Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Jesus Burial

Some Christians claim that Jesus' burial is historically likely, given the crucifixion. There are various historical records that show the Romans would allow a body to be taken off the cross in special circumstances, and it is certainly the case that the Jews of that time considered it a religious necessity to ensure the dead were buried before nightfall. In times of war or insurrection, there is no way the Romans would agree to such a thing, wanting the corpse left up for maximum effect, but that was not the situation when Jesus was crucified.

It is, therefore, likely that a member of the Jewish council asked Pilate for the body to be taken down, and entirely plausible that Pilate agreed. Whether it happened is another issue, but let us suppose it did - what happened to the body?

Pilate may have approved for the body to be taken down, but he did so to appease Jewish sensibilities, to avoid trouble. All that required was that the body was buried. There was no requirement for a proper burial, there was no reason for the Jews to do anything

On the contrary, the Roman's would have required that the body be buried dishonourably.

How The Jews Venerated Dead Saints and Martyrs

Around the times of Jesus, veneration of dead prophets and martyrs was a big thing. As Jesus himself said:
Matthew 23:29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,
Also consider the words of William Lane Craig:
"During Jesus’s time there was an extraordinary interest in the graves of Jewish martyrs and holy men and these were scrupulously cared for and honored."

How The Romans Cared About The Dead

Like any other culture, the Roman's cared about how the dead were treated. More specifically with regards to executed criminals, the disposal of the body was a consideration.

For an example of a Roman denied honourable burial, we can look in the accounts of Suetonius, in The Lives of the Caesars:
For instance, to one man who begged humbly for burial, he is said to have replied: "The birds will soon settle that question."

More generally, this is from a site that describes itself as an "online evangelical encyclopedia of biblical Christianity":
The goal of Roman crucifixion was not just to kill the criminal, but also to mutilate and dishonour the body of the condemned. In ancient tradition, an honourable death required burial; leaving a body on the cross, so as to mutilate it and prevent its burial, was a grave dishonour for the victim.
Crucifixion was the ultimate deterrent, and each part of it was designed to dishonour the victim - and that included disposal of the body

What The Romans Thought of Jesus

The Romans accused Jesus of treason, and this was a very extreme crime - we know that because he suffered the most extreme punishment.

Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem as a prophet, and the Romans would have been well aware that he had a big following among the Jews. I suspect this account is exaggerated, but it seems likely there were crowds welcoming him:
Matthew 21:8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Jesus was crucified to stop any chance of him leading the Jews into revolt. Christians might argue that that was not Jesus' way, but it does not matter. The Roman's perceived him as a rebel leader, and we know that because he was executed as a rebel leader:
Matthew 27:37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is Jesus, the king of the Jews.
In fact many Christians will say Jesus was executed for blasphemy, but that is not true. The Roman's did not care about blasphemy against the God of the Jews.

How The Romans Would Have Dealt With Jesus

They crucified him as a rebel leader, and the last thing the Roman's wanted was for Jesus to be a martyr, to be a symbol for rebellion after death.

It would have been a very real possibility that Jesus tomb would be venerated, given he was hailed as a prophet by at least one segment of the Jews in Jerusalem (despite the sanhedrin conspiring against him - if that even happened). Would the Romans want the tomb of a man executed for treason to be venerated? Absolutely not!

The Romans may well have permitted the body to be taken down, but it is inconceivable that they would have allowed an honourable burial for him.

I find it odd how Christians cite the historical evidence for crucifixion victims being taken down from the cross, but ignore the historical evidence for them then being buried in dishonour. Cherry-picking at its finest.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Darwin, Hitler... and Christianity

Having no actual evidence, creationists engage in character assassination in an attempt to discredit the theory of evolution, and a common ploy is to pretend that Darwin was a major influence on Hitler.

The reality is that Hitler was far more influenced by Christianity.

They do not mention that. But if they say that Darwinism should be abandoned because it was an influence on Hitler, then surely they must also agree that Christianity should likewise be abandoned, if there is good evidence it was an influence, right?

I mean, surely these Christians are not hypocrites...

Houston Stewart Chamberlain

I thought it would be interesting to compare the impact of Darwin on Hitler to that that of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Like Darwin, Chamberlain was English, but he took German citizenship in 1916.

He is best known for his book, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, written in 1899. First published in Germany, it became a best seller and was later translated into English and French.

President Theodore Roosevelt wrote about it:
"... a man who can write such a really beautiful and solemn appreciation of true Christianity, of true acceptance of Christ's teachings and personality, as Mr. Chamberlain has done, [...] represents an influence to be reckoned with and seriously to be taken into account."

So let there be no doubt that Chamberlain was a Christian, that he was vocal about his Christianity, and that his Christianity informed his views.

A couple of quotes from his book:
Certain anthropologists would fain teach us that all races are equally gifted; we point to history and answer: that is a lie! The races of mankind are markedly different in the nature and also in the extent of their gifts, and the Germanic races belong to the most highly gifted group, the group usually termed Aryan...
About the Jews, he said:
Their existence is sin, their existence is a crime against the holy laws of life.
Not only the Jew, but also all that is derived from the Jewish mind, corrodes and disintegrates what is best in us.
Quotes from here.

So let there be no doubt that Chamberlain was a racist, and specifically he was anti-Semitic.

Some quotes from this web site that give an interesting biography of the man:
In his essay Der Wille zum Sieg, 1916, he wrote: "Die Deutschen stehen bereit; ihnen fehlt nur der vom heiligen Geist eingesetzte Fuhrer" - The Germans are ready for it; all that is missing is a God-sent Fuhrer

Many argue that Chamberlain's work influenced Adolf Hitler, although the precise links are unclear. The two men did meet in Bayreuth on September 30th, 1923, on a so-called "German day". Chamberlain, who was by now elderly, ill and embittered, regarded Hitler as Germany's future saviour, and after this meeting he wrote to Hitler: "In no way do you resemble the descriptions depicting you as a fanatic. I even believe that you are the absolute opposite of a fanatic. [...] The fanatic wants to persuade people, you want to convince them, and to convince only." (8)
In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote:
Those who had the government of the country in their hands were quite as indifferent to principles of civil wisdom laid down by thinkers like H. S. Chamberlain as our political leaders now are. These people are too stupid to think for themselves..
It is interesting to note that the third section of The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, was called Der Kampf.

So let there be no doubt that Chamberlain was an influence on Hitler.

Martin Luther

Luther, founder of Protestantism, is almost as famous for his anti-Semitism. Here is his advice on how Jews should be treated:
First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. ...
Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. ...
Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. ...
Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. ...
Fifth, I advise that safe­conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. ...
Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. ...
It is worth noting Martin Luther's influence on Hitler. Here is Hitler on Luther.
I do insist on the certainty that sooner or later—once we hold power—Christianity will be overcome and the German church, without a Pope and without the Bible, and Luther, if he could be with us, would give us his blessing.
To them belong, not only the truly great statesmen, but all other great reformers as well. Beside Frederick the Great stands Martin Luther as well as Richard Wagner.
So again we have a man who is not just a Christian, but is outspoken on his Christianity, who is vehemently anti-Semitic, and who we know Hitler held in high regard, because we have Hitler's own words stating just that.

The Long Lead Up to the Holocaust

The sad truth is that Christianity has a long, long history of anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust was the end result. The seeds were planted within decades of Jesus' crucifixion:
Matthew 27:25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
The violence started rather later (but long, long before Darwin). It is worth reading about blood libel too, to see how deeply this attitude was embedded in Christianity.

Can we abandon Christianity now?

Of course the same Christians trying to link Darwin and Hitler are the ones who are notoriously bad at looking at evidence that contradicts their faith-based opinions. Truth does not matter when you have a religion to promote it seems.