Friday, March 16, 2007

Bias and bias...

Today's new Testament reading is the nativity story, recited annually on millions of American TV sets in A Charlie Brown Christmas by the "Linus van Pelt" character:
1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register. 4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
Luke 2.1-4
Schulz's character recited it out of the old King James version, which reads "...that all the world should be taxed," which likely was the purpose of the census.

Now I have to say something about anti-Christian bias in the academy here. For many years, students were told that no census was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. They may have been told that Quirinius wasn't governor at the time of Christ's birth (I'm not too sure about that one).

On what basis did they say that? Well, they were aware that Quirinius was governor during a certain period, and they had not found any sign of a census during that period. Do you see the flaws? There are two of them:
  • I haven't found a sign of it, therefore it didn't happen."
    Which is wrong because the next dig might find it!
  • I know of one period when Quirinius was governor, and he could not have been governor any other time.
    I may be mistaken, but I believe that governors have served non-consecutive terms in these United States in the 20th century A.D.; why not in Syria in the 1st century B.C.?
You've probably guessed it by now: Quirinius was governor when Jesus was born, in a non-consecutive term; and records of a census were found during that term.

All this was old news in 1960, yet in the late 1970s, Stanford students were told that Luke was wrong because there was no census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria...

An anti-Christian bias? An anti-Biblical bias?

Well, God is biased too. A few lines down, we read:
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
This was good news for all the people -- not good news for some people that's bad news for other people (good news for Toyota being bad news for GM, for example). So that's not where the bias is.

Who's receiving the message? That's where the bias is! God gives this great news to shepherds. These are people whose testimony was not accepted in a court of law. These are people who don't normally live near town because the townspeople can't stand the smell.

(By the way, I once heard that Jesus was probably born in the spring, near the time of Passover, when the demand for lambs was very high in town -- this would be the only time, so I was told, that shepherds would be nearby.)

Witnesses to the birth of Christ the Lord -- domestic animals; and people whose testimony wasn't admissible in a court of law. Come to think of it, who were the first to know that Jesus had risen from the dead? Another set of people whose testimony wasn't admissible in a court of law -- women.

Bias indeed!

In which direction do my biases tend?

posted 3/17

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