Archive for November, 2012

This sentence caught my attention: “Capitalism only works in a moral society”.  Do you wonder what happened to our nation? Notice this statement: “To sum up, capitalism without God knows little about generosity. The socialists do see the problem, but they don’t replace the greed with generosity. They fill the God-gap by breaking other commandments. They fill it with envy and theft, and then sit enthroned like Orwell’s pigs at the farmer’s table. And once the risk is gone, the abundance is gone too”.

This was a very interesting article. It explains a lot. Please take a gander.

Cash and Covenant

or Thirty Pieces of Silver

“A Christian culture is a culture of opportunity because it is a culture that flows from the Covenant.”

“The Bible Matrix is found throughout the Bible. It is the shape of Creation but it is also the shape of Covenant. It is the process of promise and fulfilment. We see it in Eden. We see it in Canaan. Every Covenant is a mission, a tour of duty, resulting in a safe place to live, a home of abundance, peace and glory. It should be no surprise to Christians that it is also the process that underpins economic growth.

Capitalism is based on the biblical Covenant structure. Good businessmen understand how it works. It invariably necessitates the risk and sacrifice of what we now possess for a greater reward. Steve Jobs told us that, and demonstrated it again and again. It takes money to make money. This requires faith in the one who made the promise, even though business people do not recognize the source of the abundance is the hand of God.

God calls Man to work, which involves risk (faith), a sacrifice and some obedience to laws (which include natural and business laws), which will bring fulfillment of the promise — a greater abundance than what you sacrificed. That is where capitalism ends, but it is not where Covenant ends, and here is the problem for which socialism is tendered as a solution.

The final step of Covenant is that you, the risk taker, become a shelter, a house, for the helpless. The final step is generosity. Capitalism only works in a moral society. This is why we can correspond the shape of good economics to the shape of the Gospel. Jesus gave His life to give abundant life to us all. He believed in the promise made to Him by the Father, the promise of resurrection—a new body. Poverty was not something to be embraced eternally. Christian socialists forget that Jesus now owns everything. All the great saints were rich people who risked their wealth for even greater wealth, a wealth that included a legacy of other people—a household. The “glory that was set before Him” was also the glory of the Church, a new body that includes every believer. Jesus Himself is our covering. We are only saved because of His atonement, His “covering.” He, the king of kings, the great Land Lord, is our shelter.

But His kingdom is also growing to become a great tree, a shelter for the nations. As Western culture has cut itself free from the contraints of God, it has also cut itself off from the working of His Spirit. [1] The spiritual decline has led to moral decline which in turn has led to demographic and economic decline. And what is our response? Do we turn back to God? No. We attempt to minimize the risk. We don’t want the safety of the “shelter” promised by God and available through risk and sacrifice. We want to keep what we have now and spread it as thinly and as fairly as possible. That is what socialism is, and it is exactly the temptation offered to Adam in Eden and Jesus in the wilderness. It is a counterfeit kingdom at the hand of Satan. It involves no risk, no faith. And no growth. It is a bubble. [2] Worse, it is idolatry. [3]

That is what Americans just voted for. The nanny state is a satanic security. [4] It is a corporate Judas, where the voters, in their President, crucify Jesus with a kiss. Their loyalty exists only in lip service.

But those on the Right also have a misplaced faith. They believe that capitalismper se, the free market, is the saviour. But capitalism itself has no moral constraints. It is the godly Covenant process cut off from God. It is those whom God has put in authority (and whom He deliberately made wealthy) using their position for their own gain, which is why Jesus saved His sharpest words for the Jewish leaders. [5] The rich get richer and the poor get poorer (leaving out for a moment the hardworking middle class who actually produce stuff and support everyone). The opportunity that comes with biblical economics is removed from the reach of those at the bottom. We will always have the poor with us, for numerous reasons, but a society with a growing rank of “helpless” reveals a fundamental problem. A Christian culture is a culture of opportunity because it is a culture that flows from the Covenant.

To sum up, capitalism without God knows little about generosity. The socialists do see the problem, but they don’t replace the greed with generosity. They fill the God-gap by breaking other commandments. They fill it with envy and theft, and then sit enthroned like Orwell’s pigs at the farmer’s table. And once the risk is gone, the abundance is gone too.”

Continue reading at Bully’s Blog

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric Adams
Rossville, GA

English: A woman makes her support of her marr...

English: A woman makes her support of her marriage, and not civil unions, known outside the Mormon temple at New York City’s Lincoln Center. Photographer’s blog post about this photo and the protest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Same-Sex Marriage Ten Years On: Lessons from Canada

by  Bradley Miller

November 5th, 2012

The effects of same-sex civil marriage in Canada—restrictions on free speech rights, parental rights in education, and autonomy rights of religious institutions, along with a weakening of the marriage culture—provide lessons for the United States.

Would recognizing same-sex relationships as marriages be much of a game-changer? What impact, if any, would it have on the public conception of marriage or the state of a nation’s marriage culture?

There has been no shortage of speculation on these questions. But the limited American experience with same-sex marriage to date gives us few concrete answers. So it makes sense to consider the Canadian experience since the first Canadian court established same-sex marriage a decade ago. There are, of course, important cultural and institutional differences between the US and Canada and, as is the case in any polity, much depends upon the actions of local political and cultural actors. That is to say, it is not necessarily safe to assume that Canadian experiences will be replicated here. But they should be considered; the Canadian experience is the best available evidence of the short-term impact of same-sex marriage in a democratic society very much like America.

Anyone interested in assessing the impact of same-sex marriage on public life should investigate the outcomes in three spheres: first, human rights (including impacts on freedom of speech, parental rights in public education, and the autonomy of religious institutions); second, further developments in what sorts of relationships political society will be willing to recognize as a marriage (e.g., polygamy); and third, the social practice of marriage.

The Impact on Human Rights

The formal effect of the judicial decisions (and subsequent legislation) establishing same-sex civil marriage in Canada was simply that persons of the same-sex could now have the government recognize their relationships as marriages. But the legal and cultural effect was much broader. What transpired was the adoption of a new orthodoxy: that same-sex relationships are, in every way, the equivalent of traditional marriage, and that same-sex marriage must therefore be treated identically to traditional marriage in law and public life.

A corollary is that anyone who rejects the new orthodoxy must be acting on the basis of bigotry and animus toward gays and lesbians. Any statement of disagreement with same-sex civil marriage is thus considered a straightforward manifestation of hatred toward a minority sexual group. Any reasoned explanation (for example, those that were offered in legal arguments that same-sex marriage is incompatible with a conception of marriage that responds to the needs of the children of the marriage for stability, fidelity, and permanence—what is sometimes called the conjugal conception of marriage), is dismissed right away as mere pretext.

When one understands opposition to same-sex marriage as a manifestation of sheer bigotry and hatred, it becomes very hard to tolerate continued dissent. Thus it was in Canada that the terms of participation in public life changed very quickly. Civil marriage commissioners were the first to feel the hard edge of the new orthodoxy; several provinces refused to allow commissioners a right of conscience to refuse to preside over same-sex weddings, and demanded their resignations. At the same time, religious organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus, were fined for refusing to rent their facilities for post-wedding celebrations.

The Right to Freedom of Expression

The new orthodoxy’s impact has not been limited to the relatively small number of persons at risk of being coerced into supporting or celebrating a same-sex marriage. The change has widely affected persons—including clergy—who wish to make public arguments about human sexuality.

Much speech that was permitted before same-sex marriage now carries risks. Many of those who have persisted in voicing their dissent have been subjected to investigations by human rights commissions and (in some cases) proceedings before human rights tribunals. Those who are poor, poorly educated, and without institutional affiliation have been particularly easy targets—anti-discrimination laws are not always applied evenly.  Some have been ordered to pay fines, make apologies, and undertake never to speak publicly on such matters again. Targets have included individuals writing letters to the editors of local newspapers, and ministers of small congregations of Christians. A Catholic bishop faced two complaints—both eventually withdrawn—prompted by comments he made in a pastoral letter about marriage.

Reviewing courts have begun to rein in the commissions and tribunals (particularly since some ill-advised proceedings against Mark Steyn andMaclean’s magazine in 2009), and restore a more capacious view of freedom of speech. And in response to the public outcry following the Steyn/Maclean’saffair, the Parliament of Canada recently revoked the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s statutory jurisdiction to pursue “hate speech.”

But the financial cost of fighting the human rights machine remains enormous—Maclean’s spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, none of which is recoverable from the commissions, tribunals, or complainants. And these cases can take up to a decade to resolve. An ordinary person with few resources who has drawn the attention of a human rights commission has no hope of appealing to the courts for relief; such a person can only accept the admonition of the commission, pay a (comparatively) small fine, and then observe the directive to remain forever silent. As long as these tools remain at the disposal of the commissions—for whom the new orthodoxy gives no theoretical basis to tolerate dissent—to engage in public discussion about same-sex marriage is to court ruin.

Similar pressure can be—and is—brought to bear on dissenters by professional governing bodies (such as bar associations, teachers’ colleges, and the like) that have statutory power to discipline members for conduct unbecoming of the profession. Expressions of disagreement with the reasonableness of institutionalizing same-sex marriage are understood by these bodies to be acts of illegal discrimination, which are matters for professional censure.

Teachers are particularly at risk for disciplinary action, for even if they only make public statements criticizing same-sex marriage outside the classroom, they are still deemed to create a hostile environment for gay and lesbian students. Other workplaces and voluntary associations have adopted similar policies as a result of their having internalized this new orthodoxy that disagreement with same-sex marriage is illegal discrimination that must not be tolerated.

Parental Rights in Public Education

Institutionalizing same-sex marriage has subtly but pervasively changed parental rights in public education. The debate over how to cast same-sex marriage in the classroom is much like the debate over the place of sex education in schools, and of governmental pretensions to exercise primary authority over children. But sex education has always been a discrete matter, in the sense that by its nature it cannot permeate the entirety of the curriculum. Same-sex marriage is on a different footing.

Since one of the tenets of the new orthodoxy is that same-sex relationships deserve the same respect that we give marriage, its proponents have been remarkably successful in demanding that same-sex marriage be depicted positively in the classroom. Curriculum reforms in jurisdictions such as British Columbia now prevent parents from exercising their long-held veto power over contentious educational practices.

The new curricula are permeated by positive references to same-sex marriage, not just in one discipline but in all. Faced with this strategy of diffusion, the only parental defense is to remove one’s children from the public school system entirely. Courts have been unsympathetic to parental objections: if parents are clinging to outdated bigotries, then children must bear the burden of “cognitive dissonance”—they must absorb conflicting things from home and school while school tries to win out.

The reforms, of course, were not sold to the public as a matter of enforcing the new orthodoxy. Instead, the stated rationale was to prevent bullying; that is, to promote the acceptance of gay and lesbian youth and the children of same-sex households.

It is a laudable goal to encourage acceptance of persons. But whatever can be said for the objective, the means chosen to achieve it is a gross violation of the family. It is nothing less than the deliberate indoctrination of children (over the objections of their parents) into a conception of marriage that is fundamentally hostile to what the parents understand to be in their children’s best interests. It frustrates the ability of parents to lead their children to an understanding of marriage that will be conducive to their flourishing as adults. At a very early age, it teaches children that the underlying rationale of marriage is nothing other than the satisfaction of changeable adult desires for companionship.

Religious Institutions’ Right to Autonomy

At first glance, clergy and houses of worship appeared largely immune from coercion to condone or perform same-sex marriages. Indeed, this was the grand bargain of the same-sex marriage legislation—clergy would retain the right not to perform marriages that would violate their religious beliefs. Houses of worship could not be conscripted against the wishes of religious bodies.

It should have been clear from the outset just how narrow this protection is. It only prevents clergy from being coerced into performing marriage ceremonies. It does not, as we have seen, shield sermons or pastoral letters from the scrutiny of human rights commissions. It leaves congregations vulnerable to legal challenges if they refuse to rent their auxiliary facilities to same-sex couples for their ceremony receptions, or to any other organization that will use the facility to promote a view of sexuality wholly at odds with their own.

Neither does it prevent provincial and municipal governments from withholding benefits to religious congregations because of their marriage doctrine. For example, Bill 13, the same Ontario statute that compels Catholic schools to host “Gay-Straight Alliance” clubs (and to use that particular name), also prohibits public schools from renting their facilities to organizations that will not agree to a code of conduct premised on the new orthodoxy. Given that many small Christian congregations rent school auditoriums to conduct their worship services, it is easy to appreciate their vulnerability.

Changes to the Public Conception of Marriage

It has been argued that if same-sex marriage is institutionalized, new marital categories may be accepted, like polygamy. Once one abandons a conjugal conception of marriage, and replaces it with a conception of marriage that has adult companionship as its focus, there is no principled basis for resisting the extension of marriage licenses to polygamist and polyamorist unions.

In other words, if marriage is about satisfying adult desires for companionship, and if the desires of some adults extend to more novel arrangements, how can we deny them? I will not here evaluate this claim, but simply report how this scenario has played out in Canada.

One prominent polygamist community in British Columbia was greatly emboldened by the creation of same-sex marriage, and publicly proclaimed that there was now no principled basis for the state’s continued criminalization of polygamy. Of all the Canadian courts, only a trial court in British Columbia has addressed whether prohibiting polygamy is constitutional, and provided an advisory opinion to the province’s government. The criminal prohibition of polygamy was upheld, but on a narrow basis that defined polygamy as multiple, concurrent civil marriages. The court did not address the phenomenon of multiple common-law marriages. So, thus far, the dominant forms of polygamy and polyamory practiced in Canada have not gained legal status, but neither have they faced practical impediments.

The lesson is this: a society that institutionalizes same-sex marriage needn’t necessarily institutionalize polygamy. But the example from British Columbia suggests that the only way to do so is to ignore principle. The polygamy case’s reasoning gave no convincing explanation why it would be discriminatory not to extend the marriage franchise to gays and lesbians, but not discriminatory to draw the line at polygamists and polyamorists. In fact, the judgment looks like it rests on animus toward polygamists and polyamorists, which is not a stable juridical foundation.

Continue reading at Same-Sex Marriage Ten Years On: Lessons from Canada | Public Discourse.

Personhood and Christ

It is argued that personhood does not exist by those who favor Eastern religion over the so-called “rational” doctrines of the West.   The argument is that individual personhood dissipates upon death and is either subsumed into the eternal, infinite cosmos, or ceases to exist.  The former is congruent with a New Age Pantheism, similar to Hinduism, while the latter is in concord with Naturalism, which teaches that there is nothing except that which we can verify through empirical sense-data.  Naturalism holds that there is no god, no angels, no demons (certainly no devil), no afterlife, no soul.  Most naturalists are materialists, believing that only matter exists; however, some naturalists do believe in immaterial entities: namely the laws of nature (gravity, cause and effect), or the laws of logic (law of non-contradiction, law of identity, and law of excluded middle).

What reason would someone give for denying individual personhood?  Some argue that a personal afterlife, such as the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is inconceivable and that personal dissipation is to be preferred.  However, when put to the test, and asked about whether persons exist at present, if it often suggested that even personhood itself is an illusion.  This is, again, in deep concord with the Hindu doctrine of evil and “maya,” or illusion.  Hence, there are no distinctions between good and eviil.   It makes sense, does it not, that someone who would deny individual personhood would, with a consistent worldview, deny objective good and evil.  For, when someone is violated in this life, it is very personal.  A woman who has experienced rape has been violated in her personhood.   She is a real person, not a random collocation of chemicals.  Denying personhood denies ethical commands, which require a Person who issues those commands.   Why is this the case?

It is the case because given Pantheism, “God is all.”  That is, the universe is permeated by and is equivalent to, God.  That means that worms are god.  Strawberries are god.  The stream is god.  The flowers and sun and sky are god.  And best of all, you yourself are god.  But there’s a darker side to this.  It also means that everything that occurrs in life is a manifestation and outworking of god.  So, all of the evil in the world and all of the good in the world are both, equally, god.  A Hindu once told me that a little girl who gets violated by a man is “getting what she deserves” because she “did something bad in a past life.”  That’s Karma at work:  the suffering you experience now is due to the evil you did in a past life.  Not only is that sick and wrong, but it’s a contradiction: if evil is an illusion, how can it be that someone must suffer for something evil they did in a past life?

Given naturalism or pantheism, we have a monist worldview, where “all is one.”  In either scenario, individual personhood is denied, and the value of human life and dignity are destroyed.

Continues reading at Personhood and Christ | Ratio Christi.

The Nazareth Inscription: Proof of the Resurrection of Christ?

Part One: Translation, Commentary, and Date

by Clyde E. Billington, Ph.D.

Published: 15 November 2012 (GMT+10)

This article originally appeared in the journal Artifax and is reproduced here with permission.


The Nazareth Inscription is a Greek inscription on a marble tablet measuring approximately 24 inches by 15 inches. The exact time and place of its discovery is not known. In 1878 it became an addition to the private Froehner Collection of ancient inscriptions and manuscripts, but the details of its acquisition are unknown. Froehner’s inventory of this Inscription simply states: “This marble was sent from Nazareth in 1878.” This is all that is known about the time and place of its discovery (Cumont 241–242, Zelueta 1–2). While Froehner did make a Greek miniscule transcription of the original Greek uncial version of the Nazareth Inscription, he never published either the miniscule or the uncial version, and the contents of the Nazareth Inscription remained unknown to the scholarly world for more than fifty years.

The Nazareth Inscription

In 1925 the Froehner Collection was acquired by the Paris National Library, where the Nazareth Inscription was rediscovered and read by M. Rostovtzeff. Rostovtzeff told his friend, the French scholar M. Franz Cumont about this Inscription in the Paris National Library (Cumont 241–242). With the encouragement of Rostovtzeff, Cumont published a Greek transcription and a translation of the Nazareth Inscription with a commentary in his article Un Rescrit Imperial Sur La Violation De Sepulture in the French journal Revue Historique, CLXII, in 1930. The Nazareth Inscription took the scholarly world by storm because, as will be seen, it could be read as an imperial decree against the Apostles stealing Christ’s body from His tomb and faking His resurrection. It is also very similar to the Jewish high-priestly version of the resurrection of Christ as found in Matthew 28:11–15—in other words, His disciples stole His body from the tomb.

Cumont’s publication of the Nazareth Inscription led to a snowstorm of scholarly articles; more than twenty were published by the end of 1932. None of these early articles questioned the authenticity of the Nazareth Inscription. It is highly unlikely that it is a forgery. As will be seen, the Greek text of this Inscription and its historical connections provide strong support for its authenticity. However, its interpretation and possible connection to the story of the resurrection of Christ are still hotly debated today.

The purpose of this paper is to determine if the Nazareth Inscription is an imperial response to the story of the resurrection of Christ. While the views and opinions of key modern scholars will at times be discussed, it is not the intent of this study to do reviews or critiques of the many articles written on the Nazareth Inscription.

While there are several English translations available of the Nazareth Inscription (Zulueta 184–185; Brown 2–3), I disagree with them on the translation of a few key Greek words and phrases, and I have for this reason chosen to provide my own translation below.

The Nazareth Inscription Translation


2. It is my decision [concerning] graves and tombs—whoever has made

3. them for the religious observances of parents, or children, or household

4. members—that these remain undisturbed forever. But if anyone legally

5. charges that another person has destroyed, or has in any manner extracted

6. those who have been buried, or has moved with wicked intent those who

7. have been buried to other places, committing a crime against them, or has

8. moved sepulcher-sealing stones, against such a person I order that a

9. judicial tribunal be created, just as [is done] concerning the gods in

10. human religious observances, even more so will it be obligatory to treat

11. with honor those who have been entombed. You are absolutely not to

12. allow anyone to move [those who have been entombed]. But if

13. [someone does], I wish that [violator] to suffer capital punishment under

14. the title of tomb-breaker.

Notes and commentary on my translation

While the Greek word ‘decree,’ diatagma, used in line one1 of the Nazareth Inscription may suggest to modern readers some sort of imperial legal process, the fact of the matter is that the Nazareth Inscription is almost certainly a rump or abridged version of an imperial rescript. As will be seen below, a rescript was a letter of response sent by the emperor to some sort of an imperial official. It was not uncommon for imperial rescripts to be treated as legal decrees. See Charlesworth, Documents Illustrating the Reigns of Claudius and Nero, p. 14 where the Emperor Claudius himself calls one of his rescripts on Jewish rights touto mou to diatagma or “this decree of mine.” As will be seen below, there is an imperial rescript of the Emperor Claudius which fits the pattern of the Nazareth Inscription very well. The rescript process will also be discussed in detail below.

F. de Zuluet, in his 1932 article Violation of Sepulture in Palestine at the Beginning of the Christian Era, p. 184, and Frank E. Brown in his 1952 article Violation of Sepulture in Palestine, p. 2 both translate the Greek phrase threskeian progonon in line 3 of my translation as “cult of their ancestors,” thereby suggesting that the Nazareth Inscription fits best in a pagan Greco-Roman context, where religious rituals were performed at graves by relatives. However, the word threskeian is best translated as ‘religious observance’. It is used five times in two known imperial rescripts dealing with the Jewish religion (Charlesworth, Documents, pp. 5, 14, 15). It is also used in this same way for the Jewish religion by the Jewish historian Josephus [AJ, 17.9.3]. In addition, this same Greek word (threskeian) is used several times in the New Testament as related to Christianity, see Acts 26:5James 1:26–27, andCol. 2:18. The Greek word threskeian therefore does not necessarily suggest pagan religion and can best be translated as ‘religious observance’ or even simply as ‘religion’.

It must be noted that lines 3 and 4 assume the existence of family tombs where only dead bodies—not the ashes of cremated humans—were placed. It should also be noted that there in nothing in this decree which assumes or states that the ashes of the cremated dead had been moved, lost or scattered, or that funeral urns had been destroyed or stolen. This decree also does not mention bodies or funeral urns being dug up out of the ground. Inhumation or burial in the ground in cemeteries was for both corpses and funeral urns with human ashes, the normal gentile method of burial in the Roman Empire.

The ancient Jews did not cremate, while on the other hand, cremation was more common than the inhumation of corpses for both Greek and Roman gentiles. Lesley and Roy Adkins in their Dictionary of Roman Religion write:

Cremation was the dominant rite until the first and second centuries in Italy and Rome, and by the mid-third century, in the rest of the empire, when inhumation became most common (p. 34).

In other words, most burials in the gentile areas in the eastern half of the Roman Empire in the first century AD were by cremation and inhumation of funeral urns with ashes, and not the inhumation of corpses.

The Nazareth Inscription fits very well within a Jewish family tomb context, but it does not fit at all within a gentile Greek or Roman context.

Gentile burials in the early Roman Empire, for both bodies and urns, were in individual graves in cemeteries, and not in family tombs. Only a few of the very wealthy were buried in mausoleum-style tombs, and even these mausoleum-style tombs were for individuals, and not for family burials. There are no known examples of family tombs, like those in Second Temple Israel, to be found among the other ethnic groups in the Roman Empire. This fact strongly suggests that the Nazareth Inscription was written for Jews and Jewish Christians and not for pagan gentiles. Incidentally, catacombs were nothing more than underground cemeteries, and they too were not divided into family tombs.

There are six features in the Nazareth Inscription which do not fit a non-Jewish, gentile context. First, there is no reference to bodies being dug out of the ground, only of their being ‘extracted’ from tombs and graves. Second, there is no reference to human ashes being scattered or to the urns of cremated individuals being stolen or destroyed. Third, there is no reference made to coffins, and most Roman inhumation burials of dead bodies were in wood or lead coffins. Fourth, as was mentioned above, there is an assumption of the existence of family tombs, and the gentiles in the Roman Empire did not have family tombs. Fifth, there is no reference to cemeteries, in which almost all Greco-Roman burials were made. And six, ‘sepulcher-sealing stones’—see my discussion of line 8 below—were not used for inhumation burials by gentiles in the Roman Empire. In other words as was stated above, the Nazareth Inscription fits very well within a Jewish family tomb context, but it does not fit at all within a gentile Greek or Roman context.

The Greek phrase doloi poneroi in line 6, ‘with wicked intent’, is almost certainly the equivalent of the Latin ‘cuius dolo malo’, which is found in later Roman law (see Justinian’s Digest 47.12.3). The Latin cuius dolo malo translates as: ‘by someone’s evil design’. However, Zulueta renders this Greek phrase doloi poneroi by the adverb ‘maliciously’ in his translation of the Nazareth Inscription (Zulueta, 185). Frank E. Brown in his translation in his Violation of Sepulture in Palestine, p. 2, renders this same Greek phrase as ‘with malice aforethought’. Brown’s translation is far better than Zulueta’s, but still does not give the full sense of what is being said.

The proper translation of ‘doloi poneroi’ as ‘with wicked intent’ gives strong support to the conclusion that the Nazareth Inscription was a rescript written in response to the story of the resurrection of Christ, which many Jews and pagan Romans believed was a fraud perpetrated by Christian Jews.

This entire Greek phrase in line 6 reads as eis heterous topous doloi poneroi metatetheikota. The placement of doloi poneroi between heterous topous andmetatetheikota clearly indicates that it was the moving of dead bodies to other places that was being done ‘with wicked intent’. In other words, bodies were being moved to perpetrate some sort of a fraud. The proper translation of doloi poneroi as ‘with wicked intent’ gives strong support to the conclusion that the Nazareth Inscription was a rescript written in response to the story of the resurrection of Christ, which many Jews and pagan Romans believed was a fraud perpetrated by Christian Jews.

In line 8 in the Greek text, there is an epsilon e (‘or’) found between the words “sepulcher sealing [or] stones,” ‘katoxous e lithous’. This is almost certainly a scribal error. The Greek words katoxoi lithoi—without the Greek epsilon e (‘or’) between them—appears in several other Greek documents and translates as “sepulcher-sealing stones.” It is for this reason that I do not place an ‘or’ between these two words in my translation. Sepulcher-sealing stones were used for Jewish family tombs and were not used in Greco-Roman style burials, which were by inhumation in individual graves in cemeteries.

Even for Jews, the period of time that sepulcher-sealing stones were used for family tombs in Israel was relatively short, basically lasting less than 200 years and ending with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. After the fall of Jerusalem, Jews in the Roman Empire buried their dead much like their gentile neighbors, in individual graves in cemeteries. This fact clearly indicates that the Nazareth Inscription had to be issued before 70 AD.

Continue reading at Nazareth inscription 1.

A very good argument for the conjugal view of marriage, from the Wall Street Journal Opinion page.

There is a reason why conjugal unions have been distinguished from all others since antiquity.


The U.S. Supreme Court decides next week whether to hear challenges to laws defining marriage as the conjugal union of a man and a woman. It does so after two different electoral outcomes. In May, North Carolinians voted to amend their state constitution to protect the conjugal definition of marriage, a definition that 41 states retain. But on Nov. 6, voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state endorsed a revisionist view of marriage as the union of any two adults.

How should the Supreme Court decide? How should voters?

We can’t move one inch toward an answer simply by appealing to equality. Every marriage policy draws lines, leaving out some types of relationships. Equality forbids arbitrary line-drawing. But we cannot know which lines are arbitrary without answering two questions: What is marriage, and why does it matter for policy?

The conjugal and revisionist views are two rival answers; neither is morally neutral. Each is supported by some religious and secular worldviews but rejected by others. Nothing in the Constitution bans or favors either. The Supreme Court therefore has no basis to impose either view of marriage. So voters must decide: Which view is right?

Getty Images

As we argue in our book “What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense,” marriage is a uniquely comprehensive union. It involves a union of hearts and minds; but also—and distinctively—a bodily union made possible by sexual-reproductive complementarity. Hence marriage is inherently extended and enriched by procreation and family life and objectively calls for similarly all-encompassing commitment, permanent and exclusive.

In short, marriage unites a man and woman holistically—emotionally and bodily, in acts of conjugal love and in the children such love brings forth—for the whole of life.

These insights require no particular theology. Ancient thinkers untouched by Judaism or Christianity—including Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Musonius Rufus, Xenophanes and Plutarch—also distinguished conjugal unions from all others. Nor did animus against any group produce this conclusion, which arose everywhere quite apart from debates about same-sex unions. The conjugal view best fits our social practices and judgments about what marriage is.

After all, if two men can marry, or two women, then what sets marriage apart from other bonds must be emotional intensity or priority. But nothing about emotional union requires it to be permanent. Or limited to two. Or sexual, much less sexually exclusive. Or inherently oriented to family life and shaped by its demands. Yet as most people see, bonds that lack these features aren’t marriages.

Far from being “slippery slope” predictions, these points show that the revisionist view gets marriage wrong: It conflates marriage and companionship, an obviously broader category. That conflation has consequences. Marriage law shapes behavior by promoting a vision of what marriage is and requires. Redefinition will deepen the social distortion of marriage—and consequent harms—begun by policies such as “no-fault” divorce. As marital norms make less sense, adherence to them erodes.

Conservative scaremongering? No. Same-sex marriage activist Victoria Brownworth, like other candid revisionists, says that redefinition “almost certainly will weaken the institution of marriage,” and she welcomes that result.

Yet weakening marital norms will hurt children and spouses, especially the poorest. Rewriting the parenting ideal will also undermine in our mores and practice the special value of biological mothers and fathers. By marking support for the conjugal view as bigotry, it will curb freedoms of religion and conscience. Redefinition will do all this in the name of a basic error about what marriage is.

Some bonds remain unrecognized, and some people unmarried, under any marriage policy. If simply sharing a home creates certain needs, we can and should meet them outside civil marriage.

Moreover, if we reject the revisionist’s bare equation of marriage with companionship—and the equation of marriage licenses with all-purpose personal approval—we’ll see that conjugal marriage laws deprive no one of companionship or its joys, and mark no one as less worthy of fulfillment. (Indeed, using marriage law to express social inclusion might further marginalize whoever remains single.)

True compassion means extending authentic community to everyone, especially the marginalized, while using marriage law for the social goal that it serves best: to ensure that children know the committed love of the mother and father whose union brought them into being. Indeed, only that goal justifies regulating such intimate bonds in the first place.

Just as compassion for those attracted to the same sex doesn’t require redefining marriage, neither does preserving the conjugal view mean blaming them for its erosion. What separated the various goods that conjugal marriage joins—sex, commitment, family life—was a sexual revolution among opposite-sex partners, with harmful rises in extramarital sex and nonmarital childbearing, pornography and easy divorce.

Only when sex and marriage were seen mainly as means to emotional satisfaction and expression did a more thorough and explicit redefinition of marriage become thinkable—for the first time in human history. The current debate just confronts us with the choice to entrench these trends—or to begin reversing them.

That debate certainly isn’t about legalizing (or criminalizing) anything. In all 50 states, two men or women may have a wedding and share a life. Their employers and religious communities may recognize their unions. At issue here is whether government will effectively coerce other actors in the public square to do the same.

Also at issue is government expansion. Marital norms serve children, spouses, and hence our whole economy, especially the poor. Family breakdown thrusts the state into roles for which it is ill-suited: provider and discipliner to the orphaned and neglected, and arbiter of custody and paternity disputes…

Continue reading at Opinion

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric Adams
Rossville, GA

Beware the Puritan Paralysis

Hyper-introspection is just a spiritualized way of being self-centered.

I spoke at a leadership conference recently, and one of the points I made was The ministry is not about you. In the Q&A, there was some discussion about how pastors can focus attention making sure it’s not about them. At that point, I said, ”If you focus all your energy on making sure it’s not about you, then it is still about you.”

The key for a gospel-driven leader is this: remember to forget yourself.

Too many times, we dress up our introspection with flowery terms like “accountability” and “mortification” and “gospel-centered change.” Even if all these terms and concepts are good and needed, if our gaze is constantly inward-focused, then we are as self-centered as the Christian who is consumed with seeking personal pleasure apart from God.

We can avoid this type of introspection by avoiding the pitfalls of some of the Puritans. Though the Reformers sought to emphasize the assurance we can have because of God’s grace in election and salvation, their descendants sometimes undercut the beauty of assurance by stressing the fruit of sanctification more than the fact of justification. Self-examination was a “descending into our own hearts” to root out every possible sinful tendency and desire.

Continue reading at Beware the Puritan Paralysis – Trevin Wax.

Found on Matthew E. Cochran’s blog, The 96th thesis:


When a congregation begins toying with the idea of contemporary worship, one of the usual driving factors is an attempt to be more “inclusive.” “The Church needs to appeal to more people than the gray-hairs that attend every Sunday. Get rid of that tired plodding organ and get some more lively instruments in there! Why force modern Americans to sing nothing but 16th century German hymns?” The impression that advocates often give is that contemporary worship is something that opens the church up and broadens it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather than providing a breath of fresh air, contemporary worship is a narrow and constrictive force that can strangle a congregation.

First, the contention that traditional Lutheran hymnals are simply a collection of music that only old people could like is rather dubious. Consider: The commonly used Lutheran hymnal (LSB) includes songs dating back from almost two thousand years ago all the way to today. Most of its hymns were written centuries before any of our elderly were even born. If they enjoy it, it cannot possibly be because it was the music of their generation–something that only they would like. Generationally exclusive music is, however, precisely what contemporary worship seeks to impose. Rather than selecting the best from a broad ocean of church music that spans cultures, continents, & thousands of years of history, contemporary worship restricts music: first to the last few decades, then to America, then to a subset of the youth. Towards the end of his book, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism, James K. A. Smith describes a “radically orthodox” church service that he considers to more “catholic” than the services we may be used to. Nevertheless, the mishmash of eclectic chairs, jazz bands, and Anne Sexton poetry he advocates would only appeal to the neo-hipster, Whole Foods, communitarian demographic. That’s about as far from universal as you can get. In the name of being inclusive, contemporary worship excludes everyone but the young and hip by trading the rich heritage found in the liturgy for a handful of passing fads.

Second, Contemporary worship restricts music’s capacity to communicate. Every age has it’s own insights & blind-spots, and it’s preferred styles reflect these. One advantage to a broad hymnody is that the excesses of one age cover often the deficiencies of another. Contemporary worship lacks this safeguard. If you compare hymns written in the past 75 years or so to the hymns that preceded it, you’ll quickly notice some general differences in the lyrical structure. Older hymns tend to be built around sentences and make statements. Modern hymns, on the other hand tend to be built around phrases and are designed to give an impression. While the former style serves a variety of purposes (confession, catechesis, prayer, praise, etc), the latter style is suited almost exclusively toward praise and self-expression (it’s no accident they’re usually called ‘praise bands’). Now, while self-expression has very little place in the divine service, there’s certainly nothing wrong with singing praise songs in church. Beautiful Savior, for example, is a classic hymn that makes use of this kind of phrase-based songwriting for precisely this purpose. The problem arises when almost every hymn is like that. Practically speaking, restricting a congregation to contemporary songs restricts them to praise music. By neglecting the ability to make meaningful statements in music, the hymnody begins to forget why we’re responding to God with praise in the first place. When this goes on long enough, all that remains is a desperate attempt to use music to manipulate the emotions into producing what once flowed naturally from what God has done for us.

Finally, contemporary worship generally doesn’t make people feel more comfortable or welcome–at least not in Lutheran churches. In the movie Better of Dead, there’s a scene in which John Cusack’s family invites a French exchange student over for dinner. In order to make her feel more welcome, the hostess serves a meal consisting of French fries, French toast, and French bread. Needless to say, regardless of the hostess’ efforts, the student did not exactly feel comfortable. Frankly, this is pretty much how Lutherans come off when we pander to those young, hip Americans of whom we have only the most shallow understanding by attempting to adopt their musical styles in church. Those we pander to might (or might not) be too polite to say that such imitation looks more like a bad parody, but they’re often thinking it.

Perhaps there’s another thing we might learn from this analogy when we seek to invite unbelievers into the church. The Church is in the world, but not of it. No matter how we arrange our music, unbelievers who visit us are in a foreign land. The last thing an exchange student is looking for is a grossly inferior version of their own culture. The entire point of being an exchange student is to be immersed in something other. If the Church tries to make herself look like the world, not only will she do a poor job of it, but she will deny those who come to her the opportunity to find something more than what they already have. Our heritage is something any generation can be brought into. If we seek to be more inclusive and welcoming, we would do well to embrace it.

Continue reading at Steadfast Lutherans