Saturday, December 16, 2006

Some Warnings About Christmas Apologetics

During this Christmas season, a lot of arguments will be going back and forth between Christians and their critics on issues involving the infancy narratives. I want to warn about a couple of arguments that should be avoided, one sometimes used by Christians and the other sometimes used by critics of Christianity.

The first argument concerns some claims made by Jerry Vardaman regarding the census in Luke's gospel, claims popularized by Lee Strobel. Here's an article I wrote on the subject last year.

The second argument, one sometimes used by skeptics, involves a passage in R. Joseph Hoffmann's edition of Celsus' treatise against Christianity, a passage in which Celsus supposedly denies that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. If you look at the passage as it originally appears in Origen's Against Celsus (1:28), though, there is no denial of the Bethlehem birthplace. I recommend reading the article here by Roger Pearse that discusses Hoffmann's rendition of Celsus. Pearse quotes a review of Hoffmann's work in an academic journal, part of which reads:

"More seriously, he [Hoffmann] adds, omits, and alters words with no warning or warrant. Sometimes Hoffmann's alterations are merely puzzling, as when he omits crucial statements from Celsus's arguments in CC 3.65 and CC 4.5. Other additions and omissions seem to be intended to make Celsus more convincing. Although in his introduction he expresses confidence in Origen's transmission of Celsus's text, Hoffmann surreptitiously incorporates Origen's criticisms....Hoffmann does not allow Celsus to appear credulous....This is not a bona fide translation. It would almost appear that Hoffmann deliberately wishes unsuspecting readers to see Celsus as a detached and skeptical professor of religious studies rather than as a pious Hellenist."

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