Finding Science in the Mountains

Finding Science in the Mountains

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Spare me!

When I was sixteen years old, I was sitting on the cliff face of Charlies Bunion in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with one of my best friends, T---. We were in the midst of a two-week backpacking trip with a pair of other
Taken on Charlies Bunion two...Charlies Bunion, early 1970s.
friends from school. Part of this excursion was a series of very leisurely strolls of only a few miles from shelter to shelter along the AT before we would reach Newfound Gap and a ride from his parents to another point farther south along the Appalachian Trail.

As T--- and I surveyed the amazing topography before us, under ideal
This is one of the major...Exfoliation.
conditions of clear, blue skies and cool breezes, my friend sat up from where he was reclining on the ancient rock and exclaimed, “How can anyone look at this and not believe in God?”

And I said, as I generally do, the first thing that popped into my head. That thing was, “How can anyone look at this and not believe in Plate Tectonics and erosion?”

“You asshole,” T--- exclaimed, rising and stalking off to where our other two friends were standing, joining his Christian company. Leaving me, as usual, sane man out.

I stitched this panorama...Botany.

This has always been an amusement to me: how others see supernatural silliness in the landscapes of the mountainous terrain of this planet. I can understand how any person can be emotionally spurred by a panorama of peaks and ridges and forests and gorges and hollows and canyons and ice and rock. But to see the hand of a super-being that doesn’t exist is
I liked the colors and...Lichenomotry
laughable. I finally understood that this tendency to see this kind of thing in the workings of physical science lay not in spontaneous emotions, but in lifelong brainwashing that generally begins in very early youth.

When I look upon the mountains, I see the real world in action. I see how the movement of tectonic plates grinding one against the other can thrust the very crust of the planet skyward. I see faults in the Earth, forming commanding ranges that loom above lower terrain. I see rift valleys
created by the moving away of one plate from another. I see volcanic peaks rising high above hot spots. I see wind and rain and snow and Mr. Gravity (Ha! Let’s personify physics!) pulling and drawing inexorably on the work that opposing forces have made in molding the ranges.

LeConte from Sevierville, the...Plate tectonics.

When I was sitting there in the middle of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I knew that I was within one of the world’s great areas of floral diversity. In this park alone, there were almost three times as many species of trees than there was in the entire continent of Europe.
SmallPuny human.
Almost everywhere one looked in the forests and on the rocks and in the dark loam there were blossoms of many types. Here, there were dozens of mammal species, reptiles, amphibians; hundreds of types of birds; and as-yet uncounted kinds of insects, arachnids, and other invertebrates. From whence this dizzying array of living things?

Well, not from any god.

I have never, in all of my life, seen the hand of anything supernatural in the vast lands where I most love to hike. In fact, my longing for the solitude of the mountains comes not from seeing any weirdness such as religious origins to the Universe. The reasons that I go to walk these
Blackwater Canyon.Erosion.
ridgelines and to explore these valleys and walk among these forests is to escape from the insanity of religion, the most evil creation of Mankind. I go there to get away from your god, whichever god others may believe in and worship.

For myself, I don’t see any wacky god in the phenomenal details of a butterfly’s wings. I don’t see any god at work in the absolutely
Red newt.Biology.
astounding complexity of a red newt. When I see a newt consuming a worm, I don’t for one second think that this tiny drama was wrought by some silly god existing with his googleplex of fingers on every atom. The idea is inherently preposterous and, I would add, insane.

There is no magical power at work in the science of mountain building. There is no human incarnation of some idea in the tearing down of thrust
Wolf SpiderArachnology.
faults by wind and rain and the constant drag of gravity. There is no god in the mountains. There is no god in the valleys. There is no god on the cliffs. There is no god in the gorges. There is no god in the trees. There is no god on the forest floor. There is no god in the sky. There is no god.

However, I am there. And my companions are there, when I hike with friends.

Best of all, though, there is solitude when I go to hike alone. There is, quite often, only me and the physical world that amazes me when I go to hike and scramble and sleep among the mountain peaks in the high country that always draws me up to the highest points. Sometimes I encounter insects scrambling across the earth or up an old tree. Occasionally I spy an elk in the woods at the edge of a field. There are times when I note a raptor soaring on thermal waves that I cannot see. But the nicest thing about these times and these encounters is that none of them bring along a god; and I am content.

From a cliff near the summit...No people!


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Big Shoes

Big Shoes - Jan 10, 2008 5:47 pm - Hasn't voted

Science vs Legal Historicity!

I enjoyed your post very much, I to share your love of time away from the binding rigors of our daily lives. It never ceases to amaze me how much I can re-energize by working my butt off to bag some peak on a weekender.

I am a little confused about the science and God issue that has been brought up from your post though. I was just wondering what form of scientific study one would use to prove the existence of God. On the other hand, what form of scientific study would one use to disprove the existence of God.

It would seem, in regards to Christianity anyway, that it is not a scientific integer to be solved. One would need to study the existence of God based on legal historicity. Take what it is that we have in regards to written information, first hand accounts, video....etc. Like if we where trying to prove the existence of any other being in history. To prove that George Washington was the first president of the United States does not require scientific study. I suppose we could dig up his remains and run what tests we like, but unless we had original, uncompromised DNA samples to match, what's the point. No, we can look to written records of the account, legal historic fact.

Since we have already established that the writ is a good way to proceed, in Christianity one would look to the Bible. What does the Bible say, is it accurate, has it survived the ages in its original form, are there other written accounts to support it, did the people who wrote it have first hand knowledge of the contents? The answer to all but the question of what does the Bible say, has been proven to be a resounding yes.

The Bible easily qualifies as a legally historic document, but the question is, what does it say. Well there is a person written about extensively in the Bible, his name is Jesus. It is within the written quotes of Jesus that he claimed to be God come to earth. Eye witness accounts describe the many miracles and wonders that he performed. Even though he was killed for his statements, nobody denied what he did while on earth. Just as the first president of the United States was written about, so was God on earth in the form of Jesus Christ.

Please know that this is a short synopsis of the kind of research into the leagal historical approach you would have to take. I know that it is much easier to blow it off and not subject oneself to so much work. There is a book called "More than a Carpenter" written by a guy named Josh McDowell. He went through the same; I can't believe what my mind can't concieve thought process that I went through.

Just a thought.


seanpeckham - Jan 11, 2008 3:16 pm - Voted 5/10

Re: Science vs Legal Historicity!

Before preaching to atheists about the Bible, make sure you know more about it than they do. McDowell? Unimpressive. That's apologetics, not scholarship. At least read, say, Earl Doherty for an opposing view. Or just get a secular textbook on Bible studies. Jesus' historicity is not settled, but if you want to steer clear of such controversy, the dubiousness of the accounts in the Bible (not to mention who wrote them and when and for what purpose and why they were canonized but other texts weren't) is very well established.

You could address God's existence scientifically, if God were empirically detectable. But he's apparently not. There is no scientific point in believing anything that neither is observed nor is necessary to explain any other observations. Logical proof is an irrelevant red herring. Logic cannot prove the existence or nonexistence of anything, let alone gods. Why theists insist we reach this made-up and incoherent standard of absolute certainty before disbelieving a proposal they feel entitled, by contrast, to accept on mere "faith", is beyond me.


radson - Jan 19, 2008 3:36 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Science vs Legal Historicity!

"The Bible easily qualifies as a legally historic document"



johnloguk - Jan 11, 2008 4:49 am - Voted 10/10

Nice article

I was brought up as a Catholic, but during my teens slowly became a confirmed Atheist. There are many reasons for this; the unbelievable hypocrisy of most of the supposed "good christians" in the world being a major factor. I quickly realised that this was repeated across all religions. The basic teachings of all religions are similar, and could be used as good moral guidelines for life, but how easy we ignore these "rules"! Greed, selfishness, vanity etc, all the way up to murder. Human beings find a way to justify all of these, while still claiming to be religious.

But the main reason why I became an Atheist is that I simply cannot understand why otherwise intelligent people believe so willingly in something that has no proof? In all other aspects of life people want to know the concrete facts before they make a decision. Children believe in the tooth fairy, Santa (whoops, sorry about that one!), Robin Hood, etc. No one believes that Robin Hood existed as a Kevin Costner character, we accept that he was at best a composite character from myths and stories. There are many similar characters throughout history, what separates them from those that millions choose to worship as their God? Many "people" have been held up as "God/messiahs/prophets" throughout history. The ones that "caught on" have no more proof than those that didn't.

Religious texts aren't the word of God, they are the word of man/men. They have all been re-written dependent on the whims of the time, or rather the whims of the people in power at any time. On top of that they are constantly being re-interpreted by those in power, or those looking to gain power. Which way should we jump? "Turn the other cheek" or "an eye for an eye..). I prefer the former, but there are plenty in all religions who believe in the latter to justify all manner of atrocities.

I can understand why our ancestors started to believe in God(s). They looked around them and wondered at beauty and complexity of the world. What was that big orange thing in the sky that brought warmth? Why did it rain? What drives the tides? What are volcanoes? etc. People want to have explanations, we want to understand, we have enquiring minds, it is what drives our evolution. It is perfectly understandable that in those early days all/most cultures developed religious belief systems to explain the world. It also helped maintain control of course. But as we understand more of the workings of the world why cling to these prehistoric beliefs?

It is just bizarre to me. I have many religious friends, none of them fundamentalist thankfully. We just agree to differ, but occasionally have friendly arguements when alcohol is involved! I don't suppose we'll ever convince each other, it remains one of the great mysteries of human beings I guess.


BobSmith - Jan 11, 2008 7:22 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice article

THanks! Yes, I agree. The concept of believing in god(s) in the modern world is just freaking bizarre.


johnloguk - Jan 11, 2008 4:58 am - Voted 10/10

another thought!

After reading the other posts more clearly, another more succinct thought has come to mind. Many have said that we can't disprove the existence of a God, indeed we can't. But we can't disprove the existence of the tooth fairy either. What amazes me is that so called intelligent people actually want to believe something that can't be proven. I admit that there may be a God, simply because I can't prove otherwise. God indeed may have put some proto-matter together before the big bang, lit the blue touch paper and stepped back to watch it all work itself out. But why on earth would I want to believe that without a shread of evidence or proof. I believe in plate tectonics, physics, chemistry etc because there is lots of proof/evidence.

Science isn't always right, and scientific views change as more evidence is gathered. But it has to be more right than religion because at least there is some proof, and people keep looking for more and refining it.


BobSmith - Jan 11, 2008 7:24 am - Hasn't voted

Re: another thought!

This has always been my position:

If you're going to claim that there's a giant fairy living in the sky controlling everything, then it is incumbent upon YOU to provide the proof of such. Not upon me to DISprove it. I don't go around claiming such a wacky, insane idea.

brecon35 - Jan 11, 2008 11:45 am - Voted 9/10

Re: another thought!

My views as a 'non-believer' were consolidated not 'negatively' by 'The God Delusion' but 'positively' by the writings of James Lovelock in his books about the biomass of this planet and how the phenomenon of its composition not only generates and supports life but is maintained in an optimum state of equilibrium by that very life. Also, the very accessible writings by the astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson on the universe should be enough to make anyone realise that the human brain is far too puny a piece of cellstructure to reliably formulate an accurate proposition of 'God' who (which?)is in commanding control of all that. May I say as a final thing that I find it odd that people seem to discover 'God' only in exceptional 'mind-blowing' circumstances, such as high remote places. I find the miracle of life on Earth everywhere I look. My mountain walking days are long behind me (50's and 60's) but what I take from those times is the wonderful dual feeling of being humbly insignificant and exuberantly expansive at the same time. The mountains were where I learnt to sing. I knew I was alive. Still do.
SummitPost is the best website I know but as I can't contribute to its real purpose I will jump before I slip`off the edge. (If somebody can just sign me out it would help). Thanks for the debate.

Big Shoes

Big Shoes - Jan 11, 2008 1:38 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Another thought

The tooth fairy was derived from a story book called "La Bonne Petite Souris". The book is meant to be a fairy tale and it claims to be nothing more.

The Christian Bible doesn't make this claim. It has also not changed since it was written. There is no other book in antiquity that has as many original manuscripts available as the Christian Bible. I think people get confused when someone says, which translation of the Bible do you use. It's not really a devine translational revision, rather it's a more modern wording. Just because someone changes the "Thou" and "Thee" to "You" and "I", does not undo the original message in the text. The Christian Bible is not "The" word of God, but is Gods inspired, human written accounts of him. As far as contridictions in the Bible go, I would say, read them in context and then form your opinion. If all one does is just repeat something they heard, or are just saying what they have to, in order to justify thier lifstyle. Well, then, maybe a little more study on the theological side would be in order.



seanpeckham - Jan 11, 2008 3:29 pm - Voted 5/10

Re: Another thought

Correction. There are no original manuscripts for any of the writings in any Christian Bible. We can trace back most of them to within a few hundred years or a few decades (depending on the book) of when it is hypothesized that they originated, and see how well (though of course imperfectly) they've been preserved since then, but no further.

We do know a significant percentage of the books in the Bible were forgeries, or to put it mildly, "pseudonymously written".


johnloguk - Jan 11, 2008 7:23 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Another thought

To say that the Bible hasn't changed since it was written is bizarre. Huge swathes of it have been removed by different Kings/Queens, not to mention Popes, to suit their own political needs at the time. The various different "sects" of Christianity also have very different versions. There are endless debates about which ancient texts were used or ignored in constructing the bible, and the reasons behind it all. Then we get onto the different interpretations of it. It has been used to justify wars, genocide, slavery, monogamy/bigamy, wife rape etc, and yet an Atheist like me sees it largely as a sound moral code and text of peace. So lots of clarity there then. Islam is just the same, with most clerics preaching peace, but madmen using it to justify mass murder.

One thing I am convinced of is this. That if I am wrong, and God is looking down on us now, he/she must be wondering why we managed to get his message so corrupted, confused and downright wrong.

As for theological study. Can someone explain all that nonsense in Leviticus about not wearing clothes made from two cloths and stoning women etc. He also said "don't eat pork", which some religions follow strictly but others choose to ignore. I remember as a Catholic child the glorious day when the Pope said we could eat meat on Fridays after all. Round about the same time that someone decided that it was OK to have Mass in English instead of Latin. Actually I missed my fish on Fridays. My head is spinning now.

Bubba Suess

Bubba Suess - Jan 13, 2008 1:01 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Another thought

The following is not intended to address spiritual issues, but rather to address the scholastic accuracy of what has been mentioned in this thread. I will try to keep this as simple as possible.

"There are no original manuscripts for any of the writings in any Christian Bible."


"We can trace back most of them to within a few hundred years or a few decades (depending on the book) of when it is hypothesized that they originated, and see how well (though of course imperfectly) they've been preserved since then, but no further."

True, to a point. It should be noted that P52 (the Ryland Papyrus) is effectively dated to within a decade or two of when the Gospel of John was written. Although the decade is quibbled, even secular textual critics do not question its authenticity. P46 establishes the existence of most of the Pauline epistles only a few decades later. Codices Sinaiticus (aleph) and Vaticanus (beta) show a fairly complete canon less than two hundred years later. Of course, there are plenty of other manuscripts that substantiate both the date and accuracy of the texts. Most of the “errors” are universally attributed to scribal error. It is foolish to deny that there are some important differences between the manuscripts. Again, this is also traced, eventually, to the distinction between the Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine texttypes.

"We do know a significant percentage of the books in the Bible were forgeries, or to put it mildly, "pseudonymously written"."

Forgeries are fraudulent copies of something that already exists. Even if something is “pseudonymously written” does not mean it is a forgery, or even plagiarism. It just means that someone is writing under another name. Now, some people did purport to write under Paul’s name, but none of those are in the canon, or have ever been considered part of the canon. (I know, the canon is contrived, right? That is an entirely different issue, but it should be stated that there is solid conciliar and patristic evidence for canonical authenticity.) I think what this statement was referring to (without exactly knowing it) was whether or not Paul was actually the author of books such as Ephesians. Even if one accepted a deutero-Pauline authorship, that negates neither its canonicity nor its authenticity.

“To say that the Bible hasn't changed since it was written is bizarre.”

This is an egregiously erroneous statement. The standard Greek text NA27 is an incredibly accurate and extra-extensively annotated synthesis of the best and earliest Greek manuscripts. This has then been compared, for accuracy with Latin, Syriac, Italic and Coptic texts. There are very, very few issues and discrepancies of substance, and relatively few discrepancies in general. Ultimately, there are only a handful of textual issues that have any bearing on theological issues.

“Huge swathes of it have been removed by different Kings/Queens, not to mention Popes, to suit their own political needs at the time.”

To what are you referring? The Vulgate was in use until the Reformation and it certainly matches its Greek predecessors. Perhaps you are referring to Erasmus’ attempt to reconstruct the Greek text? He certainly produced a text that contained significant errors, but then, he did not have access to all the textual variants we have now. I am sure you are probably referring to the King James Version too. This is a fairly accurate grammatical translation, but it was working off Erasmus’s text.

Of course, all of this has been addressing New Testament textual authenticity. The Old Testament is an entirely separate issue. Arguing against its authenticity one must be prepared to do so in Hebrew, Aramaic, Ugaritic, Akkadian and Assyrian, as well as take on thousands of years of Judaic scholastic work. I think this would belong in another thread, and not on Summitpost.

I say, go to the mountains and find whatever it is you find there. I know that is where I am heading.

Edited to correct quotations.

Dmitry Pruss

Dmitry Pruss - Jan 11, 2008 6:22 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: oldest manuscript of Homer's Iliad

By your token the Book of Mormon wouldn't stand a chance I guess :)

I think antiquity, and the quality of penmanship, are indeed putting the Bible right there with the Iliad, and kind of apart from the Book of Mormon ... they belong together in the history of ancient literature.

However BoM, KJB, and the Testament of the Flying Spaghetti Monster are together in a different way, as religious materials, and antiquity doesn't really matter that much in that division.


seanpeckham - Jan 14, 2008 11:50 am - Voted 5/10

Re: another thought

Actually, the closest we have are some of the Pauline epistles, dated to the early second half of the first century, early enough to have actually been written by Paul. The Gospels are more in the 125 years too late ballpark. And note that the existence of Homer is in fact doubted (though not as controversially since these days it happens that virtually no one is as attached to the Iliad as many are to the Bible in its various canons and versions of canons).

And yes, we do "know" (within the epistemological limitations of doing history) that some of the Bible books are "forgeries" (my loose term). Deuteronomy was concocted much as Joseph Smith concocted the Book of Mormon. King Josiah in the 7th century BCE claimed to have discovered lost ancient sermons of "Moses" in some rubble, and voila, this book happened to support all the reforms Josiah was pushing for. German scholars established in the 18th century that the rest of the Pentateuch as well was written by multiple authors ("J", "E", "P", etc.), none of whom was Moses. Isaiah is known to have had at least two authors, dating to different centuries. Not a single one of the New Testament Gospels was written during the time period when Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were supposedly alive, and neither were the epistles of Peter or John. Several of the Pauline epistles were most likely not written by Paul (not just Ephesians).

It is only the "faithful" who do not see that all together these facts, despite degrees of uncertainty in individual cases, place considerable doubt on the authenticity of much of the Bible. It therefore falls far short of supporting the extraordinary claims Christians use it to support. The null hypothesis is that ancient writings about gods are myth, not fact, whether written by Homer or Paul.

Bubba Suess

Bubba Suess - Jan 14, 2008 1:53 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: another thought

Your last point first: debate about whether any writings have a spiritual value is not possible, since that is begging the question. I think we can agree there. Having established that, I enjoy the intellectual exercise of debating the academic aspects of this discussion. I am not trying to sway anyone to any particular spiritual existence, I only argue scholastics

You refer to the Documentary Hypothesis of the Graf-Wellhausen school of bible critics. This is acknowledged to be a hypothesis by it proponents. That being said, JEDP is troubled by numerous problems, both internally and externally. I will touch on just a couple of issues here.

First, externally, the Documentary Hypothesis begins with presuppositions and then attempts to find evidence to support these presuppositions. It was believed that the text could not have been produced as a unified text. Julius Wellhausen then proceeded to construct a scenario that supported that presupposition. This was done admirably. However, internal presupposition he argued were his own constructs and imposed upon the text for no valid reason. Case in point, he recognizes the different writing styles (exemplified by the names used for god) and sees different authorship in them. In addition, he sees law tables and narratives as being written by different authors. This is a gross oversimplification and very unnecessary. I hesitate to resort to anecdotal examples, but it is helpful here. His argument would preclude someone like Dr. Seuss from being a political cartoonist, columnist and children's author.

Regarding Josiah, the scenario you describe was the interpretation of events described in Kings and Chronicles by the Wellhausen school. There is no indication in any contemporary texts, nor in any texts between then and the 19th century that indicate the veracity of that hypothesis. It is an idea constructed in the 19th century!

Of course, none of this has any bearing on Mosaic authorship, only on discrediting JEDP. We can pick up the Mosaic issue if you want. Regarding Isaiah, I have no problems with a deutero-Isaiah. It really changes nothing as far as the book is concerned. If you really want to approach the dating and authorship of Isaiah, you ought to look at the similarities between it and 7th century BC Assyrian poetry. It is really quite striking and on the cutting edge of modern scholarship.

As far as the Gospels, I am not sure what you are arguing. Of course, none of the manuscripts we have comes from within the time frame of the writters' lives, although as I noted, P52 was written on a decade or two after the Gospel of John was written.

As for the non-Pauline authorship of the Pauline epistles, that is a dead horse, with the exception of Ephesians and we can debate that one too, if desired. You state that they were "most likely not written by Paul". By your own account, this leaves the possibility of Pauline authorship. Neither of us have the time to go into a detailed rebuttal of non-Pauline authorship, but I am willing if you are. Thanks for the debate!


seanpeckham - Jan 15, 2008 1:11 pm - Voted 5/10

Re: another thought

Yes, DH is a hypothesis, and yes Wellhausen's original form has received much criticism, but the idea of multiple sources has been further developed and that criticism has been addressed. This process is clearly superior to simply accepting the traditional idea on faith. I hope you're not falling into the "it's just a theory" fallacy that creationists employ! It is reasonable to expect that a single author would not contradict himself, repeat himself overly redundantly, make sudden drastic changes in style and purpose, and so forth. Yet the books of Moses do all this. Even geographical locations are often described from the point of view of Palestine, which Moses never entered (and of course Moses' death is described in the past tense, in the same writing style as the rest of Deuteronomy and part of Joshuah). It is not just a matter of a mere assumption that different subjects (laws vs. narratives) indicate different authors. I am, in agreement with you I expect, highly skeptical about the possibility of assigning an author or specific oral tradition source to every last phrase in the Pentateuch, but the big picture of multiple sources from different time periods is hard to dispute.

Regarding Josiah, and your characterization of this as an "interpretation." A general issue of methodology is broached. Your view is also an interpretation, of course, so how do we adjudicate? Do we start out assuming that the traditional interpretation is correct, and set a high burden of proof for any other proposal? That's not how I operate. I think the right thing to do is gather information and ask "what interpretation is most reasonable, given this evidence?". If there's not much evidence, you may find yourself leaning towards an explanation that is not that well-supported, because no alternative is even that well supported. Or maybe I just don't know enough about this topic. You sound uncommonly well-informed on these issues, and might well present information that will change my mind, but for the moment I lean towards accepting the Josiah scenario because it makes more sense than that Moses is the author. We may agree to disagree on this topic, but the bottom line consistent with both our positions is there are limits to what can be confidently known about ancient history -- limits that are grossly inconsistent with the lack of humility many Christians display in declaring these ancient texts to be a message from, as conveniently to them as to Josiah, their particular god. The claim was made (not by you) that the Bible is completely authentic and proves God's existence; I'm not trying to prove DH, just demonstrate that the claim I'm responding to is empty even if it isn't a non sequitur.

As for the Gospels, it's not only true that the manuscripts we have do not date to the traditionally-accepted-authors' lives. It's also true that there is scholarly agreement that the texts themselves did not originate in those lifetimes; i.e. they are not the eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life they purport to be, but are rather narratives constructed long after that time and in at least some cases by unknown writers. The oldest is Mark, which used the Q document as its source. Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source, but also the Q document (this triangulation is how the existence of Q is inferred). I honestly don't know much about John, but my understanding is it is the newest. One important reason we think these texts didn't originate before the life of Paul is that Paul never quotes or references them and indeed seems completely unaware of their content, which would be extremely strange if he had actually known the authors as Acts claims. They are also compared with apocryphal texts to figure out what kinds of beliefs about Jesus were around at what times, to see where the Gospels fit in.

Ephesians is not an exception, and may actually have been dicated by Paul. A better case is made that Timothy 1 & 2, Titus, 2 Thessalonians, and Hebrews were not written by Paul. I don't think I'm the right person to get into this debate much further; I'm only saying what current scholarship proposes, which for all its uncertainty I put far more stock in than tradition or faith.


Bubba Suess

Bubba Suess - Jan 15, 2008 3:46 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: another thought

I appreciate your thoughtful and reasoned response to my points. As we have both stated, I think that this is not the place to debate textual authenticity. I will offer these minimal thoughts and call it a day:

1. Old Testament textual criticism is a dark and murky place and things are not nearly as clear cut as either the typical Christian or the JEDP'er would like.

2. That being said, Wikipedia should NOT constitute source material.

3. For starters, I recommend Roland K. Harrison's Introduction To the Old Testament to you as a response to the DH and its more current manifestations. No rebuttal to date has put a dent in the scholarship in this volume.

4. Q is highly suspect and based on faulty logic (PM me for elaboration). I can offer sound scholastic rebuttals for authorship authenticity challenges as needed. In some cases, it is moot. Hebrews is one such example. The author never claims to be Paul and it is generally regarded as being written by Anonymous.

5. Whatever early decade a NT book was written in, the canon itself was established fairly quickly. When you broaden the literary scope to include textual quotations in patristic writing and lectionaries, the evidence for the accuracy of date becomes much stronger. The canon was soundly closed in the first couple centuries and hard theological, doctrinal formulations were being constructed from these. Of course, today there is an attempt to "reopen the canon", but there are not sound scholastic reasons to do this.

6. Even though biblical texts can be soundly, and even conclusively, defended scholastically, doing so is not a defense of their spiritual authenticity. While I have my own beliefs, I am not trying to sway anyone to one side or the other. That is not my job. I only offer responses, based on hard, cold, scholarship, to commonly held conceptions that many people have. I did the same with historical misconceptions offered in this thread.

7. Everyone reading this should vote on my Trinity Alps page:

I put a lot of work into that one!

8. I yield the last word to you. I am more than happy to continue this discussion via PM or email.


seanpeckham - Jan 15, 2008 4:45 pm - Voted 5/10

Re: another thought

Hey, thanks for the educational comments. Like you said, we have probably already gone deeper into this than is appropriate for SummitPost, so I'll leave you with the last word. You give me food for thought and references (my "reference" to Wikipedia was not intended to be scholarly but to accessibly summarize and illustrate the gulf between tradition and modern scholarship) that I will have to follow up on before continuing anyway. I can't promise this will be soon, as I am just as interested in myriad other topics of study (avalanches are my current obsession) none of which have much of anything to do with what I do for a living! So I have a backlog of future reading. And weekends I try to be skiing or hiking/"climbing" (scare quotes since I'm not very hardcore) and squeeze reading in wherever I can.

One more thing before I go. One book on my list is Earl Doherty's Jesus Puzzle. Would you have a recommendation for a book that makes the best case for Jesus' historicity (that I could read along with Doherty for comparison)? I am hoping you can do better than Strobel, the typically-cited competitor.

Bubba Suess

Bubba Suess - Jan 15, 2008 5:25 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: another thought

I am going to post some thoughts on your other comment later, but a book that may prove helpful too you is Darrell Bock's "Studying the Historical Jesus". This not the end-all, but it is good and it is accessible. For the record, I am not a fan of Strobel. For that matter, I am not a fan of Josh McDowell either.

Big Shoes

Big Shoes - Jan 11, 2008 7:24 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: oldest manuscript of Homers Iliad

The book of Mormon contains writings about Jesus' visit to America to see the Indians. (Lost tribes of Isreal)Which contradicts Jesus' statements prior to his accention. The book of Mormon and the Christian Bible do not coincide.

If all goes well, I'll be up on Baldy tomorrow morning checking out frozen water particulate science.

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