Hello bloggers. If you’re wondering why the blog is up early, well it’s the day before Easter and my workplace has me working until midnight and personally, when I get home, I’d like to sleep. I would prefer to be awake on the day that we celebrate our Lord waking from the sleep from death. Hopefully, I will be.
Today, we look at the NT and superstition and I am amused at the start with how Jesus used magic in John 9:6-7 by having the blind man go to the pool of Siloam. I am just dumbfounded here wondering how this equates to magic. Did something supernatural go on at this pool? Apparently. There were people there wanting to be healed. How is this magic? Beats me. Of course, this is made to sound mythical to us today. “Where is a pool like that today?” Loftus asks. How obvious! If we can’t find one, then there never was one. (Actually, this pool was found in archaeological circles and it has five porticoes as John described.)
Next we move on to demon possession. Somehow, Loftus knows that these weren’t demon possessions that were happening in the Bible. (Even though not every healing was a demon possession.) The ancients knew this as well. They had medical treatments and is there any source that says that if they did not know what it was, it was automatically a demon?
Next come visions and they are described as an “educated way to learn things.”
Apparently, Loftus hopes the story isn’t known. Let’s see what it really says as it is the account of Cornelius’s visit by Peter.
First, Cornelius is a gentile who has a vision of an angel to tell him to send for Peter. Peter is at a tanner’s house and has a vision of a sheet from Heaven with all manner of beasts in it and being told to rise, kill, and eat. Peter won’t because the food is unclean and gets told “Do not call unclean what God has called clean.” This happens BEFORE he is contacted by Cornelius.
And what does he see when he comes? He sees they all start speaking in tongues as he is preaching which was indicative to him that the Holy Spirit had come. (How that relates to the modern-day issue is another topic.) So what did he base his belief on God giving the Spirit to the Gentiles on? Evidence he saw with his own eyes.
Visions are only a problem if you assume a priori that God can’t use visions.
We move on to the healing at Lystra in Acts 14. Loftus does say these people were uneducated. I think that’s important as it’s more than likely that Luke was himself laughing at the gullibility of the people. They hideously misinterpreted the evidence that they had received.
Also, when they said the gods had come down in human form, this was based on an ancient mythological tale where the gods supposedly came to a town and only one elderly couple let them in as they had described themselves. Everyone else shunned them. The gods destroyed the town aside from the couple and blessed them abundantly.
Now is the problem that they believed gods came down in human form? No. The problem is they believed a story that had no basis and that is what Luke finds incredible. He’s the one who’s written about the account of Christ basing it on the evidence he has and here these people are ready to believe anything else. Their ability to change their mind so quickly shows their gullibility in fact.
Luke would also be seeing the claims of Christ quite different as he himself wrote a gospel. The problem is not with what they saw again. It is with how they interpreted it. Ironically, this would work against the idea of Loftus. In writing the account, Luke too is condemning the gullibility of the people who change their mind with every blow of the wind.
I find it amazing in the account of the visit of Paul to Athens that Loftus makes a deal of how it says that the Athenians spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the great ideas.
You know, there’s such a thing as exaggeration to make a point….
Of course, the people of Athens are said to be superstitious and need no evidence for their beliefs. If that’s the case entirely though, one wonders why so many of them scoffed when Paul spoke about a resurrection and there wasn’t a great following. Why didn’t the whole Areopagus convert upon hearing Paul’s sermon?
Ooooh. Let me guess. Because they didn’t believe dead people came back to life?
Yeah. That could be it.
We move on to Acts 19 and the riot at Ephesus. The temple of Artemis was one of the wonders of the ancient world that housed a meteorite. Craftsmen of the time were making small replicas of the temple to sell. Paul’s preaching would have been a damage to their business. (Of course, they couched it in religious devotion.) They were able to get the crowds worked up in a fervor until a clerk showed up.
Now the clerk spoke of these facts as undeniable. There were some that were though. It was undeniable that something had fallen from the heavens and it was undeniable that it was kept in the temple. Chances are, the clerk was defusing the religious tension. Then, he dealt with the economic side by pointing to the courts as the place to settle the matters.
(I’ll also add in that the account used to be considered to have an error due to the mention of Asiarchs but now we’ve made archaeological findings that refer to them.)
Any superstition there was not supported by the Bible. In fact, this seems to be a theme in Luke. He’s willing to show the pagan beliefs of the opponents of Christianity in contrast to the hard case he’s made for Christianity. Why did the Christian church win out? Simple. There was more reason to believe it. (Had to be for people to suddenly abandon long-held traditions with a temple and considering the rites of the temple, they would probably be deemed a lot more enjoyable than many Christian ideas in their eyes.)
We move on to Acts 28. Here a snake bites Paul and he’s assumed to be a murderer. After he survives, he’s assumed to be a god. Again, Luke finds this humorous as well. Paul treats it as a matter-of-fact event. He trusts God and just trusts that since God let him survive the shipwreck and said he’d speak before Caesar that God would protect him.
How did these people know what kind of snake it was? Oh. Let me guess. It was an island and they lived on it and they could identify snakes? That could be it. I find it amusing to hear Loftus say “bad things happen because of the gods. That’s just stupid.”
Now I’ll grant that not every “bad thing” that happens is because of God, but one would be hard-pressed to be able to prove that no bad thing happens because God brings it about. Can God strike some people with various punishments? I would think he could. I’d be extremely hesitant to say what was and wasn’t a punishment for God for a good reason. I’m not him and I do not have a special revelation from him in that area.
Again, the gullibility is laughed at by Luke as he sets the contrast every time. If anything, Christianity helped to end “superstition” in the ancient world.
Now we move on 2 Peter and Jude where we are told that people made up stories and the apostles denied this. Loftus has three questions.
“Since we already know that prophets received their prophecies by means of dreams and visions how did any of them know for sure their prophecies were truly from God?”
First off, these people heard the voice of God as well and I believe this was in the case of the prophets an audible voice. When Jeremiah gets his vision, he hears the voice of God. The prophets had dialogues with God. They didn’t just see something and then were left to their own devices.
Secondly, it did come true and one wonders if the dreams and visions were abundant as Loftus indicates. Some “evidence” would be nice.
“Why are there so many warnings about false teachings in the N.T. if these people had solid evidence to base their faith upon, and they were not like their contemporaries who would believe most any good story?”
Oh. Let’s see. Because evidence doesn’t automatically equal knowledge? Also, there were false teachings that would agree with much of the evidence. Was the circumcision crowd denying the resurrection? I don’t see that. They were false teachers though and they needed to be exposed.
One wonders how Loftus, if he believes strongly in evolution, would respond to the teaching of ID in schools in contrast if the evidence for evolution is so strong.
How did the authors of the Bible know they themselves were teaching divine truths?
Anybody remember what Peter said in 2 Peter? “We were eyewitnesses.” You didn’t have eyewitnesses of Zeus walking around in those days. You had eyewitnesses of Christ though. How did they know? It’s simple. They had evidence. The disciples weren’t “gullible.”
Tomorrow, we shall look at objections to the view Loftus has presented that he brings forward.