Author Aaron Adair

Star of Bethlehem Conference in the Netherlands

About two weeks ago I was contacted about participating in a conference next year at the University of Groningen. In 2014 they are celebrating their 400th anniversary so it seems appropriate it relate to something else from 1614. In that year, Johannes Kepler published his tome on chronology, arguing that Jesus was born several years earlier than was the tradition in his time (on Dec 25 in 1 BC). In that book, he also talked about the Star of Bethlehem, and this is the apparent link for this conference.

The Star of Bethlehem Documentary–The Constellation Leo as the Sign of the Jews

This is Part 3 of a critical examination of the MMEL hypothesis of the Star of Bethlehem. Go to the index here.

So far in this critical appraisal of the MMEL hypothesis, there has not been much attention paid to the actual theory of what the Star of Bethlehem was other than to say it deals with conjunctions of Jupiter and Venus in the years 3 and 2 BCE. While already it is falsified as an explanation of Matthew’s account since it takes place after the death of Herod the Great (see Part 1 & Part 2), I shall not ignore what possible astronomical or astrological explanations are here. Perhaps they can explain the Star in another way (including helping create the narrative based on a back-calculation rather than an authentic historical tradition), or the conjunctions of another type can be related to what the Magi were interested in.

Pope Says Atheists Go to Heaven?

The new leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has been making plenty of news since taking over in March. Not only is it the case that he may have exorcised demons in public very recently (very old school), but now he seems to have blessed the infidels (not-so old school).

In his Wednesday sermon, he stated the following:

Moving the Stones of Baalbek–The Wonders of Roman Engineering

Previously I had talked about an amazing piece of computational engineering from the ancient world, the Antikythera mechanism, which was also posted up at A Tippling Philosopher. In the comments there, a discussion came up about another wonder of antiquity which has attracted all sorts of speculations among alternative thinkers. This is the construction of the temple complex at the city of Baalbek, also known as Heliopolis, in modern-day Lebanon, about 70 kilometers* north of Damascus. The site has considerable antiquity, but it is the large stones at the temple, especially the three known as the Trilithon, that have garnered the greatest attention, each weighing in around 800 tons.* And deservedly so, as they are some of the largest single objects ever moved in the pre-modern era.

The Ancient Computer–NOVA Special

I just learned from Jason Colavito that PBS NOVA the other day aired a documentary about the unraveling of one of the incredible enigmas of antiquity. And naming it after the German code machine isn’t a bad idea either, considering that this device is a marvel of gears and other mechanisms all working together.

The Star of Bethlehem Documentary – Textual Criticism and Josephus

This is Part 2 of a critical examination of the MMEL hypothesis of the Star of Bethlehem. Go to the index here.

In Part 1 of this critical overview of the Star of Bethlehem film and its version of history (which I have called the MMEL hypothesis), I looked at the reasons scholars can say we know Herod died no later than 4 BCE given the information we have from Josephus as well as what we can connect with other accounts. The information from Josephus seemed to be overwhelmingly in favor of a 5/4 BCE date for Herod’s death, which would then contradict the time frame needed for the conjunctions of Jupiter and Venus as the MMEL hypothesis requires. However, there is another argument that is focused on, though not detailed, in the documentary, and it concerns the text that we have of Josephus.

The Star of Bethlehem in the Blogosphere

In my last post I looked at what I could find in the news or related to articles and books on the subject of the Star of Bethlehem. There wasn’t too much going on there, so now I want to explore what is going on in the world of blogs. I think this is showing where the conversations are really moving to rather than in newspapers and journal articles, at least for things not done in a strictly academic fashion.

The Puzzling Figure of Jesus – Man, Myth, Messiah? Our very own Aaron Adair on Jesus.

Recently for my local Secular Student Alliance (SSA) group I gave a talk about what we can know about the historical Jesus, and perhaps he was originally a non-historical figure made flesh. This proposition is not the least bit popular among academics, let alone Evangelicals, but it isn’t necessarily crazy either. You will find some comparing it to Holocaust denial or creationism, but the evidence that Jesus existed is nowhere near as strong as it is for evolution or the Nazi-led Holocaust. There is significant evidence for Jesus, prima facie, but things get hairy when you look again.

The Pope on the Nativity Part 3

I am hoping to make this my last post on the short book about the Nativity of Jesus by Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger). So far, from what I can tell, I have been one of the few bloggers going through and being critical of its historical contents, which I will continue here. For background, my first post looked at the apparent lack of engagement with the best literature on the subject of Jesus’ birth, including Raymond Brown’s Birth of the Messiah. My second post looked at the arguments His Holiness used to defend the historicity of certain details of the Gospel(s) version(s) of the birth of Christ and how his own arguments were not correctly applied.

The Pope on the Nativity Part 2

Continuing from my last post, I will take a look at some of the historical claims of the Nativity of Jesus from the Bible and see how Pope Benedict XVI defends them in his most recent book.

First, let’s make a note of an argument that His Holiness seems to use several times in defending the historicity of the stories from modern critics. Many scholars will point to the theological reasons as to why the author of a given Gospel would tell such a story, which in turn gives us reason to suspect that the tale make not be historically authentic. Benedict, on the other hand, says that that is not sufficient to consider the tradition inauthentic. Perhaps not, but it should make us suspicious. Besides, this is not the only reason scholars doubt things such as the birth in Bethlehem or the miraculous conception of Mary. There are other things to consider.

The Pope’s New Book on Jesus’ Birth. Now He’s in Trouble!

There has been a fair bit of press about the newest publication from the current head of the Catholic Church, Joseph Ratzinger, better known now as Pope Benedict XVI (don’t you just hate sequels?). There was even a humorous take on some of the aspects of the new book from the colossus of comedy Stephen Colbert.

One Month until DOOM

We are less than one month away from the winter solstice when the days get shortest and the sun is slowest in the sky. Doom, I say. DOOM. Well, not from the solstice; civilization has had thousands of those, yet no catastrophes connected to them.

But we are lead to think there is one this time because of beliefs about the Maya calendar. This is the whole 2012 apocalypse belief, and it’s one that isn’t well-founded in either archaeology or science. To show the problems with the latter, let’s look at all the proposals I can find about how the world will be destroyed on December 21, 2012.

A Defining Feature of Pseudoscience?

There is a problem in the world of philosophy (only one?) dealing with the subject of science known as the demarcation problem: what counts as science, what is good or bad science, and what is pseudoscience? Generally there is agreement that there is no fine line between science and pseudoscience, though there are clear examples of both. But what features can we look for to know which is which and avoid the bad?

Skeptical About Astrology: Dealing With Horoscopes

Since about a quarter of people in the US and even more in some countries in Western Europe continue to believe in the powers of astrological prediction, it makes sense to some degree that the blog website Patheos would start up an astrology section in their spirituality section. And since, according to one post there, Saturn the teacher is moving into Scorpio today, I’ll talk a bit about this.

First off, the planet Saturn is currently not in the constellation of Scorpio today, tomorrow, or any time soon. It’s really not, go check for yourself.Right now it is in Virgo, which isn’t even adjacent to Scorpio in the Zodiac. So why this astronomically wrong statement? …