Monday, November 30, 2015

Another Response To Colin Nicholl

Sometime yesterday, apparently, he updated his response to me at his web site. The response is mostly the same, but some parts have been changed. He's added a section to the opening expressing a desire to be gracious, and some of the language has been changed so as to be less critical of me. That's good. He interacts with some of what I said in my response to his article. He occasionally says that he's interacting with that response, and a note at the end of his article mentions that the article was updated on November 29. But most of the changes he's made aren't identified as such, and somebody reading his article for the first time might come away with the impression that nothing significant has been changed. As I recall, he doesn't ever explain that my blog response to him was a response to the first edition of his article. People who have been reading both sides of our exchange should know that, but others might not.

I want to respond to what I think are the most significant changes in his update. There are some changes he's made on topics that are significant, but which I think Steve Hays and I have already covered adequately. What I'll do below is address a few points I don't think we said enough about previously.

On page 6, under point 6d, Nicholl comments:

"Without the phrase ['when they saw the star' in Matthew 2:10] readers might conclude that the Magi's joy was simply on account of the fact that they were about to see the baby Messiah."

Verse 9 ends with a reference to the star's activities. The most straightforward way for Matthew's readers to take the opening of verse 10, if Matthew is giving events in chronological order as Nicholl has argued, is that the magi are rejoicing over the star's activities just described. While Matthew may have anticipated that his readers would interpret him in a less straightforward manner, it's more likely that Matthew would have anticipated a more straightforward reading.

On page 7, under point 9c, Nicholl repeats his claim that "no one but the Magi noticed" my supernatural star. He goes on to write that if anybody other than the magi had seen the supernatural star I've proposed, "it would have been hard to keep this information out of public circulation."

But I've said that I don't deny that the star was seen by other people. So, Nicholl isn't interacting with a claim on my part that only the magi saw the star. Rather, he seems to be suggesting that, in order to be consistent, I should deny that anybody else saw the star, since the lack of any extant record of others' seeing it supposedly makes it unlikely that others saw it. But why think so? Why would ancient non-Christians who saw the star have preserved a record of their experience? And why should we think any Christian who saw it would have produced a record of his experience that would be extant today? For example, what about Christians who thought the record of the magi's experience in a document as prominent as Matthew's gospel was sufficient, so that there was no need to add other accounts to it? Does Nicholl think that nobody other than the sources extant today witnessed other miracles surrounding Jesus' life, like his healings and exorcisms and the darkness at the time of the crucifixion? Given how Nicholl argues that his comet was the greatest astronomical event in recorded history, discussed throughout the northern hemisphere, etc., yet that comet isn't mentioned in extant sources by such a large percentage of the people who would have witnessed the comet, his argument here seems inconsistent.

Under point 17g on page 14, Nicholl writes:

"Astronomically, when the Sun is present over Virgo's midriff, such is the intensity of its rays that it is clothing her whole body."

It's more straightforward to take the phrase "the sun" as a reference to the celestial body itself, without including something like "the intensity of its rays". And how would Nicholl know that the intensity of its rays at the relevant time in 6 B.C. was covering the relevant portions of Virgo's body and wasn't doing so at other times?

In his book, he seems to suggest that the positioning of the sun itself is what Revelation 12:1 is addressing, so that it wouldn't be enough for the intensity of the rays of the sun to do the covering where the sun wasn't. On page 162, he writes:

"The Sun is perceived in this verse [Revelation 12:1] to be within Virgo, and hence her belly is envisioned as encompassing the ecliptic."

So, Nicholl seems to be saying that the sun of Revelation 12:1 is in the area of the belly, not covering her whole body. On page 164, he argues that the sun's placement along with the moon's was rare enough to single out a date in 6 B.C., so he isn't allowing for a broader range of dates. Elsewhere on the same page, he discusses the placement of the sun over the midriff without saying anything about the intensity of the sun's rays. Figure 7.12 on page 166 only shows Virgo's midriff covered. The note for that figure only mentions the sun, without saying anything about the intensity of its rays covering the whole body. Similarly, note 49 on pages 164 and 166 discusses where the sun itself was at different times without addressing the intensity of its rays. It seems that Nicholl has changed his argument.

No comments:

Post a Comment