Saturday, March 08, 2008

Eutychian Errata, thanks to Waltz's Rejoinder

Please note, this post has a high chance of getting date bumped into oblivion, because it is not a high priority.

David Waltz has responded to my previous post via his own blog.

He alleges two errors:

Error #1 – Alexandria was in full control of the Fatimids, NOT the Sunnis, during the period that Eutychius was Patriarch.

Quite right. That was my mistake. I have updated the original post to correct that error.

Error #2 – “your position” has NOTHING to do at all with the Nicene period that Eutychius was commenting on. He was merely supplying historical information on some of the diverse sects that attended the council. (Nice try though.)

This sword has two edges, if it has nothing to do with my position, the question everyone should be asking is: "why did you bring it up?" But I gladly agree that it has very little do with my position. I don't think I claimed it does have much to do with the position I presented, and on reviewing my original post, I don't see any contrary evidence.

Speaking of evidence, I gather that we will not be seeing any further or supporting evidence for the supposed existence of FSM-trinitarians at the time of Mohamed, to provide an excuse for Muslim scholars who do not wish to admit that their prophet erred, and that the Koran is not inspired.


Friday, March 07, 2008

Were there ever FSM-Trinitarians?

In a previous post, we have demonstrated that Surah 5 of the Koran was directed at Christianity (and Judaism) generally, but with some errors regarding the discussion of the Trinity.

Some folks (most Muslim, but now one Roman Catholic) would like to imagine that Mohamed was not addressing Christianity, but rather some sect that held to a Trinity of Allah, Jesus, and Mary, which we refer to (for convenience) as FSM-trinitarianism.

Leaving aside the internal evidence of Surah 5 (which defeats that argument), there is a dearth of external evidence to substantiate the existence of such a sect.

David Waltz, the Roman Catholic mentioned above, quoted the following:

"The three gods in the Koran (c. 4, p. 81, c. 5, p. 92) are obviously directed against our Catholic mystery: but the Arabic commentators understand them of the Father, the Son, and the Virgin Mary, an heretical Trinity, maintained, as it is said, by some Barbarians at the Council of Nice, (Eutych. Annal. tom. i. p. 440.) But the existence of the Marianites is denied by the candid Beausobre, (Hist. de Manicheisme, tom. i. p. 532;) and he derives the mistake from the word Roxah, the Holy Ghost, which in some Oriental tongues is of the feminine gender, and is figuratively styled the mother of Christ in the Gospel of the Nazarenes." (Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch. 50, The Modern Library edition (n.d.), pp. 81, 82.)

Before we get to the rest of the analysis, it's important to note:

1. That Gibbon, the historian providing the discussion, confirms the opinion set forth in my previous post, namely that Mohamed is attempting to interact with the doctrine of the Trinity. In fact, he goes so far as to say that it is obvious.

2. Gibbon notes that there is a dissent by the "Arabic commentators," and identifies their source, but does not endorse that dissent.

3. Gibbon, in fact, cites evidence that undermines the dissent, and provides an explanation as to how Mohamed may have been confused by feminine reference to the Holy Ghost.

Incidentally, one can read the matter in context here: (link).

David wrote:

Until I read the above, I had never heard of attendees of the Councial of Nicea maintaining of a view of the Trinity that consisted of “the Father, the Son, and the Virgin Mary”. (any errors in original)

That's not surprising of course. Gibbon mentions such evidence, but dismisses it. It's interesting to note what David seems to observe and what he seems to overlook. Nevertheless, while we could simply dismiss the matter with Gibbon, let's dig deeper into the matter.

David continued:

"Gibbon’s reference is to Eutychius’ (10th century Patriarch of Alexandria, and noted historian) Annals. This work is found in volume 111 of Migne’s Patrologiæ Græca, a volume, which until this morning, I did not have access to. I wanted to check Migne’s before mentioning Gibbon. " (any errors in original)

Eutychius was a 10th century Melkite Patriarch in Alexandria. He reigned in the Coptic church in Egypt during a time when he was surrounded by the ruling majority of Fatamid Muslims. To maintain the position I presented on the previous page would have been dangerous to his health. As an interesting aside, he was also a Young Earth Creationist (placing Creation 5,500 years years before Christ).

There are several salient facts:

1) Eutychius lived more than 500 years after the council of Nicea.

2) Eutychius did not cite any evidence to support his claim, or explain in any way how he obtained this supposed information regarding Nicean attendees.

3) Eutychius' claim was only that there were some who showed up at the Nicean council with such views. Eutychius, for example, did not even claim that they left with those views. Furthermore, Eutychius does not suggest that these folks left spiritual descendants that survived for centuries until the time of Mohamed.

4) Eutychius is criticized for his weakness as an historian, by historians such as E. W. Kemp and C. Wilfrid Griggs (adopting Kemp's position) (link). Likewise David Cook indicated (and Gary W. Kronk adopted) that the Annales are "riddled with errors." (link) See also, for similar comments (Philip Rousseau) (William Smith et al.) (William Scott et al.) (cf. response of Eutychian supporter)

Dave continued by providing a quotation:

Here is the quote from Migne’s: Mittens ergo Constantius rex in omnes passim regiones, patriarchas et episcopos convocavit, adeo ut post annum et duos menses Niceæ convenirent his mille quadraginta octo episcopi, sententiis et religionibus inter se discrepantes. Erant ex illia qui affirmarent Christum et Matrem ipsius duos esse deus præter Deuni [summon :] errant hi Barbari, et Marianitæ audierunt. (Patrologiæ Græca, Tomus CXI, col. 1005, sec. 439-440.) (errors in Waltz's transcription are his own)

The correct quotation in key part is actually, "Erant ex illia qui affirmarent Christum et Matrem ipsius duos esse deos praeter Deum [summum:] erant hi Barbari, et Marianitae audierunt." which being roughly translated is: "There were among them those that affirmed Christ and his Mother to be two gods besides God [the most high:] there were here Barbarians and Marianites heard."

Furthermore, of course, this is only the Latin translation of what was presumably an Arabic original.

The full page can be read here (right hand column, clustered around the 440). A partial reproduction is shown below, click to expand the image for easier reading.

David concluded: "So, as you can now see for yourself, we now have Christian source for the existence of at least two Christian groups/sects that held to FSM (God [the Father], Christ, and Mother "in one"), backing up the testimony from the Qur'an."

a) Leaving aside the question of the interaction between the Melkites and the Copts (on the one hand) and the Muslims (on the other hand), the fact that Eutychius was not Muslim is not very strong evidence against bias.
b) Eutychius suggests that the group came to Nicea, but does not call them Christians: in fact, he calls them Barbarians and Marianites.
c) Eutychius' comment "Barbarians and Marianites" should probably be understood as heaped insults, rather than as a listing of two separate groups that held the same thing.


This is the best evidence that has been presented to try to rescue Mohamed's claim about FSM Trinitarians, but it is more or less strawy. It's a single witness who comes half a millenium after the alleged event took place. Furthermore, it's an event that predates Mohamed's claim by two centuries. Moreover, it is an event that is not described as having any geographical proximity to Mecca/Medina or even Arabia. It is an event alleged by a man living among Muslims. It is an event for which the man does not cite his sources. It is an event that is included in a book that has been repeatedly criticized for historical mistakes. It is an event that has (so far) only been conveyed to us in a Latin translation of an Arabic original.

In short, we can easily overcome the best evidence to support the existence of FSM-trinitarians, which was presented in order to provide an out for Mohamed under a hypothesis that Mohamed was (in some parts of Surah 5) addressing an heretical sect that has since disappeared. In short, the previously presented theory that Mohamed simply did not understand the doctrine of the Trinity has survived the challenge, and we may continue to safely assume that there were no FSM-trinitarians running around at the time Mohamed lived.

UPDATE: corrected Sunni to Fatamid, above, thanks to David Waltz.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

This is Catholic Internet Apologetics and a Reasonable Response thereto

GNRHead posted a two-part diatribe broadsiding Dr. White with a significant number of accusations, even taking time to wave his finger at the camera and insist that Dr. White should be ashamed of himself.

Dr. White posted the video that I have embedded below that makes short work of the bulk of GNRHead's argument. There is certainly more that could be said, and there are unaswered (though not unanswerable) allegations.

The main point, though, is a good one. It is important for apologists to have a reasonably broad knowledge of church history, because there are all sorts of absurd claims that float about on the Internet.

Here is the video:

I hope you enjoy.

Sola Deo Gloria,


From the Complutensian Polyglot

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Biblical Institution of Patriarchy - Objections Answered

In response to an earlier post on the Biblical institution of the patriarchy, Ken asks (in comments here):

1) How does a Christian respond to the claim that such bible passages are sexist? That word is so full of loaded meaning that trying to defend against its imputation is like saying you support Neo-Nazis.

Of course, that's just a label. It is a pejorative label, but the question we need to ask is why the person considers it sexist. Is it simply because it treats the sexes differently? Usually the answer is vapid. The answer is that the label was applied simply because the issue was sex-related, and the opinion was contrary to the opinion of the name-caller.

2) What is the ideal way to respond to a professed liberal Christian who would say that they have a deep personal faith but disdain to honestly interact with passages like these (that challenge modern and post-modern sentiments)?

Q1: A deep personal in faith in whom or what? The answer typically is Jesus/God.
Q2: Do you realize that Scripture is the word of God? The answer is usually yes.
Q3: Do you love Jesus/God? It's hard to find one who will say "no" at this point.
Q4: So, do you care what this person you love has to say? Naturally, they must affirm or we are back to Q3 and perhaps Q2 or Q1.
Q5: Here's what He says here ... do you agree with what is written?

and so forth.

The problem is, they usually try to change the subject as one is walking through. They would rather their faith be "personal" or perhaps they don't want to hear "preaching," or something like that.


N.B. Note that Ken is not objecting to the matter, he's just pointing out an objection we sometimes hear.

Truly it is Written

John 5:46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.

This linked article demonstrates the sad truth that the Jews have rejected both Moses and Jesus (link). Certainly the man in the article is an extreme example. Nevertheless, anyone who claims to follow the Torah but does not follow Jesus is not following the Torah, for the Torah points to Jesus.

Jesus is the Messiah, God in the flesh, the Savior of the world.

Praise be to His glorious name,


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Mohamed, Surah 5, and the Trinity

I have engaged recently in an internet dialog on the subject of whether Mohamed, the alleged prophet followed by Islam, understood the Trinity. I conclude that the answer is "no," and I have a demonstration prepared.

1. Surah 5 is Mohamed's Writing

Surah 5 is part of the Koran, and consequently one of the writings of Mohamed (though not necessarily penned by him personally). Because the early manuscripts of the Koran are limited, we will be dealing with a translation of the Koran into English based on the dominant family of Koranic texts, the Uthmanic rescension. For the purpose of this analysis, we will presume that Uthman made the correct textual critical choices, and - as well - that the English translation is reasonably accurate. There are certainly other English translation available. The English translation I am providing can be found here (link).

2. Surah 5 addresses the Jews and Christians generally

There are a number of issues addressed in Surah 5. In the first portion of the Surah, various dietary laws are stressed, main similar to Old Testament Jewish laws and the New Testament Council of Jersalem restrictions.

There is what seems at first to be an aside in verse 3:

"This day have those who disbelieve despaired of your religion, so fear them not, and fear Me. This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favor on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion; but whoever is compelled by hunger, not inclining willfully to sin, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."

You will notice, however, that "those who disbelieve despaired of your religion" is a reference to the Jews and Christians that Mohamed views as the forerunners of Islam (the "perfected ... religion").

After a few more rules on cleanliness, Mohamed proceeds to some general remaks on good behavior (vs 8): "O you who believe! Be upright for Allah, bearers of witness with justice, and let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably; act equitably, that is nearer to piety, and he careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is Aware of what you do."

And Mohamed attaches a promise to the good behavior, which we should understand to include not only the general goodness but also maintenance of the cleanliness laws (vs. 9): "Allah has promised to those who believe and do good deeds (that) they shall have forgiveness and a mighty reward."

It is plain works salvation, contrary to the teachings of the Bible (both of the Old, but more especially of the New, Testaments).

Then in the next verse, Mohamed cautions against the "disobedient" paths (vs. 10): "And (as for) those who disbelieve and reject our communications, these are the companions of the name."

In verses 11-14, Mohamed suggests that both the Jews and the Christians forsook Islam. He recounts the supposed covenant-breaking of both the Jews and the Christians:

"O you who believe! remember Allah's favor on you when a people had determined to stretch forth their hands towards you, but He withheld their hands from you, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; and on Allah let the believers rely. And certainly Allah made a covenant with the children of Israel, and We raised up among them twelve chieftains; and Allah said: Surely I am with you; if you keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and believe in My apostles and asslst them and offer to Allah a goodly gift, I will most certainly cover your evil deeds, and I will most certainly cause you to enter into gardens beneath which rivers flow, but whoever disbelieves from among you after that, he indeed shall lose the right way. But on account of their breaking their covenant We cursed them and made their hearts hard; they altered the words from their places and they neglected a portion of what they were reminded of; and you shall always discover treachery in them excepting a few of them; so pardon them and turn away; surely Allah loves those who do good (to others). And with those who say, We are Christians, We made a covenant, but they neglected a portion of what they were reminded of, therefore We excited among them enmity and hatred to the day of resurrection; and Allah will inform them of what they did."

After this condemnation of both Jews and Christians, Mohamed continues by grouping them together as the "people of the book." He makes a proselytory message to them (I'd call it evangelistic if he were offering the gospel) (vss. 15-16): O followers of the Book! indeed Our Apostle has come to you making clear to you much of what you concealed of the Book and passing over much; indeed, there has come to you light and a clear Book from Allah; With it Allah guides him who will follow His pleasure into the ways of safety and brings them out of utter darkness into light by His will and guides them to the right path."

The point of the message that Mohamed is giving is simple: I have the knowledge that was concealed, therefore you need me.

Next, Mohamed aims a dart at the Christians, arguing in verse 17: "Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely, Allah-- He is the Messiah, son of Marium [i.e. Mary]. Say: Who then could control anything as against Allah when He wished to destroy the Messiah son of Marium and his mother and all those on the earth? And Allah's is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and what is between them; He creates what He pleases; and Allah has power over all things."

In other words, the basic argument seems to be this: if Jesus is God, how could he have been destroyed and his mother? The answer, of course, is that Jesus gave his life freely, no one took it from him. He gave it as a sacrifice for the sins of his people.

Mohamed then turns to a joint critique of the Jews and Christians (vss. 18-19(: "And the Jews and the Christians say: We are the sons of Allah and His beloved ones. Say: Why does He then chastise you for your faults? Nay, you are mortals from among those whom He has created, He forgives whom He pleases and chastises whom He pleases; and Allah's is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and what is between them, and to Him is the eventual coming. O followers of the Book! indeed Our Apostle has come to you explaining to you after a cessation of the (mission of the) apostles, lest you say: There came not to us a giver of good news or a warner, so indeed there has come to you a giver of good news and a warner; and Allah has power over all things."

Here is the next point: Mohamed points to judgment on Jews and Christians as proof that they do not follow Allah. However, (a) God chastens us (Christians) and chastened them (Jews) because of our parent/child relationship to God, and (b) it is not as though judgments do not come on Muslims. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed more than 200,000 people and left homeless more than a million - largely Muslims.

In verses 22-35, Mohamed essentially makes various arguments from Moses and warns against dibelief. Next, at verses 36-37, Mohamed provides a warning to disbeleivers (referring, essentially, to the Jews and Christians.

"Surely (as for) those who disbelieve, even if they had what is in the earth, all of it, and the like of it with it, that they might ransom themselves with it from the punishment of the day of resurrection, it shall not be accepted from them, and they shall have a painful punishment. They would desire to go forth from the fire, and they shall not go forth from it, and they shall have a lasting punishment."

Then, Mohamed provides a the hand amputation for theft law, and a message of forgiveness from Allah upon repentence.

After that, at verses 41-46, Mohamed attacks the apostacy of the Jews, accusing them of failing to follow the Torah, and especially of failing to follow Jesus.

Then, at verses 47-50, Mohamed attacks the alleged apostacy of the Christians, accusing them of failing to follow the Evangel - the gospels, and especially the law.

Then, at verses 51-63, Mohamed exhorts Muslims not to befriend Christians and Jews, and provides some rather stern condmenation of them.

Verses 64-65 address the Jews failure to follow the Torah.

Verses 66-68 address both the Jews and the Christians.

Verse 69 suggests that if the Jews, Christians and Sabellians "believe ... and [do] good-- they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve."

Verses 70-71 condemn the Jews for killing the prophets.

At verses 72-81, Mohamed launches a diatribe against Christians for believing in Christ's divinity and for accepting trinitarianism, which Mohamed (as will be seen later) mistakenly thinks is a trinity of the Allah, Jesus, and Mary.

"Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely Allah, He is the Messiah, son of Marium; and the Messiah said: O Children of Israel! serve Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Surely whoever associates (others) with Allah, then Allah has forbidden to him the garden, and his abode is the fire; and there shall be no helpers for the unjust. Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely Allah is the third (person) of the three; and there is no god but the one God, and if they desist not from what they say, a painful chastisement shall befall those among them who disbelieve. Will they not then turn to Allah and ask His forgiveness? And Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. The Messiah, son of Marium is but an apostle; apostles before him have indeed passed away; and his mother was a truthful woman; they both used to eat food. See how We make the communications clear to them, then behold, how they are turned away. Say: Do you serve besides Allah that which does not control for you any harm, or any profit? And Allah-- He is the Hearing, the Knowing. Say: O followers of the Book! be not unduly immoderate in your religion, and do not follow the low desires of people who went astray before and led many astray and went astray from the right path. Those who disbelieved from among the children of Israel were cursed by the tongue of Dawood and Isa, son of Marium; this was because they disobeyed and used to exceed the limit. They used not to forbid each other the hateful things (which) they did; certainly evil was that which they did. You will see many of them befriending those who disbelieve; certainly evil is that which their souls have sent before for them, that Allah became displeased with them and in chastisement shall they abide. And had they believed in Allah and the prophet and what was revealed to him, they would not have taken them for friends but! most of them are transgressors."

In verse 82, Mohamed even goes so far as to refer to Christians as polytheists: "Certainly you will find the most violent of people in enmity for those who believe (to be) the Jews and those who are polytheists, and you will certainly find the nearest in friendship to those who believe (to be) those who say: We are Christians; this is because there are priests and monks among them and because they do not behave proudly."

Next, there are a number of additional laws.

Then, from verses 109-115 there is a fictional dialog with Jesus, culminating in verse 116: "And when Allah will say: O Isa [Jesus] son of Marium [Mary]! did you say to men, Take me and my mother for two gods besides Allah he will say: Glory be to Thee, it did not befit me that I should say what I had no right to (say); if I had said it, Thou wouldst indeed have known it; Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I do not know what is in Thy mind, surely Thou art the great Knower of the unseen things."

This confirms the analysis above, that Mohamed was attempting (errantly) to attack the Christian doctrine of Trinitarianism, while mistakenly identifying Mary as the third person of the Trinitiy.

The remaining four verses of the Surah conclude the fictional dialog with Jesus, which emphasizes obedience to the law allegedly given by Allah.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Virgin Shall Conceive

I stumbled across this very odd video of a young man who thinks he has found an error in Christian doctrine. His point is this:

Sam Harris, in "The End of Faith" claims that the idea of the Virgin Birth comes from a mistranslation. Now, unfortunately the young man does not get it. He does not get the truth of the Virgin Birth and he does not yet Sam Harris' claims.

1. The basic idea here is that the word in Hebrew that is translated "virgin" means "young woman."

2. What the young man fails to recognize is that the argument for mistranslation is about the translation of the Old Testament prophecy, not about the translation of the New Testament account.

3. The doctrine of the Virgin Birth is not the doctrine of the "immaculate conception," though certainly Jesus himself was conceived and born sinless.

4. The gospel accounts (whether originally written in Greek - or in any other language) were clear about Mary's virginity prior to Christ's birth. The issue is clarified various ways, but the primary way is by the repeated discussion of the fact that Mary did not "know" (i.e. make love to) any man before Christ's birth; indeed, she did not even "know" Joseph, until Jesus was born. There is no possibility in the gospels, therefore, of a mistranslation from Hebrew to Greek, even if someone subscribed to the novel theory of Aramaic priority of the gospels, or the like.

5. The prophecy in Isaiah is this:

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign, Behold a virgin (עלמה - almah) shall conceive and bear a son and shall his name Immanuel.

Now, the LXX translators who lived before the virgin birth of Christ correctly translated almah as παρθένος (parthenos), which means "virgin." It is true that almah has a broader semantic range. Nevertheless, there is a valid contextual reason for selecting the specific sense of "virgin." That reason is that a young woman giving birth is not particularly significant, but a virgin conceiving is something extraordinary. Yet, as you can see from the first part of the verse, the point of the communication is to relate a sign, something startling. Hence, the LXX translators correctly translated almah as parthenos, even though almah can have a more generic sense of "young woman."

Well, here is the link to the young man's video (link). It's sort of a watch it and weep scenario, but it is important to recognize the errors that are circulating out there.


The Remains of Russian Orthodoxy

Stalin was a notorious opposer of Christianity. In Stalin's day, those who wished to worship had to do so underground in the Soviet Union. Later, the rules were relaxed, and religious life again became open.

Why did the Communist Party permit this?

One obvious answer is control. An underground church is a threat to the establishment, but an open church is controllable. Today, much of that control may be gone, but there is certainly a view that there were many KGB within the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox church, and that many of the influential patriarchs even today may have both KGB and Communist Party of the Soviet Union credentials.

The following linked article discusses some theories. It should be read with discernment - i.e. with a grain of salt. The person who wrote the article is in a position to know the KGB, but is not in as good a position to know the ROC. That said, the article seems to raise the important issues and ask the tough question: why did the ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) reunite with the ROC? Was the ROCOR also infiltrated, is its leadership naive, or has there been repentance/conversion of the KGB members/collaborators who hold office in the ROC?



Another Calvinistic Jewel in the Apostolic Fathers

CAVEAT: "Calvinistic" is an anachronism. Calvin wasn't born yet. The proper chronological way to describe the situation is to say that Calvin was being Ignatian -- or (better yet) that both Calvin and Ignatius were being Scriptural.

As I was concluding my reading of one book of selections the apostolic fathers, I read through the Syriac versions of Ignatius (in English translation) and came across this Calvinistic gem, taken from Ignatius' Second Epistle to the Ephesians:
Ignatius, who is Theophorus, to the Church which is blessed in the greatness of God the Father, and perfected; to her who was separated from eternity to be at all times for glory that abideth and changeth not, and is perfected and chosen in the purpose of truth, by the will of the Father of Jesus Christ our God; to her who was worthy of happiness; to her who is at Ephesus in Jesus Christ in joy unblamable; much peace.