Cambridge University professor Simon Gathercole lectures on geography in the Bible

Investigation in progress
Investigation in progress

BeThinking posted a new lecture featuring Dr. Simon Gathercole.

Here’s the speaker bio:

Dr Simon Gathercole is Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies and Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, at the University of Cambridge. He is particularly fascinated by the connections between the New Testament and its contemporary literature.

Summary:

Simon Gathercole shows how the geographical information in the New Testament Gospels demonstrates their historical reliability and their basis in eyewitness sources. The illustrated lecture lasts about 60 minutes and is followed by about 20 minutes of Q&A.

BeThinking has a PDF containing all the slides used in the lecture.

The lecture is here:

Topics:

  • Detailed geography is difficult to fake, especially when it is far into the past
  • Bible authors would have to rely on eyewitness testimony if they wanted to get geographic details right
  • You can even cross-reference the geographic details mentioned in the New Testament with extra-Biblical sources of that time
  • Cities mentioned in the Bible are mentioned in other sources
  • Locations that are mentioned in Josephus, a Jewish historian
  • Locations that are mentioned in the Rabbis
  • 22 of 27 places mentioned in the gospels are attested
  • If you compare the gospels with Josephus they are as good

Example slide – he shows where these cities in orange are mentioned outside the Bible:

At the end of the lecture 22 out of 27 cities are attested in other sources
At the end of the lecture 22 out of 27 cities are attested in other sources

This lecture caught my eye because it was all about connecting the Bible to evidence outside the Bible. I like evidence. You should give it a listen.

New study: cohabitating parents twice as likely to split up as married parents

SurveyMonkey election poll cross tabs for unmarried women Nov 2016
SurveyMonkey election poll cross tabs for unmarried women Nov 2016

This was reported by the Daily Signal.

It says:

Children born to unmarried, cohabiting parents—both in the United States and across Europe—are nearly twice as likely to see their parents split up, compared to children born to married parents.

A new study from the Institute for Family Studies and Social Trends Institute examines family stability among cohabiting and married-parent families from numerous countries across the world. The findings provide evidence against some common myths about cohabitation and children’s family stability.

One of these myths claims that cohabitation is less stable than marriage simply because low-income individuals are more likely to choose to cohabit. However, researchers find that in the majority of countries studied, cohabitation is less stable even among the highly educated.

The authors note, “In the overwhelming majority of countries, the most educated cohabiting parents still have a far higher rate of break-up than the lowest educated married couples.”

For example, in the United States, 49 percent of children born to highly-educated cohabiting mothers experienced at least one union disruption by age 12, compared to just 26 percent of children born to lower-educated married mothers. In the United Kingdom, the percentages are 53 percent and 39 percent, respectively.

A second common argument is that cohabitation becomes more stable (begins to look more like marriage) as it becomes more common in a society.

However, the findings did not support this notion. As the share of children born to cohabiting couples increased in a country, family instability also increased.

Laurie DeRose, one of the authors of the study, explains:

We find no evidence in this report to support the idea that as births to cohabiting parents become more common, as they have in the United States, marriage and cohabitation resemble each other in terms of stability for children. On average, marriage is associated with more family stability for children across the globe—even in countries where it is in retreat.

[…]A 2011 report from the Institute for American Values calls “the rise of cohabiting households with children … the largest unrecognized threat to the quality and stability of children’s family lives.”

Research shows that children in cohabiting households are more likely to be physically, sexually, and emotionally abused, and to be aggressive or display delinquent behaviors (such as substance abuse or committing property crime). They are also more likely to experience poverty and have poorer health.

It should be noted that Democrats favor policies that punish people who want to marriage, e.g. – no-fault divorce, marriage tax penalty, single mother welfare, etc.

Dennis Prager explains why the Democrats oppose marriage:

It takes a particularly noble Democrat to promote marriage and family. The strengthening of these institutions is not in the Democratic Party’s self-interest. The more people marry, and especially the more they have children after they marry, the more likely they are to hold conservative values and vote Republican.

That is why it is inaccurate to speak of a “gender gap” in Americans’ voting. The gap is between married and unmarried women. Single women, especially single women with children, tend to vote Democratic, while married women, especially married women with children, tend to vote Republican.

Why is this?

There are two primary reasons.

One is that women’s nature yearns for male protection. This is a heretical idea among the well educated whose education is largely devoted to denying the facts of life. But it is a fact of life that can easily be proven: Extremely wealthy women almost always seek to marry men who are even wealthier than they are.

[…]Given women’s primal desire to be protected, if a woman has no man to provide it, she will seek security elsewhere — and elsewhere today can only mean the government. In effect, the state becomes her husband. This phenomenon has frequently been commented on with regard to the breakdown of many black families. The welfare state simply rendered many black men unnecessary and therefore undesirable as spouses: Why marry when you can get more benefits from the state while remaining single (and get even more money if you have children while remaining single)?

Once a woman does marry, however, her need for the state not only diminishes, she now begins to view the state as inimical to her interests. For the married woman, especially if she has children, two primal urges work against her having a pro-big government attitude. Her urge to be protected, which is now fulfilled by her husband, and her primal urge to protect her nest are now endangered by the government, which as it grows, takes away more and more of her family’s money.

Once a woman marries and has children, therefore, her deepest desires — to be protected and to protect her family — work as strongly on behalf of conservative values and voting Republican as they did on behalf of liberalism and the Democratic Party when she was single.

The other reason married women are less likely to be liberal and vote Democratic relates to maturity and wisdom.

Just about everyone — a man as much as a woman — is rendered more mature and wiser after marrying. This is not an insult to singles. It was as true of me as of anyone else. If you’re single, ask any married person — happily or unhappily married — whether or not marriage has matured them.

The single biggest change induced by marriage is that you can no longer think only about yourself. “I” becomes “we.” Narcissism becomes far less possible in marriage than in the single state. And just as marriage decreases narcissism, it increases wisdom. Having to relate to another human being (especially of the opposite sex) to whom you have made a lifelong commitment (even if it ends in divorce) vastly increases your wisdom. And if you have children, your wisdom increases exponentially. Again, ask any parent if they are wiser since becoming a parent.

If you take a look at the map above, you’ll see that unmarried women vote overwhelmingly Democrat, because they want to be able to follow their hearts without having to be responsible about finding a husband and raising children. They vote for big government to make their self-centeredness “work out”. Why have a husband when you can get his money by taxing him? Single women think it’s better to tax a man and not have to respect him. That’s why they vote Democrat. And as taxes go higher and higher, what you’ll find is that many single men who might like to marry can no longer afford to marry – because they are paying for the upkeep of millions of single women already.

Homeowner uses legally owned handgun to catch burglar for the police

Guns are for self-defense against criminals
Guns are for self-defense against criminals

This is from the Washington Free Beacon, and it’s a good reminder of why America has the Second Amendment.

Full text:

A burglar is in custody after coming face to face with a Florida homeowner and her revolver on Friday.

Cape Coral Police arrested 20-year-old Jacob Cintra after he allegedly broke into Jim Gibbons’s car and tried to break into his home. Gibbons told reporters he and his wife were sleeping when they heard a commotion. Jim went to open his blinds and see what was happening when he spotted Cintra just in front of him trying to break into the home.

“I yelled to my wife, ‘Go get the gun!'” he told NBC2.

As Gibbons’s wife returned with her revolver, Cintra spotted her and thought better of trying to break in.

“He just had a dumb look on his face,” Gibbons told WINK. “Why would you be surprised? There’s two cars in the driveway and dogs are barking in the house,” he said.

Cintra then ran off. Gibbons said his wife was prepared to defend them if he had come through the door.

“She said if he had been fiddling with the door, trying to open it, she would have shot him,” he told NBC2.

Neighbors applauded the Gibbons. “That’s cool that we still have the Second Amendment for that,” David Jean-Jacques told the news station.

The burglar wasn’t on the run for long. Once the police arrived the Gibbons’s dog alerted them to where Cintra was hiding.

“Did you tell them you’re the hero?” Gibbons asked his dog in front of the NBC2 cameras. “Yeah, you’re the hero.”

Cintra is currently being held without bond in Lee County Jail on two burglary charges.

“He’s lucky,” he said. “He’s pretty dumb and he’s lucky.”

People who oppose guns typically oppose them because of feelings. Guns are loud and makes me feel scared, they say. But if you actually look at the scientific data, you’ll see that guns do reduce crime rates.

The peer-reviewed research

Whenever I get into discussions about gun control, I always mention two academic books by John R. Lott and Joyce Lee Malcolm.

Here is a paper by Dr. Malcolm that summarizes one of the key points of her book.

Excerpt:

Tracing the history of gun control in the United Kingdom since the late 19th century, this article details how the government has arrogated to itself a monopoly on the right to use force. The consequence has been a tremendous increase in violent crime, and harsh punishment for crime victims who dare to fight back. The article is based on the author’s most recent book, Guns and Violence: The English Experience (Harvard University Press, 2002). Joyce Malcom is professor of history at Bentley College, in Waltham, Massachusetts. She is also author of To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an AngloAmerican Right (Harvard University Press, 1994).

Upon the passage of The Firearms Act (No. 2) in 1997, British Deputy Home Secretary Alun Michael boasted: “Britain now has some of the toughest gun laws in the world.” The Act was second handgun control measure passed that year, imposed a near-complete ban on private ownership of handguns, capping nearly eighty years of increasing firearms restrictions. Driven by an intense public campaign in the wake of the shooting of schoolchildren in Dunblane, Scotland, Parliament had been so zealous to outlaw all privately owned handguns that it rejected proposals to exempt Britain’s Olympic target-shooting team and handicapped target-shooters from the ban.

And the result of the 1997 gun ban:

The result of the ban has been costly. Thousands of weapons were confiscated at great financial cost to the public. Hundreds of thousands of police hours were devoted to the task. But in the six years since the 1997 handgun ban, crimes with the very weapons banned have more than doubled, and firearm crime has increased markedly. In 2002, for the fourth consecutive year, gun crime in England and Wales rose—by 35 percent for all firearms, and by a whopping 46 percent for the banned handguns. Nearly 10,000 firearms offences were committed.

[…]According to Scotland Yard, in the four years from 1991 to 1995 crimes against the person in England‟s inner cities increased by 91 percent. In the four years from 1997 to 2001 the rate of violent crime more than doubled. The UK murder rate for 2002 was the highest for a century.

I think that peer-reviewed studies – from Harvard University, no less – should be useful to those of us who believe in the right of self-defense for law-abiding people. The book by economist John Lott, linked above,compares the crime rates of all U.S. states that have enacted concealed carry laws, and concludes that violent crime rates dropped after law-abiding citizens were allowed to carry legally-owned firearms. That’s the mirror image of Dr. Malcolm’s Harvard study, but both studies affirm the same conclusion – more legal firearm ownership means less crime.

If you still think that guns are somehow bad for reducing crime, why not check out a formal academic debate featuring 3 people on each side of the debate?

If you want to know why the Democrat parts of the United States have such high rates of violence, then you need to look at the enormously high out-of-wedlock birth rates in the Democrat parts of the United States. Having babies before marrying causes fatherless children, and fatherless children are more likely to commit crimes. When Democrats stop paying single mothers money to have fatherless kids, then the crime rates in the Democrat parts of the United States will go down. It’s a personal responsibility issue.

Conservative legislators introduce new consumer-focused replacement for Obamacare

Obamacare premium growth, 2015-2016
Obamacare insurers are dropping out, which raises premiums higher, 2015-2016

I have your Thursday good news ready to go – from the Daily Signal.

This is how you reform health care:

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., introduced a bill to replace Obamacare on Wednesday, increasing the pressure on GOP leaders who continue to discuss moving the law’s replacement at the same time as its repeal.

The legislation already has the full support of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of roughly 40 of the lower chamber’s conservative members. Conservatives in both the House and Senate have said they want to see repeal efforts move faster, and the lawmakers are hoping that the legislation is a turning point in the repeal-and-replace debate.

“We’re excited about the fact that it will finally be able to address many of the concerns that we’re hearing, whether it’s at town halls or personal calls from our constituents about pre-existing conditions, about how to empower the consumer in terms of their health care choice, and ultimately drive down the price of health care,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said Wednesday.

Called the Obamacare Replacement Act, the legislation shares the hallmarks of other GOP replacement plans, and Paul said it was a “consensus bill” that pulled aspects of other proposals together.

[…]Paul and Sanford’s bill focuses heavily on the expansion of health savings accounts (HSAs), which are medical savings accounts. Their legislation allows consumers to contribute an unlimited amount annually to HSAs. Currently, consumers can contribute a maximum of $3,400 per year.

The Obamacare Replacement Act also creates a $5,000 tax credit for those who contribute to a HSA, and prohibits consumers from using the money in their accounts to pay for elective abortions.

Under Paul and Sanford’s bill, consumers who don’t receive insurance through their employers can deduct the cost of premiums from their taxable incomes, which serves to equalize the tax treatment for individuals and employers.

Additionally, the legislation allows individuals and small businesses to band together through membership in an Association Health Plan to buy health insurance. Paul and Sanford said these pooling mechanisms will decrease costs for consumers.

The bill also allows insurance companies to sell policies across state lines and eliminates Obamacare’s essential health benefits mandate, which is a list of services insurance plans are required to cover without cost-sharing.

If you want to drive down the cost of health care, you let people get covered for only what they need – no abortions, sex changes, IVF, acupuncture, drug rehabilitation, breast enlargements, fertility treatments, etc. Allowing people to buy plans across state lines will mean that consumers in blue states like California and Massachusetts won’t be forced to buy in-state plans that cover all kinds of progressive garbage that they don’t even want.

Look how Obamacare is falling apart:

At the Future of Healthcare event put on by the Wall Street Journal, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said that Obamacare was only “getting worse” because there weren’t enough young, healthy enrollees to pay for the sick people covered by the Obamacare exchanges. Bertolini said it was due to “how poorly structured the funding mechanism and premium model is,” as premiums keep increasing with the death spiral, causing less people to sign up, and thus resulting in even higher premiums.

“I think you will see a lot more withdrawals this year of plans,” Bertolini said.

On Wednesday, Humana–which came to a mutual agreement with Aetna not to merge–announcedthat it was withdrawing from Obamacare altogether. In 2016, UnitedHealth also announced that they would be pulling out of the Obamacare exchanges, and Aetna itself said they would only stay in four Obamacare exchanges.

Bertolini stated at the event that the company has not decided if it will remain in these Obamacare exchanges.

“There isn’t any risk sharing going on in Nebraska,” Bertolini said, pointing to the fact that Aetna was the only insurer left in that exchange. “It will cost us a lot of money.”

Now is the time to replace it!

The problem with Obamacare is that it didn’t do anything to leverage the strengths of the free enterprise system. Instead of turning health care purchasing into competitive online e-commerce (i.e. – Amazon), they turned it into the DMV and the post office. What else would you expect from clowns who were born rich, and never held private sector jobs in their entire lives? You don’t expect the people who run the single-payer VA health system that is killing people on waiting lists to do a good job of reforming health care, do you? Let the free market solve it. Choice and competition means lower prices.

Are gay rights and children’s rights compatible?

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

Here are a couple of articles from The Federalist which made me think that gay rights are not compatible with children’s rights.

Here is the first article that talks about growing babies on demand in labs, and also surrogacy:

In the years leading up to the Supreme Court decision nationalizing gay marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges, and in the short span since, the debate is already leagues beyond whether gays should adopt babies who are already born and need homes. Now we are grappling with the reality of buying and selling babies. Don’t pretend that’s not what it is—there’s a financial exchange for growing a baby. What else would you call it?

Buying a child via surrogacy is cruel and selfish. Most often it deprives her of knowing at least one biological parent in addition to the mother who nourished and supported her for nine months and brought her into the world. Buying a baby from a lab, even if she’s made up completely of the commissioning couple’s DNA, is even more cruel and selfish. It could deprive her of any mother at all.

If two men are “conceiving” a child, that baby must be grown in a surrogate or, when the technology permits, an artificial womb, which would certainly be more convenient and with fewer legal pitfalls but less humane.

Motherhood begins with gestation, not birth, but in the case of a lab gestation, there would be no mother. Babies recognize their mother’s voice from hearing it in the womb, and as experts on surrogacy have explained, human pregnancy creates a deep, lifelong bond between mother and baby.

Family therapist Nancy Verrier said in an interview for the documentary “Breeders: A Subclass of Woman?,” “The baby is hurt by the separation, by the loss, of that mother that it knows.” What trauma, then, would a child with no mother experience?

Lab-grown babies would be a great leap in commodifying children. This is a progression in lockstep with both the sexual revolution, which bestows legitimacy to a wide array of sexual orientations and arrangements, and with modern feminism. Both the New Sexuality and feminism declare to gay couples and single women: “If a baby sounds nice to you, who should tell you you cannot have what you want?” Genetic engineering is the latest tool in that effort to meet demand for babies, and the stakes are high.

Do children need their biological mother and father to raise them? Do children benefit from having two parents who have (minimally) a biological stake in their development?

Recent, comprehensive research conducted by Dr. Paul Sullins at the Catholic University of America has found that “children with samesex parents are assessed at higher levels of distress, compared to children with opposite-sex parents, for every measure of child emotional difficulty, developmental difficulty or treatment service.” Additionally, children of same-sex couples, “are at almost four (3.6) times the risk of emotional problems when compared to children residing with married biological parents.” Sullins also found that, “Risk of child emotional problems is 1.9-2.2 times greater, significant at .01 or better, with same-sex parents than with opposite-sex cohabiting parents or step-parent family.”

According to this study, which was far more comprehensive than the small ones popularized by the media that claim the opposite, it is more beneficial for children to be raised by two opposite-sex parents, and when they are raised by married opposite-sex biological parents, the rates of distress to children are nearly twice as low.

Here’s the second article, which lists more problems for children who are created through lab conception or by surrogacy:

  1. Commodification of Children. Children are not products, they are humans with inherent rights and thus worthy of protection. Selecting desirable embryos based on health, appearance, gender, race, or other characteristics treats humans as products, not people. This kind of behavior is appropriate when purchasing a car, but not when having a child.

  2. Right to life. The embryos deemed unacceptable were likely destroyed. And often commissioning parents will, for the sake of maximizing their investment, implant multiple embryos and then “selectively reduce” (that is, abort around 20 weeks) the unwanted children, even if they are perfectly healthy.

  3. Right to their mother. Children have a right to both biological parents. They are not items to be cut and pasted into the romantic configuration of adults.  Like every other child, these girls are made by, and will likely long for, a relationship with both biological parents. Kids don’t just need “love and safety.”  They actually crave male and female parental love and receive unique and complimentary benefits from both mother and father.

  4. Right to their genetic information. Children crave, and have a right to, their biological identity. Not only because they want to understand who they are, but it’s also critical for their long term medical health- and the health of their own children. It’s a violation of a child’s right to arbitrarily deny them access to half of their biology.

  5. Right to their heritage. Biological connection mattered enough for these commissioning fathers to ensure that each dad got one biological child.  Probably because they wanted grandchildren and great-grandchildren related to them as well. But it works the other way too. Children have a right to know, and desire to be known by, both sides of their extended family and racial/ethnic culture whenever possible.

  6. Right to be born free—not bought and sold. As mentioned in the article, purchasing eggs and employing a surrogate costs $100,000- $200,000. Many children born via sperm and egg donation are troubled that money exchanged hands over their conception, no matter how little.  I heard one adult child painfully remark “My father (sperm donor) was paid $75 to stay out of my life forever.”

  7. Subjecting children to increased medical risks. Pregnancies resulting from reproductive technologies are more likely to involve complications. Children born through surrogacy, for example, are more likely to be premature, suffer from low birth weight, and have trouble adjusting likely due to “the absence of a gestational connection to the mother.”

To understand why these practices are wrong, we have to stop looking at the selfish adults, and listening to their self-centered sob stories. We have to think about the children. About the children’s need to not be lost in a universe without the two people who chose to bring them into being. Growing up is a scary thing. It doesn’t get better for children when they can’t even have relationships with the two people who made them. We all need those relationships. It goes against common sense to dismiss the effect of parents being biologically related to their children. Biological parents have more of a perceived stake in the development of their biological children. We need to give children what they need.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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