So, have you come over to my new blog yet? Lots of articles over there for you to interact with! Come over and comment!
|The Coptic fragment|
“So here it is,” King said. On her desk, next to an open can of Diet Dr Pepper promoting the movie The Avengers, was a scrap of papyrus pressed between two plates of plexiglass.
The fragment was a shade smaller than an ATM card, honey-hued and densely inked on both sides with faded black script. The writing, King told me, was in the ancient Egyptian language of Coptic, into which many early Christian texts were translated in the third and fourth centuries, when Alexandria vied with Rome as an incubator of Christian thought.
When she lifted the papyrus to her office’s arched window, sunlight seeped through in places where the reeds had worn thin. “It’s in pretty good shape,” she said. “I’m not going to look this good after 1,600 years.”
But neither the language nor the papyrus’ apparent age was particularly remarkable. What had captivated King when a private collector first e-mailed her images of the papyrus was a phrase at its center in which Jesus says “my wife.”
The fragment’s 33 words, scattered across 14 incomplete lines, leave a good deal to interpretation. But in King’s analysis, and as she argues in a forthcoming article in the Harvard Theological Review, the “wife” Jesus refers to is probably Mary Magdalene, and Jesus appears to be defending her against someone, perhaps one of the male disciples.
“She will be able to be my disciple,” Jesus replies. Then, two lines later, he says: “I dwell with her.”
The papyrus was a stunner: the first and only known text from antiquity to depict a married Jesus.
So what are we to make of this?
King has her own idea: "In King’s analysis...the 'wife' Jesus refers to is probably Mary Magdalene, and Jesus appears to be defending her against someone, perhaps one of the male disciples."
Archaeological discoveries are always interesting. I find it fascinating that people are always seeking to prove something when these things are discovered, as if one single fragment would prove or disprove 2,000 years of research on all the rest of the archaeological evidence. But with each new archaeological discovery, I'm reminded that (as you did when you were in the holy land) this stuff really does have historical roots!
In a follow-up article at smithsonianmag.com, Sabar writes,
"The writing was in the ancient Egyptian language of Coptic, into which many early Christian texts were translated in the third and fourth centuries, when Alexandria vied with Rome as an incubator of Christian thought. But King made no claim for its usefulness as biography, saying instead the text was probably composed in Greek a century or so after the Crucifixion, then copied into Coptic two centuries later. As evidence that the real-life Jesus was married, it is scarcely more dispositive than Dan Brown’s controversial 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code."
So, even though the Coptic text dates to somewhere around 300-400 years after Christ and we might assume (though there is no proof of this) that it was a translation of a Greek text that might have been earlier (King says at least 100 years after Christ), people will hop on this and say that this proves that all the other archaeological evidence we have concerning Christ should be called into question.
I am all for critically analyzing all the evidence in order to constantly seek historical truth. And we have found many things that have brought better understanding of 1st Century history and thus the world in which Christ spoke (things like the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.) But for 2,000 years, people have tried their best to prove that the New Testament accounts are false (as if the documents we have of the New Testament are not verified archaeological artifacts). And for 2,000 years, we have yet to have found anything that can possibly overturn the accounts recorded in those ancient texts.
Dan Story sums up what we know about the New Testament's texts:
There are more extant New Testament manuscripts than any other document from antiquity. More than 24,000 partial and complete copies of the New Testament are in existence today. By comparison, the ancient document second in number of available copies is the Iliad, which has only 643 surviving manuscripts. And this number is extremely high compared to other ancient documents. For example, the History of Thucydides, the History of Herodotus, Caesar’s Gallic War, Tacitus’ Histories and Annals, and many other ancient documents have fewer than two dozen surviving copies.
In addition to New Testament manuscripts, there are over 86,000 early patristic (church fathers’) quotations from the New Testament and several thousand Lectionaries (early church-service books containing selected Scripture readings) dating to the early centuries of the church. In fact, there are enough quotations from the early church fathers that even if we did not have a single copy of the Bible, scholars could still reconstruct all but 11 verses of the entire New Testament from material written within 150 to 200 years from the time of Christ.
So, it seems that a single new Coptic fragment has very little weight in light of the rest of the archaeological evidence.
And we must also ask some questions based on literary criticism. What does the text of this fragment really mean when it says, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife... She will be able to be my disciple... I dwell with her.”
Perhaps this is literal, but how do we know? Was this metaphorical or symbolic language? Both the apostles Paul and John used the metaphor of the "bride of Christ" to represent the people who are Christ's people, that is, his Church
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:2) and he likened human marriage that was talked about in Genesis to the relationship between the church and Christ in his letter to the Ephesians: "'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church." (Ephesians 5:31-32).
John, in the mysterious revelation given to him, wrote concerning how the church would be united with Christ in the end time this: "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21:2-3)
Notice that not only do we have a "bride," but we also have the idea of God "dwelling" with man!
Or take an account that Matthew recorded:
"While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, 'Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.' He replied to him, 'Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?' Pointing to his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.' (Matthew 12:46-49)
This shows that Jesus could use family ties metaphorically. It is not beyond comprehension that someone writing a text 200 years after Christ might want attribute to Jesus that same kind of metaphorical language to address Jesus' relationship to his followers.
But as I heard it and then read it online, the question occurred to me, "Mr. President, Why is this not all also true of the unborn that are killed by the violence of abortion?"
Look at these excellent words from our President - and see how they are also applicable to the 1.3 Million children aborted each year.
"These are our kids... And so what we should be thinking about is our responsibility to care for them, and shield them from harm, and give them the tools they need to grow up and do everything that they’re capable of doing — not just to pursue their own dreams, but to help build this country. This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged...If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try."
"This will be difficult. There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty — not because that’s true, but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever."
"That most fundamental set of rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness…those rights are at stake."
"… when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now."
|A picture from the Facebook ad for "I Am Pro-Life"|
So, here's the political conundrum for Christians:
We want to vote "Pro-Life," but what all does that entail?
Certainly it means standing up for the marginalized voice of the unborn.
This is one of the moost pressing civil-rights issue of our time, in spite of what most Democrats mis-perceived it as (most Dems only see the abortion issue as a civil-rights issue for women, discounting the civil rights of the child).
Christians, in my opinion, must stand up for those that are oppressed by an unjust society - and there are none more oppressed than the unborn.
But being "Pro-Life" does not end in a woman's womb.
It also means standing up for the marginalized voices of those who's lives are in danger due to other issues that face society: wars, poverty, hunger, trafficking, environmental destruction that causes diseases and loss of life (just to name a few).
Which party is best positioned to deal with these Life Issues? To be Pro-Life, in other words, is more than the issue of abortion (though that is a major issue concerning Life). If a party seeks to expand the military, cut funds to the social safety-net, and ignore the impact of human actions that damage the environment because of business interests, is that "Pro-Life?"
What do you think? I'd love your input.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20)
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God wasreconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, andentrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
“Therefore, everything—one’s work, one’s domestic life, one’s health, one’s worship—has significance to God. He is concerned with every aspect of the believer’s life, not just the so-called spiritual dimensions…There is no such thing as sacred and secular in biblical worldview. It can conceive of no part of the world that does not come under the claim of Yahweh’s lordship. All of life belongs to God, and true holiness means bringing all the spheres of our life under God.”
The new website will have "vocational channels" - with resources (articles, videos, podcasts) for specific vocations.
Channels will include
- WORK & CALLING
- ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
I'm still amazed how many evangelicals, because they WANT to believe that America was founded as a Christian nation, buy into David Barton's revisionist history.
His new book on Thomas Jefferson is a farce.
NPR’s “All Things Considered” has an excellent piece on Barton, interviewing evangelicals like Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College and John Fea of Messiah College. Listen to this (or read the transcript).
Listen to the Story [9 min 8 sec]
Of course Christians should seek to influence society so that it better reflects the will of God... but we do not need to make up history to do so. This simply serves to undermine our task.
Keepin' you in the loop: Reintegrate is on its way to becoming a reality! We have approval from the State of Ohio to be a non-profit, we are very close to closing in on our board members, and we will be sending in our paperwork for the federal 501(c)(3) status in a few weeks! Please pray for:
- The $850 needed for filing to the federal government for 501(c)(3),
- The development of our website,
- The publication of our first line of curriculum
- The establishement of partnerships with CCO, Qideas, Hearts & Minds Bookstore, The Washington Institute on Faith, Vocation, and Culture, and The High Calling.
Have you ever watched coverage of political campaigns on television and wonder, “Why does this sound so much like ESPN?
The experts on politics on cable news channels, on Meet the Press, This Week, and Face the Nation sound more like they are talking about a NASCAR race than a political race – who is out in front, how the guy trailing can gain on the leader, strategies for moving up and past the leader, strategies for saying in the lead. When the public is in desperate need for thoughtful analysis on public policy issues, the media instead focuses on other things.
Now we know why. A new report by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (reported at journalism.com) examined in detail the media’s coverage of the Republican primary race.
“The media often focus heavily on tactics, strategy and the numbers of the horse race. On top of that, during the primaries the policy differences between candidates are sometimes fairly minimal as rivals contend for the favor of party primary voters. In 2012, horse race and strategy dominated, but not to the degree they had in 2008.
From November 2011 to April 15, 2012, the coverage devoted to the strategic elements of the GOP primary fight (horse race, tactics, strategy, money and advertising) outnumbered the combined attention to all foreign and domestic policy issues by about 6:1.
Overall, 64% of campaign coverage examined was framed around polls, advertising, fundraising, strategy and the constant question of who is winning and who is losing…
Over the last five and a half months, the candidates’ policy proposals and stands on the issues accounted for 11% of the campaign coverage. The vast majority of these focused on domestic issues…[which] accounted for 9% of the coverage…
There was far less attention paid to foreign policy issues such as Iran’s nuclear program, negotiations with Russia, and relations with Israel, all of which accounted for just 1% of the campaign coverage…
The candidates’ public records accounted for 6% of the overall campaign coverage studied.”
So, only 17% of the media’s campaign coverage was focused on the issues: the candidates’ stands on issues and their records.
We Christians are complicit in this demise of political public discourse in the media.
Instead of taking the time to read deeply and widely about policy, we watch the claptrap that the media serves and parrot it back to each other. We rarely seek to understand the opposition’s arguments. Instead, we act like simpletons, watching only the shows that we think we already agree with so that we don’t have to think too deeply.
Instead of debating with civility with others about issues, we mimic the talking heads on our favorite cable talk shows by attacking the opposition’s character. We take this easy route since it is so much easier to dismiss those we disagree with by portraying them as utterly evil.
Instead of demanding that mass media coverage dive deeper into public policy issues, we continue to watch the junk the media shows, providing them with high ratings and little incentive to change their ways.
I went to seminary at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and had a number of classes under D. A. Carson. He is one of the most thorough New Testament scholars in the world today. However, this does not necessarily mean that he is an expert on whatever he applies his word processor to doing. In his book, Christ & Culture Revisited (Eerdmans: 2008, now in paperback: 2012) he seeks to contribute to the conversation about culture by having us re-think Niebuhr’s categories through the lens of biblical theology.
Remember, H Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture assigned five paradigms to how Christians see Christ interacting with Culture: (1) Christ against Culture, (2) Christ of Culture, and (3) Christ above Culture (which includes the two subsets: (4) Christ and Culture in Paradox and (5) Christ the Transformer of Culture).
However sincere Carson is at the task, he makes serious mistakes in this book.
Carson first seeks to define “culture.” He defines culture by quoting Robert Redfield (“the shared understandings made manifest in act and artifact”) and Clifford Geertz (“an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic form by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes towards life”). Therefore, Carson starts out the book defining “Culture” as both conceptual ideas and human artifacts. However, most of the book treats culture as simply conceptual ideas (he spends an inordinate amount of space on “church and state,” as if that is the primary form of human culture) and he very rarely talks about the things that human beings actually do to create culture.
The major problem of Carson’s book is that he failed to do exactly what he said he intended to do.
He says that the only way to properly understand the relationship of Christ with Culture is to have a thorough understanding of all the “turning points in the biblical history of redemption.” He writes, “The omission or dilution of one or more of them easily generates a truncated or distorted vision of Christianity, and therefore of the relations between Christ and culture. Indeed, much of the rest of this book can be read as a meditation on how a robust biblical theology tends to safeguard Christians against such egregious reductionisms.” (p. 82)
However, in his chapter in which he seeks to trace the turning points in the biblical history of redemption, “Creation” is quickly married to “Fall.” Carson’s understanding of Creation spotlights on human beings and their duty to delight in God—serving him, trusting him, and obeying him. In one (just one!) paragraph, Carson says that humans are embodied beings that are made in God’s image. But with only one paragraph of space given to this topic, Carson basically reduces our embodiment and image-bearing to being made “to know and love and enjoy God,” with “responsibilities of governance and care.” With that, Carson moves quickly to the fact that we are a “fallen race,” which he defines as human beings “de-godding God,” or idolatry.
The astonishing exclusion of the Cultural Mandate and a robust definition of the imago Dei as humans created to reflect God by making culture is a fatal flaw of this book.
How can a Christian theologian write about culture without a thorough discussion of Genesis 1:26-28, 2:5, and 2:15, the most important texts that biblically root the cultural call upon the human race? If Carson thinks he is providing a “meditation on how a robust biblical theology tends to safeguard Christians against such egregious reductionisms,” he fails right out of the chute: With the first and foremost moment in the history of redemption!
And his insistence on defining the Fall as simply the sin of human idolatry factors out the impact of the Fall on systems, structures, and institutions. Carson’s “history of redemption” is actually a truncated “history of the salvation of human beings.” It’s fascinating that a biblical scholar that warns against truncating the gospel does just that: truncating the gospel to just the salvation of humans. In Carson’s view, there is no robust understanding of a cosmic redemption of all things. To Carson, the shedding of Christ’s blood is only for the atonement of people.
The great New Testament scholar D.A. Carson seems to miss a crucial New Testament teaching: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Jesus), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20)
How can Carson dismiss the cosmic redemption of “all things?”
Also, Carson speaks primarily about “church” as an institution that has, as its primary purpose, the ministry of proclamation of the Word of God and the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, all of which revolves around the primary mandate of evangelism. According to Carson, the Great Commission is what the church does, period. Therefore, what Carson ends up doing is relegating cultural influence to what some Christians can engage in on the side – important, yes, but not as important as what the church as an institution does.
Carson’s chapter on Postmodernism is also extremely weak. He shows little understanding of postmodern philosophy. He takes on James K. A. Smith, and in doing so, shows that he should stick with biblical exegesis and theology. Another glaring shortcoming is how male-centric the book is. Nowhere does he deal with how women are affected by culture. In his preface, Carson thanks a number of Reformed pastors for their suggestions (including Mark Dever and Tim Keller). Not one of his interlocutors who read the book’s manuscript is a woman (I was hopeful that “Sandy Wilson” might be a woman, but he’s a Presbyterian pastor in Memphis).
Like I said, I studied under D. A. Carson at Trinity. He was perhaps the most respected of all the incredible scholars that were on the faculty there. But looking back, I realize now that his truncated gospel and narrow understanding of redemption had a negative influence on my biblical understanding of what God’s mission in the world actually is.
I’m amazed that I could graduate with honors from Trinity, a world-class seminary, but never seriously wrestle with the theological implications of God’s cosmic plan for the redemption of his creation.
The centerpiece of the case against Obamacare is the requirement that everyone buy some kind of health insurance or face stiff penalties--the so-called individual mandate. It is a way of moving toward universal coverage without a government-run or single-payer system. It might surprise Americans to learn that another advanced industrial country, one with a totally private health care system, made precisely the same choice nearly 20 years ago: Switzerland.
Switzerland is not your typical European welfare-state society. It is extremely business-friendly and has always gone its own way, shunning the euro and charting its own course on health care. The country ranks higher than the U.S. on the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom.
Twenty years ago, Switzerland had a system very similar to America's--private insurers, private providers--with very similar problems. People didn't buy insurance but ended up in emergency rooms, insurers screened out people with pre-existing conditions, and costs were rising fast. The country came to the conclusion that to make health care work, everyone had to buy insurance. So the Swiss passed an individual mandate and reformed their system along lines very similar to Obamacare. The reform law passed by referendum, narrowly. The result two decades later: quality of care remains very high, everyone has access, and costs have moderated. Switzerland spends 11% of its GDP on health care, compared with 17% in the U.S. Its 8 million people have health care that is not tied to their employers, they can choose among many plans, and they can switch plans every year. Overall satisfaction with the system is high.
The most striking aspect of America's medical system remains how much of an outlier it is in the advanced industrial world. No other nation spends more than 12% of its total economy on health care. We do worse than most other countries on almost every measure of health outcomes: healthy-life expectancy, infant mortality and--crucially--patient satisfaction. Put simply, we have the most expensive, least efficient system of any rich country on the planet. Costs remain high on every level. Recently, the International Federation of Health Plans released a report comparing the prices in various countries of 23 medical services, from a routine checkup to an MRI to a dose of Lipitor. The U.S. had the highest costs in 22 of the 23 cases. An MRI costs $1,080 here; it costs $281 in France.
In 1963, Nobel Prize--winning economist Kenneth Arrow wrote an academic paper explaining why markets don't work well in health care. He argued that unlike with most goods and services, people don't know when they will need health care. And when they do need it--say, in the case of heart failure--the cost is often prohibitive. That means you need some kind of insurance or government-run system.
Now, we could decide as a society that it is O.K. for people who suddenly need health care to get it only if they can pay for it. The market would work just as it works for BMWs: anyone who can afford one can buy one. That would mean that the vast majority of Americans wouldn't be able to pay for a triple bypass or a hip replacement when they needed it. But every rich country in the world--and many not-so-rich ones--has decided that its people should have access to basic health care. Given that value, a pure free-market model simply cannot work.
In the campaigns for president, it seems that the conservatives have changed their tunes on requiring mandate for everyone to be included in health insurance. Zakaria observes,
Catastrophic insurance--covering trauma and serious illnesses--isn't a solution, because it's chronically ill patients, just 5% of the total, who account for 50% of American health care costs. That's why the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, came up with the idea of an individual mandate in the 1980s, proposing that people buy health insurance in exactly the same way that people are required to buy car insurance. That's why Mitt Romney chose this model as a market-friendly system for Massachusetts when he was governor. And that's why Newt Gingrich praised the Massachusetts model as the most important step forward in health care in years. They have all changed their minds, but that is about politics, not economics.
When listening to the debate about American health care, I find that many of the most fervent critics of government involvement argue almost entirely from abstract theoretical propositions about free markets. One can and should reason from principles. But one must also reason from reality, from facts on the ground. And the fact is that about 20 foreign countries provide health care for their citizens in some way or other. All of them--including free-market havens like Switzerland and Taiwan--have found that they need to use an insurance or government-sponsored model. All of them provide universal health care at much, much lower costs than we do and with better results.