Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Taking out the trash

I'm going to make a few comments on this:
I've already left a number of comments on Mike Kruger's initial takedown (part 1). In addition, Eichenwald rehashes many stock "contradictions" which I've often dealt with elsewhere. So I'll just confine myself to a few:
To illustrate how even seemingly trivial contradictions can have profound consequences, let’s recount the story of Christmas.Jesus was born in a house in Bethlehem. His father, Joseph, had been planning to divorce Mary until he dreamed that she’d conceived a child through the Holy Spirit. No wise men showed up for the birth, and no brilliant star shone overhead. Joseph and his family then fled to Egypt, where they remained for years. Later, they returned to Israel, hoping to live in Judea, but that proved problematic, so they settled in a small town called Nazareth.Not the version you are familiar with? No angel appearing to Mary? Not born in a manger? No one saying there was no room at the inn? No gold, frankincense or myrrh? Fleeing to Egypt? First living in Nazareth when Jesus was a child, not before he was born?You may not recognize this version, but it is a story of Jesus’s birth found in the Gospels. Two Gospels—Matthew and Luke—tell the story of when Jesus was born, but in quite different ways. Contradictions abound. In creating the familiar Christmas tale, Christians took a little bit of one story, mixed it with a little bit of the other and ignored all of the contradictions in the two.
It's true that popular Christmas traditions combine Matthew and Luke. However, Eichenwald commits a very elementary blunder. The nativity accounts of Matthew and Luke only contradict each other on the assumption that they are reporting events which happened at the very same time and place. It's trivially easy to create a bogus contradiction by acting as though two accounts have the identical timeframe.
Indeed, a difference of just one day can dissolve a chronological contradiction. What can't happen in one day can happen in two days, or spread over weeks or months. 
If, moreover, you read Matthew carefully, it's clear that the Magi arrived on the scene about six months to a year after the birth of Christ. Just by spacing things out over the course of a few weeks or months, the contradictions disappear. 
We may still scratch our heads about how to coordinate these two accounts in a relative chronology, but that's because we lack the intervening details. 
Paul in 1 Corinthians is even clearer; he states, “The time is short.” He then instructs other Christians, given that the end is coming, to live as if they had no wives, and, if they buy things, to treat them as if they were not their own.
Here Eichenwald is alluding to Paul's cryptic statement in 1 Cor 7:29:
i) Paul doesn't say in reference to what the time is short. 
ii) This comes on the heels of his reference to "the present crisis"–which is probably topical. Some scholars think that alludes to famine conditions in the Roman Empire at the time.
iii) Paul uses the word kairos rather than chronos. Chronos denotes quantitative time, linear time, an interval of time. By contrast, kairos denotes qualitative time, epochal time, eschatological time. 
Because of where Christians stand in redemptive history, they should assume a Christian perspective on life. They live after the cross, after the Resurrection, but before the world to come. An in-between time. As Paul says in his follow-up letter: "We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Cor 4:18). 
iv) Notice that in v31, Paul doesn't say the world itself is passing away, but the world in its "present form" is passing away. Once again, that's a matter of viewing the significance of life from a Christian perspective. Our relative position in redemptive history. 
We need to distinguish between appearance and reality. Life is short. The world carries on without us. What's ultimately significant is what is taking place behind-the-scenes. Where we are headed. Where the world is headed.
In fact, the Bible has three creation models, and some experts maintain there are four. In addition to the two in Genesis, there is one referenced in the Books of Isaiah, Psalms and Job. In this version, the world is created in the aftermath of a great battle between God and what theologians say is a dragon in the waters called Rahab. And Rahab is not the only mythical creature that either coexisted with God or was created by him. God plays with a sea monster named Leviathan. 
That's deeply confused:
i) In Isaiah and the Psalms, it's using new creation imagery as a metaphor for the Exodus. Using chaos monsters as a political metaphor for Egypt. These are not alternative creation accounts. Rather, these have reference to the history of the Exodus. 
Likewise, Job 41 is not an alternative creation account. Leviathan is a creature. God made him. That's the point. Leviathan is not a preexistent, rival power who coexisted with God before God made the present world.  
ii) We also need to differentiate the speakers in Job. When God speaks, that's ipso facto normative in a way that statements by the human characters are not. 
Unicorns appear in the King James Bible (although that wasn’t the correct translation of the mythical creature’s Hebrew name).
Notice what he asserts in the first clause he retracts in the parenthetical. 
There are fiery serpents and flying serpents and cockatrices—a two-legged dragon with a rooster’s head (that word was later changed to “viper” in some English-language Bibles).
i) To begin with, he offers no evidence to justify his identification.
ii) More to the point, this is poetry. Figurative imagery. A political allegory. 
And in Exodus, magicians who work for the Pharaoh of Egypt are able to change staffs into snakes and water into blood.  
Yes, witchcraft is real. 


  1. Good article on kairos: https://books.google.com/books?id=ltZBUW_F9ogC&pg=PA389&lpg=PA389&dq=kairos+in+the+NT&source=bl&ots=4BPKSUmPdw&sig=n5ipSmnmzkGQ58779HW_w0_Kt8k&hl=en&sa=X&ei=XzajVICvKYOZNuH2gogB&ved=0CCYQ6AEwBA


  2. As AL Moore said in his book on the parousia:

    The second expression "ho kairos sunestalmenos estin" need not simply mean that there is not much time left, for kairos; is neutral con- cerning its duration,3 and the expression "sunestalmenos" whilst clearly affirming that the Parousia is in some sense imminent, does not necessarily mean that Paul thought it must come within a delimited time.5

    1. Could you give the author/title for your first comment?

    2. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume 1
      edited by Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, Geoffrey William Bromiley

    3. Moore's full work can be found here http://www.theologicalstudies.org.uk/book_moore-parousia.php