An Historian views the early Bible

Interview: Darrell Bock – an Historian and the early Bible




The background for this whiteboard is described in

See also the Y-point exercise MYW 4.9.

How do we know that Jesus is truly the Way?

There are four ways to argue. Different people have a bias towards some and not others.


How do we know what is true? What is proof?

Arguments from the design of the laws of matter and energy, the wonder of discovery, and symmetries.

Arguments from the existence of time/space, of beauty/qualia, of goodness/morality.


My own experience of sorting it and doubting it.

My reasons why I think I did not make it up in my head

What are my experiences of the living God?


The reliability of the text about Jesus and its transmission through history

The apostles as eyewitnesses and their martyrdom

Historical research adds just-like-it information that mostly fits the biblical narratives


In many ages and cultures, many kinds of personality have had similar experiences of God, thus bearing a common witness

Different religious systems, though different, share common ground on some things.

When we argue between shared religious/philosophical positions, we need to look to all four parts of this frame.

MYW 4.5 feedback



“God sends no one suffering”

“I don’t know why this has happened to you.”

We find extra compassion comes from within

You can make it.


God understands

He suffers with us

People get great strength and resilience


God is raising greater love out of evil

God made a free world

God waits patiently

Jesus suffered wrong too


We all will die.

God has pledged to end all the suffering one day

We will all see the reasons are OK. Trust.

Join in with God’s flow

The best is yet to be

New Evidence for Solar System Design: Fine-Tuning the Late Veneer

These guys come up with some amazing things, and while I don’t always agree with them, it is still amazing, like this one!

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Today's New Reason to Believe
AUGUST 20, 2012

New Evidence for Solar System Design:
Fine-Tuning the Late Veneer

By Dr. Hugh Ross

Astronomy research yields increasing evidence for the solar system’s unique formation history. The more we learn, the more its features appear fine-tuned to enable the eventual existence of advanced life on Earth. A recent study, for example, shows a residual population of planetesimals (small, primordial solar system bodies, in this case measuring no larger than 20 meters across) with a total mass just-right for life’s sake. This total mass played an essential role in dampening the eccentricities and inclinations of Venus, Earth, and Mars from their initially high values to their current near zero values, as well as in sufficiently enriching Earth’s crust with siderophile (iron/arsenic/sulfur-loving) elements so that advanced life eventually would be possible on Earth.


Good mental health critically depends on the recognition of self-worth. Self-worth comes from the discovery that one is uniquely designed to fulfill a specific and valuable purpose.. Recognition that each human being is distinctly special represents a powerful argument for the existence of a powerful, intelligent, knowledgeable, and loving Creator.

Increasingly, astronomers are discovering that what is true of human beings, also appears to be true of the Sun’s suite of planets and particularly planet Earth. When planets outside of our solar system were first discovered in 1995,1 most astronomers presumed that the discovery of additional exoplanets would prove that the solar system planets are in no way special but, rather, ordinary. Since this article’s publication, 777 planets outside of our solar system have been measured in sufficient detail as to be included in the Paris Observatory’s Exoplanet Encyclopedia. Currently, astronomers are examining an additional two thousand candidate planets to determine whether or not they are true planets.

Not one of the 777 planets in the Exoplanet Encyclopedia matches the characteristics of any one of our solar system’s planets. Upsilon Andromedae e comes close. Its mass compared to Jupiter’s is 1.06+. (Because the inclination of Andromedae e’s orbit is not known, only a minimum mass has been determined2). Its distance from its host star compared to Jupiter’s distance from the sun is 1.01.3

Upsilon Andromedae e, however, is accompanied by two much larger planets, upsilon Andromedae c and d, with masses = 14.57+ and 10.19+ times greater than Jupiter’s, respectively. These two planets orbit the system’s host star 6.1 and 2.1 times closer, than does upsilon Andromedae e. Their orbits are also highly eccentric. Moreover, the host star is 1.28 times more massive and 3.4 times more luminous than the sun. The characteristics of both the main star and the two heavy planets accompanying upsilon Andromedae e rule out the possibility that another planet in the same system could possibly support advanced life.

Thus far, the discovery of hundreds of exoplanets has increasingly demonstrated just how specially designed each of the Sun’s eight planets and Earth’s Moon are for making the existence of advanced life possible on Earth. This remarkable design evidence has been accumulating, as seen in our books, DVDs, and at speaking events, for more than two decades.4 Now, the evidence is so compelling that even committed nontheistic scientists are acknowledging the dozens of unique solar system features that make our existence on Earth possible. The latest work on this topic can be found in the book, Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique by famed British physicist John Gribbin.5 Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, and the last chapter are correspondingly titled What’s So Special about Our Place in the Milky Way, What’s So Special about the Sun, What’s So Special about the Solar System, What’s So Special about the Earth, and What’s So Special about Us.

As Gribbin repeatedly points out in this new book, the more astronomers and physicists learn about the solar system and exoplanetary systems, the more evidence they accumulate for the special, fine-tuned design of the Sun, Earth, and Earth’s planetary partners to make humanity’s Earthly existence possible. The Astrophysical Journal comes out with two issues every ten days. In every issue I count one, if not several, articles that add to the weight of evidence for the unique and purposeful design of the solar system for our specific benefit. Here I’ll describe just one such article.

Three astronomers, Hilke Schlichting of UCLA and Caltech, Paul Warren of UCLA, and Qing-Zhu Yin of UC Davis, published a paper titled, “The Last Stages of Terrestrial Planet Formation: Dynamical Friction and the Late Veneer.”6 Therein, they point out just how critically important a late stage of terrestrial (rocky) planet formation is for life on Earth.

The final stage for the formation of Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars occurs after the formation of the gas giants (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) and after the giant impact phase (the phase during which Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are bombarded by large planetesimals). During this final stage, the solar system’s four rocky planets “clean up” the remaining small planetesimals residing in their vicinity. This residual population of small planetesimals must survive late enough to dampen the high eccentricities and inclinations that Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars garnered as a result of the giant impact phase. If the orbits of Venus, Earth, Mars, and to a lesser degree Mercury had not been dampened to near zero values, advanced life never would have been possible on Earth. (Because Mercury’s mass is only one nineteenth than that of Earth’s and because it orbits so closely to the Sun, its orbit was not as circularized and disinclined as much by the residual planetesimals as were the orbits of Venus, Earth, and Mars. However, because Mercury is so small and so close to the Sun, its gravitational perturbations of Earth’s orbit are negligible.)

In their paper Schlichting, Warren, and Yin demonstrate that a residual population of small planetesimals containing a total mass of 0.01 Earth masses is necessary to dampen—after the giant impact phase—the initially high eccentricities and inclinations of Venus, Earth, and Mars down to their currently observed values. Furthermore, the majority of the “late veneer” accreted by Earth, Moon, and Mars during the final planetary formation stage must consist of bodies with radii less than or equal to 10 meters. As the three astronomers show in their calculations, this exact late veneer accretion explains the high siderophile element (HSE) abundances for Earth, Moon, and Mars and the high Earth/Mars and Earth/Moon mass accretion ratios during the final planetary formation stage, inferred from the observed HSEs of Earth, Moon, and Mars.

Schlichting, Warren, and Yin derive no fine-tuning arguments from their research. However, the fine-tuning is implied. If the total mass of the residual planetesimal population were much less than 0.01 Earth masses, then the orbits of Venus, Earth, and Mars would not have been sufficiently circularized and disinclined for advanced life to exist on Earth. On the other hand, if the total mass of the residual planetesimal population were much greater than 0.01 Earth masses, Earth would have accreted too much mass to allow for the future existence of advanced life. In the same manner, the average size of the residual planetesimals must be fine-tuned, as must the timing of the late veneer accretion event.

For a documented list of several hundred other solar system features that must be fine-tuned for the possible existence of advanced life on Earth click here. This list—together with the new results reported by Schlichting, Warren, and Yin—demonstrate the still accumulating evidence for the rare-Earth and rare-solar-system doctrines. These doctrines state that while planets the size and mass of Earth may prove abundant in the cosmos, planets with the just-right host stars, the just-right planetary partners, and the just-right characteristics, including physical and chemical composition, to enable the support of advanced life will prove either extremely rare or non-existent. Such doctrines are consistent with the Bible’s message that God supernaturally designed Earth (and, by implication, its star, its planetary partners) as well as its various life forms—all for the specific benefit of human beings.

The Sun is special. Earth’s planetary partners are special. The Moon is special. Earth is special. Earth’s life and human inhabitants are special. As Psalm 104:24 put it, “How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”

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A Silence and a Bright Hope

A Silence and a Bright Hope

Here is a short story about silence. It is a true story from Acts chapter 12, told here from the point of view of one of the women among Jesus’ first friends. I hope this silence will speak to you.

“Exactly a year. It all came crashing down in just one year. Thousands had come to believe, in the days and weeks after the first Easter. Peter and James and John had led the work – preaching, arguing, caring, encouraging, praying for us. They were inspirational. Hundreds had been healed in Jesus’ name, many of whom we never saw again, of course. The poor had come and been fed by generosity shared. Some days I was exhausted with listening to people’s troubles and lifting baskets of bread. But it was such a beautiful life and our healthy community was growing. It felt as though the love of Jesus had turned the whole city around.

“But it made the authorities angry. Generosity makes the greedy look bad and they hate that. It started just as harassment, some mob violence. Now this. Oh, it is all so desperately sad. Most other people in the city just say nothing, and so the evil flourishes. That Silence kills.

“Oh, haven’t you heard. James is dead. They charged him last week with ‘plotting against the emperor’. We thought it was laughable until they put him to the sword, yesterday. It’s just one year after Jesus’ death. Peter went down and tried to stop it, he wasn’t running away like the last time. He managed to get himself arrested, silly man. He will probably be next.

“Is love a ‘plot’? Is eternal life ’subversive’? Is healing and helping ‘an act of rebellion’? Is prayer a political act? And worship of Jesus in the beauty of holiness – is that an act of corruption? Who would hate such things? King Herod and the rest of them, that’s who.

“We may all go down before long… I will die for Jesus if I have to. Sorry if I alarm you darling. What else could I do? I saw the light in his face that morning a year ago. I will go anywhere just to live in that light. I saw the empty tomb. I will risk everything twenty times to have that kind of new life. I hope James was able to hold on to that. I hope Peter under guard 24/7 can still sing.

“Is that a bit heavy, love? See it from our story. We had seen the brutal slaying of that beautiful teacher Jesus. We had seen his lifeless body speared and kicked around by the soldiers. We had taken his dead weight down onto our shoulders, and I don’t mind saying, there were bitter bitter tears. I hated them then.

“Confused are you, love? It’s not surprising really. No one knew what was going on that weekend, but let me straighten my story a second. We had gone to the grave early to compete the burial ceremonies, didn’t we Mary? As soon as we got near we felt it. It was the silence, wasn’t it Mary. You see, the grave was open and the guards had gone. Something had happened that had spooked them off. Two bright angels I saw, although Mary only saw one. They said Jesus was not there that he had risen, dead no more. I just couldn’t cope. Suddenly, silence. They were gone. My heart was pounding. The tomb was empty. He had just ..risen. I just ran away. We all did, didn’t we Mary. Then I saw him and he talked. Then he appeared to the others a few more times until we had stopped terrifying and started rejoicing. We have been rejoicing ever since. Even today.

“To tell the truth, if I have to die, so be it. I saw his face and I will see it again. I can live no other way. Even Saul, their top agent, has seen the risen Jesus and become one of us. God is doing all this.

“I have to go now, love. I need to get some food and take it to the gathering. We’re going to pray together for Peter. Perhaps we will be given a miracle this time.”

Friends of the blog, that’s all for that story. The history reads on (Acts 12) that the apostle Peter was miraculously delivered that night. It says he ran across town and knocked on the door and they were too busy praying for him to let him in! Embarassing really.

My point is not the persecution/ hard luck story here, but the bright hope that holds it up. Under harsh treatment, Christians then and now continue in generosity and forgiveness of their enemy. It is definitely not easy. They struggle. They are not perfect. But look into this story and I think you will see that it takes something as great as the empty tomb, the risen Jesus, to provide a hope that can take you through all struggle and death.

So, let me put it back to you. Have you ever wanted to find a hope worth living for? Do you ever wonder whether your life and your talents can really make a difference? The silence of the empty tomb shouts loudly a great ‘yes’. My prayer is that you hear that brilliant silence.