Fifty years ago today, on the third day of the Six Day War, Israel captured the Wailing Wall, the Temple Mount, and the Old City of Jerusalem, giving them complete control of Jerusalem (which they retain to this day). At the start of the war, Israel’s existence had been threatened, but they came out of the war with a much firmer control of the entire area.
This may have been the high point of Christadelphian apocalyptic expectation. A mere 19 years before, Israel had returned to their land, and now with Jerusalem captured the time of the Gentiles was fulfilled. Everything was in readiness for Christ’s return, which must surely happen soon. There was a sudden spike in numbers of baptisms as young people rushed to make sure they would not miss out.
However, all these events happened long before I was born, and fifty years on there is still no return.
As a proud member of the Dandenong Ranges community, I have the right to look down on others. And all it takes is a short walk to put me in a position to do so. The grand vista, the pure mountain air, the absolutely natural gravel and asphalt paths: everything testifies to my superior position as I look down on the mortals below. Up here, I am free and surrounded by views. Down there is a flat plain stretching out to the city, with the occasional bump pretending to be a hill. And doubtless that plain is filled with countless humans scurrying back and forth like ants on whatever minor projects occupy them.
This experience of looking down on others got me to thinking about hill-climbing, about seeking views, about linguistics, and about comparing ourselves with others.
OK, now I know how unfairly I have been privileged in gaining the education which allows me to write this blog in tolerable English. It was all due to my parents’ reprehensible practice of reading to me at bedtime, which I should forthwith adjure and abominate.
(yes, that may seem like click-bait - but there’s some serious analysis here).
On this day last year, I wrote a formal resignation letter, bringing an end to 14.5 years as an officially baptised Christadelphian member, and even longer as part of the Christadelphian community. Tonight I’ve been trying once again to get a feel for what the whole process meant to me.
I have much to say, but it’s late and I can’t get control of it now. So for now just a brief response (well, brief for me). Past history suggests I may come back to this at great length, or I may never get to it.
Two months ago, full moon found me up Mount Buffalo, camping near Lake Catani. Last month it found me at the top of my street, out to admire the street lights of nearby suburbs stretched out below me. Tonight, it found me walking in the Dandenong Ranges, admiring the ghostly tree ferns and gums.
Walking at night, whether in moonlight, starlight, or complete dark, is probably not something our modern urban life-style encourages (even the simple street lights in my outer suburb outshine the full moon). But it’s something I’ve been trying to do more of, since it provides peace and solitude in a very different way from daylight hiking. And writing about it also provides a slight break from a stream of religious posts (though it’s not entirely free from them: stick round for the religious conclusions).
In a number of places, the Bible contains different accounts of the same event that seem to contradict each other. However, if you are willing to assume that these contradictions are not actually contradictions, it is usually possible to figure out an explanation that reconciles them. And sometimes these reconciliations reveal a richer story with deeper lessons than we could have got from the individual stories. But can we rely on these stories?
Well, I’ve talked about the resurrection narrative, and I’ve talked about the birth narrative, so now seems a good time to talk about the trial and crucifixion narrative. This is mostly for completeness: unlike the birth and resurrection, the stories contain few supernatural claims, and it doesn’t seem so surprising that someone claiming to be the Messiah and upsetting established authorities might end up being crucified.
In a previous post, I stated that I don’t think we have enough evidence to demonstrate the resurrection of Jesus. And I don’t think this is likely to change. I can’t imagine what additional evidence could surface that would overcome the uncertainty of such an extraordinary historical claim.
But what about if there was a way to demonstrate it, once and for all? Time travel, for example. Would you take it? And if so, what might you learn from it?
A few days ago, I discussed a positive case for the resurrection story having grown over time. There is a similar case for Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem being a later addition, though it’s a lot simpler: Only Matthew and Luke make explicit claims about Jesus being born in Bethlehem, they have completely separate stories, and prophecy gives a good reason for them to want to claim a birth in Bethlehem.
Today is Easter Sunday. A time when many Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For some, it is just a matter of faith: they are completely confident that their Lord was raised, and no evidence is required. For others, this is considered one of the strongest arguments for the truth of Christianity. In fact, some skeptics who have attempted to disprove it came to the conclusion the evidence is too strong, and became outspoken Christian apologists.
A few days ago, I questioned the argument that I considered the weakest: that 500 believers saw the resurrected Christ at one time. It was always my intention to go back and address the entire resurrection claim, and discuss why I don’t consider it compelling.