RE: [asa] Star of Bethlehem presentation?

From: Bill Powers <>
Date: Tue Nov 24 2009 - 08:31:29 EST


1) As to how the Magi knew to follow this star is an interesting
question. I've heard some answers, but I can't remember them now. I'm
not certain what your point would be here. It seems to me that many, if
not all, people are used by God in various ways and we don't know
exactly how. It seems that you are looking for some sort of universal
judgment, e.g., astrology good or astrology bad. I don't think that
would be what anyone ought to be trying to draw from the Luke account.
God works in particulars and individuals. We recount the Magi story
because it happened that they were part of the manifestation of the birth
of the Messiah. Gamaliel is quoted in Acts as predicting that
Christianity might be the work of God and would, for that reason, succeed.
Does that entail that we need to take as correct everything Gamaliel has
said or written?

2) Combining historical records does not make a "third" record. We don't
do this with any other historical record. Why here? If we were to follow
your rule, we would no next to nothing about history, even recent history.
The object is to combine diverse records into a coherent whole which we
take to be the "actual" history. It works just like science.

3) I don't know who Bart Ehrman is but he must be an historical moron.
Again, if we were to follow Ehrman's rule, we would have no history. If
in a court hearing one witness mentions that the robber was wearing a hat,
and another doesn't does that mean the testimonies contradict? According
to your rule, we would have to discount both testimonies. Jesus can go to
Egypt and to Nazareth. I do such things all the time, and I presume you
do to. Now if the testimony said Jesus went from Bethlehem to Nazareth
without going through Egypt, then the testimonies would be contradictory.
There is a well known "critic" of the historical record (I think he's from
MIT) who is a similar moron. He makes a big deal in print many times
regardng the testimonies of the visits to the empty tomb. It is
inexplicable to me that someone who must be intelligent can be such a
moron. I can only think that when we are angry and full of hate we say
and do stupid things. He, however, thinks he's the only smart person in
the room. I remember a comment by John Warwick Montgomery regarding a
debate about the Biblical historical record. At one point in the
debate (Montgomery is a Classicist by training), he got one person to
admit that were we to apply the standards required to undermine the
Biblical record, we would have to conclude that we knew absolutely nothing
about ancient history. To which one member of the Classical department
stood up and spontaneously cried, "No, not that, <name of the person who
was forced to make this admission>. Not that!." Or something like that.

As far as I can tell, every objection to the Biblical record is a case of
special pleading, where we apply standards that we discount in almost all
other cases.


   On Mon, 23 Nov 2009, Dehler, Bernie wrote:

> Ted said:
> "But it was OK for Christians to hold that God can use the stars to reveal events under his own control, and in that context the magi were led to Bethlehem. "
> How would God use the stars to point the way to the Christ child? How would the Magi- astrologers of the day- get this message from God which isn't in the Bible. Did God speak to them, as if they are prophets? Astrology prophets? Good for then, but not now, because we have the Bible... but wait, they also had the Bible (the OT)...
> Also- Murray, you can put two gospel accounts together to make a third, but please be aware that when you are doing that you are creating your own third gospel story, as you are combining elements of two different stories. For example, the Magi version doesn't have shepherds and the shepherd version doesn't have Magi. I think that could be a verboten form of "adding to God's Word."
> Also- a challenge for those who take a stand for Biblical inerrancy- one of the most obvious Bible errors (contradictions) is in the nativity story. Matt 2;13 says that after Jesus was born, Joseph/Mary moved to Egypt. Luke 3:39 says no, they returned back to Nazareth. Bart Ehrman says "yes, there is a contradiction, but it is also interesting to see why." Both gospel writers had a job to do: explain how Jesus came to be born in Bethleham instead of from Nazareth, where his parents are from. So Matt creates a story about persecution with Herod, and Luke makes up a scenario about a census. Two different stories, both created to resolve the same prophecy problem. So join the 2 to make a new third version if you want, as long as you understand you are creating a third version (non-Biblical) of your own.
> Also Murray- regarding your estimates about the size of the town of Bethlehem, it may have actually swelled because of the registering people were doing because of the census, as the story claims, which makes sense why there was no room except a stable outside.
> Stuff to think about...
> ...Bernie
> ________________________________
> From: Ted Davis []
> Sent: Monday, November 23, 2009 11:38 AM
> To: asa; Dehler, Bernie
> Subject: RE: [asa] Star of Bethlehem presentation?
> I see there's been a flurry of activity related to ideas about the Star of Bethlehem. If in fact a misprint of Josephus led Kepler and others to accept of a birth year for Christ of 4 BC or earlier, that would be very interesting. I'm looking into that claim.
> Many years ago I undertook a translation (which I won't be making public) of Kepler's treatise, "De vero anno quo Aeternus Dei Filius Humanam Naturam in Utero Benedictae Virginis Mariae Assumpsit," in which Kepler offered his view on this topic--I have a longstanding interest in it myself. In general, I recommend the following book on this topic:
> Let me comment as follows, for Bernie: the dominant Christian view on astrology, Bernie, has since the time of Augustine been as follows. Deterministic astrology, in which the stars actually determine & control human affairs, is verboten. But it was OK for Christians to hold that God can use the stars to reveal events under his own control, and in that context the magi were led to Bethlehem. Most contemporary Christians, including evangelicals, probably no little or nothing about the history of astrology and Christian views of it; the same is true of almost everyone else as well--nothing peculiar to Christians here, Bernie. Thus, many evangelical preachers might be very reluctant to see the magi as "astrologers," despite the use of the word "Magi" in the Bible. Others might know something about this and mention it helpfully.
> Ted

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Received on Tue Nov 24 08:32:26 2009

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