Monday, December 31, 2012

Dating the Pauline Epistles

I had a discussion with Dr. Richard Carrier about dating the Pauline Epistles to the first century. Here is what he had to say.

Paul wrote before the Jewish War, which began in 66, and probably before the Neronian persecution of 64 (if such there was), as neither are ever mentioned in his letters (yet both, and their consequences, would have been too huge not to affect anything he said, esp. in Romans); and he wrote well after Aretas assumed control of Damascus (which he mentions in 2 Corinthians 11:32), which was between the years of 37 and 40; and most (if not all) of his literary activity came 14 to 17 years after his conversion (Galatians 1:15-18, 2:1; possibly also 2 Corinthians 12:2); all of which argues for his letters being written in the 50s. 
For a detailed analysis: Gerd L├╝demann, Paul, The Founder of Christianity (2002), which also details why we should trust a chronology derived only from Paul’s letters and not from Acts.
One can avoid this conclusion only by assuming these are all lies and the letters are fabricated to look like they were written in the 50s. That’s an enormous ad hoc assumption, which has no inherent probability (even out of the gate, much less after considering how little the forgers even bothered to polemicize against the Gospel version of Jesus etc., or do or say anything distinctive of the second century or even intelligible in that context–as opposed to, for example, the Pastorals).

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Shame on us!

Two weeks ago, on Dec 16 to be precise, a 23-year-old student boarded a bus in New Delhi. While on the moving bus, she was assaulted, beaten up and gang raped. She died a few days ago.

In another case, in Punjab, a 17-year-old teen committed suicide after being pressurized to marry her rapist.

In case you think these are just two isolated occurrences, think again. In India a rape is reported every 20 minutes. How many go unreported is anybody's guess.

What is different with these cases is the widespread protests that have resulted.
More stringent punishment, capital punishment for rape has been called for. My gut tells me that moving towards a penal system like the one in Saudi Arabia is not the solution. But in this post, I would like to talk about the social situation in India

In India, the rape victim is considered 'damaged goods', unfit for marriage, ostracized by the society. In the Punjab case, the victim was actually pressurized to marry her rapist, seemingly to absolve the victim of the dishonour! What kind of society do we live in?

Yes, we need a penal system that deters potential rapists. But we as a society need to discard our antiquated and inhuman way of treating the victims. No amount of legislation can force this societal  change. We as a society need to change. How many more victims have to fall prey to this warped sense of 'purity' before we change?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bart Ehrman on Christmas and Jesus

This is Christmas season and time for scholars and non-scholars to pontificate about Christmas. The Pope has a book out that talks about Jesus' birth and infancy. I had posted on Bart Ehrman's review of the book.

Now Bart has written a piece for the Newsweek and it is the cover story this week. What Do We Really Know About Jesus?

The piece is a run of the mill Bart Ehrman article. If you have read Bart's books, there is nothing new here.
For many centuries, most Christians garnered their information about the birth of Jesus not from the New Testament but from popular writings that were not officially considered Scripture. One of the best known of these books is called the “Proto-Gospel of James,” composed probably in the late second century, a century after the canonical Gospels, and accordingly, far less likely that they contain anything like historically accurate information. But Christians throughout the Middle Ages were rarely interested in historical accuracy;
And not much has changed for mainstream Christians when it comes to historical accuracy, I think.

Bart takes a dig at the Pope and I love that. He also slips in the 'fact' that Jesus was actually from Nazareth. Even after getting beat up for his book, "Did Jesus Exist?", Bart can't help mentioning this 'fact'. Otherwise a decent article. Go read it here!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

St. Francis Xavier

It is St. Francis Xavier's feast tomorrow (December 3). Francis Xavier was a pioneering proselytizer who took God's word to Portuguese India, Indonesia and Japan.

St. Francis Xavier died in 1552 and his in-corruptible body is housed in a casket in a Basilica in Goa, India. The right forearm, which Xavier used to bless and baptize his converts is on display at the main Jesuit church in Rome. All of this is believed by the devotees to be a sign that this dude was God's own! There will always be naysayers. But we won't fall prey to Satan's treachery, will we? Not today!

If you read some of the letters he sent back home, you can see his love for the locals, his respect for their customs. He was truly a piece of work! Here are some choice snippets.
We have in these parts a class of men among the pagans who are called Brahmins. They keep up the worship of the gods, the superstitious rites of religion, frequenting the temples and taking care of the idols. They are as perverse and wicked a set as can anywhere be found, and I always apply to them the words of holy David, "from an unholy race and a wicked and crafty man deliver me, O Lord." They are liars and cheats to the very backbone.
If it were not for the opposition of the Brahmins, we should have them all embracing the religion of Jesus Christ.
Here is the letter in its entirety.

But we have more to be thankful to St. Francis Xavier. In case you thought the inquisition was a European thing, think again! Goa had its very own inquisition! Though St. Francis Xavier did not live to see it in action in Goa, he requested for it. But it was eight years after his death that the inquisition finally came visiting. From 1560 to 1812 when it was abolished, the holy office of inquisition did what it took to keep the Indians pure and free of heresy.

Richard Zimler, author of Guardian of the Dawn, which documents the Portuguese Inquisition in India says,
A large number of Hindus were first converted and then persecuted from 1560 all the way to 1812!
Over that period of 252 years, any man, woman, or child living in Goa could be arrested and tortured for simply whispering a prayer or keeping a small idol at home. Many Hindus -- and some former Jews, as well -- languished in special Inquisitional prisons, some for four, five, or six years at a time.
Well, God's work has to be done. No one claims it isn't messy, right?

Let's not forget all this when we pay tribute to Francis Xavier this day as we celebrate his feast.