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REPLY #68e TO
"RELIGION"



Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the fifth of a nine-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.

Second, as stated above, the Bible also says that Satan can perform miracles. Furthermore, Jesus states that his followers will also be able to perform miracles. In addition, Exodus tells of the ability of the magicians of Pharaoh to duplicate some of the "miracles" performed by Moses and Aaron (who, of course, not divine in their own right).
(R) Some of this was already discussed above. The Bible indicates that one of Satan's tactics in his effort to deceive humankind is to employ counterfeit miracles (Rev. 16:14).
(MB) The verse actually says "For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, ..." There is not one single word that indicates that these were "counterfeit" miracles or that there was any effort and deceiving anybody.

(R) Exodus 7:11 states, "But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments." Each of the other verses makes a similar claim. The passage states that the feats of Pharaoh's magicians were performed "by their [magical] enchantments."
(MB) "Magic" is something supernatural and you said before that miracles are supernatural events. So, the two are synonymous.

(R) Some commentators assert that the feats of the magicians were merely tricks.
(MB) No doubt some have done so. Of course, they would never resort to saying that Moses and Aaron were only performing tricks, would they?

(R) Perhaps the magicians had enchanted snakes so that they became stiff and appeared to be rods. When cast down upon the floor, they came out of their trance and began to move as snakes.
(MB) Why didn't Moses and Aaron do the same thing?

(R) Some say these were acts of Satan, who actually turned the rods of the magicians into snakes.
(MB) This is even less plausible. There is no indication from any Biblical account that Satan was influencing the Egyptians in any way. If he was, why did he do nothing to counter the bloodied waters, the locust, the frogs, the hail, or any other plague?

(R) This, however, is not plausible in view of the fact that only God can create life, as even the magicians later recognized (Ex. 8:18-19).
(MB) The verses say nothing of the sort. They only say that Pharaoh's magicians could not duplicate the feat of bringing forth lice. Then, they say to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God". Isn't that a rather strange thing for worshippers of Ra to say? Of course, we can't forget that the story is told from the Hebrew point of view.

(R) Whatever explanation one might take regarding these feats, one common point holds for every account and is found in the text itself. It is clear that by whatever power they performed these feats, they were not accomplished by the power of God. Rather, they were performed "by their enchantments."
(MB) Why should it be any other way? How could the magicians have done anything by any influence of God when they didn't even worship God and probably didn't even acknowledge that he existed? Also, you are presuming that all supernatural events must be a result of the influence of God when there is no reason to accept this notion whatsoever. Why couldn't such events result from the influence of any other entity (divine or otherwise)? In fact, why must any such events require any outside influence at all?

(R) The purpose of these acts was to convince Pharaoh that his magicians possessed as much power as Moses and Aaron, and it was not necessary for Pharaoh to yield to their request to let Israel go. It worked, at least for the first three encounters. However, when Moses and Aaron, by the power of God, brought forth lice from the sand, the magicians were not able to counterfeit this miracle. They could only exclaim, "This is the finger of God" (Ex. 8:19). Although the magicians appeared to turn their rods into snakes, their rods were swallowed up by Aaron's rod, indicating superiority.
(MB) You're forgetting whose side of the story is being told in the Biblical account. Why would they not write the story to show how their side was better? Why not even exaggerate a bit (or several bits) just for effect? Once again, you're committing the circular reasoning fallacy of assuming the truth of the Bible prior to quoting from it to try to prove that it is true.

(R) Although the magicians could turn water to blood, they could not reverse the process.
(MB) Neither could Moses or Aaron. So, what's your point?

(R) Although the magicians could bring forth frogs, they could not get rid of them.
(MB) Same song, second verse...

(R) Their acts were supernormal, not supernatural.
(MB) What's the difference between "supernormal" and "supernatural"?

(R) Although the magicians could copy some of the miracles of Moses and Aaron, their message was connected with error.
(MB) Oh? How so?

(R) Basically they copied the miracles of God's chosen men in order to convince Pharaoh that the God of the Hebrews was no more powerful than the gods of Egypt.
(MB) Sounds like a reasonable goal, eh?

(R) Although Pharaoh's magicians were able to copy the first three miracles performed by God through Moses and Aaron, there came a point at which their enchantments were no longer able to counterfeit the power of God.
(MB) This assumes that the Egyptian gods were even interested in continuing the "battle". Perhaps they were angry with Pharaoh and abandoned him to the ravages of Yahweh. If so, who's to say that they couldn't easily have countered everything that was thrown their way had they so desired?

Therefore, miracles themselves are not sufficient cause to believe in the divinity of the performer.
(R) Satanic miracles are not, divine miracles are. How do we know the difference? As I said before, we need to test the spirit (1 John 4:2).
(MB) That verse does not prove anything except that believers believe and non-believers do not. It says nothing about who can or can't perform miracles and it certainly says nothing about how one is to look at a miracle and tell from where it ultimately came.

Third, we only have the Bible's say-so that any miracles were actually performed. There is no independent verification of any of the miracles attributed to Jesus (or to anybody else, for that matter).
(R) If the Bible is the Word of God, then the miracles inside are certainly validated.
(MB) That's *still* not true. The miracle stories could be parables or other literary devices that are not supposed to be taken literally but which are supposed to be used to illustrate some larger point.

(R) How do we know the Bible is the Word of God? It's unity and prophecy are a couple examples.
(MB) I'll be interested to see if you still support that claim after reading the rebuttals I've previously provided and the one I am about to provide to your next example...

(R) Since I know you love prophecy so much, lets look at another example from the Old Testament concerning the timing of the Messiah's coming. Around 537 BC, Daniel received a prophecy from the angel Gabriel. Daniel 9:24-26 states:
(MB) Outstanding!! You brought this one up before I preempted you by doing it myself. This one is quite famous and quite easily devastated. Let's get to the good stuff...

(R) "Seventy sevens are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven sevens and sixty two sevens; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty two sevens the Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." (Daniel 9:24-26)
(MB) OK, there's the "prophecy" (except for the curious omission of its final phrase "...and the end thereof shall be with a flood"). Now, let's see how you will try to torture it into an attempt to predict the coming of Jesus and then we'll see just where the whole thing falls apart...

(R) This message pinpointed the time of the coming of the long awaited "Messiah the Prince." At the time of Gabriel's visit to Daniel, Jerusalem was desolate. Most of the Israelites had been taken captive by the Babylonians. The city of Jerusalem, including the temple had been destroyed 70 years earlier. The Hebrew people, however, were about to be freed by the Medo-Persian king Cyrus.
    The prophecy states that "seventy sevens" are determined for the people of Israel. In Hebrew the word translated as "sevens" is the plural form of the word "shabua", which literally means a week of years; much like the English word decade means ten years.

(MB) That word actually means what we understand as a "week" -- a period of seven days. Apologists have to transmogrify it into a "week of years" to make their harmonizations work. Unfortunately, as I shall show, they *still* fail quite pathetically.
    That same Hebrew word is used in Daniel 10:2 ("I Daniel was mourning three full weeks") and in Daniel 10:3 ("I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth...till three whole weeks are fulfilled"). Are you really going to try to claim that Daniel mourned and fasted for 21 years instead of 21 days?


(R) The prophecy declares that Daniel should "know and understand" that from the going forth of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, until the Messiah the Prince comes, that there will be sixty two sevens and seven sevens of years. Therefore, if a seven (shabua) is seven years, then 69 sevens is 483 years (69 x 7=483 years).
(MB) The math is good, but the history is terrible. The decree of Cyrus was issued in 536 BCE. Jesus was born in 4 BCE. That means that there are actually 532 years between those two events and not 483 years. Pretty poor prediction, I'd say.

(R) Some scholars believe that at that time in history most of the known ancient calendars calculated a year as 360 days (Chinese, Mayan, Egyptian, Hebrew, Babylonian and many others).
(MB) You're mixing lunar and solar calendars here. Solar calendars normally had 12 months of 30 days each, but also added on five extra days at the end of the year to keep the calendar in synch with the actual dates of yearly events like the vernal equinox and winter solstice. Lunar calendars have months of 29 or 30 days in accordance with the cyclic nature of the phases of the Moon. Since a 12-month lunar calendar has only 354 or 355 days, and extra month must be added every now and then to keep the calendar somewhat aligned with the equinoxes and solstices. The Jewish calendar adds intercalary months seven times within a 19-year cycle to keep things more or less straight.
    None of this means that the Earth actually orbited the Sun in only 360 days a few thousand years ago.


(R) Some scholars believe an astronomical event (e.g., a close passing of Mars, a meteor or comet striking the earth) lengthened the time the earth takes to rotate one time around the sun to the current 365.25 days per year.
(MB) That's the garbage posited by Immanuel Velikovsky, who also tries to use close approaches of Mars and Venus to explain the plagues inflicted on Egypt. His work has been lambasted and refuted so thoroughly that only a complete scientific incompetent could still support it. The major problem for the timeline you are proposing is that any event violent enough to change the Earth's year from 360 to just over 365 days would have totally devastated the planet to a degree that all life above the bacterial level would have been obliterated along with producing a destruction of its surface to such a degree that it would have taken millions of years to stabilize. Obviously, no such things have happened at any time since Man has walked the surface of the Earth.

(R) Scholars also believe that for prophetic calendars the Jews used a 360 day calendar year.
(MB) Why would they do any such thing? This would have no relationship to any calendar system that they were using and would prove extremely difficult to correlate with lunar calendars into coherent predictions that could have had any hope of accuracy.

(R) Sir Robert Anderson, in his book THE COMING PRINCE, applied this principle of a 360 day calendar year to the 483 years, and made an astounding discovery. Anderson multiplied the 360 days per calendar year by the 483 years to get 173,880 days. Gabriel was telling Daniel that 173,880 days after the command is given to "restore and rebuild Jerusalem" the Messiah would come.
(MB) Yeah, I'd say that this was an "astounding" discovery all right -- astoundingly *wrong*. If you divide 173,880 days by the actual length in days of an Earthly year, you will get 476 years. Since I've already shown that the 483 year figure is quite wrong, Anderson's 476 years is even *more* wrong! Of course, this should be expected since he is using a bogus methodology to produce his figure in the first place.

(R) Remember, at the time this prophecy was given, the city of Jerusalem was desolate. Is there a record of a command such as this recorded anywhere in history? Yes!
    In the second chapter of the book of Nehemiah it states:
    "In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of the reign of Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before. Therefore, the king said to me ' why is your face sad, since you are not sick?'"

(MB) Let me interject a historical side note at this point. We must assume that the author of Nehemiah is referring to Artaxerxes I. There was another Artaxerxes, but he reigned after Nehemiah was written. If this assumption is correct, we can place the twentieth year of his reign in 446-445 BCE. This would be approximately 90 years after the decree from Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem and some 70 years after the completion of the Second Temple. At this time, Jerusalem was having problems with a combination of Persians and Samaritans and the city walls had been destroyed. The story of Nehemiah begins with his audience before Artaxerxes in an attempt to gain the king's approval to rebuild the walls. According to Josephus, Nehemiah got the king's blessings and arrived in Jerusalem in 440 BCE to oversee the work.

(R) Nehemiah went on to explain that he was sad because he had heard a report that the city of his people, Jerusalem, was still desolate.
(MB) The city could hardly be "still desolate" since the second temple had been finished for about 70 years. It was only the walls that had been destroyed and which needed to be rebuilt. Nehemiah tells Artaxerxes that the city "lieth waste" (i.e., that it has been ravaged by the recent war with the Persians and Samaritans) and that "the gates thereof are consumed with fire". The walls would obviously bear the brunt of the initial onslaught and would need to be the first thing repaired if the city within had any hope of being protected from future attacks.

(R) The 1990 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica states that Artaxerxes Longimanus ascended to the throne of the Medo-Persian empire in July 465 BCE By Hebrew tradition, when the day of the month is not specifically stated, it is given to be the first day of the month. So, the day of the decree by Artaxerxes was the first day of the Hebrew month Nisan 445 BCE The first day of Nisan in 445 BCE corresponds to the 14th day of March. This was verified by astronomical calculations at the British Royal Observatory and reported by Sir Robert Anderson.
(MB) I doubt that the exact day will make much difference, but let's see where you're going with this...

(R) Remember that the prophecy states that 69 weeks of years (173,880 days) after the command goes forth to restore the city of Jerusalem the Messiah will come.
(MB) Remember that the command to restore the city was issued by Cyrus in 536 BCE, that "weeks" doesn't mean "seven years", and that there is no justification for the use of a 360-day prophetic year?

(R) If we count 173,880 days forward from the fourteenth of March 445 BCE, we come to April sixth, 32 CE Again, this date was verified by the British Royal Observatory. Here are the calculations: March 14th 445 BCE to March 14th 32 CE is 476 years (1 BC to 1 CE is one year. There is no year zero.)
    476 x 365 days per year = 173,740 days
    Add for leap years = 116 days
    March 14th to April 6th = 24 days
     Total = 173,880 days!

(MB) Wonderful! Sir Robert wins a cookie for his ability to do simple math! Too bad several bogus assumptions have to be lumped into it in order to produce this "prophecy".
    BTW, I almost hate to point this out, but March 14th to April 6th is 23 days, not 24. Count it out on your fingers if you have to. In addition, remember that you already accounted for March 14, 32 CE in the first step of the calculation.


(R) What happened on April 6th 32 CE? According to Anderson's calculations a humble carpenter rode into the east gate of Jerusalem on a donkey while the crowds cried "Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" This man's name was Jesus of Nazareth and this was the first day that he allowed his followers to proclaim him as their Messiah. He had previously told them that his day had not yet come.
(MB) The day of his death, you mean. He had revealed himself to be the Messiah at least as early as his visit to Samaria and his conversation with the woman at the well (John, Chapter 4) and had at least suggested it back as early as his baptism.

(R) Skeptical?
(MB) Of course. As of yet, there's no reason not to be.

(R) Read on.
(MB) With increasing pleasure, I assure you!

(R) Is there any other way to check the accuracy of this date?
(MB) Depends on how much more strange math and stranger assumptions you have available.

(R) Yes!
(MB) I should have guessed...

(R) In Chapter three of the gospel written by the Roman physician Luke, it states that in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and began his ministry.
(MB) Out of curiosity, where did you copy this from? This is not your style of writing and it would be appropriate for you to properly cite your source. This would also enable those who read your arguments to check out the original source material for themselves.

(R) The 1990 Encyclopedia Britannica states that the reign of Caesar Tiberius started on August 19, 14 CE. Most scholars believe Jesus was baptized in the fall season. Consequently, according to Luke, chapter three, the ministry of Jesus started with his baptism in the fall of the fifteenth year of the reign of Caesar Tiberius and (according to most biblical scholars) lasted four Passovers or 3 1/2 years.
(MB) OK, sounds reasonable so far.

(R) The first Passover of Jesus' ministry would have been in the spring of 29 CE. The fourth Passover of his ministry was the day of his crucifixion and would have fallen in the year 32 CE.
(MB) OOPS!! Here's the fatal flaw in the rhetorical ointment. The fall of the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius would have begun in September, 29 CE which is when Jesus would have started his ministry. Since Passover is a springtime festival, the first Passover of Jesus' ministry would, therefore, have been observed in the spring of 30 CE. This correllates with the traditional date of the crucifixion of Jesus which is supposed to have happened on the 15th day of Nisan, in the year 33 CE.

(R) The Passover in that year fell on April 10. Remarkably, according to Robert Anderson and the British Royal Observatory, the Sunday before that Passover was April 6!
(MB) I guess that Sir Robert needs to recalculate his days based on the correct year, eh? Gee, if only Tiberius had begun to reign in January instead of in August. Then, Sir Robert may have had a better case (although it would still suffer from the other problems mentioned earlier). But, as so often happens, a cute story gets screwed up by an ugly fact.

(R) That day, April 6, 32 CE, was exactly 173,880 days after Artaxerxes gave the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem on March 14, 445 BCE! That day was the first day that Jesus of Nazareth allowed his disciples to proclaim him as Messiah!
(MB) This points out one additional problem with the calculation. You said earlier that March 14, 445 BCE is equal to the 1st day of Nisan. If Jesus was crucified on Nisan 15, then Palm Sunday (Sir Robert's April 6) was on Nisan 10. That means that the lunar year equated with 32 CE was only 10 days old on Palm Sunday. But, Sir Robert adds an additional 24 days to the end of his calculation to end up with the proper total number of days after his new calculation year began on March 14, 32 CE. So, in addition to the figuring getting the wrong year (32 CE vs 33 CE), he also misses the day by 14 days! Of course, this is all made a moot point by understanding that he started the whole business off from the wrong starting point in the first place. It just gets worse and worse, but I'll bet that you'll still hold this up as a triumphant and transcendant proof, right?

(R) This prophecy is one of the many proofs that God transcends time and is able to see the beginning of time from the end with incredible precision!
(MB) Gee, look how I was able to predict your response! I guess this proves either that I'm God or that I'm a divinely-inspired prophet, eh?
    Seriously, I'm going to love to see how you'll try to wriggle your way out of this one and still maintain any semblance of a coherent argument.



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