Just because your religious beliefs derive from a work of fiction should be no barrier. After all, so’s Christianity, and they get too much "respect".
Sorry, that is your opinion. Prove that the Bible is a work of fiction, beyond a reasonable doubt, and we’ll talk.
You’ve got to be kidding. Every serious scholar who’s examined the bible with an open mind has more than a "reasonable doubt" that it’s an authentic representation of facts.
There are plenty of events mentioned in the NT for which contemporary non-religious sources exist – the Romans were meticulous record keepers. For example, the bible needs (for reasons of prophecy) for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, and still be "from" Nazareth. The reason for Joseph and Mary being in Bethlehem is given as a census, ordered by Augustus, and for which they were required to return to Joseph’s "home" town to register. The historical fact is that there was no such requirement in any Roman census – it would have been far too impractical, and irrelevant, anyway. The point of the census is to plan taxes, and census takers want to know where people are, not where they were born.
Then Matthew has some nonsense about Herod ordering children to be massacred. The fact that none of the many contemporary histories mention this is generally accepted as evidence that it simply didn’t occur.
So, the idea that the bible contains nothing that qualifies as fiction is untenable. So we’re really left with arguing over how much of it is fiction and how much is fact. If we could find a fair court – one in which the jury wasn’t conditioned from birth to grant the bible some kind of special status – I’m very comfortable that they’d decide it was primarily a work of fiction.
I’ll care about fake religions getting official recognition in the UK when the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam is allowed to openly practice their faith in Vietnam, when the Baha’i Faith is free from persecution in Iran, and converts from Islam to other religions aren’t subject to the death penalty in many Islamic nations.
Ah, the "we’re not the worst and that’s good enough for me" argument. Since you seem to be taking a pro-bible stance, go back and read the beginning of Matthew 7.
scottb, you have more knowledge of the actual book than I ever will (or care to have!). I’m curious if you can lend some thoughts into the discussion on various books within the bible as primary source documents. I wrote some thoughts on the matter (here and here) based on some conclusions I made, but most of the counter arguments seem to require more biblical knowledge.
Quick historical note on the subject of the Roman census or registration – Josephus specifically mentions a census undertaken by the Roman government at or around the time of Jesus’ birth. This census, or perhaps another one of a similar nature, is also mentioned by Orosius. There are indeed issues with dating, but we cannot throw out events as fantastic simply because dating ancient events is so problematic. Were that the case we would have to discard most of history up to the Late Middle Ages or thereabouts. That this census, or registration, broke with a Roman custom is not hard to understand nor widely contested. As a matter of course the Roman government did not generally conduct a census in a client kingdom, however the Bible as well as other non-Christian sources mention a census, so it’s not that hard to accept a census of some form or fashion as historical. Also, we should remember that comparing the events of this time to other Roman history is potentially problematic. The government under Augustus is no longer the Republic. Augustus was, in fact, the first Emperor of Rome (though he didn’t call himself that) and was likely to enact many policies that would seem strange when taken in the light of Republican practices. We can certainly imagine a change of business as usual if America were suddenly ruled by a king who had recently concluded a rather massive war for control of the kingdom. Furthermore, Judea at this time was anything but a placid region. Rumors of rebellions were rife and Romans of the day were probably familiar with the problems the Maccabees had caused for the Seleucids about a century prior. It is certainly conceivable that the new emperor would wish to know about his empire (even the client states), especially those places were he could easily expect opposition to his rule. That a census of some kind was conducted in the manner of the Jewish custom, as opposed to the Roman, is understandable given that the Romans often deferred to locals in matters of administration and law. That the census was remarkable is certainly true, but must be taken in the context of some rather remarkable times altogether. A census in Judea according to the Jewish custom is perfectly plausible, at least as plausible as many other events that we take as historical.
Actually, it’s the "I don’t give a rat’s ass if some wankers in the UK who call themselves ‘Jedi’ aren’t getting official recognition, when other folks around the world face persecution and death for their religious beliefs" argument. But I’m funny that way.
For example, the bible needs (for reasons of prophecy) for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, and still be "from" Nazareth. The reason for Joseph and Mary being in Bethlehem is given as a census, ordered by Augustus, and for which they were required to return to Joseph’s "home" town to register. The historical fact is that there was no such requirement in any Roman census – it would have been far too impractical, and irrelevant, anyway.
Except that Rome did take various census’ of it’s empire, including Judea, and that sometimes there was such a requirement.
A few things: One- why would "many contemporary histories" make mention of anything Herod did in Judea, which was a backwater province that most Romans didn’t give a crap for and was the post you got as governor if you pissed the Emperor off? Also, I think by "generally accepted as evidence" you mean "generally accepted as evidence by people who don’t want to believe anything in the bible." Two- why would Herod, (historically known as paranoid, despotic and murderous and thus not at all out of character for him) keep a record that he slaughtered a bunch of newborns? Just because there are no extant accounts outside of the Gospels of such a slaughter doesn’t necessarily disprove it. I submit to you that every known account of the exploits of Alexander the Great was written 300 years after the fact, all based on earlier histories that are now lost.
Every serious scholar who’s examined the bible with an open mind has more than a "reasonable doubt" that it’s an authentic representation of facts.
Four out of five dentists recommend PlaQ-B-Gone toothpaste. A billion Chinese can’t be wrong about rice. Polls say most Americans like pie. You’ll also excuse me for interpreting "an open mind" to mean "actively seek to disprove." I’m funny that way.
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