 4:5 - Solomon made a swimming pool at the Temple that held 3,000 baths.

2 Kings 8:26 - Ahaziah was 22 when he became king.
2 Chron 22:2 - Ahaziah was 42 when he became king.

2 Kings 24:8 - Jehoiachin was 18 when he became king. He ruled for three months.
2 Chron 36:9 - Jehoiachin was 8 when he became king. He ruled for three months and ten days.

There are vast numbers of these little discrepances, which anyone can find simply by working their way through the parallel passages in the different books. It seems clear that the author of Chronicles wrote his book, in part, to correct what he believed were many mistakes in the works of previous historians. This would be a perfectly normal thing to do and we find this in other cases where later historians use material from earlier ones but diverge at various points - for example, the church historians Socrates and Sozomen in their use of the earlier Eusebius. No-one would claim that Sozomen is completely consistent with Eusebius since he's clearly not. Why would anyone claim the same thing about Chronicles and Kings?

Finally, even if every book in the Bible were on the same subject and they were completely consistent, the obvious conclusion would be that the authors of the later books had read the earlier ones and simply copied the information they found there. That wouldn't prove anything of interest. And it could still be the case that the information in question was false to begin with. Everything in Wide Sargasso Sea is consistent with Jayne Eyre, because the author of the former had read the latter and wanted to write a novel about the same characters. But it doesn't follow that anything in either of those novels is actually true.

Finally finally, it's not simply a matter of internal consistency between the books of the Bible. If everything in those books is true then they shouldn't conflict with other reliable sources of information. But at some points they do. For example, Luke 2:1-3 mentions a tax of the entire Roman empire ordered by Augustus, for which everyone travelled to the cities where their ancestors came from. No other source mentions this event, which if it really happened would have caused untold disruption and chaos throughout the empire. Normally, when censuses were conducted for taxation purposes, people had to stay at home so that the officials could be sure what property they possessed; what would be the logic behind having people travel to places where their ancestors came from? We are told that Joseph knew himself to be descended from David, so he went to David's city. But according to Matthew 1:17 there were 28 generations from David to Joseph. Joseph would have had millions of ancestors that far back. No wonder Bethlehem was so crowded when he got there...

Even if this bizarre exercise in bureaucratic chaos had happened, it wouldn't have affected Joseph if he lived in Galilee, since Galilee at that time was not part of the Roman empire.

This example also shows us that sometimes, information from external sources shows inconsistencies between different biblical books. For example, Matthew dates Jesus' birth to just before the death of Herod (2:15). And Luke dates it to when Cyrenius was governor of Syria (2:2). No contradiction there, except that extremely good historical sources show that Herod died in 4 BC and Cyrenius became governor of Syria in AD 6. So Matthew and Luke can't both be right. In fact, given that they were both writing about a century after the event, and describing something that was very obscure and unimportant at the time, it's pretty impressive that they agree so closely on the approximate date; this is not bad for ancient historians writing about such an event. But still they can't both be exactly right.
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Old Feb 17, 2007, 08:05 PM   #168
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It doesn't require that at all, actually. The Septuagint, IIRC, has parthenos "virgin" in that Isaiah passage, and this Greek version was prefered by many hellenized Jews despite that the Hebrew originals were available. The writer of Matthew may have done the same.

(Somebody has, no doubt, looked at Matthew's OT quotes and references and determined whether the Septuagint or the Hebrew text was used. Unfortunately, his hypothetical scholar hasn't informed me of the result of his labours. )
It seems that Matthew quotes from a variety of versions of the Old Testament, primarily the Septuagint. The Catholic Encyclopaedia has the info (note that this source is actually very good on the facts such as this, although pretty biased when it comes to interpretations; the New Catholic Encyclopaedia, which is not online and is very recent, is extremely good).

The traditional view (that Matthew was Jewish and originally wrote in Hebrew) seems not to be correct: there is no reason to suppose that Matthew was Jewish and his Gospel was certainly written in Greek originally. He does seem to have decent knowledge of the Old Testament, though: for example, at 3:3 he removes Mark's erroneous mention of Isaiah (Mark 1:2).

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Originally Posted by Quasar1011 View Post
It's not mistranslated at all. The Hebrew word in question, almah, can mean either a young maiden (which in those days were assumed to be virginal) or an actual virgin. The translation then would be determined by the context. Let's look at that. I will place the word almah where it should be.

Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The almah will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Now, if this simply means maiden, (married or not) how would this qualify as a sign from god Himself? Thousands of young women would have been pregnant in Israel at any given time. Which one of them would qualify as a sign unto Israel?

Virgin fits better, because of at least 4 reasons. First, a virgin birth would truly be a sign! Secondly, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Christ child to a virgin named Mary. Thirdly, the New Testament translates Isaiah 7:14 using the word virgin:

Matthew 1:22-23
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Fourthly,
Genesis 3:15 prophesies that a Redeemer would come through the seed of a woman- not through a man. The only way that could happen is through a virgin birth.
All right, I don't want to get bogged down in this, but these reasons aren't very compelling. Bear in mind that the question is the interpretation of the original verse from Isaiah. What did the author of this verse mean? You can't answer a question like that by asking what other people took him to mean. Of course that can be a good starting point, but it is not definitive. For example, you may be puzzled about the meaning of Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics. There are many vexed points of interpretation there, such as whether the conclusion of the practical syllogism is supposed to be an action or simply a decision to act. Now you may consult Aquinas' commentary on Aristotle to see what he thinks. And Aquinas would give you an interpretation of the text in question. Aquinas was a good philosopher (though he couldn't speak Greek) and he might well be right. But he might also be wrong. You really need to look at other texts in Aristotle to try and work out his general meaning; and perhaps, if the dispute is over the meaning of a particular word, at other texts from that time and place which use the word in a less ambiguous way.

So, taking your reasons -

(1) Yes, a virgin birth would indeed be a sign, but not all prophecies in the Old Testament are meant to be miracles. We're told that the Redeemer will come from David's City, but it doesn't follow from that that all births in David's City are miraculous. Now this text says that a young woman will give birth and he'll be called Immanuel. Surely the "sign" here is the fact that he's called Immanuel. The bit about the birth just introduces him, as it were.

(2) This doesn't tell us anything about Isaiah's meaning whatsoever. If you think it does, then you're already assuming that Jesus' birth was a fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy, which is surely the point that is at dispute. Someone else might as well say that the birth of John the Baptist was announced to someone who was not a virgin, therefore the original text was not referring to a virgin. You'd respond that Isaiah wasn't talking about John. Well, how do you know he was talking about Jesus?

(3) This is like interpreting Aristotle in the light of Aquinas. Hardly compelling. The New Testament authors are simply following the Septuagint. But the whole question is whether the Septuagint translation is accurate.

(4) I'm not sure that the author of Isaiah would have known the text of Genesis, so it is dubious to use Genesis to interpret Isaiah. Of course, if we knew that Isaiah had read Genesis and that he was thinking of passages such as this when writing this bit, then you'd be entitled to use this as possible evidence for his view. However, I think your knowledge of human biology is a bit lacking... babies come from "seed" of both women and men, so even a non-virgin birth comes about through the seed of a woman!

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This is getting quite off topic, and is supposed to be Plotinus' thread. If you like, I can start a new thread about this subject.
This is true! In fact I remember that you had a thread all about this some time ago. Unfortunately I don't think you managed to convince anyone, Christian or otherwise, of the idea, but I have to admire your ingenuity... Of course you can try starting a thread on it again!
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Old Feb 17, 2007, 09:13 PM   #169
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I've thought from time to time that the infamous quodlibets such as "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" posed and answered by the Scholastics (i.e. Aquinas) were in fact given in the spirit of a Zen koan - that the struggle to find a satisfactory answer was meant, in the end, to exhaust the intellect and lead out of that labyrinth towards direct spiritual experience of God. I'd like your comments on this, and quodlibets in general.
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Old Feb 18, 2007, 06:39 AM   #170
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By the way, "omnificist" is a great word, but it's a bit confusing given that there is already a word "omnificent", meaning "doing everything".
Do you have an alternative suggestion? A word for believers in an omnipotent, -scient, and -benevolent god is something I've felt a need for for some time, and avoidance of confusion is of course a laudable goal.
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Old Feb 18, 2007, 08:08 AM   #171
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I thought I might post one of these threads. I’m a theologian of sorts, so you can ask me about theology.

So feel free to ask anything that relates to any of this. If I don’t know the answer I might at least know where you should go to find it...
Does it ever bother you that theology is the study of nothing?
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Old Feb 18, 2007, 08:18 AM   #172
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Does it ever bother you that theology is the study of nothing?
Does it bother you that you've clearly failed to read (or understand) the OP?
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Old Feb 18, 2007, 02:17 PM   #173
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Thanks for all your work, everyone!

Maybe Plontinus knows: When did the expression "the Lord works in mysterious ways" start up?
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Old Feb 18, 2007, 08:47 PM   #174
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What do you learn about in Philosophy? I mean, what is a Philosophy?

Did you find that class interesting?
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Old Feb 18, 2007, 09:28 PM   #175
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I've thought from time to time that the infamous quodlibets such as "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" posed and answered by the Scholastics (i.e. Aquinas) were in fact given in the spirit of a Zen koan - that the struggle to find a satisfactory answer was meant, in the end, to exhaust the intellect and lead out of that labyrinth towards direct spiritual experience of God. I'd like your comments on this, and quodlibets in general.
In fact Aquinas never talked about angels dancing on the head of pins, and neither did any of the Scholastics as far as I know. Of course he did ask - and attempt to answer - slightly similar questions, such as whether angels occupy space. However, I would certainly disagree with your analysis of the purpose of such disputations. The Zen notion of an impossible question designed to produce spiritual experience would have been unintelligible to the Scholastics, who believed that faith and reason were perfectly in harmony. Faith can go beyond reason but it can't contradict it. I think that when medieval philosophers debated things such as this they did it entirely earnestly.

[EDIT] I tried to answer this more fully here.

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Originally Posted by The Last Conformist View Post
Do you have an alternative suggestion? A word for believers in an omnipotent, -scient, and -benevolent god is something I've felt a need for for some time, and avoidance of confusion is of course a laudable goal.
I'm not sure. Personally I'd call such a person a "classical theist", which normally refers to the sort of theism associated with Aquinas but is far less narrow than "Thomist", since that implies many other theological and philosophical views as well. I suggest "omniïst" which I think has a nice look to it.

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Originally Posted by Nanocyborgasm View Post
Does it ever bother you that theology is the study of nothing?
TLC answered this pretty well, but if you disagree, please explain what you mean.

Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Machinae View Post
Spoiler:
Thanks for all your work, everyone!

Maybe Plontinus knows: When did the expression "the Lord works in mysterious ways" start up?
Actually I don't. I do know that normally he moves in mysterious ways. It comes in a famous hymn by the evangelical hymn-writer William Cowper:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform:
He plants his footsteps on the sea,
And rides on every storm.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

However, I don't know if the expression originated with him.

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What do you learn about in Philosophy? I mean, what is a Philosophy?

Did you find that class interesting?
I didn't just take a class in it - my first degree was (half) devoted to it and now I'm doing a doctorate in it. So yes, I did find it interesting.

"Philosophy" just means "love of wisdom" and is basically the search for knowledge for its own sake. Originally it meant pretty much all learning and knowledge, so what we now call science was, until the nineteenth century, considered part of philosophy ("natural philosophy"). In fact the word "science" itself comes from "scientia", which is just the Latin word for "knowledge", and before the nineteenth century any branch of knowledge was known as a "science". Thus Thomas Aquinas argued not only that Theology is a science but that it is the best one, because it proceeds from premises that are certain (because guaranteed by divine revelation).

Nowadays, partly because modern science has effectively taken over much of what used to be part of philosophy, philosophy is more specialised and basically means trying to work things out that don't come under any other heading. Key issues and questions in modern philosophy include:

What do "right" and "wrong" mean, and how can we know what actions are right and wrong?
Is the mind something distinct from the body or just a function of the brain?
What exactly is the relationship between a word and the thing the word refers to?
What are time and space?
What is the nature of a scientific statement?
How do we know things, and what is knowledge anyway?
What forms of reasoning are reliable and what are fallacious?
What is the best form of government?
What is mathematics actually about?
Is there a God?
What does it mean to say that a sentence is "true" at all?

And so on...
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Old Feb 18, 2007, 10:18 PM   #176
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What are time and space?
Isn't that more of a Physics question now?
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Old Feb 19, 2007, 07:45 AM   #177
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Does it bother you that you've clearly failed to read (or understand) the OP?
Uhhhh....no. It's still essentially, the study of one man's irrational opinion or the still further irrational criticism of this opinion by someone else, all of which lead to no conclusion because it never made any sense in the first place.
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Old Feb 19, 2007, 07:51 AM   #178
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Uhhhh....no. It's still essentially, the study of one man's irrational opinion or the still further irrational criticism of this opinion by someone else, all of which lead to no conclusion because it never made any sense in the first place.
I don't think you understand what the word "irrational" means.
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[22:25] <Gogf> so I just subtracted 1/2 from 1/3 and got 1/1
[16:18:03] <Gogf> oh so serbs and slavs are different? I thought they were just different names for the same thing
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Old Feb 19, 2007, 07:52 AM   #179
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. . . Or the fact that being irrational is no reason not to study something.
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Old Feb 19, 2007, 08:02 AM   #180
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Heh. More importantly, just because a premise isn't justified, it doesn't mean that arguments derived from that premise is irrational.

Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory, with the axiom of choice, the basis for mathematics, cannot, in principle, be proven to be true within ZFC itself (that is, within ordinary mathematics). Does that mean that since it cannot be justified, that all of mathematics is irrational? No.

At the very most, it's a set of counterfactual arguments. (e.g. god doesn't exist, but here's how the universe works if he did) That's not irrational, as whether or not the premises are true in our universe are irrelevant to whether the conclusion is true.

Besides, as Plotinus has shown, he knows much more about the Christian religion than you ever will - and that will only help, not harm, in a debate against a theist.
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