Saturday, May 18, 2019

Galen on Christians

Galen,  [129 - c. 199]  (Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus, Galen of Pergamon) was a great Greek physician and philosopher, member of the Roman Imperial court and friend to Marcus Aurelius. Galen admired Christians for their faith, virtue, sexual purity, and justice. Christians should be similar examples of virtue today. 'Virtue signaling' is not a bad thing.  There are a variety of worldviews in the world.  Despite what some would claim, not all worldviews are created equal.  Some are better than others.  A good example demonstrates the supperiority and practicality of one worldview over the others. Even those who claim all worldviews (religions) are equal, are evangelizing their own worldview.  However, l would invite them to demonstrate the fruits of their religion reminding them that some worldviews endorse bacha bazi and female circumcision, etc. 

From Galen, Πλατωνικῶν διαλογων συνόψεις(=Summary of Platonic dialogues), in 8 books; from part 3.  The work is listed in De libris propriis c. 14.17

This work is lost, but a quotation is found in Arabic authors in somewhat different forms.  Hunain ibn Ishaq records that he translated a work in four parts, written by Galen in eight parts, containing summaries of works by Plato.18

The first version is found in Abu Ali Isa ibn Ishaq ibn Zura 19 (known as Ibn Zura, d. 1008 AD), On the main questions discussed between Christians and Jews20Walzer translation:21

Galen ... says at the end of his summary of Plato's Republic: "In the religious community of the followers of Christ there are most admirable people who frequently act according to perfect virtue; and this is to be seen not only in their men but in their women as well." And I see that he admires them for their virtue, and although he is a man whose position is known and whose opposition to Judaism and Christianity is manifest and clear to everybody who has studied his books and knows what he states in them, he nevertheless cannot deny the excellent qualities which the Christians display in their virtuous activities.

Ibn Abi Usaibiah (d.1270) quoting an earlier writer, `Ubayd Allāh ibn Jibrā`īl:22

"...Evidence that Christ lived quite some time before Galen is contained in the following passage of Galen's commentary on Plato's "Republic." 'From this we may infer that the people called Christians derive their faith from signs and miracles. Also, sometimes, they show such behavior as is adopted by philosophers; for fearlessness of death and the hereafter is something we witness in them every day. The same is true of abstention from sexual intercourse. Some of them, both men and women, go their whole life without sexual intercourse. There are among them those who possess such a measure of self-control with regard to food and drink and who are so bent on justice, that they do not fall short of those who profess philosophy in truth.'

The last version is Abu'l Fida', Universal Chronicle, book 3, chapter 3.  This covers history down to 1329 AD.  Latin translation:27

Secundum El-Camil, regnante illo vixit Galenus, quamquam prima vita ejus pars in extremam Ptolemaei aetatem incidit.  Galeni tempore religion Christianorum magna jam incrementa ceperat, eorumque mentionem fecit in libro de sententiis Politiae Platonicae, his verbis: Hominem perique orationem demonstrativam continuam mente assequi nequeunt; quare indigent, ut instituantur, parabolis (narrationes dicit de praemiis et poenis in vita futura exspectandis).  Veluti nostro tempore videmus, homines illos, qui Christiani vocantur, fidem suam e parabolis petiisse.  Hi tamen interdum talia faciunt, qualia qui vere philosophantur.  Nam quod mortem contemnunt, id quidem omnes ante oculos habemus; item quod verecundia quadam ducti ab usu rerum venerearum abhorrent.  Sunt enum inter eos, et foeminae et viri, qui per totam vitam a concubitu abstinuerint; sunt etiam, qui in animis regendis coercendisque et in acerrimo honestatis studio eo progressi sint, ut nihil cedant vere philosophantibus.  Haec Galenus.

Walzer's translation:16

Most people are unable to follow any demonstrative argument consecutively; hence they need parables, and benefit from them and he (Galen) understands by parables tales of rewards and punishments in a future life -- just as now we see the people called Christians drawing their faith from parables [and miracles], and yet sometimes acting in the same way [as those who philosophize]. For their contempt of death [and of its sequel] is patent to us every day, and likewise their restraint in cohabitation. For they include not only men but also women who refrain from cohabiting all through their lives; and they also number individuals who, in self-discipline and self-control in matters of food and drink, and in their keen pursuit of justice, have attained a pitch not inferior to that of genuine philosophers.

Sprengling's translation:28

According to the Kâmil [of Ibn Athîr] Galen lived in the days of this Commodus, having been born before the death of Ptolemy [literally: "and Galen lived to the time of Ptolemy"].  In his [i.e. Galen's] time the religion of the Christians had become manifest, and Galen mentions them [i.e. the Christians] in his book Remarks on the book of Plato on the Republic, where he says: "The mass of the people are not able to follow the thread of an apodictic discourse, wherefore they need allusive (enigmatic) sayings, so that they may enjoy instruction thereby (by allusive sayings he means the tales concerning rewards and punishments in the world to come). Of this sort we now see the people who are called Christians deriving their faith from such allusive sayings. Yet on their part deeds have been produced equal to the deeds of
those who are in truth philosophers. For example, that they are free from the fear of death is a fact which we all have observed; likewise their abstinence from the unlawful practice of sexual intercourse. And, indeed, there are some among them, men, and women, also, who during the whole of their natural life refrain altogether from such intercourse. And some of them have attained to such a degree of severe self-control and to such earnestness in their desire for righteousness, that they do not fall short of those who are in truth philosophers. Thus far the words of Galen.

Galen expresses criticism, of the God of Judaism and Christianity sometimes giving commandments without explainations. But according to Moses 5:6, we see that this can be an accurate observation. The angel of God does give an explainations, but we see that Adam's faith was tested first before the explaination was given.  Sometimes you have to first do things and see that they work, before the explaination will even make sense. Unfortunately, sometimes Christianity gets intself into trouble by speculating (with faithful intention) why an unpopular commandment is true.  But, ofttimes the speculation ends up being more damaging to faith than the unpopular practice itself ever was. 

Moses 5:6 And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.

Galen also seems critical of Christian teaching method of "needing parables," miracles strengthing faith, or relying on promised future blessings.  However, Galen recognized that the common man was common and likely not educated in Greek philosophy and reasoning like His students.  But what Galen couldn't argue with was the results.  Galen acknowledges that God's way of teaching the common man, while inferior to his Greek methods, while inferior in his opinion, was nonetheless very effective. 

From Galen, Εἰς τὸ πρῶτον κινοῦν ἀκίνητον (=On the prime mover). The work is listed in De libris propriis14, so must have been composed before that work was written in 192 A.D.14

The work is lost, but it was translated into Arabic by Hunain ibn Ishaq.15  The Arabic translation is not known to us today, but material from it is quoted by Ibn Abi Usaibia (d. 1270 AD), in chapter 5 of his work The History of Physicians.4

Walzer's translation:16

If I had in mind people who taught their pupils in the same way as the followers of Moses and Christ teach theirs — for they order them to accept everything on faith — I should not have given you a definition.

Kopf's translation:

Galen further mentions Moses and Christ in his treatise on "The Primum Movens," where he says: "If I had seen people who taught their disciples in the same way as the disciples of Moses and Christ were taught — that is, who ordered them to accept everything on trust — would not have given you any definitions."

Friday, May 17, 2019

Where Is God In Adversity

Some critics who question the existence of God, point to the adversity and suffering of God's people.  If God exists, then why do His people suffer?  The truth is that God has not called His people to have an easy life.  God's people are continually called to suffer, and be an example of patience and faith in our adversity. How can we be an example of faith unless our faith is challenged?  How can we be an example of patience unless our patience is challenged? 

The suffering of Job is a type of the suffering of the Messiah Jesus Christ and God's people. Where was God in Jobs life?, In the life of Jesus, or in the Holocaust of the Jews? Jesus Himself cried out on the cross, "O God, O God, why hast thou forsaken me".  Joseph Smith in Liberty jail wrote, "O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?" 

Yet, in all these examples, God has proven faithful to redeem His people and make up to them all their losses, even to exceed 100 fold. Job was restored to family and riches beyond what he had a first. Jesus Christ was gloriously resurrected and the Kingdom of God was birthed out of His death.  The nation of Israel was originally brought out of Egyptian bondage.  The Jewish people have been preserved through two thousand years of persecution, and the modern state of Israel was resurrected out of the Holocaust.  

Simillarly, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the New Jerusalem, arose from the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and the persecution of the Saints beginning in Kirkland, Missouri, Nauvoo and following them to the Rocky Mountains. Today, this great Latter-day kingdom reaches across all people's and continents. 

However, while each of us is subject to the conditions of mortality, I have found much less adversity in my life, and avoided many potholes, by living according to God's commandments. 

Thursday, May 09, 2019

False gods of Science and Medicine

Lev 15:13 And when he that hath an issue is cleansed of his issue; then he shall number to himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean.

The germ-theory of medicine was only recently appreciated in the mid 1800's.  Doctors routinely went from patient to patient without washing hands at all or washed in a basin of still water.  Consequently, women giving birth under the care of a doctor suffered a near 30% morality.  This high mortality vs midwives generated distrust of the medical profession which exists to the present day. 

Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis 1 July 1818 – 13 August 1865) was a Hungarian physician of ethnic-German ancestry, now known as an early pioneer of antiseptic procedures. Described as the "saviour of mothers", Semmelweis discovered that the incidence of puerperal or childbed fever (endometritis) could be drastically cut by the use of hand disinfection. Semmelweis proposed the practice of washing hands with chlorinated lime solutions in 1847 while working in Vienna General Hospital's First Obstetrical Clinic, where doctors' wards had three times the mortality of midwives'wards.

Despite other publications of results where hand washing reduced mortality to below 1%, Semmelweis's observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of the time and his ideas were rejected by the medical community. Semmelweis could offer no acceptable scientific explanation for his findings, and some doctors were offended at the suggestion that they should wash their hands and mocked him for it. 

In 1865, Semmelweis supposedly suffered a nervous breakdown and was treacherously committed to a asylum by his colleague.  Semmelwies died 14 days after at age 47 from gangrene.  Semmelweis developed gangrene after his wounds became infected which he recieved after being beaten by asylum guards. (Wiki)

Sammelweis's practice earned widespread acceptance only years after his death, when Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister confirmed the germ theory.  Lister, acting on the French microbiologist research, practiced and operated using hygenic methods with great success. 

This tragic history of medicine is the fruit of the paternalistic hierarchy of science and medicine that resists change, matrys many of it's revolutionaries, and has harmed and killed millions of people.  So, beware if you are losing your faith in religion, and giving up to worship the gods of science and medicine.  The Church of Jesus Christ is administered by imperfect people.  But if you are going to judge the LDS Church, then it's unfair to not use the same criteria for science and medicine. What I see is a massive double standard. 

Do we reject modern medicine because of it's past history of bloodletting and murcury poisoning?   Do we reject modern science for recently switching from string theory and a multiverse (many world's) to simulation/information/emergence theory  (zero world's)?  Critics of religion will demonize the LDS Church for its limited mistakes but hold up science and naturalism as the source of universal truth.  

Critics may contend that their double standard is justified because religion claims to talk with God while science has to work things out based on evidence and mistakes. Critics may claim that science admits it's faults. Does it? In reality,  this king-of-the-mountain system only admits fault after a mountain of evidence has finally broken the massive dam of resistance and denials.  Then, under the new paradigm, science talks like no scientist in their right mind ever believed anything different. 

The truth with religion is that God doesn't reveal every little detail to man.  And when God does reveal something, He rarely gives reasons or a plan of implementation.  Consequently, while the revealed word of God has proven trustworthy, varous attempts by man to understand, or explain God's word and implement it have been failible. 

I am trained as a scientist and a physician.  I have a masters in biochemistry and a doctorate in medicine with several peer-reviewed publications. I recognize the limitations and faults of both science, medicine, and religion, and despite their mistakes, the benefits far outweigh the risks. We can always work to make things better; even in religion.  But there is no logical justification to outright reject the institutions (hierarchy) of science, medicine or religion. Critics of religion need to learn how to work within the system to bring about change without harming the faith of the innocent. 

There has been a concerted movement in the West to errode our faith in our institutions. While we should tirelessly labor for improvement, we should be wise to recognize this trend and not be found guilty of supporting its aims. 

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Covenant and Naturalization

I have an Evangelical Christian friend who believes the ordinances and covenants of the temple are an addition to the all-sufficient gospel of Jesus Christ. Although, Isaiah 2 says the Latter-day temple will bring the long-anticipated millennial peace on Earth, he interprets the temple to mean Christ alone. He believes all covenants and ordinances including baptism and the Lords Supper are unnecessary. 

I know some atheists who believe similarly about covenants and ordinances. Many atheists believe anything religious is dangerous. However, I think this view may be due to a misunderstanding about what religion actually is. Pure religion, according to James 1:27, is about helping those in need, and living purified (in Christ). If our definition of religion involves anything else that these two things, it isn't religion. 

I ask my Evangelical and atheist friends what they think about other covenants we make in our lives. Is reciting the Pledge of Allegiance silly? What about our politician oath of office or a new citicizens oath of naturalization? Are these purely pagan practices? What about a doctor's Hippocratic oath to 'do no harm'? And what about the marriage vows we make with our spouses. Atheists argue that religious people are dangerous. Maybe people that deny the foundation principles and covenants that make up the fabric of our society pose more of a danger. 

Understanding the importance of covenant to society and our relationship with God, we should begin to understand why baptism for the dead is necesssry. If all people must be baptized by water and the spirit, then a just God would make heavenly citizenship available to both the living and the dead. Baptism for the dead are performed in temples, which are embassies of heaven. Those who serve in these heavenly embassies are its ambassadors- ambassadors of heaven. 

Nicholas T. Wright, a preeminent New Testament scholar,  wrote that modern Christianity misunderstands Paul's justification by grace thru faith and the gospel by interpreting Paul according to the 16th century protestant-catholic debate and not his first century jewish-christian context. Jews observed many commandments that did not involve right and wrong.  When Paul taught that men were not saved by works of the Law, Paul was referring to the Law of Moses and not the moral Noahide Laws. 

Friday, May 03, 2019

Tacitus on Christianity

Marcus Claudius Tacitus, a Roman historian, in his "Annals of Imperial Rome" (15.44), gives a description of the six-day Great Fire of Rome that burned much of Rome in July 64 AD dring the reign of Nero. The passage is one of the earliest non-Christian references to the origins of Christianity, the execution of Christ described in the canonical gospels, and the presence and persecution of Christians in 1st-century Rome (wiki).

"But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind."