Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Micah Referred To A Messianic Birthplace, And Jesus Was Born There

As we've noted many times in the past, John Loftus has a tendency to repeat bad arguments against Christianity that he's already seen refuted, without even attempting to interact with the counterarguments. His post yesterday on the Bethlehem prophecy and its fulfillment is more of the same.

Compare his material on the subject to mine here and here. Notice that some of my comments on this subject (here and here) were written directly in response to John Loftus. He participated in the second thread just linked, but he didn't make much of an effort to interact with what I had written in that segment of my series or in the other segments, and he left the thread without responding to my last reply.

In his latest post on the Bethlehem issue, he links to a previous post in which he argued that the Bethlehem of Micah 5 is a clan, not a city. That's a ridiculous argument, for reasons such as the ones I explain here. Notice that the post I just linked to and the material by Glenn Miller that I reference there give multiple reasons for rejecting Loftus' conclusion. It's not just that Loftus has overlooked one factor. Rather, he's misjudging several lines of evidence that run contrary to his conclusion.

My material on Micah's prophecy was written in 2005. Since then, Bruce Waltke has published a commentary on Micah that gives the best treatment of the Bethlehem prophecy that I've seen (A Commentary On Micah [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2007]). For example, he discusses many details in the text that allude to passages about David elsewhere in scripture, which underlines the Davidic, Messianic nature of the passage. David is associated with the city of Bethlehem. Waltke addresses many other relevant issues as well. Again, compare Waltke's arguments to the arguments used by Loftus.

Loftus' material on whether Jesus was born in Bethlehem is similarly weak. He tells us that "Jesus was probably born in Nazareth." He provides no supporting argumentation, and his previous article on the subject, which he links to, repeats some bad arguments that have already been refuted and wouldn't lead to his conclusion anyway. If the Lukan account of how Joseph and Mary got to Bethlehem is erroneous, for example, it doesn't therefore follow that Jesus wasn't born in Bethlehem. Loftus also repeats some objections that were refuted more than a year ago in another thread that he left.

Notice that, in the article Loftus links, he quotes scholars like Robin Lane Fox and E.P. Sanders asserting that Jesus wasn't born in Bethlehem, but the reasons they give for that conclusion are weak. Telling us that somebody like Fox or Sanders doubts Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, or that they doubt it because it would fulfill prophecy, doesn't give us much reason to doubt His birth there. Why does Loftus think that it's so significant to quote somebody like Fox or Sanders making such an assertion? I can cite scholars like Jerome Murphy-O'Connor and Craig Keener asserting that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The difference is that scholars like Murphy-O'Connor and Keener have far better argumentation supporting their conclusion, as I've demonstrated in previous posts, including in threads that John Loftus participated in.


  1. Thanks for standing firm for the gospel and for the inerrancy of the Bible.

  2. I wouldn't take Loftus seriously.

    By his own admission he is a liar, as he relates how he continued to preach after he no longer believed.

    Dan Barker did the same.

    And of course, we know how he got caught trying to set up J.P. Holding.

    I doubt that he even believes a lot of the stuff he throws out now.

  3. I just happened to see this. Listen, as I've said before, how we view the evidence is filtered through our control beliefs. I summarize and defend them here. As I look at the prophecies supposedly fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus I've concluded they were taken out of context. I've also concluded based on philosophical grounds that there is no basis for God to be able to foresee future human continguent actions, even if he exists. Of these things you'll disagree, no doubt.

    When I examine Matthew's fulfilled prophecies concerning the events surrounding Jesus' birth they all fail. The method of Midrash and pesher was quite common in Matthew's day but fundamentally flawed. There isn't even any expectation that Matthew's prophecies should be taken as a literal fulfillment unless we first discuss this issue.

    The difference between us can be summed up in that I judge things in the Bible by modern, more rigourous standards, whereas you do not. I charge that you have double standards in doing so, for you too must live in the modern world. I do not have these double standards. I am a modern person and I reject all backward and superstitious thinking. You charge that I don't have a basis for a standard, whereas I charge that your God does not have one either, or it's arbitray and not personally chosen in the first place.


  4. In other words, Loftus means: "I don't have a response to anything Jason has said, but I don't want to look like I don't have a response so I'll give you three paragraphs that say nothing."