2012-02-26

The Christ of John’s Revelation — Nemesis of Paul’s crucified Christ (Couchoud continued)

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by Neil Godfrey

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This post continues Couchoud’s account of the nature of the Christ found in the Book of Revelation and how he epitomizes the “false Christ” that Paul denounced his apostolic rivals for promoting. Couchoud has been tracing the rise of Christianity from the Enochian community in “pre-Christian” times and the evolution of the Christ idea in his work The Creation of Christ. Jesus Christ, he argues was a figure that evolved from meditations of the Jewish Scriptures and related Second Temple apocryphal literature. Paul’s Christ was a heavenly being into whom he projected his own life of sufferings and attributed to them saving power once embodied in God himself. Jesus was really another image or aspect of God himself. But Paul’s rivals were based in Jerusalem and they envisaged a very different sort of Christ. The continuing visions of this conquering and far-from-humiliated Christ by one of those “Jerusalem pillars”, John, is the subject of this post. The previous post in this series examined The Book of Revelation’s damning allusions to Paul’s Christ and teachings. Keep in mind that all of these Christological divisions pre-date any thought that Jesus had visited earth. According to all early prophets and apostles Jesus was an entirely heavenly being whose coming — first coming — was eagerly anticipated by the devout. The complete series is archived here.

John is carried up from earth to heaven where he beholds the glorious setting of the Eternal and Formless God (Rev. iv. 2-6):

Behold a Throne was set in heaven
On the Throne was One seated.

He who was seated was in aspect as a Jasper and a Sardius;
A Rainbow round about the Throne
In sight like an Emerald.

About the Throne were four-and-twenty thrones,;
On the thrones were sitting four-and-twenty Elders,
Clothed in white raiment,
On their heads crowns of gold.

Out of the Throne came lightnings
And the crash of thunder.
Seven Torches of Fire burned before the Throne
Who are the Seven Spirits of God.
Before the throne a sea of glass
Like a crystal.

Jesus is found to be dwelling in such a setting as this, forever sharing the glory of God’s throne. This Jesus is now described.

John is present at the mysterious liturgy which comes before the great drama. A scroll sealed with seven seals is in God’s hand. None in heaven, nor on earth, nor in hell, can open it. Further on its name is given as the Book of Life, the Book of the Slain Lamb.* [* Rev. xiii. 8 (the Book of the Life of the Lamb) ; xvii. 8 ; xx. 12 (the Book of Life).] This is the complete record on which the names of the elect are inscribed since the beginning of the world. When the seven seals are opened, the judgment will begin. Jesus alone can open them for to him belong the elect. Before the ages he redeemed them with his blood. He is the Sacrificed Lamb of Isaiah, the ram “slain from the beginning of the world” (Rev. xiii. 8; cf. I Peter i. 20: “foreordained before the foundation of the world, ” a corrective to John). He appears in the midst of God’s throne (Rev. v. 6):–

I saw in the midst of the Throne and of the four Cherubim,
In the midst of the Elders,
A Lamb, as though Slain,
With Seven Horns and Seven Eyes,
Who are the seven Spirits of God
Sent forth into all the Earth.

The Shape of the Lamb is the eternal shape of Jesus. In heaven he is the divine Ram, as Jahweh was originally a divine Bull. The Lamb takes the Book to the sound of a new song (Rev. v. 9-10):–

Thou hast the power to take the Scroll
And to open the Seals of it,
Because thou wast sacrificed,
And bought for God with thy blood
Men of every tribe, speech, nation, and race,
Whom thou hast made for our God a Kingdom of priests,
Who shall reign on Earth.

While the first six seals are being opened, warning events take place (Rev. vi. I) :–

I SAW the Lamb open one of the seven Seals;
I HEARD one of the four Cherubim
Say in a voice of thunder,
Come!

I SAW; behold a white horse;
He who rode him
Held a Bow.
To him was given a Crown:
He went forth a conqueror to conquer.

After the conqueror come a red horse, a black horse, a green horse; their riders are war, famine, and pestilence. The martyrs of old whose souls are beneath the heavenly altar cry out to God for vengeance. 

Up till now I have attempted to post my own outline and paraphrase of Couchoud’s argument. But I see here I am beginning to quote him in full and for whatever reasons I have decided to scan the remainder of this chapter and copy Couchoud’s words in full for the remainder of this post. This makes it a bit long, but it is out of copyright (hence not illegal) and sharing some of Couchoud’s style (even in translation) as well as his argument may not be a bad thing. I will use the default WordPress fonts and formatting for the full copy of Couchoud’s pages 87 to 108 of The Creation of Christ, Volume 1. The running chapter heading is THE SACRIFICED LAMB. (I have changed some of the coding for the footnotes.) Any bolded text for emphasis, and the colour coding for ease of breaking up the text on a computer monitor is my own doing.

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p. 89          THE SACRIFICED LAMB

They are first garbed in the white raiment which is their body of glory. Then a first quaking of the heavens will terrify mankind. After which an angel will mark the brows of the hundred and forty-four thousand elect with the sign which will protect them from the countless demons who are to be let loose. But a short while and a host of the elect rise to heaven, in their hands the palms of victory and about them their everlasting robes; these are the blessed who will die martyred in the great Torment which is soon to sweep across the world (Rev. vii. 14-17) :—

They come from the Great Trial.*
They have washed their robes,
Have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Therefore they are before the Throne of God;
They serve him day and night in his Temple.
He Who sits upon the Throne
Shall dwell among them.

They shall hunger no more,
They shall thirst no more,
Nor shall the sun overwhelm them
Nor the heat.

For the Lamb which is in the midst of the Throne
Shall be their Shepherd.
He shall lead them to the Fountains of Life.¶
God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.‡

These first visions, strange but beautiful, sound a note of consolation. They assure to the elect the reality of their salvation by the blood of the Lamb.

Now the descriptions of the great Doom foretold by Daniel sweep through a crescendo of dread and sacred horror, a trial such as no man ever dreamed, not even for the saints (Rev. viii. 1-6) :—

* The Time of Distress which, according to Daniel .will precede the End (Dan. xii. 1).

¶ They are the Exiles returned to Jerusalem of the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah xlix. 10) : “ They shall not hunger nor thirst. . . Jahweh shall guide them by the springs.” The Lamb takes the place of Jahweh again.

‡ At the great feast prepared for all the nations (Isa. xxv. 6-8).

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p. 90          THE SACRIFICED LAMB

When he opened the seventh Seal
There was a silence
As it were half an hour.*

I SAW the seven Angels,
Who stand before God.¶
To them were given seven Trumpets. ‡

Another Angel came
And stood before the Altar
Holding a golden Scoop.
Heaps of incense were given him
To offer up with the prayers of the Saints
On the golden Altar which is before the Throne.

Rose up the smoke of the incense
With the prayers of the Saints §
Out of the Angel’s hand, in the presence of God.

The Angel took the Scoop.
He filled it with fire of the Altar
And cast it on the Earth. ||

There were thunderings and lightnings,
Din, earthquakes.
The seven Angels who held the seven Trumpets
Prepared to sound.

As on the Hebrew New Year’s day, the Day of God’s New Age is hallowed in by trumpet blasts. At the first four fire falls from heaven and ravages the earth in four manners. At the sound of the last three an eagle at the highest point of heaven will shriek, “Malediction !” thrice. Twice the saints shall be spared, but the third time they will be assailed and overcome.

* The eternal liturgy of the angels is interrupted to let the prayers of the Saints mount to heaven. The breaking of the seventh seal allows the Book to be opened. The introduction is completed. Everything is ready for the End of the World.

¶ Enoch xx. 7 calls them Archangels and gives their names.

‡ The horns and trumpets which, according to Joel (ii. i), announce the coming of the Day of Jahweh, just as the holy trumpets announce New Year s Day, the festival of Jahweh the King.

§ The prayers of the saints who have just appeared in heaven are added to those of the slain martyrs (Rev. vi. 10). They ask for the End of the World, just as in Enoch xlvii. 2.

|| As the angel in Ezekiel x. 2, throws red-hot coals from heaven on Jerusalem.

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p. 91          THE SACRIFICED LAMB

As the eagle cries “Malediction” twice, swarms of demons like locust-scorpions, legions of demons, with fiery breath, torture and massacre the heathen. But so great will their blindness be that they will not refrain even then from worshipping demons, nor will they repent.

Then comes the most poignant revelation—the slaughter of the saints. At this point the prophet sees and hears a mighty angel swear by God that at the seventh trumpet, which will sound for the trial of the saints,

The Mystery of God shall be accomplished,
As he gave the Gospel
To his Servants the Prophets (Rev. x. 7).

For John, as for Paul, the good tidings, the evangel, is the revelation of God’s mystery. This for Paul is the abasement and exaltation of Jesus, for John it is the defeat and the triumph of the blessed.

To enable him to foretell the last stage, John obtains from the mighty angel a little book which he eats, as Ezekiel did. Whereon he pictures the vision of the last trial.

This, as Daniel foretold, will last three and a half years, half a week of years. During these three and a half years Jerusalem will be in the hands of the heathen, who will tread it beneath their feet. The Temple alone will be free from their soiling. Two prophets garbed in horsehair will test the inhabitants by the same plagues as those with which Moses tormented Egypt. Slain by the pagan, abandoned unburied, they will rise again and go up to heaven.* The tenth part of Jerusalem will fall into ruins, seven thousand men will perish, and the rest, in their terror, will be converted. The best Jews will thus be saved.

In heaven a marvellous event takes place. That he may judge the world, the heavenly Lamb must take the shape of a man, the Son of Man, in which form Daniel saw him. He must therefore be born by a celestial female.

In heaven there is a semi-divine being who is at one and the same time the Mother and the Bride of Jesus. This

* It is to be noted that it will not be Jesus who will be put to death and rise again, but the two he sends as his witnesses.

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p. 92          THE SACRIFICED LAMB

woman is the celestial double of the community of saints, and is at the same time a City of Diamond, the New Jerusalem. In heaven there is also the Old Enemy of God and Jesus, the great Red Dragon which personifies Chaos, and is Satan. Jesus will be born of the woman to become the brother of the Elect, and the Dragon will seek to devour him (Rev. xii. 1-6) :—

A great Wonder appeared in Heaven;
A Woman clothed in the Sun,
The Moon at her feet,
On her head a Crown of twelve Stars.

She is big with child,
She cries with the pain
And torment of travail.

Another Wonder appeared in the heaven;
Behold a great red Dragon
With seven Heads and ten Horns,
On his Head seven Crowns,
His tail swept the third part of the Stars of Heaven.
It cast them to earth.

The Dragon stood
Before the Woman about to be delivered.
He would devour her Child
As soon as it was born.

She brought forth a Man child
Who is to rule all the Peoples with a Rod of iron.
The Child was caught up
To God and his Throne.

The Woman fled into the Wilderness,
Where she has a place prepared of God,
Where she shall be fed twelve hundred and sixty days.

After 1260 days (three and a half years) of the great trial the woman goes up into the wilderness, like the Bride in the Song of Songs, to be the Bride of the Lamb.

The Dragon Satan is the counterpart in Revelation of the Archontes in Paul, the demons who crucify Jesus. But in the Apocalypse Satan cannot lay hands on Jesus, not even for a short while. He is driven out of heaven and cast down

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p. 93          THE SACRIFICED LAMB

on to earth. He has no power over Jesus, but he has over the other children of the Woman, the faithful followers and brethren of Jesus (Rev. xii. 7-9) :—

There was war in heaven :
Michael and his Angels
Fought against the Dragon.
The Dragon fought,
His Angels also,
He did not prevail:
They found no longer a place in Heaven.

He was cast out, the great Dragon,
The old Serpent,
Called the Devil and Satan
Who dupes the whole world,
He was cast down to the Earth,
His angels were cast out with him.

For three and a half years Satan, expelled from heaven, will lay waste the earth. He will have power to overcome and to slay, through his officers, the saints of the earth. On earth there are two Satanic powers, infernal counterparts of Jesus and the Woman, the Beast and the Whore (Rev. xiii. 1) :—

I saw rise up out of the Sea a Beast
With ten Horns and seven Heads.
On the Horns ten Crowns,
On the Heads Names of blasphemies.*

These names, which are in themselves blasphemies against God, are those of false gods. The Beast is then the sum of those demons who on earth pass for gods, and therefore blaspheme the only god. One head—i.e., one such pagan god—attracts special attention, so much so as to be taken for the whole Beast (Rev. xiii. 3) :—

One of its heads was wounded as though sacrificed to death:
Its deadly wound was healed. ¶

Such sacrifice and resurrection parody Jesus, and also God

* The ten Crowned Horns come from Dan. vii. 7 and the Seven Heads represent the number of the False Gods.

¶ A wound made by a knife (xiii. 14).

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p. 94          THE SACRIFICED LAMB

by the mystic formula which explains his action. God is He who is, who was, and who is to come (Rev. i. 4 and 8). The Beast is He who was, is not, and will ascend from the Abyss, the home of demons, or He who was, is not, and shall be present (Rev. xvii. 8) :—

The Beast which thou hast seen
Was, Is Not, and Will Ascend from the Abyss.
It goes to destroy.
The dwellers on the earth shall wonder,
They whose names are not written in the Book of Life
From the beginning of the World,
When they see the Beast
For that He Was, Is Not, and Shall Be Present.

Ascension (anabasis) and presence (parousia) were technical terms of pagan mysteries. Here, then, is a reference to a god who in his mysteries disappears in death, then ascends, and is present. Who can he be? His name, which will be tattooed on the brows and hands of his followers, is given in a cryptogram so that the blasphemy may not soil the lips of the true believer (Rev. xiii. 18) :—

Here is wisdom.
Let him who has understanding
Calculate the number of the Beast,
For it is the number of a man *
Its Number is six hundred and sixteen,

616 is the sum of the letters of the dative of Attis (ATTEI),‡

* I.e., that a man can calculate; cf. “ measure of a man,”—i.e., one employed by men (xxi. 17).

¶  1The figure 616 is given by one of the two best MSS. (C), by the old Latin version of Tyconius, and by an old Armenian text. Irenæus knew of it though he did not adopt it; Jerome did adopt it (De Monogrammate; ed G. Morin). It is probably the original. In many MSS. the number 666 is given, substituted either by analogy with Jesus, 888 (Deismann), or because it is a triangular number. (See van Eysinga, La Littératnre Chrétienne Primitive ; Paris, 1926, p. 201.)

‡ The dative is the case required for a votive inscription such as would be inscribed on the forehead or the hand. Isaiah foretold that the heathen would inscribe on their hands To Jahweh. The figure 666 corresponds to the accusative. See The Book of Revelation; Watts, London, 1932, p. 146.  The identification of the Beast with Attis and of the Whore with Cybele is due to R. Stahl.

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p. 95          THE SACRIFICED LAMB

the name which would be written on the brows and the hands of the initiates. Jesus’s rival is the Phrygian god who each year was wounded to death with a knife of flint and who, in his mysteries, dies and rises again, and thus was, is not, and ascends, or is present, the god whose annual festival the Emperor Claudius made official throughout the Empire.

Lo, a red and hideous couple! The Beast carries on his back the Whore, infernal rival of the Woman of Heaven (Rev. xvii. 3-5) :–

I saw a Woman
Seated on a scarlet Beast
Full of the Names of blasphemies,
With seven Heads and ten Horns.

The Woman was clothed in purple and scarlet,
Decked with gold, with precious stones and pearls,
Holding in her hand a Cup of gold
Full of abominations;
The filthiness of her fornication.

A Name written on her forehead, a Mystery,
Babylon the great mother
Of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth.

The mystery of this name is not impenetrable. ” Abominations ” is the classic term in the Bible for heathen deities.* “ Harlots ” similarly is the elegant biblical way of referring to heathen goddesses. The Great Mother of the Gods (Magna Mater Deum) is the official name of Cybele in the Roman religion. The Woman seated on the Beast is as Cybele seated on the Lion, and holds a cup in her hand as Cybele holds a patera. Her name is composed of Babylon the Great—i.e., Rome—and the Great Mother of the Gods. Just like the Woman of Heaven, she is both deity and city. Cybele is the mother and the bride of Attis, just as the Woman of Heaven is the mother and the bride of Jesus. She is Rome the unclean, as the other is the New Jerusalem. At Rome the temple of Cybele dominated the Emperor’s palace, so that the emperors took as their protectress the Mother of the Gods (Rev. xvii. 6) :—

E.g., in the Septuagint, Ezek. vii. 20; 1 Kings xi. 5 (Astarte); Kings xxiii. 13 (Moloch).

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p. 96          THE SACRIFICED LAMB

I saw the Woman drunk with the blood of the Saints,
With the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

Cybele-Rome drank Christian blood, and was poisoned by it, so that she was burnt in a great fire as a witch for her sorcery.

The Beast, rival of God and Jesus, will have his false prophet, rival of the genuine prophets. He will hold his power of the Dragon, that he may overcome and slay the saints. Misled by this false prophet, men will worship the image of the Beast and will be proud to bear the mark of his name. The saints will have the fortitude to bear their fate — for some the dungeon, for others the sword.

At the end of three and a half years of torment will come a heavenly vengeance, the extermination of the idolaters. An angel will announce the Good News. The Hour of Doom is at hand.

Lo! Jesus, the Divine Man, hitherto hidden away, will come forth in Palestine on a cloud as Daniel had beheld him, and will gather together the elect, and will harvest a bloody vintage of the others (Rev. xiv. 14-20) :—

I SAW;
Behold a white Cloud.
On the Cloud sat ONE LIKE TO A SON OF MAN,
Having on his head a golden Crown,
In his hand a sharp Sickle.

Another Angel came out of the Temple
Uttering a great cry,
To him who sat on the Cloud.

Thrust in thy Sickle! Reap!
The Time is come for reaping
For the Harvest of the Earth is ripe.

He who sat upon the Cloud
Thrust his Sickle on the Earth;
The Earth was reaped.

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .*

* Interpolation by dittography. A copyist instead of writing Another angel came out from the altar,” re-wrote “ Another angel came out of the temple. ’’ An editor, not recognizing the error, added

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p. 97          THE SACRIFICED LAMB

Another Angel came out from the Altar,
Who had Power over Fire.
He cried with a loud cry
To him who had the sharp Sickle,

Thrust in thy sharp Sickle.
Gather the clusters of the Vine of the Earth
For the grapes are ripe.

He thrust in his Sickle on the Earth.
He gathered the Vine of the Earth
And cast it into the Great Winepress of the Wrath of God.

The Winepress was trodden without the City.*
Blood came out of the Winepress to the horse bridles ‡
By the space of six hundred stadia. √

The seven blows of the wrath of God will fall on the pagan as once they fell on the Egyptian. Alone the elect will escape. As once the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, so will the elect cross the sea of crystal which separates the earth from heaven. Blow after blow will strike earth, sea, the waters, the sun, and the empire of the heathen; nevertheless men will not repent, but will blaspheme God as they suffer from his wrath. The kings of the earth will assemble their armies to do battle with the Lord of Hosts.

Before describing this crazy battle, John stops to savour the delights of the special punishment meted out to the Whore. In a hymn breathing hate he rejoices over the burning of Rome and intoxicates himself with the weeping and wailing that shall rise from about her (Rev. xviii.) :—

——————————————————————————-

a line giving the angel a sharp sickle, which put the angel on a par with Jesus. This is contradicted by xiv. ig, which declares that Jesus trod the winepress of the wrath of God.

* In the valley of Jehosaphat (valley of judgment) (Joel iii. 2, 12).

‡ “A horse shall walk in the blood of sinners to its chest, and a wain shall be wholly covered ” (Enoch c. 3).

√ About the length of Palestine. This Judgment of Jesus will be for Palestine. The Harvest is of the just who worship in the Temple (xi. 1), and of sinners who have repented (xi. 13). The Vintage is of the Gentiles who have oppressed the holy city for three and a half years. After this the cups of the wrath of Jahweh will be poured over the whole world (xv—xvi), and Jesus will return to destroy (xix. 9-end).

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They shall bewail and lament her,*
The Kings of the Earth,
With whom she whored and flaunted,
When they shall see the smoke of her burning,

Standing far off, for fear of her torment, saying
Woe ! Woe ! that Great City,
Babylon the Mighty,
In one hour is thy Judgment come.

The Merchants of the Earth
Weep and lament over her,
For their merchandize
Shall find no buyer.

Cargoes of gold, of silver, or of precious stones and pearls,
Of fine linen, of purple, of silk, and of scarlet,
Of thyine wood, of ivory, and of vessels of rare woods,
Of bronze and iron and of marble,

Of cinnamon, cardamom, perfumes, myrrh, and frankincense,
Of wine and of oil, of flour and wheat,
Of cattle and sheep and horses, of wains and of slaves,
And of the souls of men.

The vendors of these things,
Who were made rich by her,
Shall stand far off, for fear of her torment,
Weeping and wailing, saying,

WOE! WOE! that Great City,
Clothed in fine linen, and purple and scarlet,
Decked with gold and precious stones and pearls,
In one hour so great riches were destroyed utterly.

The pilots on the ships, and all the company in them,
The sailors and all those who toil at sea
Stood afar off.
They cried when they saw the smoke of her burning
What is there like unto this great City ?

They cast dust on their heads.
They cried, wept, and lamented,
WOE ! WOE ! that great City,

* Compare the Fall of Tyre (Ezek. xxvi and xxvii).

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Wherein were made rich all those who had sails on the sea,
In one hour her wealth * is utterly destroyed.

Rejoice over her, Heaven!
O Saints, O Apostles, O Prophets,
God has judged your case against her.

A mighty Angel took up
A stone like a great millstone,
And cast it into the Sea, saying,

Thus in one cast shall be thrown down
Babylon the Mighty City;
It shall be found no more at all.¶

The ripe fruit which thy soul coveted
Has escaped thee.
All that is dainty and goodly
Is departed from thee.
They shall be found no more at all.‡

The music of harpers, of singers,
Of pipers and trumpeters,
Shall be heard no more at all in thee.§
No craftsman of any craft whatsoever
Shall be found any more in thee !

Sound of millstone
Shall be heard no more in thee !
Flame of lamp
Shall no more gleam in thee !
Song of the bridegroom and his bride
Shall be heard no more in thee ! ||

For thy Merchants were
The great men of the Earth,
For by thy sorceries
Were all mankind deceived,

* ῆ τιμιότης, instead of èκ τῆς  τιμιότητος,(Charles),

¶ An act of magic. Cf. Jer. li. 63-64.

‡ This verse has been accidentally misplaced, and should be here (Charles).

§ Jahweh said to Tyre : “ I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease; and the sound of thy harps shall no more be heard ” (Jer. xxv. Io).

|| Jahweh silenced for ever in Judah “ the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of millstones,” and extinguished “ the light of the candle ” (Jer. xxv. 10).

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p. 100          THE SACRIFICED LAMB

For in thee is the blood of the Prophets and the Saints,*
Of all who were martyred on the Earth.

The smoke of burning Rome will be applauded with a formidable Halleluiah! And Jesus will come down upon the heathen world, riding on a white horse and followed by the cavalry of saints, the God with the flowing cloak whose picture the pagans in Thrace and Asia adore unaware of the awful significance it has for them (Rev. xix. n) :—

I SAW Heaven open.
Behold a white horse.
He who rode him
Called Faithful and True.¶
In justice does he judge and make war.

His eyes like flame of fire,
On his head many Crowns,
Bearing a Name written
Which none knows but himself,
Clothed in a Cloak steeped in blood.‡

His Name has been called
The Word of God.§

The Armies in Heaven
Follow him on white horses,
Clothed in pure white linen. ||

From his mouth springs forth a sharp
Sword To smite the nations.

* Blood with which the Woman has gorged and poisoned herself (xvii. 6). The curse on Rome is sandwiched between two allusions to martyrs. MSS., in her (eν αυτη); Primasius, in thee (in te).

‡ Epithets of Jesus [iii. 14). In Habakkuk (iii. 8) Jahweh has horses and chariots of victory. John brings into action the Celestial Cavalry. Jesus bestrides a white horse, symbol of domination and victory (cf. Rev. vi. 2). At an early date in the East the sun god became a horseman (F. Cumont, Les Religions Orientales, 4th ed., p. 222, n. 11).

§ Because he has just annihilated Edom (Rome) (Isa. lxiii. 1-6).

§ Jesus revealed his Name through the revealing angel. John stages here a scene from the Book of Wisdom (xviii. 15) : “ Thy Word (Logos), pitiless warrior, leaps from the heavens, from the royal thrones, into the midst of the destruction of the earth, bearing a sharp sword, thy irrevocable decree.” ’

|| The armies of Jahweh are angels. These are the “called, elect, faithful.” After the victory they will dwell on earth with Tesus for a thousand years (xx. 4).

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p. 101          THE SACRIFICED LAMB

He shall rule them with a Rod of Iron.*
He treads the Winepress
Of the wine of fury of the Wrath
Of God Master of All.‡

He bears on the (Arm) and on the Thigh ‡
A Name written,
KING OF KINGS, LORD OF LORDS.§

The Knight Jesus will seize the Beast and the false prophet and cast them into everlasting fire. He will slay the paynim utterly (Rev. xix. 21) :—

The remnant were slain
With the sword of Him Who rode the Horse,
The Sword which sprung from his mouth.
All the birds were filled with their flesh.

As for the Dragon, Satan, he will be bound and imprisoned in the Abyss for a thousand years. For Jesus and his victorious squadrons will camp for a thousand years on earth, and will reign in Jerusalem on their thrones (Rev. xx. 4):—

They lived and reigned
With the Messiah a thousand years.
The other dead lived not again till the thousand years
Were completed.

At the end of the thousand years the Dragon will be let loose and will gather together the last nations. Gog and Magog, from the four corners of the terrestrial table, will come to besiege Jerusalem, as Ezekiel said they would. Fire from heaven will consume them and the Dragon will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

Then at last will be the general resurrection of the dead.

As was predicted at his birth in human form (xii. 5).

‡ He trod this press near Jerusalem (xiv. 19-20).

‡ MSS. : “ On the Mantle and on the Thigh.” το ιματιον is probably a misreading for τον βραχιονα. The god Aion in the temple of Kore at Alexandria had five divine seals—on the forehead, on the hands, and on the knees (Epiphanius, Pan., li. 22). In an Egyptian picture a royal child bears a royal title on each limb (W. Weber, quoted by Lohmeyer).

§ Jahweh’s titles (cf. xvii. 14). This is read by all. The secret name is in cryptogram on his forehead, see above (xix. 12).

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Heaven and Earth will flee away from before the face of God, and in the emptiness the dead will rise up before their judge. The book of life will be open and the registers of all their acts. Only those whose names appear in the Book of the Lamb will pass the test. For this sparse remnant of the first universe, benevolent God will create a new heaven and a new earth. The victors will be as children to God. The defeated and condemned (especially the Nicolaitanes) who have had commerce with idols, have fornicated and lied, will be cast into the Lake of Fire, where they will suffer a second death.*

In heaven Jesus will resume his eternal form—that of a male Lamb—and will celebrate his wedding with the Woman of Heaven, now become the New Jerusalem (Rev. xxi. 9-11) :—

There came one of the seven Angels
Who had the seven Cups . . .
He spoke to me and said,
Come! I will show thee
The Bride, the Lamb’s Wife.

He carried me away in the Spirit
To a great and high Mountain.
He showed me that great City,
The Holy Jerusalem,
Descending from Heaven, from God,
Having the Glory of God;
Its light was like unto a very precious stone,
Even like crystal jasper.

Never did a Jewish bride glitter with such an abundance of gems. The whole city will be gold and jewels. Through gates of pearl the nations will bring in their tribute. The leaves of the Orchard of Life will heal them; its fruit will be the food of the elect, and they will drink the Water of Life. In the radiation of the Glory of God their priestly reign shall last for ever and ever (Rev. xxii. 3-5) :—

* At this point—xxi. 8—the earliest edition of the Book of Revelation came to an end. The rest—xxi. 9-end—was a later addition, and was probably made to fit on by means of xvii. 7. In the MSS. the two terminations are added by conflation (see The Book of Revelation; Watts, London, 1932, p. 22).

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Nothing shall any longer be forbidden.
The Throne of God and of the Lamb shall be there.
His Servants shall serve him,
They shall see his face,
His Name shall be on their foreheads.

There shall be no more night.
There shall be no further need of torches
Nor the light of the sun,
For the Lord God will shine on them.
They shall reign for ever and ever.

Jesus here speaks once more to set the seal of authority on John’s prophecy (Rev. xxii. 18) :—

I testify to those who hear
The Words and the Prophecy of this Book.
If any man add to it,
God shall add to him the Plagues
Which are written in this Book.

If any man take away
From the Word of the Book of Prophecy,
God shall take away his part
Of the Orchard of Life
And of the Holy City
Which are written in this Book.

The reading ends in the ritual cry, taken up by the whole congregation :—

Amen !
Come, Lord Jesus !

John’s prophecy was composed about ten years after Paul’s activities, which John sought in this matter to negative, came to an end. Its date is apparent from the text; it is earlier than 70, for, though the prophet foresees the taking of Jerusalem by the Romans, he did not think possible the destruction of the Temple. In 70 the Temple was burned and demolished. Three towers alone stood of the town; and of the Temple nothing but a stretch of wall where the Jews thenceforth came to wail. Its date is somewhat later than 64; for the curse on Rome, calling fire down on the Eternal City, corresponds to the fire of Nero’s day. We can,

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p. 104          THE SACRIFICED LAMB

then, claim a time about 65 for the composition of the Revelation of St. John the Theologian.* It antecedes the great war of the Jews against Rome, that terrestrial struggle of Jahweh with the false gods which saw his defeat, but not by many years, and has all the imprint of a period of horror, frenzy, and dread.

The entire poem of John is in antithesis with the fragments of Paul, which are at once more homely and more profound and mystic. John’s book does not open up infinite vistas, immediately to hide them again, as does the work of Paul. But it does reveal, without leaving anything to vague implications, the complete expectation of Christendom; in that lies its merit, and also its flaw.

These two great prophets of early Christianity championed two opposed sects. Just as Paul furiously abused the apostles and pillars of Jerusalem as agents of Satan, even so did John abominate the mysticism of Paul as the depths of Satan. A house divided is a painful spectacle; the hate of Christian for Jew, of Christian for heathen was never so bitter as the hatred of Christian for Christian. Out of this strife developed the Christian dogmas to come.

Which won the day: Paul, supple in practice and bold in doctrine, apt at perceiving and satisfying the needs of man’s soul; or John, unbending in his Hebrew pride, chancing all religion on the prophecy of What Was To Come Quickly, basing all on tradition, on the prophets of yore and accepted revelations ? We who know our history know that the powers fought on Paul s side. But in 65 Paul was no longer in the field, and the field he had tilled could be ploughed anew and a new crop sown. The harvest would seem to be to one man, the sole prophet surviving who could speak in the the name of the faith’s founder.

John’s Revelation shows us the narrow, yet flamboyant, world of thought and fancy which was also that of James and of Peter, of the Twelve and the Five Hundred. It is the true line, and in its substance, if not in date, it is the earliest

* A later interpolation endeavours to insert a prediction of the return of Nero; this was made about 98, which led Irenæus to assign this date to the whole work. (See The Book of Revelation ;  Watts, London, 1932, p. 35).

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p. 105          THE SACRIFICED LAMB

Christian document; and from the authentic prophet, the pillar apostle, the “ beloved disciple,” we may expect the portrait of Christ which will have undergone the least touching up—the most faithful picture of Jesus.

After a careful study of the Apocalypse, we can have no doubt as to the original traits of Jesus. We have here the God Hero of a Divine Epic. Jesus is of heaven heavenly, and he is yet to come. He has nought as yet to do with the earth or with history, and is manifested in visions alone. To be known, he has yet to come down from heaven an instant, or the prophet must ascend to heaven. He partakes of the Throne of God; his essence is of Glory and his form the Bleeding Ram with the eyes of Spirit beneath the horns of Power. He is at once the officiating priest and the sacrifice for all eternity, the redemption given by God. He has had no earthly existence. But he will take on such an existence to last a thousand years, when he will leap down from heaven on a snowy horse, draped in a cloak red with dripping blood. His is the Awful Power of God.

The mystery of the Two Persons of God is at the base of this tableau. It pervades Christianity. Just as did Paul, John shares the Old Testament attributes of Jahweh between God and Jesus. As for John, so for Paul. God and Jesus is singular, grammatically and otherwise.* For John and for Paul God and Jesus are one. When a Christian worships Jesus as God he never looks upon himself as anything but a strict monotheist; Jesus was a new aspect of the divine substance.

But the revelation of the divine personality of Jesus was made to John in another manner than to Paul. To Paul Jesus came crucified in weakness and strength wrought in weakness. But John, on the other hand, beheld the Inviolate Power beyond and above all devices of the enemy, untroubled by suffering. Thus he seemed to preserve divine might and to avoid the scandal and absurdity into which Paul seemingly fell; but he is unaware of the incomparable hold God thus gained on man.

* The singular is often employed in the Apocalypse for God and Jesus together—e.g., xi. 15 ‘‘he shall reign”; xxii. 3-4 “His servants, his face, his Name, etc.”—Cf. Paul, 1 Thess. iii. 11.

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John’s priestly warrior is overmuch of Judah, is overlike the Hebrew Messiah to win the race against the unsuspected, unheard-of Christ which Paul presented to the world. John’s Jesus may die, his serene sacrificial death is the spectacle of a festival. Deity though he may be, he is the war-leader come to exterminate the heathen and avenge Israel, and the expectations he engenders are material and concrete; they narrowly escape the coarse and puerile.

About the time of John’s Revelation—rather earlier than 70—was written a Jewish Apocalypse, attributed to the secretary of Jeremiah, Baruch, in which the abundance of the days of the Messiah was described :—

It will come about, once all those things have been fulfilled
Which must be fulfilled,
That the Prince Messiah will be revealed . . .
The earth will bear its fruits ten thousand times.*

A vine will bear a thousand branches.
A branch will bear a thousand grapes;
A grape will contain a thousand pips ;
To each pip an amphora of wine.

Those who have been hungry will be in plenty ;
They will see other miracles every day.
The winds will waft towards me
Every morning, the fragrance of perfumed fruit;
Every evening, mists of sweet dew.‡

The pathetic day-dreams of starving men; the kingdom of the Messiah will be a land of abundance. Burnt and harsh Palestine, generous in spasms and swiftly exhausted, is to become moist, fertile, and fat, a blessed land of guzzling and swilling, of cool breezes and ripe fruit.

John’s “ hearers ” were to quote a similar prophecy as being revealed by Jesus to John :—

The days will come when the vines will bear,
Each vineyard will have ten thousand vine-stocks,
On each stock ten thousand branches.

* A misreading of a passage in Genesis (xxvii. 28); Rendel Harris, Expositor, 1895, pp. 438-449.

‡ R. H. Charles, The Apocalypse of Baruch ; London, 1896, ch. xxiv.

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On each branch ten thousand grapes,
In each grape ten thousand pips,
And each pip when pressed will give twenty-five pots of wine.

Whenever a Saint will cull a grape,
Another will cry, I am a better grape;
Take me, through me bless God !
Similarly a grain of wheat will bear ten thousand ears,
Each ear ten thousand grains,
Each grain will give five pounds of clean, pale flour.

All other fruit, harvests and crops
Will give as abundantly.
All the creatures which will eat of this food
Which the earth will receive
Will be at peace and in harmony with one another;
All will be subject to man in utter submission.*

This Jews’ Christ, vindictive and warlike, giver of thrones and banquets, is the Christ after the flesh, which Paul would not recognize, for he held that Christ’s crucifixion cleansed him of all that was egoist (2 Cor. v. 14-16) :—

The love of the Christ constrains us
Who have judged thus;
If one died for all,
Then all were dead.

And he died for all
That the living should no longer live for themselves,
But for him who for them
Died and rose again.

Therefore we, henceforward,
Know no man after the flesh;
Though we have known the Christ after the flesh,
Yet now we know him no more.

‘‘After the flesh” here means, as often in Paul, egoistically.‡ Paul renounces all temporal profit from Christ; he

* According to Irenæus (Hœr., v. 33, 3), Papias, “ John’s hearer,” quoted this prophecy as the words of Jesus revealed by John, as witnessed by the elders who “ had seen John, the disciple of the Lord.”

‡ E.g., in Rom. viii. 13 : “ For if you live after the flesh you shall die : but if through the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.” After the flesh = selfishly.

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p. 108          THE SACRIFICED LAMB

is utterly and irreversibly absorbed in mystic union with the crucified and risen Christ.

Fundamentally the Christs of John and Paul are incompatible and the two religions to which they gave rise were distinct in their essence. John did not admit the crucifixion.* Paul knew nothing of a flesh-and-blood Christ. John bathes in the blood of the Lamb, but admits no humiliation or suffering for the Supreme. Paul sees in his own sufferings the sufferings of his Christ. John sees himself riding pillion on the white charger behind his conquering Jesus. Paul preaches Jesus on the cross and feels the nails in his own flesh. The gates of John’s mystic city were hardly to be opened to the pagan, whereas Paul hastened to bring to the heathen of the whole world the cross and salvation, hoping it might be in time. John unveils the mystery of the time to come, spelled in horrific letters of sulphur and flame. Paul draws aside the curtain from the timeless mystery, the desire for unburdening which crucifies the human heart.

The only mode of reconciling these two opposed visions was for one to prevail over the other, and the future was to St. Paul. Once the need for apocalyptic prophets had passed, once the atmosphere of secret gnosis should have been swept away, the Christian legend would take on a narrative and popular form, making an easy appeal to the masses. Then John’s poem becomes jetsam, witness of the wreck of past dreams. It becomes a supplement to the New Testament, a special and strange picture of the last days, a record that the sacrificial death of Jesus has been, in opposition to both Paul and John, brought down from heaven to earth.

* The little gloss—xi. 8—is obviously an addition. Such a capital point would not be limited to an adventitious gloss.

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  • ROO BOOKAROO
    2012-02-26 23:16:33 UTC - 23:16 | Permalink

    The whole thing reads much more interestingly with your color-coding.

    • 2012-02-27 07:32:50 UTC - 07:32 | Permalink

      Have converted it to colour just for you! 😉

      • Ed Jones
        2012-03-04 00:53:11 UTC - 00:53 | Permalink

        All but the fashioning of one more reed to again beat the dead horse, but an obviously broken reed, one having the least association with anything historical.

        • 2012-03-04 06:28:56 UTC - 06:28 | Permalink

          But Ed, the study of the idea of Jesus, the literary and entirely conceptual Jesus, is a historical study. There is no evidence for a non-literary Jesus to study.

  • 2012-02-27 06:52:06 UTC - 06:52 | Permalink

    “Fundamentally the Christs of John and Paul are incompatible and the two religions to which they gave rise were distinct in their essence.”

    No offense, but this is why discussions like these are so disappointing and usually go nowhere. I had already explained a couple days ago how the Christ had two distinct roles to play in God’s divine plan. The first was his role as the human sacrifice which is covered in the gospels. His second role as king of God’s kingdom is covered in the book of Revelation. That is why it appears like the authors are discussing two individuals. They are discussing two different and individual roles of the same person. But all that was simply discarded as not worthy of further investigation, and the same old tactics are employed once again to demonstrate the apparent disagreements in the Bible. There is no need to keep reiterating the same stories in each Bible book of the NT. It would actually be counter productive to talk about the human man Jesus or his execution in every book of the Bible, each of them have there own particular information to reveal.

    Gospels – The life and death of the man Jesus, his role as the sacrifice
    Paul’s Letters – Setting up and maintaining the Christian congregation
    Revelation – The acts of Jesus the King and the end of the age, his second role

    So there is nothing incompatible about it, Couchoud is just one man with one of many interpretations of Revelation. Now I know you view all this as the work of humans, so I am having a little trouble understanding the point of this post. The line from your post that I quoted at the beginning of this comment sounds like it is to be considered another piece of evidence that the Christian story is flawed. Which seems like you are still trying to find evidence against the Bible’s claims. I thought that was all settled, at least in your view. If my assumption is incorrect, what exactly is the point of this post?

  • 2012-02-27 07:13:54 UTC - 07:13 | Permalink

    The purpose of this series of posts is to share the work of P.L. Couchoud. I do not agree with everything Couchoud has to say but I am interested in knowing what he has said. And it is a serious misreading of Couchoud (or anything I have written on this blog) if you think the motive is to pick holes in the Bible. There are plenty of sites that do that and there is nothing I could do to add to them. My interest is in understanding the Bible as we have it. So is Couchoud’s interest. He has in fact very glowing words to say of Christianity as a religion and I will be quoting these, too, in my final post of this series.

    Your own interpretation of the “Bible’s interpretation” of Jesus is an interpretation. The Bible is a collection of books put together by people who wanted that view of Christ to be presented through that assembly of books. But I like to study each book in its own right, and to understand it on its own terms. We do not find Christ in different roles in Paul and in different roles in Revelation. We find that the roles each of these works assigned to Christ are contradictory. It is only an outside editor who has a theological interest in reconciling the two that will, in his or her own mind, imagine that they are both true of the one person. On their own they are flat contradictory. Couchoud — as is made more apparent in the post on the first part of this chapter preceding this post — believes that Revelation is in fact a polemic against Paul’s theology.

    They are both within the larger Biblical tradition of what Thompson epitomizes as “the theology of the way”, or the new Israel versus the old Israel. But within that tradition are many dialogues about what that new Israel should be. Paul and John represent one of the last of such debates.

    • 2012-02-27 08:49:47 UTC - 08:49 | Permalink

      Neil, I really have nothing against you or anything you post on your own blog, I am just a little confused about the whole thing. I am curious about your goal here. You spend a considerable amount of time dealing with this subject matter. I think you once told me that it was out of historical curiosity. So if this is just an intellectual exercise for you, that’s fine. But is there a goal you hope to reach? I would like to respond to a few of your comments.

      “And it is a serious misreading of Couchoud (or anything I have written on this blog) if you think the motive is to pick holes in the Bible.”

      I don’t agree with that statement. People who have made a commitment to God and to all that the Bible reveals, is summed up in the words love and loyalty. Your blog is open to the public, and many of your posts make disparaging remarks about the overall importance of the Bible and what it contains. Would you be happy if you came across a blog with post after post about your parents or your wife’s apparent shortcomings? Yes, it is your opinion and you are allowed to share it, but what I have quoted above from you is not true.

      “My interest is in understanding the Bible as we have it.”

      Yeah, but the problem is how did we get it? There are two entirely different paths that this could have happened. Yours is that it was an entirely human work, similar to other ancient religions. The other is that it was inspired, compiled and maintained by God. So for me, I would be interested in how you came to the determination that it is not from God and merely a human work. The point being, depending on which path you choose to start understanding the Bible, you will come to two completely different understandings for each and every sentence of the Bible. If God is responsible for the Bible, and you try to understand it without a belief in God, it would be like giving a history book that covers the last 200 years to someone from the 18th century. He would see some relation to people and places he was familiar with, but much of it would look like made up stories and miracles.

      “The Bible is a collection of books put together by people who wanted that view of Christ to be presented through that assembly of books.”

      Yes, we know the Bible was assembled by people, It was also written by people, and taught by people. What is the evidence that these people were not directed and inspired by God to collect and assemble them in a particular manner? Is there any proof to the contrary.

      “We do not find Christ in different roles in Paul and in different roles in Revelation. We find that the roles each of these works assigned to Christ are contradictory.”

      I don’t understand? I just explained this, can you elaborate?

  • 2012-02-27 17:02:33 UTC - 17:02 | Permalink

    Hi Howard. There’s a difference between discussing a book that is public property and your parents’ or wife’s shortcomings that are not. Some people in the world have a deep personal attachment to the Bible but does that mean scholarship must not undertake critical analyses of it or discuss its place and relevance to the broader society and its history? In Australia when there is a public showing of a film that shows images of aborigines who are now deceased there will be a warning given to aboriginals in the audience of what to expect so they can leave and not be offended if they wish. When it comes to the Bible I would expect that most Bible believers would already know what to expect in the world of higher criticism or how a nonbeliever might be expected to examine the Bible. If they expect to be offended by such a treatment I would not expect them to bother reading it.

    I have to say that the Bible is one of my favourite books. I even have to say I love studying it. I love studying it in much the same way I love studying and reading Homer and Euripides and Chariton. Homer’s and Chariton’s values are not mine, and I would not recommend some of their values for today’s society. I think the same about the Bible, but the difference is that many people today do accept biblical values, some of which I believe are long overdue for updating — or outright discarding. That is my view and I am as entitled to it as any one else is to their views about the Bible. I am as offended, one might say, by someone reverencing a book that I believe is holding us back in so many ways and even responsible for considerable psychological damage to many people. So I do not go out of my way to offend others by shoving my views unwanted to those who I know would be offended. A public blog is there for anyone interested to engage with. I can’t imagine a devout believer even wanting to read what I post because I am approaching religion and the Bible from an entirely secular viewpoint.

    If someone believes the Bible is divinely inspired or put together I have no way of arguing with them. Nothing I can say would dissuade them. I would not try to argue the point. People have faith for personal reasons. Faith is by definition not rational so a reasoned argument is pointless against it. My own journey into faith and out of faith again was a personal one, the result of a mix of my own genetics and experiences. We are all at where we are at and that’s that, as Dr Seuss might say.

    As for your last comment, you said you believe that the Bible together brings us a story that is coherent. But that is only by an outsider looking at opinion X in the book of X and finding, subjectively, a way to reconcile it with opinion Y in the book of Y. A scholarly approach needs to study each book in its own right and cannot presume there is a higher mind behind it all that we need to be in tune with in order to find a way to reconcile both.

    But if I have misunderstood you or overlooked some of your points do spell them out again.

    • 2012-02-28 08:16:41 UTC - 08:16 | Permalink

      Neil, I think you did misunderstand my point a little. Your blog does not offend me in the least, I understand that it is involved with “critical analyses” and that was the point I was making. I was merely pointing out that your statement, “And it is a serious misreading of Couchoud (or anything I have written on this blog) if you think the motive is to pick holes in the Bible.” Intentional or not, “critical analyses” of the Bible is simply another way of saying “pick holes in the Bible.” I understand that it is not your motive to do that to people’s beliefs, but critical analysis of the Bible does exactly that. And that was the only point I was making, that your statement was not entirely true.

      “I think the same about the Bible, but the difference is that many people today do accept biblical values, some of which I believe are long overdue for updating — or outright discarding.”

      I am curious to hear what you mean by this, can you supply a few examples?

      “I am as offended, one might say, by someone reverencing a book that I believe is holding us back in so many ways and even responsible for considerable psychological damage to many people.”

      I agree with you here to a point, but for a completely different reason. As you already know, millions of people abuse and mishandling the Bible for many reasons other than what it was intended for, but is that the fault of the Bible or the people who do it? And yes, and what I would classify as false Christians, they do have some very odd beliefs and practices. But yet again, is it the fault of the Bible or their peculiar interpretations? So many “Christians” are clueless about important matters concerning the Bible. For example, we here many talk about breaking the 10 commandments. That is ridiculous reasoning. Are they Jews? Did they consent to take part in the first covenant? No, so the 10 commandments as written in the OT have nothing to do with Christians. The principals remain, but not the written decrees. But that’s another story.

      “I can’t imagine a devout believer even wanting to read what I post because I am approaching religion and the Bible from an entirely secular viewpoint.”

      Since you brought it up, I’ll share a little about myself. First, I was not raised in a religion, we were Catholics but we never did anything religious, not even going to church. On the contrary, I was heavily into science and I supported evolution. I thought the Bible and religion was a big joke, and it was like this into my late 20’s. I only got involved with the Bible because of a girlfriend. I was very cautious about simply believing what I was told, so I did my own research to assess the plausibility of what I was being told. And what I discovered over the years was that the mainstream Christian religion really didn’t have a leg to stand on concerning their beliefs and practices. I also learned what I was being told made the most logical sense and fit with what the Bible was saying. To this day I am still researching claims that oppose the Bible and over the last 20 or so years I have amassed tons of mostly reference works, and just about any Bible and original language text you can imagine. That is why I come to these kinds of blogs, to see what claims made here can hold up to critical analysis.

      “As for your last comment, you said you believe that the Bible together brings us a story that is coherent. But that is only by an outsider looking at opinion X in the book of X and finding, subjectively, a way to reconcile it with opinion Y in the book of Y.”

      You say this like it is something bad. This is how human deductive reasoning works. This is how crimes, mysteries, and medical diagnosis are resolved, by trying to form a bigger picture from a number of smaller units of information. Than it has to be frequently adjusted, either portions of the bigger picture or some of the smaller units to get the most logical harmonious outcome. And yes, there are always gaps in the information that have to be theorized based on the other factors. I think what you are referring to is someone who is not willing to change the big picture so they bend the smaller units to make it fit.

      • 2012-02-28 11:47:20 UTC - 11:47 | Permalink

        I’m on the run at the moment so will only respond to one point for now. I don’t understand how a serious critical study of the Bible can be interpreted as “picking holes” in it. One would never think of a critical study of Homer as another way of saying “picking holes” in Homer. Critical study is not negative. It is a very positive means to enriching our understanding of the literature.

        • 2012-02-28 13:07:54 UTC - 13:07 | Permalink

          I would actually like to hear your responses to the other things I said too, but in the mean time, I would like to respond to this. The point I was trying to make is rather trivial, and not worthy of so much discussion. I think the confusion here has to do with what words we are using and how we define them. I took “holes in the Bible” to mean “holes in someone’s beliefs about the Bible.” I don’t know what you think about Homer, but many think he was a real person. So critical study of Homer might involve learning as much about him and his surroundings through his writings, and other sources so as to make judgments concerning him and his writings. And I would say the same kind of study would apply to Moses for example. But as far as I know, your critical study of the Bible has concluded that Moses was not the author of the books attributed to him, and that he was probably not a real person either. Now when you present your arguments that brought you to this conclusion, to the less-informed, it may be damaging to their beliefs, or cut holes in it as a figure of speech. So all I was saying is that certain types of critical thinking can damage someone’s beliefs about the Bible, whether their beliefs were valid or not. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not condemning anything you are doing, I was just saying your statement was not entirely true. It might not be your motive, but your blog can certainly damage or cut holes in someone’s beliefs.

          Also, I meant to comment on this before, but I forgot.

          You said: “There’s a difference between discussing a book that is public property and your parents’ or wife’s shortcomings that are not.”

          But what if one of your parents or your wife is a politician or a celebrity? Many blogs and websites point out politicians and celebrities shortcomings. Is that wrong?

          • 2012-02-28 18:00:38 UTC - 18:00 | Permalink

            Critical thinking by its definition is inimical to faith, I would think. But is not faith a matter of belief (not reasoned calculation) in the unseen? I imagine if anyone who has only known “faith” and has not been exposed to critical thinking they may find the latter disturbing, confronting, for the first time. That’s not a bad thing in my opinion.

            I think we’re getting away from the point with the other question but we’re having a conversation so why not? I personally have not the slightest interest in politicians’ personal lives and think them quite irrelevant to questions of accountability in their public service. Celebrities? I can never understand why actors or models make the news if they get a speeding ticket or have sex with another’s spouse. Who cares? But we’re talking about having a critical view of a book many people virtually worship (bibliolatry?). Sure, we do not live in a theocracy and we value rationalist and secular values and there is no place for religiously minded people to impose restrictions on rationalistic studies. No one is pushing rationalism down the throats of the believers. Live and let live.

      • 2012-02-28 18:14:43 UTC - 18:14 | Permalink

        Outmoded values? Sure.

        1. The inculcation of the belief that it is good, a virtue, to depend on God as if one is a child, always asking for help, for breakthroughs, for protection, etc etc. Immaturity is not a virtue. It needs to be left behind and people need to more completely embrace complete responsibility for their own actions and to totally accept (without a comfort blanket) whatever they must face. Why the pretend-friend to help us out in everything?

        2. The reward-punishment mentality. Do good and you go to heaven or bad and be punished. And the need always to be being good and perfecting oneself. And the need to be fighting against evil within oneself all the time, fearing what will happen if one slackens the effort even for a moment. The denigration of human nature. So unnecessary, stressful, so often producing up-tight people.

        3. The belief that right and wrong, one’s values and codes of behaviour, come from external instructions or sources. That’s dangerous. And not healthy. Can cripple one inside.

        Those are the ones that first come to mind.

        As for your big-picture response to the last point, the whole idea that there is a big picture, something big enough holding the books together in the way you have said, is entirely a product of your own — or your church’s — imagination. It is not found in the books themselves. It is a belief system that you are imposing on them and that finds no warrant within the books themselves.

        For what it’s worth, I went through a process similar to the one you describe, proving everything, making the best sense of it all, etc. Been there, done that, know the scene well.

        • 2012-02-29 07:46:35 UTC - 07:46 | Permalink

          Well first, I’m going to let your other comment slide as it was not that big of a deal anyway. I’m going to focus on the values you mention. There are two main problems with your descriptions. 1. Your discussion is with me, so these values should reflect my understanding of these values, what you listed are not my values. I know you are not aware of them at present, but I will explain below. 2. Are you speaking these things as if God really exists, or are you speaking as someone who does not believe in God. Because it makes a world of difference. For instance, when you say that it is wrong to receive values from an external source, are you implying that even if there is a God, we should not rely on him for our values? Or, are you saying that it would be foolish to receive values from an imaginary being?

          1. The inculcation of the belief that it is good, a virtue, to depend on God as if one is a child, always asking for help, for breakthroughs, for protection, etc etc. . .

          I can only assume you are referring to when people pray to God or Jesus when they are in trouble or sick or want a better job, etc etc. I totally agree with you because this is a wrong belief about God. In actuality, God has very little to do with what is going on in this world. God answers prayers that follow a very narrow guideline, and mostly for things that are inline with God’s plans.

          2. The reward-punishment mentality. . .

          Again another man made belief or value. People actually got this one backwards, we are already receiving the punishment as sinners in this life. We get sick, we grow old, we suffer and then we die. That is the punishment for sin. But there is a reward for those who desire it, and work for it, and those who do not, the condemnation of death remains on them, there is no further punishment.

          3. The belief that right and wrong, one’s values and codes of behaviour, come from external instructions or sources. That’s dangerous. And not healthy. . .

          I mentioned this one above, and I am not sure what you mean by it. If you are saying that even if there is a God, we shouldn’t do this, I totally disagree with you here. But if you are saying that it would be foolish to receive your values (like the 2 above) from a non-existent God, I would agree with you.

          “As for your big-picture response to the last point, the whole idea that there is a big picture, something big enough holding the books together in the way you have said, is entirely a product of your own — or your church’s — imagination. It is not found in the books themselves. It is a belief system that you are imposing on them and that finds no warrant within the books themselves.”

          You feel this way because you have rejected the thing that binds these books together. All these books are about God, he is the binding factor. If I go out and collect together five independent books where the main subject is about Australia, then these books certainly have a relationship to each other. If one book was about the history, and another about the major cities and the other books, other aspects, wouldn’t these books together form a bigger picture of life in Australia than any one of the individual books?

  • Roger Parvus
    2012-02-27 18:21:31 UTC - 18:21 | Permalink

    There is a lot in this post that I agree with. I think Couchoud is correct in his contention that Paul was at odds with the community that produced the book of Revelation. And I think he is right that the Revelation community was the community of the pillars. Paul’s two Corinthian letters are a good place to get a better look at their mutual relations. In these letters he disputes the claims of their envoys. In 1 Corinthians he plays down their emphasis on wisdom (Rev. 17:9 and 13:18 are two examples of the type of wisdom they were pushing). He likewise gives no encouragement to their love of visions, only reluctantly countering theirs with one of his own (2 Cor. 12:1). He belittles the triumphalism of their brand of Christianity and their pompous Revelation- style boasting of the conquering kingdom of God: “You have become kings without us! Indeed, I wish that you had become kings, that we also might become kings with you” (1 Cor. 4:8). Compared to their Revelation fulminations Paul’s preaching comes across as “weak” and “foolish”, and they criticize it as such to Paul’s Corinthian flock. Paul has to counter that his supposedly “weak” and “foolish” version is actually the genuine one. It is based on Christ crucified, not on symbolic Revelation mystery-riddles about earthly battles and on wisdom-keys needed to interpret them. For Paul the only crucial wisdom mystery is the that the princes of this world failed to solve: “We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden, which God ordained before the world for our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew, for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:7-8).

    It is interesting too that in 2 Corinthians we come across the only instance of a clearly discernible and acknowledged development in Paul’s Christian teaching. He pretty much admits that when he first came to believe in the Son of God he initially converted to the type of this-world belief held by the Revelation community. But he subsequently realized that their this-worldly hopes for a military defeat of Rome by Christ and the establishment by him of a new Jerusalem on this earth were just worthless “according to the flesh” (“kata sarka”) notions: “Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer” (2 Cor. 5:16).

    • 2012-02-28 17:35:28 UTC - 17:35 | Permalink

      Revelation has always struck me as far too literary and detailed in its allegories to be a narrative of a genuine visionary experience. Comment?

      • Roger Parvus
        2012-03-05 23:34:36 UTC - 23:34 | Permalink

        I would say yes, in its final written form. But I expect that between the reception itself of the supposed vision and its being put in final written form, it mysteriously became more dramatic, detailed, and related to other Scriptural material. Like people who relate their big fish catches, the more visionaries think about their vision the more they seem to “remember” and the more they realize just how much it contained.

  • 2012-02-29 08:16:08 UTC - 08:16 | Permalink

    Howard: — trying to avoid that nesting structure that will soon bind us into a 2 inch column on the side. . . .

    H: For instance, when you say that it is wrong to receive values from an external source, are you implying that even if there is a God, we should not rely on him for our values? Or, are you saying that it would be foolish to receive values from an imaginary being?

    N: I’m not even thinking of a god in the picture at all. What is god? As far as I understand it is a cultural-personal concept of various sorts and means nothing in the real world.

    N: 1. The inculcation of the belief that it is good, a virtue, to depend on God as if one is a child, always asking for help, for breakthroughs, for protection, etc etc. . .

    H: I can only assume you are referring to when people pray to God or Jesus when they are in trouble or sick or want a better job, etc etc. I totally agree with you because this is a wrong belief about God. In actuality, God has very little to do with what is going on in this world. God answers prayers that follow a very narrow guideline, and mostly for things that are inline with God’s plans.

    N: Why even think of oneself as a “child of God” at all? Why be a child? Part of this is submission to the Book when Paul tells us to “put on the mind of God”. Why live a life of a “put on” — whether as “a child” and/or a representative of a “mind of God”?

    N: 2. The reward-punishment mentality. . .

    H: Again another man made belief or value. People actually got this one backwards, we are already receiving the punishment as sinners in this life. We get sick, we grow old, we suffer and then we die. That is the punishment for sin. But there is a reward for those who desire it, and work for it, and those who do not, the condemnation of death remains on them, there is no further punishment.

    N: Sickness, age and death are all about genetics and how our bodies work as shaped by evolution. To introduce the idea of blame and sin into this process is an evil. It produces all sorts of needless fears and guilt. Promise of rewards after you cease to exist is an age-old carrot masters have always used to keep the less fortunate in subjection.

    N: 3. The belief that right and wrong, one’s values and codes of behaviour, come from external instructions or sources. That’s dangerous. And not healthy. . .

    H: I mentioned this one above, and I am not sure what you mean by it. If you are saying that even if there is a God, we shouldn’t do this, I totally disagree with you here. But if you are saying that it would be foolish to receive your values (like the 2 above) from a non-existent God, I would agree with you.

    N: You will have to explain what you mean by God here. I have no way of responding till I understand what you mean by that.

    N: “As for your big-picture response to the last point, the whole idea that there is a big picture, something big enough holding the books together in the way you have said, is entirely a product of your own — or your church’s — imagination. It is not found in the books themselves. It is a belief system that you are imposing on them and that finds no warrant within the books themselves.”

    H: You feel this way because you have rejected the thing that binds these books together. All these books are about God, he is the binding factor. If I go out and collect together five independent books where the main subject is about Australia, then these books certainly have a relationship to each other. If one book was about the history, and another about the major cities and the other books, other aspects, wouldn’t these books together form a bigger picture of life in Australia than any one of the individual books?

    N: The Bible tells believers what to think about non-believers and how to judge them. It reads their minds for them. I reject that as another damaging and socially divisive lie.

    The Bible’s books are all about Israel, the people of God, etc. I can see what they have in common just as clearly as I can see what books about Australia have in common. I have no need to imagine any other unseen mind in the sky manipulating and encoding it all for his chosen ones — whether books about Australia or the Bible’s idea of God and his people.

    • 2012-02-29 09:08:29 UTC - 09:08 | Permalink

      Neil, it seems rather pointless to argue in this manner. It is quite obvious that what you have said would be true if there was no God. But you already know that I do believe in God. So just refuting my claims by saying there is no God is not very convincing. There are usually two avenues of arguments that people use to claim there is no God. One is to look at the actions and beliefs of the followers and the other is to demonstrate problems in the biblical text to show that it is not saying what people think it is saying. I guess what I have been trying to get at was if maybe I could explain to you some different ways to look at the followers and what the Bible is saying, you might be open to a little more discussion on the possibility of the God of the Bible being real, or at least explain briefly why you do not believe. I am merely looking at it like this, people make judgments about other people or things based off of what and how they learned about them. For example, would someone get a clear and accurate picture of your personality if the only information about you came from the blog site “Exploring our Matrix”? So I am simply trying to give you additional information about God’s personality that you may not be aware of at the moment. I’m not really trying to change your mind or view about things, I guess I mostly want to hear your reasons why you have concluded that there is no God. I’m curious to see if you have anything that I would have trouble explaining. But if you would rather not waste the time involved, I understand.

      • 2012-02-29 18:07:21 UTC - 18:07 | Permalink

        I can only speak according to my understanding of everything, and my understanding does not include any sort of “God” in any biblical sense at all.

        You said there are “usually two avenues of arguments that people use to claim there is no God.” You follow this by referring to (1) a look at the actions and beliefs of the followers, and (2), the demonstration of problems in the biblical text”.

        I don’t relate to either of those two options. But as I said, you will need to define what you mean by “God” if we are to have a discussion.

        I have not so much concluded that “there is no God” as I have that I can see no reason to believe that there is a god — of any sort. (What do you mean by “god”?)

        I also wonder how anyone, by the way, who has studied psychology, can believe in a god. (But what do you mean by “god”?)

  • 2012-03-01 07:36:15 UTC - 07:36 | Permalink

    N: But what do you mean by “god”?

    You’re joking right? Are you saying you can not conceive the idea of what or who God is? Didn’t you once tell me you were a believing Christian? Anyway, here is a brief definition of God.

    The only true God as described in the Hebrew Bible is not a nameless God, his name is YHWH and it is rendered in various ways in various languages. He is God by reason of his creatorship. The 1956 edition of The Encyclopedia Americana (Vol. XII, p. 743) commented under the heading “God”: “In the Christian, Mohammedan, and Jewish sense, the Supreme Being, the First Cause, and in a general sense, as considered nowadays throughout the civilized world, a spiritual being, self-existent, eternal and absolutely free and all-powerful, distinct from the matter which he has created in many forms, and which he conserves and controls. There does not seem to have been a period of history where mankind was without belief in a supernatural author and governor of the universe.”

    N: “I have not so much concluded that “there is no God” as I have that I can see no reason to believe that there is a god.”

    I would like to share part of an article about this.

    “The expansion of scientific knowledge called into question many of the church’s teachings that were based on erroneous interpretation of Bible passages. For example, astronomical discoveries by men like Copernicus and Galileo posed a direct challenge to the church’s geocentric doctrine, that the earth is the center of the universe. Furthermore, understanding of the natural laws that govern the operations of the physical world made it no longer necessary to attribute hitherto mysterious phenomena, such as thunder and lightning or even the appearance of certain stars and comets, to the hand of God or Providence. “Miracles” and “divine intervention” in human affairs also came under suspicion. All of a sudden, God and religion seemed outdated to many, and some of those who considered themselves up-to-date quickly turned their back on God and flocked to the worship of the sacred cow of science.

    The severest blow to religion, no doubt, was the theory of evolution. In 1859 the English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-82) published his Origin of Species and presented a direct challenge to the Bible’s teaching of creation by God. What was the response of the churches? At first the clergy in England and elsewhere denounced the theory. But opposition soon faded. It seemed that Darwin’s speculations were just the excuse sought by many clergymen who were entertaining doubts in secret. Thus, within Darwin’s lifetime, “most thoughtful and articulate clergy had worked their way to the conclusion that evolution was wholly compatible with an enlightened understanding of scripture,” says The Encyclopedia of Religion. Rather than come to the defense of the Bible, Christendom yielded to the pressure of scientific opinion and played along with what was popular. In so doing, it undermined faith in God.

    As the 19th century wore on, critics of religion became bolder in their attack. Not content with just pointing out the failings of the churches, they began to question the very foundation of religion. They raised questions such as: What is God? Why is there a need for God? How has belief in God affected human society? Men like Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche offered their arguments in philosophical, psychological, and sociological terms. Theories such as ‘God is nothing more than the projection of man’s imagination,’ ‘Religion is the opium of the people,’ and ‘God is dead’ all sounded so new and exciting compared with the dull and unintelligible dogmas and traditions of the churches. It seemed that finally many people had found an articulate way of expressing the doubts and suspicions that had been lurking in the back of their minds. They quickly and willingly embraced these ideas as the new gospel truth.

    It has been said that there are two books that tell us about the existence of God—the “book” of creation, or nature around us, and the Bible. They have been the basis for belief for millions of people past and present. For example, a king of the 11th century B.C.E., impressed by what he observed in the starry heavens, exclaimed poetically: “The heavens are declaring the glory of God; and of the work of his hands the expanse is telling.” (Psalm 19:1) In the 20th century, an astronaut, looking at the spectacular view of the earth from his spacecraft as it circled the moon, was moved to recite: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”—Genesis 1:1, KJ.

    These two books, however, are under attack by those who claim no belief in God. They say that scientific investigation of the world around us has proved that life came into existence not by intelligent creation but by blind chance and the haphazard process of evolution. They argue, therefore, that there was no Creator and that it follows that the question of God is superfluous. Furthermore, many of them believe that the Bible is simply out-of-date and illogical, hence, not worthy of belief. Consequently, for them, there is no longer any basis for belief in the existence of God.

    If there was no Creator, then life must have started spontaneously by chance. For life to have come about, somehow the right chemicals would have had to come together in the right quantities, under the right temperature and pressure and other controlling factors, and all would have had to be maintained for the correct length of time. Furthermore, for life to have begun and been sustained on earth, these chance events would have had to be repeated thousands of times. But how likely is it for even one such event to take place?

    Evolutionists admit that the probability of the right atoms and molecules falling into place to form just one simple protein molecule is 1 in 10113, or 1 followed by 113 zeros. That number is larger than the estimated total number of atoms in the universe! Mathematicians dismiss as never taking place anything that has a probability of occurring of less than 1 in 1050. But far more than one simple protein molecule is needed for life. Some 2,000 different proteins are needed just for a cell to maintain its activity, and the chance that all of them will occur at random is 1 in 1040,000! “If one is not prejudiced either by social beliefs or by a scientific training into the conviction that life originated [spontaneously] on the Earth, this simple calculation wipes the idea entirely out of court,” says astronomer Fred Hoyle.

    On the other hand, by studying the physical world, from the minute subatomic particles to the vast galaxies, scientists have discovered that all known natural phenomena appear to follow certain basic laws. In other words, they have discovered logic and order in everything that is taking place in the universe, and they have been able to express this logic and order in simple mathematical terms. “Few scientists can fail to be impressed by the almost unreasonable simplicity and elegance of these laws,” writes a professor of physics, Paul Davies, in the magazine New Scientist.

    A most intriguing fact about these laws, however, is that in them there are certain factors whose values must be fixed precisely for the universe, as we know it, to exist. Among these fundamental constants are the unit of electric charge on the proton, the masses of certain fundamental particles, and Newton’s universal constant of gravitation, commonly denoted by the letter G. On this, Professor Davies continues: “Even minute variations in the values of some of them would drastically alter the appearance of the Universe. For example, Freeman Dyson has pointed out that if the force between nucleons (protons and neutrons) were only a few per cent stronger, the Universe would be devoid of hydrogen. Stars like the Sun, not to mention water, could not exist. Life, at least as we know it, would be impossible. Brandon Carter has shown that very much smaller changes in G would turn all stars into blue giants or red dwarfs, with equally dire consequences for life.” Thus, Davies concludes: “In this case it is conceivable that there might be only one possible Universe. If that is so, it is a remarkable thought that our own existence as conscious beings is an inescapable consequence of logic.”

    Of course, design and purpose are seen not only in the orderly workings of the universe but also in the way living creatures, simple and complex, carry on their daily activities, as well as in the way they interact with one another and with the environment. For example, almost every part of our human body—the brain, the eye, the ear, the hand—shows design so intricate that modern science cannot fully explain it. Then there are the animal and plant worlds. The annual migration of certain birds over thousands of miles of land and sea, the process of photosynthesis in plants, the development of one fertilized egg into a complex organism with millions of differentiated cells with specialized functions—just to give a few examples—are all outstanding evidence of intelligent design.

    Some argue, however, that increased knowledge of science has provided explanations for many of these feats. True, science has explained, to a certain extent, many things that were once a mystery. But a child’s discovery of how a watch works does not prove that the watch was not designed and made by someone. Likewise, our understanding the marvelous ways in which many of the things in the physical world function does not prove that there is no intelligent designer behind them. On the contrary, the more we know about the world around us, the more evidence we have for the existence of an intelligent Creator, God. Thus, with an open mind, we can agree with the psalmist as he acknowledged: “How many your works are, O Jehovah! All of them in wisdom you have made. The earth is full of your productions.”—Psalm 104:24.

    • 2012-03-04 01:52:04 UTC - 01:52 | Permalink

      Howard wrote: “Mathematicians dismiss as never taking place anything that has a probability of occurring of less than 1 in 1050.”

      Sometimes you’re reading along and suddenly a line like this pops out at you. And you know right away it’s a special kind of horsecrap. I mean, most arguments for creationism are laced with garden-variety nonsense — special pleading, argument by assertion, distorted facts, appeals to ignorance, etc. But there’s a peculiar class of creationism claptrap that begins with “Scientists don’t know . . . ” or “Mathematicians can’t explain . . .” And you just know that what follows is going to stink like a big steaming pile of manure.

      Let’s just recall, first off, that in the United States we have many daily state-run lotteries for which the odds of winning are far less that 1 in 1050. In fact, your odds are well under 1 in a million. The odds are so close to zero that buying 100 tickets versus 1 ticket is not significantly different. However, despite the odds, people win the lottery every day. That is to say, somebody has to win. It’s just speaking in terms of probability, it isn’t going to be you or me.

      So even just on the surface, this line sounds like a lot of flapdoodle. You have to wonder, then, where does this stuff come from? Let’s go look! I love how you can Google a phrase and find out who uses it and how disciplined they are about parroting the talking point. Here’s a general rule of thumb: The more you find a talking point used the same way with essentially the same wording, over and over again, the more likely it is the people who are using it have no idea what it means. Such slavish repetition usually means it came from some “think tank,” where it was carefully crafted to sound convincing to true believers.

      If you Google “probability of occurring of less than 1 in 1050” you get around 3.89 million hits. I didn’t put quotes around the phrase when I searched, so I’m not sure at what point we’ll get more noise than signal, but I can tell you the first several pages are nearly all from creationist sites or from discussion groups where some true believer is trying to defend creationism.

      It took a little time to dig through this silliness, but I finally came upon a name to attach to this “mathematician’s rule.” On a page written by Patrick R. Briney, PhD, a guy who calls himself a microbiologist by training and a preacher by calling, we find this line: “To put these numbers in perspective, Borél’s single law of chance calculation determining the impossibility of an event occurring is 1050 (Borél, Emile, Probabilities and Life (New York: Dover, 1962)).” A clue amid the nonsense!

      All right, before I look this one up I’m going to predict that we’ll discover there’s something “off” here. Either Borél was talking about something unrelated to Briney’s point, or (and I’ve been suspecting this all along) the actual number is 10 with an exponent of 50. Let’s go look.

      Google Books has only a snippet page of the original work, but you can see a concise review of it from 1962 here in the journal, New Science. Creationists appear to have latched onto the chapter, “Negligible Probabilities,” and found some stuff they didn’t understand but thought sounded really nice. Borél’s focus appears to have been on the point at which people intuitively feel that the odds are not worth caring about. So it isn’t really about saying something “can’t happen,” it’s about deciding at what point we believe we can ignore the risk of an event — for example, that we don’t need to worry about the probability of dying on any particular day. The reviewer notes that Borél wrote the first edition back in 1943 and “he could hardly have foreseen that in the next two decades an experimental discipline would come into being which would dispense with the intuitive propositions on which he often seems content to rely.”

      Now I did finally find what appears to be close to Borél’s original intent in a book on intelligent design, No Free Lunch (warning: URL leads to creationist pseudoscience), which states that Borél proposed a boundary at which we can neglect probabilities. Anything below 10^-50 (10 to the minus 50) can be “neglected universally (i.e., neglected across the entire observable universe).” The author says the he proposes 10^-150 (10 to the minus 150) as “more stringent.”

      So apparently, the true believers on the web who can’t even spell probability have copied and pasted from a source they don’t understand written by people who are misusing the musings of a mathematician from the 1940s to prove that evolution by natural selection cannot be true. And the fact that they don’t even get the number right proves that they don’t have the first clue as to what it means.

      Who else quotes Borél? Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis and the Creationism Museum, and a slew of other lesser-known ID proponents and creationist kooks.

      I finally found a decent refutation in Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism. The question, as we suspected all along, is not whether an event is impossible (“never taking place”), but whether a specific combination is highly improbable. Using the example of 500 coins tossed an once, the authors explain that any pre-specified sequence has a very small likelihood of being produced by chance. However, “the probability for some pattern of heads and tails in 500 tossed coins (or any number of tosses) is 100 percent!” They conclude that it’s foolish to contend that a given “sequence is impossible when there it is, staring us in the face.”

      I’m seriously considering buying this book.

      http://www.amazon.com/Scientists-Confront-Intelligent-Design-Creationism/dp/0393050904

      In the end, the Borél quote is used by creationists who don’t understand information theory or probability. They throw these things out, hoping something will stick. But don’t be fooled into thinking it has anything to do with rational thought or honest discussion. It’s just more creationist horsecrap.

      • 2012-03-04 05:20:21 UTC - 05:20 | Permalink

        Dr. McGrath, Oh sorry Tim, but you sounded so much like him with your egotistical attitude and insults. Anyway, I see there is no point in arguing with you, as you do not engage the information presented.

        “Using the example of 500 coins tossed an once, the authors explain that any pre-specified sequence has a very small likelihood of being produced by chance. However, ‘the probability for some pattern of heads and tails in 500 tossed coins (or any number of tosses) is 100 percent!’”

        Pure crap! The object was to get the “specified sequence” not some random pattern.

        And remember everyone, no quoting anyone before 1962, it is an atheistic sin!

        • 2012-03-04 07:47:09 UTC - 07:47 | Permalink

          Howard: “Anyway, I see there is no point in arguing with you, as you do not engage the information presented.”

          Similarly I see no point in arguing with you since your “information” laden with creationist talking points. And to tell the truth, my response to your post was not directed at you but at the readers of this blog who might wonder where in the world all this ID-spam came from and why is it on Vridar.

          Rather than engage the true believer who pasted the text, I think it’s more instructive to find the source, explain the mistake, and, yes, ridicule it. Why is it OK to make fun of this crap? Because it isn’t serious. It’s wordplay disguised as learning to give shaky believers something to lean on. It’s anti-science, anti-enlightenment, anti-humanist, mind-virus crap.

  • ROO BOOKAROO
    2012-03-03 20:14:10 UTC - 20:14 | Permalink

    “True, science has explained, to a certain extent, many things that were once a mystery. But a child’s discovery of how a watch works does not prove that the watch was not designed and made by someone. Likewise, our understanding the marvelous ways in which many of the things in the physical world function does not prove that there is no intelligent designer behind them. On the contrary, the…”
    This “likewise…” is a formidable jump, especially in a Bayesian context.
    So, this is what Howard Mazzaferro’s major assumption is: The existence of God as a Creator, a First Cause, a principle of Beginning, etc..

    This is now a popular controversy between scientists and believers.

    Howard Mazzaferro may be interested in reviewing the lengthy and complete discussion between two proponents of the opposite sides of this debate: “Romans1:20” versus “John Grove”. Romans1:20 defends Howard Mazzaferro’s line of argumentation.

    Their immense discussion can be found in the Comments section of the Review by John Loftus “Dr. Price Incinerates Lee Strobel’s Book, May 18, 2010” to the book “The Case Against The Case For Christ: A New Testament Scholar Refutes the Reverend Lee Strobel” by Robert M Price (Author), Frank R. Zindler (Editor).

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R2ISLUEZDPVT3U/ref=cm_cd_pg_pg1?ie=UTF8&cdForum=FxZX7RBXSV6E3Z&cdPage=1&asin=1578840058&store=books&cdSort=oldest&cdThread=Tx1ODD6QF7XSE75#wasThisHelpful

    John Grove started the ball rolling with Comment #1 on July 22, 2010, but Romans1: 20 pitched in only much later as comment #36 on Oct. 8, 2011.

    Then the debate unfurled in full steam and did not abate until both disputants quit from sheer exhaustion and having both emptied their bags of arguments.
    This vigorous and pretty thorough argumentation rolled on until Romans1:20 quit at Comment #118 on Oct. 24, with John Grove giving his recapitulating view on Comment # 126 on Dec. 23.
    One of the topics vigorously discussed is the subject of this famous book: “The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us”, by Victor J. Stenger

    http://www.amazon.com/Fallacy-Fine-Tuning-Why-Universe-Designed/dp/1616144432

    This remarkable conversation between John Grove and Romans1:20 is unique for its endurance and vitality.
    Exactly what Howard Mazzaferro will find up his alley in his own search for a God Creator-First Cause-Designer-Fine-Tuner.

    • 2012-03-04 01:06:22 UTC - 01:06 | Permalink

      I understand all that, but it was never my intention to debate anyone or try to get them to see things my way . It is simply that in discussions like these I feel obligated to share my reasons for my beliefs. I was not really pushing the idea of a life centric universe. As with anything, you can erroneously believe it was made or done for a specific purpose after the fact. Like when something bad happens to someone, they say God is punishing them, but most of the time, they just made a stupid or bad decision somewhere along the lines.

  • 2012-03-03 21:53:20 UTC - 21:53 | Permalink

    Howard, — 2 parts to my response:

    Arguments from probability sidestep the scientific explanations. No-one as far as I am aware argues that proteins just came together fully formed by random chance any more than a human just came into being out of random chaos of lightning striking mud. Explanations centre around chemical reactions and the gradual building of stable structures over millions of years. I get the impression that those who advance arguments like the one you have quoted here have only seriously read one side of the discussion and fail to grasp what the other side does really posit.

    I find it even more prolematic that your conception of “God” is the biblical one. But that’s another discussion, perhaps.

    • 2012-03-04 00:48:20 UTC - 00:48 | Permalink

      “Arguments from probability sidestep the scientific explanations.”

      Why is that? You mean the theories and conjectures don’t you? According to Wikipedia, “There is no truly “standard model” of the origin of life. Most currently accepted models draw at least some elements from the framework laid out by the Oparin-Haldane hypothesis. Under that umbrella, however, are a wide array of disparate discoveries and conjectures. . .”

      “No-one as far as I am aware argues that proteins just came together fully formed by random chance any more than a human just came into being out of random chaos of lightning striking mud.”

      Neither the article nor I said anything like that. Whether it takes 15 minutes or 15 million years, the fact remains that there is a very high improbability that all the right conditions would come together to one day produce complex life forms. Here is another statistic for you. “The oldest ancient fossil microbe-like objects are dated to be 3.5 Ga , approximately one billion years after the formation of the Earth itself.”* Assuming this is close to the start of organic life on earth, it means it took less then a billion years for life to form from inanimate matter, but it took 3.5 billion years for man to evolve from lower life forms, not to mention most other complex life forms as well. So is there a scientific explanation as to why it took less then a billion years to produce the inconceivable life from lifelessness, but a whopping 3 billion years for that early life form to evolve into a complex life form?

      “I find it even more prolematic that your conception of “God” is the biblical one. But that’s another discussion, perhaps.”

      I must confess, I am at a loss here. So it is a problem that my concept of God is the Judeo-Christian one, on a blog site that discusses Judeo-Christian matters?

      * Schopf, JW; Kudryavtsev, AB; Agresti, DG; Wdowiak, TJ; AD (March 2002). “Laser–Raman imagery of Earth’s earliest fossils”. Nature 416 (6876): 73–6. doi:10.1038/416073a. PMID 11882894

      • 2012-03-04 02:07:17 UTC - 02:07 | Permalink

        Howard: “So is there a scientific explanation . . ?”

        Have you looked for it? Would you accept any scientific (i.e., naturalistic) explanation over “God-did-it”?

        The number of things we can’t explain right now are innumerable, which is nice to know if you’re a young person starting out in a scientific career. What would be the fun in joining a profession in which we knew all the answers? You might as well get an advanced degree in Divinity.

        The mere fact that we don’t know something yet is a poor argument for supernatural causes. It doesn’t explain; it explains away.

        • 2012-03-04 02:28:28 UTC - 02:28 | Permalink

          Tim, It’s not that simplistic, and this kind of reasoning is why things usually go no where. People seem to easily forget about the other hundreds of reasons I believe what I do, and try to imply that I believe in God or the supernatural just because science can’t explain the current topic. No, this is just another piece of the puzzle, it doesn’t answer anything one way or the other on it’s own, it has to be combined with the whole body of information we have on the subject. Only then by examining this information or lack thereof, we can reason within ourselves what might be possible. And yes, people’s biases play a part as well, including me, but in my case, I am not a practicing Christian, nor according to my theology, will I be saved. My interest right now is merely advocating what I think is the most logical conclusion of the available information. I should also mention that I also have concluded that about 95% of Christians and all other religions are also mistaken about a good many things.

          • 2012-03-04 03:01:55 UTC - 03:01 | Permalink

            Howard: “. . . and try to imply that I believe in God or the supernatural just because science can’t explain the current topic. ”

            I inferred from your question “So is there a scientific explanation as to why . . . ?” in which you used the word, “whopping,” that you thought any scientific explanation would be foolish. Whether you were trying to prove God or debunk science is beside the point. Any argument that starts with “Science can’t explain why . . .” is headed down the path to “not even wrong.”

            There’s no shame is saying, “I don’t know.” Or if the situation warrants, “That question doesn’t even make any sense.” For example, what happened before the Big Bang? Well, if time didn’t exist before that, then the question lacks any real meaning. There are limits to science. There are limits to what we know and what we can know. So what?

            • 2012-03-04 03:27:22 UTC - 03:27 | Permalink

              Actually my question was on the lines of what is a more complex and time consuming process. Creating life from lifelessness or evolving into complex forms? One took 1/3 the time of the other one. Is this an indication that creating life is less complicated than the process of evolution? Or does the process of evolution involve probabilities that only resolve themselves through time? Meaning that man only came about by random situations that resulted in the right genetic and environmental conditions to produce him, which would take a long time. This was in response to Neil’s disparaging remarks when I indicated that the process to create life was improbable, and if it did happen, it too would take a long time to resolve. So I asked him, how does one explain the 1 billion years for life and the 3 billion years for evolution. Just random chance?

  • 2012-03-04 05:20:56 UTC - 05:20 | Permalink

    Howard, I’m breaking out of the nested comments here.

    I wrote: “Arguments from probability sidestep the scientific explanations.”

    In response you wrote: “Why is that? You mean the theories and conjectures don’t you?”

    My reply: To some extent, yes. But if we are talking theories and conjectures we are speaking about scientifically educated theories and conjectures. They are bound by the known laws and understanding of how things work.

    I wrote: “No-one as far as I am aware argues that proteins just came together fully formed by random chance any more than a human just came into being out of random chaos of lightning striking mud.”

    You replied: Neither the article nor I said anything like that. Whether it takes 15 minutes or 15 million years, the fact remains that there is a very high improbability that all the right conditions would come together to one day produce complex life forms.

    Sorry, but you missed my point. The probability figure is indeed a claim for the probability of everything coming together by chance all at once, or at least by random processes. What I have read about such likely or possible processes does not speak of random happenstance as the primary agent. There are incremental stages as increasingly stable structures and processes emerge. Everything does not happen at once by random chance. As with subsequent evolution, there are stable processes established that work and that do not have to be reproduced by random acts each time a new step is introduced through a random mutation that happens to work in the molecule’s or organism’s favour.

    If life is little more than self-replicating molecules then its emergence is not such a conceptual challenge for us.

    As for my discussion of the Bible I see that as an exploration to understand more of my own culture. The concept of God and discussions about God’s existence, I would think, rightfully transcend any particular human culture.

    • 2012-03-04 05:57:57 UTC - 05:57 | Permalink

      “But if we are talking theories and conjectures we are speaking about scientifically educated theories and conjectures. They are bound by the known laws and understanding of how things work.”

      So these same laws and understandings produced the following theories? Some of them have to be wrong, so what has happened to those scientifically educated theories? Or are they all so closely related they say basically the same thing?

      “Soup” theory today: Miller’s experiment and subsequent work
      The deep sea vent theory
      Fox’s experiments
      Eigen’s hypothesis
      Hoffmann’s contributions
      Wächtershäuser’s hypothesis
      Radioactive beach hypothesis
      Thermodynamic origin of life: ultraviolet and temperature-assisted replication (UVTAR) model
      Self-organization and replication
      From organic molecules to protocells
      The RNA world
      Iron-sulfur world
      Thermosynthesis world
      Possible role of bubbles
      Possible role of pumice rafts
      Autocatalysis
      Clay hypothesis
      Gold’s “deep-hot biosphere” model
      “Primitive” extraterrestrial life
      Extraterrestrial organic molecules
      Lipid world
      Polyphosphates
      PAH world hypothesis
      Multiple genesis

      “there are stable processes established that work and that do not have to be reproduced by random acts each time a new step is introduced through a random mutation that happens to work in the molecule’s or organism’s favour.”

      That’s a good theory, but it’s just that, a theory, where are the hard facts that would make me abandon my beliefs? In an article from Science Daily, “Scientists Prove Plausibility of New Pathway to Life’s Chemical Building Blocks” it says the following at the end of the article.

      “Though the new research soundly proves the plausibility of one of the facets of the glyoxylate scenario, the chemistry involved is only one of three key series of reactions researchers will have to identify in order to complete a viable path from a primordial soup to life’s building blocks.

      While glyoxylate is a plausible prebiotic component, there’s not yet a known prebiotic pathway to DHF, so the Krishnamurthy team is already working to identify possibilities.

      A third critical conversion would have to occur after production of ketoses. Right now, the only known paths for the conversion of ketoses to ribose and other critical sugars are transformations by living organisms. Whether and how such conversion might have proceeded before life arose remains an open research question.”

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120131175629.htm

      • 2012-03-04 06:14:18 UTC - 06:14 | Permalink

        So we don’t know the answers yet. That does not mean I have to abandon my expectation that one day we will know the answers.

        The devout — even in pre-monotheistic days — have always argued that only the gods or a particular god can account for the world (or some aspect of the world) as we know it. This belief would shut down the quest to find the scientific explanation for things we have yet to understand.

        Should we cease all endeavours to find cures for certain diseases that are at present incurable because we have had many theories for how some of them are caused and concede that they are “God’s will” or caused by sin or demons? This is the same sort of thinking, is it not?

        • 2012-03-04 07:07:38 UTC - 07:07 | Permalink

          “So we don’t know the answers yet. That does not mean I have to abandon my expectation that one day we will know the answers.”

          To answer your question, No, it does not mean you have to abandon your expectations. That is the point, we are free to believe in whatever we want based on our perception of the world, and philosophies we find logical and coherent. And it is the same for me, you shouldn’t expect me to abandon my beliefs because you present an alternate theory for how life came to the earth, but you do not have all the answers to your theory yet.

          “The devout — even in pre-monotheistic days — have always argued that only the gods or a particular god can account for the world (or some aspect of the world) as we know it.”

          As long as we are allowed to theorize about what happened in the past, did it ever occur to you that all these stories about a god or gods creating the world, are corrupted versions of a single source that was in fact true?

          “This belief would shut down the quest to find the scientific explanation for things we have yet to understand. Should we cease all endeavours to find cures for certain diseases that are at present incurable because we have had many theories for how some of them are caused and concede that they are “God’s will” or caused by sin or demons? This is the same sort of thinking, is it not?”

          This paragraph is a mess. First, questions like these are because you did not pay attention to what I have said before. Second, you are historically wrong. You are historically wrong because up until about 200 years ago in Christian countries at least, scientific progress was being made by individuals who did believe in God and the Bible. You are trying to imply that if people believe in God it would leave them in some sort of iron-age mentality, when actually history proves your comment wrong. It is true biblically that sickness and death are the cause of sin, but just as Christians can fight the tendency to sin and do the right thing, the type of sin that causes death and sickness can also be fought with medicine, it is foolish to think that just because we believe sin is the cause of sickness that we shouldn’t do anything about it if we can. And the actual relationship between sickness and sin is that all people are separated from God, and in that state our cells stop repairing themselves over time. Do scientist know why they do that? But for the most part, sickness today is the result of man contaminating the earth with harmful chemicals, and ironically genetic mutations.

          • 2012-03-04 07:57:09 UTC - 07:57 | Permalink

            You think I am misreading you but I think you are misreading me. Firstly, I have no expectation that you might abandon your faith over anything I or anyone else has said. I am merely responding to your own points with my own views.

            As for whether all the various thoughts about creation originated from a common “true” event, that is entirely speculative. I think we are on firmer ground with studying the evolutionary and psychological reasons for beliefs in the supernatural.

            But I think you are missing the point of my argument about scientific inquiry. God has been pushed further and further to the background by scientific advances. He no longer is the direct and personal cause of lightning and thunder. But you seem to me to be arguing that there is a point where he can no longer be made to step back any further.

            This reminds me of my questioning of my faith some years ago. When I began to do that I insisted that I would never question the Bible as the word of God because I had proven that so repeatedly I knew it to be an unassailable fact. But then I did question the Bible — but I still said I would never question God. But in the end I did question God. Each time I came to a line I thought would be the end, I asked, “why should it end there?” “why not question that, too?”

            I think many of us do decide that certain lines must never be crossed with critical thought.

  • 2012-03-04 08:07:39 UTC - 08:07 | Permalink

    I have questioned everything about the Bible, I have drawn no lines, and you see the problem is, it’s not “critical thought” it’s critical guessing. And I have learned the simple truth that God is true and every man a liar.

    • 2012-03-04 10:34:27 UTC - 10:34 | Permalink

      No doubt you have questioned the Bible and proven it over and over to your own satisfaction, and no doubt you are utterly sincere in your efforts. I do not disparage any of that. How could I? I have been there myself. But are you prepared for the possibility to discover that your reasoning is in a closed box and why you can never come to any other conclusion than that the Bible is true? The Bible teaches you to reject opposing arguments as a lie so you cannot. It even teaches you bad manners and crudities when addressing unbelievers who uncover the source and truth of your arguments: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/the-christ-of-johns-revelation-nemesis-of-pauls-crucified-christ/#comment-23603

      • 2012-03-04 11:35:23 UTC - 11:35 | Permalink

        “But are you prepared for the possibility to discover that your reasoning is in a closed box and why you can never come to any other conclusion than that the Bible is true?”

        Just because you are infatuated with human wisdom and intellectual talk, does not make you right. Aren’t conversations suppose to be an exchange of information where each person becomes more familiar with the others thinking? That is not what is happening here, each time I talk to you it is like the first time, you do not retain any of the information I already passed along. For example, I had already told you that I had no interest in the Bible or religion for the first half of my life, and for that time I did conclude that the Bible was not true and I supported the scientific worldview. So explain to me exactly how I am in some closed box where I can not see things as they really are?

        “The Bible teaches you to reject opposing arguments as a lie so you cannot.”

        Again, you forgot everything I have said thus far and merely make a sly remark to my last comment. You apparently did not get the meaning of what I said.

        “It even teaches you bad manners and crudities when addressing unbelievers who uncover the source and truth of your arguments.”

        You mean like “Serpents, offspring of vipers” and the swine that want to trample God’s word under their feet? I’m sorry my friend, but you have a corrupt version of what Christianity is suppose to be about. Unbelievers are the enemies of God, the truth is I have been breaking the rules of Christianity by talking to you. But don’t try to twist what I am saying, I am not advocating hate, but Christians are to have nothing to do with those who openly oppose them. Christianity has nothing to do with playing nice to everyone no matter what. Besides, Mr Timmy, was quite wrong, what I posted was from a 27 year old book sitting on my bookshelf, and not from the internet. He sure has a knack for avoiding the real issues and likes to focus on none issues.

        Finally, you want to point out my crudities? I suppose atheist are immune to that sort of thing because they are not accountable to God. So what do you call someone who disrespects your beliefs? In my book, a jerk. But I can play that game too. I’m not talking about you Neil, but I feel that all atheist and mythicists are anti-social conspiracy theorists, that have nothing better to do than to fill the internet with their half baked theories about a mythical Jesus and other insane crap. Now that should not bother you in the least Neil, as I was not talking to you, I just wanted to make my feelings known to the people who read this blog. So everything should be all cherry pies with me saying that right?

        • 2012-03-04 13:56:46 UTC - 13:56 | Permalink

          Is there any need for an outburst like this?

          No, Howard, I am not ‘infatuated with human wisdom and intellectual talk”. That sounds like the sort of language you hear among your fellow-believers disparaging the world. Infatuated with human wisdom and intellectual talk? That’s an absurd allegation and informed entirely by your judgmental belief-system — not from your knowledge of me or others.

          No, I am not forgetting everything you have said at all and there was nothing “sly” about my remark apart from in your own biblically-informed imagination. The mere fact that you were once not a believer or had no interest in religion does nothing to overturn the way people can come to unwittingly embrace closed-systems of thinking. I know from my own experience as much as from what I have since observed and studied.

          Yes, you are right when you say I do not believe I am accountable to God. But I am accountable to myself and those I am in contact with. I have no wish to hurt anyone but to be a positive presence in their lives. So I try to exercise self-control and self-discipline when necessary, and simply love doing what comes naturally (because love and affection and liking are natural and good feelings we all share) at other times. I had to learn that the Bible is wrong when it teaches us that we are filled with devils and evil desires and lusts and hates. That is, I believe, even an evil teaching that causes so much harm to individuals and societies. There is bad in the world but there is also much goodness. But I know you cannot accept any of this — at least not now.

          First Robert, now you — it seems it is the time for those whose identities are wrapped in a way of thinking and believing that I left behind years ago to break out with offence. It’s sad.

  • 2012-03-04 14:49:48 UTC - 14:49 | Permalink

    No Neil, the problem is that you sidestepped and danced around nearly every point I brought up with your mind games. You are also constantly attributing your generic “Christian” beliefs to me, creating straw men that you can easily knock down with your pre-designed set of rebuttals. But that wasn’t too frustrating to deal with until that Bozo showed up with his useless gibberish and insults. No internet slime ball is going to treat me like that without getting the same in return. And if you are going to support him, the same applies to you. I came here for some polite conversation, not to be mocked for my beliefs. Trust me, I know more than both you and Timmy boy on this subject and do not need to be lectured by you or him about secular bullshit. Remember, I told you I was not a practicing Christian, so don’t expect me to act like one. Talk about bad manners, I came on this blog knowing full well it was an atheist site, and I had no problem whatsoever about you being an atheist, because I know people have the right to believe whatever they want. Oh but that don’t apply to me, right from the start I get all this crap about not being able to think on my own, the Bible causes evil and of course I am stuck inside some box. Did you see me say anything like atheist are the most self centered and egotistical bunch on the planet. They go to such extremes to show that God doesn’t exist simply so they do not have to feel like they are inferior to anyone or have to obey anyone else. I was the polite one, you and your friend on the other hand had no qualms about stating your opinions about how you assumed I believed in my God. Which by the way, you were wrong about 90% of the time. So enough is enough!

    • 2012-03-04 15:23:30 UTC - 15:23 | Permalink

      I did not realize you thought I was sidestepping anything or setting up straw man responses. Perhaps some time later you can have another look and point out to me where I fell into those traps.

  • 2012-03-04 15:08:25 UTC - 15:08 | Permalink

    Another series of posts I would like to do if I could find the time would be to discuss several of the points in Edmund Cohen’s “The Mind of the Bible Believer”. The only (short) treatment I know of from a likeminded perspective is at http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/cohen.htm I once did posts on Marlene Winnell’s work, elaborating on her points with my own experiences. I should do the same with this book. When I first read it I hated it and savagely scribbled hostile remarks in its margins. I look back now and see those remarks are testimony to how true the book’s words really were and how offensive and unacceptable they were to me as one who still believed (at least much) of the Bible.

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