Sunday, December 11, 2005

Some Items Related to Christmas

The December 19 issues of Time and Newsweek have been published on the web today, and it looks like neither has a story on Christmas. The next issue for each publication is dated December 26, post-Christmas, so I doubt that they'd have stories on Christmas next week. Apparently, then, there won't be any repeat this year of their stories last year that were critical of the infancy narratives. I'd prefer to have seen them run stories that give more coverage to the perspectives of conservative scholarship, but not covering the issue at all is better than covering it as poorly as they did last year.

Lee Strobel was on John Kasich's program "Heartland" on the FOX News Channel last night. They were discussing Strobel's book The Case for Christmas, which apparently takes a few chapters from The Case for Christ and presents them in the form of an argument for the traditional Christian view of the infancy narratives. I'm generally appreciative of Strobel's work on these issues of Biblical historicity, and I think his Case books have done a lot of good. But when Kasich asked him for an example of archeological confirmation of the Bible, the example Strobel chose was probably the worst one he could have used. He cited the example of a coin the archeologist Jerry Vardaman claimed to have found, which has a reference to Quirinius on it. Strobel apparently got this example from John McRay, one of the scholars he interviewed in The Case for Christ. (The interview reappears in The Case for Christmas.) It seems, though, that Vardaman (who is now dead) was making up the claim, and that most other scholars don't even mention it when discussing Luke's census. Richard Carrier of Internet Infidels discusses Vardaman's claim, as well as some of his other claims, in some articles available online, such as this one. (For a Christian response to Carrier on the census in general, see J.P. Holding's article here.) I don't know what all of the relevant facts are and just how reliable or unreliable Jerry Vardaman is, but it does look to me like no Christian should be citing Vardaman on Luke's census. I think there are multiple plausible defenses of Luke's account without citing Vardaman's claims, and it does look at this point like Vardaman is unreliable on the issue. Carrier raises a series of criticisms that seem reasonable, and I have yet to see any credible confirmation of Vardaman's assertions.