Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category


What is quote mining?

February 27, 2012

Quote mining is the dishonest practice of collecting quotations selected out of context, to make authors appear to support a position they do not actually hold. It should be avoided completely by anyone attempting to be an honest human being. Sources practicing quote mining lose any claim to credibility.

Searching for evidence of historical atheism, many atheists appeal to quotations which they claim were written by atheists, but which were actually written by theists, deists, or agnostics.[1] [2]  [3] [4]

Hitler[5] and Stalin[6] are misquoted by some atheists in attempts to claim they were devout Christians whose atrocities were motivated by their Christian belief.

Scientists are often misquoted by those who disagree with them; many have been misquoted dishonestly by Christians, in attempts to support their beliefs. Darwin’s comments on the eye,[7] on fossils,[8] transitional forms,[9] and apparent doubts about evolution,[10] [11] [12] are commonly used in this way.

Other commonly misused quotations include statements by Futuyama,[13] [14] Gould,[15] [16] [17] Kemp,[18] and Mark.[19] Unfortunately, pages could be filled with examples of this kind of shameful conduct by Christians.

Quote mining is also found frequently in the popular media, especially on subjects which generate social controversy, such as global warming. The largest national newspaper in Australia (‘The Australian’), typically expresses skepticism of anthropogenic global warming and climate change, and its writers have been accused repeatedly of quote mining.[20] [21] [22]

Other news agencies criticized for the same tactic in their published opposition to the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warning are Fox News (US), The Daily Telegraph (Australia), and The Telegraph (UK).

[1] A theist believes in a personal god who can be known by revelation (Christians are theists), and a deist believes in an impersonal god who cannot be known by revelation (some Buddhists sects are deists); neither are atheists.

[2] Commonly misquoted deists (believers in an impersonal god), are Epicurus (Greek philosopher), Xenophanes (Greek philosopher), Anaxagoras (Greek philosopher), Euhemerus (Greek philosopher), Marcus Aurelius (Roman emperor and philosopher), Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri (Arabian philosopher), Abu Bakr al-Razi  (Arabian philosopher), Ibn al-Rawandi  (Arabian philosopher), Denis Diderot, François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire), Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Locke, David Hume, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Ulysses Grant, George Washington (some historians believe he was a highly unorthodox theist), Thomas Paine, and Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).

[3] Commonly misquoted theists (believers in a personal god), are Al-Ghazali (Muslim), Al-Haytham (Muslim), Thomas Hobbes, Blaise Pascal (Christian of the Jansenist sect), John Adams (American president, and Unitarian Christian), and Annie Besant (Theosophist and mystic).

[4] Commonly misquoted agnostics (undecided as to whether or not any god exists), are Prodicus (Greek philosopher), Protagoras (Greek philosopher), Cicero (Roman orator, politician, and historian), Omar Khayyam (Persian philosopher, poet, mathematician, and astronomer), Robert Ingersoll, Henry Mencken, Ibn Warraq, Charles Templeton, Bill Maher, Karl Popper, David Attenborough, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Émile Durkheim, Stephen Jay Gould, Milton Friedman, Carl Sagan, and Bart Ehrman.

[5] Hitler’s religious beliefs are a matter of scholarly debate, but despite his repeated affirmations of Christianity and professions of belief in a personal God in his public writings and speeches, a number of historians and several people who knew him personally believe that his Christianity was a show, and that although religious he was actually anti-Christian; ‘Michael Reissman’s analysis of Hitler’s conception of God suggests that it had much more to do with a providential deity who had chosen him to lead the German people in accordance with ancient principles of leadership than with any Christian concept. As Goebbels commented at Christmas 1939, ‘The Führer is deeply religious but entirely anti-Christian’.’, Bonney, ‘Confronting the Nazi war on Christianity: the Kulturkampf newsletters, 1936-1939’, p. 20 (2009); ‘Hitler’s own religious views underwent significant change in the latter half of the Third Reich. He gave up on the Protestant Church after three failed attempts to achieve unity within its ranks. It is only in the period after this failure that we begin to see some of the anti-Christian remarks for which he is so famous. In October 1937, Hitler commented privately: “I have been freed, after an intense inner struggle, from the still living and childish imaginnings of religion….I now feel as liberated as a foal in the pasture.” Although he did not say so explicitly, the personalistic tone of the comment reveals that this was primarily a reference to his original Catholic faith, not to all religion per se.’, Steigman-Gall, ‘The Holy Reich: Nazi conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945’, p. 252 (2003); Speer (Hitler’s Minister of Armaments and War Production, and close personal friend), indicated Hitler’s profession of support for Christianity was politically motivated, ‘Hitler usually concluded this historical speculation by remarking: “You see, it’s been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn’t we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?’, Speer, ‘Inside the Third Reich’, p. 96 (1970).

[6] ‘When Stalin was a student at the Tiflis Russian Orthodox Seminary, where his mother sent him to become a priest, he becamse a closet atheist. (Many would late note, however, that his works were influenced by a distinctly biblical style.) His atheism remained rooted in some vague idea of a God in nature. Stalin once read a book by Antole France and was particularly impressed by the following line: “If Napoleon had to choose a religion, he would have chosen the adoration of the sun.” Stalin had circled the word “sun” and written in the margin, “Good!”’, Zubok & Pleshakov, ‘Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War: From Stalin to Khruschev’, p. 20 (1996); while historians do not debate that Stalin was an atheist, his atrocities cannot all be attributed simply to him being an atheist, though his anti-religious atrocities (such as his imposition of state atheism by force and his persecution and murder of hundreds of thousands of people because they were religious), certainly can as they were motivated directly by his atheism.

[7]To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.’, Darwin, ‘The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’, p. 143 (6th ed. 1882.); although this makes Darwin look as if he is saying the eye could not possibly have evolved, Darwin goes on to explain that he believes the evolution of the eye is both possible and likely, ‘Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case ; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered subversive of the theory.’., ibid., pp 143-144.

[8] ‘The case at present must remain inexplicable; and may be truly urged as a valid argument against the views here entertained.’, ibid., p. 287, however, Darwin goes on to provide a possible explanation, ‘To show that it may hereafter receive some explanation, I will give the following hypothesis.’, p. 287; the context shows Darwin was referring to the lack of pre-Cambrian fossils, but since his time multi-cellular fossils pre-dating the Cambrian era have been discovered, such as the Ediacaran biota.

[9] ‘But, as by this theory, innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth?’, ibid., p. 134; Darwin goes on to answer his own question, ‘It will be more convenient to discuss this question in the chapter on the Imperfection of the Geological Record; and I will here only state that I believe the answer mainly lies in the record being incomparably less perfect than is generally supposed. The crust of the earth is a vast museum; but the natural collections have been imperfectly made, and only at long intervals of time.’, ibid., p. 134.

[10] ‘Long before the reader has arrived at this part of my work, a crowd of difficulties will have occurred to him. Some of them are so serious that to this day I can hardly reflect on them without being in some degree staggered…’ ibid., p. 133; however, Darwin continues, ‘but, to the best of my judgment, the greater number are only apparent, and those that are real are greater not, I think, fatal to my theory.’, ibid., p. 133.

[11] ‘Not one change of species into another is on record… we cannot prove that a single species has been changed.’, commonly mis-attributed to a book entitled ‘My Life & Letters’ (though Darwin never wrote a book by this title), Darwin’s original words appear in a book written by his son, ‘When we descend to details, we can prove that no one species has changed; [i.e. we cannot prove that a single species has changed] nor can we prove that the supposed changes are beneficial, which is the groundwork of the theory.’, (text in square brackets is in the original), Darwin (ed.), ‘The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter: edited by his son Francis Darwin’, volume 2, p. 210 (1911); this was speaking only of the evidence available in his own time, and scientists say such proof does exist today.

[12] Darwin repeatedly insisted that he was not saying he had proof of evolution, but did make clear that he believed it was the best explanation of the observable biological record; ‘I am actually weary of telling people that I do not pretend to adduce direct evidence of one species changing into another, but that I believe that this view in the main is correct, because so many phenomena can be thus grouped together and explained.  But it is generally of no use; I cannot make persons see this.’, Darwin, letter to FW Hutton 20 April, 1861, in Darwin & Seward (eds.), ‘More Letters of Charles Darwin’, letter 124, volume 1, p. 184 (1903).

[13]Undeniably, the fossil record has provided disappointingly few gradual series. The origins of many groups are still not documented at all. Futuyma, ‘Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution’, pp. 190-191 (1983); the title of the book shows Futuyama supported evolution, and the paragraph before this sentence says ‘Contrary to Creationist claims, the transitions among vertebrate species are almost all documented to a greater or lesser extent.’, and the paragraph after the quoted sentence says ‘But in view of the rapid pace evolution can take, and the extreme incompleteness of fossil deposits, we are fortunate to have as many transitions as we do. The creationist argument that if evolution were true we should have an abundance of intermediate fossils is built by denying the richness of paleontological collections, by denying the transitional series that exist, and by distorting, or misunderstanding, the genetical theory of evolution.’, ibid., pp. 190, 191.

[14] ‘The majority of major groups appear suddenly in the rocks, with virtually no evidence of transition from their ancestors.’, Futuyma, ‘Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution’, p. 82 (1983); on the next page Futuyma writes ‘The transitional forms that evolve so quickly, and in such a small area, are very unlikely to be picked up in the fossil record. Only when the newly evolved species extends its range will it suddenly appear in the fossil record. Eldredge and Gould have suggested, therefore, that the fossil record should show stasis, or equilibrium, of established species, punctuated occasionally by the appearance of new forms. Hence, the fossil record would be most inadequate exactly where we need it most — at the origin of major new groups of organisms.’, ibid., p. 83.

[15] ‘Paleontologists have paid an enormous price for Darwin’s argument. We fancy ourselves as the only true students of life’s history, yet to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we almost never see the very process we profess to study.’, Gould, ‘The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History’, p. 181 (1980); the next sentence says ‘We believe that Huxley was right in his warning. The modern theory of evolution does not require gradual change. In fact, the operation of Darwinian processes should yield exactly what we see in the fossil record. It is gradualism we should reject, not Darwinism.’, ibid., p. 181.

[16] ‘The fossil record had caused Darwin more grief than joy. Nothing distressed him more than the Cambrian explosion, the coincident appearance of almost all complex organic designs…’, ibid. pp. 238-239; Gould later writes ‘His opponents interpreted this event as the moment of creation, for not a single trace of Precambrian life had been discovered when Darwin wrote the Origin of Species. (We now have an extensive record of monerans from these early rocks, see essay 21).’, ibid., p. 239.

[17] ‘We have long known about stasis and abrupt appearance, but have chosen to fob it off upon an imperfect fossil record.’, Gould, ‘The Paradox of the First Tier: An Agenda for Paleobiology’, Paleobiology, (11.1.7), 1985; this is a corruption of what Gould actually wrote, which was ‘Just as we have long known about stasis and abrupt appearance, but have chosen to fob it off up on an imperfect fossil record, so too have we long recognized the rapid, if not sudden, turnover of faunas in episodes of mass extinction.’, ibid., p. 7.

[18] ‘In other words, when the assumed evolutionary processes did not match the pattern of fossils that they were supposed to have generated, the pattern was judged to be ‘wrong.’ A circular argument arises: interpret the fossil record in terms of a particular theory of evolution, inspect the interpretation, and note that it confirms the theory. Well, it would, wouldn’t it? …As is now well known, most fossil species appear instantaneously in the record, persist for some millions of years virtually unchanged, only to disappear abruptly – the ‘punctuated equilibrium’ pattern of Eldredge and Gould.’, Kemp, ‘A Fresh Look at the Fossil Record’, New Scientist  (108. 66), 1985; Kemp was criticizing an approach used by some earlier scientists (but abandoned by his time), not denying evolution or claiming that methods used by scientists are wrong, and his next sentence makes this clear, ‘Irrespective of one’s view of the biological causes of such a pattern (and there continues to be much debate about this), it leads in practice to description of long-term evolution, or macroevolution, in terms of the differential survival, extinction and proliferation of species. The species is the unit of evolution.’, ibid., p. 66.

[19] ‘In any case, no real evolutionist, whether gradualist or punctuationist, uses the fossil record as evidence in favour of the theory of evolution as opposed to special creation.” Mark, ‘Who doubts evolution?’ New Scientist, (90.831) 1981; statements from the article making it clear that Mark was actually arguing against special creation and pointing out that scientists use several lines of evidence to prove evolution (not simply the fossil records, which is the least important), include ‘Someone is getting it wrong, and it isn’t Darwin; it is the creationists and the media.’ (p. 830), ‘So what is the evidence that species have evolved? There have traditionally been three kinds of evidence, and it is these, not the “fossil evidence”, that the critics should be thinking about. The three arguments are from the observed evolution of species, from biogeography, and from the hierarchical structure of taxonomy.’ (p. 831), ‘These three are the clearest arguments for the mutability of species. Other defences of the theory of evolution could be made, not the least of which is the absence of a coherent alternative. Darwin’s theory is also uniquely able to account for both the presence of design, and the absence of design (vestigial organs), in nature.’ (p. 832).

[20] ‘On climate change, The Australian is behaving like the media equivalent of a fog machine. Its unreliable reporting should be avoided by those with an interest in factual scientific information.’, Jones, ‘Spinning uncertainty? The IPCC extreme weather report and the media’, The Conversation, 23 November 2011.

[21]The Australian has a daily column called Cut and Paste which should more properly be titled Quote Mining.’, Lambert, ‘The Australian’s War on Science 58: Quote Mining’, Deltoid, 4 February 2011.

[22] ‘Unfortunately for Kerr, [writer for The Australian] the report is available online, so we can see how Kerr quote mined it:.’, Lambert, ‘The Australian’s War on Science 63: Quote Mining’, Deltoid, 14 July 2011.


Errors at Religious Tolerance: Christianity and the environment

January 27, 2011

The website ‘Religious Tolerance‘ makes the following claims.

No matter how you describe yourself, you should find your beliefs and practices accurately represented in this website. Almost all other religious websites explain only the beliefs of the webmaster or sponsoring faith group. We are different: we try to explain accurately the full diversity of religious beliefs, worldviews, and systems of morality, ethics, and values. We hope that you will find our essays helpful and of interest.

They explain that ‘None of us has any formal education in theology‘, and ‘We know only a tiny bit about a wide range of religions and religious topics‘. Accordingly, they provide this disclaimer.

We will attempt to overcome our biases on each topic that we describe, by explaining each point of view carefully, respectfully and objectively. To this end, we have many of our essays reviewed by persons familiar with the issues who represent all sides of each topic. We encourage readers to Email us about any errors that they find. We do not regard any essay as fixed or complete.

The following email was sent to ‘Religious Tolerance’ on 22 September, 2010, in response to their articles on Christianity and the environment, which start here. To date no reply has been received and the articles have not been corrected.

Familiar with your site as I am, I was not surprised to read the articles on religion and the environment confined almost exclusively to the late twentieth century, omitting around 3,000 years of discussion of environmental ethics among Jewish, Christian, and Muslim sources. Passing references to White and Passmore (where is the reference to the twenty years of comprehensive criticism of White in the relevant literature?), and repeated quotes from a very slender selection of sources (three main works?), constituted virtually the entire discussion of the impact of the Judeo-Christian religious tradition on the environment and the formation of environmental ethics.

In your bibliography I found none of the standard current works on environmental ethics and praxis in the Judeo-Christian tradition. This article instead opens with a completely unsubstantiated claim dismissing the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures, without a single original source quotation and without a single scholarly reference. This is unfortunate, given that the oldest stratum of the Pentateuch (the ‘Yahwist’, c. 950 BCE), is recognized as containing an explicit environmental ethic restricting anthropological interference with the ecology,[1] and later developments of the ethic in the Primary History, Wisdom Literature, and the Major and Minor Prophets sought to balance anthropocentric and ecocentric concerns.[2] The article demonstrates no knowledge of the relevant primary or secondary literature.

Not only are these passages recognized in the relevant scholarly literature as having explicit ecological motivation,[3] but they were already recognized as such in Jewish commentary of the Second Temple Era. The later Tannaic commentary in the Mishnah (compiled during the third century CE), as well as the rabbinical commentary in Talmud Jerusalem and Talmud Babylon (complied between the third and fifth centuries CE), not only contain detailed ecological exegesis of the environmental ethic in the Torah, but also proscribe additional laws aimed at environmental protection, and articulate the tension between anthropocentric and ecocentric concerns.[4]

The Early Church Fathers are not to be dismissed either, containing some clearly ecocentric Biblical exposition, though occasionally combined with classical Hellenistic views less favourable to nature.[5] Extensive medieval rabbinical commentary on environmental ethics (which is treated very sparsely in the article to which I linked), is found in Rashi (1040-1105),[6] Maimonides (1135-1204),[7] Ibn Ezra (1089-1164),[8] Nachmanides (1194-1270),[9] and Abravanel (1437-1508),[10] among others. Again we find a balance of anthropocentric and ecocentric views, with an emphasis on balancing the two principles for the optimal benefit of both humans and their environment.

Within the later Christian tradition we find such historical examples as Francis of Assisi, the historic Peace Churches advocating harmonious partnership with the environment,[11] and ecological concern models expressed through various monastic orders and individuals,[12] such as Jonathan Swift, James Eliot, William Bartram, John Ruskin, and George Perkins Marsh (whose ‘Man and nature: or, Physical geography as modified by human action’ makes specific reference to deforestation as ‘war upon the garden of God’, 1865:279). The treatment of twentieth century Christian responses to environmental concerns is of course desperately inadequate, suffering from a lack of familiarity with the relevant scholarly literature and from crude quote mining of a tiny selection of works. Entire paragraphs appear without any substantiating references to the relevant scholarly literature at all, and the article is written in a tone, style, and depth of argumentation which does not even reach undergraduate level.

Whilst I appreciate your articles were very likely limited in scope and detail by the limitations on your personal resources, I believe they would benefit from a more balanced historical perspective if they used some of the sources I have referred to here.

[1] ‘the Yahwist subordinates human behavior to the larger ecosystem upon which human survival depends.’, Hibert (2000:150-151), cited by Conradie, ‘Christianity and Ecological Theology’, 2006:78.

[2] Fields to be left unfarmed one year of every seven (Exodus 23:10-11, Leviticus 25:3-7), young birds may be taken from their mother, but their mother must be left alone (Deuteronomy 22:6-7), an ox or sheep not to be slaughtered on the same day as their young (Leviticus 22:8), food bearing trees not to be harmed in war time, even if their destruction would be useful to the war effort (Deuteronomy 20:19), animals used commercially are not to be overburdened or exploited (Exodus 23:5, Deuteronomy 25:4), a righteous man takes care of his animals (Proverbs 12:10), et al.

[3] Sarna, ‘Exodus’, 1991:143; Tigay, ‘Deuteronomy’, 1996:201; Isaacs, ‘Exploring Jewish Ethics and Values’, 1999; Yaff, ‘Judaism and environmental ethics: a reader’, 2001; Hutterman, ‘Ecology in Ancient Judaism’, in Neusner, ‘Encyclopedia of Judaism’, 2000; Katz, ‘Judaism and Deep Ecology’, in Deep ecology and world religions: new essays on sacred grounds’, 2001; et al.

[4] Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13; Mishna Bava Bathra 2:9, 24b; Jerusalem Talmud, Kiddushin 12:12; Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 17b, et al.

[5] Santmire, ‘The travail of nature: the ambiguous ecological promise of Christian theology’, 1985; Boersema, ‘The Torah and the stoics on humankind and nature:’, 2001:222-227.

[6] Vogel, ‘How Green Is Judaism?’, in O’Brien & Paeth, ‘Religious Perspectives on Business Ethics: An Anthology’, 2006:261.

[7] Katz, ‘Judaism and Deep Ecology’, in Deep ecology and world religions: new essays on sacred grounds’, 2001; Rayner, ‘Judaism and Animal Welfare: Overview and Some Questions’, in Jacob & Zemer, ‘The environment in Jewish law: essays and responsa’, 2003:62-63l Bentley, ‘Urban Planning in Jewish Environmentalism’, in ibid., 45-55.

[8] Rayner, ‘Judaism and Animal Welfare: Overview and Some Questions’, in Jacob & Zemer, ‘The environment in Jewish law: essays and responsa’, 2003:60, 62; Vogel, ‘How Green Is Judaism?’, in O’Brien & Paeth, ‘Religious Perspectives on Business Ethics: An Anthology’, 2006:261.

[9] Vogel, ‘How Green Is Judaism?’, in O’Brien & Paeth, ‘Religious Perspectives on Business Ethics: An Anthology’, 2006:263-4.

[10] Vogel, ‘How Green Is Judaism?’, in O’Brien & Paeth, ‘Religious Perspectives on Business Ethics: An Anthology’, 2006:263.

[11] ‘For Mennonites (one of the historic peace churches) the theme of “peace with the creation” had powerful resonance (see Redekop 2000).’, Haluza-DeLay, ‘Churches Engaging the Environment: An Autoethnography of Obstacles and Opportunities’, Human Ecology Review (15.1.75), 2008.

[12] ‘Many authors (including Lynn White) have pointed to St. Francis of Assisi as an example for ecologically sensitive practice. Dubos (1974) and others have highlighted the Benedictine monks, characterizing them as conservationists to the Franciscan preservationists (stewardship compared to partnership in Rasmussen’s (1991) terms). There are numerous additional exemplars (Attfield 1983; Oelschlaeger 1994).’, ibid., 78.


Errors at Religious Tolerance: Gnosticism

January 25, 2011

The website ‘Religious Tolerance‘ makes the following claims.

No matter how you describe yourself, you should find your beliefs and practices accurately represented in this website. Almost all other religious websites explain only the beliefs of the webmaster or sponsoring faith group. We are different: we try to explain accurately the full diversity of religious beliefs, worldviews, and systems of morality, ethics, and values. We hope that you will find our essays helpful and of interest.

They explain that ‘None of us has any formal education in theology‘, and ‘We know only a tiny bit about a wide range of religions and religious topics‘. Accordingly, they provide this disclaimer.

We will attempt to overcome our biases on each topic that we describe, by explaining each point of view carefully, respectfully and objectively. To this end, we have many of our essays reviewed by persons familiar with the issues who represent all sides of each topic. We encourage readers to Email us about any errors that they find. We do not regard any essay as fixed or complete.

This article examines a number of their claims concerning Gnosticism.

“Gnosticism consisted of many syncretistic belief systems which combined elements taken from Asian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek and Syrian pagan religions, from astrology, and from Judaism and Christianity. They constituted one of the three main branches of early Christianity:” (source)

False. Gnosticism was not ‘one of the three main branches of early Christianity’.[1] It certainly did not pre-date Christianity.[2] [3] [4] It did even not exist as a religious movement in the 1st century.[5]

Simon Magus: He was one of the earliest Gnostics He was skilled in the arts of magic. He interpreted the Garden of Eden, exodus from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea as allegories.” (source)

False. There is no evidence at all that Simon ‘was one of the earliest Gnostics’. The earliest texts associating Simon with Gnosticism do not appear until the mid-2nd century, and are considered unreliable for the purpose of establishing what Simon really believed.[6] [7] There is certainly no evidence as to how Simon interpreted the garden of Eden, the Exodus, or the crossing of the Red Sea.[8]

“Some Gnostic beliefs and leaders may have infiltrated Pauline Christianity and influenced the authors of the Christian Scriptures (New Testament)” (source)

False. Christianity in the 1st century was neither influenced nor infiltrated by Gnostic beliefs and leaders.[9] [10] [11] [12]

This article was emailed to ‘Religious Tolerance’ on 5 June, 2010. Expressing thanks for the information, they advised that technical difficulties prevented them from editing the pages promptly. To date the pages have not been corrected.

[1] ‘Egypt has yielded early written evidence of Jewish, Christian, and pagan religion. It has preserved works of Manichaean and other Gnostic sects, but these are all considerably later than the rise of Christianity.’, Unger, ‘The Role of Archaeology  in the Study Of the New Testament’, Bibliotheca Sacra (116.462.153), (1996)

[2] ‘Even if it could be proven that any of the previously discussed works or, for that matter, any of the NH tractates are non-Christian Gnostic documents, that would not in itself be evidence for pre-Christian Gnosticism.’, Combs, ‘Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism and New Testament Interpretation’, Grace Theological Journal (8.2.207-208)

[3] ‘And even if we are on solid ground in some cases in arguing the original works represented in the library are much older than extant copies, we are still unable to postulate plausibly any pre-Christian dates.’, McRae, ‘Nag Hammadi and the New Testament’, pp. 146–47, in Combs, ‘Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism and New Testament Interpretation’, Grace Theological Journal (8.2.208)

[4]‘But it is now widely agreed that the quest for a pre-Christian Gnosticism, properly so called, has proved to be a wild goose chase.’, Dunn, ‘The Cambridge Companion to St. Paul’, p. 9 (2003)

[5] ‘If in all likelihood, with the possible exception of the Simonians, there was no such thing as a rival Gnostic movement within or competing with Pauline Christianity, the question arises whether there ever was a specific Gnostic myth as an entity of its own.’, Lüdeman, ‘Primitive Christianity: A Survey of Recent Studies and Some New Proposals’, p. 151 (2003)

[6]From the 2nd–4th cent A.D. Simon came to be regarded as the father of GNOSTICISM (IrenaeusAdvhaer i.23.2, 27.1; Epiphanius Haer. xxi.7.2; xxvii.2.1). It is a matter of scholarly debate, however, whether the historical Simon was actually a Gnostic.’, Bromiley, ‘The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia’, volume 4, p. 516 (rev. ed. 2002)

[7]There is much dispute about Simon Magus’ relationship to Gnosticism and, in particular, to the 2nd-cent. sect of Simonians, to whom, rather than to Simon himself, the Apophasis is prob. to be ascribed.’, Cross & Livingstone, ‘The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church’, p. 1513 (3rd rev. ed. 2005)

[8] ‘Questions concerning the religious-historical evaluation of Simon Magus (the father of Gnosticism?) can hardly be answered with any certainty now.’, Balz & Schneider, ‘Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament’, volume 3, p. 245 (1990)

[9] ‘It is precarious, as Edwin Yamauchi and others have shown, to assume gnostic backgrounds for New Testament books. Although the phrase, “falsely called knowledge,” in 1 Timothy 6:20 contains the Greek word gnosis, this was the common word for knowledge.’, Liefeld, ‘1 Timothy 2:12 – A Classicist’s View’, in Mickelsen, ‘Women, Authority & The Bible’, p. 246 (1986)

[10] ‘The full-fledged Gnosticism of later church history did not exist in the first century A.D.21 An incipient form of Gnosticism was present, but Schmithals makes the error of reading later Gnosticism into the first century documents.’, Schreiner, ‘Interpreting the Pauline Epistles’, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (3.3.10), (Fall 1999)

[11] ‘Some modern researchers suggest that several NT and related texts evidence contact with “Gnosticism” in various stages of its development. Texts that especially stand out are Paul’s Corinthian correspondence, Colossians, Ephesians, the Pastoral Epistles, Jude, 2 Peter, and the letters of Ignatius of Antioch (d. ca. 115) and Polycarp of Smyrna (d. ca. 165) among others. But even here the issues discussed are diverse, demonstrating a complex assortment of competing new religious movements, but no evidence of “Gnosticism.”’, Freedman (ed.), ‘Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible’, p. 509 (2000)

[12]Scholarship must in all likelihood abandon the hypothesis that a cohesive Gnostic movement204 is reflected in Paul’s letters.’, Lüdeman, ‘Primitive Christianity: A Survey of Recent Studies and Some New Proposals’, p. 150 (2003)


Article: The Book of Daniel (5/20)

May 22, 2007

Daniel: The History

The largest number of criticisms aimed at Daniel are allegations that the book contains numerous historical inaccuracies. It is worth noting that archaeological evidence over the last 130 years or so has disproved a number of these allegations, but they are frequently repeated by atheists and skeptics without reference to evidence which contradicts them.

In this section the historical issues in Daniel will be addressed chapter by chapter.

Historical Issues In Daniel One

  • The spelling of Nebuchadnezzar’s name (Daniel 1:1 and throughout)
  • The identification of Nebuchadnezzar as ‘king’ during the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim (Daniel 1:1)
  • The seige of Jerusalem (Daniel 1:1-2)
  • The names of Daniel and his friends (Daniel 1:6-7)

Nebuchadnezzar’s Name

Critics have claimed that Nebuchadnezzar’s name is spelled incorrectly in Daniel:

‘It has been claimed (by Taylor (citing Dummelow in Taylor [2], Sierichs, and others) that the book of Daniel can’t even spell the name of Nebuchadnezzar correctly because it uses an n rather than an r. [Porteus, 26; Dummelow, 530; Farrar, 20]’

David Conklin, ‘Evidences Relating to the Date of the Book of Daniel’, 2000

There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate this objection to be spurious:

‘However, Millard points out that a study done in 1975 demonstrates “that the writing with n is not improper for Hebrew“. [Millard (1977): 73; the 1975 study was by P. R. Berger in the Zeitschrift fur Assyriologie, vol 64, pages 224-34; Goldingay, 4 note 1–the “Heb. spelling can be explained philologically.”] See also the article on Nebuchadnezzar by LaSor in the ISBE.

He notes that the LXX supports the use of the n [Nabuchodonosor] and that Jeremiah uses both spellings in chapters 27-29. [LaSor, 506] Wiseman simply refers to the Biblical spelling as a “variant.” [Wiseman, 552]

BTW, the Greeks spelt it “both” ways: Nabochodonosor and Nabokodrosoros. [Baldwin (1978a): 78] In Aramaic it is Nebukadnessar–note the use of n in both the Aramaic and Greek.’

David Conklin, ‘Evidences Relating to the Date of the Book of Daniel’, 2000

Article here.


Article: The Book of Daniel (3/20)

May 18, 2007

Daniel: The Language

In an oft quoted challenge to the language in the book of Daniel, SR Driver alleges (emphasis in original):

‘The Persian words presuppose a period after the Persian Empire had been well established; the Greek words demand, the Hebrew supports, and the Aramaic permits, a date after the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great (332 B.C.)’

SR Driver, ‘An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament’, page 508, reprint 1956, originally printed 1891

It is incredible to see this claim being repeated by contemporary critics of Daniel, especially since it was originally made in 1891, and has been comprehensively refuted for decades. Indeed, Pusey’s own massive research into the language of Daniel (1886), pre-empted many of Driver’s arguments, but does not appear to have been addressed by Driver.

The first issue to note is that the book of Daniel was undoubtedly written in the Persian era. The events of the Babylonian era are spoken of in the past tense, and the last king referred to as contemporary with Daniel is ‘Cyrus king of Persia’, the last vision which Daniel receives being in the third year of his reign (Daniel 10:1), around 539 BC. The book cannot have been written earlier than this date, which is in the early Persian era.

Our expectations of the language used in Daniel should therefore be governed by this fact. We would expect to find the following general features of language in Daniel:

* Chaldean (Babylonian), used accurately but not predominantly
* Persian words and phrases used frequently, even to describe events which took place in the Babylonian era
* Aramaic which is in greater agreement with the exilic than the post-exilic era
* An almost complete lack of Greek terms

This is, in fact, exactly what we find.

Article here.


Article: The Book of Daniel (2/20)

May 18, 2007

Daniel: The Canon

Critics argue against the canonicity of Daniel on two main grounds. The first is the claim that the Jews themselves did not accept Daniel as a prophetic book until long after the Old Testament canon was closed.

This argument fails to take into account the fact that although the present position of the book of Daniel in the Masoretic compilation of the Henrew Scriptures is among the ‘Writings’ (not the ‘Prophets’), this was not the original position of the book of Daniel within the Hebrew canon. Critics who use this argument assume that since Daniel is placed among the ‘Writings’ of the Masoretic compilation, it has always been there.

In doing so they display ignorance of the fact that the earlier placement of Daniel was in fact placed within the other books of prophecy as early as the LXX. In addition, it was included in the prophetic canon of the early Qumran community (from at least 100 BC onwards), and Josephus makes explicit reference to the book of Daniel as one of the prophetic works, proving that it was already recognised as such well before the 1st century:

‘Josephus, writing in c. 95 A.D., includes Daniel as one of the Prophets in his accounting of the composition of the Hebrew canon.

This is in his Contra Apion (Against the Jews) I, 38-39 [8] and Antiquities, X, 11, 17. [Archer (1985): 7-8; Audet, 145; see also Barnes, 38-9] BTW, Josephus (Antiquities, b. xi. ch. viii. 3-8, 21, 22; xi. 3, 4) also describes an incident during the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great (332 B.C.; i.e., about 175 years before the commonly accepted date of 164 B.C. for the composition of Daniel) in which priests from Jerusalem met him and showed him the prophecies of Daniel concerning a Greek conquering the Persian empire. [Barnes, 54-5; Metzger, 219] “In all the sources of the first century A.D.–Matthew, Josephus, [and the] Qumran–Daniel is reckoned among the prophets.” [Koch, 123]’

David Conklin, ‘Evidences Relating to the Date of the Book of Daniel’, 2000

Article here.