How I Overcame My Jewish-Evangelical Upbringing and Learned to Love Christmas, Anyway

Guest Column: Gavin Evans Back in the day, when Gavin and I were young activists trying to change the world, the doorbell rang at our Observatory student house. I opened it to see a tall and handsome man in the silky purple shirt and dog collar of an Anglican Bishop. “You must be Tony,” said Bishop Bruce Evans. “I hope you’re going to make a mensch out of my son.” I was a little gobsmacked to hear +Bruce, as I came to know him, tossing out yiddish bon mots. But as his menschedik son relates here, many are the pathways of the lord, and all that….

The fundamentalist century

By Gavin Evans

So, Christmas and Hannukah have rolled past again, following in the wake of Eid and Diwali. Lots of celebrations all around and, perhaps, time to put a bit of religion back into the mix.

It is fitting to start with the obvious point that these festivals and commemorations are not all they seem. Take Christmas: the date of December 25 was chosen by the Romans sometime after 350 AD, probably to coincide with a pagan festival (and certainly not the birth date of the historical Jesus) – one of the many ways the Romans managed to wed Christianity with pre-existing Pagan traditions and beliefs. But Christmas only became prominent after Charlemagne was crowned on December 25, 800, and it took more than another millennium before the traditions of trees, and presents crept in (Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens did their bit) – and a bit longer before the North Pole Santa arrived. In other words, its connections with Christianity are tenuous, to say the least. It has become, essentially, a secular celebration – which is one of the reasons why I am happy to embrace its charms.

But this was not the way I grew up. I was raised on fundamentalism, and Christmas certainly wasn’t exempt. We were told the point wasn’t the actual date but rather that this was celebration of the birth of Jesus and that we give presents to remember that God gave his son for our salvation (I later discovered that other cultures – Spanish, for example – give their presents later as a celebration of the gifts given by the Three Wise Men).

Anyway, this stuff was as integral to my childhood as family meals: chapter-and-verse Protestantism complete with ‘born-again conversion’ (aged 8), tongues-sprouting ‘baptism in the spirit’ (aged 13), the promise of everlasting life with our Lord (heaven) and the perpetual fear of everlasting separation from his love (hell). Add to this the fact that my father, who went on to become an Anglican Bishop, was Jewish, and believed he was part of the God’s chosen people and that the creation of the state of Israel was the fulfilment of Biblical philosophy, and you might get the sense of why our upbringing was not entirely normal, if normality is measured by the going rate. So when I made my break, aged 17, it needed to be decisive, after which I drifted from open-ended agnosticism into soft atheism. But I have to say, it feels like much of the world is moving in the opposite direction.

The rise of fundamentalism

Religious fundamentalism is on the rise: you can see it in the variants of radical Sunni Islam feeding off the detritus of US foreign policy and of Zionist expansionism, taking hold of young hearts from the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa via Pakistan through Afghanistan, into the West and back to the Middle East, Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia and beyond. Up against it comes Shiite Islamism, given a foothold through the 1979 Iranian revolution and now spreading via Iraq while tapping into other conflicts in the Middle East, where both forms elbow out secular Arab nationalism to do battle with a revivalist form of Jewish radicalism, married to rightwing Zionism, with its most significant echo in the United States. There it thrives alongside an assertive Catholic backlash and the spread of literalist Pentecostal Protestantism, which is also on the march throughout Latin America, while making fresh inroads into China, Russia and Africa. Sometimes forgotten in all this Abrahamic ferment, is the growth of Hindu radicalism in India – part of the problem in Kashmir and not exactly helpful in easing tensions with Pakistan (and, as with other fundamentalist forms, it is strongly motivated by turning back advances made by Indian women).

I don’t want to paint these fundamentalisms with the same brush, to view them as no more than variants of the same doomed anti-modernist death rattle, but there are common elements. Look at millenarian movements throughout history and a common factor leaps out: their emergence from periods of social disruption and from challenge by rival fundamentalist energy. Part of their appeal comes from the certainty they offer in an uncertain world – immutable values, a return to godly ways, strict demands on lifestyle, the promise of everlasting life and everlasting punishment for the unfaithful. And yet, despite their claims, today’s variants are contemporary movements – of our time rather than of ancient times.


The first sparks that gave rise to contemporary Sunni Islamism are sometimes attributed to the writings of the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb, the intellectual force behind the Egyptian Islamic Brotherhood whose commentaries on the Qu’ran and advocacy of Jihad and of the creation of world-wide Islamic Umma were a powerful influence on several variants of Islamism, including al-Qaeda. Qutb’s hatred of Western ways, and most particularly of the ways of Western women, was partly inspired by his spell in Greely, Colorado from 1948-1950 – hardly a liberated time or place, but deeply shocking for a virgin who complained about the “animal-like” mixing of the sexes – even in churches.

But this form of Sunni Islamism needed fertile territory to flourish, which was inadvertently fostered by the relationship between corrupt Saudi rulers and the deeply conservative Wahabi religious establishment, allowing them to control education, religious life and social life. Even today, this American ally is patrolled, literally, by religious police who rigidly enforce Sharia law. Women are banned from voting, driving, swimming in public and so on. But this was never enough. Some younger men, not least wealthy ones like Osama Bin Laden, wanted more. For a while, their urges were channelled in Afghanistan because fighting the Russians suited everyone. They had already made their mark by spreading their version of Sunni Islam via the Pakistani Madrassas to Afghanistan (with considerable help from Pakistan’s intelligence services). Once the Russians departed, they turned their eyes to the Americans and over the past decade the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russian atrocities in Chechnya and, in particular, US backing for Israel against the Palestinians, have helped stoke the fire of this variant of radical Islam, providing local, regional and international causes to rally behind.

Certainly, there are major differences between variants of Islamism and I don’t want to fall into the Martin Amis trap of conflating them all into a single, demonised bloc (Amis even manages to put Shiite and Sunni radicals in the same pot, which is a bit like conflating Martin Luther with the Pope). For example, I see Hamas and Hizballah as essentially nationalistic political movements with a strong religious overtone (and they are vehement political opponents of al-Qaeda). In each region or area, the growth of Islamic-inspired political groups owes a great deal to local conditions. Nevertheless, there are common factors, worthy of generalisation. Its appeal is particularly strong to those who felt left behind or left out by the sweep of modernity or frustrated by powerlessness or fearful or resentful of its consequences.

In some parts of the world, a significant part of the motivation seems to be an antipathy to the enhanced position of women. Some of the most striking images I’ve seen are those of young, unemployed Indonesian Muslim men cheering when professional women were whipped for not being sufficiently covered up. Accounts of women in Taliban Afghanistan point to an obsession by the young men (who emerged as religious police) about countering advances in women’s lives introduced during the Soviet era: not just wearing of Burkhas (as if to deny not female sexuality), but even the education of girls.

Opinion surveys of young Muslims in the West consistently point to a sense of alienation from the prevailing motion of society – part of it but also apart from it. For these people, Islamism with its global vision, its stateless perspective of the Umma, and its radical vision of challenge, change and permanent struggle, offers something of the surety, definition and sense of purpose that Marxism offered earlier generations, but the parallel shouldn’t be taken too far. First, this is a religion; Marxism was merely quasi-religious in its tone. Second, the al-Qaeda variant of this particular religious movement claims to be committed to the destruction of modernity, holding up the horror of the Taliban Afghanistan as a success. It carries within its soul a profound antagonism to the liberation of women, and the young converts in Western cities are not immune to this particular appeal. The emergence of significant numbers of Burkha and Niqab-wearing women in Western cities surely owes something to this impetus.

Evangelical Christian fundamentalism

In one sense you could trace the origins of contemporary evangelical Christian radicalism to Luther and the rise of Protestantism but its more recent currents are drawn from 19th century revivalism and, more specifically, the rise of Pentecostalism in the southern American states at the turn of the 20th century. In addition to their Protestant Biblical fundamentalism with its literal heaven and literal hell, the Pentecostals were big on the ‘Power of the Holy Spirit’ (expressed through the ‘gifts of the spirit’ – tongues, interpretation, healing, exorcism and so on) and on interpretations of the book of Revelation emphasising the ‘Second Coming’.

But it was only in the 1960s that it burst its southern American banks and began outpacing all other Christian movements – both through its own denominations (the Assemblies of God, free Pentecostal churches and others which, together, now have over 150 million adherents) and through inroads into the Anglican and Catholic churches where the ‘charismatic movement’ took off in the early 1970s. Even in Britain, the most irreligious of all countries, evangelicals are on the rise – putting the squeeze on liberals and Anglo Catholics in the Church of England – while house churches and faith centres spread beyond the Anglican embrace. It became the most powerful force within late 20th century Christianity and few countries outside the Islamic world were spared. By the late 1980s it was also starting to become an important political force in the United States, and within a decade became the centre-point of Carl Rove’s strategy for creating a new, rightwing Republic coalition.

So what is the motive force behind this expansion? Again, it is hard to escape the view that the unsettled state of post-industrial capitalism has something to do with it: the breakdown in communities and community, the sense of relative decline, and disquiet about changes in gender relations, although here the starting point is different to that of Islamism. The mid-century dancehalls that so upset Qutb, with their immutable roles for boys and girls, are points of return rather than departure for today’s Pentecostals, who tell their women to make an effort to look beautiful and feminine for their husbands and prefer homemakers to career women, and demand that the man is master of the house and that part of the woman’s role is to honour and obey (and, of course, that the rod should not be spared on the children).

Religious Zionist fundamentalism

I don’t want to draw too direct a parallel with the rise of new variants of Jewish radicalism, because unlike Islam or Christianity, Judaism has long ceased being a proselytising religion (although it certainly did have a proselytising element for its first few thousand years). I am therefore not talking about the intriguing growth of some branches of Hasidic Judaism (not least the Lubavitch in New York and beyond).

Instead, what I am referring to is the shift towards greater religiosity among the heirs of Vladimir Jabotinsky: the Zionist right – a religiosity that is deeply political (as is Islamism and Christian fundamentalism). When I hear West Bank Settler leaders saying that every Jew knows in his heart that this land of Judea and Sumaria as well as Israel is theirs and that those who pretend otherwise are trying to silence the voice of God within them, it is eerily reminiscent of the way ‘backsliders’ were regarded in my evangelical upbringing. Here the idea is that Jewish ‘blood’ comes with a God-given spiritual knowledge of Jewish destiny through control of particular pieces of land – so land, blood and God’s spirit inextricably bound together. Recent genetic research suggesting a common ancestry of Middle Eastern Jews and Palestinians, going back 4000 years to their mythical common ancestor, Abraham, should be deeply unsettling to those holding this view, as should evidence produced by the likes of Schlomo Sand that the blood descendents of the Biblical Jews include today’s Palestinians, but science and fundamentalism seldom cross paths.

It is in this terrain – Israel and Palestine – where the millenarian obsessions of radical variants of the three Abrahamic religions coincide. For one thing, radical Christians, Jews and Shia Muslims are all big on prophetic arrivals or returns. For some Jews it is the arrival of the anointed one, the Messiah, who will gather the Jews back to the land of Israel, heralding a messianic age. For Shia fundamentalists it is the second coming of the ‘saviour Imam’ Mehdi, the 12th grandson of Muhammad, who will return to rule before Judgement day. For many evangelical Christians it is the second coming of the Jesus, an event seen within the context of an apocalyptic version of the final days – the Tribulation (when the Anti-Christ rules), the Battle of Armageddon (which takes place in Israel), the Rapture (where all the Christians ascend into heaven), Judgement Day and the end of the earth. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that their competing Apocalyptic visions become self-fulfilling prophesies.

Old Testament literalism

Another striking similarity between the religious-political fundamentalists of all three Abrahamic religions is their scriptural literalism. Speak in any depth to a religious Zionist radical and the argument will soon reach the point of the promises made by ‘G-d’ about the Land of Israel in the Tanakh, which is viewed as an immutable historical record – a view shared by Islamists and Christian evangelicals.

For anyone outside the religious realm, the idea of a collection of writings thousands of years old being passed off as an accurate historical document would seem absurd, but that was certainly the view I was raised with. It was only in 1985 – seven years after abandoning Christianity – that this was challenged. I was sitting in a detention cell in Johannesburg Prison when through a gap in the floor, a common law prisoner passed me a book on Biblical archaeology, written by a Christian with more than a passing a regard for truth. The only other book I had was the Bible and so I read both, and was surprised to find that a great deal of what I’d taken as historical record was nothing of the sort (for example the exodus from Egypt took over 100 years, and involved nothing like the numbers suggested in the Bible.

I followed this with further research and discovered there was no evidence for the existence of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Joseph, and very little of Moses (many non-religious archaeologists believe he was a mythical character, since no physical evidence like pottery shards or stone tablets have been found relating to him). Even the existence of King David is restricted to one, much-disputed non-Biblical inscription (the Biblical account of his life appears to have been boosted and changed over time, most notably by the priests under Judean King Josiah two hundred years after his supposed death) and there is also scant evidence of Solomon. In addition, the five Mosaic books were written by at least four authors between the seventh and fifth centuries BC (hundreds of years after the time of the Biblical Moses) and there was a great deal of chopping and changing in the books of the Old Testament, with new bits added, reflecting shifts in power, before the version we know today was more or less settled.

New Testament literalism

I went on to re-examine the New Testament and was even more surprised. I’d been raised with the idea that the Gospels were written by Jesus’ disciples shortly after his death. In fact, none of the Gospels was written by men who knew Jesus. The first (attributed to ‘Mark’ in the second century) was written at least 30 years after Jesus’ death and the others drew heavily from it – John’s Gospel may have been completed as late as 160 AD. I then discovered that six of the 13 the epistles of Paul were only posthumously attributed to Paul and that he probably had nothing to do with them – and also that bits were subsequently added to his epistles, including some of their most misogynistic directives.

It was only well into the fourth century, when the church was already deeply Romanised, that the books of the New Testament were more or less settled. Until then, there had been several competing Gospels (including the Gnostic Gospels of Mary – probably written in the early second century and proposing Mary rather than Peter as Jesus’ favourite disciple – and others such as Thomas, Philip and Judas) and competing views of the significance of Jesus among the Christian groups, not all regarding him as divine. It was only after the assembly of bishops in the Nicene Council in 325 ad, under the Emperor Constantine, that consensus was imposed. From then-on competing versions of the Christian story were suppressed, as were competing religions (including Greek and Roman Pantheism, aspects of which were absorbed into Christian practice – the veneration of the Virgin Mary as a kind of female deity, the promotion of Saints as demi-gods and pagan festivals like Christmas). The survival of the church owed a great deal to the patronage of Roman emperor whose conversion was probably one of political convenience rather than faith, who accepted the minority Arian Christian view that Jesus was a man and not part of God and who by today’s standards was a mass murder (a year after the Nicene Council he had his son and second wife executed).

I was also intrigued to find interpretations of Biblical books completely at odds with those I had previously received – not least on the Book of Revelation. I was raised on the idea that the writer’s apocalyptic visions referred to the imminent End of Times. In those days (the early 1970s) the Soviet Union figured strongly (as land of Magog from where the anti-Christ, Gog would emerge), although with its decline subsequent candidates emerged, including Europe and the United Nations. Anyway, revisiting this book, I found competing interpretations including those linking the prophesies to events in the first century, with the Emperor Nero as the anti-Christ. I also found a great deal of debate among early Christians as to whether Revelation should be part of the Biblical canon. Even Luther initially considered Revelation to be “neither apostolic nor prophetic” and stated that “Christ is neither taught nor known in it”.

Islamic literalism

Recent scholarship has also thrown into doubt the Islamic view that the Qu’ran was the work Muhammad (via Allah). Strong evidence has emerged to suggest it was compiled, and possibly written, after Muhammad’s death in 632 AD, and that much of it was drawn from pre-existing religious texts (including ancient heathen fables and myths and borrowings from apocryphal and Syriac Christian writings and also the Talmud and apocryphal Jewish writings, and possibly Zoroastrianism). Incidentally, he Jewish influence is hardly surprising because Islam emerged at a time of an anti-Christian alliance between Jews and Arabs. Additional evidence comes from the restoration of the Great Mosque of Sana’a in Yemen where early fragments of the Qu’ran were discovered, diverging from the current version.

In fact, it emerges that we know very little about the life of Muhammad because it would seem that everything in the Hadith (his utterances on Islamic behaviour) is based on hearsay, written down well over a century later. You might think this would be disturbing to those believing that the Hadith reflected the actual words of Muhammad and that the Qu’ran was dictated to Muhammad in a cave by the Archangel Gabriel in God’s language, Arabic, but fundamentalists do not deal in debate. It is enough for them to point out that some of these ideas have been hijacked by Christians – proof enough of a Crusader agenda.

Atheist fundamentalism

Which brings me to another point – about the futile crusade of a new breed of atheist. Personally, I prefer the approach taken by that giant of evolutionary biology, Stephen J. Gould, who argued that religion and science occupy “non-overlapping magisteria”. But this is not the approach taken by the neo-atheists responding with such vigour to the spread of religious fundamentalism. To take some recent examples, there’s Christopher Hitchens’ God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, a double-blast from Sam Harris – The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell, but the one I will to refer to specifically is the daddy of the lot, Richard Dawkins’ best-seller, The God Delusion.

I don’t dispute the conclusions reached by Dawkins about the unlikelihood of the existence of a divine creator; merely to say I doubt he has persuaded any true believer to abandon God – not least because he doesn’t understand the religious mindset. Perhaps these weren’t things he encountered when getting his second class BA in zoology, or perhaps his logic is blurred by passion, but still, he ends up presenting a curiously superficial case. For example, he argues that if God existed he would need to have evolved, which, of course, is impossible because every effect must have a cause, and so on. The sheer stupidity of this argument is astounding: quite obviously, if you have faith in a divine, omnipresent, omniscient creator you do not consider this creator an evolved creation.

This relates to another flaw in the approach by of the most vocal contemporary atheists – their tendency to conflate evidence for evolution with evidence against creation. The Christians I grew up with – Biblical literalists all – were supporters of evolutionary theory. They saw it as God’s way of creating our world, and the six day creation of the Bible presented no problem, because, for them, the word ‘day’ was simply a translation of ‘period of time’, which could be a billion years. I mention this because it remains the majority position within Christianity. Creationism (viewed as a six-day wonder, 6 000 years ago) remains a minority taste. More of a challenge is to ask where the first strand of the building block of evolution, DNA, came from. Creation, say the theists. Chance, say the atheists: a mute point – a question of faith. This quandary goes all the way to the Big Bang. What preceded it? Stupid question, says science, because without space there can be no time. But it is in this nothingness, that this faith in a force that can create something out of nothing is so hard to dispel through rational argument. Matter cannot be created or destroyed; only changed from one form to another, says science. To which the religious mind says, yes, unless you are God.

Against this, Dawkins cites one of Bertrand Russell’s weaker arguments: the ‘celestial teapot’. It goes like this: if I said a celestial teapot was orbiting Mars but you couldn’t see it, nobody would be able to disprove me, “but if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense.” Sounds reasonable until you consider that faith in God is nothing like belief in a celestial teapot – to most people the former seems more reasonable (which is why I have yet to meet a teapot-worshipper). In other words, Dawkins has made an elementary logical error – drawing an analogy between things that don’t belong together. What it suggests is a failure to understand why people believe in the first place.

Which is surprising, considering Dawkins’ own teenage spell of religious ecstasy. As he once put it: “At the age of about 13 when I was being confirmed, I did have a fairly active fantasy life about a relationship with God, and I used to pray and I used to have fantasies about creeping down to the chapel in the middle of the night, and having a sort of blinding vision and things.” Today, his view of the religious impulse coincides neatly with that of the born-again, Bible-based Christians I grew up with. They used to talk of a ‘God-centred gene’ in all of us – that we are all born with this longing for communion with our Lord. As a genetic fundamentalist, who reduces the cultural terrain to the odd notion of gene-mimicking ‘memes’, Dawkins rejects cultural explanations for religion and concludes that religion evolved through natural selection as a by-product of other needs. It boils down to this: we evolve to believe what we’re told by our elders because our elders are usually right, and those who believe what they’re told benefit from their experience. It sounds feasible until you ask why it was that religion, rather than something else, was passed on by elders.

Dawkins is oblivious to evidence against the notion (shared by Christian fundamentalists) that the religious impulse is universal. I could point to contrary examples in the advanced industrial world (40 percent of British people do not believe in god), but, more interesting, are the Piraha people of the Brazilian Amazon, who have no concept of god, the afterlife or the spiritual realm – and don’t even have the capacity for this in their language. What this suggests is two things: first, that the impulse towards spiritual belief is contingent rather than inevitable; second, that if fulfils a powerful cultural role and therefore is very widespread.

What could be the reasons for this? I would suggest the answer is found in the idea put forward by Gould of non-adaptive evolutionary side consequences (‘spandrels’). Evolution equipped us with large, imaginative, empathetic, creative, questioning brains that needed answers to questions ranging from ‘why are we here?’ to ‘what’s that big fiery ball in the sky?’ to ‘what happens to us when we die?’ The answers provided relate to the form and development of society, which is why beliefs shift from animism to pantheism to monotheism. Once formulated, these systems develop lives of their own while also changing according to the climate of the times. One reason is that human beings are social creatures, and religious belief systems play important roles within the fabric of societies – securing discipline, control and complicity and providing hope, purpose and direction, which is why they are perpetuated.

The new breed of militant atheist wants to create a world free from religious superstition, and they are right to point to the misery religion has caused. To take Christianity’s contribution, we could move from the Crusades, the Conquistadors and the Spanish Inquisition, step over its complicity in slavery, dictatorship, genocide and apartheid, and round off with more recent contributions to barbarity like, say, the Lord’s Army in Uganda. But then it is also worth mentioning that most of the charity work and voluntary community work throughout the world, and most of the money donated to charity, comes from religious people. And if we are to take the credit and debit accounting approach, it would be fair to mention history’s only example of a system where atheism was a founding principle – Soviet and Sino socialism – which did not seem to contribute to making people any happier with their lot – one reason why the churches (and congregations) are back with a vengeance in each of those countries.

But even if we could forgo compulsion and persuade everyone that their faith is a load of tosh, I’m not convinced the result would be a better world. Is Britain a happier place today than when 80 percent of its people believed in God? Are atheists more fulfilled than believers? Are they kinder, more altruistic people? The best we could say is, well, sometimes. But at other times the vacuum left by loss of faith is filled by nihilism. When I see the yobs from down the road coming down our street on a steaming attack, assaulting everyone in their path, just for the hell of it, I can’t help thinking that a bit of god wouldn’t be such a bad idea – and that perhaps the opiate of the people is not such a terrible thing after all.

A fundamentalist century

Unless, that is, it’s the form of opiate that turns people into addicts who will do anything to satisfy the urge. And I’m afraid that’s precisely the kind of religion we are seeing more of today, and which we’ll see far more of in future because there is sound reason to fear that climate change will exacerbate these tensions and encourage the spread of religious fundamentalism in ways we haven’t seen before. If the prognoses of climate scientists proves to be correct, then we’ll see famine, drought and starvation at unprecedented levels along with huge-scale human migration – from south to north, and, more specifically, away from equatorial and sub-tropical regions towards cooler climates. Europe may do the brunt of the absorption but in other parts of the world the impact may be even more profound. One of these will be the Middle East. Faced with drought, water shortages and the decline in agriculture, the region will not be able to sustain its current population, which means we can expect a Diaspora of Arabs and Jews, while those who remain will be compelled to fight over the scraps – village tap politics on a grander scale than currently seen in Darfur.

It is one of the sadder conundrums of the modern world that a time when extraordinary advances in science, technology and most of all collective economic and political will are needed to prevent climate change from threatening us with the global equivalent of meltdown, is also a time of rapidly spreading superstitions which aim to take us back to a world that never existed. So then, Happy Holidays.

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25 Responses to How I Overcame My Jewish-Evangelical Upbringing and Learned to Love Christmas, Anyway

  1. Ismail Lagardien says:

    It would have been nice to see a small section on “ontological clarity” (for want of a better term)… For instance,Christian Fundamentalism’s formal C20 origins can be traced directly to “The Fundamentals” given to the world by the United States.

    While the conduct of some Muslims, Hindus etc may be consistent with that of their Christian counterparts, it is an important definitional (ontological?) matter.

    Other than that, I read this post with great interest; it is at least consistent with the general protestations of what seems like Tony Karon’s main interests. I say “seems” because I can’t quite tell if he is Time magazine’s Middle East/Israel specialist or if he merely protesteth too much about Zionism.

  2. Tony says:

    Issy — I write about the Middle East for TIME, I thought that much was obvious. As for “protesteth too much about Zionism” I’m not sure what you mean. Or who you think you are, for that matter…

  3. David Green says:

    Atheists, Christians, Jews, Muslims … all just people with the same proclivities to be good or bad. There is good and bad in any group of people, indeed any individual person. Religion, or lack thereof doesn’t alter this. The yobs on your street would be no better, or worse, if they had religion.

  4. Rohini Rajasekaran says:

    Yes, Christmas is becoming more and more secular. Its more about Santa and making merry than commemorating Christ’s birth. Its true that all most everything has a way of turning fundamentalistic, be it theism or atheism.

  5. Kenneth Hammond says:

    I like the historical analysis of fundamentalism,
    but see it as needing further clarity in contemporary 20C ways as the above post suggests and I do think we are missing the forest for the trees by
    pointing to Islamic literalism. Culture, philosophy and science have relations with religious thinking and belief that are much more interwoven or symbiotic than your view of their separateness imply.

  6. Gavin Evans says:

    On Issy’s point about Christian fundamentalism: I wouldn’t classify this as an ontological issue, and I am not sure what is meant by tracing it to the ‘Fundamentals’ given the world by the USA. As I mentioned its origins go back to Martin Luther, and you can trace its spread through Europe and Britain during the 17th and 18th centuries, and then, more or less via the Mayflower, to the US. The Pentecostal variant, which owes much to these revivalist predecessors, got going in the late 19th century, although, as I stressed, its global spread has been more recent.

    On Dave’s point: the implication of what you are saying is that human behaviour can’t be changed by belief systems. We know this not to be true.

  7. Warren Metzler says:

    If any person develops a calling, such as me to become a physician. And then goes on to find a way to consistently obtain excellent results, in my case find a way to consistently move each ill person to permanent well-being (no major limitations, plus being mature in all areas of her life). That person unavoidably realizes one day that every person has a spiritual component (a spirit), that all aspects of that person are a conscious manifestation of things happening in that person’s spirit, that the spirits of all humans, plants, animals, and minerals live in the spiritual realm, and that the spiritual realm was created, and is still run by a Supreme Being.

    So God exists and is in charge. Either a human eventually recognizes this fact, and becomes a fulfilled human being. Or ignores this fact and becomes more restricted and unfilled the older he gets. That’s it, plain and simple.

  8. Quranist says:

    Quran confirms the Torah and Gospel but attacks the Talmud and Trinity!

    Does the Koran say Torah and Gospel corrupted?

    Some people have said that the Koran says that the Torah and Gospel are corrupted and its no longer a book of guidance. They say “Islam” says so. Some Muslims even have said that anyone who still follows these scriptures is no longer a believer but a disbeliever and will go to hell. Indeed some Sunni/Shia scholars claim that any follower of islam who does not believe that the Jews and Christians are infidels is an infidel himself! However when asked to provide their evidence from the Koran they are mute and confused. This is because what they say and the Koran are complete opposites. Lets look at the Koran and what it say:

    Let the People of the Gospel judge by what God hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what God hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel. (Surah 5, Maida, verse 47)

    But why do they come to thee for decision, when they have (their own) Law before them?- Therein is the (plain) command of God; yet even after that, they would turn away. For they are not (really) people of faith. (Surah 5, Maida, verse 43)

    Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? But what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life? – And on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For God is not unmindful of what ye do. (Surah 2, Baqara, verse 85)

    Say: “O People of the Book! Ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord….” (Surah 5, Al Ma’idah, verse 68)

    If only they had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course: But many of them follow a course that is evil. (Surah 5, Maida, verse 69)

    Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth. (Surah 7, A’raf, verse 159)

    2.41 And believe in what I reveal, confirming the revelation which is with you, and be not the first to reject Faith therein, nor sell My Signs for a small price; and fear Me, and Me alone.

    2.89 And when there comes to them a Book from God, confirming what is with them,- although from of old they had prayed for victory against those without Faith,- when there comes to them that which they (should) have recognized, they refuse to believe in it but the curse of Allah is on those without Faith.

    2.91 When it is said to them, “Believe in what God Hath sent down, “they say, “We believe in what was sent down to us:” yet they reject all besides, even if it be Truth confirming what is with them. Say: “Why then have ye slain the prophets of Allah in times gone by, if ye did indeed believe?”

    Here the Koran clearly states the Koran confirms what is with them, meaning the scriptures of the Jews and Christians. Clearly this is not stating scriptures of the past but what they have possession of at the time the Koran was revealed. These scriptures are identical in every way to the scriptures these religions still have today known as the Old Testament and New Testament or the Bible as some call it. As I did my research about this subject some time ago I was looking for where this evidence of the tampering and corruption of the Bible is mentioned in the Koran as claimed by the Sunni/Shia sectarianist. How can God say the previous scriptures are corrupted then order them to follow them? It even attacks those who refuse to follow it and says its a path to salvation and mentions them in an equal footing as the Koran.

    To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what God hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If God had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute; Surah 5 Verse 48

    It even uses the previous scripture as evidence for the validity of the Koran:

    And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that) was before thee… (Surah 10, Jonah, verse 94)

    Muslims who follow Sunni/Shia Islam say these verses are concerning the originals. But these scriptures have not changed since the days of the prophet. In fact they are the way they are today long before the prophet. So what scriptures was the Koran talking about other than the current Bible? They then point to this verse as evidence of the corruption and tampering of the previous scriptures(ie the Bible).

    2.79 Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say:”This is from God,” to traffic with it for miserable price!- Woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby.

    This is then used to support the tampering of the scriptures. However upon close examination, I see they failed to look at the verse before it and after it.

    2.78 And there are among them illiterates, who know not the Book, but (see therein their own) desires, and they do nothing but conjecture.

    So the Koran is saying those poeple were making things up but never said the Book itself has been tampered since those people never knew the book and the follow up verses brings light to a religious scripture followed by the Judaic faith thats not the Old Testament.

    2.80 And they say: “The Fire shall not touch us but for a few numbered days:” Say: “Have ye taken a promise from God, for He never breaks His promise? or is it that ye say of God what ye do not know?”

    This is not in the Torah but its refering to the Talmud. The supposed “oral” traditions the Rabbis say was passed down to them. The Talmud are the collections of the traditions of the so called Pharisees talked about in the Gospel who were fierce opponents of Jesus the Messiah.

    The Rabbinic tradition arose from the Pharisaic tradition after the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70. In general, it moved away from traditional Judaism’s emphasis on an earthly future for Israel toward the concept of reward in the life to come.[4] Gehinom (Gehenna), according to rabbinic literature, is a place or state where the wicked are temporarily punished after death. “Gehenna” is sometimes translated as “hell”, but the Christian view of hell differs from the Jewish view of Gehenna. Most sinners are said to suffer in Gehenna no longer than twelve months.Those who are too wicked to reach paradise are sometimes said to be punished forever.[5] Other accounts reject the idea that a merciful God would punish anyone forever,[6] in which case those too wicked for purification are destroyed (see annihilationism)
    Gehenna – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Also in the Talmud:

    Sanhedrin 57a . A Jew need not pay a gentile (“Cuthean”) the wages owed him for work.

    The Koran condemned this:
    3.75. Among the People of the Book are some who, if entrusted with a hoard of gold, will (readily) pay it back; others, who, if entrusted with a single silver coin, will not repay it unless thou constantly stoodest demanding, because, they say, “there is no call on us (to keep faith) with these ignorant (Pagans).” but they tell a lie against God, and (well) they know it.

    Sanhedrin 106a . Says Jesus’ mother was a whore: “She who was the descendant of princes and governors played the harlot with carpenters.” Also in footnote #2 to Shabbath 104b of the Soncino edition, it is stated that in the “uncensored” text of the Talmud it is written that Jesus mother, “Miriam the hairdresser,” had sex with many men.

    4.156 Quran
    That they rejected Faith; that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge;

    The famous warning of Jesus Christ about the tradition of men that voids Scripture (Mark 7:1-13), is in fact, a direct reference to the Talmud, or more specifically, the forerunner of the first part of it, the Mishnah, which existed in oral form during Christ’s lifetime, before being committed to writing. Mark chapter 7, from verse one through thirteen, represents Our Lord’s pointed condemnation of the Mishnah.


    The Schindler’s List Quote

    The Talmud (i.e., the Babylonian Talmud) text of Sanhedrin 37a restricts the duty to save life to saving only Jewish lives.

    The book on Hebrew censorship, written by Jews themselves (Hesronot Ha-shas), notes that some Talmud texts use the universalist phrase:

    “Whoever destroys the life of a single human being…it is as if he had destroyed an entire world; and whoever preserves the life of a single human being …it is as if he had preserved an entire world.”

    However, Hesronot Ha-shas points out that these are not the authentic words of the original Talmud.

    In other words, the preceding universalist rendering is not the authentic text of the Talmud and thus, for example, this universalist version which Steven Spielberg in his famous movie, Schindler’s List attributed to the Talmud (and which became the motto of the movie on posters and in advertisements), is a hoax and constitutes propaganda intended to give a humanistic gloss to a Talmud which is, in its essence, racist and chauvinist hate literature.

    In the authentic, original Talmud text it states that “whoever preserves a single soul of Israel, it is as if he had preserved an entire world” (emphasis supplied). The authentic Talmud text sanctions only the saving of Jewish lives.

    The Koran tells us about this and condemns this:

    5.32 On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land

    “According to the Talmud, Jesus was executed by a proper rabbinical court for idolatry, inciting other Jews to idolatry, and contempt of rabbinical authority. All classical Jewish sources which mention his execution are quite happy to take responsibility for it; in the talmudic account the Romans are not even mentioned.

    “The more popular accounts–which were nevertheless taken quite seriously–such as the notorious Toldot Yeshu are even worse, for in addition to the above crimes they accuse him of witchcraft. The very name ‘Jesus’ was for Jews a symbol of all that is abominable and this popular tradition still persists…

    The koran tells us:

    4.157. That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of God.;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-

    The Talmud then say:

    Rosh Hashanah 17a. Christians (minnim) and others who reject the Talmud will go to hell and be punished there for all generations.

    Sanhedrin 90a. Those who read the New Testament (“uncanonical books”) will have no portion in the world to come.

    Shabbath 116a. Jews must destroy the books of the Christians, i.e. the New Testament.

    The koran responds by:

    And they say: “None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian.” Those are their (vain) desires. Say: “Produce your proof if ye are truthful.”Nay,-whoever submits His whole self to God and is a doer of good,- He will get his reward with his Lord; on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. The Jews say: “The Christians have naught (to stand) upon; and the Christians say: “The Jews have naught (To stand) upon.” Yet they study the (same) Book. Like unto their word is what those say who know not; but God will judge between them in their quarrel on the Day of Judgment. 2.111-113

    “Non-Jewish property belongs to the Jew who uses it first” – (Babba Bathra 54b)

    “If two Jews have deceived a Non-Jew, they have to split the profit” – (Choschen Ham 183,7)

    “Every Jew is allowed to use lies and perjury to bring a Non-Jew to ruin” – (Babha Kama 113a)

    “The Jew is allowed to practice usury on the Non-Jew” – (Talmud IV/2/70b)

    The koran then says:

    4.160. For the iniquity of the Jews We made unlawful for them certain (foods) good and wholesome which had been lawful for them;- in that they hindered many from God’s Way;-
    4.161. That they took usury, though they were forbidden; and that they devoured men’s substance wrongfully;- we have prepared for those among them who reject faith a grievous punishment.

    Note: The Torah forbids the Jews from the devouring of Usury (“neshek”).See the Old Testament Ex. 22: 25;
    Le. 25: 36-37; De. 23:19-20; Ne. 5: 7/10; Ps. 15: 5; Pr. 28:8

    The Koran then says:

    4.162. But those among them who are well-grounded in knowledge, and the believers, believe in what hath been revealed to thee and what was revealed before thee: And (especially) those who establish regular prayer and practise regular charity and believe in God and in the Last Day: To them shall We soon give a great reward.

    Truth About the Talmud: Judaism’s Holiest Book

    As for the Gospel

    Jesus is reported to have said “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” and “I am in the Father, and the Father in me” (John 14:9-10); but in the same passage he shortly goes on to add: “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20) Again, while Jesus does proclaim “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30), he also prays for his followers, “that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” (John 17:21) Whatever the nature of the “oneness” Jesus is claiming exists between God and himself, it is apparently something that is supposed to hold between God and all Christians – in which case it can hardly be the relation of numerical identity.

    Likewise, in the two New Testament passages where Jesus is said to have regarded himself as “equal with God” – John 5:18 and Philippians 2:6 – the Greek word translated “equal” is isos, which means “on the same level” or “of the same rank,” never “identical.” The claim that Jesus was God did not become Christian orthodoxy until the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. The orthodox reading of these passages seems natural today only because they are read through the lens of what “everybody knows” about Jesus’ claims to divinity; few would find incarnationism in the texts unless they first brought it there.

    An objector may point to the opening lines of the Gospel of John, which apparently identify the “Logos” with God (John 1:1) and the “Logos made flesh” with Jesus (John 1:14). Of course these lines were not spoken by Jesus, and so do not show that Jesus himself claimed to be God; but in any case, what exactly are they saying? The relation between God and the Logos seems to fall short of strict identity; the Greek, literally translated, says something like “the Logos was with the God, and God is what the Logos was” – an awkward construction clearly trying to express a subtler relation than identity. The term “Logos” is borrowed from Greek philosophy, where it means a thing’s abstract rational nature; the Logos that is “with” God and is what God is, is not God but God’s nature. To say that Jesus is the Logos made flesh, then, is simply to say that he is a physical embodiment of God’s nature. This hardly makes him identical with God, since all human beings are supposed to be created from God’s spirit (Genesis 2:7) and in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27).

    Indeed the New Testament authors clearly understand Jesus as offering everyone the opportunity to be sons (and daughters) of God and to partake of God’s nature:

    “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

    “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. … And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:14-17)

    “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” (1 John 3:2)
    As the New Testament authors understand Jesus’ message, being the “Son of God” is evidently not a status that Jesus claims for himself alone, but one that is open to all Christians;

    In a Blog’s Stead – February 2004

    Clearly this has no basis in the Gospel, the Koran reiterates this:

    People of the Book, do not go beyond the bounds in your religion, and say nought as to God but the Truth. The messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only the messenger of God, and his word that he committed to Mary, and a spirit originating from Him. So believe in God and His Messengers, and say not ‘Three’. Refrain, better is for you. God is only one God. Glory be to him-that He should have a son! To Him belongs all that is in the Heavens and in the Earth; God suffices for a guardian. (4.171)

    “And they say, The All-Merciful has taken unto Himself a son. You have indeed advanced something hideous. As if the skies are about to burst, the earth to split asunder and its mountain to fall down in the utter ruin for that they have attributed to the All-merciful a son; and behaves not the All-merciful to take a son. None there in the heavens and earth but comes to the All-Merciful as a servant” (Maryam 19:88-93)

    There is nothing, absolutely nothing about corruption or tampering of previous scriptures. The Koran states that the Talmud is NOT the word of God and says the Christian priests are NOT following the Gospel but indeed they hide and conceal and take things out of context and following vain desires:

    “They (i.e. Jews and Christians) changed words from their contexts and forgot a good part of the message given to them, and you will continue to find them -except a few among them- bent on new deceits…” (5:13)

    There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (as they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, ‘That is from God,’ but it is not from God: It is they who tell a lie against God and (well) they know it! (3,78)

    The Koran came to Confirm and not abrogate the previous scriptures as the Sunni/Shia sects claim. And like Jesus it condemned the Talmudic traditions. The Islamic sects created the exact type of oral traditions that they believe “explains” the Koran and indeed abrogates it. These oral traditions were compiled by Muslim jurist two centuries after Muhammad and these traditions dominate the teachings of these sects.

    The Koran is here to support and confirm the previous scriptures. A reminder to many not to abandon the scriptures and follow men. The scriptures must be read as a WHOLE and not in isolation.

    Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? But what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life? – And on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For God is not unmindful of what ye do. ( 2,85)

    “Say: We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered. ” 2:136

    “The messenger believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him from his Lord and (so do) believers. Each one believeth in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers – We make no distinction between any of His messengers – and they say: We hear, and we obey. (Grant us) Thy forgiveness, our Lord. Unto Thee is the journeying. ” 2:285

    “And those who believe in Allah and His messengers and do not make a distinction between any of them– Allah will grant them their rewards; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”

    No distiction between the scriptures and no distinction between the prophets. Koran is peace!

  9. Gavin Evans says:

    I think these last two comments illustrate Gould’s point about ‘non-overlapping magisteria’.

  10. Biblicist says:

    The post by Quranist was impressive, and I will be grateful to Tony if he allows me to respond to some of Quranist’s assertions on the New Testament.

    First, the grouping altogether in John 14:20 of the reciprocal indwelling of the divine Persons (“circumincessio” = reciprocal interpenetration or “circuminsessio” = reciprocal indwelling) and the dwelling of the divine Persons in the faithful does not imply they are essentially the same at an ontological level, but that both dwellings are real and the first is the model for the second. It is exactly the same case as with St Paul’s assertion in Romans 8:29: “For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Here St Paul is considering divine filiation as a whole, grouping together that of the Son by nature and that of the sons by adoption, which is valid because both divine filiations are real, even though they are essentially different at an ontological level. (This also applies to John 1:12-13, Romans 8:14-17, and 1 John 3:2.)

    In exactly the same way, John 17:21 cannot be interpreted as equating the oneness between God the Father and Jesus with the desired oneness among Christians, as they are essentially different on an ontological level. Instead, the first is being mentioned as the model for the second.

    Secondly, the fact that in John 5:18 and Philippians 2:6 the Greek word translated “equal” is isos, which means “on the same level” or “of the same rank” and not “identical”, is a non-issue if we have the correct notion of the divinity, which comes from the fundamental revelation for both the Old and the New Covenants: the revelation of the divine name to Moses in the theophany of the burning bush (Exodus 3:14):

    God replied, “I am who I am.” Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I Am sent me to you.”

    According to the tradition of Israel, the name expresses the essence. He who is expresses the very essence of God, which is self-existence, subsistent Being (Esse Subsistens). To be pertains to his substance: his essence is to be. Precisely for this reason he cannot not be, he is “necessary” being. Differing from God who is “necessary being,” the things which receive existence from him, that is, creatures, are able not to be. Being does not constitute their essence; they are “contingent” beings. Also, to be created means not to possess in oneself the source, the reason of one’s being, but to receive it “from another.” This is synthetically expressed in the Latin phrase ens ab alio. He who creates – the Creator – possesses existence in himself and from himself (ens a se). Thus, when we refer to God it would be fitting to write that “I Am” and that “He Is” in capitals, reserving the lower case for creatures. This would also signify a correct way of reflecting on God according to the categories of “being.” Inasmuch as He is “ipsum Esse Subsistens” – that is the absolute fullness of Being and therefore of every perfection – God is completely transcendent in regard to the world. By his essence, by his divinity, He “goes beyond” and infinitely “surpasses” everything created – both every single creature, however perfect, and the ensemble of creation, the visible and invisible beings.

    Therefore, no creature can ever be “on the same level” or “of the same rank” with the Creator. Only the divine essence can be on the same level with the divine essence. And the divine essence, from straight reason and from revelation, is one: YHWH Echad (blessed be his name forever). Therefore Phil 2:6 asserts the consubstantiality of the Son and the Father, which is also the meaning of Phil 2:11 “Jesus Christ is Lord”, as “Kyrios” was the Greek rendition in the Septuagint Old Testament, used by early Christians, of the ineffable name YHWH (blessed be his name forever).

    Moreover, by recalling the revelation of the divine name, we are able to understand the three most direct assertions of his divinity by Jesus himself in St John’s Gospel, which were not considered in Quranist’s post:

    8:24: “For if you do not believe that I Am, you will die in your sins.”

    8:28: “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I Am”

    13:19: “From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I Am.”

    In the three instances it is beyond doubt that Jesus is claiming to be the same “I Am” of Exodus 3:14.

    Now, so far we have only considered Johannine and Pauline texts, which could be argued to be the result of further theological elaboration and distant from the “historical Jesus”, which could only be reliably perceived from the Synoptic gospels. To that, I would recommend reading Rabbi Jacob Neusner’s “A Rabbi Talks With Jesus”. I learned about that book from Joseph Ratzinger’s “Jesus of Nazareth”. Notably, the relation the Pope has with Neusner’s views is not exclusively polemical. Instead, the Pope’s main struggle is against historical-critical exegesis “gone wild”, understanding by that the pretension to use this method exclusively and beyond its limits. Briefly, Christians understand correctly that Jesus claims to be at the same level of God (which as I showed above, implies being God) and believe it is factual. Rabbi Neusner understands correctly (just from Matthew’s Gospel) this claim by Jesus, and does not believe it is factual. Historical-critical exegetes “gone wild” directly do not understand. Short of the book, this Time article may be a good start:,9171,1625183,00.html

    Indeed, only the Divine Legislator Himself can claim to “have come … to fulfill” the Torah (Mt 5:17). Only the Divine Legislator Himself can pronounce the “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors” … “But I say to you”… of Mt 5:21-48. No rabbi or prophet would state that “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”. For “my sake”, not for God or the Torah. And no rabbi or prophet would claim to be “Lord of the sabbath” (Mt 12:8).

  11. Biblicist says:

    Just in case Quranist brings into play Paul’s letter to the Colossians 1:15, which says that the Son “is the image of the invisible God”, and wants to equate this image with the image in Genesis 1:26-27, let me quote Thomas Aquinas:

    “The image of a thing may be found in something in two ways. In one way it is found in something of the same specific nature; as the image of the king is found in his son. In another way it is found in something of a different nature, as the king’s image on the coin. In the first sense the Son is the Image of the Father; in the second sense man is called the image of God;” (Summa theologiae 1,35,2)

  12. Gavin Evans says:

    My goodness: a clear case of blog hijacking. Oh well….

  13. Biblicist says:

    Gavin, since you stated that for the first 3 centuries CE “there had been … competing views of the significance of Jesus among the Christian groups, not all regarding him as divine”, and my comments were all about support for the divinity of Jesus within the New Testament, I don’t see it as “blog hijacking”.

  14. Gavin Evans says:

    Hi Biblicist – fair enough, but, you do go on a bit (though not nearly as much as Quranist). This chapter and verse stuff is only relevant (and interestiing) if you believe that either or both of the Quran and Bible are divinely written/inspired. As I have tried to show, neither are divinely inspired – and there is probably no divinity either.

  15. Biblicist says:

    Gavin, the point you made was that many books of the Old Testament (notably the Pentateuch and Isaiah) are the result of several layers written at different times, and that for many of the events described there are no archaeological records. I cannot speak for other denominations, but mainline Catholics have long been fully aware of that (moreover, it would almost be against reason to expect archaeological evidence for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), and still firmly believe in their divine inspiration, which does not mean that all the events happened literally as described, particularly massive events. But by making those points you do not show the books are not divinely inspired. The most you can say is that don’t see compelling evidence that they are.

    And by the way, genetic records can make up for lack of archaelogical records. E.g. this recent paper on kohanim Y-chromosome, for which I take the liberty of giving a summary and interpretation.

    Hammer et al 2009 – Extended Y chromosome haplotypes resolve multiple and unique lineages of the Jewish priesthood

    TMRCA: Time to Most Recent Commont Ancestor, in years before present

    Haplogroup – N – TMRCA – likely origin

    J1e P58 – 99 – 3200 – J1: Yemen
    J2a M410 – 31 – 4200 – J2a: North Iraq
    J2b M12 – 16 – 3400 – J2b: Anatolia

    If dates are right, the J1e P58 MRCA was Aaron, and the J2a M410 minority can be explained by a member of some older Hebrew or even just Ahabramic lineage being accepted within the Kohen caste a few generations after it was created.

    If dates are too far in the past and should be shifted 1000 y later, the J2a M410 MRCA was Aaron, and the J1e P58 majority can be explained by a massive replacement of the true Kohen lineage at the time of the Sadducees.

  16. Quranist says:

    he problem with the argument presented regarding Jesus’s divinity is its based on IMPLIED reasoning. Theological issues must always depend on EXPLICIT reasoning. So saying because Jesus said so and so that means he meant so and so is implied reasoning and its based on subjective reasoning. Neither Jesus nor any of the prophets of the Bible ever claimed that Jesus is divine or claimed anything concerning the trinity.

    Sunnis employ this same tactic by saying because the Quran says obey God and obey His messenger, that means there must be another revelation along with the Quran. yet the Quran never said that. In fact it says its completely self sufficient. Just like the Old Testament is sufficient and the New Testament is sufficient.

    The Quran sees the scriptures as the authority.

  17. Indeed some Sunni/Shia scholars claim that any follower of islam who does not believe that the Jews and Christians are infidels is an infidel himself! However

  18. bundan bisey anlamak mumkun degil

  19. sesli panel says:

    oldu simdi tamamdir

  20. vazzir says:

    This is what i believe in: Unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Jn3:3
    The question is how will this happen?
    We cannot literally go back to our mother’s womb and be born again.
    So, how this gonna be? to find out try read Jn3:16 and Jn14:6

  21. Sunnis employ this same tactic by saying because the Quran says obey God and obey His messenger, that means there must be another revelation along with the Quran. yet the Quran never said that. In fact it says its completely self sufficient. Just like the Old Testament is sufficient and the New Testament is sufficient.

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