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Bart Ehrman vs Mike Licona Debate (2018-02-21)
NT scholars Bart Ehrman and Mike Licona had a debate last month over the historical reliability of the Gospels posted on Licona's youtube channel here. Even in the position of pro-authenticity Licona is handicapped with western biases and compromises built into the scholarship he relies on to defend the NT. I wanted to highlight one of the glaring flaws in Ehrman's argument which Licona didn't really address which I thought was most important and I posted about on Licona's channel. I later made a 3.5 min video showing how youtube (Google) is running algorithms (and likely machine learning/AI) in favor of Bart Ehrman on Licona's channel rigging the comments section (I've even had my own post disappear from one of my own videos before among other things so this is no surprise to me.) Here are a few posts:

@39:38 Ehrman: "..king Herod died in the year 4 BCE"

This is a perfect example of why I personally don't take the word of a scholar at face value, however expert or well meaning, neither pro or con, neither a consensus without fact checking as much as possible with a close eye on original text and languages, or as close as possible and an open mind.

To state the obvious: the bible nor Josephus says Herod died in 4 BCE. This date is inferred from Josephus saying that Herod died soon after a lunar eclipse before the spring Passover like the one in 4 BCE.

What many don't realize is that there was another eclipse in 1 BCE -- a total lunar eclipse unlike the traditional partial one -- and it allows enough time for all the events surrounding Herod's funeral to fit perfectly unlike the problematic 4 BCE date. I've verified this with professional astronomy software myself.

The popular view of Herod's death in 4 BCE does not account for all the facts we have from the historical record. However, some of the latest published scholarship shows that when other pieces of evidence typically overlooked is carefully considered it rather points to Herod having died in 1 BCE.

Steinmann, Andrew E. "When Did Herod the Great Reign?"
Novum Testamentum, Volume 51, Number 1, 2009

This new time frame fits the events like a glove from an historical, astronomical, and biblical point of view, unlike the traditional time frame. It fixes problems like a good solution to a problem is supposed to. The old time frame creates unnecessary problems critics capitalize on (a frequent 'pattern' I have come across for 15 years studying the scriptures).

With the new date of Herod's death, scholars like the late Ernest L. Martin were able to find the (wandering) star of Bethlehem and it fits the descriptions of Matthew to a tee, not to mention other surrounding details provided by Luke, and more astronomical signs mentioned in Revelation 12.1-2 while also providing deeper Christian/Jewish fulfillment to the festivals of Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah and even rabbinic expectations (see the last link below).

The new date of Herod's death (1 BCE) is like a new key that opens an old chest nobody could open before with an old key, and now new amazing treasures are revealed but many people still insist the old key is the best one and are keeping the treasure chest locked and the treasures hidden from the world. This is very sad.

Astronomy and the Death of King Herod

The Lunar Eclipse of Josephus

The Real Star of Bethlehem

Tertullian mentioned Roman records of censuses during the time of Christ's birth when Saturninus was governor of Syria. Does this conflict with Luke's record? No. Josephus mentioned that there were governors (plural) in Syria during the rule of Saturninus, naming at least 2. It would seem from his background that Quirinius was a special type of governor at this time, or as Justin Martyr referred to him, a procurator, a special delegate for census taking.

More info:


Ehrman resorts to an unfounded conspiracy theory to speculate that Luke and others (presumably Luke was not isolated and able to hide his gospel from the original apostles and disciples) lied about the birth of Jesus for religious reasons. This too relies on a popular presumption and creates unnecessary problems. Luke doesn't actually state that "everyone" had to go to their ancestor's city from a 1000 years previous:

Luke2.3 "And all went to be registered, each to HIS OWN TOWN."
Cf Syriac, כלנשׁ "all men"

Luke is speaking of MEN going to THEIR OWN town in this verse, but then he makes a distinction with those who were of the House of David, royal lineage, and includes Mary (which supports the idea that Matthew's genealogy is of Mary as even Matthew's text indicates in the Syriac text and also hinted at in the Greek text). This was not the normal procedure for a census/enrollment, so why assume it was an ordinary census/enrollment?

Luke2.4 "Joseph also went up from Galilee.. to the city of David.. called Bethlehem BECAUSE he was of the house and lineage of David"

These curious details show this was no ordinary census and was concerned with royal lineage and is distinct from the previous general statement in verse 3.

What could Jewish royal descendants possibly have to do with this?

There's a lot of background to this but in a nutshell, it was at this time that not only the Jews but also the Roman elite knew of the messianic expectations of a Jewish ruler to rise in the East and conquer the world. This is why the Roman puppet Herod had to kill off candidates to the throne when the magi came looking for the messiah and why Herod and the people in Jerusalem were 'troubled' when they heard of the news from the magi (Mat 2.3).

Herod was apparently following a precedent Suetonius mentions from the Roman Senate that said the world ruler had to come from Rome (ie, Caesar) when a group of magi made a false start coming to the Roman Senate some 60 years previously as Suetonius tells us (De Vita Caesarum: Divus Augustus).

The Jews had a history of mutiny by this time and Rome was sensitive to the political conditions and messianic expectations in the region (having the city-sized Fort Antonia adjacent to the Jewish temple itself, where some believe the western wall is from rather than the temple which was utterly destroyed as Josephus witnessed and Jesus foretold). This concern was even leveraged by the enemies of Christ to manipulate Pontius Pilate into doing their bidding (John 19.12). Josephus tells us this expectation is what led to the Jewish revolts against Rome and eventually to the destruction and desolation of the temple and the city. (2The 2.3 takes on a new meaning perhaps: Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy (מרודותא rebellion, apostasy; ἀποστασί revolt, rebellion, abandonment) comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.. Note: the Caesar held the office of pontifex maximus, now held by the Roman bishop)

In light of this political situation and the new time frame mentioned above moving Herod's death to 1 BCE, we now have a new solution to Luke’s census/enrollment on the table: Josephus spoke of an oath of allegiance (like a covenant) about a year to 15 months prior to the death of Herod in all the empire. The late Dr. Martin gives us information that makes the most sense of the the most data in this area of research rather than resorting to speculative conspiracy theories with little to no supporting data:

..the year 2 B.C.E. was one of the most important and glorious in the career of Augustus. It was the Silver Jubilee of his supreme rule over the Empire and the year in which the Senate awarded him the country’s highest decoration the “Pater Patriae” (Father of the Country). There was no year like it for majestic celebrations in Rome, and since the significance of the festivities involved the entirety of the Empire, there can be little doubt that similar anniversary ceremonies were ordained by Augustus and the Senate for all the provinces.

It should be remembered that back in 27 B.C.E. Augustus was given complete and absolute allegiance by the Senate and people of Rome. Would there not have been a renewal of their loyalty to Augustus in the Jubilee year? If so, we could well have a reference to an Empire-wide registration of loyalty to the emperor. Josephus mentioned that Augustus demanded an oath of allegiance about twelve or fifteen months before the death of Herod. This event would fit nicely with a decree going out from Augustus in 3 B.C.E. that all were to give an oath of allegiance to him at some designated time during the year. Obviously, the recording of oaths (where people ascribed their names) was a type of registration. That is what Luke said the census was. It was an enrollment of people.

Full chapter:
"All that openeth the matrix is mine" -Exodus 34.19a
I'll probably raise Thirdwoe's blood pressure again by answering this. However...

I believe that Herod did die in 4 BCE and I base this on the Passover Slaughter of 4 BCE. I base this belief on the Cycles of Mishmarot Service. It is possible to show that the Group "Immer" (=> "Lamb") was serving after "Bilgah" for this Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. 3000+ people are murdered and Passover is cancelled. Archelaus has ascended to the throne. The Symbolism and History are all aligned. Peter is from Immer, which has been given the Settlement of Jabnit. Jabnit is near Meiron and Meiron has been given to Jehoiarib. Both Jehoiarib and Immer believe that the Hasmonean Dynasty came from their Houses.

This is the Political aspect of the Gospels and it has been hidden but may be teased out. With this, it makes sense that Herod's death is in 4 BCE.

YMMV. Believe me, I understand that one...

CW, what event ultimately fixes the Passover Slaughter to 4 BCE? If it's the partial lunar eclipse of 4 BCE before Herod died as most scholars believe then the new information provided above would simply move the slaughter to 1 BCE which solves oh so many of the long standing problems that plague NT scholarship while revealing some of the biggest mysteries of the bible in the process like the wandering star of Bethlehem -- the universally recognized king planet Jupiter or in Hebrew, Zedek (Righteousness) a title of the Messiah, performing a triple conjunction with the king star Regulus (Melek in Hebrew) in the king sign of Judah, Leo (Arya) -- and other important revelations including the exact birth date of Yeshua on Rosh Hashanah 3 BCE as depicted in Virgo/Bethulah bearing Spica/Zera (the seed of the woman) in Revelation 12.1-2 and coincidentally Melek and Zedek are together at this time - combined to give us Melchizedek, the heavenly event reflected on earth. Cf Gen 1.14, Num 24.17, Ps 19.1-7, Rom 10.18. That's just for starters.

Astronomical events as we know are important 'landmarks' for dating ancient historical events naturally since calendars are based on them (indeed the new moon of Rosh Hashanah sets the new beginning/creation of the civil year that all the other festivals depend on, it is a two day feast since no one knew the exact day or hour of the new moon until two witnesses presented their findings in the temple) and the two dramatic astronomical events described by Matthew and John are wildly accurate beyond anything I've ever heard of while supporting each other and syncing up with logistical details Luke provides including the priestly course Zechariah served in during his service recorded in Luke 1.5, John the Baptist's birth 6 months before Yeshua's, the Sabbatical year when Christ read Isaiah 61.1-2 in Luke 4.18-9 when his ministry began, etc. There's far too many angles that lock it in place and too much significance to get into. The book by Ernest Martin I link to above, as extensive as it is covering historical, astronomical, numismatic, archeological, religious themes, prophetic evidence, only scratches the surface - I highly recommend reading it. As I say, it's like a key that unlocks so many heavenly treasures. It's impossible to shrug off or explain away. The bible corrects the historical record, not the other way around.

Then God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;
-Gen 1.14

The heavens declare the glory of God (El); and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. The law of YHWH is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of YHWH is sure, making wise the simple.
-Psalm 19.1-7

faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they (Gentile nations) not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
-Romans 10.17-18 (my notes)

The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory. Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all elohiym.
-Psalm 97.6-7

Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth [constellations, zodiac] in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?
-Job 38.31-33 (my notes)

Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.
-Isaiah 40.26
"All that openeth the matrix is mine" -Exodus 34.19a
Quote:I believe that Herod did die in 4 BCE and I base this on the Passover Slaughter of 4 BCE.

This is also answered in the material I cited before. Here's a snippet from Chapter 10 The War That No One Can Find:

And when the revolt broke out after the 3000 Jews were massacred in the temple during Passover, and since the event had messianic overtones to it, Rome flexed its legionary muscles to quell the uprising. Since the Jews in Parthia would have known what was going on in Judaea, and with Parthia a rival of Rome anyway, this was no time for Rome to be resting on its laurels. With the Jews in revolt, it was an indispensable time for Rome to take action and to get their armed forces to full strength. In such a situation, the security of the eastern provinces if not the Empire itself was at stake.

One of the principal reasons Rome gave Herod the kingship was to make him a bulwark against the Parthians. 3 While Herod was alive he did just that. But now, with Herod dead and his kingdom in rebellion, with the full armed forces of the Romans in Syria fighting to overcome it, and with only the client kings of Cappadocia, Pontus and Commagene protecting the frontiers with Parthia, it was no time for Rome to be discharging professionally trained legionaries from the armed services. But note this. If this War of Varus took place in the summer and autumn of 4 B.C.E. as scholars have felt up to now, a most unlikely state of affairs was then happening in the Roman military. We have the plain statement of Augustus himself that he had been steadily discharging many of his soldiers and giving them handsome bonuses from 7 to 2 B.C.E. 4 Within that six year period, there were no major wars involving Roman troops while this continual discharging of soldiers was going on. And though Augustus tells us that there was a temporary respite from the discharging in 5 B.C.E., from 4 B.C.E. on to and including 2 B.C.E. the demobilization of the Roman army continued unabated. Rome fought no wars from 7 to 2 B.C.E.

No Roman/Jewish War from 7 to 2 B.C.E
Professor Syme describes the discharging of these soldiers at this period as evidence that peace and security was then found throughout the Empire. “The titulature of the ruler [Augustus] registers no fresh imperatorial salutation for many years after he was acclaimed ‘imp.XIV’ in 8 B.C.E.” 5 Salutations such as these were given to the emperors when the Romans had secured victories in war. But none were given to Augustus from 8 B.C.E. up to and including 2 B.C.E. So peaceful was this period that Syme describes the third closing of the temple doors of the god Janus to this time. This was a sign that peace was then secure throughout the Empire. And with the steady demobilization of the legionaries from 7 to 2 B.C.E. (with the exception of 5 B.C.E.), it surely indicates a time of peace and harmony within the Empire.

Now for a difficulty. Scholars today who place Herod’s death in early 4 B.C.E. are also required to place The War of Varus in the summer of 4 B.C.E. right in the middle of this Augustan peace. They have had to do so because of their erroneous selection of the March 13, 4 B.C.E. eclipse of the Moon as that associated with the death of Herod. But this is nonsense and this makes the Roman records three years out of phase with reality. Herod actually died in January, 1 B.C.E. This means that The War of Varus took place in the summer and autumn of that year. Look at what this means and how sensible the historical records now become. Augustus steadily discharged his legionaries from 7 to 2 B.C.E., and there was peace throughout the whole Empire during that period of time. But with the Palestinian war breaking out in the spring of 1 B.C., the demobilization of the legions had to stop. The Romans from then on mustered their armed forces and reserves for war. The same thing happened with the United States when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The United States government quit discharging military men (even lengthening the stay of those scheduled to be discharged) and called up the reserves to fight a significant war in the volatile Middle East. The similarities are most interesting.

Correctly Dating the War of Varus
The War of Varus actually broke out in Palestine in 1 B.C.E. And at that very time, the Roman records show that the Armenians in the northeastern section of the Empire also began to stir up rebellion. While this was happening, the Parthians further east also in 1 B.C.E. maneuvered to take advantage of the deteriorating military situation in Rome’s eastern provinces. Understanding that The War of Varus was in 1 B.C.E. can make these known activities of the Armenians and the Parthians understandable.

There was another prime reason why we can know that The War of Varus was in 1 B.C.E. When significant conflicts took place outside the official boundaries of the Empire such as the war just after Herod’s death, it was customary for the emperor to be awarded an “imperial acclamation” if victory were achieved by Rome. And, as Professor Syme has noted, Roman records show that Augustus did in fact receive such an “acclamation” (his fourteenth) in 8 B.C.E., but not another until C.E. 1. If Varus’ war occurred in 4 B.C.E., as scholars have wanted to believe, why was there not an “acclamation” in 4 or 3 B.C.E.? That victory over the Jews had all the earmarks for gaining such an award for Augustus. But if that war and victory were in 1 B.C.E. (as actually was the case) then an “acclamation XV” in the following year of C.E. 1 becomes perfectly reasonable. Professor Barnes has made it clear that the war which gave Augustus his “acclamation XV” in C.E. 1 to 2 must have occurred sometime between June, 2 B.C.E. and C.E. 1. 6 The dating of The War of Varus to the summer of 1 B.C.E. fits the historical scenario perfectly. Augustus’ acclamation XV was actually given to him for Varus’ victory over the Jewish rebellion.

Indeed, there is far more to it than that. When the proper chronology is recognized, more historical material can be understood about Roman affairs in the eastern provinces. Let us look at the matter closely....

3 Josephus, War I.284–285.
4 Res Gestae, 16.
5 Sir Ronald Syme, The Crisis of 2 B.C., 3.
6 T. Barnes, The Journal of Roman Studies (1974). 23.
"All that openeth the matrix is mine" -Exodus 34.19a
Charles, I must have left quite an impression on you...When you guys find something Peshitta related, let me know, otherwise I'll pass on by with an occasional glance.
Quote:I wanted to highlight one of the glaring flaws in Ehrman's argument which Licona didn't really address which I thought was most important and I posted about on Licona's channel. I later made a 3.5 min video showing how youtube (Google) is running algorithms (and likely machine learning/AI) in favor of Bart Ehrman on Licona's channel rigging the comments section (I've even had my own post disappear from one of my own videos before among other things so this is no surprise to me.)

Schoolars/academics do not have complete freedom of speech themselves. They are allowed to say a good lot of good stuff if they support the establishments on the most highly prioritized questions. So they do, and when they lie, they try their best to pass along one or more clues to other people with knowledge in the field or who are acquainted with scientific method. For example, they might apply a glaring error with regard to scientific method in their argument before looking right into the camera and stating the false thesis with full confidence.

This only works so long as nobody begins to ask troublesome questions, such as pointing out the glaring mistake. It is supposed to remain a pre-shared secret within the scientific community.

Though Google clearly do need competitors I have to say their commitment to freedom of speech has exceeded my expectations so far. Very well done!

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