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Is It Sinful to Date a Non-Christian? // Ask Pastor John
During the 1st century there were 58 total eclipses throughout the world. Between years 16 and 43 AD there were eleven: If Thallus had lived in the 1st rather than the 2nd century, he may have noted the eclipse that was visible in the Persian Gulf in November of 29 — which doesn't fit the Jesus chronology and would have been of negligible impact in Jerusalem, hundreds of miles away. The early Christians were zealous readers of his work. Though not born until 37 AD and therefore not a contemporary witness to any Jesus-character, Josephus at one point even lived in Cana, the very city in which Christ is said to have wrought his first miracle. In these complementary works, the former written in the 70s, the latter in the 90s AD, Josephus mentions every noted personage of Palestine and describes every important event which occurred there during the first seventy years of the Christian era. At face value, Josephus appears to be the answer to the Christian apologist's dreams. In a single paragraph the so-called Testimonium Flavianum Josephus confirms every salient aspect of the Christ-myth: The third century Church 'Father' Origen, for example, spent half his life and a quarter of a million words contending against the pagan writer Celsus. Origen drew on all sorts of proofs and witnesses to his arguments in his fierce defence of Christianity. He quotes from Josephus extensively. Yet even he makes no reference to this 'golden paragraph' from Josephus, which would have been the ultimate rebuttal. In fact, Origen actually said that Josephus was "not believing in Jesus as the Christ. It was absent from early copies of the works of Josephus and did not appear in Origen's third century version of Josephus, referenced in his Contra Celsum. Josephus knows nothing of Christians It was the around the year 53 AD that Josephus decided to investigate the sects among the Jews. According to the gospel fable this was the period of explosive growth for the Christian faith: This is also the time of the so-called "Council of Jerusalem" when supposedly Paul regaled the brothers with tales of "miracles and wonders" among the gentiles Acts And yet Josephus knows nothing of all this: For I thought that in this way I would choose best, if I carefully examined them all. Therefore, submitting myself to strict training, I passed through the three groups. Josephus elsewhere does record a "fourth sect of Jewish philosophy" and reports that it was a "mad distemper" agitating the entire country. But it has nothing to do with Christianity and its superstar: These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord. They also do not value dying any kinds of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man Lord And it was in Gessius Florus's time that the nation began to grow mad with this distemper, who was our procurator, and who occasioned the Jews to go wild with it by the abuse of his authority, and to make them revolt from the Romans. And these are the sects of Jewish philosophy. Nothing could better illustrate the bogus nature of the Testimonium than the remaining corpus of Josephus's work. Consider, also, the anomalies: How could Josephus claim that Jesus had been the answer to his messianic hopes yet remain an orthodox Jew? The absurdity forces some apologists to make the ridiculous claim that Josephus was a closet Christian! If Josephus really thought Jesus had been 'the Christ' surely he would have added more about him than one paragraph, a casual aside in someone else's Pilate's story? In fact, Josephus relates much more about John the Baptist than about Jesus! He also reports in great detail the antics of other self-proclaimed messiahs, including Judas of Galilee, Theudas the Magician, and the unnamed 'Egyptian Jew' messiah. It is striking that though Josephus confirms everything the Christians could wish for, he adds nothing that is not in the gospel narratives, nothing that would have been unknown by Christians already. The question of context. Antiquities 18 is primarily concerned with "all sorts of misfortunes" which befell the Jews during a period of thirty-two years AD. He presents a synopsis of the three established Jewish parties Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes , but his real quarry is the "fourth sect of philosophy Chapter 2 notes the cities built to honour the Romans; the frequent changes in high priest up to Caiaphas and Roman procurators up to Pontius Pilate ; and also the turmoil in Parthia. Chapter 3, containing the Testimonium as paragraph three, is essentially about Pilate's attempts to bring Jerusalem into the Roman system. With his first policy — placing Caesar's ensigns in Jerusalem — Pilate was forced to back down by unexpected Jewish protests in Caesarea. With his second policy — providing Jerusalem with a new aqueduct built with funds sequestered from the Temple, Pilate made ready for Jewish protests. Concealed weapons on his soldiers caused much bloodshed. At this point the paragraph about Jesus is introduced! Immediately after, Josephus continues: This is the hand of a Christian writer who himself considered the death of Jesus to be a Jewish tragedy fitting in with his own notions of a stiff-necked race, rejected by God because they themselves had rejected the Son of God. With paragraph 3 removed from the text the chapter, in fact, reads better. The "aqueduct massacre" now justifies "another terrible misfortune. The final assertion, that the Christians were "not extinct at this day," confirms that the so-called Testimonium is a later interpolation. How much later we cannot say but there was no "tribe of Christians" during Josephus' lifetime. Christianity under that moniker did not establish itself until the 2nd century. Outside of this single bogus paragraph, in all the extensive histories of Josephus there is not a single reference to Christianity anywhere. The hyperbolic language is uncharacteristic of the historian: The Testimonium is a rather short for a genuine digression in the narrative of Josephus the material surely was deserving of more attention than it gets. But a copyist, working with scrolls of a fixed length, would have had little space to play with. Bishop Eusebius, that great Church propagandist and self-confessed liar-for-god, was the first person known to have quoted this paragraph of Josephus, about the year AD. This was after the Christians had become the custodians of religious correctness. Whole libraries of antiquity were torched by the Christians. Yet unlike the works of his Jewish contemporaries, the histories of Josephus survived. They survived because the Christian censors had a use for them. They planted evidence on Josephus, turning the leading Jewish historian of his day into a witness for Jesus Christ! Finding no references to Jesus anywhere in Josephus's genuine work, they interpolated a brief but all-embracing reference based purely on Christian belief. Do we need to look any further to identify Eusebius himself as the forger? Pines himself remained cautious about claims of untampered authenticity but the brethren have no such reservations, such is their desperation to keep Josephus in the witness stand for Jesus. His World History preserves, in Arabic translation, a version of the Testimonium minus the most obvious Christian interpolations. But what does a 10th century copy actually prove? Claims that the Arabic passage itself dates from the 4th century are untenable written Arabic barely existed at such an early date. What he wrote was political correctness for his own times. A new Shia Hamdani dynasty had been established barely 50 miles away in Aleppo. Its first prince, Sayf ad Dawlah "sword of the state" , began a century of persistent attacks against Byzantium. Agapius' paraphrase of a Syriac rendition of Josephus from a Greek original rather significantly mentions JC's "condemnation to die" but not the actuality of it and of JC being "alive" 3 days later — in other words, a carefully balanced compatibility with Muhammad's view of a Jesus as a prophet who did not die on the cross. In short, the Arabic Josephus is no evidence of the Christian godman and serves only to confuse the unwary. Justus of Tiberias Justus was also an historian, a rival to Josephus, and from the same region. It is rather as if a child who believed in the Tooth Fairy was to be presented as evidence that the Tooth Fairy really existed. Belief in a Messiah a 'Christ' in Greek was endemic among the Jews after all. None abashed, Christian apologists compound their suspect 'logic' by recruiting notable pagans as witnesses, writers who were doing their best to faithfully report on a suspect cult. And as ever in the history of Christianity, in the hands of its scribes, forgery augments what the ancient writers actually wrote, the better to bring unbelievers to the One True Faith. Pliny famously reports to his emperor: Note that Pliny is relaying what those arrested said they believed and there is no reference here to a 'Jesus. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition. But Pliny is uncertain how to proceed with numerous others in what he describes as a widespread 'contagion' and asks Trajan for guidance. Trajan's celebrated reply is: It's worth noting that unlike the letters Pliny himself prepared for publication so-called books , book 10, which contains the celebrated letters "96" and "97", was published posthumously and anonymously. For the younger Pliny, when he was ruler of a province, having condemned some Christians to death, and driven some from their stedfastness, being still annoyed by their great numbers, at last sought the advice of Trajan, the reigning emperor He was only a child when the "persecution of Christians by Nero" supposedly took place but his guardian Verginius Rufus was a high-placed commander at the time, loyal to Nero. Following Nero's suicide, Rufus actually declined an offer from the army of the Rhine to become emperor himself. Any "lurid massacre" of Christians, if it had taken place, could have been told to Pliny as a child — but in later life he recalls no such thing. At the age of 17 Pliny inherited his uncle's extensive estates after the elder Pliny died in the eruption of Vesuvius. Rich and talented, and with impeccable connections to the highest echelons of the Roman state, Pliny began a distinguished career. He served on the imperial staff in Syria, a centre — one is led to believe — of energetic Christian activity, but again it left no mark on Pliny. Rising rapidly through the ranks of quaestor, tribune and praetor, while still in his thirties the bright young aristocrat was appointed state prosecutor at four major public trials of provincial governors. Such a career would have made any incumbent aware of "persecution" of Christians, if indeed there had ever been any such thing. But Pliny reports none of it. Pliny survived the persecution of the Stoic opposition during the reign of Domitian The emperor actually made him a senator, even though several of Pliny's Stoic friends were executed. Subsequently Pliny went on to become consul, state priest, and finally, governor of Bithynia-Pontus. Curious, is it not, that such a well-placed, well-educated Roman grandee, directly and intimately involved in the Roman judicial system at the highest levels, and a friend of historians Tacitus and Suetonius, should — in the second decade of the 2nd century — remain so ignorant of Christians and the persecution of them — unless, that is, they were nothing other than an obscure, and insignificant bunch of fanatics and the "persecution" is a fable? For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age. But the unwary can be misled by this reference. It was a name used by both slaves and freemen and is attested more than eighty times in Latin inscriptions.
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