Falling meteor may have changed the course of Christianity

Apr 30, 2015

By Jacob Aron

Nearly two thousand years ago, a man named Saul had an experience that changed his life, and possibly yours as well. According to Acts of the Apostles, the fifth book of the biblical New Testament, Saul was on the road to Damascus, Syria, when he saw a bright light in the sky, was blinded and heard the voice of Jesus. Changing his name to Paul, he became a major figure in the spread of Christianity.

William Hartmann, co-founder of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, has a different explanation for what happened to Paul. He says the biblical descriptions of Paul’s experience closely match accounts of the fireball meteor seen above Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013.

Hartmann has detailed his argument in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science (doi.org/3vn). He analyses three accounts of Paul’s journey, thought to have taken place around AD 35. The first is a third-person description of the event, thought to be the work of one of Jesus’s disciples, Luke. The other two quote what Paul is said to have subsequently told others.

“Everything they are describing in those three accounts in the book of Acts are exactly the sequence you see with a fireball,” Hartmann says. “If that first-century document had been anything other than part of the Bible, that would have been a straightforward story.”

But the Bible is not just any ancient text. Paul’s Damascene conversion and subsequent missionary journeys around the Mediterranean helped build Christianity into the religion it is today. If his conversion was indeed as Hartmann explains it, then a random space rock has played a major role in determining the course of history (see “Christianity minus Paul“).


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68 comments on “Falling meteor may have changed the course of Christianity

  • This assumes that there was an actual event that needs an explanation. IF, IF such a tale was near contemporaneous the likely explanation is that a power freak in a credulous age invented a fantastic story to justify a political change of direction.
    I mean; only Saul was blinded not any of his companions.
    The only mystery is why there is still an industry for discussing these ancient, ignorant fairy tales.



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  • Before the event on the road to Damascus, Paul was, of course, known as Saul of Tarsus. Saul had very close connections to the Jerusalem Temple, especially the Pharisees and Sadducees and was also a Roman citizen. He was charged by the Temple elite to “persecute” the Christians as being heretical. You will recall that at that time, the Christian “church” did not exist. Rather, the followers of Jesus were considered a messianic sect or cult of the Jewish faith. As such, they were not only a threat to the status quo of the Temple but also of the Roman occupancy. After Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus and subsequent conversion to Christianity, he almost immediately had clashes with the leaders of the Jesus Movement as to whether or not non-Jews should be allowed to become members of the movement. The disciples of Jesus were almost all not in favor of that. It has been posited by others that Saul, rather than being a genuine Christian, was actually an “undercover agent” of either the Romans or the Temple elite or both. The argument is that, by opening the movement to non-Jews and emphasizing the “Peace Principles” of Jesus’ teachings, Paul removed the threat to the Romans of the militaristic aspects of the general messianic movement gaining strength at the time. Whether or not Paul was indeed a “spy”, the result was the same. The Jesus Movement became non-violent in nature and less of a threat to the Temple establishment with the majority of its members being non-Jewish. I find it an interesting theory which could explain many things about the life of Paul, including how he was able to miraculously escape from a Roman prison (the guards were made to fall asleep by an angel of God). I wonder if prisoner escapes were common happenings. What do YOU think?



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  • Has someone produced evidence that a notable meteor impacted the atmosphere at this time? It’s the kind of event chroniclers would notice!

    I don’t mean some little streaks of light like the Perseids I have watched at night in the mountains.

    He analyses three accounts of Paul’s journey, thought to have taken place around AD 35.

    The only reference I can find of anything near, is here:-

    http://worldtimeline.info/impact/

    44 BCE (approximate)A daylight comet passing close to the Earth creates a dust veil over Italy, possibly from large fragment impacts. [521

    May 22, 12 BCEA daytime meteor shower, possibly Zeta Perseid observed in China. [1]

    312Emperor Constantine likely witnesses a meteor strike in central Italy (modern-day Cratere del Sirente), with numerous secondary craters. [521]



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  • What the hell did I just read? How is this even close to being any kind of science? Is William Hartmann a scientist? If he is he’d better turn in his wizard’s hat immediately. This is all bullshit as far as I’m concerned. Show me the evidence for the meteor. Show me people in other areas, like the Chinese recording the event. And what’s with the welder’s flash reference? Do exploding meteors emit strong UV? I’ve never heard of that.



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  • Given you have no evidence of a meteor any where near Paul’s day or location, this seems just as much as stretch as the day that stood still or the star resting over Bethlehem. It might begin to be a story if you found a meteor and dated it. This is just wild speculation.



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  • 312 – Emperor Constantine likely witnesses a meteor strike in central Italy (modern-day Cratere del Sirente), with numerous secondary craters. [521]

    312 AD is reasonably near, and a bit before, the time the NT gospels were being chosen and edited for the purpose of the Roman Empire, but I would still go with the epileptic seizure hypothesis.



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  • A long time ago I heard the story in this way:

    Saulus the tentmaker was on his pursuit of christians one day when he got a sunstroke. Then the one donkey fell off the other. He was then taken in and cared for by people who turned out to be christians. He subsequently changed his mind about them, but he found them to be an unordered bunch. He spent the rest of his life trying to impose order and discipline on them.



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  • The Bayeux Tapestry depicts Halley’s Comet. If this hypothesised meteor were real, you would think someone else would have made a note of this meteor 33–36AD.

    This was not just a blinding light according to St. Paul. It was a disembodied voice that others heard too. Paul was blinded but not his companions.

    As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

    “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

    “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

    The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
    —Acts 9:3–9, NIV

    The most likely explanation is the story was just made up like nearly everything else in the bible.



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  • The meteor theory leaves much, very much, to be desired, given A) there is no record of a meteor appearing at that time and B) Saul was the only person to have ‘seen’ it. My own theory, just as valid (or invalid), is that he had what modern medicine describes as an “aura”. They are a disturbance in the wiring between the eyes and the brain, and I have them frequently myself. A big aura presents a circle of neon-like zig-zags or a swirling and pulsing circumference around a blind spot. The spot grows until it takes up much of the field of vision and then, abruptly stops. The phenomenon is known by every doctor, and is usually associated with migraine headaches, but not always. This would account for the event being personal and involving temporary blindness. It’s a terrifying experience unless someone explains to you that it is biochemical and apparently not dangerous (unless you are flying a plane) and it’s also easy to understand how a primitive person might envision god as a pulsing light.
    The Mayo clinic calls them “ocular migraine” since they are sometimes painless. Here’s the link, if you’re interested.
    http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/expert-answers/ocular-migraine/faq-20058113



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  • My own theory, just as valid (or invalid), is that he had what modern medicine describes as an “aura”.

    As one who has had a few of these, this seems a much more plausible explanation than a meteor, an enormous omen, that no one else sees for records. I could imagine back in those times how scarey one of these would be. The first time I every had one is was truly frightening. I was off to emergency because I had no idea what was going wrong….

    I also suspect the reference to Saul being blind for 3 days may not refer to actual blindness, but is a reference to him being “Blind” to the true faith, and needed a little convincing until he could “See” the truth. Sounds like a typical bible metaphor.



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  • Stories become conflated over time. The story of a canny farmer, who protected his livestock from a flood, becomes mixed with folk memories of the post glacial flooding of the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf (Garden of Eden).

    The History Channel produced a very plausible account linking the escape of Moses and the plagues of Egypt, with the explosion of Thira. Moses probably hi-tailed it over the swamps of the Nile delta, and on another occasion Pharaoh’s army was wiped out by the tsunami from Thira. The plagues of Egypt followed in short order, due to dust storms, flooding, smoke and poisoned gasses resulting from the eruption. Conflation.

    Derrida examines the story of Jacob’s fight with the angel. It becomes obvious that it is a merging of two older stories, one an ordeal story, from the most primitive of oral traditions, the other an heroic account of a battle for land, access etc. Smart readers will notice that there are two differing accounts of the fight, in the one story.

    You don’t have to get hot under the collar and say that it’s all made up, it almost certainly isn’t. The bible is a potpourri of folk tales, mostly derived from real events.

    Some doctors even read the bible in terms of medical diagnosis. One finding that amuses me is the case of Job. He did penance in sackcloth and ashes and to increase the penalty, the Lord, always a nice bloke, covered him in an ulcer from head to foot. In a rare moment of sympathy God told him to put away the sackcloth, and the ulcer disappeared. He had an allergy to sackcloth!

    In Victoria there is an area of lowland volcanism which has been dormant for 4 000 years. The local Aboriginies have stories of fire coming fom the ground: folk tales have very long lives, and plenty of time to conflate and become embellished.



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  • I also suspect the reference to Saul being blind for 3 days may not refer to actual blindness, but is a reference to him being “Blind” to the true faith

    But wouldn’t that require him to have been blind all along?



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  • I have these too. They are mostly enjoyable and painless and happen when a major stressful period ends. They can be spectacular starting with the disappearance of the centre field of vision and then yield an expanding C-shape culminating on one occasion with a glorious golden C as if a stained glass window, with zig-zag divisions of red, green and blue glass and lustrous golden “leading” and surround.

    Three day blindness sounds like one of my “weekenders” with a sustained period of missing centre field after one of the spectacular blinders.

    I can now bring these to an earlier conclusion having found that this little circle and then ring of chaos in the visual cortex is the result of a chemically increased liability of cells to trigger and that (most probably) there is a kind of local area visual howl round where cell outputs get to spuriously trigger adjacent inputs, in an ephaptic (leaky) coupling sort of way and expanding as neurotransmitters are depleted and sensitivity declines in the start/central region. Visual input can keep the effect going or worsen it. Looking at trees and line segmenty things makes it howl more. Closing your eyes helps a bit but brains confabulate with no input at all. But the very best is to look up to heaven and the puffy white clouds. These soft edged curves elicit nothing from the edge generation detectors we know we have (the source of the zig zags), but keep our brains from making things up as there is some input…er…clearly. Heaven, stained glass, the letter C. Who wouldn’t start the Cult of Christ only for his Church later to be called Catholicism?

    But, seriously, I think this is a better contender than an epileptic attack (neurally very similar though.)



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  • And what is the source for all this detail that you appear to be taking on faith? Why that well known objective and critical text “The Bible”.
    There are people who believe that “The X Files” is a documentary!
    Loved the bit about “The Jesus Movement became non-violent in nature …” oh the irony.
    What do I think? I said so above. Here is an opportunist with shrewd political acumen knowing that there is a bottomless pit of suckers for new religions. Saul, Paul, Jerry Falwell…. by their lies and deceit ye shall know them



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  • Correlation does not imply causation. But first you’ve got to put your finger on the correlation.
    Aw, let’s just take Paul’s word for it. After all, he was there.



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  • But wouldn’t that require him to have been blind all along?

    Not sure if I quite follow your point. Saul was an opponent of the breakaway Jews. The bible uses terms like “Blind” to refer to people not of their group. So when Saul’s “Sight” was restored, he became a supporter of the Jesus faction. When Jesus performs a miracle and restores some blind persons sight, he didn’t heal their retina, he got them to “See” that his was the way of the light. They could “See” again. Same as risen from the dead. A reference to excommunication and then re-admittance back into the group. Both loaves and fishes events are AGM’s where they count how many followers they have. “A few baskets left over”. They didn’t have a round number. There are lots of simple explanations for stuff in the bible. The Vine and Fig are two factions in Rome.

    None of the events in the bible are miracles in the true sense, that is, events that required the laws of physics to be broken for suspended for a period of time. Pretty boring actually.



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  • The bible uses terms like “Blind” to refer to people not of their group. So when Saul’s “Sight” was restored, he became a supporter of the Jesus faction.

    But Saul was able to see before the incident, at a time when he was a vociferous and committed oppenent of the Christians.

    Both loaves and fishes events are AGM’s where they count how many followers they have. “A few baskets left over”. They didn’t have a round number.

    I’m not sure what AGMs are here (I presume they’re not Annual General Meetings). But there were twelve baskets of left overs, weren’t there?



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  • Aaah. The scales of blindness are falling from my eyes. You do consider the feeding of the multitudes accounts to have been Annual General Meetings, presumably with the agenda:

    Apologies for absence. (Mary busy planning apparitions; John the Baptist not feeling well having recently lost his head.)

    Raft building as a bonding exercise.

    Healing workshop.

    Census.

    Environmental clean up.

    AOB. (Suggestion from floor that women and children be included in next year’s count. Suggestion rejected by acclaim by those eligible to vote (men).)

    Date of next meeting. Jerusalem at the start of Holy Week. Bring your own palm leaf.



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  • Hmm, I’m getting into this biblical interpretation stuff. I wonder if the Parable of the Talents might have been an account of a membership drive.

    “Servants” wishing to be part of the Apostles’ Circle hand over 5000 Talents a year and get privileged access to “The Master”.
    “Supporters” wishing to be part of the Pharisees’ Circle hand over 1 Talent a year and get sent a photocopied version of The Book Of Lamentations.



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  • The scales of blindness are falling from my eyes.

    Ewan. Do I detect a little ridicule and sarcasm in your response.

    This is an explanation from a Dr of Theology. It makes more sense that 5000 actual people sitting down to a bread and fish meal in the wilderness, courtesy of the suspension of the laws of physics for a few hours. Why is this in all four gospels. Must be important. Why is the virgin birth in only two gospels. Not so important?? Why does Jesus berate his disciples for not understanding the maths….

    The story of Jesus feeding thousands of people with a few loaves and fishes is the only one, apart from the Passion, that is found in all four gospels. Yet it must be the second most unbelievable, and the second silliest, after the walking on water. Did the evangelists not notice that they were doing nothing for the theological significance of Jesus by presenting him as a thaumaturge, a popular miracle worker who performed tricks for no necessary reason? (John 6:1-14; Mark 6:30-44; Mark 8:1-21; Luke 9:10-17; Matthew 14:13-21; Matthew 15:32-39)

    In two of the gospels, Mark and Matthew, he did it twice.The first time he fed 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish, and 12 baskets of leftover fragments were gathered up afterwards. The second time, he fed 4000 people with 7 loaves and a few fish, and 7 baskets of fragments were gathered up. All very precise. If it was a myth, as liberal biblical scholars have held, why would the evangelists go out of their way to make up exact figures?

    In Mark’s gospel, the second occasion was followed by the Riddle of the Loaves. Jesus rebuked the disciples for not understanding the meaning of the figures. “When I broke the 5 loaves for the 5000, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They answered him, “12”. He went on, “And the 7 for the 4000, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “7”. He said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” But who would?

    It was the late Austin Farrer, an English scholar and theologian, whose books first aroused my interest in the Riddle of the Loaves. Despite the derision of his critics, whose reviews I read in the journals, he said that the figures must mean something, and pointed to other sections of Mark’s gospel that seem to be constructed according to numerical schemes.

    To his insights may be added the flood of new information from the Dead Sea Scrolls about the Essenes, who practiced Pythagorean numerical systems.

    The feeding of the multitude is found in all four gospels because it is the record of the foundation of the Christian apostolic succession. From that point, the Christian ministry began, with ordinations that began the transmission of priestly authority from those times to the present.

    The 12 sacred loaves of the Presence were eaten every day by the Essene priests and celibates. They could be served and eaten only by a priest or a celibate of equal “purity”. A loaf was a symbol of a priest or levite. They were so precious that when they were broken and eaten the fragments falling from them were collected and given to the leaders of the pilgrims who had brought to Qumran the grain needed to make the loaves, giving them a degree of sanctity. The custom had gone on for centuries, and in the time of Jesus, when a revolution in the ascetic movement was taking place, celibate Gentiles were classed with pilgrims. They were given the fragments, a daring move.

    But that was not enough for the party of Jesus. Gentiles were being given equality, and they were now given equality of priesthood. The lowest kind of Gentiles were made equal to the highest level of Essene priests, made into “loaves”. When Jesus’ Gentile party broke away, these men were its priests, made so by ordination not by birth. The “fish” with which they were also fed were the Gentiles initiated in the Noah’s ark ceremony (See “Walking on Water” in this Section and pesher of John 21).

    There were not 5000 men present, only one man, the head of the whole sub-division of the 12000 Gentiles who – on the model of the Pythagorean right-angled triangle – were divided 3 (3000), 4 (4000) and 5 (5000). The 5000 were the lowest grade, equal to married men who had meetings every month, 12 times a year, under 12 leaders, the “baskets”. The 4000 were a higher grade, holding meetings every day of the week, so used 7 loaves, their leaders forming 7 “baskets”. The 3000 appear in Acts 2:41, under a different kind of leadership appearing only once a year; these did not continue in the system in this form.

    This was the history behind the bread in the Christian communion service. The wine part came from another “miracle”. I’ll give more on that later on.



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  • I wonder if the Parable of the Talents might have been an account of a membership drive…

    Now you are getting the hidden meanings grasshopper. Would you like to have a go at the Wedding Feast of Canna(?) turning water into wine? What does this really mean.



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  • “Servants” wishing to be part of the Apostles’ Circle hand over 5000 Talents a year and get privileged access to “The Master”.

    If I cough up will they stop this insanely annoying side pop out ad?



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  • To return to the subject of hallucinations, (mine and Saul’s) I would go one step further. Although I am pretty stable person (honest! ask the man in the white coat over there) with no emotional investment in my ocular outbursts, I also have the occasional auditory event, that is, a rough, loud sound that comes from inside my brain. Being emotionally stable (see above) I know this is also simply one of the quirks of my cerebral ‘wiring’ and ignore the sounds when they occur (usually when I am very tired). But if I can have both visual and auditory ‘events’ then so can millions of others, including Saul. If they happened to occur together, imagine how easy it would be for a superstitious primitive to imagine they had a supernatural source, when in fact, they are a banal hiccough in the human brain.

    P.S. I am surprised to learn that two men here have experienced the migraine ‘aura’. I had thought it was related somehow to female hormones. So much for my medical expertise.



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  • But if I can have both visual and auditory ‘events’ then so can millions of others…

    Nice post. Chortle.

    I try to imagine what it would have been like back before we had scientific explanations. Everyday occurrences they we ignore because we know “Why” were huge events. No wonder there were so many angels and demons, devils and witches. I wonder what would happen if some clever guy collected all this stuff in a book…

    I am surprised to learn that two men here have experienced the migraine ‘aura’.

    I’ve just checked Justine, and I am male. Scared the hell out of me (And Saul) the first time I had one.



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  • The two books to read are “Hallucinations” and “Migraine” by neurologist and migraineur Oliver Sacks.

    3 to 10% of people experience regular to occasional private head voices. 75% have the odd occasion of clearly hearing their name called in busy places. Losing my high end hearing I experience tinnitus (an hallucination) and hear expected phones and alarms mistakenly on a regular basis. I hear my name in busy places quite reguarly too. Richard Gregory explains that cognition is built on an expectation as the first hypothesis of what is sensed. Sacks explains that sensory and other deficits often produce made up material to plug the gap,

    Painful migraines affect more areas than the visual cortex. Hearing is often involved and, like central region blindness, results in muffled hearing and tinnitus. These two sensory deficits (due to neural noise blocking) create the ideal basis for some material in your poorly Pauline head to be manifested. Conversion from confabulation.

    I vaguely recall its variously about vaso-constriction in the brain causing glucose and oxygen deficits, affecting cell sensitivities, vaso-dilator nitric oxide and (a little voice tells me) nitro glycerine (???!), which might explain why sufferers feel their heads might explode. I could be wrong here…



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  • These two sensory deficits (due to neural noise blocking) create the ideal basis for some material in your poorly Pauline head to be manifested. Conversion from confabulation.

    Wouldn’t you then expect Paul to have reported regular messages from God, since presumably the migraine wouldn’t be a one off?



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  • I agree with Phil,

    Scientists are allowed to use their imaginations when forming hypotheses – so long as they have some evidence to base it on. They’re not allowed to use their imaginations when seeking further evidence to test a hypothesis or in their interpretation of evidence where that interpretation breaks the scientific consensus.

    Philoctetes and Roedy touch on the problem that the historical reality (historicity) of Saul of Tarsus is somewhat undermined by the fact that the only evidence we have is the Bible. Plus, there does seem to be a lack of record for a closely-date-matched meteor strike near the Eastern Mediteranean / Middle East.

    These are the kinds of problems that archeologists and historians struggle with every day. What sources to trust, and by how much – and if something is suggested or alluded to, but not recorded or only recorded by one source … well you get the picture.

    The hypothesis in the OP is one that is based on some available evidence. Some of that evidence is, unquestionably given how we know it has been ‘edited’ over the intervening centuries, of a highly questionable quality. Nevertheless, Phil remains wholly correct, it is still a scientific hypothesis.

    Peace.



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  • The possibility that Saul was affected by a falling meteor is certainly a scientific hypothesis. But I’m not so sure about the “changing the course of Christianity” stuff. That’s just if-Hitler-had-died-as-a-child-would-there-have-been-a-second-world-war futurology. Great for historical fiction but unlikely to be appearing in Nature any time soon.



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  • Not necessarily. The terror of the first one, his unpurposed anxiety at the time and the wish thinking to be spared, might never be matched subsequently with a more self satisfied Saul and then having having a number of lesser missed or unintended “calls”, kind of took the gloss off it/them? It could be later messages were a bit personal. You’ve done good, Saul and he thought these were too self serving. Maybe it just made a better story this way.

    Maybe God lost that Better Call Saul card, his new law bringer had had printed up, down the back of the divine sofa?



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  • Hi Ewan,

    I agree wholeheartedly. Working on such a hypothesis would tend to undermine the basis of Christianity, but would be very unlikely to actually change the nature of faith – and the churches of today would thus give every appearance of being untouched by it.

    We have many examples to show that such a project is still-born among church hierarchies and those for whom the dogma handed down is enough; The Shroud of Turin and the highly questionable alignment of the biblical record even of Christ himself with his supposed historicity spring to mind. You can lead the faithful to the stream of fact, but you can’t make them drink its refreshing, liberating, waters of truth.

    But it is better for us to not fight dogma with dogma. This kind of analysis does help those who are wavering. At the very least such projects suggest to the Waverer that there may be alternative explanations.

    The story of many who de-convert begins with doubt. The religions themselves are fully aware of this – the bible story of Job is a fine example of preaching the benefits of faith over apparent counter-evidence. If. a religious person is a True Believer (as opposed to a social associate, cultural hostage, or superstitious fairy fancier) doubt is how we reach them.

    To believe that Saul became Paul through his Damascene conversion is to trust, faithfully, in the story of Paul. Evidence to the contrary – and that has at least as good a pedigree as the evidence that supports the story – should be explored, published and lauded.

    Peace.



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  • To believe that Saul became Paul through his Damascene conversion…

    It’s neither here nor there but he always had both names; Saul was his Hebrew name but, his father being a Roman citizen, he also had the Roman name, Paul.



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  • Hi Ewan,

    Yes, neither here nor there.

    Allow for a little poetry, Ewan. It may be beauty without substance, other than its own form, but on the other hand there is little enough to celebrate in this vale of tears.

    Peace.



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  • Ewan, actually he did. Thus all those epistles.

    The Epistles weren’t prohecies, passing on messages from God; they were more instructive texts, explaining God’s message.



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  • Riiiiiiight.

    If you look at the books of the prophets, at some early stage they say something along the lines of This is the Lord’s message to Joel; God revealed to Amos all these things about Israel; This is the message that the Lord revealed to the prophet Habakkuk etc.

    There is nothing like that in Paul’s Epistles. They are letters written to different Christian groups and individuals in which Paul sets out and explains God’s message. They are not accounts of messages which Paul has personally received from God.



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  • Well, I’m so glad we cleared THAT up.

    But I’ll go with Eddie Izzard. “You arrogant git, writing a letter to a whole city. Whose idea was it to be pen pals with this guy, anyhow?”



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  • But I’ll go with Eddie Izzard. “You arrogant git, writing a letter to a whole city.

    He didn’t. He wrote To the church of God which is in Corinth; To the churches of Galatia; To God’s people in Ephesus and the like.

    But let’s not let the facts get in the way of a witty sneer.



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  • Stephen, I also agree with Phil.

    I think I’m right in saying that scientific inquiry has never found a scintilla of evidence for the Exodus.

    Surely a meteor strike only two thousand years ago would have left ample evidence.

    However, even if conclusive evidence was to be found that there was indeed a meteor strike at that very place and at that precise time, I doubt the faithful would change their mind one iota.

    Religious belief’s a funny old thing; funny peculiar that is.



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  • Ewan
    May 2, 2015 at 9:23 am

    It’s neither here nor there but he always had both names; Saul was his Hebrew name but, his father being a Roman citizen, he also had the Roman name, Paul.

    If he was wanting to look like one of the boys in a hebrew gathering, or if he wanted to be seen as an figure of authority, that would be convenient!



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  • Hi Stafford,

    I also agree with Phil.

    WHOO-HOO!

    I think I’m right in saying that scientific inquiry has never found a scintilla of evidence for the Exodus.

    That is my understanding too.

    Surely a meteor strike only two thousand years ago would have left ample evidence.

    One would think so. Still, written (pictographic, verbal, etc.) histories are far from complete.

    However, even if conclusive evidence was to be found that there was indeed a meteor strike at that very place and at that precise time, I doubt the faithful would change their mind one iota.

    Oh I don’t know. The religious are not usually shy when it comes to accepting evidence that supports the historicity of figures from scripture. They get so little.

    God sent the meteorite, and the visions, obviously. The meteor was merely His tool for the Damascene conversion and the founding of the Gentile churches.

    God then moved in mysterious ways to ensure the Romans invaded Judea, and Jerusalem in particular, and destroyed The Way and all the original disciples; all those who actually knew JC.

    This theology stuff really isn’t’ at all difficult.

    Religious belief’s a funny old thing; funny peculiar that is.

    Not sure about that either. Funny in a so-scary-I-laugh-hysterically kind of way … maybe.

    Peace.



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  • Stafford Gordon
    May 3, 2015 at 5:27 am

    I think I’m right in saying that scientific inquiry has never found a scintilla of evidence for the Exodus.

    I have heard it said, that a tsunami from the Santorini eruption, could have drowned a few Egyptians in the Reed Sea marshland area near the Nile delta, and given rise to some folk stories – probably adapted later.



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  • If Paul (Saint) had suffered the horrors of migraines, he would not have been impressed by the
    comparatively mild suffering of crucifixion enough to make a religion out of it.



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  • They are letters written to different Christian groups and individuals in which Paul sets out and explains God’s message.

    I, and many others in this forum have asked true believers this question over and over and over again, and not one has been able to give an answer. Ewan. Do you want to have a crack.

    If you are god, and you are writing some instructions for how you want us to live, do you think you could write down some clear, precise statements that don’t need any interpretation. Why, if god’s messages was so poorly worded all through the old testament, and again in the new testament, why do we need Paul to “Explain God’s Message.”

    If god was working for me, writing Standard Operating Procedures for all humanity for eternity, I would have sent it back to do it again. And if he still couldn’t clearly communicate with his audience, he would have been assigned to the warehouse counting widgets.

    Or….. The books were all written by men of their time, with the agenda’s of that time clearly reflected in the writings.



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  • why do we need Paul to “Explain God’s Message.”

    I’m a Catholic and Catholics are often characterised as mindless sheep who simply do what they are told. But that’s not the way it works. We Catholics, along with all believers and non-believers, make our own decisions as to how we live our lives and we’re responsible for those decisions.

    You seem to be suggesting that God should have made it clear through the Bible what every person should do in every conceivable situation. You are suggesting that there should be no need for people to work things out for themselves; they should simply look up the Great Instruction Booklet and follow the appropriate procedure.

    Thank goodness, life is a lot more complicated and interesting than that. Through the Bible, we learn the story of God’s people and how they stumbled through history continually messing up. We learn the beauty and wonder of God’s Creation. We learn of our redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus. And we learn something of what it is to try to live a life of love.

    Many people find the Bible dull, uninteresting and even repellent. That’s life. I find many of the annual Booker Prize shortlist fairly unreadable. But as a means of support, guidance and help for living my life, the Bible sounds entirely preferable to a collection of Standard Operating Procedures.



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  • That you Ewan. I think I get it. God writes a book that can be interpreted anyway you want, with conflicting paragraphs so you can cheery pick what you want, to test you to see if you live a good life, and spot the good bits in the bible and weed out the bad. That sounds like a way to run a universe. Orrr….. The books were written by men, trying to imagine what god would want, and as each author had a shot, they got it a bit different. Like Paul

    I have to disagree with this paragraph however. Are you in deep trouble now.

    We Catholics, along with all believers and non-believers, make our own decisions as to how we live our lives and we’re responsible for those decisions.

    No you don’t. RCC’s have great reams of SOP’s. I’m going to tell the Pope on you. Fancy thinking you were “make our own decisions .”



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  • We Catholics, along with all believers and non-believers, make our own decisions as to how we live our lives and we’re responsible for those decisions.

    If this were true, we could all pack up here and go home.

    Why Catholic?



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  • We Catholics, along with all believers and non-believers, make our own decisions as to how we live our lives and we’re responsible for those decisions.

    In what way is it not true? The Catholic Church offers teaching and guidance but, in the end, the decisions that are made are ours, and we have to live with them.



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  • we (Catholics) learn something of what it is to try to live a life of love.

    Ah yes, agape love. I’m familiar with that particular Catholic theology.

    The Rotenburg cannibal, Armin Meiwes, ate his boyfriend after confusing him for a communion wafer under the influence of agape love. Not a trivial error. A highly intelligent and reputable computer technician he badly confused his gay lover for the actual flesh of Jesus, so badly damaged was his love map by Catholic indoctrination.
    Meiwes is considered sane and yet he piously believed that eating someone you loved would generate the ultimate rush, akin to Holy Communion.

    With every piece of flesh that I ate, I remembered him. It was like taking communion,’ Meiwes testified.
    Adjudged mentally sound (both clinically and legally) bright-spark Armin confused his cracker theology with the reality of forbidden sexuality.

    Josef Fritzl is another devoted Catholic whose love map was damaged by indoctrination. He raped his own daughter from age 11, keeping her and their offspring imprisoned in a dungeon beneath his house for years.
    Agape love gone mad again?
    Transubstantiation is demonstrably a psychotic belief.



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  • The Catholic Church offers teaching and guidance

    Which you identify with. Why this identity? It just so happens to align with your current free spirited moral views? How susceptible to new evidence of harms (the effects of sexism say or the virtues of condoms etc.) is your identity? Why not the Quakers (deeds not dogma) where religion met the Enlightenment and sent out people purposed by their own free will?

    (I think people here are starting to realise I am on a ten percent kick back for each new recruit…)



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  • Why this identity?

    It was a result of fairly unsubtle nudging by the Holy Spirit (the same Holy Spirit whose guidance Quakers seek at their meetings.)



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  • My parents were neither Catholic nor particularly religious.

    I wonder if any studies have been done on the proportion of children of non-religious parents who are non-religious.



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  • Atheists produce the most variegated offspring in terms of beliefs a survey published here revealed. Stricter religious parents produced the most uniformly similar offspring.



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  • Believers response: so, God sent a meteor to give Saul/Paul a bit of a nudge in the right direction. Nice of Science to propose a mechanism other than the usual hallucination/siezure stuff. So what? No faith is likely to be shaken even slightly by this discussion.

    As an Unbeliever myself, this topic seems a waste of time.



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  • Now that’s a story worth telling. No meteors, no miracles, just sunstroke and some kindly folks who got to Make A Difference. If I was to believe in gods, I’d want them to be ones that worked that way. All that showy meteor stuff, smiting and flooding and general intimidation, no, those ones I’d definitely kick out.



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  • I always thought the Loaves & Fishes thing was just another version of Stone Soup. The only Miracle was getting people to share what they’d brought. Hardly a Miracle, unless you want to make some disparaging racial/cultural comment as a cheap joke.



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  • Anecdotal report: I’ve had a one-off migraine. So I’d expect others can too. So much for your “presumably”, Ewan.

    My thoughts at the time: so THIS is what a migraine is like. Headache, light was painful, visual fireworks, especially very annoying zigzag effects, don’t want another. Thankfully, I didn’t, at least not in the intervening 30 years, but I did gain insight into the plight of regular sufferers.



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