10 Commandments

There are three different versions of the 10 Commandments in the Old Testament and none of them are numbered. The version that is most frequently used is an edited version from Exodus 20 relaying what was on the tablets that Moses smashed. In Exodus 34, the Bible relays the text of the second set of commandments that Moses brought down from the mountain. This is the only version that is explicitly referred to as the “10 Commandments.” Although the Bible says that the text of these tablets contain the same words that were on the first set, they are noticeably different and contain commandments such as “Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread” and “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk.” The third version can be found in Deuteronomy 5. It is similar to Exodus 20, but has subtle differences.

Someone might wonder why Moses needed to go back up the mountain to get a new set if they were already recorded, or why the writer seems to have forgotten what was just written just a few chapters earlier, but these kinds of confusions are common in the Bible. I guess God lacked a good proof-reader.

Someone might also question why we don’t use the set of commandments in Exodus 34, and why Christians feel they have any right to edit the first set to make them more palatable and PC. They are presuming to edit the “word of God” after all.

Note that the edited versions that are most often posted omit the seeming endorsement of slavery and visiting the sins of the fathers through the third and fourth generations.

Because the commandments aren’t numbered, Jews, Catholics, and Protestants all edit and number them differently. The Catholics gloss over the Protestant version of the second commandment. Their version goes from “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me” to “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” They make up the difference by splitting the Protestant version of the 10th commandment into two parts (coveting goods and coveting wives).

These are things you never hear about when this issue is covered in the news. I believe that if more people knew that there were three different sets of commandments in the Bible, that the most common version used is edited, and that different faiths or sects numbered them differently, then more people might understand the problematic aspect to posting them when we must resolve which 10 commandments are to be posted (e.g.: whose version are we going to favor over others?).

Of course, most believers are unaware of this and the news media is more interested in whatever ratings they might receive in covering the controversy than they are in educating the public in ways that might dampen it.

Here is a good link about all this:


“Extraordinary Claims….”

Crack open the Bible and start reading from the beginning. It won’t take long before you start spotting things that don’t seem to make much sense or contradict what we know today.

God creates light before he creates the light producing objects, he builds a “firmament” to separate the higher waters from the lower waters (the firmament is evidently a solid protective structure to support the stars and higher waters above the Earth – when it rains, God has to open “windows” to release the higher waters), from the Bible’s point of view, the stars seem to be merely small lights in the firmament to provide light, God the all-powerful decides to “rest” after six days work (he must have been “bushed,” but we will get to the bush story later), and then there seems to be another creation story that got mixed up with this one where the order of events don’t quite match.

Shortly afterwards, there is the story of the creation of Adam out of dust and a woman Eve from Adam’s rib, both of which contradict what is known about evolution. Then there is the story of the talking snake and the Tree of Knowledge (that God puts nearby but warns them not to eat of its fruit, least they learn about good and evil). Eve (without understanding the difference of good and evil) is tricked into eating the fruit by the snake, when she eats the fruit she gains knowledge (which is strange by itself). Eve gets Adam (who is also unaware of the difference between good and evil) to eat the fruit as well, and God punishes them both along with all their descendants (which seems even less fair than his punishment of Adam and Eve, acting in innocence as well as ignorance that it would be “wrong” to disobey God by eating fruit he placed in front of them… when he should have known what was going to happen before he put it there, if he is really all-knowing). God makes Eve’s punishment worse, making her (and all women to come) suffer in childbirth and be subservient to their husbands. God also punishes the snake and all the snake’s offspring.

The monolithic God makes the announcement; “Behold, the man has become as one of us” (but maybe this is like the royal “we”) and appears worried that Adam and Eve might eat of another tree there (the Tree of Life) that will cause them to live forever, so he has to kick them out of “paradise” before that happens. (Earlier God had said that eating of the Tree of Knowledge would bring them death which, if they didn’t die right away, must have meant they would become mortal. This implies they were immortal before, so what was the point of the Tree of Life?)

Adam and Eve have children; two boys Cain and Abel. God seems to play favorites between the two for no special reason, which pisses Cain off causing him to kill Abel. God gets mad and punishes Cain. Cain is worried that because of this curse, “Every one who finds me shall slay me,” and God puts a mark on him to prevent that. It is unexplained where all these other people came from that Cain is worried about unless Adam and Eve have really been busy behind the scenes. God says that Cain will be “a fugitive and a vagabond,” yet he moves into another area, marries someone (???), settles down, has a son, and builds a city.

After a few more problematic passages, we get into several generations of people that lived to be very very old. Adam lived to be 930 (despite the death threat from God), Seth 912, Enos 905, Cainan 910, Mahalaleel died young at 895, Jarad 962, and Methuselah 969 (the world record). In the meantime, in contraction to a later passage, Enoch doesn’t die but ascends into heaven.

The population grew to the point it seems that there were a lot of good-looking women around. All these good-looking women evidently attracted the “sons of God,” who came down and mated with them, whose offspring “became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” These sons of God aren’t explained very well and it seems to be a bit of a sticky point considering Jesus was supposed to be the “only son of God.” But these were fabulous times; like the Bible says, “There were giants in the earth in those days.”

But, despite the production of all these “men of renown,” God decides that he regrets having made man because of man’s wickedness and decides to wipe them off the face of the earth along with all the beasts, creeping things, fowls, and “all flesh wherein there is breath of life” by causing a world-wide flood The Bible twice says that God “repents” that he made man. This is hardly something you would expect from an all-knowing, supposedly perfect being. These passages imply that God didn’t know what was going to happen when he created mankind in the first place. It also implies that this perfect being’s project was a bust. So now he plans to wipe it all out, killing everything in sight, because “the earth was filled with violence” (the acorn didn’t fall too far from the tree, I guess). So all the innocent animals and all the innocent babies are going to be drowned by the hand of God. We will see many more examples of this omnibenevolent being’s murderous tendencies throughout the Bible.

But God decides to let Noah live because he was “a just man and perfect…” He has him build a 450 foot long ark to hold two of every “kind” of animal and the ark is to have one small 18 inch square hole for ventilation. Despite being over 500 years old at the time, Noah is able to accomplish all this.

Before we get to the actual flood, it seems fairly ridiculous that an all-powerful being would make this whole process so convoluted. He wants to wipe everything out except for Noah, Noah’s family, and two of each “kind” of animal (7 of some kinds). If he was all-powerful, it seems like he could have just snapped his divine fingers and made whatever changes were needed, bringing instant death to those he is about to destroy instead of having to go through the terror of drowning. I guess all these people are destined to eternal hell anyway, so a little terror before they die isn’t that much of a difference.

So it rained for 40 days and 40 nights and flooded the earth such that it covered everything with 15 cubits to spare (of course, God had to open the “windows” of heaven for this).

Here are just some of the problems with the story:

(1) The whole story seems to be a copy of an earlier story from the Epic of Gilgamesh that predates it by 1,000 years.

(2) Building a boat of that size with the materials Noah had at hand is considered extremely unlikely if not outright impossible.

(3) There are many problematic aspects of getting two or seven of each kind of animal into the ark, even if God sent them to Noah to line up on the dock instead of him having to hunt them down from all over the earth, considering there were hundreds of millions of animal species to consider and the ark would have had to be much larger. There are various estimates I’ve seen regarding how fast Noah would have had to get each pair loaded in time, but we are talking about fractions of seconds apiece. That is some heavy hustling for a man almost 600 years old.

(4) Keeping all the animals fed with the correct diet, dealing with their various other needs, dealing with their waste in this poor ventilation, and keeping them from attacking one another are just a few of the problematic aspects of this situation (not to mention the breathing problem with ventilation being what it was).

(5) There is no archeological evidence to support a world-wide flood during this or any other time in history.

(6) There is no historical record to support this from other civilizations that existed during this time; there are no records to support this from Babylon, China, Egypt, or Mesopotamia whose records cover this period of time.

(7) There isn’t enough water in earth, on earth, and in the earth’s atmosphere combined to create a flood of the magnitude depicted in the Bible.

(8) The speed the rain would have to fall in 40 days and 40 nights to cover the earth to the depth the Bible suggests would be six inches a minute. This speed of impact would cause the water to boil and keep it from rising.

(9) The results of this much water out of nowhere flooding the earth in that amount of time would boil off the earth’s atmosphere.

(10) There are many other problems with the story which can be found by visiting; www.biblicalnonsense.com/chapter6.html and reading “101 Reasons Why Noah’s Story Doesn’t Float”

I’ll pass over several more problematic aspects of some of these animals being deposited in a climate that they may not have had an easy time dealing with, the problems with saltwater vs. freshwater fish, the fable of how the rainbow came to be, and some other things to go right into the Tower of Babel story.

It seems some people decided to build a tower to the heavens and God “came down to see” it (as if he couldn’t see it from where he usually was, which is a weird thing for a being that is supposed to be omnipresent). After he sees it he says, “Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

Again I wonder who the “us” is or who he is talking to, it seems God is worried for the second time that mankind might attain some level of power equal to his own and he has to “confound their language” to prevent them from building this tower. Now, despite the fact the Bible has referred to people of different tongues previously, which seems to be in conflict with God’s statement that “they all have one language,” we can only wonder why he might have been concerned that they would succeed unless this fits in with the idea that the Heavens were in the “firmament” that was close enough to the earth that a tower could be built up to it. Considering we have since sent rockets into space and not run into heaven or this “firmament,” it is clear that these people would not have succeeded, so God seems to be worrying needlessly and irrationally. I wonder why God hasn’t tried to stop the building of skyscrapers since then? I’m sure they are much taller than anything that could have been constructed at that time.

We haven’t gotten a quarter of the way through the first book of the Bible, yet we have found one thing after another that appears either fabulous, nonsensical, or unjust. Not only is much of it in conflict with what we know today from various sciences and the extra-biblical record, it fails to even make internal sense most of the time. It is like the people that wrote it never bothered to proofread.

So-called “Prophecies” in the Bible

Usually there is one or more ways so-called “prophecies” in the Bible can be explained…

(1) The prophecy is vague enough that you can read whatever you want into it (e.g.: “a three-headed lion will appear in the east”). One person may claim it means one thing, and someone else may claim it means another.

(2) It’s a “prophecy” about things that happen all the time, so there’s nothing special about it. For example, “There will be wars and rumors of wars in those days,” floods and earthquakes, etc.

(3) It isn’t a prophecy in the first place, or it isn’t a prophecy about what it’s claimed to be about. A closer reading of the passage in context will usually expose these types of “prophecies.”

(4) If the prophecy is known, then someone who knows it might be motivated to fulfill it. For example, if I know that the hero is supposed to ride a white horse–and I want to appear to be the hero—then I could start looking for a white horse to ride.

(5) The prophecy is manufactured after-the-fact to fit what happened. If I say, “so-and-so happened to fulfill such-and-such a prophecy,” I might be making up the prophecy.

(6) The story is manufactured after-the-fact to fit the prophecy. If I’m writing a story about someone’s life and know about some prophecy that should apply to that person, I can just make up a story that it happened, even if it didn’t.

Let me take the so-called “prophecy” about Jesus from Zechariah 9:9 as it was relayed by Matthew to use as a general example (where more than one of the above may apply)….

Here is the text, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” First, it’s fairly vague. It doesn’t specify who the “king” is or when he will come exactly. And how many people probably rode into Jerusalem on a donkey every day? Obviously, not everyone riding in on a donkey would be the king, so there’s nothing here to link Jesus specifically with this passage (and he wasn’t a “king” in the way intended anyway). So, it’s vague, it cites something that happened all the time (humble people riding donkeys into the city), and it may not be a prophecy about what it’s claimed to be about (since a different type of “king” was probably intended than the one Christians claim Jesus was). That covers 1-3 above.

If Jesus was aware of this “prophecy,” then he could have easily acquired a donkey to ride in on (if he was trying to “sell” himself as the “king” Zechariah mentions), so there would be nothing amazing about that. Finally, Matthew clearly misreads the “prophecy” and has Jesus riding into Jerusalem on TWO donkeys! [The passage is saying the donkey is a colt, not that there were two different donkeys.] So Matthew is pretty clearly manufacturing a story after-the-fact to fit the prophecy as he misunderstood it. His mistake revels he was making stuff up. So, that now also covers 4 & 6 above. Note: of all the Gospels, Matthew seems to go to greater lengths to manufacture stories to fit “prophecies” than the other three.

I think all of the so-called “prophecies” in the Bible can be explained by one or more of the ways I listed above. It’s just a matter of looking into any of them more closely with these possibilities in mind.

A Side Note

Some Christian apologetics make the argument that “any prophecy made about the Messiah that was not fulfilled in Jesus simply refers to his second coming.” This is how some respond when confronted with what was actually prophesied a “Messiah” was going to accomplish that Jesus didn’t accomplish.

There’s a book I read in 1998 called “The Mythmaker – Paul and the Invention of Christianity” by a Talmudic scholar Hyam Maccoby which addresses some of this from the Jewish point-of-view. Maccoby argues that Jesus regarded himself as the Messiah in the normal Jewish sense of the term, i.e. “A human leader who would restore the Jewish monarchy, drive out the Roman invaders, set up an independent Jewish state, and inaugurate an era of peace, justice and prosperity,” and that “Jesus believed himself to be the figure prophesied in the Hebrew Bible who would do all these things.” And prophecies like these are exactly what Jesus didn’t accomplish, which is why Jews don’t recognize Jesus as a Messiah.

He says Jesus believed that God would perform a great miracle that would take place on the Mount of Olives, as prophesied in the book of Zechariah. He says that “When this miracle did not occur, his mission had failed. He had no intention of being crucified in order to save mankind from eternal damnation by his sacrifice. He never regarded himself as a divine being, and would have regarded such an idea as pagan and idolatrous, an infringement of the first of the Ten Commandments.”

He says that the phrases “Son of Man” and “Son of God” were things that any Jew might say about himself because they all considered God their “Father,” and Jesus wasn’t making any special claim for himself by referring to himself that way. It was something any Jew might do.

As you may know, ‘Christ’ was the Greek alternative for the word ‘Messiah’ and Maccoby argues that the terms didn’t imply someone divine aspect (he says, “every Jewish king of the Davidic dynasty had this title”), but it was Paul who was the person who made it into something more than what the term originally meant, or what Jesus might have considered it to mean. Maccoby claims Jesus would have been shocked by what Paul did.

Jesus’ Existence

I personally think Jesus was probably based on a person that really existed, but I think how much we might be able to say about him historically is questionable on almost every level.

1- There’s not any non-Christian historical evidence for Jesus, and Jewish historians of the time he was supposed to have lived do not mention him in any known text. Jesus isn’t credited with writing anything himself and there are no contemporary accounts.

2- No one knows who wrote the Gospels (the traditional names were assigned later). They were written anywhere from 30-70+ years after the supposed death of Jesus and they were not written by eye-witnesses. Mark is considered by most scholars as being the earliest and John the last.

3- It is obvious that some of the stories relayed in the Gospels were fabricated because they do not match with the available historical evidence (this is most especially true regarding the birth stories — as just one example: Romans conducting a census where people had to go to the birthplace of their ancestors to register is not historical or even rational). Many scholars consider the whole birth account to be a later invention. The Gospels also disagree on key details (e.g.: did Jesus and his family flee to Egypt for a period of time or not?). I could write a book about all the problems with the Gospels (without even considering the supposed miracles), but I’ll pass over it for now.

4- There are only about 8 books in the NT which were probably written by the person claiming to have written them, most of the rest are very highly debatable or are considered obvious forgeries. Someone named John (a common name) wrote Revelations, which is not a book we can use for history (considering it is “vision” of the future). The other 7 books were all written by Paul. These are really the earliest accounts we have of an “historical” Jesus, but they were written beginning roughly 15 years after Jesus was supposed to have died by a person that never met Jesus while he was supposed to have lived (he only claims he saw him in a vision). In his writings, Paul doesn’t reveal any knowledge of Jesus’ birth, or much of his life or his ministry, so he isn’t a good source for an historical Jesus. Paul does claim to have met with some of Jesus’ disciples, but had serious disagreements with them.

5- There were many other “books” about Jesus (most – if not all – written even later than the Gospels), but none of them were included in the Bible (so even the “Christians” that ended up dominating the movement rejected them as spurious, and we can probably reject them as not having much historical value).

6- The first scraps we have of the “books” of the Bible are from decades after they were written, with the first complete books coming centuries after that. There are more discrepancies between the oldest versions of these books than there are words in the New Testament. Many discrepancies are the result of obvious copying errors, but some are more significant. It is also evident that certain passages were added on later (since they don’t appear in the oldest versions). If we can see things being added after the oldest copies we have, we might assume that some things might have been added before the oldest copies we have as well.

Considering that many of these books were written decades after the fact to begin with, and were probably passed down orally before they were written down, you might wonder how many changes they went through before they were written down (have you ever played telephone?).

7- Consider two things about the people passing them down orally in the beginning: they may not have been well educated and they might have had an agenda (they were probably not objective). Also consider the people writing them down later may have been attempting to “sell” others (for example: there is a lot of evidence that events were added to the account to prove what they thought was a prophecy — the evidence for this is that they made mistakes trying).

8- Most of the “key” elements of Jesus’ life found in the Bible match elements of at least 16 other mythological god-men that predate Jesus. This suggests the very real possibility that these elements were copied (imitated) and might be considered to be highly questionable historically.

9- The stories all include accounts of miracles and events that defy known laws of physics, biology, cosmology, etc., which would be considered mythological coming from almost any other source.

Someone like a Julius Caesar can be established to have existed with much greater reliability. Even someone like Socrates can be better established (there were contemporary accounts by people who knew him, his student Plato wrote about him, there weren’t any claims of him violating the laws of nature, etc.).


Bible Notes #2

Wherein I briefly expand on a couple of the Gospels from the first set of notes (see: HERE) and try to very briefly review the growth of the resurrection myth….

I could write a book of fiction about events taking place in today’s world, referring to real places and real surrounding events. For example, I could write a story about an imaginary person living in Washington, DC, visiting the Capitol or Washington Monument and advising President Obama. Just because someone might dig up evidence for the Capitol, the Washington Monument, or Obama at some point in the future, doesn’t do much to establish the reality of the imaginary person I wrote about. I admit it might be better than if they never found evidence of anything in my story, but it wouldn’t be much to establish the reality of the imaginary person. Let’s say that I give the imaginary person I write about the ability to fly. Digging up a piece of the Washington Monument isn’t going to do anything to give evidence of that.

Anybody can write that people rose from the dead, there were 500 witnesses, or whatever nonsense they like, but until you can establish that the person writing is trustworthy that is all meaningless. Even if you believe in the earliest dates for the Gospels and that these authors are generally reliable (and the documents we have are fair copies of the originals, etc. etc.), you have to admit that every step of the way you are choosing to accept the most favorable viewpoint to confirm your belief.

It might not be as big of a deal if we were talking about whether some sheep farmer lived 2,000 years ago that herded sheep. That would be much easier to believe than some son of god performing miracles.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” and there is just too much debatable stuff here to be convincing (esp. when it sounds like many other myths). Even if we had some empirical evidence for the miracles, that wouldn’t prove that this was the Son of God (e.g.: it could be some supernatural demon trying to deceive us, or it could be a more intelligent and advanced being from another planet, or it could be an alien that had technology much greater than ours).

Matthew & Some Mark

Boy! I could really get into it here if we wanted to go through the whole book: the genealogy that doesn’t match Luke’s version to try to prove some prophecy that becomes irrelevant once the virgin birth myth comes in; the fact that “Matthew” wouldn’t have anyone’s word for it (other than Mary’s?) about the virgin birth thing anyway, or what angels might have said to Joseph or Mary; the problems with the indicated year of his birth; the absurdity of people going to the city of their birth to register for a census (which would have been a bureaucratic nightmare and which there is no external historical evidence for); the ‘slaughter of the innocents’ story (which there is no external historical evidence for); the quick trip to Egypt (which is yet another of many poor attempts “Matthew” makes to sell readers on the idea that Jesus fulfilled prophecies that he doesn’t understand and gets wrong when he makes up stuff, the biggest blunder of that type occurring when he has Jesus riding two donkeys into Jerusalem at the same time because he misread Zechariah 9:9!), and so on and on, but I’ll try to repress myself and skip to the end.

As we get into some of the other details, it seems that “Matthew” wasn’t even there at all (nor does it seem any of his speculative “eyewitness” sources might have been). He talks about 30 pieces of silver being weighed out, when they didn’t “weigh out” pieces of silver during that time and place (coins were minted) and “pieces of silver” weren’t used as currency, but I’ll pass over that as an instance of poetic license to get to one of my favorite parts: the zombies that came out of the broken tombs after the earthquake!!!

Wow! You would think that there would have been some external historical account about something as odd and significant as that, but it didn’t seem to be something significant enough for even the other gospel writers to relay. Dead people coming out of their graves and going into Jerusalem appearing “to many” yet only Matthew seems to bother to record this amazing event.

I can see how this could get very long even though I’m skipping over so much. I will pass over all the conflicting details between gospels regarding the time and day of crucifixion, the conflicting reports of how he behaved or what he said (and other minor things like the fact Romans didn’t crucify robbers, which Mark and Matthew say Jesus was crucified between, for example). For now, I’ll even pass over the differing reports between gospels about who came to see Jesus in the tomb and what they saw once they arrived. I’m sure some would say that is exactly what you would expect from different eyewitness accounts. [This is why eyewitness accounts aren’t considered reliable testimony.]

Matthew narrates the book in the third person and tells about things he wouldn’t have any direct knowledge about.

For example, the whole story about Jesus going into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. This account (like the rest of the book) is written like someone would write a fiction novel.

If this happened, who else would be there but Jesus and the devil? So where would Matthew have gotten this story from? Jesus or the devil (or was there was some unnamed person spying on them to serve as the eyewitness)? So, where did “Matthew” get this from? Was it something he heard Jesus tell about? Was it something that he heard from someone who said they heard it from Jesus or the devil? Do you think “Matthew” decided to tell the story because he was inspired by God? How reliable would you take this story to be?

This is the way all the gospels are written. Time after time when I read through them, I come across passages where I wonder how anyone could have gotten that information. Like who checked Mary out to make sure she was a virgin, or did someone just take her word for it? It seems more likely that someone made it up – Paul doesn’t seem to know that story (or many of the other fascinating things relayed in the gospel stories). At least he doesn’t mention them, even if it could help him make a point. It looks to me that a lot of this stuff was added to the story (made up) after the fact. “Matthew” tries too hard to sell Jesus, to the point he gets prophecies wrong over and over. If there is no external evidence whatsoever of things like people going to the city of their birth to register for a census (which doesn’t even make logical sense) or the ‘slaughter of the innocents’ story (which you would expect there would be) it seems you would start to wonder at how much of this stuff was made up to try to satisfy some prophecies (esp. when mistakes are made like Jesus riding two donkeys, or when he tries to bring in things that weren’t prophecies about a Messiah at all).

Unlike Mark, but like Matthew, Luke gets into the genealogy, but it is almost entirely different (as are a lot of the other details). Like the others, this one gets into relaying events you wonder how the author came to know, like a conversation between Mary and her cousin Elisabeth near the beginning of the book.


Now let’s look at the resurrection story and see how the myth developed over time….

In Mark (the probable oldest gospel), you have an empty tomb and a young man in a white robe to tell what has happened, saying Jesus would be seen in Galilee. In Matthew there is an earthquake and the young man has turned into an angel blazing like lightening, flying down from above to zap a couple of guards and roll away the stone to the tomb with one hand, then saying Jesus would be seen in Galilee (but instead, he shows on up right away and repeats what the angel said). In Luke, the one boy is now two men in dazzling raiment (and you have the extra drama of Peter rushing in to see the empty death shroud), but rather than Galilee, the place to see the visions has become Jerusalem. Then some more time goes by and we get to the story of John (the last gospel) where the boy in Mark has become two angels!! and Jerusalem is again the place to see visions.

Also, as the myth grows, we see Jesus go to more and more trouble to prove that he has a physical body. In Mark, he isn’t there; in Matthew, they grab at his feet; in Luke, he asks his disciples to touch him and eats some fish; in John, he shows his wounds, breathes on people, and lets Thomas put his fingers into the wounds themselves.

It is as if the authors have more and more they want to try to prove about the resurrection, so they keep adding more details and taking it further and further.

Was the tomb open or closed? Who did the women see? How many women were there? Were they supposed to go to Jerusalem or Galilee? I could go on and on here…

But that’s enough Bible notes for now.

Bible Notes #1

The Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

Estimated dates they were written and approx. dates of the earliest fragments we have of them…

Matthew: written (70-110) / first fragment (150-200)

Mark: written (66-70) / first fragment (350)

Luke: written (80-100) / first fragment (175-250)

John: written (90-110) / first fragment (125-160)

General information about the source material

All of the authors wrote about events decades after the fact, allowing time for legends to grow in the telling before they were written. None of the authors were likely eyewitnesses to the events they report, and all the authors are anonymous.

The first fragments we have for Luke and Matthew are almost 100 years after they were written (more or less), for Mark it is almost 300 years. There is a shorter time for John, but that account is different and later (as far as when it was written) than the others, and is probably the least reliable (aside being further removed from the events when it was written, as well as different than the earlier ones, it appears significant sections were added because they don’t appear in the earliest copies).

Remember we are talking about the earliest fragments, not the earliest complete copies, and fragments are just that, a small piece of a page in many cases. The first complete copies don’t come until the 4th century, allowing plenty of time for copying mistakes and alterations.


It seems most Biblical textual scholars think that the anonymous author of Matthew lived in a Jewish-Christian community in Roman Syria, and there is evidence to indicate he wrote his book after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

The author of Matthew doesn’t identify himself. Toward the end of the second century, a tradition arose that it was written by Matthew the tax collector. This tradition may have originated from comments made by Papias of Hierapolis (approx. 100-140 AD) about someone named Matthew (who he doesn’t identify beyond that) collecting Hebrew sayings and translating them “as best he could” (but he doesn’t relate this directly to what people refer to the Book of Matthew today). The Gospel of Matthew doesn’t show any signs of translation from another language, and most Biblical textual scholars think there were three sources: Mark, a hypothetical earlier source that is lost to us which is referred to as “Q,” and his own sources (or imagination).


Mark is considered to the oldest gospel by most scholars.

As with Matthew, the author of Mark doesn’t identify himself, and, once again, we have Papias of Hierapolis (writing in the early 2nd century) to thank for crediting it to someone. He credits it to John Mark, a companion of Peter. It seems that odds of association may be somewhat greater here than it was with Matthew, and the more traditional scholars still accept this view. Most modern scholars don’t however (partly because of the author’s use of varied sources), and they consider this book to be of anonymous authorship written in Syria around 66 AD. It does appear to be a major source for both Matthew and Luke.

Everything after Mark 16:8 seems to be highly questionable. Either the story ends with the empty tomb and a young man in a white robe telling Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James), and Salome that Jesus has risen and is “going ahead of you to Galilee” (at which point it says that they “neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid” and that’s where it ends), or the original ending is lost. There are four different endings (additional text after 16:8) found in later transcripts, but there isn’t very good evidence any were original. They seem to be in a different style and use different words than the rest of Mark. It seems to be a question whether the ending at 16:8 is intentional or not, but it appears that some people had a problem with it ending there and decided to add something else on.


Once again, there isn’t enough evidence to say for sure who wrote Luke, so it must also be considered anonymous. Tradition is that it was written by Luke (the companion of Paul, or the sometime companion of Paul), who was not an eyewitness (and neither was Paul). Whoever wrote it also may have written the Acts of the Apostles, but this can become an argument against it being written by Luke the companion of Paul, since the Book of Acts contradicts the letters of Paul on several points. The sources seem to be Mark and the hypothetical Q source, as well as some sources of his own.


Like the others, the authorship of John is anonymous. The author claims to be the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” which could be intended to mean either Peter or John. Most modern scholars today don’t believe either John, Peter, or any other eyewitness wrote it. It appears to have been written in 2-3 different stages over time (possibly by more than one author), being completed around 90-95 AD (or later). It is very different than the first three gospels and shows how the myth grew. Most scholars think it is the least historically reliable and furthest removed in time from the events (the last gospel written), however it appears the version we have today may be the closest of all the gospels to the original document.


Ideal Community Size

According to Wikipedia, “British anthropologist Robin Dunbar… proposed that humans can comfortably maintain only 150 stable relationships.” Malcolm Gladwell covers this well in his book “The Tipping Point.”

However, I first became aware of this fascinating basic concept long before in 1977 when reading “The Emergence of Society” by John E. Pfeiffer.

On page 33 when he is discussing the “mounting population pressure” of villages he says, “The magic number changed too. As the countryside became more thickly settled, conflict was more of a problem. The risk of fighting between tribes increased, so that a village had to be large enough to defend itself. On the other hand, its size was limited. The more people living closer together, the greater the number of conflicts between them, the greater the risks of dissension and falling apart. The first villages may have included 50 to 200 persons, but that magic number probably worked out to about 100 persons, with the tendency to split into two villages increasing sharply over that level.”

On page 55, Pfeiffer talks about “another magic number” when discussing how some hunter-gatherer tribal populations tended to “cluster at about 500 persons.” He says, that “500 may not be far from the number of individuals a person may be expected to recognize on a first-name basis. Beyond that the strain becomes greater on man’s powers of memory (one reason for an architect’s rule of thumb that an elementary school should not exceed 500 pupils if the principal expects to know them all by name and the decision of some churches to split into smaller groups when membership exceeds 500). When populations rise much above that level, people may need markers to identify themselves as friend or foe.”

Later in the book he goes on to relate all this to central place theory and to other things.

Of course, there’s also H. Russell Bernard and Peter Killworth’s “magic number” of 290, which differs from Dunbar’s. According to Wikipedia, “The Bernard–Killworth estimate of the maximum likelihood of the size of a person’s social network is based on a number of field studies using different methods in various populations. It is not an average of study averages but a repeated finding. Nevertheless, the Bernard–Killworth number has not been popularized as widely as Dunbar’s.”



There is the myth of Utopia as an ideal society. One definition for the word easily found in a Google search is, “an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.”

The 1516 book by Thomas More that launched this concept doesn’t really describe a society most people in today’s modern world would want to live in.

Women aren’t treated equally, “premarital sex [is] punished by a lifetime of enforced celibacy and adultery [is] punished by enslavement,” slavery is prevalent (with most households having two slaves), and, while tolerance for other religious believers exists, nonbelievers are despised.

These are just some of the highlights.


“Privacy is not regarded as freedom in Utopia; taverns, ale-houses and places for private gatherings are non-existent for the effect of keeping all men in full view, so that they are obliged to behave well.”


It looks like the Korean War lasted a little over 3 years, or about 1127 days. M*A*S*H lasted 11 seasons and had 256 episodes.

If M*A*S*H covered the whole war, that would mean each episode would have to average covering roughly 4.40 days. To know for sure though, someone would have to go through each episode to try and figure out how much time was covered in each to really know (and some of it may have to be speculation). If I had to recall how many days each episode averaged covering, I would have guessed around 3. So, it looks like it was getting pretty close to covering every day of the war, and, if someone did go back and add it all together, they MIGHT find they covered more than the time of the war.

Maybe that’s one reason why they decided to end the show—that this would have become too obvious.

According to TV.com…

“It’s hard to believe that eleven years’ worth of stories were supposed to have taken place in the three years of the Korean War. To get around this time problem, the writers of M*A*S*H decided not to worry about it and concentrate instead on telling quality stories” (see: http://www.mash4077tv.com/mish/timeline/).

Of course, for this to work, you’d have to throw out the assumption that most people had for a series like this that there were at least some days that passed between episodes they weren’t covering, or that they weren’t trying to cover some of them because they were too mundane.

So Hawkeye wasn’t “trapped in Korea” so long it almost drove him crazy, he was trapped in a sitcom.

A Very Brief History of Time [Excerpts]

Time got off to a big bang approximately 13.7 billion years ago, and what a huge difference it made in the universe! It spread everything out and kept everything from happening all at once, cutting down on all the chaos and confusion that had been going on previously. In fact, there wasn’t even a “previously” or a “before then” before then, which still causes some people hours upon hours of consternation.

After humans came on the scene, ways to measure time kept improving, and things got along fairly well, until trains were invented that could move between one place and another so fast that it started causing all kinds of confusion again.

Because time wasn’t well standardized from place to place, people were finding they were arriving before they left, and physicists were beginning to complain because it didn’t fit their delicate theories. When one man arrived in Albany, NY before his parents had first met and accidentally killed his father, it caused quite a stir when he vanished without a trace. In order to appease the physicists and the subsequent campaign launched by the vanished man’s wife, time was finally standardized into Time Zones across the world. The only downside was the proliferation of all those mathematical word problems about different trains leaving different places at different times and traveling different speeds to determine when they would meet. These problems had previously been unsolvable, and, now that they could be solved (and because there were so many of them), America’s school children were tasked with the job of working all of them out.

From the beginning of time until 1905, time was getting measured more and more precisely while, at the same time, it was increasingly standardized. Just as it looked like people were getting a really good handle on it, Einstein came along with his Theory of Relativity and tried to screw everything up all over again. He explained how it was that the faster you moved, the less time it took (which everybody had always suspected), and how if you moved really fast, everybody else would get older before you did (which was a big surprise). Fortunately, hardly anybody understood what he was talking about and most people agreed it wasn’t a very practical thing to get too concerned with in the day-to-day world. The end result was that no one got rid of their timepieces but everybody did start moving a lot faster.

As time went on, wind-up watches were invented and people were finally able to learn the difference between taking a shit and winding their watch. It was a new dynamic paradigm to consider that no one had contemplated before, and new metaphors sprang up almost overnight. After years of philosophical consideration, “Shit Happens” became the phrase that best summarized this sublime conceptual relationship between time and feces.

With the advent of the Timex watch, time could now be measured more reliably than previously, even when it was dropped off a cliff or shot out of a cannon. Time was quickly becoming more durable as well as more portable and exciting.

One of the ways it became more exciting was from the discovery of Daylight Savings Time by Benjamin Franklin. Franklin noticed that if he set his clock an hour ahead, the sun would set an hour later and he could get more work done in the evening. This new flexibility made time more versatile and, although actual experiments with Daylight Savings Time weren’t conducted to confirm his discovery until the 20th Century, the people of London named their biggest clock after him in appreciation (Big Ben). It just shows that Ben Franklin was both figuratively and literally, a man ahead of his time.

Today, you can find time almost everywhere and people are paying more attention to it than ever before. Since its introduction, it has never gone out of style and its popularity has never been greater. Its usefulness has only expanded and nothing has ever come along to take its place. In our fast-paced modern world, time has become such an important part of our lives, few of us could get through a single day without it.