...just in time for tax season!
A common question I run into is: are there any "contemporary" accounts for Jesus? By this, they mean, "...from that time, other than the Bible?" Responding has to include two ideas: that there are non-Biblical sources, and that the scriptures themselves aren't somehow exempt from consideration.
It’s very important to note that the scriptures are contemporary accounts for Jesus. When critics ask for other sources, that’s like saying, “other than the closest, most well-attested documents and the most historically reliable ancient writings, what evidence is there?” Belief in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection can be traced, just through the New Testament, to as little as two years after His crucifixion. That’s just textual dating, by the way – the belief itself obviously existed before the text reflects it. There are non-Biblical sources that mention Jesus, and historical accounts that back up the influence of His message on His followers immediately after He rose.
Paul’s summary of the Gospel, stated in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, talks about what Paul “first received”. Scholars place his conversion between 33 and 40 AD. So, 1 Corinthians dates the essential beliefs of Christianity absolutely no later than 2-7 years after the crucifixion. It’s also been well established that more than two full generations are needed for myth to totally wipe out historical facts. There has to be enough time for all (or nearly all) of the eyewitnesses and their close confidants to be gone, else fabrications are easily proven false.
This means that in 1 Corinthians we have powerful evidence, at the very least, that the people preaching Christ were doing so very shortly after His death and resurrection.
The rest of the New Testament is also a strong textual collection of these beliefs about Jesus. From a historical perspective, it’s hard to get any more “contemporary” than what we have in the Bible. In fact, compared to the centuries separating events from their earliest known recorded histories, as is the case with most of ancient history, the Bible is as close to ironclad as you can possibly ask for.
There are non-Biblical texts that also mention the ministry of Jesus and the faith of His followers. We know from Roman records about the persecution of Christians, and how quickly there were thousands willing to die for their faith in Him. There are writers such as Josephus, who mention Christ, though there is some controversy as to whether or not his mention was tampered with later on. Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Lucian, and Thallus were all historians of the 1st and 2nd centuries who mention Jesus and the early Christian church.
Of course, those accounts are not nearly so “contemporary” as those found in the Bible itself. But they do show that what the Bible says about Jesus has to be given historical credibility, unless we intend to throw out everything else we know about the ancient world. Some claim even Jesus Himself was a fabrication – hopefully, even this quick look at the textual and extra-Biblical evidence shows that to be silly. The facts and teachings we are given about Him have historical backing, and can be trusted far more than any other work of ancient history.
March 30, 2012
...just in time for tax season!
March 3, 2012
Sometimes having good reason to say "I told you so" makes you sick to your stomach. I've talked about the slippery slope that abortion advocates put themselves on, thanks to the way they frame the debate in terms of "personhood". And, I've discussed how those same people are setting themselves up for disaster when someone takes those same ideas and applies them to more than just pre-born children (see here and here). Recently, a pair of bioethicists made a serious argument that killing newborns is no different than abortion - and therefore morally justified.
From the BioEdge website:
If abortion, why not infanticide? This leading question is often treated as a canard by supporters of abortion. However, it is seriously argued by two Italian utilitarians and published online in the prestigious Journal of Medical Ethics this week.
Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva are associated respectively with Monash University, in Melbourne, Australia, and with the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, at the University of Melbourne.
They argue that both the fetus and the new-born infant are only potential persons without any interests. Therefore the interests of the persons involved with them are paramount until some indefinite time after birth. To emphasise the continuity between the two acts, they term it “after-birth abortion” rather than infanticide.
Their conclusions may shock but Guibilini and Minerva assert them very confidently. “We claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk.” This assertion highlights another aspect of their argument. Killing an infant after birth is not euthanasia either. In euthanasia, a doctor would be seeking the best interests of the person who dies. But in “after-birth abortion” it is the interests of people involved, not the baby.
To critical eyes, their argument will no doubt look like a slippery slope, as they are simply seeking to extend the logic of abortion to infanticide:
“If criteria such as the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy, if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn.”
How long after birth is it “ethically permissible” to kill infants? Guibilini and Minerva leave that question up to neurologists and psychologists, but it takes at least a few weeks for the infant to become self-conscious. At that stage it moves from being a potential person to being a person, and infanticide would no longer be allowed.
Forgive me some righteous indignation along with my "told 'ya so". Every single person who has heard that pro-abortion arguments are leading inevitably towards infanticide, and rolled their eyes, can have that slice of crow a la mode. This is exactly the kind of thinking that we're heading towards. Well, not headed towards. I guess we're there.
From the Telegraph:
Defending the decision to publish in a British Medical Journal blog, [Journal of Medical Ethics editor] Prof Savulescu, said that arguments in favour of killing newborns were “largely not new”.
What Minerva and Giubilini did was apply these arguments “in consideration of maternal and family interests”.
While accepting that many people would disagree with their arguments, he wrote: “The goal of the Journal of Medical Ethics is not to present the Truth or promote some one moral view. It is to present well reasoned argument based on widely accepted premises.”
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, he added: “This “debate” has been an example of “witch ethics” - a group of people know who the witch is and seek to burn her. It is one of the most dangerous human tendencies we have. It leads to lynching and genocide. Rather than argue and engage, there is a drive is to silence and, in the extreme, kill, based on their own moral certainty. That is not the sort of society we should live in.”
See, if we'd all just be reasonable, we wouldn't be so stuck on "witch hunts". Just because people went from arguing that it's OK to kill unborn children to killing newborns is no reason to "lynch" anyone. Silly moralists, just taking it for granted that murdering children on the basis of convenience is "wrong" - how backwards! And, of course, since we're all so reasonable, we'll have to say the same thing once the logic gets applied to the elderly, the mentally handicapped, the physically handicapped, the poor, or the religious. Too slippery for your slope? Consider what Sam Harris, who claims that nothing bad ever came out of a society that was "too reasonable", thinks about certain ideas:
“Some beliefs are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them.” - Sam Harris, "The End of Faith"
I told you. I told us. This is how educated, sophisticated, intelligent societies give birth to atrocities.What's even more disturbing is knowing how many people will balk at what these "ethicists" say, and then fall for the whole, "well, I guess I have to be reasonable" schtick. In my prior posts (linked above), note how even ardent abortion supporters were disturbed by the post-birth murders described. The safe bet is that they won't reject the infanticide argument, and reconsider their own view. They'll cling to whatever protects their preferences, and swallow infanticide rather than give up abortion. Take a moment for self-reflection, and recognize a pyrrhic situation? Probably not - there are too many people who'll sacrifice anything (and anyone - else) for the sake of "choice", if that word actually means anything once murder becomes "reasonable".
Here's another warning to the "well, I guess if it's so reasonable" crowd: how much are you going to like it when you're on the wrong end of the personhood scale? You can't empower a society, or a government, with certain powers and not consider what happens when they turn them on you. How reasonable is it going to seem when the "oh-so-reasonable" powers that be decide that you're not worth enough in the social equation? You can mock the phrase, "ideas have consequences" all you like. The fact is, they do, and you can't scoff at a slippery slope when you're dumping grease all over it.