Boxing Pythagoras

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Archive for the tag “New Testament”

Theologically Loaded Language

Translating ancient documents into modern languages carries with it more difficulties than most people realize. Pretty much anyone who has ever taken a foreign language class in high school understands that it can often be quite hard to find a word which corresponds exactly between two tongues. Those who have studied outside of the modern Romance languages– classes like Arabic, Chinese, or Japanese– often realize that there are subtleties in grammatical constructions which can convey a great deal more than can be expressed in English. It is a very frequent occurrence that a phrase from one language cannot be rendered with 100% accuracy in another language. In English, this has led to the popular idiom that “something has been lost in translation.”

Ancient languages maintain these problems, but add an entirely new layer of obfuscation which is not found even in most culturally distinct modern languages. Over the past few thousands of years, human understanding of the world around us has changed quite significantly. Just one hundred years ago, no one had ever viewed the ground from five miles up in the air. Two hundred years ago, we had no idea that microscopic organisms cause disease. Three hundred years ago, humanity had no idea that oxygen exists. Four hundred years ago, the world was shocked to learn the the planet Jupiter has moons. The manner in which religion, philosophy, and science have discussed a myriad of things about reality has changed so greatly in recent millennia that very often even one word in a single language can mean something exceedingly different to people living in different periods of time.

The documents which comprise the New Testament of the Christian Bible were written 2000 years ago. In those ensuing twenty centuries, many of the words used by the original authors and many of the concepts which they espoused have engendered incredible amounts of revision, alteration, and nuance by subsequent philosophers and theologians which would have been wholly alien to those initial ancient writers. The vast majority of modern readers– including an embarassingly large number of modern scholars of the text– seem wholly ignorant of this fact when they read a passage from their Bibles.

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On the Resurrection

A few weeks ago, I posted an article about Why I Am Not a Christian.  My entry is one in a long line of similar declarations with that same title made by many people, from complete amateurs to inordinately famous philosophers. However, whereas most of these other declarations list whole litanies of reasoning behind their dismissal of the Christian faith, I mentioned only a single point of concern. I am not a Christian because I do not believe that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead.

In my article, I gave a quick overview of some of the reasons that I do not believe this claim. I pointed out that, contrary to stories often passed among Christian circles, there are almost no references to Jesus by non-Christians within 100 years of his death. I discussed reasons for doubting the claim that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses to the event. I talked about discrepancies between the Gospel accounts, with one another as well as with contemporary historical records. Of course, even some people who know about and understand these things still believe in the Resurrection. Some, particularly Christian apologists, even assert that Jesus’ Resurrection is the most reasonable account, given all the facts.

Given the recent Easter holiday, this tends to be the time of year where those Christian apologists lay out their arguments for the Resurrection in full force. In particular, I read an article which fairly typifies many of the usual claims made by apologists on the subject. It was written by a friend of mine named Ray Ciervo, who holds a Masters degree in Apologetics from the Southern Evangelical Seminary, and who operates a ministry called No Pat Answers. The purpose of the ministry, as declared on its website, is to help prepare Christians to defend their faith without resorting to “pat answers,” which he defines as, “trite, glib, shot[s] from the hip, that [are] not very well thought out.” The article in question was posted to the No Pat Answers blog a few days ago, with the title How Can We Be Sure of the Resurrection? Unfortunately, I do not find many of the claims made by the article to be overly defensible, nor the arguments to be very convincing.

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