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In praise of Christian Illiteracy

The Colossian church was full of illiterates, but they had one good letter they could listen to over and over. Or maybe three.

Likewise, the typical Jewish Synagogue before 70 AD was probably as full of functional illiterates as any place else, but every Sabbath they studied the law, retold sacred stories, and recited things like the shema. They put words on their walls they could not truly read, but they knew what the words meant. And they remembered.

One part of me would absolutely trade places with Philemon's slaves - sleeping on dirt, living on bread and water, doing physical labor all daylight long, and without time, inclination or need to become literate... not to mention without being able to afford to buy any written material...

Yes, I'd take that slave's place in a heartbeat - if it meant I could gather with saints in our homes, mornings, evenings and weekends, to share from and learn from the living Word on the lips of my brothers and sisters.

Point: You don't have to be able to read to get into the Bible. You just need one friend who can read. Of course, WHAT that friend reads and HOW they share from the scripture is a whole other issue. But I'll leave that alone for today...

QOTD: on HJ sources

From some guy in the New Yorker (HT, B&I):
If the letters of Saint Paul (the earliest surviving Christian texts, by general consensus) and the synoptic gospels (the second-earliest) didn’t make such extraordinary claims about Jesus’s resurrection, his divinity, and so forth, no credible historian would waste much time parsing second-century apocrypha for clues about the “real” Jesus. They’d thank their lucky stars that the first-century Christians were such talented narrative writers, and spend most of their time trying to reconcile the discrepancies and resolve the contradictions in Matthew, Mark and Luke, while arguing amongst themselves about how much historical weight to give to the events and sayings recorded in John’s gospel. The gospel of Thomas would attract some modest attention; the later “lost gospels,” very little, save as evidence of how intra-Christian debates developed long after Jesus’s death. For the most part, the argument over how the Nazarene lived and died would revolve around competing interpretations of the existing Christian canon, and the rough accuracy of the synoptic narrative would be accepted by the vast majority of scholars.
Maybe it would go like that, and maybe it wouldn't. But it surely should! Miracles included and "lucky stars" excluded, of course. ;-)

Stephen's Day of Atonement

The day Stephen was stoned, Christians began fleeing Jerusalem. Whether diaspora pilgrims who never went home or Judean believers who hated to leave, they all had two things in common. They were suddenly homeless, and they had no one but each other to rely on.

Given those facts, Acts 8 does not have to tell us the details of the scattering. Generally, what must have happened is that little bands of Jewish Christians regathered together in as many places as they were able to find one another. Whether just passing through or whether looking to stay, little bodies of Christ were set up, again and again, all over Palestine.

As any church is one corporate Home for the Lord, one dwelling place assembled from many parts, so it was that God put together in these days a series of Tents for Himself, each temporary to some degree or another. As these mini churches continued to sprout, all over Israel, God's House and His Testimony was once again moving across the face of the Earth, for the first time since David took Jerusalem.

These are the obvious after-effects of Acts 7. Combined with an assumption of historicity for the basic content of Stephen's speech, and given the chronological data that Paul's conversion took place less than twelve months after Pentecost Sunday - which narrows the most likely timeframe for these events to some time during the Autumn of 33 AD - one should find it remarkable to consider the following thoughts.

Reconstructing this picture of autumn events, the aftermath of this scattering suddenly looks a lot like God's 'ingathering'. The small churches being assembled now seem a spiritual version of the Sukkot (Shelters/Booths) that went up during Israel's autumn festival. The original church - driven away from Jerusalem to appease the guilty consciences of the Sanhedrin and their closest adherents - amazingly, the Jerusalem church now parallels the scapegoat, sent out into the wilderness, to wander the face of the earth.

This much, at least, we ought to conclude: That WHATEVER day Stephen was stoned, these events happened afterward. And that, whether or not this suggests Yom Kippur as a likely historical context for the events of Acts 7, these parallels are remarkably like a fulfillment of much in the High Holy season.

Jesus may not have been crucified at precisely the time that the Passover lambs were being slain in the Temple. Nevertheless, Jesus' death WAS very much a fulfillment of Passover in Eternal ways.

Likewise, Stephen may not have been stoned on the Day of Atonement, but these events which occurred after Stephen's death DID mark a first-time fulfillment of Tabernacles in Eternal ways.

A first-time fulfillment, at least...

on LOST and Community

Much has been made about how these individual castaways had to bond together as a community. "If we can't live together, we're gonna die alone," said Jack, at the end of season one. Each character's backstory had indeed left them very alone, and so the group shot at the end was indeed hugely significant. But...

***SPOILER ALERT***

Where were the family members? In the end, when the souls of the losties were all gathered together in those pews, Jack's dad was the only family member present. What about: Jack's mom, Kate's parents, Hurley's parents, John's wife Helen, Claire's mom, Juliet's sister, Shannon's dad, Charlie's brother Liam, Jin's dad, Sun's mom, and their daughter Ji Yeon. And what about baby Aaron? If there was no "now, here", shouldn't Aaron have been older? Ditto for Ji Yeon & Sawyer's daughter Clementine. Okay, partly it was just a cast reunion photo, and the writers could say maybe the losties' real families were waiting for them 'in the light'. Even so, this says something about the show's audience, the era in which we live, and perhaps about our typically anemic experience of "community".

In many ways, the survivors' new island family/community had superseded their blood relatives, and their former communities. So it has been for many of us in LOST's audience.

Current discussions about the need for "community" often aim at methods for developing more of it. My grandfather's generation didn't have to develop community. Not in the same ways. Eighty years ago he could walk or bike to anyone's house in his town. Today, most TV watching households sit much farther away from their nearest town square. (Side question: Has TV's false sense of human connectedness enabled ever-increasing sprawl? Where possible, probably. But TV isn't my enemy point.) And lots of those households spent a lot of time watching LOST.

In many ways, LOST is a show for our age. I do think it says something that the largest, most deeply-developed character/ensemble show in TV history had writers who set out to illustrate points about bondedness and the challenge of forging community - and that in order to do so they had to move those people onto some island together, away from their families. I don't think they're purposefully anti-family, and I don't think family should be our solution per se. I just think... well, this:

LOST illustrates the modern lifestyle, in which we individualists construct our own micro-communities, to our own liking, as much as we can. In this way, LOST also reflects one more example of how much we want what we're missing... even though we don't really know what that is.

Y Jnny Cnt Rd d Bbl

It isn't just the most recent flavor of functional illiteracy. Historically speaking, texting teens are worlds ahead of first century Jews in some measures of functional literacy, but in other aspects, probably not far ahead. Mostly illiterate Jews were still 'the people of the book'. But what good is basic literacy today if nobody reads?

Anyway, Christianity Today thinks Johnny Can't Read the Bible because Johnny doesn't study enough, listen to good Biblical teaching enough, or interact with cool online software enough. Partly, that's fair. Those are indeed some of the reasons. But aside from being illiterate, most people are also illiterary. Serendipitously, today, Tim Bulkeley reminds us that we all have to be taught how not to read books - that is, books whose organization is more intricate than simple 'bed-to-bed' storytelling. None of us has the strength to tear through the Old & New Testaments as if they were Harry Potter.

So, given the Bible's complexity, what does it take to make someone 'functionally Biblically literate'? I'm not sure anyone yet knows.

Rudolf Flesch's Johnny (1955) was worlds ahead of William Tyndale's Ploughboy (1522), but only in some ways. The King James version, which turns 400 next year, copied much of Tyndale's text, but not his noble ambition. The 'Authorized Version' was published to make sure Bishops kept on knowing more than day workers. But then, keeping sheep ignorant and in control was much easier back in the 17th century. Wasn't it?

Alas, ignorance is relative. This month, a team of Evangelical Pastors are working hard to release BibleMesh, to help the rest of us "understand the Bible" and "see how the story fits together" - to know "the big picture as well as important facts of the Bible." Ah yes, those important facts. Just remind me, now. Who is it that gets to make up that 'important' list? (I'll give you a hint. It's not Johnny.)

One reason Johnny can't read the Bible is because well meaning clerics for centuries have emphasized exclusively those parts of the Bible they felt were most important. The goal seems to be always keep plow boys only-so-educated, so Bishops won't have to worry about theological anarchy. The alternative is both risky and messy, and it may take a while to get there in a healthy, balanced, rational, spiritual, faithful way. But this is our quest.

Gd hlp us, we wnt 2 ndstnd d Bbl!

More on Hays v. Wright: Interpreting Parables

When Jesus painted these pictures of peculiar situations with surprising twists in the end, I think half of his purpose was simply to shift people's awareness. Surely one major reason he chose them to tell was precisely because they were each so oddly unique. But in Jesus' case, that unexpected twist wasn't merely good storytelling. It was part of the point about what Life with God is supposed to be like.

That, in turn, is why I don't understand how anyone can find "the" meaning of a particular parable. Take the Prodigal son. Does the Father represent God, or is he just a father whose raising the bar for the rest of us as parents? Is the prodigal son supposed to be Israel, or does he represent individual believers, like the lost sheep and the lost coin? Likewise, who is the good brother - Israel's leaders? Or anyone who looks down on God's struggling children?

Yes. Maybe. And not necessarily.

Now, you all know I am NOT the kind of guy to say 'well this passage just means whatever it means to each listener'. But with parables, we have to remember that Jesus told these deliberately-difficult-to-interpret parables to crowds. In those crowds there were parents and children, blameless Jews and backsliding synagogue skippers, rich and poor, lazy and diligent, humble and proud. The one thing they all had in common was that Jesus wanted to get them more tuned in to what GOD wanted out of them at any particular time.

So Jesus left Parables open ended.

But.

Can we say the same about Gospel writers?

Luke may very well have had in mind one predominant interpretation when he chose to include the Prodigal Son at that point in his Gospel. If so, then we may very well be capable of determining from context clues in that passage and before and after it, what Luke intended as the main theme of that particular parable. In that sense, scholars absolutely have grounds to debate "the" interpretation of the Prodigal Son, according to Luke.

On the other hand...

The moment any Gospel writer included a parable, no matter how they presented it, and whether or not they greatly modified it, that parable itself brought along with it - right there into the midst of the writer's own sculpted narrative - its whole literary self, its whole history, its original content and its broader package of meanings.

So we have two things. We have Luke's intention. And we have Jesus' intention. In case this needs to be said, that is no contradiction. Again, if Luke used the passage for one purpose we should still think that Jesus himself may have used the parable more broadly.

Now, finally, to Hays v. Wright on the Historical Jesus.

Here's what all of this means. On the one hand, N.T. Wright is probably correct when he suggests (implicitly, as Richard Hays pointed out at Wheaton) that Jesus may have meant more by the Prodigal Son than Luke seems to mean by it. On the other hand, this also means Luke's text cannot support N.T. Wright's assertion that a particular interpretation of the Prodigal Son *IS* what Jesus meant by the Parable. Wright's interpretation about Israel's Exodus may even be accurate, but we can't tell so from reading Luke.

In some ways, this illustrates the rock and the hard place of doing Christian History based on the Gospels. Hays is absolutely right that we MUST respect the individual voices of the Gospel writers and their intentions as editors/authors. But Wright is correct that there was a Historical action behind these Gospel narratives. The question is, how much of that History can we get at?

I think we can get to some parts of the Lord's History better than others, but I don't think a Historian can ever make much of an argument from Jesus' Parables, as we have them. In my best estimation, the Parables that Jesus spoke to the crowds, in his own voice and rendering, were largely intended to be left open, interpretatively.

Which Macedonian Church(es) Gave Money?

A commenter named Jon asked, "When Paul speaks of the giving Macedonian churches in II Cor 8,is the church in Thessolonica the one he is speaking specifically about?" Jon may or may not know that I've long had a fondness for the Story of Thessalonica. But that doesn't mean I can play favorites this time. Anyway, here's my answer.

Paul's thankfulness in his letter to the Philippians includes mentioning a number of times they provided for his needs. It must have helped Philippi (the church) to have Lydia there. As a seller of purple (dye/cloth?) Lydia had financial means that were probably uncommon in most early churches. However modest, her wealth must have been one major reason for Philippi's custom of sending Paul financial gifts. And if not strictly Lydia, it still had to be some more than others. The '80/20 rule' in ancient socio-economics was closer to 95/5.

Thus, Philippi was one very giving church that we know of for certain. If Paul wrote any thank you letters to Berea or Thessalonica, we don't know about them. However, just like Paul thanked the whole church in Philippi for the gift certain saints may not have contributed to, Paul gave credit to Macedonia as a group, instead of mentioning which church(es?) gave more than the others.

Therefore, Thessalonica and/or Berea most likely did make some contribution to the collection in 2 Cor 8, but it's most likely that Philippi did the lion's share of the giving, as usual.

Fear not the "Fifth Gospel"

On the subject of reconstructing a narrative of Jesus' life, based on the Gospels, one undying refrain of theologians is their concern that it might drown out the individual voices of the four cannonical Gospels as we have them currently. To that concern, I said this, elsewhere, not so long ago:
Did Tacitus’ voice get drowned out because of scholars like Ronald Syme? Was Josephus’ voice drowned out by Emil Schurer, or by anyone since?

Well then, how much less are we capable of diminishing the Gospels, for whom they are the very words of Life?
Some bloggers are better than others about responding to comments. That's understandable. Still, if anyone here feels like responding, the question stands.

Do we, as Christian believers, really not trust ourselves to reconstruct Christ's Life in Historical narrative form... because we somehow don't trust ourselves to remember that the scripture will always hold first place?

Really?

Mid-week Pentecost (Shavuot)

Today is Tuesday. Sundown tonight is 'tomorrow' on Jewish calendars. Tonight, as in many years, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) is being celebrated mid-week. This fact reflects the victory of Pharisaic influence on Judaism in the centuries after Jerusalem's destruction.

Before 70 AD, the Pharisees used to insist that Shavuot be observed on Sivan the 6th, precisely fifty days from the Sabbath of Passover's first day. The Sadducees, however, favored an interpretation of Mosaic Law which began counting from the Saturday during Passover. This, of course, always left Shavuot on a Sunday, which pleased the Sadducees and their wealthy constituency.

Just think about travelers and money. Pentecost is a one-day festival, but also a major one, drawing multitudes of pilgrims to the Holy city every year. While the Sadducees ruled, the Feast always began at sundown on Saturday, so pilgrims had to arrive by Friday and could not depart until Monday. That meant more money being spent in town, which - again - was very good news for the wealthy ruling class of Jerusalem, not to mention the Sanhedrin itself. Decisions like this were undoubtedly what kept the Sadducees in power for so long.

We close with a side note, perhaps of more interest to most of you:

It is most likely (*) that Sivan 6th fell on a Saturday/Sunday in the year 33 AD. That meant both Jerusalem AND God agreed on when Pentecost should be held that particular year. This may not be a conclusive point, historically, but it does add some weight for me personally in confirming that 33 AD was the Pentecost of Acts 2, seven weeks to the day after Resurrection Sunday.

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(*) These dates hold only IF the lunar observation was on target that year, which we cannot strictly assume, but which should have been true at least more often than not. For more about lunar considerations, see Dating the Crucifixion: Possible Friday Passovers, and Dating the Crucifixion: Sadducees, Calendars and Festival Finances, and works referenced in those posts.

Fresh Ideas for Free: #3

In John's Gospel (especially chapter 15) the friends of Jesus are charged primarily with producing love. That is, his 'philoi' are expected to 'agapao' him. This puts a new slant on the Greek verbage of John 21. For that matter, if one were to classify the "loves" of classical Greek, 'phileo' (the faithful love of a friend) would rank higher than any other human experience the Greeks themselves had known.

Thus, Peter's response (philw se) to Jesus' question (agapas me) was hardly the anemic 2nd rate profession of so many sermons. Rather, Peter's response was affirmative to the highest degree. Furthermore, John's placement of this event at least twelve days after the resurrection, and his mention of Peter growing listless in Jerusalem, combine with this linguistic suggestion in order to cast a new light on this whole exchange.

Jesus' question (agapas me) is the obvious prelude to asking a favor. Peter's response (philw se) is a way of saying, "You know I'm your man." The clear implication is that Peter is eager for something to do. Jesus' challenge the third time suggested Peter might not really go through with that which was going to be asked of him. That's why it grieved Peter so. They weren't debating emotion. They were discussing the responsibilities of loyalty. That's also why the conversation ended up at the cross.

-------------------------
I've said this before. I just felt like saying it again.

If anyone wants to help me run due dilligence, and turn this into a publishable article, I'd love to collaborate. I'll also happily settle for a footnote. Just read the rest, please. (And this bit, about loving the fish.)

The Kingdom of the Skies

That's been my personal translation for ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν for many years. Here's why.

First of all, the only justification for translating 'heavens' (let alone the singular, 'heaven') is if you throw in a note like "Well, when they said 'heavens', they meant the sky and space above it." Okay, fine. But when we say 'the night sky', we include space too. Right? Thus, "sky" still fits perfectly.

Now, the reason I like "Kingdom of the Skies" is because it brings out the utter ridiculousness of the original. Translating "heaven" is a cop out, because English speakers all have a cultural/religious idea of what that means, and it isn't what 'ouranos' meant. But "Kingdom of the Skies"? What the heck does that mean, Jesus?

I mention this today because James McGrath and I have been quibbling today over what the "cosmological framework" of first century Jews "would have led them to understand" about Acts 1:9-11, in which Jesus ascends into τὸν οὐρανόν ('the sky'). James seems to think the first century understanding would necessarily infer from Luke that Jesus passed through the stratosphere, mesosphere and ionosphere, icing up from sub-zero temperatures before finally entering airless space. (Incidentally, that'd be quite some escape velocity Jesus attained, wouldn't it?) Read his post and tell me if I misunderstand.

In contrast, I myself must suppose that any ancient cosmology which talked of God's entire Kingdom being in "the skies" would also understand such a place was invisible. Thus, after Jesus had flown up oh, so high, he'd also have turned invisible. Or, to put that another way, that after he'd ascended into the skies, he'd also have transported himself into that OTHER PLACE, which was up there.

So what of it? James and I both agree that we can't impose modern understandings of science on ancient writers or readers. But we seem to apply this differently. I maintain this: since the text says he flew, I'll believe that he flew. The text does not say how high. There's just one question left:

Where did the first readers of Acts think that Jesus wound up? With God. With the same God who inhabits Eternity, whose voice can inhabit a bush, and whose dining room once linked itself to Mount Sinai in Arabia. First century Jews must have known rudimentary physics. They also knew that God was beyond all such things.

So James, I'll gladly agree the ascension is harder to buy than the resurrection. In fact, some might say my interpretation of the ascension is even more unreal than yours. In the end, I suspect mine is more first century. But thanks for the fun! :-)

For everyone else, here's a challenge: search Acts (or better yet, Luke-Acts) for 'heaven' and tell me: where did they think such-a-place actually WAS? Was it just beyond Jupiter? Or was it SOMEPLACE ELSE?

The Ecumenical Enclave

John P. Meier's nonpapal enclave (from the Marginal Jew series) was a great device, but why hasn't anyone investigated Jesus' life from an inter-faith perspective that's exclusively Christian? I'm guessing I know why.

It's easy to imagine a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, an athiest, an agnostic and a Muslim openly finding some common ground about the life of Jesus. Meier can happily "prescind" from his personal beliefs about scripture when he prescinds all the way. The Vatican commended Meier's books in which he academically denies the virgin birth. But could the Vatican ever commend a hypothetical enclave which accepts the virgin birth while denying Mary's perpetual virginhood?

A plain reading of the Gospels suggests repeatedly that Jesus had brothers and sisters, and the official Catholic view that 'adelphoi' means 'cousins' here is special pleading. Please note, I have no desire to argue with anyone who believes in "Mary ever virgin", so this obvious example serves merely to illustrate my point.

One reason Christian scholars aren't pursuing faith-based historiography on the Gospels, wholeheartedly, is probably because doing so honestly and rationally would undoubtedly wind up threatening some number of cherished interpretations. Which ones? I have no idea. But I bet there are plenty.

It's too bad. I thought Meier's non-papal enclave was a terrific idea, for academics, but I think an ecumenical enclave would make a much more productive strategy, for believers, for the future of "church". It might even be like when America's thirteen freshly confederated states called together a new constitutional convention. At that time, the states had no idea what was about to come out of such an enclave. Just like them, neither would we.

That's precisely why it could be so very great. At some point, everything that can be shaken, should be.

Alas, most scholars qualified to participate in such an enclave, and most people with resources powerful enough to put it together, are beholden to institutions whose stated definitive purpose is primarily to preserve their own status quo. Evidently, that precludes prescinding with other believers. More's the pity.

Ouija Bible or Story Bible?

Hector Avalos was right about one thing, at least, when he said, recently: "Surveys repeatedly show that Christian populations, when left to their own devices, do not seem too interested in Bible reading unless convinced otherwise by their authorities."

But really. Why should Christians read the Bible? Compared to any normal book, the insides of the Bible are ridiculously chaotic! If you don't think so, you've either learned the Bible very well (and forgotten what it seemed like at first) or you've long since succumbed to ouija board style, pick-a-verse-itis.

Then there's clever concept Bibles like the Archaeological Study Bible and Nelson's Chronological Study Bible. These have done well in recent years, largely because many Bible buyers (at least, of those who are actually Bible readers as well!) are desperately wanting to understand the Bible IN CONTEXT. But you pick up the Arch.Bib. and it's just plastered with topical sidebars on every page. And the Nelson's C.B. isn't really much different. It's a rearranged text with a lot of topical sidebars.

Someday we need to do much better, but when we do, it won't be with 'a new version' of the Bible. The Bible's fine just like it is. We simply need a better guidebook on how to read it. And here's why:

Normal Christian folk (who also bravely attempt to actually read the Bible) will never have much sense of context or coherence within the New Testament until we INTEGRATE the CONTENT of scripture together with CONTEXT material into one cohesive Story format. AND it has to be one that is historical non-fiction - not just an imaginative drama, but a rationally reconstructed narrative.

Chronology, archaeology, history, culture, and scripture. Will it ever all come together? Can it?

I pray so. Daily...

Why Noah's Ark Matters

Patrick McCullough and the Noah's Ark Shamster have something in common. In their own words, they both believe "it doesn't matter". How fascinating.

While Patrick has clever ways of explaining why we shouldn't consider the Genesis drama as a factual story, his heart seems fixed on trying to keep people from losing their faith when ridiculous claims don't hold up under scrutiny. The Shamster, however, has come out and admitted that he believes promoting a fake will help people increase their faith. So Patrick and the Shamster seem to disagree mainly on strategy. How truly fascinating.

I now tip my hat to Bob Cargill for his continued updates on this (truly, horrible) mess. In reading Bob's comments, however, it struck me not only how much the Shamster's opinion reminded me of what Patrick McCullough said last week. Bob's own words also spoke precisely as to why the whole issue of facticity DOES matter. In fact, why it matters to so many people.

The very outrage Bob expresses when people assert as factual that which he believes is unfactual, is the same outrage others feel when people like Bob insist to be unfactual that which they KNOW he can't possibly be certain about. There is NO difference. Most folks just want to maintain a clear distinction between fact and fantasy... even if only in principle.

The best response I've seen to this whole thing, so far, has been Jona Lendering's. Jona said: "I will not be arguing that you cannot find what never existed; the historicity of the Great Flood is a matter of belief, and therefore a subject about which I postpone judgment." Read the rest of Jona's wonderful post (in which he shows purely for argument's sake how un-biblical it is to look for the Ark on 'Mount Ararat' in the first place) here.

The facticity of Noah's Ark absolutely matters. It also remains uncertain. I prefer to suspend judgment hopefully. Those who assert one or the other for certain belong in the same category. The Shamster is getting enough hits for his grievous crime, but so far he doesn't seem to be very rebukable. Bob and Patrick, on the other hand, are supposed to be scholars who know the importance of truth and humility. Let's find out...

Patrick, facts always matter, even dubious and unprovable ones. And Bob, you shouldn't use general physics on top of the word 'worldwide' to imply that there was never any Great Flood. You don't know that for sure. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that you guys (and many more like you both) are merely trading in the insecure old dogmas for ones that feel more secure now because they're in vogue at the moment. If that's true, then shame on you both.

Timeline of New Testament Events

My first full attempt, from 2005/2006, posted retroactively, today. A few details have changed. Most has not. For the whole thing, from 9 BC to 70 AD, again, follow this link. For the latest details, including as thorough an explanation of my reasoning as I've yet put online, read the following posts:

Chronology of Jesus' Nativity
Chronology of the Gospels
Dating Paul's Conversion
Chronology of Acts 1-9
Chronology of Paul's Travels & Epistles

All feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading. Enjoy.

Fresh Ideas for Free: #2

If Joseph's fear of taking Jesus into Archelaus' Judea didn't abate until the Herodian Ethnarch was exiled in mid-6 AD, then Matthew 2:22 would explain Luke 2:42, meaning that Jesus' twelfth birthday fell somewhere within the twelve months before Passover of 7 AD. In turn, this means Jesus was most likely born between April of 7 BC and March of 6 BC - a timespan which has a lot else to recommend it as the proper window within which to date Jesus' birth.

I've said this before. I just felt like saying it again.

If anyone wants to investigate further, and publish something along these lines, I'd love to collaborate. I'll also happily settle for a footnote. Just read the rest, please.

The Logic of Wineskins

(1) If you're ever able to pour wine into some family's wineskin, one of four things will happen. Three of these possible outcomes look just the same for all outward appearances. Attempting to cause the most telling result is not recommendable.

(2) If a wineskin's owners are cautious about who gets to refill it, then pouring in new wine is most likely not recommendable.

(3) There are two ways to preserve an old wineskin. Every old wineskin owner prefers the first method. The question is, what to do when the old wine runs out.

(4) There's only one way a family can keep having new wine, but it's costly. Each new wineskin requires the sacrifice of at least one suitable hide.