Friday, December 12, 2014

Skeptical Embellishments About Christmas

A few days ago, I wrote a response to an article by Valarie Tarico about the events surrounding Jesus' birth. Let's take a look at a recent exchange in the comments section of Tarico's thread. A poster there, archaeopteryx1, wrote:

It’s easy to see how pseudo-Luke, looking for a birth narrative, could have used the birth procedure of the sacrificial lambs at Migdal Eder to concoct the story. Pseudo-Mark, the first gospel written, never even mentions a birth narrative. Pseudo-Matthew simply mentions that Yeshua was born in Bethlehem – no details – while pseudo-Luke, goes into the most elaborate detail, embellishing as he went. In Gospel writing, much as in the telling of fish stories, the first liar doesn’t stand a chance!

I would ask any woman out there, who has ever given birth, the likelihood that she would go on a hundred-mile donkey ride the week that she was expecting to deliver.

Add to that that there is no record anywhere in Roman annals – and the Romans were anal about annals – of such a census that would take men hundreds of miles from their homes and businesses – basically shutting down the economy – when it would be far simpler to have census takers travel from town to town, and the story can be seen for the concoction that it is.

Tarico responded:

I’ve never before thought about that donkey ride. OUCH!

Given that the alleged donkey ride is brought up by so many skeptics, Tarico's comment makes me wonder how much she's studied these issues. And Luke doesn't mention a donkey.

Contrary to what archaeopteryx1 tells us, Luke also doesn't say that it was "the week that she was expecting to deliver". Even if it had been that week, how would archaeopteryx1 know enough details about the travel involved (how long they took to travel, what they brought with them, etc.) to judge that a woman so pregnant wouldn't have taken the journey? He goes on, in his next sentence, to refer to how the Romans wouldn't require that people travel "hundreds of miles from their homes and businesses" for a census. Luke doesn't mention such a travel requirement. Archaeopteryx1 ignores the evidence for the gospels and accuses the authors of "embellishing as [they] went", yet he fails to get through a three-paragraph post without so badly embellishing on so many issues.

He goes on:

Thinking of things that no one else thought of, is kinda what I do….

no one ever asks these hard questions

Actually, a lot of skeptics bring up objections like archaeopteryx1's, though most don't get as much wrong as he does.

He goes on:

Another thought for your digestion, this one for anyone versed in genetics – without a DNA-bearing father (“God is a spirit” – John 4:24), would Jesus’ DNA even possess a “Y” chromosome? Or would “he” have been a clone of Mary, in every respect?

Christians have been addressing that subject for a long time. But how would archaeopteryx1 know that, given how little he seems to listen to what the other side is saying or even what other people on his own side are saying?

The spiritual nature of God is irrelevant, since Jesus' Y chromosome wouldn't have to come from God's being. He could transfer a Y chromosome already in existence, transform something into a Y chromosome, or create one.

Notice that archaeopteryx1's posts are characterized by misrepresentation of the Biblical texts, ignorance of modern research on the relevant issues, and a lack of critical thinking. Before he writes another critique of "pseudo-Matthew" and "pseudo-Luke", he should reexamine his own pseudo-arguments.

It's remarkable how many skeptical criticisms of the infancy narratives are directed at claims the texts don't make. If you can read Luke 2 and come up with a donkey, Mary in her last week of pregnancy, and people traveling hundreds of miles for the census, all the while thinking that every ancient Christian and non-Christian source who commented on the authorship of Luke's gospel was wrong and that the gospel's author was a frequent liar, there's more of a problem with you than with Luke.

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