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Pope reaffirms conscience as heresy debate divides church

Pope Francis, background center, walks with his pastoral staff as he arrives to celebrate a canonization Mass for 35 new saints in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Oct.15, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Saturday (Nov. 11) reaffirmed the “primacy” of using one’s conscience to navigate tough moral questions in his first comments since he was publicly accused of spreading heresy by emphasizing conscience over hard and fast Catholic rules.


COLUMN: Papal loyalists become dissidents


Francis issued a video message to a conference organized by Italian bishops on his controversial 2016 document on family life, “The Joy of Love.” The document has badly divided the Catholic Church, with some commentators warning that it risked creating a schism given its opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

Francis told the conference that priests must inform Catholic consciences “but not replace them.” And he stressed the distinction between one’s conscience — where God reveals himself — and one’s ego that thinks it can do as it pleases.

“The contemporary world risks confusing the primacy of conscience, which must always be respected, with the exclusive autonomy of an individual with respect to his or her relations,” Francis said.

Francis reaffirmed the centrality of “The Joy of Love” as the church’s guide to Catholic couples today trying to navigate the ups and downs of complicated family situations.


RELATED: Conservative theologians accuse pope of spreading heresy


When it was released in April 2016, “The Joy of Love” immediately sparked controversy because it cautiously opened the door to letting civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion.

Church teaching holds that unless these Catholics obtain an annulment — a church decree declaring their first marriage invalid — they cannot receive the sacraments since they are seen as committing adultery in the eyes of the church.

Francis didn’t give these Catholics an automatic pass but suggested that bishops and priests could do so on a case-by-case basis, with the couples’ “well-formed” consciences as the guide.

Conservatives accused the pope of sowing confusion and undermining the church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. Four prominent cardinals formally asked for a clarification to five “dubia,” or doubts, they said had been spawned by the document.

More recently, a group of traditionalist and conservative priests and scholars formally accused Francis of spreading heresy.

Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, whom Francis recently removed as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal watchdog, didn’t join the four “dubia” cardinals or the heresy accusers. But he warned in a recent book preface that “schismatic temptations and dogmatic confusion” had been sown as a result of the debate over the document. He said such confusion was “dangerous for the unity of the church.”

Mueller sought to offer his own interpretation — that “The Joy of Love” can only be read as a continuity of the church’s traditional teaching on marriage — offering what he said was his own “contribution to re-establishing peace in the church.”

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Nicole Winfield

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  • “Heresy debate divides church” is a hyped headline. The division is only in the minds of a small few who think if they keep saying “heresy, heresy” over and over people will believe them and they can have the church they want. They fail to realize that this pope’s actions and words resonate deeply in the hearts of millions more than their paltry numbers.

  • I’m an atheist, and I approve this message. I was going to say much the same. The catholic fundamentalists and the Protestant fundamentalists exult in labeling others heretics.

  • New York Times–ROME, Oct. 30, 1992— More than 350 years after the Roman Catholic Church condemned Galileo. Pope John Paul II is poised to rectify one of the Church’s most infamous wrongs — the persecution of the Italian astronomer and physicist for proving the Earth moves around the Sun.

  • This is the 21st century! For example: If a partner cheats, lies, is physically and mentally abusive, etc, the marriage is already over. The vows of love and respect have already been broken. Your choice to forgive is usually limited to how much abuse, neglect, or lack of respect you can take.

  • Jesus addressed all that, and we know from the letters of Paul how the early church looked at it. Marriage has not become more difficult since then.

  • In Jesus time, up until recent times, marriages were arranged. Jesus did not address anything that we know of because nothing was written during his life time, and he would have spoken to “his people” in a semitic language. We have zero documentation from his time.

  • Wow. I absolutely agree with Pope Francis but he is gonna get hammered over this. Truth is, some Catholics will see this as right and necessary – those who have already been dealing with making decisions about contraceptives, ending a bad marriage, loving and including a LGBTQI relative or friend in their lives, not accepting confession as necessary or even helpful.

    But some will shudder in fear of accepting responsibility for making really hard decisions, for owning their relationship with God.

  • Marriages were arranged between families (just like they were up until the last century or so), though no doubt not without input from the parties themselves. So, do you think that makes marriage harder or easier?

    So you don’t consider the gospels reliable witness statements. OK. We do, and so does the RCC. Hence the dissension over the prospect of monkeying with it.

  • Of course the Gospels are not reliable, as they were not written in Jesus time, nor in his town, nor in his language. He would have spoken to “his people” in a semitic language. The Gospels were written in Greek and they gave Jesus all the attributes of former Greek Gods in Greek mythology.

    Every culture has its own ideas about the [concept] of God, marriage, right and wrong, etc.

  • Heresy debates divide the Church? Please.

    A small minority of elder siblings storm off to pout on the front porch. The lack of uniformity in all cases of divorce and remarriage is about careful discernment. We can be pleased that bishops, pastors, confessors, and spiritual directors are moved to the front lines. What divides the Church are the attitudes of believers, and how these spill out into imprudent writings and behavior. The church is no more or less divided today than it was five or ten years ago. The only difference is who’s saying the pope’s not on their side.

  • Ephesians 5:11 – New International Version

    Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

  • Hmm…Greek Gods were reappropriated by the Romans who made God feast days empire wide mandated holidays. So Jews would’ve been familiar when Greek writer’s reinterpreted speeches & teachings from decades before that were in Hebrew & Aramaic. They edited for their Greek audience.

  • Familiar, sure. But the gods still meant nothing but heathen mythology to Jews. Matthew’s gospel, in particular, was intended for Jewish audiences

  • We keep trying to do that with you, but you cover yourself with the holy shield of Passive Aggression.

  • Then when did these specific writers give Jesus all the attributes of former Greek Gods, as the story of Jesus healing the sick, performing miracles, born of a virgin birth, etc accidentally match form Greek Gods. You only have to use logic and reasoning. If the writer were writing for a predominately Jewish audience, the Gospels would have been written in a semitic language.

  • Ever heard of the Diaspora?

    It was the reason for the Septuagint. And for the Koine Greek gospels.

    As for healing the sick and performing miracles, the OT tells of many of the Hebrew prophets doing those same things, as well as foretelling the Messiah doing them, long before Greece or Rome were empires. And Genesis tells us that the Messiah would be the seed of woman — nothing about the seed of man — at a time when people did not know there was any such thing as seed of a woman.

  • Of course the canonical gospels were not written in Jesus’ time. They do reflect, however, community memories passed down from one generation to the next of what Jesus taught — which is not to deny the human factor in their oral and written transmission. They are the best testimony available of Jesus’ life and teaching.

  • Please identify Jesus’ town, as He traveled extensively throughout Judea . Further, the gospels written by the three Jewish disciples (Matthew, Mark, and John) were likely composed in Aramaic (not Greek), the common language among Jews of the period. As to the time, they were composed within a few decades of His death and resurrection, a not unreasonable period for the time, the technology, and the classical pattern for such “memoirs.” I would suggest that you do a little bit more historical research before making such broad assertions which are not founded in historical fact.

  • I often wonder if you find my occasional Mea Culpa’s as a cloaked measure of Passive Aggression. Now I’m asking myself that.

  • Not at all, Edward. When either of us are wrong, we admit it.
    Sandimonious, on the other hand, has a reason for my nickname. As she herself has said, she has nothing to be forgiven for. and that is a quote. which she’ll totally deny ever saying.
    You’re blinded to her type because she shares your faith, at least superficially. . I recognize her type– bomb throwers, people who like to stir up trouble and then claim innocence for it. She gets a great sense of power– or more accurately, a confirmation of her totally unwarranted belief in her completely imaginary superiority– from being jesus’s very best friend forever.
    That’s not you. you have humility, not sociopathy.

  • Boston University Study- The Gospel of Mathew was apparently written in the mid-80s. The traditional point of origin is Antioch in Syria. (an ancient Greco-Roman city) — that is over 50 years after Jesus death, and not in Judea.

    The Gospel of Luke appears to have been written about the same time as Matthew’s, although later revisions are very possible. The text, written in Greek, probably originated around the Aegean Sea or in Asia Minor. — Modern Turkey.

    The Gospel of Mark is anonymous. Early Christian tradition ascribes it to John Mark, a companion and interpreter of the apostle Peter, even though most modern scholars are doubtful of the Markan tradition and instead regard the author as unknown. — Therefore, when and where this Gospel was written is unknown.

    Please think before you post. And Jesus was most likely taken in the Jewish tradition and buried as soon as possible, instead of the fantasy of resurrection.

  • What is your primary source of factual and historical documentation of the New Testament? And why do [only] Christians believe that God, the Almighty, the all knowing, all loving, all forgiving God would have his only begotten Jewish son, born of a Jewish mother, tortured, humiliated, and murdered in such a gruesome fashion? Jesus was just a blip on the screen as the Romans crucified or killed thousands of trouble makers in a wide variety of ways as they continued to conquer the Middle East and North Africa.

    The WESTERN Roman Empire (the one we usually associate with classical Rome) lasted another 500 years, from Augustus to the fall of Rome (the city) to the Goths in 476, and the eventual creation of the Kingdom of Italy. However, the EASTERN (Byzantine, but they didn’t call themselves that) half of the Roman Empire lasted 946 additional years, falling to Islamic conquest in 1453. Was this God’s divine plan, or did God’s plan go wrong?

    The West Bank -Judea and Samaria (the birthplace of David, Solomon and Jesus) and 99.9% of the Middle East land mass now has the banner of Islam flying over it. Was that God’s divine plan? Give the readers some of the wisdom of Christian prophets and thinkers.

  • The masses, including the Jews were very ignorant and could not read or write. How big was their audiences, since there were no modern communications or loud speakers, how many people were considered an audience in ancient times?

  • There is a writing from Papias, a church father from around 100 CE, concerning a version of Matthew written in Aramaic or Hebrew. It’s never been located, of course, so its existence is in question.

  • “What is your primary source of factual and historical documentation of the New Testament?” – Among others, Bart Erhman comes to mind. In which he has written several studies and books affirming the historical accuracy of the gospels.

    “And why do [only] Christians believe that God, the Almighty, the all knowing, all loving, all forgiving God would have his only begotten Jewish son, born of a Jewish mother, tortured, humiliated, and murdered in such a gruesome fashion?” – Because it was foretold to the Jews in the OT and evidenced in the Life of Jesus. This confounded their scholars as well until the prophecy was completed in His life, death and resurrection.

    “Jesus was just a blip on the screen as the Romans crucified thousands of trouble makers as they continued to conquer the Middle East and North Africa.” – Interesting argument. It’s true, Jesus was one of many “Messiahs” that cropped up during this time and more that came after. All claiming to be the savior of the Jews. What I find interesting is that despite the plethora of claimants, Jesus is the one that has stuck around for almost 2,000 years. It begs some serious questions. Why was He different? Why did His followers succeed where others
    had failed? What was it about Him that caused others to keep His memory, follow His commands and willingly sacrifice their lives regardless of their current lot in life? Why Him?

    “Was this God’s divine plan, or did God’s plan go wrong?” – It seems to be, but that assumes we know God’s plan, that spiritual victory is measured in physical success and that God hasn’t used oppressive forces to “teach” His people a lesson in the past. That seems like a lot of assumptions to actually get to a rational conclusion of this false dichotomy.

  • What do you mean? The church teaches that authority is shared equally between Scripture, Apostolic Tradition and the Magisterium.

  • According to my sola scriptorum “friends”— well, friends isn’t exactly the word— that is precisely the problem.

    Take it up with the fundamentalists. I’m an atheist, myself. None of them have any authority.

  • I have never understood the use of Gen. 3:15 as a proof text. Midrash perhaps, but even so, why does the woman’s seed equal the Messiah or Jesus, as opposed to any other human descendant? Also, as to the serpent’s seed: if Christianity understands the serpent to be Satan, who is the serpent’s seed here?

  • Do you mean the ones written about in the texts of the gospels? Or the ones from then til now that still are confounded and discount Jesus as the messiah?

  • I thought you were talking about scholars before the time of Jesus, “confounded” as to what the texts meant. Now I’m not sure what you were getting at.

  • The manner in which Jesus came into the world and how He fulfilled scripture was different than the understanding of Jewish scholars. The common thought was that the messiah would rise to earthly power and conquer the earth in a similar fashion as the kings before. Many of the claimed messiahs before and after Jesus had tried this approach and failed. Even the Apostles of Jesus had a hard time with this concept until after the resurrection. This was to answer your previous question as to why christians believe that the messiah would live, die and resurrect in such a manner. Unless it was your intent to understand how we interpret the texts. If that is the case that would take a longer explanation showing the passages and showing the common exegesis which would better be answered by directing you to a resource rather than a lengthy comment thread.

  • Ehrman’s book has been met with considerable criticism from Christian writers and thinkers. What impressed you the most?, and we can start with that.

    “Because it was foretold to the Jews in the OT”– be very specific since Jewish scholars are not buying it.

    “Why was Jesus different” — because the Romans, under Emperor Constantine, changed the whole equation by bringing Christianity into the Empire to keep harmony. The Romans even invented Jesus birthday on the 25th of December to coincide with the ancient Roman celebration of the winter solstice as an added cohesion.

    “…..that assumes we know God’s plan” —- That is convenient since you claim to know God’s plan when he had his only begotten Son, gruesomely murdered, which is the most ridiculous contradiction I have ever heard.

  • All fantasy and fictional characterizations! Jewish scholars read and wrote in Hebrew. Do you speak ancient Hebrew. Jewish scholars argue among themselves, because there are no absolutes. It is mostly historical guesswork. The resurrection was just some Jews removing the body, because traditionally the dead had to be buried as soon as possible. I only hope that you do not teach the Bible to children as facts instead of fictional characterizations. Allow children to think with their own brains.

  • “What impressed you the most?” – Mainly the conclusion in regards to his study of the gospels. In which he affirms the historical authenticity but remains silent on the theological implications.

    “be very specific since Jewish scholars are not buying it.” – Since you were looking for specifics, I would first refer you to the catechism of the catholic church. It has a pretty decent exegesis and citations of the corresponding passages. From there Haydock Commentary, Scott Hahn, Lee Strobel, and the like. They all speak to the exegesis of the prophecy in the OT and how it corresponds with the NT.

    “”Why was Jesus different” — because the Romans, under Emperor Constantine, changed the whole equation by bringing Christianity into the Empire to keep harmony. The Romans even invented Jesus birthday on the 25th of December to coincide with the ancient Roman celebration of the winter solstice as an added cohesion.” – I think you skipped a few years (approx 33AD – 313AD). what about the christians who believed and died under Roman rule during that time? Why was Jesus so different than any other that it caused others to believe and die for those beliefs in such a hostile environment? Why would belief in Jesus and His claims cause a following to last almost 2,000 years, through Roman persecution, Muslim persecution, schism and the like?

    “”…..that assumes we know God’s plan” —- That is convenient since you claim to know God’s plan when he had his only begotten Son, gruesomely murdered, which is the most ridiculous contradiction I have ever heard.” – You are asking specifics for things that haven’t, as we understand, been revealed. Whereas the prophecy of the OT was revealed through the prophets and manifested in Christ in the gospels. In regards to the manner in which Jesus was murdered (I would contend sacrificed would be a more apt description), how is it a contradiction?

  • ” Since you were looking for specifics, I would first refer you to the catechism of the catholic church.” —-If you remember, when the Church ruled Europe, it was called the ‘dark ages’ well into the ‘middle ages” for a reason. The intent of the Reformation was to restore Christianity to a more “pure” form, where, millions upon millions of Europeans were murdered as 
Catholics murdered Protestants and Protestants murdered Catholics. Witch Hunts (beginning circa 1480 in Europe): The witch hunts in the United States were short lived and resulted in very few deaths compared to the witch hunts in Europe where countless people 
were wrongfully murdered after bogus trials. The ships that conquered the Americas were ships carrying the flags of Catholic Kings and they decimated the native tribes. Whose land are you living on and making a living on as a result of the Church sanctioning the conquest of the New World??

    February 2006, BBC
    Church apologizes for slave trade–
    The Church of England has voted to apologize to the descendants of victims of the slave trade. An amendment “recognizing the damage done” to those enslaved was backed overwhelmingly by the General Synod. Debating the motion, Rev Simon Bessant, from Pleckgate, Blackburn, described the Church’s involvement in the trade, saying: “We were at the heart of it.”

    Which prophets spoke of the this from their tiny little world?

  • What is my “primary source”? My primary source (one of several) is the Pontifical Biblical Commission. Other sources include Felix Just, SJ and Raymond Brown, SS, as well as the Collegeville Bible Commentary. (I happen to be Catholic.)

    “[W]hy do [only] Christians believe that God, the Almighty, the all knowing, all loving, all forgiving God would have his only begotten Jewish son, born of a Jewish mother, tortured, humiliated, and murdered in such a gruesome fashion?” In fact, not all Christians hold such a belief. You’ve raised the question of evil. As you’ve suggested, an all-loving God would not want Jesus to be humiliated and tortured. (Contrary to your opinion, Jesus was not “murdered”. He was, as you’ve correctly pointed out, crucified by the Romans as a perceived troublemaker. Pontius Pilate was not the benevolent figure portrayed in the canonical gospels.) Why does God, on the other hand, permit evil? There is no universally satisfactory explanation. Jesus, however, did accept its reality and did not try to escape execution.

    Did God “plan” for the events you’ve noted? Your questions involve *belief*. Your references to “plan”, however, suggest something that can be factually examined. I’m not “into” typology or similar considerations: They prove nothing. To answer your questions, I don’t know and don’t care.

  • “Jewish scholars read and wrote in Hebrew.” – I hope you don’t mean all because that would be incorrect. Did you forget about the Septuagint?

    “Do you speak ancient Hebrew.” – Does it matter? Is your argument that only those who read and understand Hebrew can understand the OT? If you are asking just for personal curiosity, then the answer is some and working to get better.

    “Jewish scholars argue among themselves, because there are no absolutes.” – Yes, they do and so do Christian scholars. In fact all scholars of any discipline argue amongst themselves. However, just because they argue doesn’t negate a common thought or even a good general consensus. The Jewish theological community was even divided in the time of Jesus, but they worshiped together and shared commonalities despite their differences.

    “The resurrection was just some Jews removing the body, because traditionally the dead had to be buried as soon as possible.” – That’s arguable in light of the gospels and evidence of the claims and actions of Jesus’ followers. This was a common claim made against the witnesses (apostles) of Christ’s resurrection. I agree that as a standalone statement against someone’s testimony your assertion seems logical. However, this doesn’t account for the actions of His followers after the claims were made. There is more than assertion to be considered and your approach to a reasonable conclusion seems reductive.

  • How would Jewish scholars of the day study ancient texts written in Hebrew if they did not read or write Hebrew? This is just one of many contradictions that I will show you in the Bible as you bring things up.

    “That’s arguable in light of the gospels and evidence of the claims and actions of Jesus’ followers.” —
    Boston University Study- The Gospel of Mathew was apparently written in the mid-80s. The traditional point of origin is Antioch in Syria. (an ancient Greco-Roman city) — that is over 50 years after Jesus death, and not in Judea.

    The Gospel of Luke appears to have been written about the same time as Matthew’s, although later revisions are very possible. The text, written in Greek, probably originated around the Aegean Sea or in Asia Minor. — Modern Turkey.

    The Gospel of Mark is anonymous. Early Christian tradition ascribes it to John Mark, a companion and interpreter of the apostle Peter, even though most modern scholars are doubtful of the Markan tradition and instead regard the author as unknown. — Therefore, who and where this Gospel was written is unknown.

    Please think before you post. And Jesus was most likely taken in the Jewish tradition and buried as soon as possible, instead of the fantasy of resurrection.

  • The Church is neither a reliable source factual information nor a bastion of morality over the centuries. You are just trying to maintain the business of religion. Following the biblical path of Jesus is something we have rarely seen in the last 2,000 years. The Gospels are just re-writes of older unsubstantiated stories and have had little positive effective results when dealing with non-Christians.

  • (A) Opinion and (B) irrelevant. The point is that the gospel of Matthew was written in Greek for Jewish audiences throughout the Greek-speaking nations of the eastern Mediterranean area exactly as the Septuagint was translated into Greek for the same Jewish audiences.

  • “The Gospels are just re-writes of older unsubstantiated stories” – Many historians from multiple worldviews can and have attested to the historical credibility of the gospels. If you are referring to the theological claims, then that is a different issue altogether. Then we have look at multiple sources and variables to reach a consensus. The christian community has done that as well as the Jews.

  • The woman’s seed is called “he” in the singular. None of the seed of man has managed to crush Satan’s head.

    Jesus tells us in John 8:41 that Satan’s offspring is those who do his works.

  • “How would Jewish scholars of the day study ancient texts written in Hebrew if they did not read or write Hebrew?” – Why did they translate it into Greek? Why did they use the Greek translations at all? This return to traditional Hebrew writing wasn’t until 90AD. Before then Greek amongst the Jews was just as common as Aramaic.

    “This is just one of many contradictions that I will show you in the Bible as you bring things up.” – How is this a contradiction in the bible?

    “Please think before you post. And Jesus was most likely taken in the Jewish tradition and buried as soon as possible, instead of the fantasy of resurrection.” – According to the gospels Jesus was buried the day he was crucified. As was expected by Jewish tradition. Unless you are offering new evidence?

  • “Please think before you post.” Says the guy who has cut and pasted the same take-out from Wikipedia twice already, and seems to have no idea why he believes it all so whole-heartedly.

  • Many men have crushed the heads of snakes. I’m not getting the Jesus reference.
    “Zera’,” translated as seed, at the very least means literal descendants. Eve is the mother of all living, therefore all humanity can be said to be her seed. When the Jews said in that exchange that they had only one father, God himself, I don’t think they would describe themselves as God’s “zera’.”

  • Genesis says nothing about “snakes” It speaks of ONE particular serpent having its head crushed by ONE particular man, whose heel would in turn be bruised.

    Ever heard where the nails were driven through in crucifixion, btw? Right through the heels.

    “Eve is the mother of all living, therefore all humanity can be said to be her seed.” Where else in scripture is anyone called the “seed” of any woman? The closest it comes is when Eve gives birth to Seth, but even there she says that the zera had “been appointed to her” by God, not that the zera was her own.

    You see, the ancients had no idea that women had any reproductive germ cells at all. In their view men provided the seed, and women were the “ground” into which the seed was sown, so to speak. This is why women were referred to as “barren” while men never were. Only in modern times can we fully understand how husband and wife become literally “one flesh” in the children born of their union. While it is unremarkable to us today with our knowledge of biology, for Genesis to speak of the “seed of the Woman” in any sense, let alone as Satan’s nemesis, was highly irregular, and communicates something very special.

    “When the Jews said in that exchange that they had only one father, God himself, I don’t think they would describe themselves as God’s “zera’.” Before Jesus’ interlocutors brought up God as Father they asserted that they were the seed (sperma) of Abraham. Then topped it off with a sly potshot at Jesus for the shadow of illegitimacy surrounding His birth (“WE were not born of fornication…”).

  • If you have any contradictory evidence to anything that I have posted, feel free to provide it. Even wikipedia comes with sources to help you with your research.

  • You should have read down a little further–

    Disputes over canonicity
    As the work of translation progressed, the canon of the Greek Bible expanded. The Torah (Pentateuch in Greek) always maintained its pre-eminence as the basis of the canon, but the collection of prophetic writings, based on the Jewish Nevi’im, had various hagiographical works[which?] incorporated into it.

    In addition, some newer books were included in the Septuagint: those called anagignoskomena in Greek, known in English as Deuterocanonical (“second canon”) because they are not included in the Jewish canon. Among these are the Maccabees and the Wisdom of Ben Sira. Also, the Septuagint version of some Biblical books, like Daniel and Esther, are longer than those in the Masoretic Text. This was done 400 years after Jesus and we do not know who the scholars are. Everything is a giant leap of faith, not facts.

  • LOL! If you think any of the Septuagint dates from 400 years after Christ, I’m afraid you get a big fat F on your homework. Even the latest works included in it date from the 2nd century BC at the very latest. You are quite confused about whether you are talking about Septuagint or Christian bible compilation.

    But why argue about it? But the Septuagint itself must not exist since anything written for Jewish audiences must have been in Hebrew. Except that it does.

  • Only the educated class read and wrote in Greek, so there were very few. The translations from Hebrew came 400 years later.

    In what manner did Jesus rise from the dead? Dozens of people rose from the dead in ancient texts all the way up to Muhammad. The stories lack originality, as are the many births of a virgin mother in multiple cultures.

  • Yes and I could quote scholars who would dispute the conclusions of your scholars, and where would that get us…precisely nowhere.

  • I believe that Arbustin also declared that Sandi averred that she had nothing to be forgiven for. I have not seen it, but that would totally be at odds with a very basic tenet of the Christian faith, “That all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” This is why I find it hard to credit your charge against her. Of course, the bible declares that in the presence of two witnesses, etc. I will perhaps diplomatically take up this question with her when next we speak.

  • I’m pretty sure these were her EXACT words, but I don’t have a screen shot to prove it.

    “I have nothing to be forgiven for.”

  • Then you have current Christian scholars that have absolutes that cannot be disputed??? The problem is that there are so many areas of the ancient texts that can be disputed by objective historians. Christian scholars, Jewish scholars, Muslim scholars are not objective and they all think that they have the true spoken words of God. Science forms “conclusions” based on real evidence.

    For example: More than 150 years have passed since Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” (theory), and we’re still arguing about science and religion. Adam was not made from a lump of clay or dirt, and Eve was not made from a rib. We now have fossils that show a pattern of change over geological time, and that we have molecular evidence, and DNA, to link all the diverse lineages of life on earth, which is called evolution. Molecular evidence and DNA are no longer guesswork. Modern man and neanderthals roamed the earth at the same time and now there is scientific evidence to show that we have some mixed genes in Europe and Asia, while subsaharan Africans are pure humans. This totally conflicts with biblical teachings.

  • Except that he DIDN’T prove it, which was the problem. It was not until the 1700s that telescopes existed capable of making the kind of measurements necessary to detect stellar parallax, which the heliocentric theory necessitated but which could not be observed in Galileo’s time.

  • “The problem is that there are so many areas of the ancient texts that can be disputed by objective historians.” – Absolutely, and they will continue to be disputed. This does not however negate a general consensus or general agreement as to the historical reliability of the gospels.

    “This totally conflicts with biblical teachings.” – How so? More importantly who claimed the bible to be a science book?

    You like science? Thank the catholic church.

  • There are several problems with reading it to mean only one human and only one serpent. For one thing, the verse reads “hu yashufkha rosh, v’atah t’shufenu akev.” The “hu” and “atah” are in the singular grammatically, but there are several scriptural instances where in context they have to be read as plural. Furthermore, if you read 3:15 as only one human and only one serpent, do you read the curses in 3:16-19 to refer only to Eve and Adam as individuals?
    Gen. 16:10 has God’s angel telling Hagar that God will greatly multiply *her* zera’. But in any event, zera’ does not only literally mean “seed.” When the word is used concerning plant life, it means that. But it also means literal descendants. The authors of Genesis knew that women carried descendants, they also knew that the menstrual cycle had something to do with it, cf. Gen. 18:11. Your reference to Gen. 4:25 proves the point: women can have “zera'” in them. The fact that the ancients did not know this was the result of the woman’s ovum uniting with the man’s sperm doesn’t change the fact that she is carrying zera’.
    As to “one flesh,” the plain meaning is much more graphic than biological. The phrase “v’davak b’ishto,” often translated as cleave to his wife, but actually, cleave *in* his wife, is a clue to this meaning. As woman was created from man according to Gen. 2, with the sexual act they are stuck together again. Another clue to the meaning is davak, a glue-like clinginess, like saran wrap. (It is also the source of the Yiddish folkloric term “dybbuk,” a demon that clings to you and won’t let you go).
    The statements made by the Jews in John 8 that they were the “sperma” (same word used for zera’ in the Septuagint of Gen. 3:15) of Abraham is also a reference to literal descendants. Judaism holds all Jews to have been descended from Abraham.

  • New York Times–ROME, Oct. 30, 1992— More than 350 years after the Roman Catholic Church condemned Galileo. Pope John Paul II is poised to rectify one of the Church’s most infamous wrongs.

    In 1632 Galileo angered the Pope when he published a book in which he openly stated that the Earth was moving around the Sun. He was put on trial by the Inquisition in Rome, where he was found suspect of heresy, and forced to say that [all] of his findings were wrong. He was first imprisoned, and later confined to his house near Florence.

    “More importantly who claimed the bible to be a science book?” —That is my point, most of the stories in the Bible are a far from scientific possibilities and historical realities as you can get, starting from the beginning.

  • “New York Times–ROME, Oct. 30, 1992— More than 350 years after the Roman Catholic Church condemned Galileo. Pope John Paul II is poised to rectify one of the Church’s most infamous wrongs.” – Maybe you should read a little bit more about what Pope John Paul II actually said in his presentation. Also, looking into the reason Galileo was chastised by the pope during his time. Hint: It has nothing to do with his scientific findings and everything to do with his unverified theological assertions and open mocking of the pope.

    “That is my point, most of the stories in the Bible are a far from scientific possibilities and historical realities as you can get, starting from the beginning.” – I agree that the bible cannot speak to science, but disagree that it doesn’t speak to history. The later is what sparked this comment thread, the historical reliability of the gospels. Other than an assertion that they are not and showing the established fact that they were not written in the same time period as the events, you haven’t shown a reasonable argument against their historical reliability.

  • I have been on jury duty a number of times with 11 other jurors from different walks of life. None of us were at the seen of the crime, therefore all the facts and good evidence, plus the testimony of witnesses are all put on the table, and legal representation for both sides attempt to convince us what it all means. Even with all of that, we all struggle to come to a 12 juror unanimous conclusion. Half the time some of witnesses are not completely accurate or even untruthful, some of the evidence was not collected properly. We take it all seriously, because no one wants to put an innocent person in prison or let a guilty person go free. I have seen some very respectable people get caught in a lie because it served their purpose, and this is all within a short time from the event. For you to rely on every word of the Gospels being historically accurate, I would not stake someone’s life on it.

  • Agreed, testimony given can be changed due to human error due to neglect, malicious intent or any other reason. However, in dealing with the testimony of others their various recollections should have some consistency. We can reach a reasonable conclusion, which juries do daily, by listening to all the evidence, identifying corresponding data points and discounting aberrations to come to a general consensus. Applied to the discernment of the gospels, when you look at the records of the multiple councils this same methodology was applied. In fact, during the first council of many to discern the NT (Council of Hippo) over 2,000 writings were submitted for canonization. Out of those 2,000 only 27 remain. I would say that the process was handled with due diligence. The problem I have with your assertion is that you are looking at a finished product of hundreds of years debate, testing, examination and discernment. All of which has produced 27 books (4 of which we are referencing) and of which there is a general scholarly consensus that the historical accuracy of the gospels is reliable. Now you want to lump the whole anthology in as if you’re arguing with a fundamentalist and dismiss reliability without consideration of context and genre. This seems wholly disingenuous and intellectually dishonest. So far all I have seen is an argument of the writings being distanced somewhat from the event. Which alone is not reasonable grounds to dismiss historical reliability.

  • I pulled up the exchange. Here’s what was said:

    Ben: Lot was a righteous man. That’s why he was saved. Righteous now apparently means an incestuous drunk.

    Sandi: Lot was righteous because he believed God. Are you as perfect as you expect Biblical persons to be?

    Ben : [evidently thinking that by “biblical persons” Sandi meant herself and not biblical characters] Are biblical persons anywhere near as good as they think they are? So do you mean I can do whatever want as long as I believe in god?
    Don’t forget to say, “forgive me Jesus.”

    Sandi: I don’t need to confess any sin, but thanks. I’ll ask again, are you as perfect as you expect people in the Bible to be?

    So there it is. Ben with his usual mockery (don’t forget “forgive me Jesus” — sing-song mimicry included I’m sure), which Sandi followed up with a bit of snark of her own (nothing to confess right now, thanks just the same) and Ben pounces on it like a starving cat on a sardine and is still waving it around six months later. Which is quite pitiable but to be expected, as he has said that his main purpose here is to convince others that he and his crowd are nicer people than us mean ol’ Christians. Although he rather defeats his own purpose when he makes his own ill-advised statements about African nations not being civilized or about wishing there were a hell so he could see us thrown into it, and writing lengthy reams of “that’s not what I meant” when someone calls him out on if for fun like I once did.

    If I were a little more mean-spirited and had more time on my hands I might follow Ben around with his missteps as well, but I don’t think the Adversary’s tactics are a good choice in most instances. We really can’t smear others without smearing ourselves in the process. It’s usually better to simply do as the Master did — meet the attacks of the Adversary with the word of God and let chips fall where they may.

  • “The phrase “v’davak b’ishto,” often translated as cleave to his wife, but actually, cleave *in* his wife, is a clue to this meaning. As woman was created from man according to Gen. 2, with the sexual act they are stuck together again.” Of course. But “cleave” and “become one flesh” are two separate events. You can’t get to the latter without the former happening.

    “Furthermore, if you read 3:15 as only one human and only one serpent, do you read the curses in 3:16-19 to refer only to Eve and Adam as individuals?” Literally, yes, as certainly not all women bear children and not all men struggle to till the ground. But still the curses were the result of sin entering creation and thereafter it would be impossible for any human descendants to not experience the effects of it.

    This individuality was Paul’s understanding when wrote: “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say, “and to seeds,” meaning many, but “and to your seed,” meaning One, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.” Gal. 3:16-17

  • True, all women do not bear children and all men do not till the soil. But the curses apply to those that do. Not all men will find a wife to cleave to either.
    Paul’s suggestion that “seed” and not “seeds” is referenced may be a result of his reliance on the Septuagint and the fact that he is writing in Greek. Is “spermati” singular and “spermasin” plural? I don’t know, but I do know that “zera'” is a collective noun. It can be singular or plural, depending on the context of the verse.

  • Then all the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu scholars that are not buying the belief that Jesus was conceived in the womb of his mother Mary through the Holy Spirit without the agency of a human father and born while Mary was still a virgin, the son of God, the resurrection, etc, are dismissing “historical reliability” and are “intellectually dishonest”??? That was a weak attempt to sway an intelligent jury, Nate.

    “However, in dealing with the testimony of others their various recollections should have some consistency. We can reach a reasonable conclusion, which juries do daily, by listening to all the evidence” — What you are missing from your argument is that the jury cannot possibly have [all] the evidence, we don’t get to hear any contradicting witness, and their testimony has no way of being cross-examined.

  • “Then all the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu scholars that are not buying the belief that Jesus was conceived in the womb of his mother Mary through the Holy Spirit without the agency of a human father and born while Mary was still a virgin, the son of God, the resurrection, etc, are dismissing “historical reliability” and are “intellectually dishonest”??? That was a weak attempt to sway an intelligent jury, Nate.” – No, the question of parentage in regard to the virgin birth is a theological assertion not an historical one. I think we may have a different understanding as to the term “historical reliability”. It seems as if you are trying to posit that all claims in the gospels are reliable. Whereas I am saying the history contained within the gospels is reliable, according to common consensus of scholars, and the theological implications, claims and assertions are a matter of personal belief based on one’s own study and conscience. To discount the historical reliability of a text because you don’t agree with the theology or philosophy is intellectually dishonest because it denies objective data points.

    “What you are missing from your argument is that the jury cannot possibly have [all] the evidence, we don’t get to hear any contradicting witness, and their testimony has no way of being cross-examined.” – It’s not missing because I never claimed that all the information for that time period is contained in the gospels. In regards to contradictory testimony, there is plenty of contradictory testimony as far as the theological claims. Aside from the letters of Paul; there are also outside historical authors (non-christian) that have verified some aspects of the gospels such as Josephus and Tacitus who recorded history in the 1st century. The reason little is written about Jesus outside of the Christian community can be and is explained by the context of history. From a global 1st century perspective, Jesus was the leader of a marginalized religious Jewish sect that was executed by the Romans. Hardly news worthy to anyone outside of the sect itself. So it’s completely expected that outside sources will be few and far between. However this doesn’t negate the historical reliability of the gospels.

  • Again: Then all the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu scholars who are not buying the New Testament story of Jesus, the Son of God, the resurrection, etc, are “intellectually dishonest”??? Please do not dodge the question, because you implied that I was being “intellectually dishonest”

  • Asked and answered. See previous response.

    “Please do not dodge the question, because you implied that I was being “intellectually dishonest”” – yes, yes I did imply intellectual dishonesty based on your responses. You are having a hard time replying on topic and tried to lump the entirety of the bible into the discussion when the original topic (you proposed) was the historical reliability of the gospels.

    Now your latest attempt is to take my implication towards you and have it applied to other groups of people which is absurd. Not satisfied with my answer clearing up the question in regards to a theological assertion of the text as opposed to the original topic, historical reliability, you ask the same question again. Why? Are you having trouble distinguishing the difference between a historical claim versus a theological claim?

  • Most people don’t understand the difference between authenticity/competence of evidence and credibility of evidence. The former is a legal question for a judge, the latter a fact question for a jury.

    There is nothing wrong with the gospels in a historical evidentiary sense. The question of whether or not to believe their claims is up to the individual.

  • Thank you for digging up that exchange and providing an analysis of it. Sandi’s response was the key issue for me, and you have made a plausible case for her intent, which approximates what I thought was most likely. Still, though I occasionally let my own pride get the better of me, I desire to engage most people here with restraint. I have come to consider Ben a friend even though we disagree vehemently about matters spiritual. It was with this in mind that I wished to “hear” both sides. I am distressed when people describe Sandi as hateful, she manifestly is not, but I confess that her usage of LOL, etc., so frequently, is a hindrance rather than a help when trying to win someone like Ben to the cross. (Sandi, if you see this, you know my heart, and Ben, I’m going to keep trying to win you to that cross.) I don’t always quote the scripture when making my case, but I endeavor to apply the precepts evident in them because I’ve found people tend to tune you out when…may I say…rote recitation of scripture is the primary approach. Again, my thanks.

  • Presumably, by your argument, secular scholars have the corner on objectivity; that is an assertion I cannot credit. Nor are Scientists wholly objective in their arguments. Often they form hypotheses and endeavor to test them, but they are not above skewing the results, or at least pursuing the avenue that best fits their predispositions. I don’t know how we got on Darwinism, but I’m not going to touch it; it would merely provoke and continue what is increasingly an unfruitful debate, not unlike the tensions between the immovable object and the irresistible force.

  • Shawnie5 provided me with the text of your exchange with Sandi, and provided an analysis as well. Your quote is accurate, but the context is apparently the issue. The stated remark was apparently a reference to the particular conversation you were having, and that Sandi was simply stating that she had nothing to be forgiven for relative to that.

  • Nice try Nate, but you have only responded without even coming close to answering a direct question. Then you couch it as “Now your latest attempt”. The difference between theology and science is that science looks for proof. It doesn’t assert a “claim” to be a foregone fact. Where your question fails, is that theologists [do not] teach the Gospel as theory, you teach it as an historical claim. If you say anything different, it would not be an honest response.

  • Again, you are being disingenuous to my response and unreasonable in trying to lump historicity with theology. If you cannot make that distinction then the remaining conversation is going to remain fruitless.

    “Nice try Nate, but you have only responded without even coming close to answering a direct question. ” – Just because you don’t like answer doesn’t mean it wasn’t answered. It seems you posed an unreasonable question looking for a specific response and then respond as if you are ignorant of the difference in types of claims. If you do not agree with the theology of gospels does it negate the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, Mary, Joseph or the apostles? Not even close. We can verify from the gospel and other historical records that these people existed, Jesus founded a religious sect of Judaism, was killed by the Romans and His followers continued His ministry. Those are verified and agreed upon historically. (Side note: even Jews, Muslims and Hindu’s agree to the existence of Mary, joseph, Jesus and the apostles. The arguments they have are theological not historical). The question you posed was in regards to divinity, divine parentage and spiritual claims of the gospels. These claims are not historic in nature, but rather philosophical/theological in nature. Which is subject to debate and uses a complete set of evidences and proofs to be argued. To try to mary the two sets of claims is intellectually dishonest in trying to determine the reliability of one from another because it denies the very nature of the information being presented. You asked a theological question

    “Where your question fails, is that theologists [do not] teach the Gospel as theory, you teach it as an historical claim. If you say anything different, it would not be an honest response.” – False. Again you are making a determination without distinguishing between evidences or claims. The church teaches the gospels as historically reliable and theologically reliable. Whereas as Muslim may assent to the historical reliability but strongly refute the theological reliability. If you would like to discuss the theological claims we can address that after we resolve your denial of historical reliability.

    “The difference between theology and science is that science looks for proof. It doesn’t assert a “claim” to be a foregone fact.” – False. Science and Theology are two different disciplines of study, but both rely on proofs and evidences. If you are saying they don’t use the same methodology and/or types of evidences, I agree. However, you are wrong about science not assuming a claim to be a forgone fact. There are many claims science makes that are presumed fact despite their unrepeatability. For instance the big bang theory. Mathematically and observably it is the best logical conclusion in regards to the genesis of the universe however it fails that last scientific burden of making it a fact, repeatability. I know we are “working on it” but as of yet we assume this to be fact even though it doesn’t meet the full burden of proof. We base the rest of our scientific endeavors on this fact even though it doesn’t fully measure up to the scientific standard as fact.

  • I’m flattered that Shawnie thinks I’m so dangerous that she keeps records of my conversations with others. It’s the second time she has revealed that.

  • In 1610, Galileo looked up at the heavens using a telescope of his making. And what he saw would forever revolutionize the field of astronomy, our understanding of the Universe, and that is what threatened the Church teachings, because Galileo’s observations that finally helped convince people that the Sun-centered solar system model (the heliocentric model), as proposed by Copernicus, was correct. , which only recently got a Church apology.

    The publication of Copernicus’ model in his book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), just before his death in 1543, was a major event in the history of science, triggering the Copernican Revolution and making an important contribution to the scientific Revolution.

  • Like I said, he didn’t prove it. And some of the ideas he came up with to support it were patently absurd.

    The church was not threatened by heliocentrism. Copernicus’ theories has been around for sixty years without disturbing anyone, but likewise without proof. He had to account for stellar parallax, for medieval scholars were loath to let go of the longstanding but erroneous theories of the ancient Greeks (Ptolemy in this case;, Aristotle was another deadweight) without proof they could plainly see. Much like 19th century doctors fought against the germ theory of infection and disease until technology enabled them to actually see the microbes.

  • “However, you are wrong about science not assuming a claim to be a forgone fact.” — Another nice try, but science distinguishes clearly between irrefutable evidence and theory. For example, there are thousand of pieces of evidence to support evolution, but it is still called “the theory of evolution”. Do you “claim” the biblical story of Jesus and his miracles a “theory”, or do you “claim” them to be factual? Please give an honest response and not dodge the question.

  • “Presumably, by your argument, secular scholars have the corner on objectivity” — Only provable scientific discovery is as objective as mathematical equations. Clergy are bound by religion. The question was: “Do you “claim” the biblical story of Jesus and his miracles a “theory”, or do you “claim” them to be factual? Please do not dodge the question

    “Nor are Scientists wholly objective in their arguments” — you have to separate argument from final conclusions of fact. Science cannot prove that cigarette smoke causes cancer, but we have statistical evidence from around the world the supports the idea, while those who “argue” against it have little to work with.

  • I repeat, it was not the church but the scientific consensus of ASTRONOMERS, most of whom just happened to be clergy since they were the most educated people of the time, which was “stifling science.” Nobody likes the prospect of a scientific framework taken for granted for hundreds of years being upended — we can see that occurring in academia even today. And in truth, by Galileo’s time the Ptolemaic system had been so embellished and over-enhanced that it charted and predicted astronomical events better than heliocentrism in its infancy did.

  • I’m not dodging the question. We simply operate from different premises and different definitions of terms.

  • Rather that she is able to call them up from past postings, but even at that, I find her to be diligent and evenhanded. I don’t think she finds you dangerous at all…of course you could be putting me on with drollery. My problem sometimes is that I’m a bit naïve in that I take what people say at face value, unless they’re obviously being hyperbolic. I’ve been fooled many times that way, I link it to my own transparency. It just doesn’t occur to me to be other than obvious…even my wit tends to the obvious, but people are so poorly read these days they miss the classical references. But you seem to have no lack of recall yourself, as you quoted accurately a past remark by Sandi. That’s no so much different from Shawnie5. I simply think that she likes to classify and categorize data efficiently for her own legitimate purposes. Okay…end of meandering weary Friday ramble.

  • You are obviously so brainwashed that you believe what you are saying, so you are correct about the conversation being fruitless between us. If you actually had proof of what you are saying, then scholars in all fields and disciplines of science, history, theology, etc could be convinced with your so-called facts. As it stands, that is just not the case.

  • Simple question: Is a claim of divinity an historical claim or theological claim?

    If a Branch Davidian were to write a book on David Koresh. They include data about his life, ministry and death. Since they believed his theology they would write it from the perspective that it was all true. What you are saying is that because they wrote it from that perspective it’s all false, throwing the baby out with the bath water. What I am saying is that despite the POV of the writer we can identify, verify and assent to historical facts outside of the theology. What the writer believes theologically doesn’t negate data points, place of birth, names, dates, events. That is what is called historical reliability.

  • Answer: It is all second hand information without documentation. Jesus, as a Jew, believed he was a direct descendent of Abraham. Muhammad [claimed], also second hand information in the Qur’an, that he was a direct descendent of Abraham, and Abraham was from the city of Ur (modern Iraq) according to Genesis 11:31. Muhammad claimed to descend from Ishmael who lived 2,700 years before him, yet without any historical written document, people believe it in their hearts.

    (Genesis Rabbah 38), states that Adam spoke Hebrew because of the name he gives Eve which is “Isha” (Genesis 2:23). and “Chava” from (Genesis 3:20) which only makes sense when spoken in Hebrew. — The problem is that human bones have been found in East Africa that collective science agrees are approximately one million years old. Using your best educated guess, what language were humans speaking one million years ago?

  • “Simple question: Is a claim of divinity an historical claim or theological claim?”

    Simple answer: It is all based on second hand information without verifiable documentation. So if your belief is based on false information, then both your historical and theological claim or belief have no real value, other than what you think it is.

    I know this is hard for you to understand because the wall that you have put up is to high for you to climb over, and that is why you have insincerely suggested that I “have a great day” It is OK, I did not take it personal.

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