Thursday, August 28, 2008
Poe's Law Strikes Again
UPDATE:. Turns out it is photoshopped, as I had hoped.
I have a problem.
I often can’t determine whether something is satire. I always want to believe that it is parody, that it’s all a joke, that nobody is really that stupid.
The technical term for this is Poe’s Law, and I am always falling prey to it.
For instance, look at this picture on the Obama-Osama connection. Did Fox News really run the byline “Obama / Biden. Osama Bin Laden. Coincidence?” It must be photoshopped, right? Surely nobody would be so insane as to imply that a similarity in spelling or phonetics implies similarity in character or policy, right? Right?
I just can’t tell. I tried to find that clip on Youtube, on the grounds that it would be more difficult to forge, with no success. My irrational desire to believe that no-one would stoop to that kind of non sequitur drives me to hope that it’s fake.
But things like the Jack Chick tract First Bite (via Atheist A Go-Go), which I’m certain is not satirical, lead me to believe that my unwillingness to accept something as real simply because it’s absolutely insane is (sadly) not based in reality.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Vote for me
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Screenshot walkthroughs of common applications
I just wanted to let everybody know about a site which features screenshot walk-through of common applications. If you've ever helped anyone over the phone to configure some piece of software, you'll realize how incredibly useful this is.
If you've never helped anyone configure software over the phone, I envy you.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
Were Jesus's Apostles Martyred?
I’ve often heard the argument used that the apostles of Jesus were killed for their beliefs, so they couldn’t have been lying about Jesus. (And, by implication, weren’t mistaken either.) I’m not going to discuss the validity of the argument, I just want to examine the question of whether or not we have good reason to accept these accounts of martyrdom as being historical rather than apocryphal church tradition.
It should be understood that these non-Biblical sources might vary greatly in terms of their accuracy. It should also be understood that it is clear from the Bible and from non-Biblical sources that many early Christians were persecuted and martyred for their beliefs.
Another article, The History of the Early Christian Martyrs warns “It should be understood that the accounts of the martyrdoms of apostles are mainly traditional.”. I don’t know quite what to make of that, other than to understand “traditional” to mean “probably made up”, although perhaps my interpretation is overly uncharitable.
So here’s my list of early Christian martyrs with how they died and the source I used. I’ve included Stephen plus the 10 apostles who are believed to have been martyred. Not included are the 2 other apostles: John, who is traditionally held to have had a natural death, and Judas, who either hung himself or had his guts spill out, depending on who you ask.
|Name||Cause of Death||Source|
|James, son of Zebedee (“James the Greater”)||Sword||Acts 12:1-2|
|Bartholomew||Beaten, then crucified||Martyrdom of Bartholomew (also Foxe)|
|James, son of Alphaeus (“James the Less”)||Beaten, stoned and clubbed||Foxe’s Book of Martyrs|
|Andrew||Crucified||Foxe’s Book of Martyrs|
|Peter||Crucified||Foxe’s Book of Martyrs|
|Thomas||Spear||Foxe’s Book of Martyrs|
|Phillip||Crucified||Foxe’s Book of Martyrs|
|Matthew||Halberd (type of spear)||Foxe’s Book of Martyrs|
|Thaddeus (Jude)||Crucified||Foxe’s Book of Martyrs|
|Simon||Crucified||Foxe’s Book of Martyrs|
The most interesting source is for the martyrdom of Bartholomew, which, while found in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, is also found in a text entitled (appropriately enough) The Martyrdom of Bartholomew It should be noted that is it clearly a religiously motivated work, with appearances of angels, demons, people getting strangled by demons, and so on. But other than that simple, self-evident fact, I was unable to track down any useful information about this text, such as when it was written and who wrote it.
But it seems that the main source for this sort of thing is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, which was written by John Foxe and published in 1563. All the apostles are found in the first chapter but it doesn’t say what sources Foxe used (nor did I expect it to), although I suspect that they were probably the same sort of non-canonical texts like the “The Martyrdom of Bartholomew”.
To conclude, given the (lack of) evidence that I have seen, and the doubts expressed by friendly sources, I think that there is not sufficient evidence to prove the historicity of the apostles being martyred, although I don’t place a huge amount of confidence in this result because I am not Biblical scholar and am not terribly familiar with these sorts of texts. If anyone knows of any better/earlier sources that the ones listed here, please let me know.