September 2011


Bart Ehrman describes himself as an agnostic.  But given the fact that he appears not to believe in God, and given the fluidity with which these terms are being used these days, it has never been clear to me what Ehrman believes about the existence of God.  I was pleased, then, to hear Justin Brierly ask Bart to clarify his position on the August 26th edition of the Unbelievable radio program.

Brierly asked Ehrman if he was open to the evidence for God’s existence since he stylizes himself as an agnostic, and that usually means one is undecided on the question of God’s existence.  Bart answered (beginning at 43:42), “I don’t believe that the God of the Bible exists, or the God of traditional Christian teaching exists.  So I don’t believe there is a God who created this world, who created us, who redeems us, who’s active in this world.  So I don’t believe in that kind of God.  But if someone were to ask me, ‘Do you think that there is some kind of higher power in the universe?,’ my response is ‘I don’t know.’  And I don’t think anybody else knows either.  It may be that I’m just holding onto a very small sense of humility in the face of the universe.  I don’t know.  But I don’t believe in the Christian God anymore.”

So there you have it.  Bart definitely believes there is no personal God.  What he allows the possibility for is some sort of vague “higher power,” whatever that means.  But on that point, Ehrman is a hard agnostic, claiming no one can know whether such a power exists.  At the end of the day, we might term Bart an agnostic atheist.  He does not believe in a God, nor does he believe we can know whether such a being exists.  But for all intents and purposes, Bart is definitely a practical atheist.

The Department of Defense has announced that military chaplains can officiate at same-sex marriages “on or off a military installation,”  even using Defense Department property to do so.  Do you see this as a federal endorsement of same-sex marriage?

Edward Feser has written a short response to Christopher Tollefsen, who argues that capital punishment is intrinsically immoral.  Feser does a good job showing that if one believes in the principle of proportionality, that capital punishment is moral at least in principle, even if we might haggle over when we should apply it.  I particularly liked the first part of the article because Feser laid out a nice, succinct case for the notion of retributive punishment.  In my experience, those most opposed to capital punishment are opposed because they see punishment as being primarily corrective in nature, or for the purpose of quarantining evil, not for retribution.  This is a deficient view of punishment, and leads one to view capital punishment as either unnecessary or immoral.

This is where a culture of death leads to: believing that people with disabilities are better off dead, and suing doctors for “wrongful life.” This is what happens when you stop believing humans have intrinsic value, and when selfishness becomes a virtue.

This is reminiscent of the Nazi idea of a “life unworthy of life.” When we think we are being more merciful by killing people with handicaps, we have become a very sick society. Can you imagine if this boy ever finds out about this: that his mother would have rather aborted him and sued the doctor for allowing him to be born?

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On July 27, 2011, the day after the announcement of the discovery of the Philistine horned altar, Francesco D’Andria, who has been excavating in the ancient city of Hierapolis for 32 years, announced the discovery of the tomb of the Apostle Philip.  The grave has not been opened yet, but he’s convinced it belongs to Philip.

There is a church dedicated to St. Philip on Martyr’s Hill in Hierapolis, but Philip’s grave was never found there.  But in June D’Andria unearthed another church just 131 feet away.  There, they discovered a tomb.  D’Andria believes Philip’s body was moved from the St. Philip church on Martyr’s Hill to this newly discovered church sometime in the 5th century.

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On July 26, 2011–just two days after the announcement of the golden bell discovery–archaeologists announced the discovery of a 3’ tall Philistine altar in the ancient city of Gath (the city of Goliath).  It has two horns, which is similar to the Israelite altars described in the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 27:1–2; 1 Kings 1:50).  Israel’s altars differed in that they had four horns.  The altar has been dated to the 9th century BC.

Significance:

  1. This is further confirmation of the fact that the authors of Scripture were intimately familiar with the cultures they wrote about, and thus must have lived relatively close in both geographical and temporal proximity to them.

Mk 12:41-44  And Jesus having sat down over-against the treasury, was beholding how the multitude do put brass into the treasury, and many rich were putting in much, 42 and having come, a poor widow did put in two mites (lepta), which are a farthing [kodrantes]. 43 And having called near his disciples, he saith to them, “Verily I say to you, that this poor widow hath put in more than all those putting into the treasury; 44 for all, out of their abundance, put in, but she, out of her want, all that she had put in — all her living.” (NLT)

Previously I blogged on a Constantine I coin that was given to me. Now, I’ve been given a mite (also known as a lepton).  A mite was the smallest coin with the smallest monetary worth. It was worth half a quadrans. A quadrans was worth 1/64 of a denarius, which was a day’s wage, so a mite was worth 1/128 of a denarius.  In other words, this is what the average person would make for six minutes worth of work (assuming a 12 hour work day). How much was a mite worth, then? By today’s standards, it would be worth ~$0.56 (assuming a $6 per hour rate for 12 hours). Two mites, then, was little more than a dollar by today’s standards.  It is strange, then, that so many translations render Mk 12:41 as “penny,” “cent,” “less than a penny,” or something similar. The 2011 NIV and CEV are closest when they translate it as a few cents/pennies, but even this is severely undervalued. Whatever it may be worth, here is a picture of my mite:

Front of mite

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