Saturday, December 05, 2020

Evidence For The Miracles In The Gospels

Lydia McGrew has been adding a lot of videos to her YouTube channel lately, such as a series on the feeding of the five thousand and one that just began on the virgin birth. There's a lot of good material there.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Steve Hays' Contribution To Christmas

I considered discussing the subject in my Christmas Resources post this year, but decided to address it separately instead. I conclude my Christmas Resources post each year with links to the Triablogue material written on Christmas issues over the past year. This was the last year in which that collection of links would include posts from Steve.

During the Christmas season of 2004, Time and Newsweek published articles against the historicity of the infancy narratives, and those articles got a poor response from Christians. Seeing what happened that year convinced me to become much more involved in doing apologetic work on Christmas issues. I've been building on what I started in 2004 every year since then. I joined the Triablogue staff in February of 2006 at Steve's invitation, which gave me a prominent platform for doing that Christmas work. He not only gave me that platform, but also frequently encouraged me in doing the work, both publicly and privately, including shortly before his death.

And he did a lot of Christmas apologetic work himself. I've linked many examples over the years in my Christmas Resources posts and elsewhere. It needs to be remembered that producing material like that cost him a lot of time, effort, reputation, and other resources. Something that only takes, say, two, five, or eleven minutes to read and is so easy to understand after he's set everything out was much harder for him to put together and maintain (answering questions, responding to objections, updating whatever needed updated, etc.). Given how few people go as deep into Christmas issues as Steve did and how few think outside the box as much as he did, it was a rare privilege and joy to work with him in that context. As I mentioned in a tribute to Steve that I wrote shortly after his death, I miss his knowledge, his wisdom, and his constant presence and persistence. As he did in other contexts, he expanded my thoughts about Christmas not only by increasing the information I had within the parameters of my thinking, but also by expanding those parameters.

He wrote a lot of good material on Christmas issues outside the context of apologetics as well. He would often write about music, including Christmas music, to which he often posted links during the Christmas season. As he mentions in his autobiography, he and his family have a history of involvement in music. For example:

The Christmas Eve [church] service left an impression of sorts. This was partly because it was the only day of the year when I was allowed to stay up so late—well past midnight. We had a family tradition of playing the Festival of Lessons and Carols, by King's College Chapel choir, before heading off to church. The Alpine clarity of the high treble descant, echoing in the ambient chapel, was mesmerizing to me. And the candlelight service at church augmented the magical mood.

That planted a lifelong fondness for King's College Chapel choir, and its repertoire. Nowadays I can watch services on my laptop. The hymns I've been hearing and singing since childhood take on greater resonance as we ourselves pass through the pilgrimage of life and faith–watching our godly relatives go ahead of us, and following in their footsteps. (25-26)

Last year, he wrote a post about singing in heaven. He'd written on the subject in a 2017 post as well. What he wrote about his Christian relatives at the conclusion of his autobiography now includes him:

For my sainted loved ones, the pain is past, the longing gone, the sorrow over, the patience requited, and the waiting rewarded. Far above the stars, where angels chime the watches of the night, they join the everlasting choir–in the tintinnabulations of a thousand-thousand bells. (85)

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

New Enfield Material From The Warrens

Two videos that are highly relevant to the Enfield Poltergeist were published recently on the Official Ed and Lorraine Warren Channel on YouTube. You can watch them here and here.

The first video has an introduction from Tony Spera, the Warrens' son-in-law, followed by a slide show Ed Warren presented on paranormal issues. There's a discussion of Enfield at the end of it. Start watching here. The Warrens visited the house in 1978, 1979, and 1981 at least, perhaps on one or more other occasions as well. Warren refers to the children's ages at the time of the first photo as 16 (Janet), 17 (Margaret), 9 (Billy), and 12 (Johnny). That's incorrect. He seems to be taking the ages of the girls around the time of the 1981 visit and combining those with the ages of the boys during the 1979 visit. The children look significantly older than they do in the photos and videos from 1977-78 that have been widely circulated, and the house looks significantly different. The Warrens' 1978 visit was in June, and their 1979 visit was in August. The clothing worn by the people in the photo makes less sense in either of those months than at other times of the year. Maurice Grosse apparently attended Johnny Hodgson's funeral on March 30, 1981 (Melvyn Willin, The Enfield Poltergeist Tapes [United States: White Crow Books, 2019], 98). That doesn't leave much time for Warren's photo to have been taken that year, but the clothing makes more sense then, and so do the differences between how the children and the house look in Warren's photo and how they looked in 1977-78. Janet would have been 15 at the time of an early 1981 visit, and Margaret would have been 16. The best explanation of the photo and Warren's comments on it seems to be that the Warrens visited and had the photo taken in early 1981, just before Johnny died, and that Warren was mistaken about the children's ages at the time. (Janet and Margaret would turn 16 and 17, respectively, later in 1981, after Warren's visit. Billy and Johnny had been 9 and 12 when Warren visited in 1979.) Though some of the photos in the slide show are Warren's, and I don't recall having seen them before, most of them are from Guy Playfair's book on Enfield. Warren refers to how Janet passed through a wall "in full view of investigators". I suspect he's referring to the December 15, 1977 event in which Janet went through the main bedroom wall into the Nottinghams' house. There's good evidence for that event, but it didn't happen "in full view of investigators". He refers to about six occasions when Janet was thrown onto the radio in the corner of the room. I only know of three occasions, but Warren may have heard of others I'm not aware of. There's a brief audio clip of the poltergeist voice at the end of the slide show, taken from the audio tapes released to the public when The Conjuring 2 came out in 2016.

The second video is much more significant. It includes a discussion of the Enfield case involving Lorraine Warren and John Kenyhercz, a member of the Warrens' team who investigated the case in 1979. The video was recorded on August 1, 2013. Much of what Kenyhercz says is corroborated to some extent by other witnesses (the timing of his team's visit, events that occurred during that visit, the nature of some of the phenomena the poltergeist would produce, etc.). There are apparent discrepancies between what's on this video and what John and Sylvie Burcombe reported about the Warrens' 1979 visit on tape 95B in Maurice Grosse's collection of Enfield tapes, but those apparent discrepancies are relatively minor. For the most part, there's agreement about what happened. There's some discussion on the video about Billy Hodgson dying of cancer, but Johnny is the one they had in mind.

To get a more balanced view of the Warrens' involvement in the case, see my previous posts on the subject here and here. I suspect the Warrens and their team did experience some paranormal events at the Hodgsons' house, but not everything they reported was genuine. The Warrens, Kenyhercz, and Spera should be given credit for releasing so much of their Enfield material to the public and making it so accessible. I hope they'll do more of that.

Monday, November 30, 2020

A Response To Tovia Singer On Isaiah 9

He recently posted a video on the subject that's already gotten more than five thousand views and a lot of comments. I've posted a response in the comments thread, in which I address the claim that the verses should be translated with a past tense that undermines Jesus' fulfillment of the passage, the idea that Hezekiah fulfilled it, and some other issues. The replies I've gotten so far aren't of much significance. My web browsers aren't showing my comments after my original post unless I'm logged into my Google account. I don't know why or whether that's normal. But I didn't say a lot in those other comments, since there isn't much to respond to. If you want to read what I wrote in my later comments, you may have to be logged into a Google account.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Capernaum And Christmas

Last year, I wrote an article about how Jesus seems to have structured much of his public ministry around his identity as the light of Isaiah 9:2. His move to Capernaum was part of that process (Matthew 4:12-16), and that move has significant implications for the origins of the infancy narratives, their historicity, the authorship of the gospels, and other important issues. I want to discuss some of those implications in this post.

As I mentioned in my article last year, Matthew apparently worked, and likely lived, in Capernaum or nearby. The same is true of John and some of the other apostles. That put them in a position to have known more about Jesus and to have been in more contact with him accordingly. And that makes men like Matthew and John more plausible candidates for writing biographies of Jesus, which heightens the credibility of the traditional authorship attributions of the gospels. Furthermore, the significant attention given to Capernaum in the gospels of Matthew and John, as discussed in my article linked above, makes more sense under the traditional authorship attributions.

Similar observations can be made about the early Christian accounts of Jesus' childhood in particular. If Matthew and John had so much access to Jesus (and, by implication, his relatives, neighbors, etc.), then they had access to more information about his childhood. (See here concerning the material on Jesus' childhood in the writings of John, which is often underestimated.) It would be natural for people living in or near Capernaum to want to know why Jesus moved there. It's the kind of subject that would easily have come up in conversations. If he had the motive for moving there described in Matthew 4:12-16, as the evidence suggests, then issues related to his ancestry, birth, childhood, and Messiahship (all mentioned in Isaiah 9) would have come to mind and probably would have been discussed. Just as Isaiah 9 is associated with Christmas issues in our day, it was in ancient Israel as well (e.g., John 7:40-8:12). Jesus' move to Capernaum would have been of interest to individuals like Matthew and John, and the reasoning behind the move would have brought up thoughts and discussions related to Jesus' childhood.

People often ask and theorize about the origins of the infancy narratives and other early material on the childhood of Jesus. Bethlehem and Nazareth are important in that context, but Capernaum probably had a large role as well, a role that's been highly neglected.