Monthly Archives: August 2008
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A long time ago, Rook Hawkins asked for my opinion on a recently unearthed tablet that contained an apocalyptic vision of the death and resurrection of a Jewish Messiah. According to many on the RRS boards, this find would invalidate Christianity. Well, I’ve thought long and hard about this. I don’t think that this tablet is anything to get excited about. Rook and I will actually agree on several points (surprising as that might be).
First, this was “found” in someone’s collection many years after the fact. We have no idea where it came from or how it got there. Already, the tablet has passed through too many hands to make an convincing case for its dating. This raises the possibility of a forgery. Second, if it is real, then it does solidify the fact that the notion of a suffering and rising Messiah was derived from Hebrew Scripture before Jesus ever was on the scene. This makes it all the more convincing that Paul was able to reason with people from the Scriptures about Jesus’ identity as Messiah.
What I don’t think that Rook will agree with is that the use of apocalyptic language suggests a prophecy–the writer wasn’t reporting a historical event but rather offering his opinion of what will happen in the future when the Messiah does come. Either way, the final report on this will be very interesting. But I don’t think it will offer any earth-shaking revelations that will destroy the foundations of Christianity.
In all, having a suffering-and-resurrection tradition already in place prior to the first century doesn’t weaken the case for Jesus in my mind. It strengthens it, and bolsters my faith to know that some of the Jews of Jesus’ day were on the lookout for exactly what transpired. These folks would have readily identified Jesus as the Savior promised in the Scriptures.
Rook Hawkins has taken me to task on calling for PZ Myers to get fired or to resign his position over desecration of the Eucharist. Before I offer some much prayed-over changes to my position, I will clarify one thing: I have no intention of continuing the blog debate that I started. The reason being that I’m out of my depth with historical data and Rook will continue to make me look foolish. I’ll let the real (or amateur) historians take him on regarding a historical Christ. I’m confident in a historical Christ based on what I’ve read, and that’s all that I need to say on the subject.
Now, let’s get back to PZ Myers. I have not adjusted my position that he is a bad representative of the university for desecrating a wafer. To millions of Catholics, that is the literal body of Jesus Christ. I think that, as an educator, he should be respectful of his students’ beliefs, whether he agrees with them or not. However, I’m not so sure that what he did was as a representative of the university; I think it was completely personal, as a private citizen of these United States. As much as Bill Donahue is going to disagree with me, as much as I may offend Catholic readers (Dave Armstrong: admit, you still read my blog just like I still read yours), I’m going to have to say that what he did is free speech.
What I did was overreact. I did exactly what Myers wanted me to do–I gave him publicity for something that I should have let slip quietly under the rug where it belongs. Myers is, first and foremost, an attention whore. I spoke where I should have been silent. Calling for his resignation or termination was unwarranted.
I should note that there is a significance to the Lord’s Supper, and that I believe in Real Presence, though not the way that Catholics do. I believe that the bread is a symbol of the body; the wine a symbol of the blood, and that we eat and drink it in memory of him, just as commanded in the Bible. However, my brother-in-law Nate pointed out to me that a symbol ceases to represent anything when it is used in another way. Just like a swastika used to represent good luck, but now represents a terrible regime that never should have happened, symbols change their meaning based on the context of their use. In this case, when the host is desecrated in that fashion, it ceases to represent Christ’s body and becomes just what it is–a wafer.
In effect, Myers desecrated nothing. I should have recognized this from the outset and kept my mouth shut.