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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  History and Archeology (Moderator: David Atherton)  |  Topic: Roman Persecution of early Christians 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Robert_Brenchley
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« on: June 13, 2009, 03:10:39 pm »

There's no reason to assume the Romans wouldn't have crucified a large group. Tacitus says they were crucifying up to 500 a day during the later stages of the siege of Jerusalem.
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« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2009, 05:07:20 pm »

There's no reason to assume the Romans wouldn't have crucified a large group. Tacitus says they were crucifying up to 500 a day during the later stages of the siege of Jerusalem.

Well we must take into account ALL historical facts. The facts clearly state that very few ancient historians have truly unbiased written accounts of the information they present for various reasons (depending on the historian). All-in-all Tacitus may have embellished somewhat. Theres no way to know for certain while ONLY takeing written accounts as evidence.
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« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2009, 03:12:46 pm »

He may have embellished, but even if he doubled, tripled or quadrupled the numbers, it's still a lot of corpses hanging from bits of wood! Then we have two thousand crucified by Quintillius Varus in the aftermath of the uprisings which followed the death of Herod I and six thousand crucified after the Spartacus revolt. If you want to argue that the Romans didn't crucify people in large numbers when they wanted, then you're on a sticky wicket!
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« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2009, 09:40:55 pm »

He may have embellished, but even if he doubled, tripled or quadrupled the numbers, it's still a lot of corpses hanging from bits of wood! Then we have two thousand crucified by Quintillius Varus in the aftermath of the uprisings which followed the death of Herod I and six thousand crucified after the Spartacus revolt. If you want to argue that the Romans didn't crucify people in large numbers when they wanted, then you're on a sticky wicket!

I dont wish to argue at all sir. Just discuss. However I stand firmly by my previous post. Sure the Romans crucified in large numbers, but not as often as some would believe. The numbers could have been exaggerated to the point of relative laughability. It is common fact MOST ancient historians always favoured one side over the other in terms of Military victories. Besides, you failed to mention argueably the most well-known Roman mass-crucifiction: When Nero blamed the Christians for lighting the fires of Rome. Ether way , the more deaths the Roman people (or enemies for that matter) HEARD about the military doing, the more they feared punishment. The scribes knew this too.

In the end it is only my opinion that  the Roman people were not mindless butchers seeking to antagonize everyone they came across who was an enemy, but did what they felt they had to do at times in order to expand and glorify the empire. They were civil, elegant, and sophisticated for their day. The empire was the brightest light of the ancient world. It was far worse in the darkness outside the empire. Only my opinion.
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« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2009, 01:06:03 pm »

I for one have never been particuliarly convinced of the accuracies of Carbon 14 dating in the first place. I saw somewhere that speartips or arrowheads have been found in the North American region, and Carbon-dated, back some 15,000 years. That would (one would assume unintentionally) rule out the Biblical creation account due to the timeframe involved. That PROVES its inacurate alone...in my opinion.

You would be quite right in questioning anyone applying C-14 for dating rocks or stones since it is only used for organic matter! That being said, it is the most accurate tool we have for dating organic material and certainly could be used in the case of an ancient mass grave for such purposes.
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Robert_Brenchley
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« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2009, 04:01:23 pm »

I didn't mention Nero's crucifixion of Christians because there's no evidence of a large Christian community (if we can use the term since it's anachronistic) in Rome at that time, and no evidence whatsoever that the persecution spread outside the city. There's no evidence that it left any mark on the church of the day at all. My guess is that it involved a relatively small number of people. Tacitus says 'many', but how many is that? It's not certain whether they were killed as Christians or as arsonists; I tend to plump for the latter hypothesis. We can't even be certain that they were members of the historical church of Rome; they could be another group altogether.
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« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2009, 09:26:13 pm »

I didn't mention Nero's crucifixion of Christians because there's no evidence of a large Christian community (if we can use the term since it's anachronistic) in Rome at that time, and no evidence whatsoever that the persecution spread outside the city. There's no evidence that it left any mark on the church of the day at all. My guess is that it involved a relatively small number of people. Tacitus says 'many', but how many is that? It's not certain whether they were killed as Christians or as arsonists; I tend to plump for the latter hypothesis. We can't even be certain that they were members of the historical church of Rome; they could be another group altogether.

Again I disagree, although I see your reasoning for not including it.. The Bible clearly indicates that there were MANY congregations of first century Christians. I can provide scripture if you would like. "NO EVIDENCE THAT PERSECUTION SPREAD OUTSIDE THE CITY"? You CANT be serious Robert. Are you? For real? The Christians since the time of their origin have been persecuted by many. How would you explain the deaths of Steven, Paul, ect., or the imprisonments of John (on the isle of Patmos by the Romans) and Paul? The Bible is also not the only sorce to turn to for evidence that the Romans persecuted Christians, but it is enough for me. Afterall, if its accurate about everything else...

We obviously disagree about much Mr. Brenchley. So I , for my part, will end it here before things become too argumentative. Which is not good for me...or anyone else.

David: I dont pretend to know the advanced details of c-14 dateing, however I do know the information I have read.
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« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2009, 10:32:03 pm »

If we are speaking in religious terms, then I will withdraw now as everyone's beliefs are different.

If we are speaking in secular historical terms, then I will say that while the Bible is a very useful historical reference, it is extremely dangerous to make outside historical sources to fit ones perception of the Biblical evidence; because one's perception of the Bible could be, God forbid, wrong Wink.
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« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2009, 12:20:10 am »

Based on the internal evidence of Mark's Gospel, it is generally agreed by both secular scholars and theologians (yes, they agree on occasion!) that the community which produced the gospel was

1.) located in Italy, probably Rome itself  (the author uses Latinate names for coins and is rather confused about Palestinian geography)

2.) under persecution (cf. the presumed original ending [of 3 various endings in different codices] at 16:8, "and they were afraid")

3.) composing it at a time shortly before the destruction of the temple (which Matthew and Luke refer to more directly, assuming the "Little Apocalypse" of chapter 13 to be a later intrusion, as are the two longer endings) but while Jerusalem was in great danger. probably during the reign of Nero and possibly during the siege of Jerusalem.

Regarding radiocarbon dating, it has been calibrated quite closely against both objects of known date and against other dating methods such as dendrochronology. It is quite accurate within it's statistical margin of error. In the American southwest, the confirmed sequence of tree rings goes back some 8500 years, more than 2,500 years beyond the Biblical date of creation which can be easily calculated at 4004 BC by simply adding the "begats" from Adam to recorded history. All that this proves, of course, is that the bristlecone pine was thriving in what is now Arizona some two millenia before the Earth itself was created. A conundrum to be sure but one, I suppose, better suited to another forum.
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« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2009, 03:02:49 pm »

Again I disagree, although I see your reasoning for not including it.. The Bible clearly indicates that there were MANY congregations of first century Christians. I can provide scripture if you would like. "NO EVIDENCE THAT PERSECUTION SPREAD OUTSIDE THE CITY"? You CANT be serious Robert. Are you? For real? The Christians since the time of their origin have been persecuted by many. How would you explain the deaths of Steven, Paul, ect., or the imprisonments of John (on the isle of Patmos by the Romans) and Paul? The Bible is also not the only sorce to turn to for evidence that the Romans persecuted Christians, but it is enough for me. Afterall, if its accurate about everything else...

Come off it, I was clearly referring to Nero's persecution. Is that clearly mentioned in the Bible? If you can find evidence that it spread beyond Rome, there are plenty of scholars out there who would be interested to see it!

In the American southwest, the confirmed sequence of tree rings goes back some 8500 years, more than 2,500 years beyond the Biblical date of creation which can be easily calculated at 4004 BC by simply adding the "begats" from Adam to recorded history.

Not as easily as commonly supposed. Attempts to work out the age of the Earth began in the 14th Century, following a philosophical revolution which led to people seeing the cosmos in a new way, and asking new, 'scientific' questions. Of course, at the time they hadn't yet developed the tools to answer those questions.

There were repeated attempts to calculate the age of the Earth, using the Bible, astrology, which was respectable back then, and all sorts. Results varied from 3000 and odd BC to 9000 and odd. Such a spread might be taken as an indication that the method doesn't work. The most notable of the people involved was James Ussher, Anglican Primate of Ireland 1625-56. He reckoned the creation took place at 9am on October 23rd 4004 BC. Since he was so influential, he got his date inserted in the margin of several editions of the Authorised, and of course once a 'fact' gets that close to the text, people soon start assuming it's what the Bible says!
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« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2009, 04:07:10 pm »

[Not as easily as commonly supposed. Attempts to work out the age of the Earth began in the 14th Century, following a philosophical revolution which led to people seeing the cosmos in a new way, and asking new, 'scientific' questions. Of course, at the time they hadn't yet developed the tools to answer those questions.

There were repeated attempts to calculate the age of the Earth, using the Bible, astrology, which was respectable back then, and all sorts. Results varied from 3000 and odd BC to 9000 and odd. Such a spread might be taken as an indication that the method doesn't work. The most notable of the people involved was James Ussher, Anglican Primate of Ireland 1625-56. He reckoned the creation took place at 9am on October 23rd 4004 BC. Since he was so influential, he got his date inserted in the margin of several editions of the Authorised, and of course once a 'fact' gets that close to the text, people soon start assuming it's what the Bible says!

It is actually quite an easy calculation. Beginning with Adam, the OT gives the age of each father when his son is born and continues generation upon generation up to a point where we find a corresponding date in the archaeological record. No astrology is required. One need only add these numbers and viola the date of creation!  Takes about 15 minutes with a pocket calculator. The October 23 thing seems a bit of a stretch, however.
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« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2009, 09:58:11 pm »

Again I disagree, although I see your reasoning for not including it.. The Bible clearly indicates that there were MANY congregations of first century Christians. I can provide scripture if you would like. "NO EVIDENCE THAT PERSECUTION SPREAD OUTSIDE THE CITY"? You CANT be serious Robert. Are you? For real? The Christians since the time of their origin have been persecuted by many. How would you explain the deaths of Steven, Paul, ect., or the imprisonments of John (on the isle of Patmos by the Romans) and Paul? The Bible is also not the only sorce to turn to for evidence that the Romans persecuted Christians, but it is enough for me. Afterall, if its accurate about everything else...

Come off it, I was clearly referring to Nero's persecution. Is that clearly mentioned in the Bible? If you can find evidence that it spread beyond Rome, there are plenty of scholars out there who would be interested to see it!

I disagree, from what I have read of your posts here, other than the last one, I didnt see where you referred to it anywhere Robert. And what exactly do you want me to come off of? Of COURSE I can find evidence that Christians were persecuted beyond Rome! Get real man. There is literally tons of it. I dont even think I have to elaberate. I will though if you insist...

However, now that there are a few people involved in this discussion , and its becomeing more and more Biblical (not that I mind that), Forvm may have a problem with it...so...Robert, you may PM me if you wish to discuss this matter further. You aswell Shri, as I also disagree with you about your Biblical creation comment.  For that is exactly how I calculated aswell ...BEFORE certain other factors were considered. Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2009, 03:25:10 am »

I didn't mention Nero's crucifixion of Christians because there's no evidence of a large Christian community (if we can use the term since it's anachronistic) in Rome at that time, and no evidence whatsoever that the persecution spread outside the city. There's no evidence that it left any mark on the church of the day at all. My guess is that it involved a relatively small number of people. Tacitus says 'many', but how many is that? It's not certain whether they were killed as Christians or as arsonists; I tend to plump for the latter hypothesis. We can't even be certain that they were members of the historical church of Rome; they could be another group altogether.

Here's my post in full. I began with the words 'I didn't mention Nero's crucifixion...' I didn't refer to any other incident of persecution. I don't think FORVM will have any problem with my posts since they're nothing to do with modern religion, and refer purely to historical matters; Nero's persecution and James Ussher's attempt to calculate the date of creation.
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« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2009, 07:01:19 am »

I thought I would split this discussion from the original topic 'Very macabre discovery in London' because it is so fascinating and deserves a topic of its own.

Mind, as long as personal beliefs are not put forward and facts are...this could be quite fruitful.
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« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2009, 07:17:35 am »

Good idea, as long as we don't get bogged down in religion! Given the content of my original post, I should perhaps try to make time to check Hengel's 'Crucifixion', as this surveys all the evidence for the use of the punishment. I do think the evidence for the punishment of very large groups of captured rebels in unequivocal.
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« Reply #15 on: June 20, 2009, 08:25:28 am »

Come off it, I was clearly referring to Nero's persecution. Is that clearly mentioned in the Bible? If you can find evidence that it spread beyond Rome, there are plenty of scholars out there who would be interested to see it!

I disagree, from what I have read of your posts here, other than the last one, I didnt see where you referred to it anywhere Robert. And what exactly do you want me to come off of? Of COURSE I can find evidence that Christians were persecuted beyond Rome! Get real man. There is literally tons of it. I dont even think I have to elaberate. I will though if you insist...


I think the disagreement is because you're talking about different things. Up until now the discussion had been about mass crucifixions (such as that after the Spartacus revolt, where the victims were slaves), not Christian persecution.

As I read it Robert was saying that he omitted Nero's punishment of Christians after the fire from his list of mass-crucifixion examples because it wasn't on a comparable scale, which is surely correct. He wasn't saying that persecution didn't exist outside of Rome - just saying that Nero's punishment of Christians for the fire was limited to Rome.

Ben
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« Reply #16 on: June 20, 2009, 08:57:36 am »

[[/quote]
Sri_Sahi wrote;

It is actually quite an easy calculation. Beginning with Adam, the OT gives the age of each father when his son is born and continues generation upon generation up to a point where we find a corresponding date in the archaeological record. No astrology is required. One need only add these numbers and viola the date of creation!  Takes about 15 minutes with a pocket calculator. The October 23 thing seems a bit of a stretch, however.
[/quote]


surely the ages recorded in the bible would make this calculation pointless? early on they say certain men (methulasa?) lived for 900 years! Cant be correct can it?
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« Reply #17 on: June 20, 2009, 10:25:16 am »

I'd agree with you, but it's safest not to go there! Let's stick to persecution.

I'm not going to discuss the New Testament. There's no clear evidence of Roman persecution there, though there's plenty of trouble with other Jews. This, however, is a different matter. Jesus was crucified as a rebel, and justified or no, this didn't help the early church.

The first possible reference to the church is in Suetoniús. 'Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, [Claudius] expelled them from Rome.' (Claudius, XXV). This might be a reference to the church, but XRISTOS means 'Messiah', and there appear to have been other claimants to the title. Then again, Chrestus is known as a name. We don't know. As a Jewish sect, the church was probably caught up in the expulsion. Jews appear to have started drifting back early in the reign of Nero.

Suetonuis claims it as fact that Nero started the Great Fire of Rome, but the more sober Tacitus reports it as an allegation. It didn't go away, and as scapegoats, he used 'A class hated for for their abominations, called Christians by the populace'. So by Nero's time, the church was recognised by the authorities as a distinct group, though not necessarily as distinct from the Jews. It may well have been seen as a group within Judaism. Tacitus then continues with a brief discussion of Jesus' crucifixion. It's clear  that the Christians were extremely unpopular, though we can't be sure whether they were unpopular with everyone, with the authorities, or just with Tacitus, who writes in retirement at the beginning of the 2nd Century.

'An immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of arson, as of hatred of the human race'. So were they convicted of Christianity, or of arson? It's not clear, though some were crucified and then set on fire, and death by burning was normal for arsonists.

Having blackened the name of the Christians, who he clearly despises, Tacitus then proceeds to blacken Nero's name by waxing large on the cruelty of the executions. Tacitus is, of course, a Senator, Nero quarreled with the Senate, and in any case Tacitus' main aim is to establish that all the troubles of Rome stem from imperial misrule.

One important manuscript says that the Christians were indicted on 'a double charge', Christianity and odium humani generis, hatred of the human race. This was a real crime, usually used against magicians, and punished with death by burning. It's quite possible that we have the actual charge here. Tacitus also calls Christianity 'a deadly superstition' (excitiabilis superstitio), suggesting that it may have been regarded as a 'superstitio illicita' or banned religion. It's far from clear, though, that Christianity was officially distinguished from Judaism at this time, and Tacitus may have been reading the conditions of the early 2nd Century back into the 1st. Suetonius, again writing in the 2nd Century, also refers to Christianity in this context as a 'superstitio'.

It's clear that the Jews suffered in the aftermath of the failed First Revolt, and the church will have been affected as well, as a Jewish sect. This was not, however, aimed at Christians. Things were worst under Domitian, a nasty piece of work, and a man who has often been accused of persecuting Christians. Evidence, however, is lacking. One alleged Christian was banished, but even if she was Christian, that doesn't make a persecution. 

Writing late in the century, the author of 1 Clement makes general references to persecution, but was this from Jews or Romans? Peter and Paul are mentioned as martyrs, but unlike later writers, he doesn't say they were killed together, and makes no mention of where they were killed.

So on the evidence, state persecution of the church in the 1st Century was quite minor. A small, obscure group, they were as vulnerable as any minority, but they attracted little official notice.

I'll continue this later.

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« Reply #18 on: June 20, 2009, 12:39:44 pm »

i am really desperate to get into this discussion but i think my religious past (which i like to keep private) would steer me into mentioning religious aspects, doctrine, which would be no good for anyone. But what I would like to say is that bible apart, Josephus apart, Tactitus apart there is plenty of evidence suggesting plenty of persecution of Christians. How many Christians there were and where they were we can only assertain from the bible. Also how widely they were persecuted has contridicting evidence but i think it it safe to assume they had as much trouble off the Romans as anyone who they felt did not respect their rule totally. Were the romans cruel, barbaric , capable of mass murder and gencide?, sure they were, just like any other empire in history at some point has been. Whether it be a over zealous general or orders from higher up, i doubt if the romans were immune to this behaviour. It could be down to a small percentage of human instinct, i hope not, but whatever the reason whether it be the tribes of the OT by the 'orders' of Jehovah, the romans, the nazis, the wars in Bosnia, the Saddam corp, and the like, and to some, and a smaller scale i might add, the one or two bad apples of our own allied troops (not that i wish to associate the bad apples with our own brave men). It is at what stage one chooses to change from a few isolated incidents of mass execution to a general policy to execute on mass. I am itching to say about the mass executions of the crusades but i wont. lol
The ancient historians might exhaggerate (spelt wrong i know) but I would be inclined to think they weren't far off.
hope i haven't offended anyone. romeo
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« Reply #19 on: June 20, 2009, 12:47:27 pm »


surely the ages recorded in the bible would make this calculation pointless? early on they say certain men (methulasa?) lived for 900 years! Cant be correct can it?

Of course it isn't scientifically correct. I was simply reasserting my earlier point that a date for creation can be arrived at from the Bible. Every 'truth' has it's place and purpose. As Ernest Hemingway said, "I know now that there is no one thing that is true - it is all true". The hard part is knowing which truth is appropriate in a given context.

This began as a query regarding the usefulness of radiocarbon dating for the "macabre" find when someone commented that radiocarbon dates are impossible because the earth is less than 10,000 years old.
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« Reply #20 on: June 20, 2009, 02:00:20 pm »

There may be indirect evidence of Roman persecution in the New Testament but I'm deliberately not going there because it's disputable, in some cases I'd dispute it myself, and in any case I'm trying to avoid anything which is likely to lead to religious polemics. That's proving a little difficult, unfortunately! I wish people would stick to history.

Pliny, governor of Bithynia about 112, has some interesting things to say. The temples were 'almost deserted', religious ceremonies have not been observed, and and fodder for sacrificial animals isn't selling. So it sounds as though the local religious authorities have been spinning Pliny a yarn. It's not the only time priests have felt threatened by a new cult! They've produced lists of alleged Christians, and Pliny is very concerned to deal with these properly. He's not sure whether punishment attaches to 'the mere name', in other words to the mere fact of someone having been a Christian, or to the 'secret crimes connected to the name'. So Christians have a bad reputation, at least with the Senatores.

He questions them repeatedly, since under Roman law repeated confessions were needed for a conviction in the absense of other evidence. If they continues to persist, he executed them, as 'obstinacy and unbending perversity deserve to be punished'. Those who denied being Christians, or said they had left the sect (so like modern churches, they couldn't always keep their converts!) demonstrated it by sacrificing to Trajan's image. So the essential motive for punishing them seems to be suspicions about their loyalty, expressed through a refusal to participate in the state religion. He again uses the term 'superstition'. A superstitio illicita, or a collegium illicitum, an illicit association, could be punished, but was not necessarily so. If the church was categorised as such, and it looks that way, then it put them in a very vulnerable position when anyone wanted to lash out. I think that was probably their basic problem throughout.

Trajan replies to the effect that Christians should be punished, as long as they had been properly accused, but they should be released if they will sacrifice to the gods. Later, Hadrian wrote to Minucius Fundanus, Proconsul of Asia, to similar effect, with the proviso that anyone making libellous allegations should recieve a heavier penalty.

I'll continue again later.
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« Reply #21 on: June 20, 2009, 02:24:58 pm »

Robert, Robert, Robert. Tsk. Tsk. The Bible is History sir...

The fact that there is a book called the Bible is history.  The Bible has certainly influenced history.  The Bible certainly does describe many historical events.  BUT, much of what is in the Bible is NOT accepted as history, except by some Christians, not even all Christians.   When we discuss history here, the Bible may be used as evidence, but you must accept that not everyone believes it is historically accurate.  Arguing that the Bible is historically accurate and expecting or arguing that others should agree is discussion of modern religion, which is prohibited here.   There have been multiple complaints that your posts have broken this prohibition. 
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« Reply #22 on: June 20, 2009, 02:53:23 pm »

Joe, I , it seems, am one of the only ones here, besides yourself, to be concerned with Forvms' rules, as I have advised this conversation to be taken privatly for some time now.

Wandigeaux: I do not appreciate your insult about my spelling sir. Its very rude.

IhsandtheCursed:  My post responded to at least four "report this post" emails about your posts, so I am not the only one concerned. 

Wandigeaux:  Your post was rude and broke our #1 rule, BE NICE. 
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« Reply #23 on: June 21, 2009, 07:28:01 am »

Well, 24 hrs after splitting this post I see it has really heated up!

I did not expect this to turn into a creationist/young earth vs. historical evidence debate. I was hoping that only historical evidence would be presented and weighed.

Robert, I would be very interested to read what you have to say about the second century. Also, have you read any of Bart D. Ehrman's books? I think you would enjoy them!

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« Reply #24 on: June 21, 2009, 07:58:34 am »

I've been meaning to read Ehrman for a long time, but I've never got round to it. I'll try to do more on the 2nd century later. It's the 3rd that really gets interesting.
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Robert Brenchley

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