Category Archives: News

Does archaeological evidence confirm names, dates and places in the Bible?

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson: let's take a look at the facts
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson: let’s take a look at the facts

I spotted this post on Be Thinking by UK apologist Peter S. Williams. (H/T Eric Chabot at Think Apologetics)

So let me pick the ones I liked most for this post.

Here’s a good one:

Jerusalem and The Pool of Bethesda

John 5:1-15 describes a pool in Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate, called Bethesda, surrounded by five covered colonnades. Until the 19th century, there was no evidence outside of John for the existence of this pool and John’s unusual description “caused bible scholars to doubt the reliability of John’s account, but the pool was duly uncovered in the 1930s – with four colonnades around its edges and one across its middle.”[38] Ian Wilson reports: “Exhaustive excavations by Israeli archaeologist Professor Joachim Jeremias have brought to light precisely such a building, still including two huge, deep-cut cisterns, in the environs of Jerusalem’s Crusader Church of St Anne.”[39]

And this one:

Jerusalem and The Pool of Siloam

In the 400s AD, a church was built above a pool attached to Hezekiah’s water tunnel to commemorate the healing of a blind man reported in John 9:1-7. Until recently, this was considered to be the Pool of Siloam from the time of Christ. However, during sewerage works in June 2004 engineers stumbled upon a 1stcentury ritual pool when they uncovered some ancient steps during pipe maintenance near the mouth of Hezekiah’s tunnel. By the summer of 2005, archaeologists had revealed what was “without doubt the missing pool of Siloam.”[40] Mark D. Roberts reports that: “In the plaster of this pool were found coins that establish the date of the pool to the years before and after Jesus. There is little question that this is in fact the pool of Siloam, to which Jesus sent the blind man in John 9.”[41]

I just read this one because I am working my way through John. In case you haven’t read John, you really should it’s my favorite gospel.

Here’s another one:

Herod the Great

We have a bronze coin minted by Herod the Great. On the obverse side (i.e. the bottom) is a tripod and ceremonial bowl with the inscription ‘Herod king’ and the year the coin was struck, ‘year 3’ (of Herod’s reign), or 37 BC.

In 1996 Israeli Professor of Archaeology Ehud Netzer discovered in Masada a piece of broken pottery with an inscription, called an ostracon. This piece had Herod’s name on it and was part of an amphora used for transportation (probably wine), dated to c. 19 BC. The inscription is in Latin and reads, “Herod the Great King of the Jews (or Judea)”, the first such that mentions the full title of King Herod.

Herodium is a man-made mountain in the Judean wilderness rising over 2,475 feet above sea level. In 23 BC Herod the Great built a palace fortress here on top of a natural hill. Seven stories of living rooms, storage areas, cisterns, a bathhouse, and a courtyard filled with bushes and flowering plants were constructed. The whole complex was surrounded and partly buried by a sloping fill of earth and gravel. Herod’s tomb and sarcophagus were discovered at the base of Herodium by archaeologist Ehud Netzer in 2007.

And one more:

The ‘James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus’ Ossuary

James, the brother of Jesus, was martyred in AD 62. A mid-1st century AD chalk ossuary discovered in 2002 bears the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” ( ‘Ya’akov bar Yosef akhui di Yeshua’). Historian Paul L. Maier states thatthere is strong (though not absolutely conclusive) evidence that, yes, the ossuary and its inscription are not only authentic, but that the inscribed names are the New Testament personalities.[68] New Testament scholar Ben Witherington states that:“If, as seems probable, the ossuary found in the vicinity of Jerusalem and dated to about AD 63 is indeed the burial box of James, the brother of Jesus, this inscription is the most important extra-biblical evidence of its kind.”[69] According to Hershel Shanks, editor in chief of the Biblical Archaeological Review: “this box is [more] likely the ossuary of James, the brother of Jesus of Nazareth, than not. In my opinion … it is likely that this inscription does mention the James and Joseph and Jesus of the New Testament.”

And finally one short one:

Tiberius Caesar

The Denarius coin, 14-37 AD, is commonly referred to as the ‘Tribute Penny’ from the Bible. The coin shows a portrait of Tiberius Caesar. Craig L. Blomberg comments: “Jesus’ famous saying about giving to Caesar what was his and to God what his (Mark 12:17 and parallels) makes even more sense when one discovers that most of the Roman coins in use at the time had images of Caesar on them.”[48]

This is a good article to bookmark in case you are ever looking for a quick, searchable reference on archaeology and the Bible. There are many more examples in that post.

Now some people might be wondering why archaeology doesn’t confirm every detail in the New Testament. And here’s what J. Warner Wallace has to say about that:

But what are we to say to those who argue the Biblical archeological record is incomplete? The answer is best delivered by another expert witness in the field, Dr. Edwin Yamauchi, historian and Professor Emeritus at Miami University. Yamauchi wrote a book entitled, The Stones and the Scripture, where he rightly noted that archaeological evidence is a matter of “fractions”:

Only a fraction of the world’s archaeological evidence still survives in the ground.

Only a fraction of the possible archaeological sites have been discovered.

Only a fraction have been excavated, and those only partially.

Only a fraction of those partial excavations have been thoroughly examined and published.

Only a fraction of what has been examined and published has anything to do with the claims of the Bible!

See the problem? In spite of these limits, we still have a robust collection of archaeological evidences confirming the narratives of the New Testament (both in the gospel accounts and in the Book of Acts). We shouldn’t hesitate to use what we do know archaeologically in combination with other lines of evidence. Archaeology may not be able to tell us everything, but it can help us fill in the circumstantial case as we corroborate the gospel record.

I think you can form an opinion about the whole New Testament based on the record of confirmations. The verdict is in: the New Testament should be presumed trustworthy.

Swiss pharma company pledges to donate 130 million doses of drug touted by Trump

Data: Covid-19 testing in the United States
Data: Covid-19 testing in the United States

There’s been a lot of good news last week, and I tweeted some of it. A lot of private sector companies are stepping up to manufacture the tools needed to defeat the Chinese Wuhan virus. They’re making hand sanitizer, respirator masks, ventilators, and even prescription drugs for testing and treatment. One company really stood out to me, though, so let’s read about them first.

Daily Wire reported:

Novartis Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan said Sunday that the Trump-touted drudged hydroxychloroquine, often used to treat malaria, is our biggest hope in combating the China-originated coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Narasimhan pledged to donate a stunning 130 million doses of hydroxychloroquine and will support studies of the drug as a treatment against COVID-19.

Reuters reported:

Novartis Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan said his Sandoz generics unit’s malaria, lupus and arthritis drug hydroxychloroquine is the company’s biggest hope against the coronavirus, Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung reported on Sunday.

Novartis has pledged to donate 130 million doses and is supporting clinical trials needed before the medicine, which U.S. President Donald Trump also has been promoting, can be approved for use against the coronavirus.

“Pre-clinical studies in animals as well as the first data from clinical studies show that hydroxychloroquine kills the coronavirus,” Narasimhan told Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung. “We’re working with Swiss hospitals on possible treatment protocols for the clinical use of the drug, but it’s too early to say anything definitively.”

According to Reuters, pharmaceutical companies Bayer and Teva “have also agreed to donate hydroxychloroquine or similar drugs, while Gilead Sciences is testing its experimental drug remdesivir against coronavirus.”

As noted by The Daily Wire on Sunday, France officially sanctioned this weekend chloroquine for certain patients infected with COVID-19.

“The French government has officially sanctioned prescriptions of chloroquine to treat certain coronavirus patients,” France 24 English reported Saturday.

“This ensures continued treatment of patients who have been treated for several years for a chronic condition with this drug, but also allows a temporary authorization to allow certain patients with coronavirus to benefit from this therapeutic route,” said Jérôme Salomon, France’s director general of health.

According to a report from Trustnodes, France’s move comes after infectious disease specialist Didier Raoult announced new clinical results… that show 78 out of 80 patients treated with chloroquine recovered within five days.

Trump is trying to get the FDA to move quickly through testing so that these drugs can be made widely available. 

The Daily Wire reported on Sunday night that the FDA is doing everything they can to get these drugs available:

On Sunday night, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, drugs often used to treat malaria and recently touted by President Donald Trump as a possible “game-changer” in the fight against the China-originated novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.

The United States Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced in a statement on Sunday that the FDA will allow the drugs to be “donated to the Strategic National Stockpile to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible,” a Politico report said.

The statement noted that “Sandoz donated 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to the stockpile and Bayer donated 1 million doses of chloroquine.”

Trump made it clear weeks ago that his administration would work to fast-track promising drugs like hydroxychloroquine with the FDA, all in an effort to combat COVID-19.

The drugs are already being tested in New York state:

Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is on the same page as President Trump when it comes to the popular anti-malaria drugs, permitting trials of hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, and azithromycin to commence in his state.

“Let’s see how it works,” Trump said Sunday, with regard to the New York trials. “It may. It may not.”

But wait! There’s more good news.

I’m currently tracking 5 different drugs to see how they perform during tests, but here is a sixth one that I didn’t even know about.

The New York Post reports:

Two coronavirus patients in New York City are off ventilators and out of intensive care after they received an experimental drug to treat HIV and breast cancer.

[…]The drug, leronlimab, is delivered by injection twice in the abdomen, the Daily Mail reported.

Of seven critically ill patients who received the drug in New York, two were removed from ventilators and two showed significant improvement.

[…]CytoDyn, the drug’s manufacturer, could get FDA approval in six weeks if leronlimab continues to show promise. No drugs currently have FDA approval to treat the novel coronavirus.

Other private sector companies are developing faster methods to test for the Wuhan virus.

CNBC reports:

Abbott on Friday announced it received approval for a test that is capable of delivering positive results of the coronavirus in as little as five minutes, and it will begin making those tests available to health care providers next week.

The Food and Drug Administration issued emergency use authorization for the point-of-care test on Friday, the company said in a statement. The test can detect negative results in 13 minutes. The company said it plans to ramp up manufacturing so it can deliver 50,000 tests per day.

And finally, this from the Daily Wire:

Scientists studying the coronavirus have some good news: as it is transmitted through the human population, it is not undergoing significant mutations, meaning it will not become more dangerous as it spreads, and once a vaccine is developed, it could be as effective as vaccines for measles or chickenpox are. Peter Thielen, a molecular geneticist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory who is one of the scientists examining the virus, told The Washington Post,, “I would expect a vaccine for coronavirus would have a similar profile to those vaccines. It’s great news.”

So, the Trump administration is actually doing a pretty good job of cutting red tape to get people help faster. But a lot of the actual work is being down by private sector companies who are making donations and developing tests and drugs to solve the problem. Just keep that in mind when you here doom and gloom from fake news journalists and Democrat politicians.

William Lane Craig debates Austin Dacey: Does God Exist?

Two tough rams butt heads, and may the best ram win!
Two tough rams butt heads, and may the best ram win!

Here is the video and summary of a debate between Christian theist William Lane Craig and Austin Dacey at Purdue University in 2004 about the existence of God.

The debaters:

The video: (2 hours)

The video shows the speakers and powerpoint slides of their arguments. Austin Dacey is one of the top atheist debaters, and I would put him second to Peter Millican alone, with Walter Sinnott-Armstrong in third place. This is the debate to show people who are new to apologetics. The debate with Peter Millican is better for advanced students, and that’s no surprise since he teaches at Oxford University and is familiar with all of Dr. Craig’s work. The Craig-Dacey debate is the one that I give to my co-workers.

By the way, you can get the DVDs and CDs for the first Craig-Dacey debate and the second Craig-Dacey debate and the second Craig-Sinnott-Armstrong debate. The Peter Millican debate is not available on DVD, but the link above (Peter Millican) has the video and my summary.

Dr. Dacey’s 5 arguments below are all good arguments that you find in the academic literature. He is also an effective and engaging speaker, This is a great debate to watch!

SUMMARY of the opening speeches:

Dr. Craig’s opening statement:

Dr. Craig will present six reasons why God exists:

  1. (Contingency argument) God is the best explanation of why something exists rather than nothing
  2. (Cosmological argument)  God’s existence is implied by the origin of the universe
  3. (Fine-tuning argument) The fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life points to a designer of the cosmos
  4. (Moral argument) God is the best explanation for the existence of objective moral values and objective moral duties
  5. (Miracles argument) The historical facts surrounding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus
  6. (Religious experience) God’s existence is directly knowable even apart from arguments

Dr. Dacey’s opening argument:

There are two ways to disprove God’s existence, by showing that the concept of God is self-contradictory, or by showing that certain facts about ourselves and the world are incompatible with what we would expect to be true if God did exist. Dr. Dacey will focus on the second kind of argument.

  1. The hiddenness of God
  2. The success of science in explaining nature without needing a supernatural agency
  3. The dependence of mind on physical processes in the brain
  4. Naturalistic evolution
  5. The existence of gratuitous / pointless evil and suffering

One final point:

One thing that I have to point out is that Dr. Dacey quotes Brian Greene during the debate to counter Dr. Craig’s cosmological argument. Dr. Craig could not respond because he can’t see the context of the quote. However, Dr. Craig had a rematch with Dr. Dacey where was able to read the context of the quote and defuse Dr. Dacey’s objection. This is what he wrote in his August 2005 newsletter after the re-match:

The following week, I was off an another three-day trip, this time to California State University at Fresno. As part of a week of campus outreach the Veritas Forum scheduled a debate on the existence of God between me and Austin Dacey, whom I had debated last spring at Purdue University. In preparation for the rematch I adopted two strategies: (1) Since Dacey had come to the Purdue debate with prepared speeches, I decided to throw him for a loop by offering a different set of arguments for God, so that his canned objections wouldn’t apply. I chose to focus on the cosmological argument, giving four separate arguments for the beginning of the universe, and on the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. (2) I reviewed our previous debate carefully, preparing critiques of his five atheistic arguments. In the process I found that he had seriously misunderstood or misrepresented a statement by a scientist on the Big Bang; so I brought along the book itself in case Dacey quoted this source again. I figured he might change his arguments just as I was doing; but I wanted to be ready in case he used his old arguments again.

[…]The auditorium was packed that night for the debate, and I later learned that there were overflow rooms, too. To my surprise Dr. Dacey gave the very same case he had presented at Purdue; so he really got clobbered on those arguments. Because he wasn’t prepared for my new arguments, he didn’t even respond to two of my arguments for the beginning of the universe, though he did a credible job responding to the others. I was pleased when he attacked the Big Bang by quoting the same scientist as before, because I then held up the book, specified the page number, and proceeded to quote the context to show what the scientist really meant.

Dr. Craig is always prepared!

New study: college students drink more before casual sex than relationship sex

Sex events measured against intimacy level (for women only)
Sex events measured against intimacy level (for women only)

It turns out that college students use MORE alcohol and drugs when they have sex with strangers, and LESS alcohol and drugs when they have sex with people they are in a relationship with.

This study was reported by the far-left Psychology Today.

Excerpt:

A recent study published in the Journal of Sex Research sheds some light on these questions. A research team headed by Jennifer Walsh analyzed alcohol use in almost 500 casual and 1400 romantic sexual intercourse events that happened to 300 college women on a monthly basis over a period of 12 months. Alcohol use was not very common during romantic sex: 20% of romantic encounters involved some drinking and only 5% involved heavy drinking (defined as four or more drinks). Hookups, on the other hand, were a different story: Women drank during 53% of their hookups, and drank heavily during 38% of all hookups.

But not all hookups are created equal. There was an almost perfect linear relationship between drinking and partner closeness: The less known the partner, the more likely women drank before sex, and the more likely they drank a lot. Look at the graph I created based on their data. When the casual partner was an ex-boyfriend, for example, only 30% of hookups involved drinking and 17% heavy drinking. When the partner was a random stranger, however, 89% of hookups involved drinking and 63% involved four or more drinks!

The writer explains why this happens:

Alcohol also provides an excuse to those who need one. In a world that encourages hooking up but also judges those (especially women) who engage in it too much, many seem to need it. You’re a slut if you hook up with people just because you want to: Good girls don’t actively want to hook up, and being sober means taking full responsibility for your actions. But if you can blame it on the alcohol, you’re absolved of guilt. You can still be a good girl who just happened to make a mistake.

This study agrees with a study I blogged about before from the University of Virginia, which explained that college students drink before hook-ups in order to be able to explain to their friends why it wasn’t their fault:

A Rutgers University student commented, “If you’re drinking a lot it’s easier to hook up with someone… [and] drugs, it’s kind of like a bonding thing… and then if you hook up with them and you don’t want to speak to them again, you can always blame it on the drinking or the drugs.”

Other women observed that being drunk gives a woman license to act sexually interested in public in ways that would not be tolerated if she were sober. For instance, a University of Michigan student said, “Girls are actually allowed to be a lot more sexual when they are drunk…”

A University of Chicago junior observed, “One of my best friends… sometimes that’s her goal when we go out. Like she wants to get drunk so I guess she doesn’t have to feel guilty about [hooking up].”

Now, the first thing I thought of when I saw this article in Psychology Today was: “I wonder what criteria these college students are using in order to decide which strangers they have sex with”. And then I realized. For perfect strangers, it would have to be something obvious, like physical appearance. A study found that it takes a woman 3 minutes to decide if she likes a man or not. Whatever assessment is being made in that 3 minutes surely isn’t adequate for long-term plans for marriage, children and church attendance.

Don’t judge me, it wasn’t my fault

It reminds me of something I read a while back in a Theodore Dalrymple book. Theodore Dalrymple is the famous psychiatrist who writes books about culture in the UK. One of his books about the complete lack of personal responsibility among criminals is actually posted online.

In the chapter “Tough Love“, he talks about the nurses he works with:

All the more surprising is it to me, therefore, that the nurses perceive things differently. They do not see a man’s violence in his face, his gestures, his deportment, and his bodily adornments, even though they have the same experience of the patients as I. They hear the same stories, they see the same signs, but they do not make the same judgments. What’s more, they seem never to learn; for experience—like chance, in the famous dictum of Louis Pasteur—favors only the mind prepared. And when I guess at a glance that a man is an inveterate wife beater (I use the term “wife” loosely), they are appalled at the harshness of my judgment, even when it proves right once more.

This is not a matter of merely theoretical interest to the nurses, for many of them in their private lives have themselves been the compliant victims of violent men. For example, the lover of one of the senior nurses, an attractive and lively young woman, recently held her at gunpoint and threatened her with death, after having repeatedly blacked her eye during the previous months. I met him once when he came looking for her in the hospital: he was just the kind of ferocious young egotist to whom I would give a wide berth in the broadest daylight.

Why are the nurses so reluctant to come to the most inescapable of conclusions? Their training tells them, quite rightly, that it is their duty to care for everyone without regard for personal merit or deserts; but for them, there is no difference between suspending judgment for certain restricted purposes and making no judgment at all in any circumstances whatsoever. It is as if they were more afraid of passing an adverse verdict on someone than of getting a punch in the face—a likely enough consequence, incidentally, of their failure of discernment. Since it is scarcely possible to recognize a wife beater without inwardly condemning him, it is safer not to recognize him as one in the first place.

This failure of recognition is almost universal among my violently abused women patients, but its function for them is somewhat different from what it is for the nurses. The nurses need to retain a certain positive regard for their patients in order to do their job. But for the abused women, the failure to perceive in advance the violence of their chosen men serves to absolve them of all responsibility for whatever happens thereafter, allowing them to think of themselves as victims alone rather than the victims and accomplices they are. Moreover, it licenses them to obey their impulses and whims, allowing them to suppose that sexual attractiveness is the measure of all things and that prudence in the selection of a male companion is neither possible nor desirable.

Often, their imprudence would be laughable, were it not tragic: many times in my ward I’ve watched liaisons form between an abused female patient and an abusing male patient within half an hour of their striking up an acquaintance. By now, I can often predict the formation of such a liaison—and predict that it will as certainly end in violence as that the sun will rise tomorrow.

At first, of course, my female patients deny that the violence of their men was foreseeable. But when I ask them whether they think I would have recognized it in advance, the great majority—nine out of ten—reply, yes, of course. And when asked how they think I would have done so, they enumerate precisely the factors that would have led me to that conclusion. So their blindness is willful.

If Dalrymple’s observations about female patients and nurses can be applied more broadly, then it explains why women initiate 70% of divorces. Women who don’t want to be “forced” to be self-controlled and responsible with their choices will want an easy way to get out of it. According to Dalrymple’s experience, it’s not that women don’t know that bad boys are lousy at marriage and fatherhood. They know it, but they choose to blind themselves to it, because it’s just too much self-denial to have to be serious about making responsible choices with men and sex and marriage.

Right now, we are $20 trillion in debt, half of that thanks to Barack Obama’s administration. I believe that the majority of this debt was accrued because people wanted to do what felt good to them in the moment, and then pass off the costs of their “unpredictable” mistakes onto their neighbors. The truth is that these costs will be paid by generations of young people not yet born. People shouldn’t talk about how much they care about children, if their voting will force all the children of tomorrow into slavery.

One last piece of advice to men. My best friend Dina told me to always evaluate women based on their past choices, not based on the picture of themselves that they paint with words. Wise advice.

Illustra Media videos on intelligent design are FREE to watch for 2 months

Hummingbird in flight
Hummingbird in flight

Sometimes Christian contact me through the blog and ask for advice on how to get their apologetics skills up. I usually send them a copy of “Is God Just a Human Invention?” and a set of 3 DVDs from Illustra Media. Well, Illustra Media decided to make ALL their DVDs FREE for the next 2 months. The videos cover topics about intelligent design (biology and physics) and evolution.

Here’s the blurb: (H/T Uncommon Descent)

During this period of uncertainty and massive change in the normal cycle of our daily routines, the Illustra Media staff, board of directors, and our distributor (RPI) want to offer encouragement and hope through the films we have produced during the past 20 years.

For the next 60 days, we will make streaming of our full length documentaries available free of charge. Click on any of the titles below to access the English versions. To stream international translations click here. You may bookmark this page for future reference. Please feel free to share it with your friends, family, and social media contacts throughout the world.

Here are the ones I’ve seen and recommend:

The first 3 are the ones that I send to Christian defenders in training. You can get them here from RPI. I’ve bought from him many times, and this is the best place to get them.

Unlocking the Mystery of Life is about design in the cell, biological information, irreducible complexity and molecular machines.

The Privileged Planet is about cosmic fine-tuning, habitability fine-tuning related to stars and planets, and discoverability.

Darwin’s Dilemma is about the sudden origin of new information for different body plans in the Cambrian explosion.

The other three are about interesting features of birds, butterflies, dolphins and whales that are obviously designed.

Notice how there is a video about birds, but no videos about cats. That is because cats are not very interesting, whereas birds are not only very interesting but also morally good – especially parrots and hummingbirds. My parents have a parrot who adjusts all his behavior to fit in with the family’s wishes, and he is even good when no one is around to watch him. They also have hummingbirds that come and hover around them to say hello, just because my parents put out feeders for them.

You can imagine in the past when early Christians would debate atheists, all their arguments were just holding up birds and saying “look at this obviously designed thing that speaks like a human, and it has such good moral character, too”. You can’t do that with evil cats, who probably did evolve from worms and slime by random mutations and natural selection. The early atheists probably just held up cats and argued that a morally good, all-powerful God would not create such awful things.

Anyway, here are some nice trailers for some of the videos that I like best:

Unlocking the Mystery of Life:

The Privileged Planet:

Darwin’s Dilemma:

Dolphins are pretty good!

Hummingbirds are the best!

I saved the best for last. They’re AWESOME!