Couple things to keep in mind as you read. Firstly, while this is an example of a “religious war, most wars are not:
(CAUSES OF WARS) A recent comprehensive compilation of the history of human warfare, Encyclopedia of Wars by Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod documents 1763 wars, of which 123 have been classified to involve a religious conflict. So, what atheists have considered to be ‘most’ really amounts to less than 7% of all wars. It is interesting to note that 66 of these wars (more than 50%) involved Islam, which did not even exist as a religion for the first 3,000 years of recorded human warfare. Even the Seven Years’ War, widely recognized to be “religious” in motivation, noting that the warring factions were not necessarily split along confessional lines as much as along secular interests. Even the Seven Years’ War, widely recognized to be “religious” in motivation, noting that the warring factions were not necessarily split along confessional lines as much as along secular interests. And the Thirty Years’ War cannot be viewed as “religious” in that you should find certain aspects if this were the case….
(STAND TO REASON) Not only were students able to demonstrate the paucity of evidence for this claim, but we helped them discover that the facts of history show the opposite: religion is the cause of a very small minority of wars. Phillips and Axelrod’s three-volumeEncyclopedia of Wars lays out the simple facts. In 5 millennia worth of wars—1,763 total—only 123 (or about 7%) were religious in nature (according to author Vox Day in the book The Irrational Atheist). If you remove the 66 wars waged in the name of Islam, it cuts the number down to a little more than 3%. A second [6-volume] scholarly source, The Encyclopedia of War edited by Gordon Martel, confirms this data, concluding that only 6% of the wars listed in its pages can be labelled religious wars. Thirdly, William Cavanaugh’s book, The Myth of Religious Violence, exposes the “wars of religion” claim. And finally, a recent report (2014) from the Institute for Economics and Peace further debunks this myth.
Alan Axelrod & Charles Phillips, Encyclopedia of Wars, 3 volumes (New York, NY: Facts on File, 2005);
The General History of the Late War (Volume 3); Containing It’s Rise, Progress, and Event, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America (No Publisher [see here], date of publication was from about 1765-1766), 110;
William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009).
Gordon Martel, The Encyclopedia of War, 5 Volumes (New Jersey, NJ: Wiley, 2012).
The other thing to keep in mind, “religious wars” is often over-used by atheists… one honest atheist notes the following:
Atheists often claim that religion fuels aggressive wars, both because it exacerbates antagonisms between opponents and also because it gives aggressors confidence by making them feel as if they have God on their side. Lots of wars certainly look as if they are motivated by religion. Just think about conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, the Balkans, the Asian subcontinent, Indonesia, and various parts of Africa. However, none of these wars is exclusively religious. They always involve political, economic, and ethnic disputes as well. That makes it hard to specify how much [of a] role, if any, religion itself had in causing any particular war. Defenders of religion argue that religious language is misused to justify what warmongers wanted to do independently of religion. This hypothesis might seem implausible to some, but it is hard to refute, partly because we do not have enough data points, and there is so much variation among wars.
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Morality Without God? (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009), 33-34.
In France, following the Reformation, Calvinists known as Huguenots sprang up in large numbers. The Roman Catholic establishment persecuted them. Manipulated by French political leaders, the Huguenots rose to defend their rights. Their behavior and methods in turn outraged Catholics. War ravaged France. Although fewer in numbers than their foes, the Huguenots fought so fiercely they managed to extract concessions which allowed them to build churches and manage affairs in cities where they had majorities. But the bloodshed imprinted lasting animosity between Protestants and the Catholic majority.
Out of this smoldering hatred flared up one of the most regrettable events of church history. On August 22, 1572 an attempt was made in Paris to assassinate Huguenot leader and French patriot Coligny. Wounded, he returned home to recover. Accounts disagree as to what happened next and who was responsible. Late on this day, August 23, 1572, armed men, led by the Guises, broke into Coligny’s apartment, overcame the fierce resistance of his guards and killed him. Coligny’s death was the signal for a general butchery of the Huguenots. This atrocity is known to history as the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre because it lasted well into that saint’s day.
Catholics slaughtered Huguenots in cold blood into the morning of the 24th in Paris and for days in outlying regions. As many as 70,000 perished. The rest fled to fortified cities and fought back. Their movement became known as La Cause (The Cause) and pitted them against The Holy League (La Sainte Ligue). Brutal fighting raged across the French kingdom.
Charles IX publicly claimed he had ordered the massacre. Certainly the Paris constabulary were warned in advance to prepare for disturbances. Many historians have seen the plot as the work of Catherine de Medici, who felt her power threatened. Possibly Charles, by taking credit, was trying to reap a political benefit from the gruesome event. If so, he won no plaudits outside Catholic regions. Pope Gregory XIII struck a special medallion to commemorate the “holy” act but most other European reaction was horrified. Charles himself suffered psychological agonies from the affair.
The Massacre of St. Bartholomew was not the end of the matter. When the Protestant Henry of Navarre converted to Catholicism in order to become king, he granted his Huguenot compatriots a number of rights under the Edict of Nantes. These rights were gradually eroded, more Huguenot revolts occurred and, finally, 400,000 fled the country into voluntary exile under Louis XIV.
These people were part of the influence (among others) in early America and Canada:
Following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, there occurred the greatest migration of peoples in the history of the world. More than 600,000 went to Holland, Belgique, England, Ireland, Austria, Russia, South and North America. The largest numbers came to Canada and the American Colonies; and of this number, the largest came to New England and New Netherlands. (HISTORY BOX)
Here is an excerpt from the Encyclopedia of War on the “Religious War” #’s 1-9:
Alan Axelrod & Charles Phillips, Encyclopedia of Wars, Vol II (New York, NY: Facts On File, 2005), 931-936.
Huguenots Fight To Survive
On March 1, 1562, supporters of the Catholic duke Francois de Guise (1519-63) killed a congregation of Protestants at Vassy. This massacre was instigated by the granting of limited toleration to the Protestants by Catherine de’ Medici (1519-85), the queen mother who took control of the throne at the death of King Francis II (154460). The Catholics, under Francois de Guise, the Constable de Montmorency (Anne, duc de Montmorency; 14931567), and Prince Antoine de Bourbon (1518-62), king of Navarre, and the Protestants, under Louis I de Bourbon, prince of Conde (1530-69), and Comte Gaspard de Col-igny (1519-72), admiral of France, were soon pitted against each other in a battle known as the First War of Religion. Louis de Conde and Gaspard de Coligny ordered the Huguenots to seize Orleans to retaliate for the Vassy massacre and called on all Protestants in France to rebel. In September 1562, the English sent John Dudley (fl. 16th century) of Warwick to help the Huguenots, and his force captured Le Havre. About one month later, the Catholics defeated Rouen, a Protestant stronghold. One of the leaders of the Catholic movement, Antoine de Bourbon, was killed during the attack. The Huguenots continued to rise in rebellion, and in December 15,000 Protestants under Conde and Coligny marched north to join the English troops at Le Havre. En route, they encountered about 19,000 Catholics at Dreux. The Catholics under Guise were victorious, but one of their leaders, Montmorency, was captured, as was the Protestant leader Conde. On February 18, 1563, Guise was killed while besieging Orleans. Peace was finally secured in March when Montmorency and Conde, both prisoners since the Battle of Dreux, negotiated a settlement at the request of Queen. Catherine. The Peace of Amboise stipulated a degree of tolerance. The opposing sides then combined forces to push the English from Le Havre, which fell on July 28, 1563.
The Peace of Amboise (July 28, 1563), which stipulated a greater degree of tolerance between the Catholics and the Huguenots in France, ended the First WAR OF RELIGION. However, peace lasted only four years. On September 29, 1567, the Huguenots under Louis de Bourbon, prince de Conde (1530-69), and Comte Gaspard de Coligny (1519-72) tried to capture the royal family at Meaux. Although they were unsuccessful, other Protestant bands threatened Paris and captured Orleans, Assent, Vienne, Valence, Nimes, Montpellier, and Montaubon. At the Battle of St. Denis, a force of 16,000 men under Constable de Montmorency (Anne, duc de Montmorency; 1493-1567), attacked Conde’s small army of 3,500. Despite the long odds, the Huguenots managed to remain on the field for several hours. Montmorency, aged 74, was killed during the fray. This war ended on March 23, 1568, with the Peace of Longjumeau by which the Huguenots gained substantial concessions from Queen Catherine de’ Medici (1519-85).
The Third War of Religion broke out on August 18, 1568, when Catholics attempted to capture Louis de Bourbon, prince de Conde (1530-69), and Comte Gaspard de Coligny (1519-72), the primary Protestant leaders. The Royalist Catholics continued to suppress Protestantism. Sporadic fighting occurred throughout the Loire Valley for the remainder of 1568. In March 1569, the Royalists under Marshal Gaspard de Tavannes (1509-73) engaged in battle with Condes forces in the region between Angouleme and Cognac. Later in March, Tavanne crossed the Charente River near Chateauneuf and soundly defeated the Huguenots at the Battle of Jarmac. Although Conde was captured and murdered, Coligny managed to withdraw a portion of the Protestant army in good order. About three months later, help for the Huguenots arrived in the form of 13,000 German Protestant reinforcements. This enlarged force laid siege to Poitiers. Then on August 24, 1569, Col-igny sent Comte Gabriel de Montgomery (c. 1530-74) to Orthez, where he repulsed a Royalist invasion of French-held Navarre and defeated Catholic forces arranged against him. Royalist marshal Tavanne then relieved Poitiers and forced Coligny to raise the siege. The major battle of the Third War of Religion occurred on October 3, 1569, at Moncontour. The Royalists, aided by a force of Swiss sympathizers, forced the Huguenot cavalry off the field and then crushed the Huguenot infantry. The Huguenots lost about 8,000, whereas Royalist losses numbered about 1,000. The following year, however, Coligny marched his Huguenot forces through central France from April through June and began threatening Paris. These actions forced the Peace of St. Germain, which granted many religious freedoms to the Protestants.
A massacre of 3,000 Protestants and their leader Louis de Bourbon, prince of Conde (1530-69), precipitated the outbreak of the Fourth War of Religion between Catholics and Protestants in France. After the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve in Paris, August 24, 1572, Prince Henry IV of Navarre (1553-1610) took charge of the Protestant forces. Marked primarily by a long siege of La Rochelle by Royalist forces under another Prince Henry, the younger brother of Charles IX (1550-74), this Fourth War of Religion resulted in the Protestants’ gaining military control over most of southwest France. However, at least 3,000 more Huguenots were massacred in the provinces before the war ended.
The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre outraged even Catholic moderates, who, seeking to counter the extremes of the Catholic Royalists, formed a new political party, the Politiques, to negotiate with the Protestants and establish peace and national unity.
Protestants and Catholics in France had been fighting sporadically since 1562 in the First War of RELIGION, the Second War of RELIGION, the Third War of RELIGION, and the Fourth War of RELIGION when violence again erupted in 1575. In the most important action of this war, Henry, duc de Guise (1555-88), led the Catholic Royalists to victory at the Battle of Dorman. Aligned against Guise, however, were not only the Protestants under Henry IV of Navarre (1553-1610) but also the Politiques, moderate Catholics who wanted the king to make peace with the Protestants and restore national unity. Henry III (1551-89) was not wholeheartedly in support of Guise, and he offered pledges of more religious freedom to the Protestants at the Peace of Mousieur, signed on May 5,1576. Guise refused to accept the terms of the peace and began negotiating with Philip II (1527-98) of Spain to organize a Holy League and secure Spain’s help in capturing the French throne.
The Sixth War of Religion between the Catholics and Protestants in France included only one campaign and was settled by the Peace of Bergerac of 1577. During this period, Henry III (1551-89) tried to persuade the Holy League, formed in 1576 by Catholic leader Henry, duke de Guise (1555-88), and Philip II (1527-98) of Spain, to support an attack on the Protestants. Henry succeeded in subduing the Protestants but wavered in his determination to carry out the terms of the Peace of Bergerac.
The Seventh War of Religion in 1580, also known as the “Lovers’ War,” had little to do with hostilities between the Catholics and Protestants. Instead fighting was instigated by the actions of Margaret, the promiscuous wife of Henry IV of Navarre (1553-1610). Over the next five years, Catholics, Protestants, and the moderate Politiques (see RELIGION, FOURTH WAR OF; RELIGION, FIFTH WAR OF) all engaged in intrigue in their attempts to name a successor to the childless Henry III. Although Henry of Navarre was next in line by direct heredity, the Holy League maneuvered to ensure that Henry, duc de Guise, would gain the throne after the reign of Charles de Bourbon (1566-1612), proposed as the successor to Henry III.
Battle of Coutas (October 20th, 1587 ~ During the Eight War)
The Eighth War of Religion, also known as the “War of the Three Henrys,” pitted the Royalist Henry III (1551-89), Henry of Navarre (1553-1610), and Henry de Guise (1555-88) against each other in a struggle over succession to the French throne. The war began when Henry III withdrew many of the concessions he had granted to the Protestants during his reign. At the Battle of Coutras on October 20, 1587, the army of Henry of Navarre, 1,500 cavalry and 5,000 infantry, smashed the Royalist cavalry-1,700 lancers—and 7,000 infantry. More than 3,000 Royalists were killed; Protestant deaths totaled 200. Especially effective against the Royalist was the massed fire of the Protestant arquebuses, primitive muskets.
Despite the Protestant victory at Coutras, the Catholics under Henry of Guise prevailed at Vimoy and Auneau and checked the advance of a German army marching into the Loire Valley to aid to Protestants. Henry’s next victory was in Paris, where he forced the king to capitulate in May 1588. In subsequent intrigues, Henry de Guise and his brother Cardinal Louis I de Guise (1527-78) were assassinated. Fleeing the Catholics’ rage over the murders, Henry Ill sought refuge with Protestant leader Henry of Navarre. The king failed to find permanent safety and was assassinated, stabbed to death, by a Catholic monk on August 2, 1589. On his deathbed, the king named Henry of Navarre his successor. The Catholics refused to acknowledge him king, insisting instead that Cardinal Charles de Bourbon (1566-1612) was the rightful ruler of France. This conflict sparked the NINTH WAR OF RELIGION.
The naming of Henry of Navarre (1553-1610) as successor to the French throne sparked the final War of Religion between Protestant Huguenots and Catholics in France. Insisting that Charles, duke de Bourbon (1566-1612), was the rightful successor to Henry III (1551-89), the Catholics enlisted the aid of the Spanish. Charles, duke of Mayenne (1554-1611), the younger brother of Henry of Guise (1555-88), led the Catholic efforts.
At the Battle of Argues on September 21,1589, Henry of Navarre (1553-1660) ambushed Mayenne’s army of 24,000 French Catholic and Spanish soldiers. Having lost 600 men, Mayenne withdrew to Amiens, while the victorious Navarre, whose casualties numbered 200 killed or wounded, rushed toward Paris.
A Catholic garrison near Paris repulsed Navarre’s advance on November 1, 1589. Not to be daunted in his quest for the throne, Henry withdrew but promptly proclaimed himself Henry IV and established a temporary capital at Tours.
Henry of Navarre won another important battle at Ivry on March 14, matching 11,000 troops against Mayenne’s 19,000. Mayenne lost 3,800 killed, whereas Navarre suffered only 500 casualties.
Civil war continued unabated. Between May and August 1590, Paris was reduced to near starvation during Navarre’s siege of the city. Maneuvers continued, especially in northern France until May 1592; however, in July 1593 Henry of Navarre reunited most of the French populace by declaring his return to the Catholic faith. His army then turned to counter a threat of invasion by Spain and the French Catholics allied with Mayenne.
On March 21, 1594, Henry of Navarre entered Paris in triumph and over the next few years battled the invading Spanish: at Fontaine-Francaise on June 9, 1596, at Calais on April 9, 1596, and at Amiens on September 17, 1596. No further major campaigns ensued.
On April 13, 1598, Henry of Navarre ended the decades of violence between the Catholics and the Protestants by issuing the Edict of Nantes, whereby he granted religious freedom to the Protestants. Then on May 2, 1598, the war with Spain ended with the Treaty of Vervins, whereby Spain recognized Henry as king of France. The next major conflict between the Catholics and Protestants in France occurred 27 years later when the Protestants rose in revolt in 1625 and the English joined their cause in the ANGLO-FRENCH WAR (1627-1628).
➤ Further reading: R. J. Knecht, The French Civil Wars, 1562-1598 (New York: Pearson Education, 2000); R. J. Knecht and Mabel Segun, French Wars of Religion (New York: Addison-Wesley Longman, 1996).
Just a quick response to a skeptic elsewhere online…
A person in a group I am a part of posted the following link as a challenge. I focus on number three in my response:
(Site linked in above graphic)
I responded thus…
Already #3 is an issue. Most of what we as a society determine to be truth, especially from ancient documents that discuss history, is not is testable, repeatable, and falsifiable in scientific terms. For instance:
✦ “What are the distinctive sources for our beliefs about the past? Most of the beliefs we have about the past come to us by the testimony of other people. I wasn’t present at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I didn’t see my father fight in the [S]econd [W]orld [W]ar. I have been told about these events by sources that I take to be reliable. The testimony of others is generally the main source of our beliefs about the past…. So all our beliefs about the past depend on testimony, or memory, or both.” (Philosophy for Dummies, by Tom Morris, pp. 57-58)
✦ “In advanced societies specialization in the gathering and production of knowledge and its wider dissemination through spoken and written testimony is a fundamental socio-epistemic fact, and a very large part of each persons body of knowledge and belief stems from testimony.” (The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, edited by Robert Audi [2nd ed.], p. 909)
✦ “But it is clear that most of what any given individual knows comes from others; palpably with knowledge of history, geography, or science, more subtly with knowledge about every day facts such as when we were born..” (The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, edited by Ted Honderich, p. 869)
An example of this is discussed many years ago by CS Lewis, when he writes:
➤ “what Napoleon did at the battle of Austerlitz by asking Mr. Bonaparte to come and fight it again in a “laboratory with the same combatants, the same terrain, the same weather, and in the same age…. You have to go to the records. We have not, in fact, proved that science excludes miracles: we have only proved that the question of miracles, like the innumerable other questions, excludes laboratory treatment” ~ C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1970), 134.
★ “A page for freethinking, rational skepticism toward the myth of Abraham Lincoln’s existence and the stories attributed to him…. Belief in Abraham Lincoln is the most malevolent of all mind viruses.”
May I also note the lack of anything historically sound in this anti-theist site about Hitler. Their page on Hitler is really bad: “Hitler, atheist or Christian?“. I LOL’ed at the pic of Hitler and Christmas. I bet with a simple google search I can find a Satanist celebrating Christmas. At any rate, I did a final update to a post on my site discussing Hitler and these very subjects:
May I say that as our country was more religious, free speech was always understood well. Today, as society becomes more secular/atheistic… students need safe spaces to have a place to display their infantilization and routinely shut down dissenting ideas/speech. Religion (esp. the Judeo-Christian faith) creates courage in character expressed in community… secularism/atheism creates selfish ideals of a reality lived in a bubble. Even Richard Dawkins (famed atheist) said this of Christianity: “I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.”
After someone posted this meme, a person said:
“Amen! There is no God!”
(He meant no Christian God specifically as it is a predominately Christian Facebook group).
Now, I realize the original poster of the meme was not aware that this cuts both ways… and the atheist was merely pointing this out humorously. But this serves as a lesson EVEN FOR ATHEISTS.
So I replied:
I don’t know how someone could say “amen” to there not being a Judeo-Christian God? When comparing it to other worldview (say, pantheism, panentheism, finite godism, polytheism, etc), they have done almost zip for their respective societies.
Healthcare (nurses, hospitals, and is still the largest healthcare provider in the world), tackling the illiteracy problems as well as drunkeness (for instance the YMCA and Salvation ARMY and AA), education (all the leading universities like: Harvard, Yale, William and Mary, Princeton, Cambridge, and Westminster, etc… were founded as seminaries — so-to-speak — same goes for the medieval universities: University of Bologna, Oxford, University of Paris, etc.), languages unified in many nations across the globe by missionaries (Bengali is one example, other indigenous languages were preserved by [one example] William Carey, who because he unified the languages in India… the government formed for the first time a language that could include the general population in being involved), Historian Alvin Schmidt points out how the spread of Christianity and Christian influence on government was primarily responsible for outlawing infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion in the Roman Empire (in AD 374); outlawing the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators had died (in 404); outlawing the cruel punishment of branding the faces of criminals (in 315); instituting prison reforms such as the segregating of male and female prisoners (by 361); stopping the practice of human sacrifice among the Irish, the Prussians, and the Lithuanians as well as among other nations; outlawing pedophilia; granting of property rights and other protections to women; banning polygamy (which is still practiced in some Muslim nations today); prohibiting the burning alive of widows in India (in 1829); outlawing the painful and crippling practice of binding young women’s feet in China (in 1912); persuading government officials to begin a system of public schools in Germany (in the sixteenth century); and advancing the idea of compulsory education of all children in a number of European countries.
Etc., etc., etc….
There was also strong influence from Christian ideas and influential Christians in the formulation of the Magna Carta in England (1215) and of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Constitution (1787) in the United States. These are three of the most significant documents in the history of governments on the earth, and all three show the marks of significant Christian influence in the foundational ideas of how governments should function.
This is important because….
The World Forum on Democracy reports that in 1950 there were 22 democracies accounting for 31% of the world population and a further 21 states with restricted democratic practices, accounting for 11.9% of the globe’s population. Since the turn of the century, electoral democracies now represent 120 of the 192 existing countries and constitute 58.2% of the world’s population.
The impact of this Christian founded nation and Christians on Democracy and the ending of slavery for the first time in world history is nothing short of miraculous.
What have non-God [atheistic worldview] type governments done????????
They have done in one century what all of the worlds religions could not accomplish in the previous 19-centuries… kill a record number of people.
[Yes, that includes the newest and most deadly religion in the stats — Islam. Out of all the religious wars in written world history… Islam claims almost 2/3rds of them. But this can be expected from it’s founder who slit the throats of men, women, and children.]
THREE Books To Read:
✦ How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity, by Rodney Stark; ✦ How Christianity Changed the World, by Alvin Schmidt; ✦ The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, by Vishal Mangalwadi.
The above was my quick response on Facebook… here is another great short list from Life Coach for Coach:
Hospitals, which essentially began during the Middle Ages.
Universities, which also began during the Middle Ages. In addition, most of the world’s greatest universities were started for Christian purposes.
Literacy and education for the masses.
Capitalism and free enterprise.
Representative government, particularly as it has been seen in the American experiment.
The separation of political powers.
The abolition of slavery, both in antiquity and in more modern times.
The discovery of the New World by Columbus.
The elevation of women.
Benevolence and charity; the good Samaritan ethic.
Higher standards of justice.
The elevation of common man.
The condemnation of adultery, homosexuality, and other sexual perversions. This has helped to preserve the human race, and it has spared many from heartache.
High regard for human life.
The civilizing of many barbarian and primitive cultures.
The codifying and setting to writing of many of the world’s languages.
Greater development of art and music. The inspiration for the greatest works of art.
The countless changed lives transformed from liabilities into assets to society because of the gospel.
The eternal salvation of countless souls.
The last one mentioned, the salvation of souls, is the primary goal of the spread of Christianity. All the other benefits listed are basically just by-products of what Christianity has often brought when applied to daily living.
When Jesus Christ took upon Himself the form of a man, He imbued mankind with dignity and inherent value that had never been dreamed of before.Whatever Jesus touched or whatever He did transformed that aspect of human life.
Many are familiar with the 1946 film classic It’s a Wonderful Life, wherein the character played by Jimmy Stewart gets a chance to see what life would be like had he never been born. The main point of the film is that each person’s life has an impact on everybody else’s life. Had they never been born, there would be gaping holes left by their absence. Jesus has had an enormous impact—more than anybody else—in history. Had he never come, the hole would be a canyon about the size of a continent.
Schmidt quotes Lynn White, historian of medieval science, as saying “From the thirteenth century onward into the eighteenth every major scientist, in effect, explained his motivations in religious terms” (222). William Occam (1280-1349) had a great influence on the development of modern science. His concept known as “Occam’s Razor” was the scientific principle that states that what can be done or explained with the fewest assumptions should be used. It is the principle of parsimony. As was common with almost all medieval natural philosophers, Occam did not confine himself to scientific matters and wrote two theological treatises, one dealing with the Lord’s Supper and the other with the body of Christ, both of which had a tremendous impact on Martin Luther’s thinking (Schmidt 222). Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519), while a great artist and painter was also a scientific genius who analyzed and theorized in the areas of botany, optics, physics, hydraulics, and aeronautics. However, his greatest benefit to science was in the study of physiology in which he produced meticulous drawings of the human body (Schmidt 223). Andreas Vesalius (1514-64) followed in Da Vinci’s footsteps. In his famous work, De humani corpis fabrica (Fabric of the Human Body), published in 1543, he corrects over two hundred errors in Galen’s physiological writings. (Galen was a Greek physician of the second century) The errors were largely found by dissecting cadavers (Schmidt 223). The branch of genetics flourished under the work of Gregor Johann Mendel (1822-1884), an Augustinian monk, who after studying Darwin’s theory of evolution rejected it (Schmidt 224). In the field of astronomy great advances were made under devout Christian men Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo. In physics we encounter Isaac Newton (1642-1727), Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), Blaise Pascal (1623-62), Alessandro Volta (1745-1827), Georg Simon Ohm (1787-1854), Andre Ampere (1775-1836), Michael Faraday (1791-1867), and William Thompson Kelvin (1824-1907). These men held to a strong Christian faith as evidenced by their writings. Before he died, Kepler was asked by an attending Lutheran pastor where he placed his faith. Kepler replied, “Solely and alone in the work of our redeemer Jesus Christ.” Kepler, who only tried “thinking God’s thoughts after him,” died with the Christian faith planted firmly in his mind and heart. His epitaph, penned four months before his death stated:
I used to measure the heavens,
Now I must measure the earth.
Though sky-bound was my spirit,
My earthly body rests here (Schmidt 230).
A Few Lectures
Rodney Stark on the Dennis Prager Show:
A LONG lecture by historian Alvin Schmidt:
Vishal Mangalwadi on the Bible’s Influence of India (1st video) and the West (2nd):
This is a discussion that took place on my Facebook. And I could see where it was headed, but I wanted to see which avenue it went down… there is so many of them. I pick up the conversation where the person is trying to make a counter point to my assertion that Obama went to a very racist church for twenty years.
A religion started by a rabid anti-Semite, seems like it would be an inherently bad religion that people should denounce, right?
I prod, “Go on.”
What’s your opinion? If you believe obama going to a controversial church proves he has the same opinions as the church leader, I am curious what you think of an entire religion founded by someone who believed in killing and jailing all Jews.
Martin Luther, who wrote The Jews and Their Lies in the 1540’s which wad basically a blueprint for the holocaust. It’s sad that you need context to know whether killing Jews is bad or not…
I reference an earlier challenge to see if this person has read varying views of events in history, here I remind here of that challenge.
Huh? Can you succinctly tell me what you think about Lutheranism? Is it poisoned because of Luther?
Here is the quote I was referring to, and allow me to elucidate afterwards:
The cliché labeling Luther an anti-Semite ignores his 1523 treatise That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, in which he admonishes his fellow Christians: “If the apostles, who were also Jews, had dealt with us Gentiles as we Gentiles deal with the Jews, there would never have been a Christian among the Gentiles. Since they dealt with us Gentiles in such brotherly fashion, we in turn ought to treat the Jews in a brotherly manner in order that we might convert some of them … We should remember that we are but Gentiles, while the Jews are in the lineage of Christ?” Elsewhere in this treatise, Luther writes: “If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would sooner have become a hog than a Christian.”
It is noteworthy that in the early twentieth century, the Jewish Encyclopedia made a clear distinction between the “two Luthers”—the pro-Jewish younger Luther and the anti-Jewish older Luther. In this remarkable publication, Gotthard Deutsch melancholically observed about Luther in 1906 that the “totally different attitudes which he took at different times with regard to the Jews made him, during the anti-Semitic controversies of the end of the nineteenth century, an authority quoted alike by friends and enemies of the Jews?”
Alas, it is true that in 1543, shortly before his death, Luther published his venomous book On the Jews and Their Lies, a work that was to cause great embarrassment to future centuries of Lutheran church leaders. In this book, he gave the “sincere advice” to burn down the synagogues, destroy the Jews’ homes, take away their prayer books, forbid rabbinic teaching, abolish safe-conduct for Jewish travel, prohibit usury, and force Jews into manual labor.
Johannes Wallmann has shown, however, that Luther’s treatises against the Jews, though reprinted in the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries, had limited impact in the general population. As the article in the Jewish Encyclopedia made clear, this and other appalling texts did not resurface until the late nineteenth century. In fact, in a devastating critique of German Protestant attitudes in the Hitler years, Richard Steigmann-Gall writes: “Not only did racialist anti-Semitism find a warmer reception among liberal Protestants than among confessional Lutherans, in many ways, racialist anti-Semitism was born of the theological crisis that liberal Protestantism represented..” Liberal Protestantism is a child of the nineteenth century. According to Steigmann-Gall, it provided the platform for Nazi ideologues to develop such theories as the one that Jesus was an Aryan. In other words, Protestants who were theologically closest to Luther’s teachings were more immune than liberals to one of the ugliest aspects of Nazism—racism. This observation could arguably also be made about deviant and sometimes lethal theologoumena that are currently rife in mainline churches in the United States and elsewhere in the West.
Uwe Siemon-Netto, The Fabricated Luther: Refuting Nazi Connections and Other Modern Myths, 2nd Edition (Saint Loiuse, MS: Concordia Publishing, 2007), 51-52.
Here is the point, Lutheranism was founded well BEFORE his 1543 anti-Semitic writing… when he was VERY Jewish friendly.
SO — Lutheranismwas founded on the pro-Jewish Luther. It was leftism in it’s various shades that chose the later Luther.
In Germany (and the U.S.), the eugenic movement was founded by left leaning secular and religious persons. Lutheran churches (read here — especially conservative Lutheran churches — but all) have denounced this racism from “later Luther.”
Has Obama denounced his ties to Farrakhan, his churches teaching that blacks are the true Jews? Have you heard his church of 20-years denounce Farrakhan or the New Black Panther members that sit in its pews? Have you heard Michelle Obama denounce her affiliations to Farrakhan’s wife?
You see, you are setting up a non-sequitur… and emboldening my case that racism exists on the Left… much more-so than in conservative politics or conservative religion.
From eugenicists and the real NAZIs (an acronym with socialism in it), to before that and the founding of the KKK and, to our country entering into a Civil War, to the founder of Planned Parenthood. On-and-on:
▼ “…virtually every significant racist in American political history was a Democrat.” Bruce Bartlett, Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past (New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008), ix;
▼ “…not every Democrat was a KKK’er, but every KKK’er was a Democrat.” Ann Coulter, Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama (New York, NY: Sentinel [Penguin], 2012), 19.
The history of Protestantism and Catholicism saving Jews in WWII is another proud moment to understand (for instance the book by the Jewish Rabbi entitled: “The Myth of Hitler’s Pope: Pope Pius XII And His Secret War Against Nazi Germany”), Einstein did:
“Being a lover of freedom, when the [Nazi] revolution came, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks… Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration for it because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual and moral freedom. I am forced to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.”
Albert Einstein Time Magazine, December 23, 1940 (page 38); Mackay, J. A. 1939. “The Titanic Twofold Challenge,” New York Times Magazine, May 7, p. 3.
I am very aware of his “evolving” thoughts on Jews but the effects of his venomous thoughts, no matter how late in life they came, on the real life of Jews around the world cannot be ignored. You should consider be so kind to everyone.
Okay, no one is denying this? But Lutheranism was not founded on Anti-Semitism. Obama’s church was. It would be analogous to me going to a liberal, NAZI, Lutheran church in Germany for 20-years.
While a couple other things were said, the above is a good way to defend Church history, while still admitting Luther’s later fall from grace. (Mind you with a little RPT religio-political “swerve” thrown in.) Here is an interview with the author of the above LONG quote from Fabricating Luther, Uwe Siemon-Netto:
Here is a good short video by egwpisteuw, here is his video description:
An analysis of the error in Bible interpretation made by Martin Luther which caused him to become antisemitic and to write the treatise entitled “Von den Juden und ihren Lügen” “Of the Jews and Their Lies.”
a wise man will listen and increase his learning… for understanding a proverb or a parable… and their riddles.
So there seems to be a way to learn techniques that help us inculcate well, Scripture, and to represent it well to others. In theology, there is a technique called Hermeneutics, and while used quite often in Christian theology, these techniques “pre-date” Christ and should be looked at as truths imbued into nature by its Creator, like reason and logic. So let’s define these ideas a bit before continuing:
Hermeneutics – From the Greek hermeneutikos, “interpretation.” Hermeneutics is the science of the study and interpretation of Scripture, the branch of theology that prescribes rules by which the Bible should be interpreted. Biblical hermeneutics strives to formulate guidelines for studying Scripture that help recover the meaning a Biblical text had for its original hearers. (The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words, 1988).
Underneath the “hermeneutic umbrella” is the idea of using the document in question to interpret the entire document.
Exegesis – (Gk.explanation) Critical exposition or explanation of the meaning of a scriptural passage in the context of the whole Bible. The reader of Scripture studies the word meanings and grammar of the text to discern what… was communicated, drawing the meaning out of the text rather than reading what he wants into the text (eisegesis).
Eisegesis – is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that it introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, and/or biases into and onto the text.
Why do people insert their biases or anachronistic thinking into the Biblical text? We know why the unregenerate person does:
…the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so (Romans 8:7)
But even Christian thinkers will undutifully insert ideas into the text that the text itself does not call for. A neat story to further my point comes from a story retold from John Warwick Montgomery in Classical Apologetics
STORY OF A DEAD GUY
Once upon a time — note the mystical cast — there was a man who thought he was dead. His concerned wife and friends sent him to the friendly neighborhood psychiatrist determined to cure him by convincing him of one fact that contradicted his beliefs that he was dead. The fact that the psychiatrist decided to use was the simple truth that dead men do not bleed. He put his patient to work reading medical texts, observing autopsies, etc. After weeks of effort the patient finally said, “All right, all right! You’ve convinced me. Dead men do not bleed.” Whereupon the psychiatrist stuck him in the arm with a needle, and the blood flowed. The man looked down with a contorted, ashen face and cried, “Good Lord! Dead men bleed after all!”
Emotional prejudice is not limited to:
1) the dull-witted, 2) the illiterate, 3) and poorly educated.
…are not exempt from the vested interests and psychological prejudice that distort logical thinking. One of my favorite examples of this adding to the text that many do to this day can be found in Genesis. James Barr — one of the most trusted scholars on ancient Hebrew — long time Oriel professor at Oxford — and himself a neo-orthodox believer, rightly applied to Scripture a point of view he personally rejects:
…probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis [chapters] 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that:
1. creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience; 2. the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story; 3. Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguished all human and animal life except for those in the ark.
You see, professor Barr asked some of the following questions that are simple questions one should ask coming to any text, especially ancient texts:
Who was the writer?
To whom were they writing?
Is the choice of words, wording, or word order significant in this particular passage?
What is the cultural, historical context?
What was the author’s original intended meaning?
How did the author’s contemporaries understand him?
Why did he say it that way?
Bully for Barr!
Why do we insist on putting our own thoughts and ideas into/onto the Bible, or why we allow the skeptic to think he has mastered God’s Holy word by placing onto Scripture anachronistic thinking and creating straw-man arguments which they then immediately tear down? With the skeptic, the belief in God is VERY personal… e-v-e-n if they don’t admit it. The question of the existence of God evokes deep emotional and psychological prejudice. People understand that the question of the existence of God is not one that is of neutral consequence. We understand intuitively, if not in terms of its full rational implication, that the existence of an eternal Creator before whom we are ultimately accountable and responsible is a matter that touches the very core of life.
How do we try and keep our, yes our, biases out so we “correctly teaching the word of truth”? And not abrogate control of the conversation to the skeptical friend or family member? One way is the old-fashioned way, the eight rules of interpretation. These 8-Rules pre-date Christ, that being said, they matured greatly under Christianity and are used across many disciplines to this day.
Greeks (Aristotle and Cicero) are the genesis of, Irenaeus used them when he wrote Against Heresies, which dealt with Gnosticism and other untruths. Every law court religiously follows them and honest theologians dare not violate them. Much false teaching is the result of violating one or more of these universal rules of interpretation. They were used by the master expositors of the Middle Ages all the way to Luther and the Reformation theologians who disproved Roman fallacies with them. These rules were involved in the great doctrinal debates of the theologians from the Council of Nice (324 A.D.) to the Council of Trent (1545-1563).
What are these rules?
1) Rule of Definition: Define the term or words being considered and then adhere to the defined meanings.
Any study of Scripture . . . must begin with a study of words. (Protestant Biblical Interpretation, Ramm, Bernard, p. 129. W. A. Wilde Co.. Boston. 1956. )
Define your terms and then keep to the terms defined. (The Structural Principles of the Bible, Marsh, F. E., p. 1. Kregel Publications.)
In the last analysis, our theology finds its solid foundation only in the grammatical sense of Scripture. The interpreter should . . . conscientiously abide by the plain meaning of the words. (Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Berkhof, pp. 74?75, Baker Book House, 1960.)
The Bible writers could not coin new words since they would not be understood, and were therefore forced to use those already in use. The content of meaning in these words is not to be determined by each individual expositor . . . to do so would be a method of interpretation [that is] a most vicious thing. (Studies in the Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, bluest, Kenneth. pp. 30-37, Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1945.)
[The author] confines the definitions strictly to their literal or idiomatic force; which, after all. will be found to form the best. and indeed the only safe and solid basis for theological deductions of any kind. (Young’s Analytical Concordance, Prefatory Note.)
2) Rule of Usage: Don’t add meaning to established words and terms. Ask what was the common usage in the culture at that time period.
The whole Bible may be regarded as written for “the Jew first.” and its words and idioms ought to be rendered according to Hebrew usage. (Synonyms of the Old Testament, Girdlestone. R. B., p. 14.)
Christ then accepted the usage He found existing. He did not alter it. (Pulpit Commentary, Matthew, V. 1, xxv. old edition.)
Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew, spoke to and moved among Jews in Palestine …. He spoke first and directly to the Jews, and His words must have been intelligible to them… It was absolutely necessary to view that Life and Teaching in all its surroundings of place. society. popular life…. This would form not only the frame in which to set the picture of the Christ, but the very background of the picture itself. (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Edersheim, Alfred. V, 1, xii, Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1953.)
In interpreting very many phrases and histories of the New Testament, it is not so much worth what we think of them from notions of our own . . . as in what sense these things were understood by the hearers and lookers on. according to the usual custom and vulgar dialect of the nation. (Bishop Lightfoot, quoted in The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, xii. Moulton & Mulligan, Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1959.)
3) Rule of Context: Avoid using words out of context. Context must define terms and how words are used.
Many a passage of Scripture will not be understood at all without the help afforded by the context; for many a sentence derives all its point and force from the connection in which it stands. (Biblical Hermeneutics, Terry. M. S.. p. 117. 1896.)
[Bible words] must be understood according to the requirements of the context. (Thayer’s Greek?English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 97.)
Every word you read must be understood in the light of the words that come before and after it. (How to Make Sense, Flesch, Rudolph, p. 51, Harper & Brothers. 1959.)
[Bible words] when used out of context . . . can prove almost anything. [Some interpreters] twist them . . . from a natural to a non?natural sense. (Irenaeus, second?century church father, quoted in Inspiration and Interpretation, p. 50, Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1957.)
The meaning must be gathered from the context. (Encyclopedia Britannica, Interpretation of Documents. V. 8, p. 912. 1959.)
4) Rule of Historical background: Don’t separate interpretation from historical investigation.
Even the general reader must be aware that some knowledge of Jewish life and society at the time is requisite for the understanding of the Gospel history. (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Edersheim. Alfred. V. 1, xiii, Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1953.)
The moment the student has in his mind what was in the mind of the author or authors of the Biblical books when these were written. he has interpreted the thought of Scripture …. If he adds anything of his own. it is not exegesis. (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. V. 3. p. 1489. 1952.)
Theological interpretation and historical investigation can never be separated from each other. . . . The strictest historical . . . scrutiny is an indispensable discipline to all Biblical theology. (A Theological Word Book of the Bible, 30 scholars. Preface, Macmillan Co., 1958.)
I have said enough to show the part which the study of history necessarily plays in the intelligent study of the law as it is today …. Our only interest in the past is for the light it throws upon the present. (U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., 1902?1932. quoted in The World o f Law, V. 2. p. 630. Simon & Schuster. 1960.)
5) Rule of Logic: Be certain that words as interpreted agree with the overall premise.
Interpretation is merely logical reasoning. (Encyclopedia Americana. V. 15. p. 261. 1953.)
The use of reason in the interpretation of Scripture is everywhere to be assumed. The Bible comes to us in the forms of human language, and appeals to our reason . . . it invites investigation. and it is to be interpreted as we interpret any other volume by a rigid application of the same laws of language, and the same grammatical analysis. (Biblical Hermeneutics, Terry, M. S., p. 25. 1895.)
What is the control we use to weed out false theological speculation? Certainly the control is logic and evidence . . . interpreters who have not had the sharpening experience of logic . . . may have improper notions of implication and evidence. Too frequently such a person uses a basis of appeal that is a notorious violation of the laws of logic and evidence. (Protestant Biblical Interpretation, Ramm, Bernard. pp. 151153, W. A. Wilde Co., 1956.)
It is one of the most firmly established principles of law in England and in America that “a law means exactly what it says, and is to be interpreted and enforced exactly as it reads.” This is just as good a principle for interpreting the Bible as for interpreting law. (The Importance and Value of Proper Bible Study, Torrey. R. A., pp. 67?70, Moody Press, 1921.)
Charles G. Finney, lawyer and theologian, is widely considered the greatest theologian and most successful revivalist since apostolic times. He was often in sharp conflict with the theologians of his day because they violated these rules of interpretation. Finney said he interpreted a Bible passage as he “would have understood the same or like passage in a law book” (Autobiography, pp. 42-43 ).
Finney stressed the need for definition and logic in theology and said the Bible must be understood on “fair principles of interpretation such as would be admitted in a court of justice” (Systematic Theology. Preface, ix).
6) Rule of Precedent: Use the known and commonly accepted meanings of words, not obscure meanings for which there is no precedent.
We must not violate the known usage of a word and invent another for which there is no precedent. (The Greek New Testament for English Readers, Alford, Dean, p. 1098, Moody Press.)
The professional ability of lawyers in arguing a question of law, and the judges in deciding it, is thus chiefly occupied with a critical study of previous cases. in order to determine whether the previous cases really support some alleged doctrine. (Introduction to the Study of Law, p. 40, Woodruff, E. H., 1898.)
The first thing he [the judge] does is to compare the case before him with precedents …. Back of precedents are the basic judicial conceptions which are postulates of judicial reasoning, and farther back are the habits of life, the institutions of society, in which those conceptions had their origin …. Precedents have so covered the ground that they fix the point of departure from which the labor of the judge begins. Almost invariably, his first step is to examine and compare them. It is a process of search, comparison. and little more. (U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo, 1932??1938, The Nature of the Judicial Process, quoted in The World of Law, V. 2. p. 671. Simon & Schuster, 1960.)
7) Rule of Unity: Even though many documents may be used there must be a general unity among them.
[It is] fundamental to a true interpretation of the Scripture. viz.. that the parts of a document. law, or instrument are to be construed with reference to the significance of the whole. (Dean Abbot. Commentary on Matthew, Interpretation, p. 31. )
Where a transaction is carried out by mean of several documents so that together they form part of a single whole, these documents are read together as one …. [They are to be so read ?1 that, that construction is to be preferred which will render them consistent. (Interpretation of Documents, Sir Roland Burrows. p. 49. Lutterworth & Co., London. 1946. )
8) Rule of Inference: Base conclusions on what is already known and proven or can be reasonably implied from all known facts.
In the law of evidence. an inference is a fact reasonably implied from another fact. It is a logical consequence. It is a process of reasoning. It derives a conclusion from a given fact or premise. It is the deduction of one proposition from another proposition. It is a conclusion drawn from evidence. An inferential fact or proposition. although not expressly stated. is sufficient to bind. This principle of interpretation is upheld by law courts. (Jesus proved the resurrection of the dead to the unbelieving Sadducees by this rule (Matt. 22:31. 32). See Encyclopedia Britannia, V. 6. p. 615 (1952) and Black’s Law Dictionary, p. 436, Fourth Edition. West Pub. Co.. 1951. )
A proposition of fact is proved when its truth is established by competent and satisfactory evidence. By competent evidence is meant such evidence as the nature of the thing to be proved admits. By satisfactory evidence is meant that amount of proof which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind beyond reasonable doubt. Scripture facts are therefore proved when they are established by that. kind and degree of evidence which would in the affairs of ordinary life satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man. When we have this kind and degree of evidence it is unreasonable to require more. (Systematic Theology, Strong. Augustus H.. p. 142. Judson Press. 1899.)
Is there an ancient example exemplifying a bit of what we are talking about? We find in Aristotle’s Poetics(25) the following:
They [the critics] start with some improbable presumption; and having so decreed it themselves, proceed to draw inferences, and censure the poet as though he had actually said whatever they happen to believe, if, his statement conflicts with their notion of things….
Whenever a word seems to imply some contradiction, it is necessary to reflect how many ways there may be of understanding it in the passage in question…. So it is probably the mistake of the critics that has given rise to the Problem….
So let us deal with four major missteps people make in coming to the Bible which also translate to the believer as a deeper study of God’s Word:
…Consider how confused a foreigner must be when he reads in a daily newspaper:
“The prospectors made a strike yesterday up in the mountains.”
“The union went on strike this morning.”
“The batter made his third strike and was called out by the umpire.”
“Strike up with the Star Spangled Banner.”
“The fisherman got a good strike in the middle of the lake.”
Or consider what Dr. Edgar Andrews wrote about in his book, Who Made God:
When I first began visiting the USA regularly on business, I was struck by the huge versatility of one little word — check. Not only could you write a check to pay a bill and check that your airline hadn’t gone bankrupt overnight, but you could request your check at the end of a restaurant meal, check the boxes on your laundry list (or any other form for that matter), check your luggage at the airline desk, check in or check out of a hotel, check out a new product, check your hasty words when you got mad with some officious bureaucrat, and so on. Then, of course, the word lends itself beautifully to portmanteau usage, as in checklist, raincheck and checkup (I never did encounter checkdown but I’m still optimistic). Why, with a few more words like ‘check’ we could halve the weight of our dictionaries!
Another step that will enlighten our study time is
THE CULTURE GAP
If we don’t understand the various cultures of the time in which the Bible was written, we’ll never comprehend its meaning. For example, if we did not know anything about the Jewish culture at the time of Christ, the Gospel of Matthew would be very difficult to grasp. Concepts such as the Sabbath, Jewish rituals, the temple ceremonies, and other customs of the Jews must be understood within cultural context in order to gain the true meaning of the author’s ideas.
THE GEOGRAPHY GAP
A failure to be familiar with geography will hinder learning. For instance, in 1 Thessalonians 1:8 we read, “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.” What is so remarkable about this text is that the message traveled so quickly. In order to understand how, it is necessary to know the geography.
Paul had just been there, and when he wrote the letter, very little time had passed. Paul had been with them for a couple of weeks, but their testimony had already spread far. How could that happen so fast? If you study the geography of the area you’ll find that the Ignatian Highway runs right through the middle of Thessalonica. It was the main concourse between the East and the West, and whatever happened there was passed all the way down the line.
THE HISTORY GAP
Knowing the history behind a passage will enhance our comprehension of what was written. In the Gospel of John, the whole key to understanding the interplay between Pilate and Jesus is based on the knowledge of history. John MacArthur in “How to Study the Bible” says about Pilate:
When Pilate came into the land with his emperor worship, it literally infuriated the Jews and their priests. So he was off to a bad start from the very beginning. Then he tried to pull something on the Jews, and when they caught him, they reported him to Rome, and he almost lost his job. Pilate was afraid of the Jews, and that’s why he let Christ be crucified. Why was he afraid? Because he already had a rotten track record, and his job was on the line.
Let’s apply, then, what we learned from these literary skills from Aristotle and others, and see where they lead us with supposed difficulties in the Bible. Aristotle’s dictum ~ the benefit of the doubt is afforded to the author of the document, not allowing it to be arrogated by the critic, is standard practice in court rooms to this day. That is, the benefit of the doubt to the document unless there is clear evidence that it is not what it claims to be. First we will start with a hypothetical, then go to the historical.
STORY OF KEN
Let’s say you have a friend—let’s call him Ken—who lives in the Midwest. Ken had three very good friends—let’s call them Jim, John, and Mark—who live on the East Coast. One day Ken received a note from John saying that Jim was involved in a terrible car accident and died instantly. The following day, Ken received a letter from Mark saying that Jim was in an car accident and survived but died some time later.
At first glance, these two accounts seem to contradict each other. Either Jim died instantly in the accident or he did not.
Now, Ken knew that John and Mark were reliable sources, and he trusted them to give him an accurate account of the events surrounding their mutual friend’s death. As it turned out, John and Mark were both right, but there was missing information.
Jim was actually involved in two automobile accidents on the same day. In the first accident, Jim was badly injured but survived. A “Good Samaritan” stopped to help him, taking him to the nearest emergency room. However, on the way to the hospital, the driver of that vehicle was involved in a very serious accident, and as a result Jim was instantly killed. Hence, both accounts were correct. John was not aware of the first accident; he only knew about the second one that instantly killed Jim. Mark was only aware of the details of the first accident in which Jim survived, and not the second; he only knew that Jim died later that day. The apparent contradiction was solved when the rest of the truth was discovered.
STORY OF JUDAS
In theGospel according to Matthew, he records the death Judas as suicide by hanging (Matthew 27:5). However, in Acts 1:18 Luke records the death of Judas as having occurred when he fell down and his body “burst open.” Some scholars have determined that these two divergent accounts are, irreconcilable; they assume that one or even both of these accounts are incorrect. If Matthew and Luke are trustworthy in giving an accurate accounts of the events, it certainly seems as if at least one of them is in error: Judas either fell down or he hung himself. Or is it another option?
If the branch from which Judas hung himself was dead and dry–and there are many trees that match this description even to this day on the brink of the canyon that tradition identifies the place where Judas died–it would take only one strong gust of wind to yank the heavy corpse and split the branch to which it was attached and plunge both with great force into the bottom of the chasm below. There is indication that a strong wind arose at the hour Christ died and ripped the great curtain inside the temple from top to bottom (Matthew 27:50C.)
These accounts are not contradictory, but mutually complementary. Judas hung himself exactly as Matthew affirms that he did. The account in Acts simply adds that Judas fell, and his body opened up at the middle and his intestines gushed out. This is the very thing one would expect of someone who hanged himself from a tree over a cliff and fell on sharp rocks below.
So this application and understanding that seemingly divergent tales may in fact be mutually complementary… if giving the benefit of the doubt to this ancient book. And you can see how teaching sound doctrine just is placed in us miraculously, is situ.
“But you must say the things that are consistent with sound teaching” (Titus 2:1).
THERE IS ALSO GENRE (IN THE OLD TESTAMENT)
Lawis “God’s law,” they are the expressions of His sovereign will and character. The writings of Moses contain a lot of Law. God provided the Jews with many laws (619 or so). These laws defined the proper relationship with God to each others and the world (the alien)….
History. Almost every OT book contains history. Some books of the Bible are grouped together and commonly referred to as the “History” (Joshua, Kings & Chronicles). These books tell us the history of the Jewish people from the time of the Judges through the Persian Empire…. In the NT, Acts contains some of the history of the early church, and the Gospels also have History as Jesus’ life is told as History….
Wisdom Literature is focus on questions about the meaning of life (Job, Ecclesiastes), practical living, and common sense (Proverbs and some Psalms )….
Poetryis found mostly in the Old Testament and is similar to modern poetry. Since it is a different language, “Hebrew,” the Bible’s poetry can be very different, because it does not translate into English very well….
Prophecy is the type of literature that is often associated with predicting the future; however, it is also God’s words of “get with it” or else. Thus Prophecy also exposes sin and calls for repentance and obedience. It shows how God’s law can be applied to specific problems and situations, such as the repeated warnings to the Jews before their captivity….
Apocalyptic Writing is a more specific form of prophecy. Apocalyptic writing is a type of literature that warns us of future events which, full meaning, is hidden to us for the time being….
Just the other day an atheist got on my YouTube account and posted this on Prager critiquing seculrism:
Secularism makes more sense that some imaginary friend in the sky. They mention unicorns and dragons in the bible. Yes, I will take that seriously… NOT!
So lets apply some of what we learned (#’s 2 and 4 should suffice). Through the study of the word in question, “unicorn,” we come to find is only in the King James Bible, which is known for it’s “Queens language,” having been written in the early 1600’s. So what did the word “unicorn” mean in the 1600’s? We have a clue in Websters first edition (1828) of his dictionary.
(Take note that “bicorn” is defined in the 1828 edition as an animal with two horns) What does the Webstersdictionary say today?
…a mythical animal generally depicted with the body and head of a horse, the hind legs of a stag, the tail of a lion, and a single horn in the middle of the forehead.
They even are so kind as to furnish their readers with a picture (to the right). Let us apply another of the eight rules of interpretation (#’s 7 and 8 should do). Elsewhere in the KJV we read the following:
mentions them traveling like bullocks, and bleeding when they die.
Horses have been tamed for agricultural work, so the above descriptions fit something else. Let’s use the term as was used in the day of its writing to define the meaning.
Here is a unicorn:
Here is a bicorn:
Definitely not a creature typically see doing agricultural work. You see, what the skeptic has done is taken a word as defined today and ripped it from it’s historical context, placed it onto another culture/time period (built a straw-man), and then attack it. The argument really shouldn’t involve us at all. It is all going on in the head of the skeptic… he is arguing with himself! All you have to call for is lithium for this bi-polar person. Since, however, I am a young earth creationist (YEC), I would even posit that Job was viewing the Elasmotherium (Greek for “plated beast”; pronounced ell-azz-moe-THEE-ree-um):
But whether you posit the Elasmotherium, or a simple rhino… this is using a lane-line guide to look at — not only the Bible (but especially the Bible ~ *smile*), but any ancient text.
He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.
Here the skeptic posits God’s wrath on 42 children, presumably innocent in that their greatest offense was calling someone a “bald-head.” It would be similar to a guy being called “four-eyes” by a bunch of kids and then whipping out an AK-47 and mowing them down… and then expecting you to view him as a moral agent. In accessing the following books,
✦ The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times; ✦ Manners and Customs in the Bible: An Illustrated Guide to Daily Life in Bible Times; ✦ An Introduction to the Old Testament; ✦ The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament; ✦ Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament; ✦ A Popular Survey of the Old Testament; ✦ New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties; ✦ Hard Sayings of the Bible; ✦ When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties.
I noticed something was missing. That is, a bit more of what is not said in the text, but we can assume using and accessing what any historical literary critic would with the principles that predate Christ — mentioned in the above “latte” link. Mind you, many of the responses in my home library that I came across were great, and, in fact they made me dig a bit further. (I do not want the reader to think that I place myself on a higher academic level that these fine theologians and professors.) Three big points stuck out from texts I reviewed:
“Little children” is an unfortunate translation. The Hebrew expression neurim qetannim is best rendered “young lads” or “young men.” From numerous examples where ages are specified in the Old Testament, we know that these were boys from twelve to thirty years old. One of these words described Isaac at his sacrifice in Genesis 22:12, when he was easily in his early twenties. It described Joseph in Genesis 37:2 when he was seventeen years old. In fact, the same word described army men in 1 Kings 20:14-15…these are young men ages between twelve and thirty.” (Hard Sayings of the Bible)
HARMLESS TEASING/PUBLIC SAFETY
A careful study of this incident in context shows that it was far more serious than a “mild personal offense.” It was a situation of serious public danger, quite as grave as the large youth gangs that roam the ghetto sections of our modern American cities. If these young hoodlums were ranging about in packs of fifty or more, derisive toward respectable adults and ready to mock even a well-known man of God, there is no telling what violence they might have inflicted on the citizenry of the religious center of the kingdom of Israel (as Bethel was), had they been allowed to continue their riotous course. (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties)
The harmless “teasing” was hardly that–they were direct confrontation between the forces of Baal and the prophet of YHWH that had just healed the water supply (casting doubt on the power and beneficence of Baal!). This was a mass demonstration (if 42 were mauled, how many people were in the crowd to begin with? 50? 100? 400?):
“As Elisha was traveling from Jericho to Bethel several dozen youths (young men, not children) confronted him. Perhaps they were young false prophets of Baal. Their jeering, recorded in the slang of their day, implied that if Elisha were a great prophet of the Lord, as Elijah was, he should go on up into heaven as Elijah reportedly had done. The epithet baldhead may allude to lepers who had to shave their heads and were considered detestable outcasts. Or it may simply have been a form of scorn, for baldness was undesirable (cf. Isa. 3:17, 24). Since it was customary for men to cover their heads, the young men probably could not tell if Elisha was bald or not. They regarded God’s prophet with contempt….Elisha then called down a curse on the villains. This cursing stemmed not from Elisha pride but from their disrespect for the Lord as reflected in their treatment of His spokesman (cf. 1:9-14). Again God used wild animals to execute His judgment (cf., e.g., 1 Kings 13:24). That 42 men were mauled by the two bears suggests that a mass demonstration had been organized against God and Elisha.” [Bible Knowledge Commentary]
ELISHA’S MISSION-HELPING NEEDY
The chapter closes with two miracles of Elisha. These immediately established the character of his ministry–his would be a helping ministry to those in need, but one that would brook no disrespect for God and his earthly representatives. In the case of Jericho, though the city had been rebuilt (with difficulty) in the days of Ahab (1 Kings 16:34, q.v.), it had remained unproductive. Apparently the water still lay under Joshua’s curse (cf. Josh 6:26), so that both citizenry and land suffered greatly (v. 19). Elisha’s miracle fully removed the age-old judgment, thus allowing a new era to dawn on this area (vv. 20-22). Interestingly Elisha wrought the cure through means supplied by the people of Jericho so that their faith might be strengthened through submission and active participation in God’s cleansing work. (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties)
All good stuff, but something is missing. During the course of the debate I pieced together some truths, using culture and history as keys to a “crime scene.” Again, I want to stress what some of the habits were in this small town where this group of people came from:
Molech was a Canaanite underworld deity represented as an upright, bull-headed idol with human body in whose belly a fire was stoked and in whose arms a child was placed that would be burnt to death. It was not just unwanted children who were sacrificed. Plutarch reports that during the Phoenician (Canaanite) sacrifices, “the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries and wailing should not reach the ears of the people.”
This crowd of persons was older than what is typically posited by skeptics. Secondly, this group was a very bad lot. But didn’t explain why bald-head was egregious enough for God to call 42 scurvy bastards to judgement. To be fair, I sympathize with the skeptic here. That being said, there is more to the story. I want us to view some artistic drawings of historical figures from Israels history: priests, prophets, spiritual leaders, and even Flavius Josephus.
What did you notice above in the cover to an A&E documentary? Yup, a turban or covering of some sort as well as a cloak which covers the heads of the priests and prophets. Take note of the below as well.
I posted so many images to drive a point home in our mind. The prophet Elisha would have had a couple of things that changes this story from simple name calling to an assault. Firstly, he wouldn’t have been alone, he would have had some people attached to him that would lay down their lives to protect him. And secondly, he would have had a head covering on, especially since he was returning from a “priestly” intervention.
One last point before we bullet point the complete idea behind the Holy and Rightful judgement from the Judge of all mankind. There were 42 persons killed by two bears. Obviously this would require many more than 42 people. Why? What happens when you have a group of ten people and a bear comes crashing out of the bushes in preparation to attack? Every one will immediately scatter! In the debate I pointed out that freezing 42 people and allowing the bears time to go down the line to kill each one would be even more of a miracle than this skeptic would want to allow. So the common sense position would require a large crowd and some sort of terrain to cut off escape. So the crowd would probably have been at least a few hundred.
Also, this holy man of God was coming back from a “mission,” he would have had an entourage with him, as well as having some sort of head-covering on as pictured above. So, what do these cultural and historical points cause us to rightly assume? That the crowd could not see that the prophet was bald. Which means they would have had to of gotten physical — forcefully removing the head covering. Which means also that the men with the prophet Elisha would have also been overpowered. So lets bullet point the points that undermine the skeptics viewpoint.
✔ The crowd was in their late teens to early twenties; ✔ they were antisemitic (this is known from most of the previous passages and books); ✔ they were from a violently cultic city; ✔ the crowd was large;
And unique to me having shown that there is no way for the crowd to know Elisha was bald unless they had already attacked him and his entourage, is this point:
✔ the crowd had already turned violent.
These points caused God in his foreknowledge to protect the prophet and send in nature to disperse the crowd. Nature is not kind, and the death of these men were done by a just Judge. This explains the actions of a just God better than many of the references I read.
So in conclusion,
a knowledge of history, culture, language, the words being used and their history, and the like… all contribute to the “sound doctrine” we are called to express.
Because otherwise, we will be the time-keepers in the story below, wronger and wronger all the time:
THE BELL TOWER
Have you ever heard the story of a man who used to go to work at a factory and every day would stop outside a clockmaker’s store to synchronize his watch with the clock outside? At the end of several days the clockmaker stopped him and said, “Excuse me, sir, I do have a question for you. I see that every day you stop and adjust your watch with my clock. What kind of work do you do?” The man said, “I’m embarrassed to tell you this; I keep the time at the factory nearby, and I have to ring the bell at four o clock every afternoon when it is time for the people to go home. My watch doesn’t work very well, so I synchronize it with your clock.” The clockmaker says, “I’ve got bad news for you. My clock doesn’t work very well either, so I synchronize it with the bell that I hear from the factory at 4:00 every afternoon.” If you’ll pardon the grammar, what happens when two wrong watches correct themselves by each other? They will get wronger and wronger all the time. Even a clock that doesn’t work may show you the right time twice a day…but it’s not because it’s keeping time!
Ravi Zacharias, “Address to the United Nations’ Prayer Breakfast.”
More than five centuries ago, Michelangelo Buonarroti was the darling of the Catholic Church. The Papacy commissioned him to create many of its most important pieces, including the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. He spent his life glorifying the Church, etching Catholic ideals into masterpieces that defined religion for the masses. Yet when he died, his body was secretly shepherded off to Florence, and the Church was denied the opportunity to honor him with a grand funeral in Rome. Historians have long wondered about the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, but now, art historian Antonio Forcellino believes he has pieced together evidence of a deep rift between the Church and the esteemed artist. The cause: Michelangelo’s belief in Protestant ideals, and his involvement with a clandestine fellowship trying to put an end to the decadence and corruption of the Clergy and reform the Church from within.