Bethlehem features in a number of Old Testament events which have prophetic significance. It is the setting of the Christmas story which is celebrated by many millions world-wide.
Bethlehem is now a Palestinian town that is a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims to visit. The sacred sites include:
The City of David (historic) with its wells,
The Church of the Nativity (built on Jesus’ birth location),
The Shepherd’s Field (2 contested sites),
The Field of Boaz, and
Rachael’s tomb (under Israeli control).
What is the evidence for these locations? In 135 AD the Romans established a pagan shrine and grove over the traditional site of Jesus’ birth. This site has a fascinating history – so is it correct? The other sites of Bethlehem also have controversy, so how likely are they genuine?
Trevor Harris has visited Bethlehem six times and has investigated these sites. He will present and assess the evidence.
In the first century Christianity (especially in the person of Jesus) raised the status of women dramatically in comparison with the prevailing Greek, Roman and Jewish cultures. Women played a key role in the rise of Christianity within the Roman empire. In fact, Christianity was mocked for being a religion filled with women.
However, some of the contemporary cultural male/female roles and practices (such as head coverings) were maintained, which now seem out of touch with modern egalitarian western views, especially those arising from the feminist movement. This is sometimes an object of ridicule that may cause some to dismiss Christianity as old-fashioned and irrelevant. So, is there an essential difference between a Biblical view and modern western values? If so, who is right?
The topics that will be discussed are:
What is sexism?
What were the cultural influences in the 1st century?
What does Genesis say?
How were women viewed in the Old Testament?
How did Jesus treat women?
What were Paul’s views on the role of women?
Are they still applicable?
How should we respond?
I would have preferred that this topic be presented by a woman, but I am the only one who has put their hand up so far; and I happen to be a man.
Kevin Rogers is the director of Reasonable Faith Adelaide and is a member of Ingle Farm Baptist Church. He is also an engineering researcher and research supervisor at the University of South Australia.
When Paul arrived in Athens (Acts 17: 16-32), a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him, and they gave Paul the opportunity to speak to the Athenians in the Areopagus. For the previous 450 years, Greek and Roman philosophers had been debating God(s) versus chance in creation, and this debate continued for a further 250 years after Paul’s speech.
The debate began in 400 BC, when Democritus introduced the concepts of atomic atheism, the infinite power of chance, evolution, and determinism. This triggered Socrates to argue for God’s existence based on arguments from design, the power of the mind, and a predictable cosmos. Later, Epicurus invented naturalism as the framework for understanding science. Then the Stoics became the greatest intellectual opponents of atheism for 500 years, inventing systematic arguments for creation until atheism faded from the classical world by 300 AD. Why did atheism fade out?
This 700-year debate only came to light in 2007, so it is all quite a new slant on the classical world. Leonard Long will describe this 700-year debate and its relevance to our times.
Leonard is a retired doctor and has spent much of his retirement studying the historical development of thought and ideologies in Western culture.
Dating the gospels is controversial, but some scholars date the gospels from 65 AD for Mark and up to 95 AD for John. In the meantime, the gospel message was supposedly passed on mainly by word of mouth. Sceptics claim that the stories were distorted and embellished by Chinese whispers, and then written down to meet the needs of the church at the time of writing. Thus, they are historically unreliable.
Is this true, or are the gospels based on eye-witness testimony? So,
What do the gospel authors claim about the nature of their testimony,
Can they be trusted, and
How can we know?
Kevin Rogers is the director of Reasonable Faith Adelaide. He is also a researcher, research supervisor and former lecturer at the University of South Australia.
You’ve no doubt heard of the pyramids and other huge monuments of ancient Egypt. Many inscriptions are chiselled on to these monuments and people have been fascinated by them for centuries. Once the hieroglyphic script was decoded in the modern era, our understanding of the stories, religion, history, and laws of ancient Egypt has greatly expanded.
More recently, over the past 100 years or so, a huge number of texts from other ancient nearby cultures – Sumerian, Babylonian, etc., have been discovered and decoded. This has similarly added hugely to our understanding of these ancient cultures.
The Bible, widely available and read by westerners over the past 2 millennia, includes the stories, religion, history, and laws of the ancient Hebrew people, who existed in the same general area as those other ancient peoples.
So how do the texts from these different cultures relate? In particular,
How do the non-Biblical texts from various cultures relate to the Bible texts?
Are they related?
To what extent and in what way do the non-Biblical texts help us to understand the Bible texts?
All four gospels claim that Jesus was from Nazareth. However, some sceptics claim that Nazareth did not exist at all in the first 1st century, or that it was a small village, rather than a city, as Luke claims (Luke 1:26). The traditional site for Nazareth was certainly not a large city in the 1st century. So, what is going on? Is Jesus truly Jesus of Nazareth?
Trevor Harris will describe the archaeological evidence and compare this with the gospel claims. The answer is probably not what you expect.
Trevor Harris has an honours degree in Architecture and a masters degree in Urban and Regional planning. He has practised in these areas for 45 years in government and private practice. For the last 20 years he has developed a passion for bible research, particularly in identifying Bible sites. This includes history, archaeology, and geography. He has engaged in seven research trips to the Middle East.
The book of Job in the Bible is one that has resonated with people for thousands of years. It confronts one of the enduring questions that continues to plague mankind: Why do the righteous suffer?
But how should we view this book? Is it a philosophical/theological treatise? Is it one man’s struggle in written form to come to grips with the question? Is it the work of many people over a period of centuries? Or is it the story and experience of a real human being struggling first-hand with major catastrophes in his own life?
The account of Joseph of Arimathea is very familiar. It is often read in churches at Easter time. It records how Joseph requested the body of Jesus from Pilate and buried him in a tomb at a known location. However, on the following Sunday, the body was gone, many were claiming to have witnessed appearances of the risen Jesus; and Jesus’ opponents could not produce the corpse. Thus the historicity of the burial in Joseph’s tomb is paramount to the central truth claim of Christianity.
However, Joseph is only mentioned during one cameo appearance and is not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, the location of Arimathea is not absolutely certain, and there are no references to this town in contemporary non-Christian sources. Thus, the brevity of the evidence has prompted some to challenge whether the event occurred at all. After all, isn’t absence of evidence the evidence for absence? So, is Joseph of Arimathea historical?
There are records in each of the four gospels that have some common material but are viewed from different perspectives. From these we can judge whether they are based on factual eye-witness testimony.
Kevin Rogers is the director of Reasonable Faith Adelaide. He is also a researcher, research supervisor and lecturer at the University of South Australia.
In the very dark days of World War 1, Britain made agreements with both the Arabs and the Jews regarding the land, then known as Palestine, to seek short term assistance to win “The Great War”. As an inevitable consequence, both Arabs and Jews believed they had received a promise that they would possess that land, but the contradictory promises resulted in growing anger and conflict between Arabs and Jews in that land. By 1947 Britain, so weary after World War 2, had had enough of this conflict and, on 29th November 1947, the United Nations agreed to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. The conflict has been going on ever since.
The story of Jonah is one of the better known tales in the Bible. The concept of a man being swallowed by a whale certainly piques the imagination, though there is more to it than that, but what are we to make of it?
Was it intended to be read as history, a fable, or something else? What was its purpose intended to be? And if it was supposed to be read as history, how much of it can we believe? How much of this story is actually historically plausible?