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Trying to determine if Jesus existed
The Buffalo News ^ | 1/29/2007 | JAY TOKASZ

Posted on 01/29/2007 10:02:46 AM PST by presidio9

An Amherst-based group will lead a new effort to examine whether Jesus of Nazareth existed in history. The Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion is billing its scholarly investigation the "Jesus Project," and it plans to take the work of the controversial "Jesus Seminar" a step further.

The "Jesus Seminar," which formed in 1985, focused on what sayings in the New Testament were truly spoken by Jesus and what deeds he actually performed, but in the end it didn't question his existence.

Amid much fractious debate - as well as dismissive criticism from many Christians - the group of seminar scholars concluded that fewer than one-fifth of the statements attributed to Jesus in the four Gospels were actually made by him and also agreed that he did not rise from the dead.

The "Jesus Seminar" still exists, but interest in its work has faded, and its founder, Robert Funk, died in 2005.

Members of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, which is based at the secularist Center for Inquiry, near the University at Buffalo North Campus, want to reignite the debate with a different emphasis.

Many of the scholars involved with the "Jesus Seminar" examined the question primarily from a theological perspective, said R. Joseph Hoffman, who heads the committee and will organize regular meetings of historians, classicists and other scholars for the "Jesus Project."

Others involved at this point include Robert M. Price, a former "Jesus Seminar" participant, and Gerd Ludemann, a history professor in Germany, Hoffman said.

The new investigation will differ from the "Jesus Seminar" because it won't be hamstrung by theology, he said.

The committee regards the belief that Jesus was a historical person as a "testable hypothesis," just like any other historical question.

Hoffman announced the "Jesus Project" on Sunday at the conclusion of a conference on "Scripture and Skepticism" at the University of California at Davis.

The conference attracted scholars from around the globe to explore the use of historical and critical interpretation in the study of religious texts.

The "Jesus Project" will keep that method of research at the forefront in examining the existence of Jesus, Hoffman said.

"We can't let this discussion be dominated by people who do theologically driven history," he said.

The "Jesus Project" is not necessarily an attempt to disprove that Jesus existed, Hoffman said. "I happen to believe there probably was a Jesus of Nazareth, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be asking the question," he said. "I'm kind of agnostic about it. I want to look at the historical evidence."

The committee will begin accepting applications in March from scholars interested in participating. Members of the project will meet twice a year - once in Amherst and once in Los Angeles.

Hoffman predicted the work of the group would take no more than five years and result in the publication of majority findings and minority findings.


TOPICS:
KEYWORDS: antichristian; atheismandstate; christianbashing; christophobia; flaviusjosephus; liberalagenda; moralabsolutes; religiousintolerance; scientificmyth
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To: presidio9

This guy Hoffman does have an agenda. He is chair of the
The Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion

"(CSER) is a research division of the Center for Inquiry. Since its 1983 founding in Washington, DC, the Committee has worked to encourage humanistic, critical and non-parochial approaches to the study of religious traditions and institutions and to develop programs that promote the public understanding of religion in an international context.

CSER is an international research and educational consultation comprising members (appointed fellows) of the Committee who are nominated by an executive board. The current Chair of CSER is Dr. R. Joseph Hoffmann, who succeeded Dr. Gerald Larue in January 2004

CSER activities include the following:
„X The sponsorship of conferences and seminars at university sites in the United States and abroad.
„X Short courses and seminars held in conjunction with the Center for Inquiry or its affiliated organizations.
„X In cooperation with Prometheus Books the publication of classic works of religious studies scholarship and newer titles in the critical study of religion.
„X Beginning fall 2006, the publication of a Quarterly Review in print and web formats,CSER.
Religion, Ethics, and Society

The Council for Secular Humanism (CSH) promotes naturalism and secular values to the public, and stimulates critical inquiry into the foundations and social effects of the world religions. The Council stands up for the dignity of those who dissent from today's reigning orthodoxies, and assists secular humanist community groups across North America. Different divisions focus on issues specific to the African-American and African experience,...

The Council's peer-reviewed journal of academic philosophy, Philo, specializes in the articulation and philosophical defense of naturalism in metaphysics, epistemology, and moral theory."

For more info:
http://www.centerforinquiry.net/cser/


51 posted on 01/29/2007 10:49:28 AM PST by lastchance (Hug your babies.)
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To: UpAllNight

Faulty logic. Something needed to create us. Nothing needed to create God. Therefore, we exist because of God, and not vice-versa.


52 posted on 01/29/2007 10:50:22 AM PST by presidio9 (There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey)
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To: Junior
Well, there are certain things scholars look for in determining whether a "historical" figure existed or not. Of course there are documents mentioning that person, but the documents that really clench the deal are those written by a figure's enemies. Do we have any writings from the Jewish leaders at the time mentioning Jesus?

The only Jewish writings that exist from 1st century Judea (outside the New Testament, and maybe some apocalyptic writings that could be from the 1st century, but shed no light on it) are from Josephus, who does mention Jesus, John the Baptist, and James the brother of Jesus in three different passages, though the first has obviously had some filing at the hand of a later Christian scribe.

Doubting the existence of Jesus is a fringe indulgence though, since it is a far more complicated and improbable explanation for the creation of Christianity than accepting the basic story that there was an itinerant preacher who lived for a few years in Galilee and taught many memorable things. Somebody had to be responsible for the basic core of Christian teachings embodied in the Gospels, and if it wasn't Jesus then it doesn't really answer any questions to say it was somebody else.

In any case, it's unlikely someone creating it out of whole cloth would have included potentially damaging stuff like Jesus crying out on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" That requires commentary (i.e., explaining it away) if you're a missionary trying to use the Gospel to convince a pagan that this fellow is the Son of God, as hammered down elsewhere in the book. Scholars call it the "Criterion of Embarassment" --- if something is included in the Gospel that's potentially embarassing and would require a long explanation to make it sound right, it's probably there because it was so widely known to be true that you could not omit it without losing your credibility. The cri de coeur is probably historical, then, because no fervent Christian ever would have come up with it otherwise.

The amount of accredited scholars, liberal or conservative, highly skeptical or otherwise, who believe Jesus did not exist is probably less than one-half of 1%.

53 posted on 01/29/2007 10:51:19 AM PST by SpringheelJack
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To: presidio9

--Faulty logic. Something needed to create us. Nothing needed to create God. Therefore, we exist because of God, and not vice-versa.--

Then you disagree that we are proof of God's existence.


54 posted on 01/29/2007 10:51:22 AM PST by UpAllNight
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To: UpAllNight
ERGO, because we are alive, God exists.

In part.

55 posted on 01/29/2007 10:52:54 AM PST by wideawake
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To: UpAllNight
Then you disagree that we are proof of God's existence.

I am scratching my head in bewilderment over how you could have reached that conclusion from my statement "Something needed to create us."

56 posted on 01/29/2007 10:54:10 AM PST by presidio9 (There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey)
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To: Brilliant
Frankly, I doubt that the Jesus Seminar ever existed.

It's available for $19.99 by calling 1-800-BOX-WINE /s

57 posted on 01/29/2007 10:55:21 AM PST by jdm
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To: presidio9

"Because we are alive, God exists".

Is not the existence of humans, proof that God exists?


58 posted on 01/29/2007 10:59:53 AM PST by UpAllNight
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To: UpAllNight
God doesn't need our existence to prove his. We alone possess the self-awareness to acknowledge his existence, but even if we didn't there are countless other proofs available.
59 posted on 01/29/2007 11:02:21 AM PST by presidio9 (There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey)
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To: presidio9
The Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion = The Committee to Eradicate Religious Myth through Science
60 posted on 01/29/2007 11:04:28 AM PST by Between the Lines (I am very cognizant of my fallibility, sinfulness, and other limitations. So should you.)
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To: presidio9

I predict the will say He did not exist, or was a gay eviromentalist.

I will pray for these people.


61 posted on 01/29/2007 11:11:53 AM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: SpringheelJack
The only Jewish writings that exist from 1st century Judea (outside the New Testament, and maybe some apocalyptic writings that could be from the 1st century, but shed no light on it) are from Josephus, who does mention Jesus, John the Baptist, and James the brother of Jesus in three different passages, though the first has obviously had some filing at the hand of a later Christian scribe.

Unfortunately, the Josephus passage is obviously a later editorial insert. Josephus' narrative stops right before the insertion and picks up on the other side; if the insertion were removed it would restore the narrative flow -- a good indication the piece was inserted. As the earliest extent examples of Josephus' work do not include the passage in question it's obvious a later editor inserted it.

As for your assertion there no other Jewish writings from the 1st century, a quick Google search shows that to not be the case. And as for establishing Christianity, that can be laid solely at the feet of Paul; the founding documents need be no more than something he and his circle cooked up either through a genuine belief that it was all divinely inspired, or as a cynical effort to make a little money.

62 posted on 01/29/2007 11:12:35 AM PST by Junior (Losing faith in humanity one person at a time.)
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To: lastchance; Lazamataz

They used marbles to vote on it.

Yet they are held as the ultimate in biblical scholarship.


63 posted on 01/29/2007 11:13:31 AM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: presidio9; xzins; P-Marlowe
Members of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, which is based at the secularist Center for Inquiry, near the University at Buffalo North Campus... The "Jesus Project" is not necessarily an attempt to disprove that Jesus existed, Hoffman said. "I happen to believe there probably was a Jesus of Nazareth, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be asking the question," he said. "I'm kind of agnostic about it. I want to look at the historical evidence."

No bias here...

64 posted on 01/29/2007 11:14:17 AM PST by jude24
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To: Junior
As the earliest extent examples of Josephus' work do not include the passage in question it's obvious a later editor inserted it.

Source please.

65 posted on 01/29/2007 11:14:43 AM PST by presidio9 (There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey)
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To: GoLightly
Who's funding this?

Probably the most penetrating question asked about this so far. I would love to see who also.

66 posted on 01/29/2007 11:15:17 AM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: jude24

If the investigation is based on texts, records, and artifacts, then Jesus is probably the most recorded individual in history.

7Q5 dates Mark NLT 50 AD. Plenty of people around at that time who would have lived through the era who would also complain if someone brought forward a fictional person.


67 posted on 01/29/2007 11:23:26 AM PST by xzins (Retired Army Chaplain and proud of it! Supporting our troops means praying for them to WIN!)
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To: fish hawk
I didn't even know there was any doubt about it. The Jewish writers and the Roman writers of those times acknowledged that he lived so what's the problem.

Not true.

There is no historical data to back up the claim Jesus existed outside of the Gospels themselves.

68 posted on 01/29/2007 11:29:17 AM PST by RadioAstronomer
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To: Junior

Peter was around before Paul- and unlike Paaul, was not an educated man. This lends more credence, if any is needed, to the truth of the narrative. Early Christians recognized his primacy.
To avoid starting side arguments, let's interpret that last sentence narrowly.


69 posted on 01/29/2007 11:29:18 AM PST by steve8714 (Isn't Israel a sovereign nation? Why do they do what we tell them to do?)
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To: presidio9; 49th; 69ConvertibleFirebird; Alexander Rubin; An American In Dairyland; Antoninus; ...
Moral Absolutes Ping!

Freepmail wagglebee or little jeremiah to subscribe or unsubscribe from the moral absolutes ping list.

FreeRepublic moral absolutes keyword search
[ Add keyword moral absolutes to flag FR articles to this ping list ]

When is the left going to do a scientific study on why Marxism is such a failure or why Darwinism cannot be substantiated scientifically?

70 posted on 01/29/2007 11:36:48 AM PST by wagglebee ("We are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom." -- President Bush, 1/20/05)
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To: Junior
Unfortunately, the Josephus passage is obviously a later editorial insert. Josephus' narrative stops right before the insertion and picks up on the other side; if the insertion were removed it would restore the narrative flow -- a good indication the piece was inserted.

The mention of Jesus is included at the end of a series of accounts of how Pilate dealt with disobedient Jews in Judea; after Jesus is done with, Josephus moves on to the story of some contemporary Jews in Rome. Finishing that story, he goes back to how Pilate tackled with some Samaritans. It is the Rome story which obstructs the narrative flow, though that's in keeping with Josephus's general style as a historian, which is random and not very well-organized.

As the earliest extent examples of Josephus' work do not include the passage in question it's obvious a later editor inserted it.

That's incorrect. Unfortunately, there are no such texts.

As for your assertion there no other Jewish writings from the 1st century, a quick Google search shows that to not be the case.

Go on...

And as for establishing Christianity, that can be laid solely at the feet of Paul; the founding documents need be no more than something he and his circle cooked up either through a genuine belief that it was all divinely inspired, or as a cynical effort to make a little money.

Well all right, but that's pretty wild, and not well-correlated with the hard focus that Jesus's life and sayings get in the Gospels and the very little interest they attract in Paul's letters.

71 posted on 01/29/2007 11:37:39 AM PST by SpringheelJack
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To: presidio9
Start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus

Unfortunately, my reference for the earliest versions of Josephus I cannot find (so I'll have to rescind that statement, pending my finding it again), though I want to say it was Bart D. Ehrman.

72 posted on 01/29/2007 11:38:32 AM PST by Junior (Losing faith in humanity one person at a time.)
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To: Junior

"Do we have any writings from the Jewish leaders at the time mentioning Jesus?"

There is also a Rabbinical reference to a man who proclaimed himself the messiah and who was crucified for heresy about the time in question (30-40ish AD/CE), a reference that is presumed to refer to Jesus.


73 posted on 01/29/2007 11:39:05 AM PST by MeanWestTexan (Kol Hakavod Lezahal)
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To: Junior

Thanks professor, I'm familiar with Wikpedia. I'm also familiar with the fact that its not really the best source, as anybody can change it.


74 posted on 01/29/2007 11:40:17 AM PST by presidio9 (There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey)
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To: RadioAstronomer
There is no historical data to back up the claim Jesus existed outside of the Gospels themselves.

Wrong, Flavius Josephus mentions Jesus in his history.

75 posted on 01/29/2007 11:41:36 AM PST by presidio9 (There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey)
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To: presidio9
I was once interested in The Jesus Puzzle by Earl Doherty (available on the Internet) that Jesus never existed. But after having read Hyam Maccoby, Revolution In Judaea: Jesus and The Jewish Resistance, I'm convinced that Jesus was a sincere Pharisaic rabbi that even Jews could at least criticize.
76 posted on 01/29/2007 11:45:03 AM PST by onedoug
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To: UpAllNight; wideawake
--Were God not alive, nothing would exist. --

ERGO, because we are alive, God exists.

Which begs the question.....what made God?

77 posted on 01/29/2007 11:45:06 AM PST by fanfan ("We don't start fights my friends, but we finish them, and never leave until our work is done."PMSH)
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To: presidio9

And good luck to them! They will find what they want to find.

And as for the existence of Jesus as a human being on this earth, well, as with any other thing, absence of proof is not proof of absence.


78 posted on 01/29/2007 11:48:41 AM PST by chesley ("Socialism" - compassion for those that don't have any.)
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To: chesley

absence of proof is not proof of absence

79 posted on 01/29/2007 11:54:25 AM PST by presidio9 (There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey)
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To: Lazamataz
Probably because the statements did not fit into the Marxist dialectic, or some such bovine leavings.
80 posted on 01/29/2007 11:55:29 AM PST by chesley ("Socialism" - compassion for those that don't have any.)
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To: RadioAstronomer

No, Jesus is mentioned twice by Josephus and similar events (the crucifiction of a heretic most presume to be Jesus) are mentioned by Rabbinical sources hardly sympathetic to the Christians.

Also, the letters of Peter (an eye witness -- who is listed in Roman secular records as being executed for inciting civil unrest) make no sense without the basic events stated in the 4 gospels. Peter's letters are generally considered the oldest portion of the new testament --- maybe 10-25 years after the crucifiction.


81 posted on 01/29/2007 12:02:33 PM PST by MeanWestTexan (Kol Hakavod Lezahal)
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To: Junior
Unfortunately, the Josephus passage is obviously a later editorial insert.

There are actually two mentions of Jesus by Josephus. While one passasge is considered a forgery the authenticity of the other is almost universally acknowledged.


82 posted on 01/29/2007 12:03:22 PM PST by Between the Lines (I am very cognizant of my fallibility, sinfulness, and other limitations. So should you.)
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To: redgolum

Thanks for the information. It will hearten you to know that the scholars of the Jesus Seminar are all working as weatherman for their local tv news. To maintain their scientific accuracy in their new field they know use a dart board instead of marbles.


83 posted on 01/29/2007 12:03:30 PM PST by lastchance (Hug your babies.)
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To: RadioAstronomer

Basically, until recently, the primary dispute has always been not whether the fundamental, core, historical (i.e., the preaching and the crucifiction) events ocurred (which most have agreed they did), but rather the significance of the events, and, of course, the issue of resurrection, which is the real dispute.


84 posted on 01/29/2007 12:06:19 PM PST by MeanWestTexan (Kol Hakavod Lezahal)
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To: fanfan
Which begs the question.....what made God?

He is His own existence. He was not "made."

85 posted on 01/29/2007 12:16:20 PM PST by wideawake
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To: wagglebee

Feh. This is mishegas.


86 posted on 01/29/2007 12:23:48 PM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: presidio9
Wrong, Flavius Josephus mentions Jesus in his history.

Almost everyone who has seriously looked at the Josephus passage agrees that it was a later interpolation by a Christian scribe. Stylistically they simply don't match. Keep in mind that there are no "original" versions of the work extant. They're handwritten copies of handwritten copies of handwritten copies, and the people doing the copying, for the most part, were Christian monks.

87 posted on 01/29/2007 12:24:56 PM PST by Bubba Ho-Tep
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To: presidio9; All
If there were overwhelming historical or Scientific evidence of Jesus existence, of what value would our faith be? The lack of evidence is by God's design.
88 posted on 01/29/2007 12:25:49 PM PST by Between the Lines (I am very cognizant of my fallibility, sinfulness, and other limitations. So should you.)
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To: RadioAstronomer

Outside of the current instance of our local universe (the matter, energy and events contained in the visible, expanding universe), is there any universal or absolute time standard?


89 posted on 01/29/2007 12:29:53 PM PST by Fitzcarraldo
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To: Bubba Ho-Tep

There are two FJ passages, one, is indeed, (IMHO) highly interpolated.

The other (with none of the disputed adoption of Jesus as Christ/Mesiah) not so.


90 posted on 01/29/2007 12:31:13 PM PST by MeanWestTexan (Kol Hakavod Lezahal)
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To: Bubba Ho-Tep
Almost everyone who has seriously looked at the Josephus passage agrees that it was a later interpolation by a Christian scribe.

Source please. If a Christian monk were going to hoax Jesus into Josephus, I'm guessing that He would appear in more than a few lines. That being said, I don't doubt that the part about Jesus being the Christ was inserted. But there is no reason to doubt that Josephus mentioned the man.

91 posted on 01/29/2007 12:33:07 PM PST by presidio9 (There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey)
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To: SpringheelJack

"My GOD, my GOD, why hast thou forsaken me?", Christ's prayer and plea on the cross. It was recently taught to me that this plea, taken from Psalms 22 was actually a means of teaching that Jesus used.

Written 1,000 years before Jesus that crucifixion Psalms tells of His being despised, of things He would say and that would be said, about His bones being out of joint when His arms were pulled from socket on the cross, His thirst, lots being cast for His garments and his hands and feet being pierced. The 8th verse tells what the words of the High Priest were at the crucifixion (Matt.27:41).

To me, instead of trying to explain or understand why He would say He had been forsaken it makes sense that He was teaching us that prophecy was being fulfilled, from 1,000 years before His time.

And these people DARE to say there was no Christ.


92 posted on 01/29/2007 12:38:58 PM PST by Ping-Pong
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To: trisham
Feh. This is mishegas.

HUH?!

93 posted on 01/29/2007 12:42:22 PM PST by wagglebee ("We are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom." -- President Bush, 1/20/05)
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To: Fitzcarraldo; Physicist
Outside of the current instance of our local universe (the matter, energy and events contained in the visible, expanding universe), is there any universal or absolute time standard?

Not that I know of. Time itself started with the Big bang. Thusly "before the big bang" is meaningless.

94 posted on 01/29/2007 12:57:18 PM PST by RadioAstronomer
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To: Fitzcarraldo
is there any universal or absolute time standard?

Railroad time is the standard time.

95 posted on 01/29/2007 12:58:55 PM PST by RightWhale (Repeal the law of the excluded middle)
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To: RightWhale; Fitzcarraldo; Physicist; RadioAstronomer

96 posted on 01/29/2007 1:03:30 PM PST by presidio9 (There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey)
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To: Between the Lines
brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James

I believe that James and Jesus were siblings, one way or another, is soundly refuted by the Church.

97 posted on 01/29/2007 1:07:44 PM PST by Enosh
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To: RadioAstronomer
Ever heard of Josephus? Just the answer "not true" tells me you are a Darwin lover. Guess what, God invented science.
98 posted on 01/29/2007 1:16:10 PM PST by fish hawk (Hate the sin but love the sinner, except for the sin of Liberalism)
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To: RightWhale
TIME BEGAN AT KIPTON: A wreck that occurred there in 1891 led to the adoption of dependable railroad time
99 posted on 01/29/2007 1:16:33 PM PST by Fitzcarraldo
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To: MeanWestTexan
For anyone interested in reading a top notch rebuttal of the Jesus 'Seminar' by one of the top Jesus scholars, check out this paper by N.T. Wright: Five Gospels But No Gospel: Jesus and the Seminar

And Wright's wonderful other writings: Wright Lectures and Articles
100 posted on 01/29/2007 1:31:07 PM PST by Deut28 (Cursed be he who perverts the justice)
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