Thursday, October 30, 2008


Abraham (אַבְרָהָם "Father/Leader of many", (circa 1900 BCE) Standard Hebrew Avraham, Arabic ابراهيم) is regarded as the founding patriarch of the Israelites whom God chose to bless out of all the families of the earth. He is a critical figure in both Judaism and Christianity, and is a very important prophet in Islam. Accounts of his life are given in the Book of Genesis and also in the Qur'an.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are sometimes referred to as the "Abrahamic religions", because of the role Abraham plays in their holy books and beliefs. In the Hebrew Bible and the Qur'an, Abraham is described as a patriarch blessed by God (the Jewish people called him "Father Abraham"), and promised great things. Jews and Christians consider him father of the people of Israel through his son Isaac; Muslims regard him as the father of the Arabs through his son Ishmael. In Christian belief, Abraham is a model of faith, and his intention to obey God by offering up Isaac is seen as a foreshadowing of God's offering of his son, Jesus. In Islam, Abraham obeyed God by offering up Ishmael and is considered to be one of the most important prophets sent by God.

His original name was Abram (אַבְרָם "High/Exalted father/leader"); he was the foremost of the Biblical patriarchs. Later:
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly." 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 "Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.

Abraham was commanded by God to offer his son up as a sacrifice in the land of Moriah (see Mount Moriah). Proceeding to obey, he was prevented by an angel as he was about to sacrifice his son, and slew a ram which he found on the spot.


The Cambridge Declaration

The Cambridge Declaration is a statement of faith written in 1996 by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, a group of Reformed and Lutheran Evangelicals who were concerned with the state of the Evangelical movement in America, and throughout the world.

Both the conference and the eventual declaration came about as a result of David F. Wells' 1993 book No Place for Truth or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (ISBN 0-8028-0747-X). This book was highly critical of the Evangelical church in America for abandoning its historical and theological roots, and instead embracing the philosophies and pragmatism of the world.

While not a best seller, the book was critically acclaimed by a number of important Evangelical leaders. In 1994 a number of these leaders formed the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Since much of Wells' thesis stemmed from the modern church's abandonment of historical confessions of faith (such as the Westminster Confession of Faith and the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith), the Alliance was based upon Evangelicals who not only adhered to these Reformed confessions of faith, but were able to direct their ministries accordingly.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Christ before Caiaphus. Oil on canvas, early 1630s. Artist: Matthias StomYehosef Bar Qayyafa (Hebrew יְהוֹסֵף בַּר קַיָּפָא), also known as Caiaphas (Greek: καϊάφας) in the New Testament, was the Jewish high priest to whom Jesus was taken after his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, and who played a part in Jesus' trial before the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. Although Caiaphas acted individually, passages involving Caiaphas are among those cited over the years by those claiming a Biblical justification for anti-Semitism. He married the daughter of Annas.
12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. (John 18:10-13)
In Matthew chapter 26, Caiaphas, other chief priests, and the Sanhedrin are shown looking for "false evidence" with which to frame Jesus (Matthew 26:59). Jesus never declares he is the Son of God, but doesn't deny the charge and makes an allusion to the Son of Man, Caiaphas and the other men charge him with blasphemy and orders him beaten. (Matthew 26:66-67)


Monday, October 27, 2008

Right Hegelians

The Right Hegelians, Old Hegelians, or the Hegelian Right, were the followers of German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel who took his philosophy in a politically and religiously conservative direction. They are typically contrasted with the Young Hegelians, who interpreted Hegel's political philosophy to support innovations in politics or religion. Hegel's political philosophy could be read in liberal or conservative directions.

Hegel's historicism held that both ideas and nations could only be understood by understanding their history. Throughout his life, Hegel was an orthodox member of Prussia's Lutheran Church. He devoted considerable attention to the Absolute, his term for the totality of reality that was used in his philosophy to justify belief in God. In his Philosophy of Right, Hegel wrote that:
The State is absolutely rational inasmuch as it is the actuality of the substantial will which it possesses in the particular self-consciousness once that consciousness has been raised to consciousness of its universality. This substantial unity is an absolute unmoved end in itself, in which freedom comes into its supreme right. On the other hand this final end has supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the State.
— Philosophy of Right, "The State", s. 258


Friday, October 24, 2008

Jesus of Nazareth

Flagellation, c. 1607, Oil on canvas, 390 x 260 cm, Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples, on loanBorn in Bethlehem and active in Nazareth; His life and sermons form the basis for Christianity (circa 4 bc - ad 29).

The principal sources of information regarding Jesus' life and teachings are the four canonical gospels though some scholars argue that other texts (such as the Gospel of Thomas) are as relevant as the canonical gospels to the historical Jesus. Most critical scholars in the fields of history and biblical studies believe that ancient texts on Jesus' life are at least partially accurate, agreeing that Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was regarded as a teacher and healer. They also generally accept that he was baptized by John the Baptist, and was crucified in Jerusalem on orders of the Roman Prefect of Judaea Pontius Pilate, on the charge of sedition against the Roman Empire.

Christian views of Jesus center on the belief that Jesus is divine, is the Messiah whose coming was prophesied in the Old Testament (e.g. Deuteronomy 18:15,Judges 13:5; Amos 2:11; Lam. 4:7,Isaiah:53,Isaiah 7:14, etc.), and that he was resurrected after his crucifixion. Christians predominantly believe that Jesus is the "Son of God" (generally meaning that he is God the Son, the second person in the Trinity), who came to provide salvation and reconciliation with God by his death for their sins.

Other Christian beliefs include Jesus' virgin birth, performance of miracles, ascension into Heaven, and future Second Coming. While the doctrine of the Trinity is widely accepted by Christians, a small minority instead hold various nontrinitarian beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus.

In Islam, Jesus (Arabic: عيسى‎, commonly transliterated as Isa) is considered one of God's important prophets, a bringer of scripture, and a worker of miracles. Jesus is also called "Messiah," but Islam does not teach that he was divine. Islam denies the death and resurrection of Jesus, believing instead that he ascended bodily to heaven.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cain and Abel

According to Genesis, Cain (meaning "acquisition") and Abel (a biblical forename which may derive from the Hebrew Hebel, itself derived from hevel (breath or vapour), or from the Assyrian for son. In reference to the biblical story, the name Abel often occurs with that of his brother, as Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel were the first and second sons of Adam and Eve, born after the Fall of Man. Their story is told in Genesis 4:1-16, the Qur'an at 5:26-32, and Moses 5:16-41. In all versions, Cain, a farmer, commits the first murder by killing his brother Abel, a shepherd, after God rejects Cain's sacrifice but accepts Abel's.

The oldest known copy of the biblical narration is from the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QGenb = 4Q242, mid 1st century), inspected using infra-red photography and published by Jim R Davila as part of his doctoral dissertation in 1988. Cain and Abel appear in a number of other texts, and the story is the subject of various interpretations. Abel, the first murder victim, is sometimes seen as the first martyr; while Cain, the first murderer, is sometimes seen as a progenitor of evil. A few scholars suggest the pericope may have been based on a Sumerian story representing the conflict between nomadic shepherds and settled farmers.

Allusions to Cain and Abel as an archetype of fratricide persist in numerous references and retellings, through medieval art and Shakespearean works up to the present day.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Rainbow by bluemist57, Adelaide, AustraliaCovenant, meaning a solemn contract, is the customary word used to translate the Hebrew word berith (ברית: pact, treaty, mise, league, alliance) as it is used in the Hebrew Bible.

While the word is used to identify treaties or similar contracts between rulers or individuals, the primary covenants mentioned in the Bible are the one between God and the Israelites (Old Testament) and the one between God and the Christian Church (New Testament).

This covenant was the basis for the Torah, and the claimed status of the Israelites as God's "chosen people."
God's promise to Israel in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that He would redeem the nation of Israel, give Israel the land of Zion, and "appear in his glory" and "come out of Zion" when "all Israel shall be saved" (cf. Psalm 102:15-18, Romans 11:25-27).
According to the terms of the covenant, Israelites understand that God had promised to undertake certain things on behalf of the people of Israel, and that the Israelites owed God obedience and worship in return.


Christian anarchism

Christian anarchism is any of several traditions which combine anarchism with Christianity. Christian anarchists believe that freedom is justified spiritually through the teachings of Jesus. This has caused them to be critical of government and Church authority. Leo Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God Is Within You is a key text in modern Christian anarchism.

The Life and Teaching of Jesus

More than any other text, the four Gospels provide the basis for Christian anarchism. Dorothy Day, Ammon Hennacy, Leo Tolstoy and others constantly refer back to the words of Jesus in their social and political texts. For example, the title "The Kingdom of God is Within You" is a direct quote of Jesus from Luke 17:21. Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement particularly favored the Works of Mercy (Matthew 25:31–46), which were a recurring theme in both their writing and art.

Many Christian anarchists say that Jesus opposed the use of government power, even for supposedly good purposes like welfare point to Luke 22:25, which says:
25 Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that.


Saturday, October 18, 2008


U2 is an Irish rock band formed in Dublin, whose members are Christians. The band features Bono (Paul David Hewson) on vocals, rhythm guitar and harmonica; The Edge (David Howell Evans) on lead guitar, keyboards and backing vocals; Adam Clayton on bass guitar; and Larry Mullen, Jr. on drums and occasional backing vocals.

"We've found different ways of expressing it, and recognized the power of the media to manipulate such signs. Maybe we just have to sort of draw our fish in the sand. It's there for people who are interested. It shouldn't be there for people who aren't."
-Bono, quoted from "U2 at the End of the World"

Formed in 1976, U2 has consistently remained among the most popular acts in the world since the mid 1980s. The band has sold approximately 50.5 million albums in the U.S., according to the RIAA, and upwards of 170 million worldwide, has had six #1 albums in the US and nine #1 albums in the UK and is one of the most successful bands of the rock era. The band has won 22 Grammy awards, more than any other recording artist.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Ex nihilo

Ex nihilo is a Latin term meaning "out of nothing". It is often used in conjunction with the term creation (see creationism) as in Creatio ex Nihilo, "Creation out of nothing". God created merely by speaking it into existence.
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:1-5)

Due to the nature of this, the term is often used in creationistic arguments, as some religions believe that God created the universe from nothing. It has also been argued that this concept cannot be deduced from the Hebrew and that the Book of Genesis, chapter 1, speaks of God "making" or "fashioning" the universe. However, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812) refuted these arguments in section II of his book titled "Tanya".

According to James Hartle and Stephen Hawking, creation ex nihilo is possible from the Hartle-Hawking state.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Money, a biblical perspective

The bible has quite a lot to say about money and finances, which is evidence that these principles are something God considers important for us to be aware of.
10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10 NIV)

The Christian concept of stewardship refers to the management of the property or affairs of someone else. It is often associated with personal finances. However, the key is that "our money" is not ours to begin with. It belongs to God.

The narrative of Jesus and the Money Changers occurs in both the Synoptic Gospels and in the Gospel of John, although it occurs close to the end of the Synoptic Gospels at:
  • Mark 11:15–19, 11:27–33,
  • Matthew 21:12–17, 21:23–27 and
  • Luke 19:45–48, 20:1–8
The story of Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers in the Temple is related. Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the Passover, the first of three in John, the others being John 7, where he goes to the Feast of Tabernacles, and the final Passover during which he is crucified. He enters the Temple courts and sees people selling livestock and exchanging money. He explodes:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


The Triumphal Arch of Tyre.Tyre (Hebrew צור Tzor, Greek Τύρος Týros also Es Sur, Soûr, Şūr, Tyr, صُور,) is a city in the South Governorate of Lebanon. With 117,100 inhabitants (it is reported only 10% of the population is left because of the Israel-Lebanon conflict), Tyre juts out from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, about 23 miles north of Acre, and 20 miles south of Sidon. The name of the city means "rock".

Tyre is an ancient Phoenician city. Today it is the fourth largest city in Lebanon and houses one of the nation's major ports. Tyre is a popular destination for tourists.

The city has many ancient sites, including its Roman Hippodrome which was reportedly used for the film Ben-Hur, and was added to UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1979 (Resolution 459).

Tyre is near the southern border."The location of the city of Tyre is not in doubt, for it exists to this day on the same spot and is known as Sur." (Katzenstein, H.J., The History of Tyre, 1973, p9) Tyre originally consisted of two distinct urban centers, one on an island and the other on the adjacent coast (approximately 30 stadia apart or 3.5 miles according to Strabo in his Geography xvi, 2), before Alexander the Great connected the island to the coast during his siege of the city. One was a heavily fortified island city amidst the sea and the latter, originally called Ushu (later, Palaetyrus, by the Greeks) was actually more like a line of suburbs than any one city and was used primarily as a source of water and timber for the main island city. Flavius Josephus even records them fighting against each other, although most of the time they supported one another due to the island city’s wealth from maritime trade and the mainland area’s source of timber, water and burial grounds.


Monday, October 13, 2008

lineage of Adam

The Adam half of Adam was the first man and Eve was the first woman.

At the time God made Earth and Heaven, before any grasses or shrubs had sprouted from the ground—God hadn't yet sent rain on Earth, nor was there anyone around to work the ground (the whole Earth was watered by underground springs)—God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive—a living soul!
-Genesis 2:5-7 (The Message)

His name, in Hebrew, is אדם (pronounced: ah-dahm) which has a basic meaning of "mankind," a related noun is אדמה (which means earth, land, terra; ground, soil; Earth). Adam was father to Cain (Gen. 4:1), Abel (Gen. 4:2), Seth (Gen. 4:25), and other children (Gen. 5:4). He lived to be 930 years old.

According to the biblical book of Genesis, God created Adam on the Sixth day:

5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:5-7 ESV)

This writer considers the biblical account to be the authority by which the lineage of Adam is determined.

The Ussher chronology is a 17th-century chronology of the history of the world formulated from a literal reading of the Bible by James Ussher's, the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh (in what is now Northern Ireland). The chronology is sometimes associated with Young Earth Creationism, which holds that the universe was created only a few millennia ago.

The chronologies of Ussher and other biblical scholars corresponded so closely because they used much the same methodology to calculate key events recorded in the Bible. Their task was complicated by the fact that the Bible was compiled from different sources over several centuries with differing versions and lengthy chronological gaps, making it impossible to do a simple totaling of Biblical ages and dates. In his article on the Ussher calendar, James Barr has identified three distinct periods that Ussher had to tackle:


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein Source: The Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society (ALWS), Austrian National Library, call numbers NB 515.982 B and Pf 42805 C1. Taken circa 1930 in Vienna. Author: Moritz Nähr (Naehr) (died June 29, 1945).Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (26 April, 1889 – 29 April, 1951) was an Austrian philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. As one of the twentieth century's most important philosophers, his influence has been wide-ranging.

Before his death at the age of 62, the only book-length work Wittgenstein had published was Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. He worked on Philosophical Investigations in his later years, and it was published shortly after he died. Both of these works are regarded as highly influential in analytic philosophy.

Ludwig Wittgenstein was born in Vienna on 26 April 1889, to Karl and Leopoldine Wittgenstein. He was the youngest of eight children, born into one of the most prominent and wealthy families in the Austro-Hungarian empire. His father's parents, Hermann Christian and Fanny Wittgenstein, were born into Jewish families but later converted to Protestantism, and after they moved from Saxony to Vienna in the 1850s, assimilated into the Viennese Protestant professional classes. Ludwig's father, Karl Wittgenstein, became an industrialist and went on to make a fortune in iron and steel. Ludwig's mother Leopoldine, born Kalmus, was an aunt of the Nobel Prize laureate Friedrich von Hayek. Despite Karl's Protestantism, and the fact that Leopoldine's father was Jewish, the Wittgenstein children were baptized as Roman Catholics—the faith of their maternal grandmother—and Ludwig was given a Roman Catholic burial upon his death.

His notebook entries during the war reflect his contempt for the baseness, as he saw it, of his fellow soldiers. Throughout the war, Wittgenstein kept notebooks in which he frequently wrote philosophical and religious reflections alongside personal remarks. The notebooks reflect a profound change in his religious life: a militant atheist during his stint at Cambridge, Wittgenstein discovered Leo Tolstoy's The Gospel in Brief at a bookshop in Galicia. He devoured Tolstoy's commentary and became an evangelist of sorts; he carried the book everywhere he went and recommended it to anyone in distress (to the point that he became known to his fellow soldiers as "the man with the gospels"). Monk notes that at the end of his life, Wittgenstein still firmly believed in the Resurrection of Jesus. Wittgenstein's other religious influences include Saint Augustine, Fyodor Dostoevsky and, most notably, SØren Kierkegaard, whom Wittgenstein referred to as "a saint".


Friday, October 10, 2008

Embryonic stem cells

Embryonic Stem Cells. (A) shows hESCs (Human embryonic stem cells).Embryonic stem cells (ES cells) are stem cells derived from the inner cell mass of an early stage embryo known as a blastocyst. Human embryos reach the blastocyst stage 4-5 days post fertilization, at which time they consist of 50-150 cells.

Embryonic Stem (ES) cells are pluripotent. This means they are able to differentiate into all derivatives of the three primary germ layers: ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm. These include each of the more than 220 cell types in the adult body. Pluripotency distinguishes ES cells from multipotent progenitor cells found in the adult; these only form a limited number of cell types. When given no stimuli for differentiation, (i.e. when grown in vitro), ES cells maintain pluripotency through multiple cell divisions.

The presence of pluripotent adult stem cells remains a subject of scientific debate, however, research has demonstrated that pluripotent stem cells can be directly generated from adult fibroblast cultures.

Because of their plasticity and potentially unlimited capacity for self-renewal, ES cell therapies have been proposed for regenerative medicine and tissue replacement after injury or disease. However, to date, no approved medical treatments have been derived from embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). Adult stem cells and cord blood stems cells have thus far been the only stem cells used to successfully treat any diseases. Diseases treated by these non-embryonic stem cells include a number of blood and immune-system related genetic diseases, cancers, and disorders; juvenile diabetes; Parkinson's; blindness and spinal cord injuries. Besides the ethical problems of stem cell therapy (see stem cell controversy), there is a technical problem of graft-versus-host disease associated with allogeneic stem cell transplantation. However, these problems associated with histocompatibility may be solved using autologous donor adult stem cells or via therapeutic cloning.

Stem cell controversy is the ethical debate centered around research involving the creation, usage and destruction of human embryonic stem cells. Some opponents of the research argue that this practice is a slippery slope to reproductive cloning and fundamentally devalues the worth of a human being. Contrarily, medical researchers in the field argue that it is necessary to pursue embryonic stem cell research because the resultant technologies could have significant medical potential, and that excess embryos created for in vitro fertilisation could be donated with consent and used for the research. This in turn, conflicts with opponents in the pro-life movement, who advocate for the protection of human embryos. The ensuing debate has prompted authorities around the world to seek regulatory frameworks and highlighted the fact that embryonic stem cell research represents a social and ethical challenge.

In his article Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Humane for Whom?, president and chairman of the board of the North Carolina-based Christian Research Institute Hank Hanegraaff says:

" Two years ago in this column I reiterated the truth that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph was for good men to do nothing. This was evident already in 1973 when Christians quietly passed by a major battle in the war against abortion. Two and a half decades later, the far-reaching impact of this silence is being felt in a raging debate over human cloning. Now my worst fears are beginning to be realized, for Great Britain has become the first nation to legalize human cloning. The House of Lords approved a law allowing embryos to be created for the harvesting of stem cells. Thankfully, there are some good men doing something. Chuck Colson, for instance, has spoken out eloquently against misguided citizens and celebrities who are pleading with Congress to endorse government-sponsored research involving the use of human embryos. His insights are so significant that I asked him to reiterate them in my Practical Apologetics column. Pandora’s box is already open, and Christians must do all that is permissible to prevent a human clone from emerging. "

—Hank Hanegraaff, STATEMENT DE444
Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Humane for Whom?,


Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Jacques DerridaDeconstruction is a term in contemporary philosophy, literary criticism, and the social sciences, denoting a process by which the texts and languages of Western philosophy (in particular) appear to shift and complicate in meaning when read in light of the assumptions and absences they reveal within themselves. Jacques Derrida coined the term in the 1960s, and proved more forthcoming with negative, rather than pined-for positive, analyses of the school.

Subjects relevant to deconstruction include the philosophy of meaning in Western thought, and the ways that meaning is constructed by Western writers, texts, and readers and understood by readers. Though Derrida himself denied deconstruction was a method or school of philosophy, or indeed anything outside of reading the text itself, the term has been used by others to describe Derrida's particular methods of textual criticism, which involved discovering, recognizing, and understanding the underlying—and unspoken and implicit—assumptions, ideas, and frameworks that form the basis for thought and belief, for example, in complicating the ordinary division made between nature and culture. Derrida's deconstruction was drawn mainly from the work of Martin Heidegger and his notion of Destruktion but also from Levinas and his ideas upon the Other.

Edmund Husserl is one of the major influences on the development of Derrida's thought and Husserl is both mentor and foil to the development of deconstruction. In Derrida's "two polemics which placed him [Husserl] in opposition to those philosophies of structure called Diltheyism and Gestaltism". These two polemics by Husserl are forerunners of Derrida's own deconstruction. Derrida notes admiringly that Husserl:

“ ceaselessly attempts to reconcile the structuralist demand (which leads to the comprehensive description of a totality, of a form or a function organized according to an internal legality in which elements have meaning only in the solidarity of their correlation or their opposition), with the genetic demand (that is the search for the origin and foundation of the structure). ”


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Biblical archaeology

Hezekiah’s tunnel is a tunnel that was dug underneath Ophel in Jerusalem about 701 BC during the reign of King Hezekiah.Biblical archaeology involves the recovery and scientific investigation of the material remains of past cultures that can illuminate the periods and descriptions in the Bible. As with the historical records from any other civilization, the manuscripts must be compared to other accounts from contemporary societies in Europe, Mesopotamia, and Africa; additionally, records from neighbors must be compared with them. The scientific techniques employed are those of archaeology in general including excavations as well as chance discoveries.

By contrast Near Eastern archaeology is simply the archaeology of the Ancient Near East without any particular consideration of how its discoveries relate to the Bible.

Biblical archaeology is a controversial subject with differing opinions on what its purpose and goals are or should be.

Biblical Archaeology began after publication by Edward Robinson (American professor of Biblical literature; 1794-1863) of his travels through Palestine during the first half of the 19th century (a time when the oldest complete Hebrew scripture only dated to the Middle Ages), which highlighted similarities between modern Arabic place-names and Biblical city names.

The Palestine Exploration Fund sponsored detailed surveys led by Charles Warren during the late 1860s (initially financed by Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts in 1864 to improve Jerusalem's sanitary conditions), which culminated with the formal publication of "The Survey of Western Palestine" from 1871-1877.


Saturday, October 04, 2008

cosmological argument

Modern thinkers sometimes cite evidence for the Big Bang to support the claim that the universe began (Gen.1:1) to exist a finite time ago.The cosmological argument is a metaphysical argument for the existence of God, or a first mover of the cosmos. It is traditionally known as an "argument from universal causation," an "argument from first cause," and also as an "uncaused cause" argument and sometimes referred to as the Kalam cosmological argument. Whichever term is used, there are three basic variants of this argument, each with subtle but important distinctions: the argument from causation in esse, the argument from causation in fieri, and the argument from contingency. The cosmological argument does not attempt to prove anything about the first cause or about God, except to argue that such a cause must exist. This cause is known in Latin as "causa sui."

Plato and Aristotle both posited first cause arguments, though each had certain notable caveats. Plato (c. 427–c. 347 BCE) posited a basic cosmological argument in The Laws (Book X).

He argued that motion in the world and in the cosmos was "imparted motion" that would have required some kind of "self-originated motion" to set it in motion and to maintain the motion. Plato also posited a "Demiurge" of supreme wisdom and intelligence as the creator of the cosmos in his work Timaeus.

For Plato, the demiurge lacked the supernatural ability to create ex nihilo or out of nothing. The demiurge was only able to organize the "anake." The anake was the only other co-existent element or presence in Plato's cosmogony.

Aristotle (c. 384–322 BCE) also put forth the idea of a first cause, often referred to as the "Prime Mover" or "Unmoved Mover" (the πρῶτον κινοῦν ἀκίνητον or primus motor) in his work Metaphysics. For Aristotle too, as for Plato, the underlying "stuff" of the universe always was in existence and always would be (which in turn follows Parmenides' famous statement that "nothing can come from nothing"). Aristotle posited an underlying ousia (an essence or substance) of which the universe is composed, and it is the ousia that the Prime Mover organized and set into motion. The Prime Mover did not organize matter physically, but is instead a Being who constantly thinks about thinking itself, and who organized the cosmos by making matter the object of "aspiration or desire". The Prime Mover was, to Aristotle, a "thinking on thinking," an eternal process of pure thought.


Friday, October 03, 2008

The death of Jesus

The death of Jesus is an event described by the New Testament, as occurring after the Passion of Jesus, as a result of his crucifixion. In Christianity the quasi-annual day of commemoration of the event is a highly important feast day, known as Good Friday.

In the accounts, as Jesus is dying, a darkness appears over the land. The Gospel of Mark states it was at the sixth hour (noon). Some have interpreted the darkness as a solar eclipse, but this is astronomically impossible, since Jesus is described as dying around the time of the Passover, a date on the Hebrew calendar fixed to a full moon, while solar eclipses can only occur at a new moon. It is clearly phrased for dramatic effect, but it could simply mean that the day was overcast.

Both Matthew and Mark state that Jesus cried out his last words - My God, My God, why have you forsaken me, Mark indicating that it was the ninth hour (3 PM). John states that Jesus just said "I thirst." (John 19:28)

A passer is described by both the synoptics and John as then wetting a sponge with vinegar and offering it to Jesus via a stick, but the crowd is described as saying that they should wait to see if Elijah will come to save Jesus. John states that Jesus drank what was offered. Elijah fails to arrive, and shortly after the sponge is offered, Jesus [gives] up the ghost, crying out wordlessly (according to Matthew and Mark), or crying his last words according to Luke and John, and dying.

Luke and Mark report that the veil of the temple split at this point, but Matthew claims that there were earthquakes, splitting rocks, and that dead saints were resurrected. The synoptics report that the immediate events after Jesus' death led a centurion to say Truly this man is [a/the] Son of God (there is no article in the original Greek, so this could as equally be a Son of God as the Son of God), which might be considered a vindication of Jesus (Brown 147), or might be sarcastic (Miller 51). John makes no such supernatural claims, and doesn't mention the centurion.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Summa Theologiae

Summa theologiae, Pars secunda, prima pars. (copy by Peter Schöffer, 1471)The Summa Theologiae (also sometimes referred to as the Summa Theologica) is the most famous work of Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225 – 7 March 1274). It was intended as a manual for beginners as a compilation of all of the main theological teachings of that time. It is not designed or ordered as an apologetic work, to convince non-Catholics, but it does contain a summary of the reasonings for almost all points of the Catholic Faith. It became so reputed that at the Council of Trent, it was consulted after the Bible itself on religious questions.

The Summa Theologiae is a more mature and structured version of an earlier work of Aquinas, the Summa Contra Gentiles. This former work was more apologetic in nature, and each article was a refutation of a specific belief of different heresies and other religions. The Summa Theologiae is famous for its quinquae viae which literally means "five streets," i.e. five ways to prove the existence of God. Some have called the Summa Theologiae the greatest theological statement of the Middle Ages.

The Summa has a standard format for each article. A question or a topic is given, such as "Whether it was fitting for Jesus to be poor". Then, a series of objections to the viewpoint presented are given. One objection could be, for example, "The Philosopher (Aristotle) says that the best life is being in the middle, between poor and rich." A short counter statement is then given, such as, "The Bible says that God always does the right thing, but Jesus was God, and he was poor, so it must have been the right thing." The actual truth is then presented, generally a clarification of the issue rather than simply pointing out which "side" is correct. For example, this could read, "Although it's true that the best way of life is a middle ground between being poor and rich, the reason for this is that this allows a person to be not distracted from his goal by either want or luxury. But the goal of Jesus was to spread his message as far as possible, and so to be the most mobile, it was better to have nothing." Individual counters to the first objection are then given, if necessary.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Constantine the Great

Right hand of the colossal statue of Constantine I, Musei Capitolini, Rome. Marble, Roman artwork, 313–324 CE. Gaius Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus (Latin: IMP CÆSAR FLAVIVS CONSTANTINVS PIVS FELIX INVICTVS AVGVSTVS) (February 27, 272–May 22, 337), commonly known as Constantine I, Constantine the Great, or (among Orthodox Christians) Saint Constantine, was proclaimed Augustus by his troops on July 25, 306 and ruled an ever-growing portion of the Roman Empire until his death. Constantine is famed for his refounding of Byzantium (modern Istanbul) as "Nova Roma" (New Rome) or Constantinople (Constantine's City).

Constantine is best remembered in modern times for the Edict of Milan in 313 and the Council of Nicaea in 325, which fully legalized Christianity in the Empire for the first time.

These actions are considered major factors in that religion's spread, and his reputation as the "first Christian Emperor" has been promulgated by historians from Lactantius and Eusebius of Caesarea to the present day, though he himself was baptized only on his death bed.

Constantine was born at Naissus in Upper Moesia (today's Niš, Serbia) on 27 February 272 or 273, to Greek general, Constantius I Chlorus, and his first wife Helena, an innkeeper's daughter who at the time was only sixteen years old. Theodora would give birth to six half-siblings of Constantine, including Julius Constantius.




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