Fr. Cory Sticha, Dom Bettinelli, and Jimmy Akin discuss and analyze the second episode of the 10 Season of Doctor Who entitled “Smile”. Emojibots, Scots in space, and callbacks to old Doctor Who episodes are all part of the discussion.

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Jimmy Akin, Fr. Cory Sticha, and Dom Bettinelli discuss and analyze the first episode of the 10th season of Doctor Who entitled “The Pilot”. They also talk about the new companion, Bill Potts; the imminent departure of showrunner Steven Moffatt and the 10th Doctor, Peter Capaldi; the incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall; and the upcoming season.

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Pope_Francis_3_on_papal_flight_from_Africa_to_Italy_Nov_30_2015_Credit_Martha_Calderon_CNA_11_30_15This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 11 February 2017 to 26 April 2017.


Apostolic Letter

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences






Papal Tweets

  • “Since Christ is resurrected, we can look with new eyes and a new heart at every event of our lives, even the most negative ones.” @Pontifex 20 April 2017
  • “When we have reached the lowest point of our misery and our weakness, the Risen Christ gives us the strength to rise again.” @Pontifex 21 April 2017
  • “Lord, bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.” @Pontifex 22 April 2017
  • “God’s mercy is forever; it never ends, it never runs out, it never gives up when faced with closed doors, and it never tires.” @Pontifex 23 April 2017
  • “Let us pray for the grace to never grow tired of drawing from the well of the Father’s mercy and bringing it to the world.” @Pontifex 23 April 2017
  • “If we had God’s Word always in our heart, no temptation could separate us from God.” @Pontifex 24 April 2017
  • “He died, He was buried, He rose and He appeared. Jesus is alive! This is the heart of the Christian message.” @Pontifex 25 April 2017
  • “Let’s promote friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions in order to build a world of peace” @Pontifex 26 April 2017

Papal Instagram

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four-gospelsSkeptical New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman offers a brief look at how many Bible scholars estimate when the Gospels were written.

Let’s talk about that.


The Basic Summary

In the 6th edition of his textbook The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Ehrman has a text box entitled “Establishing the Dates of the Gospels.”

In it, he notes that many scholars estimate the dates of the Gospels as follows:

  • Mark: written around A.D. 70
  • Matthew and Luke: written around A.D. 80-85
  • John: written around A.D. 90-95

These estimates are very popular, and not just among skeptical scholars. Many conservative scholars accept them as well.

My own view is that they are too late by a couple of decades, but Ehrman correctly reports their popularity in the scholarly community.

What’s interesting is that he also offers a brief account of the reasons scholars propose them.


Estimating an Earliest Likely Date

Before trying to assign dates to particular Gospels, it can be helpful to try to identify a broader range of years in which they were composed.

Concerning the earliest the Gospels might have been written, Ehrman writes:

To begin with, none of the Gospels appears to have been known to the apostle Paul, writing in the 50s.

Paul was an extraordinarily well-traveled and well-connected apostle, as we will see, and if anyone would have known about the existence of written accounts of Jesus’ life, it would have been him.

Probably they did not exist yet.

This point is largely fair. Many of Paul’s epistles were written in the 50s, and in those epistles, Paul does not quote from the Gospels.

He does echo a lot of things we find in the Gospels, but that could be due—and likely is due—to his use of oral tradition about Jesus. Without a direct quotation from the Gospels, we can’t show that he was aware of any of them.

He was very well-connected, and he would have been aware of the Gospels quickly after they began to be written, and the fact his epistles from the 50s don’t quote them suggests that they either weren’t in circulation or were only coming into circulation.

This isn’t a conclusive argument, because early Christians like Paul often relied on oral tradition rather than direct quotation from the New Testament, but the fact Paul’s epistles from the 50s never clearly refer to the Gospels is at least suggestive.


Some Exceptions?

I should note that there are some possible exceptions to the above.

First, in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25, Paul quotes Jesus’ words of institution for the Eucharist, and the form of words he uses is the one found in Luke 22:19-20, not the one found in Matthew 26:26-28 or Mark 14:22-24.

1 Corinthians was written around A.D. 53, but this passage probably is not a quotation from Luke’s Gospel.

If anything, it’s likely the reverse. Luke was a travelling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10-17, 20:5-15, 21:1-8, 27:1-28:16; cf. Col. 4:14, 2 Tim. 4:11, Philem. 24), and he would have heard Paul and others in his circle celebrate the Eucharist many times.

When it came time to write his Gospel, he likely used the Pauline version of the words of institution that he was familiar with.


“The Brother Whose Praise Is in the Gospel”

Second, Paul makes a mysterious reference in 2 Corinthians 8:18 to a “brother whose praise is in the gospel” (literal translation).

2 Corinthians was written around A.D. 54-55, and some have interpreted this passage as referring to the author of one of the written Gospels (if so, it would almost certainly be Mark).

However, the passage is ambiguous, and we can’t be confident of this.

In fact, the passage is normally taken as a reference to a brother Christian who was famous for preaching the gospel—not for having written a Gospel (some Bible versions even translate the verse that way).


“The Worker Is Worth His Wages”

Third, 1 Timothy 5:18 states:

[T]he scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

The first quotation is found in Deuteronomy 25:4 and the second is found in Luke 10:7.

The fact “scripture” is being cited shows that a written document—not oral tradition—is being used, and that suggests the Gospel of Luke was in circulation at the time 1 Timothy was written.

Many authors think that 1 Timothy was actually written by one of Paul’s disciples, sometime after his death around A.D. 67.

But others—myself included—believe Paul wrote it and would place it near the end of his life, perhaps around A.D. 65.

This would suggest that the Gospel of Luke was in circulation in the A.D. 60s, but Ehrman’s point is still fair that Paul’s letters from the 50s don’t contain any clear references to the Gospels.


Estimating a Latest Likely Date

What about the other end of the general timeframe in which the Gospels were written? By what time do we know they were in circulation? Ehrman writes:

On the other hand, early non-canonical authors such as Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna (see chapter 28) do seem to know some of the Gospels.

And so some or all of the Gospels were written before these authors produced their letters, around 110-15 CE.

This means that the Gospels probably date to somewhere between 60-115.

Can we be more precise?

Ehrman’s point about Ignatius and Polycarp is correct. I would adjust the timeframe to between 50 and 115, but other than that, I don’t have a problem with his logic to this point.

But as he tries to get more precise, things get more interesting.

That’s what we’ll talk about next time.

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second comingIn this episode of Catholic Answers Live (April 20, 2017, 2nd hour), Jimmy answers the following questions:

2:22 Did Jesus falsely prophesy that he would return before the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70?

13:39 Did some of the disciples initially think Jesus was a ghost after his resurrection?

17:50 What is “hermeneutics”? How to respond to the “All have sinned” passage in Romans with respect to the Immaculate Conception of Mary?

28:50 How should we evaluate Buddhism in relation to the Christian Faith?

38:50 How to deal with a problematic family situation that may even be dangerous?

47:23 Did the Council of Nicaea invent the divinity of Christ? Did it arbitrarily select books of the Bible? What was Constantine’s role in it? Was he a sincere Christian? How to know the truth about all this?

53:39 Catholic Answers MORE begins

In this episode of Catholic Answers More (April 20, 2017), Cy and Jimmy discuss:

* Beards!
* The origin of “Rindercella”
* Spoonerisms and other eech sperrors
* Hee-Haw comedian Archie Campbell
* Why the Church accepted 1 and 2 Maccabees into the canon but not 3 and 4 Maccabees
* Easter foods
* Why eggs are associated with Easter

Special appearance by Nick Chamberlain!

Archie Campbell does “Rindercella”: https://youtu.be/1FcUc2Tk0GQ

Click this link to watch the Catholic Answers Live show on YouTube.


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Does the Bible indicate God is a deceiver?

Recently I was contacted by a reader who was looking for a response to claims made by a Muslim apologist concerning instances in Scripture where God appears to use deception.

Let’s talk about that.


What the Muslim apologist was doing

The Muslim apologist was responding to Christian apologists who have argued that in the Qur’an, God is depicted as using deception and thus the “God of the Qur’an” isn’t worth worshipping.

The Muslim apologist asserted, in essence, that if that argument works then it would equally well disqualify the God of the Bible from worship as well.

In other words, the argument would prove too much.

Frankly, the Muslim apologist has a point. Too often, Christian apologists make apples-to-oranges comparisons with Islam, where they criticize something in Islam without stopping to ask themselves if there is parallel in Christianity.

The same thing can also happen in reverse. Muslim apologists can do the same thing.

If there is a parallel to the thing an apologist wants to critique then he needs to stop and ask himself, “Am I handling the evidence in a fair or an unfair manner?”

This is a question every apologist needs to ask himself, regardless of his position—whether he is Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, atheist, or anything else.

We all need to be fair, even when debating people of another perspective.

We shouldn’t use double standards.

As someone once said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”


Not All About Deception

Not all of the passages the Muslim apologist brought up involved deception.

For example, he cited John 16:25, where Jesus acknowledges that he has said some things in a figurative manner.

He then cited Mark 4:10-12, where Jesus says that he uses parables so that certain people might not understand and repent.

Neither one of these passages involves deception.

Speaking figuratively isn’t deception, and while the Mark passage is puzzling, it also doesn’t involve deception. Not understanding what Jesus says when he uses a parable is not the same thing as being deceived.

For a discussion of what the passage does mean, see Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth, volume 1 or my own Mark: A Commentary.

Similarly, the apologist cites two passages from Isaiah that also do not involve deception.

The first—Isaiah 19:14—says that God has made the Egyptians confused or dizzy, not that he has deceived them.

And the second—Isaiah 37:6-7—says that God will give the Assyrian king Sennacherib a disposition such that, when he hears a certain report, he will return home, which will lead to his death, which is what then happened (see Isaiah 37:37-38).

There are some interesting questions one can ask about these passages, but they do not portray God as deceiving people.


Verses Involving Deception

The Muslim apologist does cite some verses, though, where the issue of deception is on the table, such as where Jeremiah says:

Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD, surely thou hast utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ‘It shall be well with you’; whereas the sword has reached their very life” (Jeremiah 4:10).

Or when the prophet Micaiah sees a vision of heaven in which:

[T]he Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’

And one [spirit] said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’

And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’

And he said, ‘I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’

And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go forth and do so’ (1 Kings 22:20-22).

Or when Ezekiel reports an oracle, saying:

And if the prophet be deceived and speak a word, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel (Ezekiel 14:9).

Or when Paul says:

Therefore God sends upon them [i.e., those who “refused to love the truth”] a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thessalonians 2:11).

These verses do make it sound like God uses deception.

So how do we explain them?


The Christian View of God

The Christian Faith holds that God is an all-perfect Being. As a result, he is all-holy and is not capable of sinning, which I have written about before.

This has implications for God’s truthfulness. As early as the book of Numbers, we read:

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it? (Num. 23:19).

The same view is expressed in multiple other passages (e.g., 1 Sam. 15:29, 2 Tim. 2:13, Tit. 1:2). Jesus even declares himself to be “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6).

Passages like these express the fundamental conviction that God is always truthful, and they reveal that passages which appear to suggest otherwise must be taken in a different sense.

This is not surprising. Scripture often uses non-literal language when discussing God.

Thus we sometimes read about God sheltering people with his wings (Ps. 17:8, 36:7, 57:1, 64:1, 63:7) or we read about “the arm of the Lord” (Is. 53:1) or “the hand of God” (1 Sam. 5:11, 2 Chron. 30:12, Job 2:10) or “the finger of God” (Ex. 8:19, 31:18, Deut. 9:10).

These are not literal, for “God is spirit” (John 4:24) and “a spirit has not flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39).

We thus have to sort between literal statements—like God is a spirit and God does not lie—and figurative ones which portray him as having body parts or using deception.


Direct Attribution

One of the things you discover when you study the modes of language used in the Bible is that the ancient authors frequently attribute things directly to God, although their causation is actually less direct.

We may call this mode of speech “direct attribution.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church comments on it:

[W]e see the Holy Spirit, the principal author of Sacred Scripture, often attributing actions to God without mentioning any secondary causes.

This is not a “primitive mode of speech,” but a profound way of recalling God’s primacy and absolute Lordship over history and the world, and so of educating his people to trust in him [CCC 304].

A consequence of this mode of speech is that the authors of Scripture sometimes speak as if God actively caused things that he merely allowed as part of his providence.

This was, as the Catechism explains, their way of emphasizing God’s absolute Lordship, even though the figure of speech is not to be understood to mean that God literally caused something.

The literal truth is that he allowed it to happen, but this is expressed in figurative language that speaks as if he caused it.


The Key to the Deception Passages

This is the key to understanding the passages involving deception.

The literal truth is the one expressed in Numbers 23:19—“God is not man, that he should lie.”

But since God allows deception to take place on some occasions, the direct attribution mode of speech can be used in Scripture to speak as if God caused the deception.

Thus in Jeremiah’s day the people had become convinced that they would have peace when this was not the case. God allowed this to happen, but—per direct attribution—Jeremiah speaks as if God deceived them.

In 2 Kings, Ahab was deceived by false prophecies which God allowed to occur, and in Micaiah’s vision this is depicted—per direct attribution—as if God himself sent a lying spirit.

Ezekiel discusses the well-known phenomenon of false prophets, which God has allowed to appear, and—per direct attribution—speaks as if God himself deceived these prophets.

And Paul comments on those who “refused to love the truth” (2 Thess. 2:10), who God allowed to “not believe the truth but [have] pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:11). God then allows them to embrace “a strong delusion,” but—per direct attribution—Paul speaks as if God sent this delusion.


The “Why” Question

A natural question is why God would allow these things, and here we are confronted by what philosophers and theologians refer to as “the problem of evil.”

If you’d like to learn more about it, check out my video on The Problem of Evil. (It’s also covered in brief in my book A Daily Defense).

In some cases, we can see why God allows evil.

For example, Ezekiel 14:10-11 indicates that God allows false prophets as part of a long-term process of purifying his people, so “that the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, nor defile themselves any more with all their transgressions, but that they may be my people and I may be their God.”

In other cases, we can’t know in this life why God allows a specific evil.

However, the Catechism, quoting St. Augustine, explains:

[A]lmighty God. . . because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself (CCC 311).

We can thus have confidence that, no matter what evil happens he allows to occur in the world—whether it is deception or anything else—God will ultimately bring good out of it.

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francis-readingThis version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 3 March 2017 to 19 April 2017.

Note: There are several General Audiences that have not yet been translated into English.


Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences






Papal Tweets

  • “Hope helps believers to be open to the surprises God has in store for us.” @Pontifex 6 April 2017
  • “Lent is a period of repentance aimed at enabling ourselves to rise with Christ, to renew our baptismal identity.” @Pontifex 7 April 2017
  • “Dear young friends, don’t be afraid to say “yes” to Jesus with all your heart, to respond generously and to follow him!” @Pontifex 8 April 2017
  • “O Cross of Christ, inspire in us a desire for God, for goodness and for light.” @Pontifex 9 April 2017
  • “During this Holy Week let us focus our gaze on Jesus and ask for the grace to better understand the mystery of his sacrifice for our sake.” @Pontifex 10 April 2017
  • “Jesus comes to save us; we are called to choose his way: the way of service, of giving, of forgetfulness of ourselves.” @Pontifex 11 April 2017
  • “While the mystery of evil is profound, the reality of God’s Love poured out through Jesus is infinite and victorious.” @Pontifex 12 April 2017
  • “It is good for us to break out of our set ways, because it is proper to the Heart of God to overflow with tenderness, with ever more to give” @Pontifex 13 April 2017
  • “O Cross of Christ, teach us that the rising of the sun is more powerful than the darkness of night, and God’s eternal love wins always.” @Pontifex 14 April 2017
  • “Today is the celebration of our hope, the celebration of this truth: nothing and no one will ever be able to separate us from God’s love.” @Pontifex 15 April 2017
  • “Happy Easter! May you bring to all the joy and hope of the Risen Christ!” @Pontifex 16 April 2017
  • “Yes, we are sure of it: Christ indeed from death is risen!” @Pontifex 17 April 2017
  • “During this week of Easter it would do us good every day to read a passage from the Gospel which speaks of the Resurrection of Christ.” @Pontifex 18 April 2017
  • “Let us meditate with wonder and gratitude on the great mystery of the Lord’s Resurrection.” @Pontifex 19 April 2017

Papal Instagram

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lenten-2In this episode of Catholic Answers Live (April 14, 2017, 1st hour), Jimmy answers the following questions:

1:10 What was happening at the Triumphal Entry?

4:50 What is happening with the mysterious incident where the disciples get the animal for Jesus to ride?

8:30 When was the cleansing of the Temple?

9:50 What is a “Markan sandwich”?

10:40 Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?

12:00 Why is Jesus angry in the temple? Why did he cleanse it?

13:55 Why does John have the cleansing of the temple at a whole different point in Jesus’ ministry?

15:00 How did Jesus’ opponents challenge him and try to get him in trouble with the authorities?

19:00 How did Jesus respond to the challenge of the Sadducees?

21:50 How did Jesus use one of the same techniques that modern apologists use?

22:55 What are we missing about the story of the widow’s mite?

24:55 What does Jesus teach in his prophetic discourse?

27:35 Who anoints Jesus and why is he anointed?

28:50 Why are the identities of some people kept secret in the Synoptic Gospels but then revealed in John’s Gospel?

30:05 How do we explain the mysterious way Jesus arranges a place to celebrate the Last Supper? How did Jesus secretly thwart what Judas might have done?

32:40 Where is the garden of Gethsemane? How do we know what Jesus prayed there if the disciples fell asleep?

34:10 Why is the identity of the disciple who used a sword kept secret–until John’s Gospel?

35:25 What’s happening with the young man who runs away naked in Mark’s Gospel? If it’s not Mark himself, who might that be?

37:15 Was Jesus’ trial legal? Why did the Jerusalem authorities have to take him to Pontius Pilate?

39:15 Why is Jesus said to rise “on the third day” when it was only two days later? Could he have been crucified earlier than Good Friday?

41:15 How do we reconcile the different descriptions of the angels at the tomb? What about the women?

44:10 Did Jesus bodily rise from the dead?

Click the link to watch the video on YouTube.

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Holy weekIn this episode of Catholic Answers Live (April 10, 2017, 1st hour), Jimmy answers the following questions:

2:50 Why don’t Christians all celebrate Easter on the same day?

8:20 How is Easter related to Passover?

10:44 What date was Jesus crucified?

16:10 Why are the days of Holy Week given the names they are? (e.g., Palm Sunday, Passion Sunday, Spy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday)

21:22 Where does the word “Easter” come from? Is Easter pagan?

27:30 How do we know what Jesus prayed when he was alone in the garden of Gethsemane?

30:15 Where was Jesus held after he was arrested?

32:30 Why do we have an “interactive” reading of the Gospel in holy week?

34:50 What does “A.D.” mean? Is it “After Death”? Also, what’s the deal with “C.E.” and “B.C.E.”?

41:40 Do the Gospels contradict each other on when Jesus was crucified with respect to Passover?

49:40 Did Jesus and the apostles celebrate Passover on Wednesday? Do we need to propose that to allow time for all the events that happened after Jesus was arrested?

51:50 If Jesus “descended into hell,” how would he tell the good thief that he would be with him that day in paradise?

Click here to watch the video on Youtube.

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crucifixionIn this episode of Catholic Answers Live (April 6, 2017, 2nd hour), Jimmy answers the following questions:

01:28 How did people understand the term “church” at the time of Jesus? Was there a pre-Christian use of this term?

05:23 Are people in purgatory aware they are in purgatory? Could they be released only when they acknowledge that their sins deserve hell but God is being gracious to them?

08:09 How culpable is a person who sins after having been poorly counselled by a priest?

11:10 Are there equivalents to high mass, low mass, etc., in the ordinary form of Mass?

17:58 Were there female deacons and bishops in the early Church?

27:45 How to respond to the claim that, in the Atonement, the Father “poured out his wrath” on Jesus?

32:35 Is there historical evidence that the early Church had a papacy?

38:30 What does the Greek mean when Jesus says he is the Son “of Man”? Should it be translated the Son “of God made Man/flesh”?

41:30 Can we be affected by the sins of our ancestors and by curses people speak against us?

44:45 Does the Old Testament promote slavery?

48:20 Does the Church teach that the Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?

50:35 Does the Church have a teaching on the meaning of death in Genesis? Does it refer to “spiritual death”?

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