Friday, June 5, 2020
Monday, May 25, 2020
A common argument from Muslims is that the Bible is corrupt and there is one perfect Qur'an, and therefore Muslims can dismiss the Bible, or pick and chose which verses they want to accept. This new translation of the Qur’an helps to show Muslims that this is not the case. It is a translation with the variants from the 10 accepted versions of the Qur'an indicated in red and translated in the footnotes. It is the first translation of its kind. This is a very powerful tool, both for your own reading of the Qur'an, and because you can quickly show a Muslim, in English, that the Qur'an has variants, and therefore they should stop exaggerating. The PDF of this book only costs a few dollars and is well worth it.https://bridges-foundation.org/product/bridges-translation-of-quran/
Muslim attitudes to the variants vary. Some say all the variants are inspired and are to be harmonized, others, that the variants come from the early Readers and are to be judged. Either way, this translation gives you the resources to have this conversation.
And here are two short videos from Shabir Ally discussing the variants. He really takes the conversation to a new helpful level, for which I am thankful.https://youtu.be/c0Z7_MAZX5g
Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
The Temple Not Made With Hands
Carrier turns his attention to a selection of what he calls "leading examples" of undesigned coincidences. The first one pertains to Jesus' resurrection prediction in John 2:18-22. He writes,
Mark 14:55-59 and 15:27-30 repeatedly depicts the Jews accusing Jesus of claiming to destroy the temple; John 2:18-22 “explains” that when Jesus said that, he was talking metaphorically about his body. This is obviously just John explaining his source, Mark. There is no undesigned coincidence here.John, however, does not mention the later misrepresentation of Jesus' statement and its use as an accusation against Jesus. Furthermore, the false witnesses in Mark and Matthew don't accurately represent Jesus' words (since he said nothing about destroying a man made temple and rebuilding it but not by human hands). But nothing in either of those gospels gives even a hint of what Jesus actually said. Only John gives us the backstory. In fact, in Mark and Matthew the false witness statements are actually unexplained allusions. The reader is left hanging, wondering when Jesus made this statement. It is also alluded to by those mocking Jesus on the cross in Mark 15:29 and Matthew 27:40. This suggests that it was a widely known statement of Jesus (not something the false witnesses came up with out of whole cloth), even though Mark and Matthew do not supply the pretext, and even though Mark and Matthew make it clear that the witnesses at Jesus' interrogation were giving false testimony against Jesus by this accusation. We therefore have two interlocking accounts that point to their being independently grounded in truth.
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Carrier begins this section by stating,
I won’t bother, however, with what the McGrews call “external” coincidences, which are merely authors knowing things about their own history (like who ruled where and when, what titles they held, and what they were like). Authors knew those things about their history the same way we know those things about ours: they read books and inscriptions, listened to lectures and speeches, and absorbed longstanding cultural knowledge from their parents and peers. The only “coincidences” that have any chance of being “undesigned” are what the McGrews call “internal” coincidences, meaning from Gospel to Gospel, not from Gospel to pop history.That is not a very accurate definition of what the McGrews mean when they talk about external coincidences. Rather, external coincidences function in a similar way to internal coincidences except they involve external secular sources rather than other New Testament accounts. In a similar way, the accounts interlock in a way that points to truth. For example, consider John 2:18-20, which recounts a dialogue between Jesus and some Jews following the cleansing of the temple:
18 So the Jews said to [Jesus], “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”Take note of the date given by the Jews -- "it has taken forty-six years to build this temple..." We can thus discern the approximate date at which this dialogue must have taken place, since Flavius Josephus helpfully tells us when Herod the Great began to rebuild the temple. It was in the 18th year of his reign, which landed in approximately 19 B.C (Antiquities of the Jews 15.380). Forty-six years on from 19 B.C. (bearing in mind there was no 0 A.D.) lands us in 28 A.D. Now, according to Luke 3:1, when did Jesus commence His public ministry? It was in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Augustus Caesar died in 14 A.D., but two years prior to that (the fall of 12 A.D.), according to the historian Suetonius, Augustus appointed Tiberius as co-emperor, in order to ensure a smooth transition of power. The 15th year of Tiberius, then, lands us in 27 A.D., corresponding to Jesus' baptism and ministry commencement. The cleansing of the temple would have taken place the following Passover (John 2:13), placing it in the spring of 28 A.D. Thus, by two independent methods, and using information drawn from John, Luke, Josephus, and Suetonius, we have been able to confirm the date on which Jesus cleansed the temple. This sort of coincidence is best explained by the sources being rooted in truth.
Sunday, March 29, 2020
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Case in point. The McGrews are amazed that the early Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) don’t really explain why Pilate declares Jesus innocent, and lo and behold, John comes along and explains it by presenting a whole conversation between Pilate and Jesus no one had ever heard of before. McGrew calls this an undesigned coincidence. But there are two problems with this.
Friday, March 20, 2020
Yet another cause of things McGrew lists as evidence is simply: there is nothing to explain. Some of McGrew’s “examples” are simply fabricated. For instance, she tries to argue that when Mark’s account of the “feeding of five thousand” speaks of the people “coming and going” he “must” mean this was the Preparation for the Passover, and they were “coming and going” because of that, so when John relates the same incident (in fact he is redacting Mark’s account) and adds in passing that “Passover was at hand,” this proves Mark and John must have been there—and Mark merely forgot to mention the Passover was near.I do not know why Carrier puts quotation marks around the word "must" (since this isn't McGrew's word at all). Given that this section of his review is about fabrication, this is quite ironic. Carrier implies (falsely) that McGrew is saying that we "must" take the crowds in Mark to be caused by the Passover. McGrew's discussion of this is much more modestly worded. Furthermore, Carrier also makes no mention of Mark's casual allusion to the green grass (Mark 6:39), which further supports this coincidence, since the grass in Palestine is brown throughout the majority of the year save for a narrow window of time (because of elevated levels of rainfall) during the spring, around the time of Passover. Mark doesn't explicitly tell us that the event took place at Passover, but John 6:4 does. However, John doesn't mention the people coming and going or the green grass, alluded to in Mark. Therefore, we have an undesigned coincidence.
And yet, another obvious cause of one text omitting what McGrew would call a “detail” but the rest of us would call “a few words” is simply: scribal error. We actually have ample evidence of accidental scribal omissions in the textual transmission of the Gospels (as well as deliberate ones), which McGrew simply ignores as a competing explanation for which we actually have evidence. The frequency of omissions in scribal transmission of the Gospels is discussed by fellow Christian apologist Edward Andrews. Many examples are catalogued by Bart Ehrman in The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture and by Taylor Barnes in his dissertation Scribal Habits in Selected New Testament Manuscripts, Including Those with Surviving Exmplars (University of Birmingham 2017).This time Carrier offers us particular examples where his theory might apply:
For example, in Mark’s account of the prophecy game played on Jesus, the soldiers spit on Jesus and cover his eyes and just say “Prophesy!” when they strike Jesus; but in Matthew’s account, the covering isn’t mentioned, instead they specifically “spit in his face,” and more fully say “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who struck you!” Those sentences begin identically. The loss of the rest of the sentence in Mark is exactly the kind of accidental omission we have many examples of in the manuscripts of the Bible. So we can’t be confident Mark actually omitted it himself. And indeed, the full line in Matthew exists in many manuscripts of Mark. Some also read identically to Matthew even in having the guards spit “in his face,” and a few even omit the face covering. So this whole thing could simply be a textual corruption, and the two texts originally identical. We have evidence for all of this in the parallel passage in Luke 22:64, which is similarly corrupted with various omissions across the manuscripts, but all to some extent combine the text of Mark and Matthew. Which means either Mark and Matthew originally contained the same text or there was no Q source and Luke chose to combine Mark’s text with Matthew’s. But even that would be consistent with Matthew and Mark originally saying the same things here, leaving nothing left to explain.Carrier further elaborates,
Of course, that Matthew deliberately changed Mark’s “spit on him” to “spit in his face” might instead indicate what really is going on here: Matthew doesn’t like Mark’s story precisely because it’s too colloquial (it assumes familiarity with a common children’s game of the time, possibly then even called Prophesy: Alan Dundes, Holy Writ as Oral Lit, pp. 112-13), so Matthew replaces the sack over “his face” with spitting in “his face” (identical words in both texts), thus efficiently collapsing two acts into one, signifying to blind him with spit, and then fills out the sentence, so everyone will get the point, even those who never played the Prophesy game as a child. This may even indicate the game was common among Gentiles, Mark’s audience, but not Jews, Matthew’s audience.The problem here is that McGrew does not use this example in her book, and in fact states in chapter 3 her reason for not doing so. She states,
I have been careful not to use a single undesigned coincidence that could be plausibly explained by mere incomplete copying or elaboration of Mark on the part of Matthew or Luke.In fact, in footnote 15 of chapter 3, McGrew specifically lists this very example as one she deliberately chose to omit because of its ability to be accounted for by incomplete copying. She writes,
There are three coincidences I have left out of my discussion for this very reason: The "who struck you" coincidence between Luke 22:63-64 and Matthew 26:67-68, since Matthew could have been merely including one piece of information from all the information contained in Mark; the "waiting until evening" coincidence between Matthew 8:16 and Mark 1:21, since Matthew may have merely included incomplete information from Mark; the coincidence concerning the command to the disciples to tell no one about the Transfiguration until after the resurrection, from Matthew 17:9 and Luke 9:36, since all of the information may be found in Mark 9:10, depending upon one's translation of the Greek in Mark. [emphasis added]The fact that Carrier covers this example in a review of McGrew's book causes me to be skeptical about whether Carrier has actually read the book.
In part 3, we will consider Carrier's claim that McGrew has fabricated some of her examples. We will discover that, in fact, it is not McGrew, but Carrier, who has fabricated his data.
Thursday, March 19, 2020
Unfortunately, Carrier's review only demonstrates that he has not read McGrew's book (since he claims McGrew uses examples which she does not in fact use -- in fact, she states explicitly in her book her reasons for not using them). He also never cites any of McGrew's blog posts where she deals in detail with many of the points he raises in his article. He also gets some of his facts simply wrong. With this blog post, I begin a series of responses to Carrier's critique of undesigned coincidences
Monday, February 24, 2020
Unsheathed: The Story of Muhammad is now available in three versions:
- the original unabridged and fully-referenced version with minor updates;
- a new short (~two hours reading) version with 118 colour pictures by my friend Connor O'Grady; and
- the short version without pictures, for those who dislike pictures.
Kindle and paperback copies can be purchased from Amazon*, which is the best place to leave a review if you’d like to write one.
The audiobook is available from archive.org, or through Castbox or Soundcloud on your computer or favourite device via their free apps.
See also: Tara is free.
* Unless you live in Australia. Apparently Amazon won't ship print-on-demand books to Australia.
Wednesday, December 25, 2019
Did Jesus Have Help to Fulfil Prophecy? A Response to Robert J. Miller, Part 1: Out of Egypt I Have Called My Son
Miller introduces the first section of the chapter as follows:
This section of the chapter analyzes the different kinds of creativity involved in the ways Matthew matches prophecy to fulfillment: connecting prophecies to events that do not fulfill them in any obvious way, quoting scripture selectively, translating scripture selectively, fabricating prophecies, tailoring stories so that they can fulfill prophecy, and “retrofitting” prophecies so that Jesus can fulfill them.Miller notes seventeen fulfilment scenes in Matthew, and ponders why it is that, for the majority of the Matthean fulfilment scenes, Matthew is the only New Testament writer to notice the fulfilment of Scripture. For the sake of conciseness (and because a number of the examples require a detailed commentary) I will examine just one or a few example(s) in each blog post in this series. But please rest assured that I do intend to write a detailed response to all the examples given in the chapter.
Monday, December 9, 2019
My book has been published! This book will help Christians know where to start with Islam in the key areas of what it means to love everyone, understanding what Islam teaches about Christianity, how to share the gospel with a Muslim, the incarnation, Trinity, salvation, and the cross. It assesses Muhammad as a prophet, answers the Muslim claims against the Bible, and gives you the relevant history to get started.
The premise of the book is that if you don’t start in the right place you may make little progress, and your Muslim friend may be more than ready to lead the way. I share my experience of starting in the wrong place and point the way forward.
The book is written for all Christians, whether you just want an introduction to Islam, or want ideas for Christian-Muslim dialogue. A strength of the book is that, for the first half, it does not require you to remember lots of details about Islam but instead shows how the Bible and Christian doctrine speak to Islam.
Australia & the Asia Pacific
Saturday, December 7, 2019
Monday, November 25, 2019
A Summary of the Basic Argument
When it comes to the origins of the gospel narratives, there are three contending hypotheses for explaining their origin. These are:
(1) The gospel authors deliberately fabricated the events that they narrate.
(2) The gospel authors were honestly mistaken in their reporting of the events that they narrate.
(3) The gospel authors faithfully recorded actual events.
Of course, those options could in principle be correct either individually or in combination with one another. When we discover striking correlations between the gospel narratives and the Old Testament texts (on a level that is unlikely by mere coincidence), then we have evidence against the hypothesis that the gospel authors were honestly mistaken -- that is to say, we have positive evidence for design, either on the part of the human authors manipulating the story to impose conformity to the Hebrew Scriptures, or on the part of God supernaturally orchestrating the history. The question then becomes, what is the locus of the design?
The first of the above hypotheses -- that is, that the gospel authors deliberately fabricated the events that they narrate is significantly undermined when we discover points of historical confirmation of the gospels (a subject that I have written, lectured and debated extensively about elsewhere). I have contended publicly elsewhere that numerous historical points in the gospels can be historically verified and confirmed (e.g. here). This gives rise to an inductive argument for treating the gospel documents as a whole as trustworthy. The numerous points of historical confirmation in the book of Acts, moreover, builds us a picture of the pedigree of its author Luke (who also happens to be the author of the third gospel), and thus offers us additional reason to trust what he writes in his gospel. I (and others) have developed that case extensively in various venues and to argue this is not the primary purpose of the present article.
Having shown the first two of the three options to be improbable, therefore, it is possible to provide evidential support for the third contending hypothesis, namely, that the gospel authors faithfully recorded actual events, and the locus of the design is supernatural divine orchestration of the events to result in convergence between events in Jesus the Messiah's life and foreshadows written of in the Hebrew Bible. In syllogistic form, this argument can be presented as follows:
Premise 1: The correlation between events recorded in the gospels and Hebrew Scripture is either the product of human design or divine design.
Premise 2: It is not the product of human design.
Conclusion: Therefore, it is the product of divine design.
One can of course make the inductive argument I just described for taking the gospels as a whole to be highly reliable. The case, however, is lent even greater force when we can point to specific instances of details in the gospels that are subject to historical confirmation which also correlate with the Hebrew Bible in some way. We can model this argument probabilistically using Bayesian analysis.
Sunday, November 24, 2019
To take an example, suppose that P(E1|H) = 0.2, but P(E1|~H) = 0.04. Then the ratio P(E1|H)/P(E1|~H) has the value of 5 to 1, or just 5. If there are multiple pieces of independent evidence of the same sort, their power accumulates exponentially. Five such pieces would yield a cumulative ratio of 3125 to 1. If the initial ratio were 2 to 1, ten pieces of independent evidence would have a cumulative power of more than 1000 to 1. By expressing it in mathematical terms like this, hopefully you can see how small pieces of evidence, no single piece by itself of very great weight, can combine to create a massive cumulative case.
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Friday, October 4, 2019
Hello, Miss MacArthur, before we begin, I’d like to give you a few moments to introduce yourself.
Hello, Mr Brahm. I’m an ordinary university graduate who knows something about research methods. I live with my family, go to work, go to church and socialise with my friends. Most people don’t know about my secret life as a researcher and writer.
When I write about Islam, I use the name “Tara MacArthur,” which is Irish for “Asma bint Marwan”. This was the name of a real Arabian poet who once wrote a poem about Muhammad. He didn’t like her poem and so he killed her. I chose my pseudonym in her honour.
Tara does nothing except write about Islam. I keep her in a box and only bring her out on occasions like this one. She writes to encourage and inform the important conversation that we need to have about the origins of Islam.
Tara has written a biography of Muhammad and a three-book series on the lives of his wives. The biography, Unsheathed – The Story of Muhammad, is free, so as to make it accessible to everyone including people in countries where it might be dangerous to buy it. It is available in PDF and MP3 audio format from http://www.answeringmuslims.com/2018/09/tara-is-free.html, and on Amazon for those who like paper and Kindle versions. Amazon is the best place to leave a review if you’d like to write one. The audio version is currently available through Castbox or Soundcloud.
The issue that we will be discussing today is sharia law and its effects on society. So as an introduction, what exactly is sharia law and what are the sources from which it is derived?