Friday, 12 July 2013

Tom Holland on the Evidence for Jesus and Muhammad

In the Shadow of the Sword
Photo: Wikipedia

One problem with mythicism is that while mythicists  love to claim that the evidence for Jesus' existence is weak, if you actually take the time to compare the sources we have on Jesus to those we have for comparable historical figures such Muhammad or the Buddha, it's hard to escape the conclusion that the evidence for Jesus as is at least as good, if not better.

One person who is well equipped to make such a comparison is journalist and historian Tom Holland, who has written extensively about the ancient world and the origins of Islam.

In this interview on Australian radio, Holland (who says he is sure that Muhammad existed) points out that:
The gospels you have in the New Testament are actually much closer in time to the life of Jesus than the earliest biography of Muhammad is to the life of the prophet.
Holland goes on to say:
Jesus is elusive, but in a way you'd expect him to be, because he's a criminal in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire, so in a sense it's amazing that we have anything about him at all. We have Paul's letters, which start to be written within twenty years probably of the crucifixion, and Paul clearly thinks that Jesus existed. So in a sense, the evidence for Jesus is kind of stronger than for Muhammad.
 Many thanks to Neil Godfrey for drawing my attention to this.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Life of the Buddha - Free Ebook

The Buddha

I'm already on summer holidays (yay), and I'm planning on spending a bit of time over the summer reading around Buddhist ethics and traditions. My school has a fair number of Buddhist students, so to reflect this I'd like to incorporate more Buddhist perspectives into my GCSE RS classes in ethics and philosophy. 

As a starting point, I've found these free pdf and ePub versions of E.B. Cowell's translation of  the Buddhacarita (Life of the Buddha), which I thought I'd share here.

The Buddhacarita, the earliest full biography of the Buddha, was written by the Indian poet Ashvagosha in the second century C.E., some 500-600 years after the Buddha lived (actually, the dates of the Buddha's life are a matter of some debate). Much of the original Sanskrit version has been lost, but translations survive in Chinese and Tibetan.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Michael Ruse on "Does Life Have a Purpose?"

Why did the Stegosaurus have plates?

This essay by philosopher of biology Michael Ruse examines the concept of purpose in biology, tracing its history from Aristotle to the present day. I particularly like his description of Aristotle's prime mover: "rather like some junior members of my family, this God spent Its time thinking mostly of Its own importance"

You can read the essay in full here, or download a kindle version here. HT: The Facebook Campaign to Improve AQA Philosophy group.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Buddhist Ethics: Five Precepts Revision Postcards

The Five Precepts: No. 3

A few weeks ago I uploaded a set of Christian ethics revision cards, to help students remember some of the key Bible verses that relate to the ethical issues we study at GCSE. I was pleased to see that quite a few students did actually put them up in their cubicles (I work in a boarding school), and rather natty they looked too.

In a similar line, I've created a small set of revision postcards illustrating the Five Precepts, the basic ethical code of Buddhism. As with the Christian ethics postcards I uploaded a few weeks back, the idea is to get the students revising them so they can easily incorporate them into their exam answers.

You can download them as a pdf here, or if you have a TES account, as a Word document here.