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The Death of Biblical Minimalism

In Associates for Biblical Research:

The May/June 2011 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review is an exciting one. On the cover, some of the topics of the issue are listed, at the top of which are the words, “The End of Biblical Minimalism.” Minimalists are those who believe that only the barest minimum of the Bible is true, and then only if it can be incontrovertibly corroborated by extrabiblical evidence. This perspective is one that is eminently skeptical of the Bible. This is not how ancient documents are generally treated, which naturally raises suspicion that the Bible is being treated with a double standard for no other reason than that it is the Word of God. Speaking a little more generously than usual, minimalist Philip Davies claims that the Bible is indispensible for the historian, even though its “stories may be false, true, or a mixture of fact and fiction” (Davies, 2008, p. 5). For those who see the biblical text as a purely manmade production, the Bible is a mixture of a few facts and mostly fiction. As senior Israeli archaeologist Israel Finkelstein puts it, ‘The historical saga contained in the Bible—from Abraham’s encounter with God and his journey to Canaan, to Moses’ deliverance of the children of Israel from bondage, to the rise and fall of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah—was not a miraculous revelation, but a brilliant product of the human imagination’ (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001, p. 1).

The article, “The Birth and Death of Biblical Minimalism” written by archaeologist Yosef Garfinkle, traces the biblical minimalist position from its inception 30 years ago to the present time, where discoveries have undermined it to the point of it becoming untenable. He focuses on one of the hot-button issues in archaeology: the existence of the United Monarchy.

For biblical minimalists, the United Monarchy is very nearly a fiction. They believe that if David and Solomon existed, they were nothing more than petty chieftains. Hoffmeier summarizes the minimalist position this way: “[I]f David and Solomon did exist, they were simply pastorialist chieftains from the hills of Judea, and the military exploits of David and the glories of Solomon were gross exaggerations from later times” (Hoffmeier, 2008, p. 87). In other words, there were no grand palaces and no royal inscriptions. In short—no kingdom.

Garfinkle focuses on one particular archaeological site called Khirbet Qeiyafa, where he serves as co-director of the dig…

Finkelstein is commonly labeled a minimalist, although he denies that label. He does share many things in common with biblical minimalists, such as a skeptical attitude toward the Bible and a clear bias in interpreting the archaeological evidence. This goes against standard procedure among scholarship. Generally, ancient texts are given the benefit of the doubt unless sufficient reason exists to doubt their veracity. Since the Bible has a long track record of accuracy, to dismiss it out of hand shows a clear bias against it. Second, evidence should drive interpretation and lead to conclusions—not start with conclusions and interpret all the evidence to support those conclusions. Finkelstein’s skepticism points to a preconceived conclusion that seeks evidence to justify itself, which, naturally, can only be done poorly…

Even William Dever—who is no friend to the traditional interpretation of Scripture—has fiercely opposed the minimalists, whom he calls “revisionists.” He says, “the ‘revisionists’…declare that ‘the Hebrew Bible is not about history at all,’ i.e., it is mere propaganda. For them, if some of the Bible stories are unhistorical, they all are—a rather simplistic notion” (Dever, 2001, p. 97). It is the typical case of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”: the Bible is a religious book, therefore it cannot be historically accurate. Ongoing excavations argue otherwise…

Though much of the minimalists’ work is respected by other scholars, they are supremely guilty of allowing their biases to dictate their interpretation of the evidence. They make selective use of the facts and ignore or reinterpret evidence that disagrees with their position. Some of them grew up in fundamentalist homes, giving the impression that their interpretations are more the result of rejecting the faith of their early years rather than sound scholarship. This approach can be maintained only so long before the body of evidence will get to the point of being beyond their ability to manipulate. The archaeologist’s spade will continue to unearth more evidence season by season, year after year. It is only a matter of time before the minimalist position will become a relic enshrined in the museum of discarded ideas.

Read all here.

Fr Michael Rodriguez: The Real Truth About Homosexuality

Is this what got Fr Michael Rodriguez reassigned?

This is a presentation of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, specifically on homosexuality,marriage,and the family by Fr. Michael Rodriguez, to help dispel the false idea that this is about ‘personal opinion’ and actually is Church teaching.

Bishop, Priest, and Deacon – What Do These Words Mean?

Over at Canterbury Tales:

Bishop, Priest, and Deacon – What do these words mean? All three come from Greek words and derive from the Greek New Testament.

Bishop comes from the Greek word episkopos, meaning “overseer.” The prefix “epi-” means “upon” and “scopus” means “to see,” like a scope or a telescope. The word came into Latin as episcopus and then into English as piscop. The “p” turned into a “b” and that gave us “biscop” or “bishop.”

episkopos > episcopus > piscop > biscop > bishop

Priest comes from the Greek word presbyteros, meaning “elder” or “old man.” It refers back to the ancient elders of Israel who assisted Aaron and Moses in leading the children of Israel. The word came into Latin as presbyterus and then into English as “presbyter” which was shortened to “prester,” and finally “priest.”

presbyteros > presbyterus > presbyter > prester > priest

Deacon comes from the Greek word diakonos, meaning “servant.” The prefix “dia-” means “through” and “konos” means “common.” This is someone who works by means of common duties – a servant. It came into Latin as “diaconus” and from their into English as “deacon.”

I don’t want to get into the debate over whether the New Testament views the office of bishop and presbyter as the same. The word is used interchangeable. But for that matter, Paul also interchanges the words “apostle” and “deacon” – that doesn’t mean that each term refers to the same office. Rather the terms are fluid, but the offices are not.

In the New Testament we see three clear offices:


When the Apostles died, the terms changed, but the hierarchy remained:


Saint Paul, pray for us.

Priest Suspended for Preaching on Homosexuality, Cohabitation, and Abortion

What’s up with this?

The Catholic Diocese of Bathurst, New Brunswick has removed an elderly priest from active ministry after he caused a storm of controversy by denouncing homosexuality, cohabitation, and abortion in an August homily.

85-year-old Fr. Donat Gionet had retired to his home town of Caraquet in June to serve palliative care patients, and now laments that in his declining years he is being forced to celebrate Mass “in secret.”

Fr. Wesley Wade, the diocese’s vicar general, told Radio-Canada that Fr. Gionet’s comments were consistent with Church teaching, but lacked the proper “pastoral” sensitivity.

“It was mainly the pastoral approach that was lacking,” Fr. Wade said.  “A lack of respect, perhaps, for the people identified, for the groups of people as well, which caused a division in the community.  It was a difficult decision.”

Fr. Wade did not return numerous calls from LifeSiteNews over two days.

A member of the Eudist Fathers, Fr. Gionet had been accused by parishioners of “homophobia” in media reports last week after he criticized a homosexual parade in Moncton in an August 20-21 homily.  His loudest critic was the mayor of Saint-Leolin, Joseph Lanteigne, an open homosexual and member of the parish council, who demanded the priest’s suspension.

In an open letter Thursday, Fr. Gionet laments that the diocese did not give him an opportunity to explain himself before suspending him.

“To you, the diocesan authorities: did you ask me what I said exactly during the homily in question?” the priest asks.  “They did not, but only listened to people who are frustrated.”

When asked if he would continue making similar comments, he says he can only respond “yes.”  “And if they asked me about the homily, in its entirety, I could not say ‘no’ because for me it is important to speak the truth,” he insists…

He emphasized that cohabitating couples and homosexuals ought not to receive the Eucharist, but are still welcome to join the Church at Mass.

“After these reflections, there were no other allusions whatsoever,” he says, adding that in the homily he went on to speak of the power of forgiveness offered through the Church.

The priest said that he is now living “like the first Christians did at the beginning of the Church: they had to hide in the catacombs to pray or celebrate the Eucharist.”

The Diocese has released a letter to the faithful explaining the suspension, according to French-language media reports.  Bishop Valery Vienneau explains that the priest had refused to alter his statements, and the bishop expressed regret that the comments had upset the faithful.

Could it be the spirit of Liberalism at work here? Canada sure is impregnated with it.

Pope: I Came to Germany to Speak About God

The Pope Visits German Homeland

The Telegraph reports:

In his first official engagement of a four-day visit to Germany Pope Benedict XVI was welcomed to the residence of German President Christian Wulff.

Benedict’s predecessor John Paul always met rapturous crowds in his Catholic Poland. The pope from Catholic Bavaria can expect less deference from the Protestants of old Prussia or the atheist generations raised in communist East Germany.

He plans an open-air Mass today in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, which was built for the 1936 Games meant to glorify Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, as well as meetings with Germany’s Jewish and Muslim minorities.

Benedict will end his German tour in the mostly Catholic south-western city of Freiburg.

The Papstbesuch 2011 website is here.


Fr Michael Rodriguez Reassigned

[For a background, go here or here.] UPDATE: Supporters Call for Return of Fr Michael Rodriguez here.

Fr Z has the discouraging news: El Paso priest transferred because of his public remarks leading up to a mayoral recall vote.

On the site of KVIA in El Paso, Texas, we find this.  My emphases:

El Paso Bishop Halts Priest’s Anti-Gay, Political Discourse

EL PASO, Texas — The Rev. Michael Rodriguez was transferred to a new parish because his stance on morality and the upcoming recall election “raised serious issues regarding whether his participation could be attributed to the Diocese of El Paso” and his parish, El Paso Catholic Bishop Armando X. Ochoa said.


I urge you to go to that site, now, and read that whole piece.

From this KVIA report, it seems that Fr. Rodriguez went to city council meetings and spoke his mind from his perspective.  I assume that Fr. Rodriguez is an American Citizen with 1st Amendment rights, and is a tax payer since he is a diocesan priest, and a resident in that city.  On the surface of it, he has a right as a citizen to speak his mind when it comes to how his taxes are used in that community.

From this report, it sounds as if Fr. Rodriguez confined himself in his remarks and in what he wrote to what the Church teaches.  I assume that, had he made a specific statement about a political figure or specifically how to vote, that statement would have been included in the report as evidence that he crossed a clear line into politics.

From this report, it sounds as if Fr. Rodriguez words were printed in the paper because in the context of an ad paid for by a private individuals with no connection of employment by the Diocese of El Paso or another Catholic entity.  Those people have 1st Amendment Rights and the paper accepted the ad and the money that came with it.

From this report, it sounds as if a Washington DC based group called Americans United for Separation of Church and State accused a local evangelical pastor “of using his church to advance the recall” of the local mayor because of the proposal to give benefits to homsexual “couples” in the same way married couples receive them.  In this report we read:

“(Father) Rodriguez has recently challenged certain city officials to  participate with him in a partisan debate on issues related to an  upcoming election,” said Ochoa. “This type of intervention in the  political in the political process by religious organizations such as  the Diocese of El Paso and San Juan Bautista Church is not permitted  under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code.

I am not use what “partisan” means here.  It is often used to connote a strong and public political stance.   However, I suppose it could also be used to connote a strong public doctrinal stance.  Again, I did not read in the KVIA reportage that Fr. Rodriguez made partisan political statements in public.  He certainly made partisan doctrinal statements. Had he made specifically political statements, you would think that his statements would be prominently reported as evidence of having crossed a line.

I suppose that Fr. Rodriquez was perceived to be “campaigning” (my word) in a political sense for one of the sides in the upcoming recall election.

Context: a local religious group’s tax exempt status was being threatened by a Washington DC based group, …


In a press release, Rodriguez confirmed that he will be relocated. “Obedience to my bishop is essential to the priesthood,” Rodriguez said in the release. “My bishop has transferred me to another assignment, and I intend to be obedient.”…

When contacted Thursday, members of the San Juan Bautista parish said they were told that Rodriguez’s duties were complete as he prepares for his new assignment.

“I was ordained to the Catholic priesthood to offer sacrifice and teach the only truth which brings salvation and happiness,” Rodriguez said in the news release.

“The priesthood is my greatest joy. In the present circumstances, I intend to try even harder to be a good, holy priest.”

What a model response! But look and see this short video and it will speak volumes of the man:

UPDATE:  Is this what got Fr Michael Rodriguez reassigned? The real truth about homosexuality.


Two Men Were Executed in America Yesterday, Only One Won Pity

Two men were executed in America yesterday – but only one of them won the pity of the human-rights brigade is the provocative headline in the Telegraph.

Yesterday in America, two men were executed, but you will probably only have heard of one of them: Troy Davis, who was killed in the state of Georgia for the murder of a police officer. The other executed man, Lawrence Brewer, put to death in the state of Texas for murdering a black man in 1998, has barely featured in the news at all. Unlike Davis, he did not win the backing of Amnesty International and its trendy supporters. No one tweeted and retweeted their sorrow over Brewer or made a public spectacle of how heavy his execution weighed upon their hearts, as many did with Davis. No one lit candles outside the American Embassy for Brewer in full glare of photojournalists’ clicking cameras. No one wore t-shirts saying “I AM LAWRENCE BREWER”.

It might seem obvious as to why Davis was championed while Brewer was ignored: there were many doubts about Davis’s conviction, whereas Brewer was undoubtedly guilty. Furthermore, he was a racist toerag, a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan, whose murder of James Byrd Jr was racially motivated and horrifically executed. But if you are opposed to the death penalty on principle, as many of the Troy Davis campaigners claimed to be, then you should be just as outraged by the execution of Brewer as you were by the execution of Davis. You should be as opposed to the state killing of a guilty racist as you are to the state killing of a possibly guilty black man…

The rest is here.


Troy Davis’s Last Words: May God Bless your Souls

Jon Lewis, a US journalist who witnessed Troy Davis’s controversial execution, describes how the convicted killer maintained his innocence to the end, telling his executioners, “may God bless your souls”.

The Telegraph reports further:

Davis, 42, was put to death by lethal injection after a last minute appeal to the US Supreme Court failed.

His request to take a polygraph test was also turned down.

The appeal to the US Supreme Court led to a temporary delay of more than three hours.

Davis maintained his innocence to the end, saying: “I did not have a gun. For those about to take my life, may God have mercy on your souls. May God bless your souls.”

According to Mr Lewis, a local radio journalist, Davis addressed some comments to the family of his victim, police officer Mark MacPhail, while he was strapped to the gurney.
He told them: “I did not personally kill your son, father, brother.” He also asked them to “dig deeper” into the case so they could “find the real truth.”

Mr Lewis added: “And then he said to the prison staff – the ones he said ‘who are going to take my life’ – he said to them, ‘may God have mercy on your souls,’ and his last words were to them, ‘may God bless your souls.’”

Davis was pronounced dead at 11.08pm local time.

The above and a video here.


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