(4151) Christianity relies on the Bible alone
The evidence supporting the truth of Christianity lies solely in the Bible to the exclusion of any non-biblical sources or other means of proof or demonstration. Given the Bible’s many conflicts, contradictions, and lack of confidence in its transcriptions and translations, it leaves the faith on very tenuous ground. The following was taken from:
Thesis: Christianity’s credibility lies solely in the credibility of the bible.
If the bible cannot be considered credible, then Christianity cannot be considered credible.
1) The secular evidence for Jesus as a historical person does not testify to specific miracles, tricks, healings, words or sayings of Jesus.
2) The secular evidence for Jesus also does not mention the resurrection, the empty tomb or anything that suggests that he was a god, the son of God or claimed to be the son of God. Some non-Christian sources may refer to Jesus generally as a healer or sorcerer or miracle worker but this is a description of Jesus’ reputation only, not evidence of specific claims.
3) The secular evidence for Jesus has generally been copied from earlier records by Christians and there is evidence of tampering in favor of Christianity such as with Testimonium Flavianum. This hurts the credibility of such documents.
4) The martyrdom of apostles and subsequent followers is not credible evidence that Jesus was God. Many other religions have martyrs as well. Furthermore there is evidence to suggest other potential motives for the martyrdom of the apostles, such as the Jewish rebellion in 70 AD.
5) The number of followers and intensity of belief of specific followers is not evidence for Christianity. It is only evidence of its popularity. Within 30 year or so, Islam may take the lead and it won’t magically become more true at that point. Logically, this is the ad populum or bandwagon fallacy.
6) Studies about the efficacy of prayer are inconclusive and positive results are generally not replicable.
7) Modern day medical “miracles” such as the miracles at Lourdes are indistinguishable from natural spontaenous healing processes. In other words, these miracles are rare occurances, but not considered medically impossible–such as in the case of regrowing a severed limb, for example.
8) Modern day miracles are not reproducible under pressure or testing, nor is there evidence for any “impossible” event happening in the modern day. (One could make the argument that miracles by definition are singular, non-reproducible events. However, one should be able to see the evidence of such miracles even after the fact.)
9) If one was to find evidence for a seemingly impossible event for which there was no apparent natural cause, the lack of such a natural cause would not itself be evidence for any particular religion.
If Christianity was true, it would enjoy multiple sources of evidence, including historical documents (from secular sources), information related to various scientific fields, epidemiological data, prayer studies, and verified miracle events. But, in reality, all it has is the Bible, putting it on a par with many other religions dependent on ancient writings by unknown authors.
(4152) Sinning fetus
In one of most illogical passages in the Bible, Jesus’ disciples asked him this question:
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
The disciples are asking Jesus, in part, whether the blind man sinned to cause himself to be born blind. This implies, or rather demands, that the man sinned prior to being afflicted with blindness at birth, which further implies that he sinned while existing as a fetus in the womb. This would, of course, be nonsensical.
Nevertheless, this seems to open the possibility of whether a person can sin while in the womb. Even the most conservative Christians would likely defer on this point. But the disciples appeared to think it was an open question.
Jesus answers in a later verse that neither the man nor his parents sinned, but that the man was born blind specifically so that Jesus could show off demonstrate his miraculous powers. This in its own right seems to be a cruel game being played by God- to inflict blindness on a person just to score a point.
So, this story, which was fortuitously not included in any other gospel, ranks as another embarrassment to Christianity.
(4153) Forgiveness failure
The bible presents some very conflicting information about forgiveness, expressing it as an indefatigable ideal while often doing the exact opposite. The gold standard appears to be expressed in Matthew 18:21-22:
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered,“I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Yet, in many instances, forgiveness is not given in Christians script. The following was taken from:
Inexplicably, the Christian god himself is not held to this high moral standard. Jesus makes his grand pronouncement about forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-22, and then illustrates his point with the parable of the unforgiving slave: a king wanted to get rid of a slave who owed him a lot of money, i.e. he planned to sell the slave and his family. But the slave begged him not to, promising to pay him all the money he owed: “And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt” (v. 27). But that same slave was brutal toward another slave who owed him money, throwing “him into prison until he would pay the debt” (v. 30). When the king heard about this, he was enraged: “‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt’” (vv.32-34).
We sometimes wonder what was going on inside Matthew’s head. This parable does not illustrate abundance of forgiveness. The slave whom the king had forgiven screws up badly, and gets tossed into jail. For the parable to be an illustration of Matthew 18:21-22, the king would have taken him aside and offered guidance on how to treat people better. “Okay, I forgive you for the way you treated your fellow slave, so let’s try this again. Let’s see if you can do better.” But Matthew makes an even bigger mistake, derailing into really bad theology:
“Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:34-35)
Yes, you read that right: Jesus says that the heavenly father will hand every one of you over to be tortured if you don’t forgive. Even the most pious believers should be horrified by this text. Of course this doesn’t match the cherished ideas about a loving-father-god that the church promotes. But it does match the angry, wrathful god we find portrayed in scripture. For more on this, see my article Bible god is Not a god ANYONE Would Want.
The authors of the New Testament based their theologies on the bad-tempered god of the Old Testament, hence it’s no surprise to find a carry-over of vindictive theology. There are other texts in Matthew where generous forgiveness plays no part:
“I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (12:36-37).
In Matthew’s famous Last Judgement scene (25:31-46) we read that those who fail to show sufficient compassion will “… depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…”(v. 41)
When Jesus sent his disciples out to preach, he advised them not to waste time on those who wouldn’t listen: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town” (Matthew 10:14-15).
As has been the case with cults throughout the millennia, early Christian thought-leaders insisted that correct belief was a qualification for belonging. If you failed at this, you were condemned—with no generous forgiveness in sight. We have no idea who wrote the forged ending of Mark’s gospel, but he reflected this intolerance: “The one who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned.” (16:16)
This strident intolerance is also found in that Bible chapter in which the devout find their favorite verse, i.e., John 3. Verse 16 states that god “so loved the world,” but we find this brutality in verse 18: “Those who believe in him are not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” And the last verse of the chapter (v. 36) reinforces this failure to forgive: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life but must endure God’s wrath.”
The devout who truly believe these bits of scripture were inspired by the Christian god—whom they adore, worship, sing songs to—have they made any effort to wrap their minds around these cruel, unforgiving texts?
The most significant failure of Christian forgiveness is the clear threat that is levied against people who fail to accept Jesus. That is, good people who live exemplary lives but fail to negotiate the extreme paucity of evidence for Jesus are NOT FORGIVEN, but rapists and murderers who say some magic words ARE. “If there is a system of justice less just that this, I don’t know what it is.” -Sam Harris
(4154) Development of the Exodus narrative
A study of the narrative of the Israelites exodus from Egypt reveals that it developed over a long period of time involving many authors and editors, and that it is riddled with significant contradictions, incompletions, and chronological anachronisms. The fact of the Exodus can be believed only with a deliberate refusal to accept rational inquiry (in other words, faith). The following (a shortened version of a longer essay) was taken from:
The Hebrew Bible is a complex collection of writings, written over a period of hundreds of years by many different authors. Each of these authors wrote in their own historical context and they don’t always agree with each other. The origin myths of the Israelites developed over time, and the Hebrew Bible contains several snapshots of this development.
The earliest Northern prophets, Amos and Hosea, both refer to the exodus, while first Isaiah and the early parts of Micah don’t refer to it. This indicates a Northern origin of the exodus/conquest narrative.
Psalm 78 describes the plagues, but only 7 of them. The plagues mentioned are: the rivers are turned to blood (v44), flies and frogs (v45), locusts (v46), hail (v47 & v48), destroying angels (v49), the plague (v50) and the death of the firstborns (v51). Some of these correspond to the account in the book of Exodus, some don’t. Hence the story was still in development when this Psalm was written.
In Psalm 105 we find yet another list of plagues. The plagues mentioned are: darkness (v28), waters into blood (v29), frogs (v30), flies and gnats (v31), hail (v32), struck vines and fig trees (v33), locusts (v34 & v35) and the death of the firstborns (v36).
If we keep reading Psalm 105, we find that “Egypt was glad when they departed” (v38). Yahweh then leads the Israelites out of Egypt. A crucial part of the story is missing here; the parting of the Red Sea. The parting of the Red Sea was only inserted later into the narrative. This can be seen in the book of Exodus itself as well. I chapter 11 verse 1, we read that there will be one more plague and then the Israelites will be free. Then Exodus 12:1-28 explains the origins of Passover. The start of the calendar is based on the tenth plague. In verse 17, it says that the tenth plague is when God brought the Israelites out of Egypt. This is clearly not the case, they only leave Egypt during the crossing of the Red Sea. In chapter 15 we find the Song of the Sea. This is one of the oldest parts of the Hebrew Bible, which can be seen by the archaic language used in it. It is later inserted in the book of Exodus, with a narrative around it to connect it with the rest of the narrative. The song itself mentions no slavery or plagues or violent conquest of Canaan. Yet it does mention the Philistines, showing that the song was composed after the Philistines appeared in Canaan. Thus the plague narrative and the crossing narrative were two different traditions in which the climax of the story was either the tenth plague or the crossing of the Red Sea.
Another narrative inconsistency is found in the Song of Deborah in Judges chapter 5. This chapter contains some of the oldest Hebrew in the Hebrew Bible, which makes it a lot harder to translate. It is dated to the 12th century, which is even earlier than the traditional dating. Verse 19 refers to a battle at Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo. Verses 14 to 18 describe which tribes entered in this battle. If we identify Machir and Gilead with the tribes of Manasseh and Gad respectively, we are missing the tribes of Levi, Simeon and Judah. The reason for this is that at the time of writing, these tribes didn’t exist yet. Yet, according to the exodus/conquest narrative, the tribes were already present in Egypt centuries earlier.
Egypt was dominant in Canaan during the Late Bronze Age. Then during the Late Bronze Age collapse, their empire declines and retreats from Canaan. A few decades earlier, a new Canaanite nation emerged, that of the Israelites. In the power vacuum, they manage to expand and build many villages in the Canaanite highlands. They start telling stories about their origin, and these stories grow over time. Some of these stories are found in the Bible in earlier stages of their development. The many versions of these stories are full of contradictions and reflect an Iron Age composition. The final version is a grand narrative with many exciting elements. However, all evidence we have available, which is a lot, shows the narrative to be completely fictional.
Because the Old Testament forms the foundation of the Christian faith, anytime a prominent element of it is revealed to be mythical, it removes a pillar supporting the veracity of Christianity. Demonstrating that the Exodus is fictional casts a reasonable doubt on many other stories in the Old Testament, leaving only small segments clinging to a reasonably trustworthy historical pedigree.
(4155) ChatGPT delivers the secular response
The new AI platform ChatGPT was asked to explain reasons for why American society has become less religious. Each of the reasons given would not have had that effect if Christianity was true:
Increased knowledge, more broadly available education, advances in science and technology, and the trajectory of ethical trends all should have caused an increase in the belief in Christianity… if it was true. But if it is false, then we would expect these societal changes to decrease belief in Christianity. And that is what we observe.
(4156) God demanded human sacrifices
One must be asked: Would the god who created the universe EVER compel humans to sacrifice other humans for any purpose whatsoever? Any sane person would answer no. And most Christians are blithely unaware that the god they worship spewed out this dastardly command on multiple occasions. The following was taken from:
Most Christians refuse to admit that in their religion, Human Sacrifice is rampant, is required by, and is celebrated unto their God. Below are some of the passages which come to mind in evidence that in the Bible, God Himself demanded human sacrifices to Himself.
In Genesis 22, God commands Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, to Him (Gen 22:2) – and in obedience, Abraham sets out to do precisely that. He gets as far as building an altar upon which to slash his son’s neck, thereafter, to immolate him as a “burnt offering to God” but just as he is about to cut Isaac’s throat (G22:9-10), Abraham sees a Ram which was having a bad, bad day!, and sacrifices the Ram, instead.
At Genesis 22:1-2; God Hisself commands Abraham to “take his only Son, Isaac… and offer him as a Burnt Offering” to Him, whereupon Abraham dutifully and unquestioningly sets out to do so.
Just as Abraham is about to slay his son!, an Angel appears in (KJV) G22 verses 11-12: V11 states “And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.” V12 states “And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now *I*… know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” Note that in G22:1-2; it is GOD who speaks to Abraham and Hisself claims vis His Own Command, to slay the boy; at Verse 12… it is an Angel who appears to make claim to have given the instructions.
As is so often true in the bible; the errors continue: at Verse 15; the Angel called out to Abraham a second time, speaking for God (at Verse 16): “By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:…” The trouble here is, God identifies Isaac as “Abraham’s only son”. And yet he wasn’t his only son. He wasn’t even his first son. Ishmael… was the little child that God told Abraham to abandon into the desert in Genesis Chapter 21.
Did God command Human Sacrifice to Him, elsewhere in the Bible?
Yes, he did. The following come from the KJV:
In Exodus 22:29; God commanded the Israelites to sacrifice to Him their firstborn sons: “Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.”
In Leviticus 27:28-29, God said that every “devoted thing … both of man, and beast … shall surely be put to death.”
“No devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the LORD of all that he hath, both of man and beast … shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the LORD. None devoted, which shall be devoted of men**, shall be redeemed; but shall surely be put to death.”**
Via Numbers 31:25-40; God commands Moses‘ officers to kill every Midianite male and non-virgin female, but to keep the virgin females alive for themselves — except for one in a thousand which were to be given to God. After, um, “examining”… the females, the soldiers found 32,000 virgins, 32 of which were to be sacrificed to God. Numbers 31:40 tells us that: “And the persons were sixteen thousand; of which the LORD’s tribute was thirty and two persons.”
Judges 11:29-40 tells us that in tribute for his victory over the Ammonites… “And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” Bible God’s sense of humor (and his pettiness) is such that the first person Jepthah saw coming from his doors… was his beloved daughter. In devotion to, and in obedience to, his vow to God… Jepthah did in fact sacrifice, and burn, his deeply loved daughter to the Lord – who, unlike as He had done with Abraham… did not “cancel” the killing and the burnt offering.
In 2 Samuel 21:1, 8-14; God sent a famine on David’s kingdom for three years. When David asked God why, God answered: “It is for Saul, and his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.” (WHAT??? David… was being punished… for the sins of his predecessor????) To appease God and end the famine that was caused by his predecessor (Saul), David agreed to have two of Saul’s sons and five of his grandsons killed and hung up “unto the Lord.” God stopped the famine after they were killed and hung up for Him.
At 1 Kings 13:1-2; Josiah “did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord” when he killed “all the priests of the high places” and burnt their bones upon their altars.” . 2 Kings 23:20 also tells us that Josiah … slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men’s bones upon them“; and 2 Chronicles 34:1-5 additionally tells us: “Josiah … did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord … And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars.”
Of course it is a primary doctrine of the Christian religion/faith that “Jesus was the ultimate human sacrifice, redeeming us all with his precious blood.”
1 Corinthians 5:7 reminds us that “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.”
1 Peter 1:18-19 tells us that “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things … But with the precious blood of Christ.”
Early in the Bible, Hebrews 9:13-22 affirms to us God’s Requirement for Human Sacrifice, in order for pleas to Him to be meaningful:
“For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God … that by means of death … they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator … and without shedding of blood is no remission*.”*
This is affirmed in Hebrews 10 verse 10: “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
The Christian Religion is, in fact, a “blood cult”:
I remind Christians that, to this very day within the Christian “Communion with God” rites; Christians are expected, in affirmation of their devotion to their God, to drink “the Blood of Jesus” and to eat “the Flesh of Jesus“.
And, what exactly IS it that “washes one’s sins as White as Snow“? Isn’t that “Nothing But the Blood of Jesus“? According to Google, there are quite a large number of Christian songs which celebrates and raises in Adoration to God “the Blood of Jesus“.
The scriptural evidence is overwhelming- Yahweh viewed human sacrifice as an a good and effective practice. This results in the following conclusion- either Yahweh is corrupt or he is fictional. Christians must be careful in how they pick one of those two options.
(4157) Prophetic revelation is the worst evidence
Much of Judeo-Christianity is dependent on the veracity of what its prophets have disseminated, either orally or in writing. This is a very inefficient means of transmitting doctrine and is highly prone to falsehoods, delusions, scams, and self-serving. There is no effective means of verifying that the prophet has a reliable connection to the divine being he is speaking for.
A much better way for a divine being to message humanity would be one of the following:
1) prayer stones– placing stones near population centers that would result in a consistent message being delivered to everyone who prayed for enlightenment at their location.
2) Omni-revelation– this, in effect, would make everyone a prophet, as the divine being would place in the minds of everyone the same message, with perfect rectitude.
3) Advanced knowledge– the divine being would make sure that it inspired human authors to include knowledge unknown at the time of composition, but later would be determined to be true. For instance, the gospels could have Jesus making the statement- ‘lo, I tell you now so that those who come after me will know that I am the Lord, and it is this, write it down, and save it, for this I tell you the distance to the sun is 390 times more than the distance to the moon.’ If this had been included in the gospels, it would have been unthinkable that anyone at that time could have made such a determination. It would result in providing assurance that Jesus was of supernatural origin, and, once humans had verified this calculation, it would have resulted in the mass conversion of people born in other religions.
4) Use of media– in the case, the divine being would continually use human advancements in communication to deliver a series of messages on those platforms. This could result in co-opting radios, TVs, or the internet to deliver a message that would be consistent world-wide.
5) Interruption of false religions– the divine being could use its influence to cause people to doubt and leave religions that were solely of human creation. Thus, while not directly supporting belief in the true religion, this method would eventually corral humanity into the one true religion.
6) Miracles– the divine being could cause scientifically-verified miracles to occur, but only in connection to the one true religion. One of ways to do this would be, for example, to have amputees or quadriplegic people to be healed by use of prayers to the divine being, but such prayers to other gods would be ineffective.
7) World-wide projection– for example, use the moon as a projector screen, and deliver a message in multiple languages to clarify who god is who he isn’t. Another way this could be done would be to distribute literature in all languages, that is, books that would appear out of nowhere.
8) Celestial monument– place a clearly-designed feature in the universe, perhaps a structure of a nebula that would be seen as a message to all intelligent species. Such a construction could also include a coded message from a series of pulses that could be interpreted to be a message from its creator.
9) Embed a message- in human DNA or in the physical constants of the universe that would be perceived as a designed element, leading to an understanding of the god who created it.
10) Land an alien species– Arrange to have an advanced species land on planets of lesser advanced species and deliver a message that would explain who god is and what he wants. If such aliens were to arrive on Earth today and demonstrate their advanced technologies, and have them state that Christianity is the one true religion, it is difficult to believe that people following other of the false religions wouldn’t immediately convert.
Any of these methods would be more effective and verifiable than simply giving individual persons a revelation that others could rightfully perceive as being faked or unreliable. God could do so much more, that is, if he really exists.
(4158) ChatGPT 10 Commandments beats the Bible
The AI ChatGPT was asked to give a list of 10 commandments and delivered the following:
So, a human-created artificial intelligence application arguably gives commandments that are vastly superior to those in the Bible. What this seems to say is that humans have surpassed God in terms of morality and ethics. If the above commandments were in the Bible and on ceremonial rocks and church walls, the world would be a much better place.
(4159) Bible condones divination and fortune-telling
Although contemporary Christians shun the idea of divination or fortune-telling, and many see it as being implements of Satan, their Bible does not agree with them. There are multiple examples where these superstitious methods were used. The following was taken from:
Many modern Christian churches shun mysticism, fortune-telling, and magic of any sort, but these things were all alive and well in biblical times. Though the Bible does condemn dark magic, it doesn’t forbid magical arts outright, as the following verses demonstrate:
- Jewish high priests regularly used divination stones called Urim and Thummim to obtain oracles and signs from God (Exodus 28:30, 1 Samuel 28:6).
- People often cast lots – stones or sticks bearing symbols, similar to runes – to determine the will of God (Proverbs 16:33).
- Daniel, of “Daniel and the Lion’s Den” fame, was not only a renowned magician and interpreter of dreams, but also “made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers” by the King of Babylon (Daniel 5:11).
- At the command of God, Moses engaged in what more or less amounted to a wizard’s duel with the magicians of Egypt (Exodus 7:9-12).
- Many scholars believe the “wise men” who came to visit baby Jesus were Babylonian magicians alerted to Jesus’s birth by God via their use of astrology (Matthew 2:1-2).
It should also be noted that lots were cast for replacing Judas with Matthias as one of the disciples (Acts 1:26). What this tells us is that the people who wrote the Bible were mired in an irrational mindset that would seem to preclude their connection to a universal deific source.
(4160) Paul failed to write about the transfiguration
If we are to believe that Paul met with Jesus’ disciple Peter (as Paul attests to in his letters), then it would be expected that, at the very least, Peter would have informed Paul of the two most important events (that he witnessed) in Jesus’ ministry- the resurrection and the transfiguration.
According to accounts in the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) the transfiguration occurred when Jesus ascended a mountain along with Peter and John. When on top, Jesus’ clothes became radiant white and Moses and Elijah appeared (out of nowhere) and conversed with him. A cloud then came over them and God (Yahweh) speaking through the cloud endorsed Jesus as his son and implored the disciples to listen to him. [See #623 for the full scriptural account]
Although Paul wrote a lot about Jesus resurrecting from the dead, he never mentioned the transfiguration. Why this is important is because of all of the miracles that Jesus performed (walking on water, changing water to wine, healing people, creating loaves and fishes, and even the resurrection itself), only the transfiguration definitively ties Jesus to the Hebrew god. The other miracles could have reflected Jesus getting power from Zeus, or any other god (or devil). Unlike the transfiguration, those events were not specific to Yahweh.
With this in mind, it would seem that somewhere in Paul’s letters, and probably in multiple letters, something like this should have appeared:
I met with Peter and he told me how Jesus led he and John up a mountain where they met with and conversed with Moses and Elijah. Then God’s voice appeared and stated that Jesus was his son. This is the confirmation that we need to know that Jesus is the Son of God and that our worship of him is not in vain.
But he didn’t write about the transfiguration. And that means almost assuredly that Peter never told him about it. And that further implies that the transfiguration most likely didn’t happen. Rather, it was a fictional account made up originally by the author of Mark to showcase Jesus as a bona-fide emissary of Yahweh. And if this was indeed a story made up by Mark, then it becomes difficult to separate fact from fiction anywhere else in his gospel, meaning we can’t be sure of anything Jesus did.
(4161) God, the absentee boss
Imagine working for a company and having a boss who gives you assignments and directions for how to work and behave. But after awhile, the boss is no longer on the premises, and all of the directions are being given by fellow workers who claim to speak for the boss. This is an untenable situation, especially when the workers are giving conflicting information. This is an analogy of what is happening in Christianity. If it is to be believed, God was a very hands-on ‘boss’ for about a thousand years, but then left the ‘office’ and now relies on humans to further his plan. But these humans are flawed and disagree with each other, and this results in a very chaotic ‘workplace.’ The following was taken from:
My opinion is that there would be a lot more devout religious people on earth if God showed himself more often.
The big flaw I see in general religion is that the almighty, has left it up to humans, who we know are very flawed when it comes to reliably passing on information without manipulating it to serve their own purposes, to promote him to as many others as possible. God is using ‘word of mouth’ marketing to promote himself. Even if God was busy doing God business elsewhere, it would be common sense to make yourself known from time to time, to check in on your minions. To all intents and purposes, the concept of God is that he’s like an absentee boss. We are told he should be respected and everything happens because of him, but nobody has seen him. This ticks all the boxes of a Myth or Legend, rather than the pervasive religion that it is.
There is no reasonable explanation for why God was so active and intrusive in the lives of his followers in biblical times, but so determinedly absent ever since. There are two possibilities- (1) God’s biblical exploits are fictional and he really doesn’t exist, or (2) God decided to stop interacting with humans after about 50 CE. The former explanation fits the facts very well, but the latter is questionable- that is, it is hard to understand how a very active, intrusive god could become so distant in the face of a changing society that needs direction given an explosion of conflicting sects of Christianity and other religions. Where is God? He is either non-existent, or he’s an ‘absentee boss.’
(4162) Heaven is a childish dream
There are two dimensions of heaven that make it exceedingly unlikely to exist. First, it wasn’t even a part of Judeo-Christian theology until the 1st Century CE (it didn’t exist in any Old Testament scripture). Second, and most importantly, it is nothing more than a childish dream- tantamount to wishing for a billion dollars. Not only is the dream childish, but it doesn’t even make sense. The following was taken from:
The whole notion of being ‘happy forever’ or ‘eternal love’ and variations of after you die and join up with god or whatever feels like a childish dream – if you have any concept of self to even feel an emotion (like happiness, peace, belonging, love etc..), by definition you must have some sort of concept of yourself, your life, memories, who you are, and every emotion only has meaning if it’s opposite or other states of being also remain in conscious awareness… you can only feel happy if you know what sadness is. Non-pain if you know what pain is. We HABITUATE to any constant state – happiness would just start to feel like boring dull nothingness after a while. Yawn. Not to mention knowing your relatives or loved ones are in hell or are suffering on earth – is this so easily brushed off? Anyways, I don’t have the mental energy to go too deep but can someone please explain how this isn’t the fantasy dream of a five year old’s wishful thinking?
We can scour the Old Testament to find what appears to be a confirmation that this life is the only life we will have:
The axiom of Genesis 3:19, “for dust you are and to dust you shall return,” and similar statements in the Hebrew Bible
a human is in no way better off than an animal. Everything goes to the same place: everything comes from the dust, and everything returns to the dust (Eccl 3:20)
a human being, he dies and dead he remains (Job 14:10)
a human being, once laid to rest will never rise again (Job 14:12)
Heaven has no support in Jewish scripture and it is hard to believe that God would not have alerted his chosen people of its existence. But even if it exists conceptually, it doesn’t work as far as being a place of eternal bliss- unless one considers being on an endless IV drip of morphine an ecstatic experience.
(4163) Failure of Christians’ favorite verse
If you ask Christians, most will say that their favorite verse is John 3:16. The following essay reveals that the rosy theme of this verse is destroyed by the text that surrounds it:
Those of us raised in Christianity know it by heart: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Anyone who has read the Bible—and studied history—knows that this claim, god so loves the world, has been falsified. Consider just the problem of horrendous human and animal suffering—and there has been plenty written about that here on this blog. Chalk this claim up to John’s tedious habit of theological exaggeration—what I sometimes have called theology inflation. But John immediately undermines this claim with what can be called the exclusionary clauses. The overwhelming majority of people who have ever lived have not believed in Jesus—so they’re out of luck. And this is stated bluntly in John 3:18: “Those who believe in him are not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:36 is even meaner: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life but must endure God’s wrath.” This theology is a mark of cult fanaticism: if you’re not a member of our in-group, god will smash you. Notice as well the magical thinking here: it’s important to believe in the name.
We can be suspect that the folks who rave about John 3:16 pay little heed to John 3:14-15: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
What’s that about? The serpent in the wilderness? The god who so loves the world was in a nasty mood, as mentioned in Numbers 21:5-9, which is worth quoting in full:
“The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.’ Then Yahweh sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against Yahweh and against you; pray to Yahweh to take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. And Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’ So Moses made a serpent of bronze and put it upon a pole, and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.”
Pay attention: This god arranged for snakes to bite people? And John is comparing Jesus on the cross to a bronze serpent hanging on a pole. If you’ve been bitten by a poisonous serpent, but look at the serpent on the pole, you won’t die. And if you’ve been bitten by sin, you will get eternal life if you believe in Yahweh’s son hanging on the cross. These are both examples of naïve magical thinking: look at something, believe in something: you’ll be cured. Do the devout ever bother to analyze such goofiness? People who have walked away from Christianity have commonly done so because there is so much in the Bible, especially the gospels, that defies a sane and healthy approach to the world.
The scriptures themselves emphatically reveal that God does not really love the world, but rather is a harsh judge who seems to relish being pointedly punitive. Just read Romans 1:18-32 to see Paul’s take on the matter. Christians need to read John 3 carefully, just focus on Verse 16, and try to avoid anything else. It is true that a good Christian is usually a poor student of the Bible.
(4164) Did Paul ever see Jesus?
The answer to this question depends on whether you consider the Book of Acts or Paul’s letters as being more authentic. In Acts, Paul is blinded by a light and only hears the voice of Jesus. In Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, he claims to have seen Jesus. The following is based on J. D. Crossan’s book “Render Unto Caesar.”
He addresses this question. He notes that the Book of Acts description specifically precludes Paul seeing Jesus.
Second, even granted a heavenly call from Christ, Paul had never actually seen the risen Lord, unlike the Twelve, who had seen both the earthly and the risen Lord. This was the unkindest cut of all. Luke tells the full story of Paul’s Christ-given vocation three times, and each time Paul hears the voice of Christ but never sees his face. In fact, he could not have seen his face, as he was blinded by heavenly light in each of the three accounts (Acts 9:3–4, 8; 22:6–7, 9; 26:13–14).
But Crossan also notes that Paul vehemently disagrees with this this description of whatever his encounter with Jesus might have been:
But Paul insists that he saw and was sent by the heavenly Jesus, and that gave him exactly the same apostolic status: “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” Later, he answers that question: “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8; “appeared” is ōphthē in Greek, meaning “was seen”).
Paul does describe encounters with the risen Jesus, but there is no indication that he would have embraced the description of that encounter in the Book of Acts.
There are significant discrepancies in the three account in Acts of Paul’s encounter with Jesus. A further discrepancy, given Paul’s personal account of the event, questions whether Paul saw Jesus or just heard his voice. Either the stories in Acts or Paul’s account is inaccurate, or perhaps both of them are untrue, but they both cannot be correct.
(4165) Flattening out the Bible
Christian theologians have the daunting task of presenting a cohesive, single story of their faith while dealing with the disparate, conflicting messages that exist throughout the Bible. This effort to ‘flatten out’ the Bible results in many logical compromises. The following was taken from:
I think the fundamental issue is that mainstream Christians need to flatten the entire Bible into a homogeneous, singular narrative. But, the authors of the Bible were a diverse bunch with widely differing conceptions of God. The fallible, morally suspect, far-from-omnipotent God of Genesis and Exodus who was one among many real gods is a far cry from the omni-everything and only existing God of later Christianity, the subtle Jesus of Mark barely resembles the flamboyantly divine Jesus of John, and poetic flourishes about “the word” and “the holy spirit” get turned into characters in their own right by later interpreters. The sky-dragon in Genesis was never intended to be the same character as the “satan” in the story of Job who was never intended to be the same character as the snake in the Garden of Eden, but they all get flattened into the modern conception of Satan who doesn’t really appear in the Bible anywhere in recognizable form.
Trinitarianism is a dogma imposed by the orthodox sect on texts written by a variety of authors many of whom didn’t think Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit were meant to be literally equal parts of God. Trinitarians point to some individual verses written by trinitarians and say “look, this one bit is trinitarian, so when you flatten it all into one story the whole story must be trinitarian”, which is cherry-picking because other bits equally clearly go the other way, but it’s cherry picking with most of two millennia of historical dominance.
If the Bible had been inspired by the ‘one and only god, Yahweh,’ there would have been no need to flatten out its messages. But if a book was written by many people each of whom had their own view of the divine world, then the Bible is exactly what you would expect.
(4166) Animal sacrifice was common worldwide
Christians must admit that the god they worship demanded animal sacrifices during a certain period of time prior to Jesus. What makes this a problem for the faith is that animal sacrifice was practiced by many tribes of that time, even to the current day, making it seem more like a solution that humans would dream up rather than a god. The following was taken from:
The Bible has people doing animal sacrifices to appease a wrathful god, and the sicknesses and natural disasters we observe supposedly occur because we messed up and made this god angry.
Why don’t Christians see how this way of thinking is almost exactly like other barbaric primitive tribes that did human or animal sacrifices to appease the angry gods when a sickness spread through the village or a solar eclipse happened? These individuals also thought they did something wrong when these things happened.
For example, the Mayans, who also did animal sacrifice, thought that human sacrifice was the ultimate offering to the Gods. Christians think a specific human sacrifice, god in human form, is the ultimate sacrifice transcending the burnt lamb offering, an animal sacrifice, that was previously done in Old Testament times.
The gods of these other tribes supposedly found the offerings pleasing to them, and the Biblical god is said to have found the smell of burnt flesh pleasing to him.
Why would an omnipotent god require that animals be sacrificed? It wouldn’t. Why would humans sacrifice animals? Because prior to the advent of conventional scientific knowledge, people would see such a gift to supernatural beings as a way to gain their favor and avoid further calamity. The fact that the Bible god encouraged animal sacrifice, a practice common to nearly all human civilizations existing at the same time, provides good evidence that he is mythical.
(4167) Evolution of life after death
If heaven was a real and eternal place for re-animated dead people, it certainly would have been a prominent feature of Jewish scripture from the very start. Adam and Eve would have been apprised of this wonderful afterlife that awaits them. But that’s not what happened. The concept of heaven never became fully fleshed out until the 1st Century- in the writings of Paul and in gospel quotes attributed to Jesus. It is difficult to explain this contradiction. The following was taken from:
The axiom of Genesis 3:19, “for dust you are and to dust you shall return,” and similar statements in the Hebrew Bible…
a human is in no way better off than an animal.
Everything goes to the same place: everything comes from the dust, and everything returns to the dust (Eccl 3:20)
a human being, he dies and dead he remains (Job 14:10)
a human being, once laid to rest will never rise again (Job 14:12)
…is predicated on the ontological and empirical evidence that all men die, that Death, if we wish to personify it, comes to all, and that there is no returning from the grave, or Sheol as it is commonly referred to in the Bible. Nothing in the Hebrew Bible, in other words, prepares us for the New Testament’s declarations that, according to Paul, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross has defeated Death itself, that Death no longer exists or, in light of Paul’s historical context, is currently becoming extinct (Rom 6:21-22, 8:2; 1 Cor 15:26). Likewise, apart from a very brief one-liner in Daniel 12:2, a late text, there is nothing in the Hebrew Bible that paves the way for belief in resurrection—that is, in a post-mortem reanimated corporal rising from the grave and eternal existence on earth.
Like many of the contradictions contained within the Bible’s 66 different books, whose dates of composition span an entire millennium!, this one is the result of a long editorial process that brought together two vastly different texts, and whose dates of composition were centuries apart (read about Contradictions in the Bible). More so, it is the result of two vastly different religious ideas and belief systems.
It would be preposterous to think that there were no religious changes and developments between texts written in the 7th century BC and those written in the 1st century AD, and under drastically different political and religious convictions. Just because the Bible preserves texts written in the 7th century BC and texts written in the 1st century AD does not mean that this so-called “Book” is representative of a continuous religious tradition safeguarded over, as many presume, a divine rational plan.
This in itself is a later interpretive framework that was imposed upon these texts by readers and scribes, who much like modern readers, lived centuries after these texts were written and knew next to nothing about the historical circumstances that produced these texts, their authors, and their audiences. It is our task, here and now, to understand this, to lend an ear to these individual texts and their authors. (Read more about What the Bible is).
What follows is a chronological overview of the religious ideas of death and punishment, and their transformation into later ideas and beliefs about an afterlife and resurrection as it can be surveyed in the literature of the Bible itself.
Death for all and for good!: Death and Dying in the Hebrew Bible
Heaven is the abode of Yahweh. Sheol is were the life-spirit (nephesh) goes after death, for both the just and the unjust. There are no exceptions, well other than the mythic Enoch and Elijah. The idea and belief in resurrection would have been unheard of, even unimaginable, to the authors of the Pentateuch (the Yahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, and Priestly writer). In fact such an idea would have been unheard of, even blasphemous, to all the authors of the Hebrew Bible except the author of Daniel, the last text to be written. That is to say, not until the 2nd century BC does the idea of and belief in resurrection emerge in the biblical corpus!
This is a fatal problem for Christianity. The only way out of this mess is if heaven was first created by God when Jesus was alive. Otherwise, God deceptively kept it from his chosen Jewish people, even up to this very day.
(4168) Damascus Road implausibilities
In Acts, Chapter 9, Paul travels to Damascus on a mission to arrest Christians. On the way he is converted to Christianity through a miraculous vision or voice. The following essay received from a reader of this site explains why this story is emphatically implausible:
It is not only accounts of miracles in the Bible that we find barely possible to credit. Many more everyday events simply do not survive consideration. The story of Paul’s conversion experience on the way to Damascus is a classic example.
We are told in Acts, that Paul, – identified at that time as Saul, breathing fire against the Christians, persuades the High Priest at Jerusalem to mount a troop of mercenaries whose job it is to travel up to Damascus in order to arrest members of the hated sect and bring them back to Jerusalem. The High Priest had his own force of soldiers, but these Temple police had no jurisdiction outside the walls of Jerusalem, and he certainly would not have been able to get Roman soldiers to do his dirty work. So he would have needed to recruit or call upon some sort of riff raff group of mercenaries to make the sort of trip involved to Damascus.
Immediately one wonders just why on earth the High Priest would be the slightest bit concerned about such people in a far foreign country, when there were clearly known groups of the faith around Jerusalem who would be much easier to locate and imprison. Then, just how many Christians might there actually be in Damascus? Half a dozen? Twenty or thirty? Fifty or a hundred? The possible membership in a relatively undercover group like this would be most off-putting.
It is hard enough to comprehend how a highly trained and devout Pharisee as Saul is claimed to be, could possibly be engaged as a senior mercenary lackey of the Sadducean High Priest. The sheer expense of mounting an expedition such a long distance, consisting of a troop of armed soldiers would surely not appeal to the High Priest, when one considers that there had to be sufficient numbers of them to be able to arrest, control and march back an unknown number to Jerusalem. They had to take with them a considerable amount of finance and equipment when you think of it. Provisions and sleeping gear for the journey both there and back as well as for their anticipated sojourn in Damascus. On top of that they had to have the provisions for any and all prisoners that they might apprehend, not to mention the large burden of chains that they would require to restrain the prisoners. Then one wonders just how the Damascus officials might feel about a troop of foreign mercenaries marching into their city and arresting their citizens.
Now, on the way to Damascus, Saul has some sort of powerful experience, whether it be from a Nervous Breakdown, a life-changing revelation of Christ, a bad psychotic episode or an Epileptic fit, that strikes him blind. Does his troop of soldiers gently care for him for the rest of the journey and kindly locate shelter for him in the city? Or do they abandon him? Do they search for someone to take him in, and eventually guide him to this character called Ananias? Since the gentleman bears the spiritual power to heal Saul, and has had revelatory warning of his coming, and also is able to bring about his conversion and Christian education, one must surely assume that he is a leading light among the faith community in the city. He would therefore be readily known and identified; and thus must surely have been easy for the soldiers to identify and duly take under arrest.
We are told nothing about any eventual success attached to the mission that the High Priest authorized. They must surely have taken back a number of prisoners, otherwise they could not possibly return to the Hight Priest to report a very expensive and failed expedition. Saul himself is by now sighted and converted and therefore one of the very number that should be arrested, along especially with the aforementioned Ananias. Further he must from then on be on the wanted list of the hated Christians and cannot afford to ever set foot again in Jerusalem. Just too many loose ends and holes within the story. Further indications that the detail within the Christian Bible is suspect, and that Christianity itself is false and not to be trusted.
It is notable that Paul does not discuss the Damascus Road event in his letters. This and the above suggests strongly that it is fictional. At the least, this should cause any objective person to doubt the veracity of anything that is presented in the Book of Acts.
(4169) Crucifixion anachronism
The story of the thief who was crucified alongside Jesus being ‘saved’ (Luke 23:42-43) is an anachronism because it assigns to the thief knowledge of Christian redemption theology that had not fully evolved until the late 1st Century, or at least 40-60 years later. The following essay was obtained from a reader of this site:
We are told that two thieves (more accurately insurgents) were crucified alongside Jesus, one on the right and one on the left. Now the accounts vary on the exact words swapped between them, but the problem remains exactly the same.
Because of the positioning of the three men, it is pretty clear that the two thieves had their heads at least some four and a half meters apart. They had been whipped mercilessly and were enduring the excruciating pains of crucifixion, especially if as is traditionally understood, they had nails through their wrists. We are told that with the posture of the crucified, breathing became increasingly difficult. They would be gasping for breath and groaning or crying with pains from the various injuries.
However, we are assured in the gospel text that the two carried on a clear and perfectly rational discussion. One finds that very very hard to believe. I recall in a commentary by one evangelical preacher who stated that one of the thieves was ‘shouting’ out abuse at the other during the interchange.
Furthermore, one of my more intelligent evangelical associates told me as a certainty that the request by the ‘good’ thief, that Jesus might remember him when he enters his kingdom, literally meant ‘I accept you as my saviour, and I hope you will take me into heaven with you’. Apart from this very big stretch in interpreting the meaning, it would seem to me that a warlike rebel or insurgent would not really be at all likely to have any conception in his consciousness about later and developed Christian doctrines of salvation.
Again the whole account I feel is just so unlikely to carry any veracity, and weakens any conception of the truth of the Bible.
In this case, the gospel authors used late 1st Century theology retroactively in their account of the crucifixion that is set in approximately 30 CE. This would be like someone today writing a fictional story about people in 1970 being overly concerned about global warming. The timing of such is improbable.
(4170) Religion is not natural to humans
Theists often opine that humans have a natural tendency to believe in gods, and that this ‘fact’ somehow infers that the existence of a god or gods is real. However, it has been shown that people who are raised Christian discard their faith in greater percentages than people who are raised without religion who then embrace the faith. This seems to counter the idea that humans are innately religious. The following was taken from:
When people are exposed to non-religion and realize it is an option, they may choose it. To say it is sticky means that once people become nonreligious, they tend to stay that way. Linda Woodhead, professor of sociology of religion, explains the generational stickiness of religion as follows: “For people who say they were raised Christian, there is a 45 percent chance they will end up identifying as nones, but for those raised with ‘no religion’ there is a 95 percent probability that they will stay that way. Thus, ‘no religion’ is currently ‘sticky’ in a way Christianity is not.”
As non-religion grows, it comes to seem normal and unexceptional. Phil Zuckerman concludes his study of why people reject religion as follows. “Obviously many people, from various walks of life, can live without religion—in fact, prefer as much. This bald fact strongly counters the notion that all people—as people—are somehow intrinsically religious or that religion is some sort of necessary, universal, or inextricable component of the human condition.”
This runs counter to a theory that sees religion as a “natural” feature of human thought and culture. Scholars used to take it for granted that religion was a central and universal aspect of human experience. That assumption was sometimes supplemented by a neuro-physiological and evolutionary approach that claimed that religion is hard-wired in the brain.
Nicholas Wade called this “the faith instinct.” He claimed that even though nonbelief is spreading “the religious instinct, the inherited propensity for ritual and belief, is still wired into the human mind as much as ever before.” Pascal Boyer is another important defender of this idea. He suggests that processes in the brain make religious belief “natural.” Boyer concluded, “Disbelief is generally the result of deliberate, effortful work against our natural cognitive dispositions — hardly the easiest ideology to propagate.”
But Wade and Boyer seem to ignore the contagious and sticky nature of disbelief. It only really takes “deliberate, effortful work” to break away from religion when religion is taken for granted. Once religion is off the table, disbelief and nonreligion may in fact seem more “natural.” Perhaps some very general disposition toward ritual activity and transcendent experience exists. But these social and cognitive functions need not manifest themselves in “religious” ways.
Behind this claim is the insight that social conditions matter with regard to what we take for granted as normal, natural, or plausible. In a world with increased non-religion—and in a world in which political power is not used to prop up religion—it may turn out that religion is not so natural after all.
If Christianity was real, the data on ‘stickiness’ would be the opposite- that is, because we would be living in a world of miracles and prayer effectiveness, those raised Christians would tend to stick with the faith, whereas those raised without religion would be influenced by observing events that dis-confirm their beliefs. The fact that non-religious people are more stubborn about changing their beliefs than religious people is evidence against the Christian faith.
(4171) Sins of Ananias and Sapphira
The enigmatic story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 has puzzled theologians for centuries. This couple died because they failed to give all of the money from the sale of a property to the fledgling Christian cult. The penalty (seemingly imposed directly by God) for keeping some of the money for themselves seems to be overly aggressive. The following essay received from a supporter of this site discusses why this story is almost certainly fictional:
Whoever actually penned the story of Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts, was very careless in his attention to detail. It is very clear that Ananias is a fairly wealthy man, since he has just sold a property. There is no suggestion that he has disposed of his actual home residence. As a man of means, he would almost certainly be living in the more aristocratic and well-to-do part of Jerusalem, and thereby be well known among the upper echelons of the community, with a number of friends there. He and his wife bear good common Jewish names, and like all the members of the newly established Christian group would still be regularly attending the Temple and performing all the appropriate rites of the religion. His standing in the community would ensure that he would be familiar to the authorities and the priesthood. It is to be expected that their extended families would be well known and unless just young and newly married they would have had some children. Their sale of a property would be common knowledge.
Among the many crucial customs and rituals of Judaism were the proper actions to be taken and rites to be observed upon the decease of family members. Though the bodies of both males and females could be prepared by the women folk, the men could only handle male bodies. There would be the proper grieving procedures to be undertaken, and for the well to do, the family grave sites or crypts would be utilized for the disposal of the body. As far as the Christians were concerned, very little in the way of funeral actions had been changed by this time, since they still regarded themselves as good observant Jews. It must be remembered that at this stage, Paul and his extraordinary innovations had not been imposed upon the sect.
Now, coming to the episode in front of Peter and the other Christians, we read that by secret agreement between them, Ananias and his wife, in contributing sums of cash, falsely claimed to be withholding nothing out of the proceeds of the property sale. This, we read, was contrary to the communistic form of rule that the Christian assembly had agreed to abide by. All possessions were to be held in common among the members. On being condemned for lying about the matter, each of the couple in turn, dropped dead on the spot, to the shock and fear of all those present.
The interesting thing is that after each death, the young men carried out the body and took it away for burial. No mention of proper funeral arrangements or rites Jewish or Christian. No suggestion of proper preparation of the bodies. No involvement of any children being involved, or any extended family members. It sounds as if the bodies were just dumped into newly dug graves in an ad hoc fashion. And no allowance for any grieving. What sort of reports would be given to families and friends as well as to the authorities? On the surface of it, with two prominent community members dropping dead without any warning, after coming into large sums of money through a property transaction, would there not be some suspicion of foul play? Was there just no investigation about possible murder? As well, it might well appear suspicious that their deaths occurred during a private meeting held between members of this new sect of Judaism.
No it is hard indeed to credit the validity of the tale. Sounds rather like a fabricated legend intended to promote the myth of divine sanction upon the Christian sect.
Like practically everything in the Book of Acts, the story of the demise of Ananias and his wife is almost surely fictional. There is an adage that one bad apple does not spoil the whole bunch, but Acts has too many ‘bad apples’ to believe that there is even one good apple in the entire basket.
(4172) Peter’s rock interpolation
Much of Christian tradition that the disciple Peter was the lead emissary of Jesus (and the first Catholic pope) is based on a verse in the Gospel of Matthew that is almost certainly an interpolation added later by someone other than the original author. The following was taken from:
Matthew 16:18-19 reads, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This evidence of Peter’s leadership role among the apostles does not appear in the parallel gospel accounts and interrupts the natural flow of the passage. It is doubtful Jesus would have used “church” to refer to Christianity since it did not yet exist, and in fact, the only other verse in the gospels where the word is used is in Matthew 18:17, itself a likely interpolation. Additionally, the phrase “gates of hell” appears nowhere else in the Bible.
Here is the relevant text with Matthew 16:18-19 highlighted:
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades (hell) will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
It appears that someone added the bolded verses above to establish an axiom of the Catholic Church that Peter was the first pope. But is no doing, this person, likely living in the 2nd Century inadvertently added anachronisms making his interpolation easy to spot.
The text transitions smoothly by eliminating the added verses, and notably, this elevation of Peter’s status does not appear in any other gospel.
(4173) Harrowing of hell missing from gospels
A tradition exists within Christianity that after dying on the cross, Jesus ‘descended’ into hell, or the nether world, or Sheol, to preach to people who had died without having the opportunity to accept him as their savior. The following summarizes the scriptures that ‘semi-’support this theology:
Christ’s descent into the world of the dead is referred to in the Apostles’ Creed and the Athanasian Creed (Quicumque vult), which state that he “descended into the underworld” (descendit ad inferos), although neither mention that he liberated the dead. His descent to the underworld is alluded to in the New Testament in 1 Peter 4 (1 Peter 4:6), which states that the “good tidings were proclaimed to the dead”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes Ephesians 4 (Ephesians 4:9), which states that “[Christ] descended into the lower parts of the earth”, as also supporting this interpretation. These passages in the New Testament have given rise to differing interpretations. The Harrowing of Hell is commemorated in the liturgical calendar on Holy Saturday.
But a glaring contradiction to this doctrine is that none of the four canonical gospels mention anything about Jesus ‘leaving the tomb’ until his physical resurrection on Easter Sunday. This is a quandary. Christians have been taught that the gospels were inspired by the Holy Spirit to give accurate information about Jesus’ life and ministry. If Jesus actually made this trip to hell, which would have been critically important to the salvation of deceased people, why did the gospels fail to document it? There should be scripture similar to the following in at least one of the gospels:
Now, shortly after Jesus died and had been entombed he left his physical body and descended into Sheol where he preached the good news of salvation to those who had already died. Those who accepted the Lord’s word were then raised into heaven and were greeted by the Father.
The harrowing of hell is an example of doctrinal inflation, a curse that inevitably afflicts all religious movements, where followers who come along later add features that they find appealing. Simple logic demands that because the harrowing of hell is not supported by the gospels, it should be eliminated from any Christian tradition.
(4174) Argument from Future Temple Sacrifices
For consistency’s sake, the Old Testament should promote doctrines that segue comfortably into the theology of the New Testament. But when it comes to sacrificing animals, the Old Testament throws a curve ball for Christianity, suggesting that animal sacrifices are a future fixture of Yahweh’s plan, negating the idea that a human sacrifice (Jesus) would eventually make them permanently obsolete. The following was taken from:
The Argument From Future Temple Sacrifices
Premise 1. If God’s plan of salvation was to send Jesus to die as a once for all sacrifice for sin, then the Old Testament prophets wouldn’t have predicted an end-times restoration of the animal sacrificial system.
Premise 2. The Old Testament prophets did predict an end-times restoration of the animal sacrificial system. (Jeremiah 33:18, Ezekiel 20:40, 45:15-22, Malachi 3:3-4, Isaiah 56:7, 60:7, Zechariah 14:21)
Premise 3. Therefore it is not the case that God’s plan of salvation was to send Jesus to die as a once for all sacrifice for sin.
Premise 4. If it is not the case that God’s plan of salvation was to send Jesus to die as a once for all sacrifice for sin, then Christianity is a false religion.
Conclusion: Therefore Christianity is a false religion.
This is another example of how the Old and New Testaments do not fit together in a cohesive manner. This suggests that human rather than divine elements are responsible for the Bible’s creation. Otherwise, the Old Testament should contain something like this:
The Lord said ‘Lo, there will come a time when animals will no longer need to be sacrificed. I will send my son to be the final and ultimate sacrifice.’ The Israelites did not know what this meant, that is, a son? But they prayed for understanding, hoping that all will be revealed in the end.
Instead, the two testaments collide in an accident that is fatal to Christianity.
(4175) Christianity’s grade card
If Christianity is true, then it would be expected that the following eight attributes would also be true. Let’s see how Christianity measures up:
1) Original manuscripts are available, instead of just having copies of copies. We are dealing with an OMNIPOTENT deity who could easily have ensured that the writings of the original authors would have been preserved for posterity.
This did not happen. Fail.
2) Jesus wrote a document. If Jesus was God, he would have been fluent in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek. There is no reason why he could not have written a scripture.
He did not. Fail.
3) The disciples wrote documents. The best and most accurate source of information about what Jesus did and say would have been his disciples. They should have written or dictated what they knew.
They did not. Fail.
4) The Bible presents knowledge that was unknown to humans at the time of its creation. Because of the alleged connection to God and the Holy Spirit, the people who wrote the Bible should have received special insights to, for example, display knowledge of germs and therefore stress the need to wash hands before eating.
There is no compelling case to be made that the Bible displays any knowledge unknown at the time. Fail.
5) Christian prayers have been analyzed as being effective. Further, prayers of other faiths are observed to be ineffective.
All studies of prayers have shown them to be ineffective. Fail.
6) Miracles associated with Christian themes are happening frequently. Miracles are not being observed for other religions.
There is no objective evidence of ANY miracles happening. Fail.
7) Pastors, priests, and other church leaders are living exemplary lives, free of scandal. They should be imbued with the Holy Spirit, and so would not, for example, embezzle money or molest children.
In fact, they have been observed to be no more moral or ethical than non-Christians. Therefore, the effect of the Holy Spirit is seen to be missing. Fail.
8) Christians as a whole are observed to lead lives that display amazing qualities of patience, love, caring, and insight, as they too are being guided by the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit.
This is not happening. Fail.
So Christianity’s grade is 0/8 and it strains credulity to think that any objective, un-brainwashed, person would believe that it is true.
(4176) Matthew made stuff up
A cursory review of the Gospel of Matthew leaves any objective person with a definite sense that they are reading fiction. The following lists six instances that leave no doubt that this author had no problem inventing stories that had no intersection with reality:
Naturally, there is a minority of evangelical and apologist scholars that cannot admit that the gospels misreport anything. They blend sophistry, special pleading, and distortion to show that the gospel writers told it like it was.
But it takes only a few examples from Matthew’s gospel (among many) to blast any claim that he wrote history—or that he even knew how to. Yes, I’m picking on Matthew here, but Mark, Luke and John are absolutely no better. So here goes.
Example 1: So, okay, I’m going first for the low-hanging fruit, the passage that nonbelievers like to quote for its sheer absurdity, Matthew’s report of what happened when Jesus died, 27:52-53: “The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.” Christians, please don’t waste any of your It’s-A-Miracle energy on this one, unless you want to push Matthew as the inventor of Halloween. It’s no use trying to turn a tall tale into anything more than that. None of the historians who chronicled the period report a horde of corpses stalking Jerusalem. Mark didn’t either, and when Luke and John surveyed Matthew for what to copy, they left it out. These two verses in Matthew are the only mention in the New Testament of this “event.” Matthew made stuff up.
Example 2: Look what Matthew does to Mark 1:13, i.e., the temptation of Jesus: “And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.” Matthew expands this to eleven verses (4:1-11), and adds a conversation between Jesus and Satan. Where does this information come from? Clearly there could have been no eyewitnesses—and there is no hint whatever that Jesus wrote any of it down. And we find the dramatic detail that Satan whisked Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and to a “very high mountain.” Industrial Light and Magic™ could be hired to create the film versions of those flights. Matthew made stuff up.
Example 3: Matthew had a knack for landing on Old Testament verses that had nothing whatever to do with Jesus. The 8th century BCE preacher Hosea, reflecting on Israel’s past, wrote (Hosea 11:1), “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” As in, the Exodus. But Matthew ignored the first part of the verse, and invented the story of the baby Jesus being taken to Egypt. His only reason for spinning this yarn was to make the wild stretch that “out of Egypt I called my son” applied to Jesus. Mark had never heard of this. Neither Luke nor John—who scanned Matthew for useful material—saw fit to repeat it. Matthew made stuff up.
Example 4: After going to all the trouble, in his opening chapter, of tracing Jesus’ descendants back to King David (a crucial pedigree for claiming that Jesus was the messiah), Matthew then spliced in the story that Jesus didn’t have a human father after all. Again, he had landed on a text in the Greek version of the Old Testament that had nothing whatever to do with Jesus, Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son” –and it was a mistranslation to boot. The original Hebrew was simply “young woman.” Did Matthew have anyone check his work? You can’t have both “descended from King David,” and “born of a virgin.” Matthew made stuff up.
Example 5: Where did Matthew get the Sermon on the Mount? Mark didn’t know about it, and John chose not to repeat it in his gospel. Luke trimmed it considerably, which must have meant that he didn’t consider Matthew’s source infallible. And he felt free to change the wording. Matthew had written, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” but Luke wrote, “Blessed are you poor.” Matthew wrote, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” but Luke shortened this to “Blessed are you that hunger now.” We can see that author tinkering played a role here, but what were the sources? Are we to suppose that the peasants and disciples who heard Jesus speak carried around pads of paper and pencils? No. Are we to suppose that the words of Jesus were handed down by word-of-mouth accurately for 50 years before Matthew wrote them down? No. Richard Carrier has pointed out that the Sermon on the Mount “…cannot have come from some illiterate Galilean. In fact, we know it originated in Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic…these are not the words of Jesus. This famous sermon as a whole has a complex literary structure that can only have come from a writer, not an everyday speaker.” (On the Historicity of Jesus, pages 465 & 466) Matthew made stuff up.
Example 6: Do pious readers even pay attention? Matthew gets really silly in 21:7, where we read about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem: “…they brought the ass and the colt, and put their garment on them, and he sat thereon.” He has Jesus riding on two animals! Why? Because the text that is being “fulfilled” is Zechariah 9:9, which is an example of parallelism in Hebrew poetry, i.e., restating an idea in a second line using different words: “…your king comes to you…humble and riding on an ass, on a coal the foal of as ass.” Geez, don’t take things so literally! The other gospels writers settled for Jesus riding on a colt. Matthew made stuff up.
By the way, Matthew was a blatant plagiarist as well. He copied about 90 percent of Mark’s gospel—without telling his readers he was doing so. He had no idea that his gospel and Mark’s would one day be bound together in gazillions of Bibles. Ooops.
The Gospel of Matthew is a ‘Rosetta Stone’ for deciphering the textual foundation of Christianity, and painting it as a phantasmagorical disgorgement of superstitious Iron Age minds.
(4177) Judging God’s morality
There is a dichotomy among Christians in how they deal with their god’s morality. Some will say that no matter what Yahweh does, it is ipso facto moral, while others will argue that what might seem to be his immoral actions, like drowning people in the Flood, is actually moral considering all of the implications. What is never left on the table is that God even can do immoral things. The following was taken from:
There’s a very common strain of thought among Christians that God cannot, even in principle, be morally judged. This is either in the form that he is tautologically Good (Anything God does must be good as God is doing it), in control of good (God decides what good and evil entails, so he can decide what he is doing is good at will) or that he is simply beyond our moral claims at all (God is beyond and above morality and cannot be judged with it). I’ll be mostly focusing on the tautological case for brevity’s sake, but it’s easy enough to apply the following argument to the other two with a slight word change. This is usually used to defend against claims of divine wrongdoing. However, there is an obvious way this defense could be made much stronger, but that I have never seen a Christian actually use.
I call this hypothetical absent defense the “Fuck ‘Em” defense. A few examples: why does God send babies to hell when they had no chance to accept the gospel? Because fuck ’em. Yes, this is a grotesque injustice where the innocent are horrifically punished for things they had no capacity to avoid, but God is tautologically good so that’s fine. Why do bad things happen to good people? Because fuck ’em. Yes, God is knowingly allowing immense evil he could easily stop with neither recompense or justification, but God is tautologically good so that’s fine. Why does God command genocide in the bible? Because fuck ’em. Yes, God did advocate the unprovoked slaughter and rape of civilians purely for his own gratification, but God is tautologically good so that’s fine.
Now, this is a very strong argument. It perfectly defends against any real or hypothetical charge of divine wrongdoing while being fully consistent with Christian Theology, and can’t really be refuted without first disproving Christianity. And yet, I’ve never seen a Christian actually use the Fuck ‘Em defense unalloyed and unqualified. I’ve seen a some Muslims use it, and I’ve seen a few Calvinists admittedly get pretty close, but I’ve never seen a Christian fully commit to it. They respond to these cases with moral defenses- that the infants aren’t truly innocent, or that free will justifies the suffering in the world, or that historical context justifies the bible verses or so forth. Whether these defenses work is a different topic. The relevant observation here is that they’re conceding the point. To give a moral defense for god is to accept that god could have done a morally wrong thing, you’re just saying why he in fact didn’t. You don’t need to give a justification for a being that can’t ever do an unjustified thing.
I’ve never seen a Christian actually concede that God can do cruel, monstrous things for no good reason to innocent people and it’s fine. Lots of people say that, but I’ve not seen anyone willing to actually bite the bullet and say “yes, god can torture babies for fun, he’s tautologically good so that’s fine”. When accusations of divine wrongness are brought up, the response is to counter them and show why god is in fact god, not simply to accept them and shrug it off with an amoral divinity. And this casts this strain of thought in doubt. I don’t think many- maybe any- Christians actually believe that God can’t do wrong. If they did, why bother coming up with complex theodicies over just using the Fuck ‘Em defense?
If you think you do, again, here’s the bullet. God tortures a baby forever purely for his own amusement. No justification, no greater good, no justice for the baby’s sins, nothing like that. There’s nothing making it ok. He’s just torturing a baby for the fun of it. Are you willing to bite the bullet and say that’s morally fine because God did it? Or are you still instinctively thinking of ways to justify the hypothetical torture, as if you were talking about a being for whom torturing babies for fun would be a bad thing?
The presumption that Yahweh is moral ‘no matter what’ raises a cognitive dissonance in the minds of many Christians because the Bible is replete with instances where he does things that are clearly immoral by any mortal standard. This is a case where there is a collision between dogma and innate sensibilities. The atheist is the one that sees this situation clearly and notes that Yahweh is the most immoral character in all of fiction, and that Christians are victims of mind control.
(4178) Temple cleansing scene likely fictional
One of the events discussed in the gospels that has seen almost universal acceptance as being factual is when an angry Jesus overturned the tables in the temple courtyard. This is often cited as one of the reasons why he was crucified. But a closer look at scripture suggests that this scene was nothing more than a literary device employed by the author of the Gospel of Mark referring to a passage in Hosea 9. It was then subsequently copied by the ensuing gospel authors. The following was taken from:
When I was researching literary relationships in the Gospel of Mark and identified the relationship between the temple cleansing scene and Hosea 9, I knew it was a big deal. In fact, finding that relationship is what inspired me to begin writing the material that eventually became the book Deciphering the Gospels Proves Jesus Never Existed.
It turns out that Earl Doherty had previously noted this relationship, though he never explored it to the fullest extent. I was unaware of Doherty’s citation of Hosea 9:15 as the literary basis for the “driving out” of people from temple when I discovered the relationship myself. But Doherty never noted the relevance of the fig tree elements in the scene to my knowledge.
I believe that the relationship between the temple cleansing scene in Mark and Hosea 9 is the single most important finding presented in Deciphering the Gospels. This is a simple and clear case of literary dependence that has significant implications on our understanding of how the Gospels were written, the historical validity of the Gospel narrative, and the validity of mainstream biblical scholarship. What I find so compelling about this particular issue is how concise, clear, and demonstrable it is. This isn’t a case of vague interpretation or debatable positions that have no ultimate resolution, etc., this is a clear demonstrable evidence-based answer to a problem.
So first let’s review the case I put forward in Deciphering the Gospels:
“We now arrive at one of the most important scenes for establishing our understanding of the Gospel called Mark and the other canonical Gospels. The reason that this scene is so important is because it is so widely believed to be historically true and it is seen as the justification for the Crucifixion. This scene is widely believed to be historically true because it exists in all four canonical Gospels, and it is not supernatural, so it is seemingly plausible. As we shall see throughout this book, however, the case against the historical validity of the temple-cleansing scene based on the literary evidence alone is overwhelming. So let’s start by looking at the literary allusion used to craft this scene.
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written:
“‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
19 When evening came, they went out of the city.
20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
This scene is clearly based on a passage from the book of Hosea, shown below:
1 Do not rejoice, O Israel; do not be jubilant like the other nations. For you have been unfaithful to your God; …
7 The days of punishment are coming, the days of reckoning are at hand. Let Israel know this. Because your sins are so many and your hostility so great, the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac.
8 The prophet, along with my God, is the watchman over Ephraim, yet snares await him on all his paths, and hostility in the house of his God.
9 They have sunk deep into corruption, as in the days of Gibeah. God will remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins.
10 ‘When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree. But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved.
11 Ephraim’s glory will fly away like a bird—no birth, no pregnancy, no conception.
12 Even if they rear children, I will bereave them of every one. Woe to them when I turn away from them!
13 I have seen Ephraim, like Tyre, planted in a pleasant place. But Ephraim will bring out their children to the slayer.”
14 Give them, O LORD—what will you give them? Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry.
15 “Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds, I will drive them out of my house. I will no longer love them; all their leaders are rebellious.
16 Ephraim is blighted, their root is withered, they yield no fruit. Even if they bear children, I will slay their cherished offspring.’
17 My God will reject them because they have not obeyed him;
We can see in the Gospel text that the cursing of the fig tree, the driving out of people from the temple (house of God), and the hostility toward Jesus are all related elements that are drawn from Hosea 9. All of these elements and the order in which they are presented in the Gospel called Mark are necessary to make the association between Hosea 9 and the narrative.
Most important, however, is that if we accept the fact that the Markan narrative is actually a literary allusion, then it means this scene is not based on any real event that ever took place. It means that “Jesus” never cursed a fig tree, and “Jesus” never threw anyone out of the temple. None of this actually ever happened; this isn’t a historical event. The scene is merely a literary allusion, yet every other Gospel contains the temple-cleansing scene. If the cleansing of the temple comes from Hosea 9, not from a real-world event, then the fact that it exists in all of the other Gospels means that all of the other Gospels, including John, had to have ultimately gotten the scene from Mark, as we will explore in chapter 3.
This is extremely significant because this is one of the actions attributed to Jesus that is most widely believed to be true, even by secular New Testament scholars. The fact that this scene is based on a literary allusion has not been recognized even by top theologians and Bible scholars.”
– R. G. Price; Deciphering the Gospels; pp 21-23
As more and more of the gospel narrative falls into the realm of being plausibly fictional, the historical Jesus continues to fade from history. There are some reputable biblical scholars who make the case that the Jesus figure is mostly mythical and nothing more than an amalgam of the exploits of many religious figures inhabiting First Century Palestine.
(4179) Jesus killed because of his popularity
The gospels try to make the case that Jesus was executed because he was teaching a doctrine that was considered blasphemous by the Jewish authorities, especially that he was claiming to be divine in some fashion. But a more realistic approach to the situation suggests that, like John the Baptist, he was likely crucified by the Romans because he was inciting too much energy in his followers which was perceived as generating a serious threat of revolt or sedition. The following was taken from:
The gospels are not actual historical records, but were literature written decades later. A recent book by David Litwa, “How the Gospels Became History” (2019), details how they imitate Greco-Roman historiographical writing (using 13 categories, illustrated with parallels from a wide variety of ancient literature), and how they conform to a 10-point list of ancient standards of plausibility in historiographical writing. Given that, there is no reason to assume that the people with Jesus that Passover in Jerusalem ever saw any of the miracles you’re assuming they saw, or were thinking about them at the time of his arrest. There’s also no reason to think they would have expected a miracle at the time.
Something else to look at is what is most plausible (from a modern historical standpoint) about the historical Jesus. In “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (2000), and the later “When Christians Were Jews” (2018), Paula Fredriksen says the one virtual certainty about Jesus’ life is his execution under Pilate. The logical follow-up, from Fredriksen’s point of view, is not why did the disciples run?, but why weren’t the disciples arrested? Her answer is that the authorities were only after Jesus, not the people who admired him. Citing in particular Josephus’ analysis of the arrest and execution of John the Baptist in Antiquities 22.214.171.124-119: that John was executed not because of his teaching or actions, but because the crowds he gathered presented an occasion for sedition. Jesus presented a similar threat in the minds of the high priests and Romans that Passover. He was executed to stop the excitement he seemed to be generating.
This rather mundane reason for his death reduces its religious significance and replaces it with a simple case of maintaining the civil order. The gospels attempted to mask this over to and recast his death as consequence of promoting an unorthodox theology.
(4180) Gospel of Mark is a (fictional) masterpiece
Because the oldest gospel is mired in the political stranglehold of theology, it is often missed that the Gospel of Mark is actually a literary masterpiece. Using clever ironic devices and references to many other works, the book is clearly not a factual account of history, but rather a playground of fantasy that meets or exceeds other works of great fiction. The following was taken from:
One of the supreme ironies of biblical scholarship is that it fails to recognize the literary genius of the story called the Gospel of Mark, because it presumes the writing is something that it is not. For Christians, the “Gospels” must be historical works – biographies.
The Gospel of Mark was long the least appreciated of the Gospels. It appears that the Gospel of Matthew was the first well known Gospel story. Matthew is actually a recasting of the Gospel of Mark, and what Matthew does is it takes the story from Mark and makes it appear more like a biography, more like “real history”. The Gospel of Luke does the same thing. Both Matthew and Luke read much more like “historical accounts”.
So it seems that the historical nature of the other Gospels colored how people interpreted Mark as well. Believing that Mark was supposed to be a “true historical account” caused readers with that expectation to view Mark as a “poorly written” biography that “gets many things wrong”. The geography of Mark is all messed up, the main characters in Mark are portrayed poorly, there aren’t any real lessons in Mark, scenes like the cursing of the fig tree seem unlikely and nonsensical, and many details seem to be left out. From the perspective of a “historical account”, this story seems to be a real mess.
But the reality is that Mark isn’t a work of history; it’s not a biography, it’s an entirely fictional story and a work of literary genius. Matthew and Luke aren’t the “real and accurate accounts”, with Mark being a poor parallel – Mark is the real story, from which everyone else copied.
But recognizing the literary genius of Mark means recognizing that Mark is fictional, and thus Christians are incapable of actually recognizing Mark for what it really is. It’s as if someone started a religion based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and took his account of Middle Earth as the real literal early history of the world. It’s as if they took Tolkien’s stories as actual factual accounts and thus failed to recognize the real symbolism and creativity in them. Followers of such a religion would be incapable of recognizing Tolkien as a creative genius because that would mean that he wasn’t an accurate chronicler of real events.
That’s the situation Christians are in with the Gospel of Mark. Christianity is a religion founded on a fictional story and Christians can’t recognize the literary genius of the writer of the story they worship, because to do so would be to recognize that the figure they are worshiping is a fictional character, not a real god. This is a shame, because this story that Christians call the Gospel of Mark is actually one of the most ingeniously written stories ever composed, which has a lot to do with why a religion ended up forming around it.
The writer of the story incorporated so many layers of meaning and symbolism into the story, along with so many puzzles and mysteries, that the story mesmerized its audience. It was a story unlike anything anyone had read before, not in its basic outline, but in the tantalizing clues that hinted as deeper secrets. Many of the mysteries and puzzles got corrupted when they were inartfully copied by the writers of the other Gospels, but enough of them shone through to excite readers even through the other Gospels.
The way that the Gospel of Mark was written literally must have required a true genius to compose. The writer must have been deeply familiar with a wide body of works, including the works of the Jewish scriptures, the letters of Paul and likely other apocalyptic Jewish works and Greek classics. The writer was then able to take references to so many other works and weave all of these references together into a coherent multi-layered narrative. The story is compelling on its own with a superficial reading, but the story actually has two layers, and if you follow all of the other literary references made in the story you can see that there is a second narrative, or rather that the superficial narrative is augmented by the “hidden narrative”.
Making all of this work, especially at a time when the only way to really construct such complexities would be in your mind, is mind-blowing. Today it would be far easier with the ability to have many references on a computer to draw from, but whoever wrote this story must have memorized many writings and also had copies of them so that he could quote from them directly as well. But the writer would still had to have memorized them in order to be able to build the overall plot and have ideas about what references he wanted to use where.
Just thinking about how this story had to have been constructed is awe inspiring. Yet, Christians cannot recognize the genius of this story because doing so is to acknowledge its fictionality. I think the story called the Gospel of Mark (which really needs to be re-named to something else), should be recognized as one of the great master works of ancient literature and studied far more broadly in a secular context. The story truly is a masterpiece and deserves appreciation on par with the works of Homer, Virgil, Ovid, etc.
To be sure there were a handful of people worshiping “Jesus” prior to the writing of this story, but it is this story that really founded the religion. It is easy to see how this story and its derivatives inspired a religion, but its time to recognize the creative genius of the author instead of worshiping the fictional protagonist.
It is often said that Paul invented Christianity (particularly its core doctrine of salvation via the cross), but it was Mark who grounded the faith into a quasi-biographical framework. But his genius was sideswiped because his work was misinterpreted as an attempt to record an exact historical truth.
(4181) Many views of Jesus early on
If Christianity was true, it would be expected that the early practice of it would have been fairly consistent and that then, only over time, human biases would have crept in to modify it into various different formats. But, in fact, Christianity was splintered right out of the gate, spawning many conflicting sects and many different interpretations of Jesus. The following was taken from:
There were many conflicting beliefs about who Jesus Christ was in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd centuries, including beliefs that he had never existed on earth “in the flesh”
Prior to the adoption of Catholicism by the Roman Empire in the 4th century, there were many different beliefs about Jesus Christ. The Catholics held a specific view of Jesus Christ as a real live, historical, person, who was both God, the only son of God, and a fully human being. During the first 300 years of Christian belief, however, this was not the case. There were many different groups of Christians early on, some of them include:
- Marcionism – Christ was a purely spiritual entity
- Nestorianism – Jesus and Christ were two different entities
- Docetism – Jesus appeared physical, but he was really incorporeal
- Apollinarism – Jesus had a human body and human soul, but a divine mind
- Arianism- Jesus was the son of God, not God himself
- Catholicism – Jesus was fully human and fully divine, both God and the son of God
Some of these different groups, which are often lumped together under the name Gnostics, also used some of the Gospels and some of them even had different versions of some of the Gospels and different versions of the letters of Paul, in addition to other writings that they considered holy.
The Catholics, in fact, were late-developing group, that came along after some of these other groups. We don’t have much information from these different groups in their own words, instead what we have mostly are comments on these groups made by Catholics and other opponents of their views. The question is, if Jesus Christ had just been a man on earth and led a life like the one portrayed in the Gospels, then how could there be such a wide variety of beliefs about who and what Jesus Christ was?
If Yahweh is a truly omnipotent god and he has a vested interest in humans worshiping him in the correct sense, would the divisions above had happened? Decidedly not. But, conversely, what happened fits perfectly under the assumption that Yahweh is mythical.
(4182) Analogy of the stranded man
If Christianity is true, then all of humanity should be like a single man who is stranded on an island and who receives a divine message for his spiritual life. That is, only one message, only one faith. But reality is so very different. The following was taken from:
We estimate that Christians are now found in nearly 45,000 denominations. These range in size from millions of members to fewer than 100 members and are listed for each of the world’s 234 countries in our World Christian Database. Why so many denominations? Throughout the history of Christianity, followers of Christ have struggled to express solidarity and unity. Jesus’s prayer in John 17 was an indication that divisions might be a problem in the nascent community. While multiple expressions of Christianity have existed from the earliest days of the church, the most serious disagreements resulted in splits that propelled different traditions of Christianity in divergent directions. The earliest splits occurred over culture, doctrine, and ecclesiology. Later splits seemed to be based in the idea that each Christian should decide for themselves what “church” should look like.
An anecdote of a man stranded on a deserted island illustrates one of the issues. After many years, a ship sails close by the island and the man is rescued. The ship’s captain comes ashore, notices three huts that the man built, and asks, “Tell me about these huts.” The man replies, “The first hut is my home, and the second hut is my church.” The captain asks, “What is the third hut?” The man replies, “Oh, that is where I used to go to church.” Studies from the Pew Research Center have shown a lot of switching between Christian denominations in the United States. By 2025, there will likely be 49,000 denominations.
By this analogy, there are nearly 50,000 huts on the island and the man appears to be hopelessly confused about which aspect of his religion is correct. This represents the population of self-professed Christians- they are utterly clueless about what elements of Yahweh/Jesus/Holy Ghost are true. There would be no confusion on ANYWHERE near this scale if Christianity was true.
(4183) Separating God from Santa
In the following essay, a challenge is presented to theists to produce a single interaction that somebody can experience with their god that could not also be experienced with Santa Claus. The ultimate result of this challenge is that it currently cannot be accomplished (leaving room for the infinitely unlikely possibility that something will happen to change that in the future). The following was taken from:
If you subscribe to a deity (Christian, Islam, Norse, Etc.), please list one observable interaction I can have with your deity that I could not have in an observably identical way with Santa Claus.
I have a theory that if we create a spectrum from imaginary to real, that any and all deities have only properties of imaginary characters and and no properties of real living people.
In Column A: Imaginary Characters. As an example: Santa Claus.
In Column B: Any real living person that is confirmed to be real and alive.
Examples of observable interactions:
- I can have a dialog with a real living person where both sides of the dialog are observable by a third party. I cannot do this with Santa Claus or any known deities.
- I can drop an object and a real living person can catch the object before it hits the ground, if I were to ask them to do so. Upon asking both Santa and every known deity, I can confirm the object falls the floor uninhibited.
- Light interacts with real living people and they can be visually observed in the same way by multiple observers and captured on camera. To date, we would agree that we cannot see or take any photos of any known deity or Santa Claus (obvious exception of actors) .
Does there exist any interaction I can have with your deity that I can also have with a real living person, but cannot have the same interaction in an observably identical way with Santa Claus? Can I only have this interaction with your deity or does it work for every deity?
Things that don’t count:
1) Emotional reactions and feelings from interacting with your deity. It has been long established that the Placebo affect allows imaginary, but sincerely held, beliefs to have physiological affects on your body.
2) Unless you can tell me how the information is being beamed into your brain, everything happening in your head is your imagination and is coming from you.
3) The existence of a religious text is not evidence for anything. There are hundreds of religious texts making a variety of claims, they were all written by people. Believe it or not, no matter how good the story is, it doesn’t mean it was real. The more fantastical the story, especially in favor of the authors, the more likely it was embellished or exaggerated.
4) I’m not debating any deities existence as a historical figure (yes I’m looking at you Jesus). This is about the deity as an active entity in our universe today. Were you to claim that you currently have a deep personal relationship with Abraham Lincoln and that relationship gives you the rights to dictate the reproductive health of strangers, most would agree that the version of Abraham Lincoln that you are interacting with is imaginary and that your relationship with your imaginary friend does not give you that right to dictate anything for anyone. Same applies here.
5) This post is not about whataboutism. If you cannot think of a way I can interact with your deity that I cannot identically interact with Santa Claus, please move along. Don’t dash off into the left field of the comments trying to attack the post, or ranting about some obscure epistemological philosophical framework, or telling me that your personal experience has convinced you that…. etc. This post isn’t for that. State what the interaction is with as much detail as you can, I will test the interaction and if it turns out that we can interact with a deity in a way that we cannot interact with an imaginary character you and I will be the first people to ever to have measurable evidence of a deity.
Any god that does not interact in any palpable way either doesn’t exist, or is not interested in life on our planet. Even if it is the latter, then being a theist would be fruitless. You would live and die worshiping a false god (not the real one who just lets everything run on its own), never realizing that you have wasted your life chasing a mirage. Either way (no god or a non-interacting god) is consistent with an atheistic worldview.
No evidence for an interacting god leaves those two choices above and implies that the best and most efficient strategy is to simply assume that there is no god.
(4184) Recasting Christianity in a modern setting
When you create an analogy of Christianity set in the modern world, it reveals the unmitigated absurdity of it all. In the following, a religion is based on the death of Tyrone:
We will worship Tyrone. He was beaten and murdered by police for breaking modern laws.
The police used a 9mm to kill Tyrone. We will also carry a 9mm at all times as a symbol of worship to his death device and wear an amulet of the same around our necks.
We will reenact this scene as a celebration and also put images of the murder scene around our house as decoration.
We will eat fried pork skin (pork rinds) and drink beer to symbolize what it would be like to eat Tyrone’s body and blood. He was into that sort of thing.
If you believe us, all your dreams will come true. If you don’t, you will be tortured forever. If Tyrone’s dad wants us to, we’ll kill you if you don’t believe us. (Hence the 9mm)
How do we know this happened? Well no one documented anything when it happened, but we passed the story around verbally, then some guys who weren’t there wrote down what they were told. But it’s 100% true, I know it.
Tyrone apparently went by his nick-name, Chris. Maybe call it like, Chris-ology or Chris-ism. We’ll figure it out.
Who’s with me?
So 40 years after Tyrone dies, somebody wrote a semi-fictional biography of his life, showing how insightful he was, and giving us wonderful hints on how to conduct our lives. But pretty soon, we will no longer tolerate people who don’t worship Tyrone/Chris. We will shun them, intimidate them, chastise them, imprison them, torture them, kill them. This is what Tyrone would have wanted.
(4185) Gospels are two stories blended together
The gospels have in some areas the appearance of plausible history while in other areas it presents highly improbable if not impossible miracles. It can be conjectured that the gospels are composed of two separate, blended-together stories- one, semi-factually true, with the other one being nothing more than made-up mythology. The following was taken from:
But here is where Sherlock Holmes comes in. Jesus is born with choirs of angels declaring that he is “God with us.” And then, apart from a mention of Jesus preaching in the temple, Jesus disappears for 30 years. This is what I find improbable. How could such a great miracle, complete with angels and heavenly choirs, be suddenly forgotten, and never mentioned again? Not one person is quoted as saying, “Isn’t that Joseph and Mary’s son, the one that was announced by choirs of angels claiming that he was God with us?” To me, it absolutely strains credibility, that in a time like this one it would be completely forgotten. And outside of the various gospels, the whole miraculous event went completely unnoticed by anyone, including Jewish historians.
But again, the gospels once again give us the clue that it’s all made up. In Mark, we learn that Jesus’s family thought that he was crazy and wanted to put him away. And on what planet does that make sense, given that Mary was told that she would be bearing the son of God, and Joseph, who “was minded to put her away privily,” was told not to do that because this was a miracle of a birth. It’s highly improbable that his entire family, and everyone who knew any of them, forgot all about the choirs of angels and everything else associated with him. Why this would even be included in the gospels makes no sense, as it undermines the whole story.
It makes sense only if the Gospels, like the theology of Paul, are actually two stories being told simultaneously. The Dead Sea Scrolls imply that this was common practice: one story for the masses, and the pesher, or secret meaning, for the elect. I contend the family reaction to Jesus is most likely a part of the actual historical narrative, and not part of the magic and myths and miracles that were added on later.
Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, famously excised his bible gospels of all of the miracles, distilling it down to what he thought might be an accurate depiction of the real Jesus. In a sense, he was whittling the two-story gospels down to the single semi-factual one. By doing this, one can glean a good estimate of who Jesus was and what he did (assuming he was not purely mythical). But, assuming he was real, one thing is certain- he was a human, and nothing more than a human, and he performed zero miracles.
(4186) Illogicality of John 3:16
The most popular verse in Christianity is John 3:16, but an objective evaluation of it reveals that it is illogical and contradicts other aspects of God that Christians presume to be true. The following was taken from:
John 3:16 is a famous verse from the Bible, which reads “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This verse is considered a cornerstone of Christian theology, expressing the belief in God’s love for humanity and the possibility of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.
The claim that John 3:16 is illogical can be based on several grounds. Firstly, the statement appears to be self-contradictory or paradoxical. On the one hand, it suggests that God loves the world so much that he gave his only son, which implies a great act of benevolence and compassion. On the other hand, the verse suggests that salvation or eternal life is conditional on belief in Jesus Christ, which implies that God’s love is not universal or unconditional, but rather limited to a select group of believers. This paradoxical nature of the verse can be seen as illogical or inconsistent, as it raises questions about the nature of God’s love and the criteria for salvation.
Secondly, the claim that John 3:16 is illogical can be based on its reliance on faith rather than reason or evidence. The verse suggests that salvation is only possible through belief in Jesus Christ, without providing any empirical or logical justification for this claim. This reliance on faith can be seen as problematic, as it requires individuals to accept a belief without questioning or evaluating its validity. This approach can be seen as illogical or irrational, as it disregards the need for evidence-based reasoning and critical thinking.
Thirdly, the claim that John 3:16 is illogical can be based on its anthropomorphic view of God. The verse portrays God as a loving father figure who is willing to sacrifice his son for the benefit of humanity, which can be seen as a human projection onto a divine entity. This anthropomorphic view of God can be seen as illogical, as it assumes that human emotions and behaviors can be attributed to a non-human entity. This approach can be seen as limiting or misleading, as it fails to capture the complexity and mystery of the divine.
In conclusion, the claim that John 3:16 is illogical can be based on several grounds, including its paradoxical nature, its reliance on faith, and its anthropomorphic view of God. While these criticisms may raise important questions and challenges to Christian theology, it is important to acknowledge that religious texts and beliefs are often based on faith and tradition, rather than empirical evidence or logical reasoning. As such, debates about the logic or illogic of religious texts may ultimately be shaped by one’s personal beliefs, values, and experiences, rather than by objective standards of truth or rationality.
Christians often overlook a companion scripture to their favorite:
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
It is well established that being condemned means being sent to hell, where there will be ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ A simple analogy reveals the absurdity of this theology:
A parent tortures a misbehaving child- they are charged with child endangerment
God sends a sinful person to everlasting torture- Praise the Lord!
‘God is love,’ but he shows less love than practically any human parent that has ever lived.
(4187) God possesses all of the properties of non-existence
Christians are literally selling snake oil, except when hucksters foisted that scam, there actually was a substance that they falsely claimed came from snakes. In Christianity they are selling a product that has none of the properties that are associated with actual existence- they aren’t even selling us air, no, they are selling us a box ‘filled’ with a vacuum. The following was taken from:
‘God’ has all the properties of things that do not exist…and yet is said to exist.
Just… why? I don’t understand why people are still having this discussion. “God” is invisible, silent, intangible, undetectable and immeasurable, all the things you expect to come from the non-existent, but somehow he exists. He doesn’t take the form of anything that can be said to be a property of existence, doesn’t make himself heard, doesn’t do anything at all to manifest himself as a distinguishable and observable property of existence, but he exists? The only thing people go off of is their own personal feelings and “looking at the trees”, but “God” exists as a separate, distinguishable entity?
And the answer to this is that God is from an alternate, immaterial reality that isn’t bound by the laws of the physical world. How would anyone know there is such a thing as an alternate immaterial reality in which things aren’t bound by the laws of the physical world in the first place? You can’t just make up a random world in which things are completely different by definition and necessity just to escape from the obligation of explaining and proving something that is supposed to exist and interact with us. That is such a bizarre show of empty assertions and defining things into existence that could only be granted if we were to assume a scenario that is only supposed to be discussed internally.
I just want to know how something that is invisible, silent, intangible, undetectable and immeasurable can exist. Of course the believer will say that “God” can be felt and heard, but none of what they have to support this is distinguishable from other processes and explanations. You know what would be a clear and distinguishable manifestation of God? Him appearing in the sky as a big bright light that directly speaks to all of us. Making the stars align in such a way that tells us something. But that doesn’t happen. Why? God is supposed to be a conscious being that interacts with us, he has traits that are observed among people, but he doesn’t do what we would expect a conscious being that wants to interact with us to do. He chooses to keep playing the longest ever game of hide and seek and remain completely and utterly indistinguishable from the non-existent.
It takes an embarrassing degree of gullibility to believe that there is an omniscient, omnipotent deity in our midst who is intimately involved in each persons’ life, who is capable of bending the forces of nature, who answers prayers, and who has an army of angels to do his bidding, and yet, he can’t be seen, or heard, or felt, or sensed in any measurable way. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the biggest scam of all time.
(4188) The scripture that kills
In the Gospel of Luke (and Matthew) there is a story of a woman who is healed of a serious medical problem by simply touching the cloak of Jesus. This is extolled in Christianity as a pure and effective exercise of faith. The problem comes when Christians are trained to believe in this divine healing power while at the same time NOT DELIVERING IT. It has resulted in many unnecessary deaths where people have avoided modern scientific medical treatments.
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
This scripture would be OK if faith healing was a real thing. But it is not. And promoting it as such is both dangerous and irresponsible. Faith by itself does not heal because there is no one ‘up there’ to do the healing. This scripture is an ongoing hazard.
(4189) Salvation by faith missing from synoptic gospels
One of the core dogmas of contemporary Christianity is that everybody has sinned, that any sin remaining on a person’s ledger at death is enough to send them to hell, and that the only way to avoid this fate is to accept the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. But the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke seem to have overlooked this critically important doctrine. The following is as mock dialogue with an atheist questioning a Christian taken from:
Robert Ingersoll Talmagian Catechism
QUESTION. How is it that Matthew says nothing about “salvation by faith,” but simply says that God will be merciful to the merciful, that he will forgive the forgiving, and says not one word about the necessity of believing anything?
ANSWER. But you will remember that Mark says, in the last chapter of his gospel, that “whoso believeth not shall be damned.”
QUESTION. Do you admit that Matthew says nothing on the subject?
ANSWER. yes, I suppose I must.
QUESTION. Is not that passage in Mark generally admitted to be an interpolation?
ANSWER. Some biblical scholars say that it is.
QUESTION. Is that portion of the last chapter of Mark found in the Syriac version of the Bible?
ANSWER. It is not.
QUESTION. If it was necessary to believe on Jesus Christ, in order to be saved, how is it that Matthew failed to say so?
ANSWER. “There are more copies of the Bible printed to-day, than of any other book in the world, and it is printed in more languages than any other book.”
QUESTION. Do you consider it necessary to be “regenerated” to be “born again” — in order to be saved?
QUESTION. Did Matthew say anything on the subject of “regeneration”?
QUESTION. Did Mark?
QUESTION. Did Luke?
QUESTION. Is Saint John the only one who speaks of the necessity of being “born again”?
ANSWER. He is.
QUESTION. Do you think that Matthew, Mark and Luke knew anything about the necessity of “regeneration”?
ANSWER. Of course they did.
QUESTION. Why did they fail to speak of it?
ANSWER. There is no civilization without the Bible. The moment you throw away the sacred Scriptures, you are all at sea — you are without an anchor and without a compass.
QUESTION. You will remember that, according to Mark, Christ said to his disciples: “Go ye into all the world. and preach the gospel to every creature.” Did he refer to the gospel set forth by Mark?
ANSWER. Of course he did.
QUESTION. Well, in the gospel set forth by Mark, there is not a word about “regeneration,” and no word about the necessity of believing anything — except in an interpolated passage. Would it not seem from this, that “regeneration” and a “belief in the Lord Jesus Christ,” are no part of the gospel?
ANSWER. Nothing can exceed in horror the last moments of the infidel; nothing can he more terrible than the death of the doubter. When the glories of this world fade from the vision; when ambition becomes an empty name; when wealth turns to dust in the palsied hand of death, of what use is philosophy then? Who cares then for the pride of intellect? In that dread moment, man needs something to rely on, whether it is true or not.
QUESTION. Would it not have been more convincing if Christ, after his resurrection, had shown himself to his enemies as well as to his friends? Would it not have greatly strengthened the evidence in the case, if he had visited Pilate; had presented himself before Caiaphas, the high priest; if he had again entered the temple, and again walked the streets of Jerusalem?
ANSWER. If the evidence had been complete and overwhelming, there would have been no praiseworthiness in belief; even publicans and sinners would have believed, if the evidence had been sufficient. The amount of evidence required is the test of the true Christian spirit.
QUESTION. Would it not also have been better had the ascension taken place in the presence of unbelieving thousands; it seems such a pity to have wasted such a demonstration upon those already convinced?
ANSWER. These questions are the natural fruit of the carnal mind, and can be accounted for only by the doctrine of total depravity. Nothing has given the church more trouble than just such questions. Unholy curiosity, a disposition to pry into the divine mysteries, a desire to know, to investigate, to explain — in short, to understand, are all evidences of a reprobate mind.
Something similar to the following should be included in every gospel:
And Jesus said, ‘Works alone will not gain a heavenly reward, rather faith in me is the one and only way to salvation. Soon, I will be killed and will rise on the third day. Anyone who believes in and accepts my sacrifice will be welcomed by my Father into heaven. Anyone who does not believe will be condemned to hell, no matter how much they have loved, no matter how much they have given to the poor, and no matter how often they have welcomed the stranger.’
It is unfathomable to believe that salvation by faith is God’s go-to criterion for judging humans without it being clearly expressed in every gospel.
(4190) God wrote Ten Commandments only?
The Bible makes it clear that God himself wrote the Ten Commandments, and that therefore they are presumably infallible, but this leaves open a question about why the rest of the Bible was written by men who made a lot of mistakes.
I see no justification that we as humans should be submitted to a claimed god-breathed book that is so full of errors and contradictions, while also requiring the reader to decide what is supposed to be historical, allegorical, or metaphorical when god had no problem personally writing out the Ten Commandments. Yet when it comes to his book that is critical to Christianity, god then relied on often anonymous authors, oral story tradition (super reliable), and translations of translations, all hinging on humans, whom are demonstrably prone to making unintended mistakes and/or motivated manipulation.
This has resulted in an endless argument of how to “correctly” interpret the Bible, which god could have easily avoided by simply writing it himself and passing it down to humans as a perfect document in all languages that would ever need to read it. Requirement to interpret or hide some of the books solved. God suspended reality for any number of other far less important miracles, so this would have been all too easy to perform, yet we are instead left with an error ridden and often confused book by his own choice of writing method.
To cut off anyone wanting to say god didn’t really write the Ten Commandments, here are the passages that directly state that he did and while other passages may be interpreted to contradict these, it’s not my problem the book can’t get its stories straight:
The clearest verse in regards to this is found in (Ex 31:18), which says, “When He (God) had finished speaking with him (Moses) upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, WRITTEN BY THE FINGER OF GOD”. Other verses also confirm that God wrote the Ten Commandments on the tablets (Ex 24:12)(Ex 32:15-16).
Those passages are so clear, you would have to argue they don’t actually say what they actually say to counter them. And last time I checked, nowhere does it say Moses pulled out a chisel and dictated for god.
So, God the Omnipotent, who was able to write the Ten Commandments, stops there, and allows all of the rest of his message to humanity to be written by fallible humans, who make mistakes, contradict themselves, make copying errors, invent stories out of thin air, and have their original writings lost to history- leaving people only to guess what message was actually intended. This is not the work of a competent god.
(4191) Christianity shouldn’t need escape hatches
One of the ways to demonstrate that Christianity is false is the way it has had to adjust its doctrines in the face of emerging real-world evidence. These ‘escape hatches’ resolve immediate problems but create a long-term problem for its authenticity. If true, the faith would have gotten everything exactly right at the ‘get-go.’ The following was taken from:
Hypothesis: If Christianity was even close to correct, there would be very few changes from its beginning to now. There’d be no reason to keep introducing new excuses or adaptations to deal with new discoveries. In fact, early Christianity would (or should) be more pure and true than today – as early Christianity was formed closer to the events that led to the establishment of the faith.
Yet, as the centuries pass, we see carefully and calculated adjustments being made that are aimed at placating believers. Free Will is a good example, and it’s not biblical. At first, belief needed no massaging or tweaking, but as philosophy and reality became more and more prevalent, it became clear that the world appeared as if God wasn’t there. Boom… “Free Will” is introduced in order to explain away this important fault.
The Rapture, yet another non-biblical plot device appears in order to fill in the holes of salvation, worth, and to kick the can down the road a bit more.
Personal Relationship With God. A third non-biblical addition designed to promote one branch of Christianity over another.
Outside of Time and Space. The notion that God is now somehow relegated to existing outside of time and space is yet one more non biblical tag-on to Christianity. Here we see the ultimate in escape hatch engineering. It’s my belief that God needed to be pushed further and further away from the here and now due to his/her/its lack of involvement, action, or just existing. This lack of God’s actions or direction messes with the hard belief that God is here. So let’s move God outside the circle of any scrutiny and place God where he/she/it can’t be questioned.
Some apologists refute this point by saying that science does the same thing- it keeps re-inventing itself over time, discarding old theories for new ones. This is true, but there is a critical difference. Christianity claims the existence of an omnipotent deity who possesses infinite knowledge. Science, on the other hand, is the province of limited human minds, so knowledge is gained incrementally. A god imagined by Christians would gain no knowledge over time, because it possesses all of it at time zero.
(4192) John didn’t know Jesus had siblings
There is a contradiction between the gospels of John and Matthew. It seems that John thought that Jesus’ mother Mary would be childless after the death of Jesus, and so he assigned the disciple John to take care of her. But Matthew lists four sons of Mary, obviating any need for the disciple to take care of her. The following was taken from:
While on the cross, Jesus was concerned about his mother and made provisions for her to be taken care of after he was gone.
When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Woman, he is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “She is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26–7)
That’s a nice gesture, but why was it necessary? Mary had other sons. Tradition holds that James, the leader of the church and supposed author of the epistle of James, was the brother of Jesus. And then we have this:
Isn’t [Jesus] the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? (Matthew 13:55)
Mary had lots of sons who could support her.
It would seem that the author of the Gospel of John was unaware of the scripture in Matthew listing Jesus’ four brothers. Perhaps he was influenced by what would become Catholic tradition that Mary was a perpetual ‘virgin,’ and that Jesus was her only son. Catholic apologists try to argue that the brothers listed in Matthew were just friends of Jesus, but such a theory flies in the face of the textual linguistics and the context of the verse.
(4193) Ten reasons to conclude Judas was fictional
The story of Judas, the Betrayer, makes no sense once all aspects of this story are analyzed:
1) Why would a literal follower of Jesus, who had observed amazing miracles, shred his ticket to the heavenly paradise when it was at the door? What good would silver do him?
2) Story telling often needs a personal villain. A Judas Iscariot figure would, and did, make an excellent antagonist.
3) The use of the name Judas was convenient to those committed to pinning the blame of Jesus’ death on the Jews.
4) Paul, our first contributor to the NT, makes no reference to this massive, personal betrayal. If the Judas story were in circulation twenty years after Jesus’ death, he would have likely heard about it and maybe used it in a letter or two but no. Instead, we are told that Jesus was ‘handed over’, and not betrayed.
5) In fact, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:5, states that Jesus after he resurrected appeared to the ‘Twelve,’ meaning the 12 disciples (it would would have been the Eleven, if Judas had absconded and killed himself as alluded in the gospels).
6) The need for the betrayal of Jesus makes no sense as he was out and about in the environs of Jerusalem, even making a scene at the temple. Why would the Romans have required someone to betray him? They could easily have waited for Jesus’ next appearance in town.
7) But realistically speaking, Jesus would have been arrested immediately after overturning the tables in the Temple courtyard, meaning that no betrayal would have even been necessary.
8) What happened to Judas afterwards is contradicted by the following two scriptural references:
In Matthew 27:5 Judas hangs himself.
In Acts 1:18 he bursts open and his insides spill out.
9) It appears highly probable that the Judas story was invented to create the illusion that a prophecy in Zechariah was fulfilled:
“And I said unto them, If you think good, give me my hire; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my hire thirty pieces of silver. And Jehovah said unto me, Cast it unto the potter, the goodly price that I was prized at by them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them unto the potter, in the house of Jehovah” (Zechariah 11:12-13).
10) Jesus, presumably God, would have known when picking Judas as one of his disciples that he would eventually betray him. If so, that means that Jesus engineered his own betrayal. Judas was just a pawn in this scheme, not acting on his own accord. Therefore, he didn’t betray Jesus, but just did what Jesus wanted him to do. In fact, if the whole purpose was for Jesus to die on the cross, then Judas was simply his compliant assistant.
(4194) Religions stripped down to common elements
Given that no religion has ever produced compelling evidence of its truth, they all should be seen as being equal, regardless of how many followers they have. When all of them are considered together, the common elements are usually very sparse- a belief in something other-worldly based on faith and tradition. The fact that no religion is clearly superior speaks to the high probability that they are all human-made. The following was taken from:
Since the dawn of human history religionists have been arguing over competing and even mutually exclusive religious faith claims. These claims on behalf of gods, goddesses, and other superhuman beings, along with their commandments, prophecies and promises cannot all be true. If we try to strip religious claims down to an agreed upon commonly shared bare minimum, what we might have left is the belief in a superhuman being, or beings, and/or superhuman force, or forces, the ground of all being, or the subjective feeling of transcendence.
Even that bare minimum shared belief, variously described, is not such a bare or minimum or shared belief though. Religionist beliefs differ over the existence of one paranormal being (i.e., one God) or in many paranormal beings (i.e., gods, goddesses, angels, spirits, ghosts, demons), or in one paranormal force (i.e., panentheism, deism) or many paranormal forces (i.e., karma, fate, reincarnation, prayers, incantations, spells, omens, voodoo dolls), or some sort of combination of them all. Religionists who agree with one another on these beliefs also disagree over who these beings and/or paranormal forces are, how they operate, and for whom they operate.
So if we were to use one word to describe what we know about religions, that word would be diversity. When dealing with such a diverse phenomena where no religion has an advantage over others, we must treat all religious faith-based claims the same, privileging none. Eller points out that “the diversity of religions forces us to see religion as a culturally relative phenomenon; different groups have different religions that appear adapted to their unique social and even environmental conditions.”
In this perspective, we should see Jesus (as God) and the great juju up the mountain as being equally (im)plausible. The fact that Christianity and Islam are much more popular than any other religions is an accidental artifact of historical consequences, not that they have additional evidence of their truth. It is best to see all religions as being on an equal footing- they are all traditions invented by people in limited geographical areas to foster community order and to temper the fears of living in a dangerous and indifferent world.
(4195) Tacitus is not evidence for Jesus
Christians often tout the writings of Tacitus (CE 56-120) as being an independent source corroborating the historicity of Jesus. But there is good evidence that his writings concerning Jesus were nothing more than a recitation of what he heard from his friend, Pliny the Younger. The following is the executive summary of the article addressing this topic:
This article contends with the multitude of suggestions that have been raised recently as to the origin of Tacitus’s information on Christians and Jesus, and concludes that, contrary to much popular opinion, the theory that Tacitus’s information is a reliable independent witness is likely faulty. It first discusses previous theories that have been proposed, including the hypothesis that Tacitus was reliant on Josephus, official Roman documents, etc., and finds all suppositions for Tacitus being independent of Christian tradition to be specious and reliant on faulty arguments and a lack of convincing evidence. The article presents an alternative solution which is that Tacitus was reliant on the work of his friend Pliny the Younger, both his Letter 10.96 sent to Trajan and likely also discourses he had with him, noting that Tacitus relied on Pliny’s works elsewhere and the close relationship the two had, even exchanging each other’s works for review and criticism.
A number of verbal parallels between Tacitus’s work and Pliny’s letter also points in this direction. As a result, Tacitus’s information on Christians and Jesus likely stemmed from Pliny, who in turn gained it from interrogations of and hearsay from Christians. This has ramifications such as that Tacitus is then not a useful source for establishing the historicity of Jesus or the historicity of the Neronian persecution, as it looks as though he melded Christian tradition with the Great Fire of Rome, which Christians make no reference to for centuries.
If correct, this removes another layer of what was already a very thin veneer of support for the historical Jesus outside of the New Testament. It strains credulity that a man who actually bent the forces of nature, performing miracles in front of thousands of people, who had a miraculous birth, and an earth-shaking death and resurrection, could have such a fragile footprint within the secular historical documents written in his time. Something is amiss, and it strongly suggests that all of the supernatural elements associated with Jesus (if he existed at all) are mythical.
(4196) Yahweh, son of El
Before Judaism became monotheistic, Yahweh was seen as one of the sons of the principal god, El. and that he was assigned as the God of Israel. The following was taken from:
Mark S. Smith says, in The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel:
Deuteronomy 32:8-9 casts Yahweh in the role of one of the sons of El, here called ‘elyôn. This passage presents an order in which each deity received its own nation. Israel was the nation that Yahweh received. It also suggests that Yahweh was known separately from El at an early point in early Israel.
This passage was written in the monolatrous period of Jewish history, so when Judaism became strictly monotheistic, it underwent change to obscure that fact, with “sons of El” replaced by “sons of Israel”, even though there was no logic to the words. The KJV text (among others) reflects this revision.
So, for some centuries prior to this, God, or Yahweh, was indeed the God of Israel, and the people of Israel recognized that other nations had their own gods, who, along with the Israelite God, were understood to be the seventy sons of El.
Here is Deuteronomy 32:8-9 in the New International Version with the original meaning of the text in brackets:
When the Most High [El] gave the nations their inheritance [their gods],
when he divided all mankind ,
he set up boundaries for the peoples [different tribes/countries]
according to the number of the sons of Israel [sons of El].
For the Lord’s [Yahweh’s] portion is his people,
Jacob [Israel] his allotted inheritance.
The evidence is overwhelming that the Jewish people originally viewed Yahweh as a son of the principal god ‘El.’ That fact alone obliterates the dogma, as Christians claim, that Yahweh was always thought to be the one and only god in existence.
(4197) Belief versus faith in the gospels
There is a discrepancy between the use of the words for ‘believe’ and for ‘faith’ in the gospels. The following table lists the number of times these words appear in each of the gospels:
Some Christians will argue that the two words are interchangeable, but there is a critical difference in terms of the motivation for these two expressions. Believing is based on the receipt of at least some evidence that leads one to assume that the thing or proposition is true or likely to be true. Faith is considered to be acceptance of a claim in the absence of evidence. In other words, it is possible to have faith that something is true without actually believing it to be true. Whereas believing something that is based on evidence does not require faith.
Therefore, the discrepancy (easily seen above) of word usage in John versus the other gospels is not trivial. Either Jesus utilized (or the Holy Spirit inspired the authors to use) these two words at roughly the same frequency, or he used the word for ‘believe’ exclusively. Both cannot be true.
So, what does all of this mean? It is just another example of how the Gospel of John is incompatible with the other three gospels. These four gospels should not have been placed together inside a holy book. There could be three gospels with Mark, Matthew, and Luke, or there could have been just John by itself. But the M/M/L/J combo does not work.
(4198) Challenge to Christians
Christians carry the Bible to their churches and they worship the god that is extolled in that book. So, the question comes to whether they agree with this god about whatever he has done. In the following, this challenge is presented in rather stark terms, but the effort is relevant to determine the level of their dedication:
Christians, DO YOU AGREE WITH GOD?!
Christians, I’d like to ask you an interesting question. I’d like to know whether you personally AGREE or DISAGREE with your God on the following commands:
Do you AGREE with your God that the innocent babies and infants living in the cities that God wants to punish should be dashed against rocks and walls and floors so that they die instantly?
“Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” (Psalms 137:9)
“The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.” (Hosea 13:16)
“Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword. Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.” (Isaiah 13:15,16)
“Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children.” (Isaiah 13:18)
Christians, do you AGREE with your God that the innocent pregnant women living in the city that God punishes should have their stomachs ripped open savagely so that both the woman and fetus die a horrific bloody death?
“The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.” (Hosea 13:16)
“At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates. He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women.” (2 Kings 15:16)
Just tell me whether you AGREE or DISAGREE with your God on these commands. Please don’t sidestep the question! I know you can’t answer this cause either answer will make you look bad.
Now I’m going to be civilized here and offer you a way out of this no-win situation here. And that way is if you are ready to concede that God never commanded or wrote any of this, and therefore these were written by men who had savage and barbaric beliefs and ways that were their own creation due to their primitive animal like nature.
Now think about it. Do you really think that an all loving, merciful, wise God would give such orders? Can’t you just admit that these words are merely the works of a savage tribe of Israelites who were warlike and barbaric? It should be so obvious to you by now!
Most Christians will punt on this challenge, or, at best, they will say that God’s ways are mysterious or above our ways and that ‘we just have to accept these things on faith.’ This exposes the vapidity not only of their intelligence but also their decency.
(4199) Who should the disciples convert?
It seems that Jesus (or the writers who invented him) were confused about how far and wide to spread the salvific message of Jesus. At some times Jesus seems to want to keep the faith within the ranks of the Jews only, but in other instances, he wants to spread it worldwide. He seemed to be confused. The following was taken from:
At the end of the gospel story, Jesus has risen and gives the disciples their final instructions.
Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
This is the familiar Great Commission, and it’s a lot more generous than what has been called the lesser commission that appears earlier in the same gospel:
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 10:5–6)
This was not a universal message. We see it again in his encounter with the Canaanite woman:
[Jesus rejected her plea to heal her daughter, saying] “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15:24–6)
You might say that a ministry with limited resources had to prioritize, but that doesn’t apply here. Jesus was omnipotent.
Going back to the Old Testament, we don’t find an all-inclusive message there, either. The Israelites were God’s “Chosen People,” and God had harsh things to say about neighboring tribes.
No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of Jehovah, not even in the tenth generation (Deuteronomy 23:3).
God also forbids intermarriage with these foreign tribes (Deut. 7:3; Ezra 9:2, 10:10; Nehemiah 13).
Let’s revisit the fact that Matthew is contradictory when it says both “Make disciples of all nations” and “Do not go among the Gentiles [but only] to the lost sheep of Israel.” There are no early papyrus copies of Matthew 28 (the “Make disciples of all nations” chapter), and the earliest copies of this chapter are in the codices copied in the mid-300s. That’s almost three centuries of silence from original to our oldest copies, a lot of opportunity for the Great Commission to get “improved” by copyists. I’m not saying it was; I’m simply offering one explanation for why the gospel in Matthew has Jesus change so fundamental a tenet as who he came to save, from only Israel’s “lost sheep” to the entire world.
What this implies is that the early Christian movement was strictly a branch of the Jewish faith and was not meant for outsiders. Even though Paul was preaching somewhat to the Gentiles, the authors of the gospels still had Jesus keeping it exclusively within the Jews. It was not until later that someone added the ‘Great Commission’ to the Gospel of Matthew as Christianity had became by that time almost exclusively a Gentile religion.
(4200) Original sin is not consistent with a good God
The dogma of original sin is woven, somewhat inconsistently, throughout the Bible. But it has gained enough traction to be considered a conventional element of Christianity. The following explains why this concept is compatible only with an evil god:
Original sin is the Christian doctrine that holds that humans, through the fact of birth, inherit a tainted nature in need of regeneration and a proclivity to sinful conduct.
The biblical story goes, whether taken literally or mythically, is that mankind disobeyed God and now everyone for all time is cursed and in need of regeneration. (A more extreme interpretation is that after the fall we are dead in our sins, ie: total Depravity)
1) Why are we being punished for the sins we did not commit?
2) Eve (or mankind, if non-literal) didn’t know the difference between good and evil until the fall, so, why is she (et al.) being punished? She didn’t know it was wrong to disobey God.
3) God knew we would disobey him, so why would he set everything up so it would happen then punish us for it?
4) The concept of original sin wasn’t even termed until Agustin of Hippo.
5) Many Christians say that children before the age of reason are spare hellfire, but if original sin is real then they’d be just as culpable as everyone else.
6) If Jesus attoned for our sin, wouldn’t that automatically wipe away any vestigial origin sin? We didn’t have to do anything to be tainted by original sin, so why would we have to do something to get rid of it?
If there is such a thing as Original sin, then God is punishing us for existing. It would literally, be better to never be born. Wouldn’t Christians all be pro abortion/extinction to spare children the almost-certainty of being tortured for eternity? Either way it sounds like the design of an Evil God rather than a Good God. Which is fine, I’m not sure why folks rule out that Christianity is all true, but God is Evil–if that’s where the evidence points….
If taken in the concept of Total Depravity or a literal interpretation of the Genesis story, then this gets super weird really fast. We’d be cursed without ever doing anything, maybe saved without doing anything, and doomed to hell otherwise. We have no choice or opportunity from beginning to end…no justice.
Original sin could have been conceived only by unenlightened humans or an evil god. It doesn’t belong within the contours of respectable theology.
Follow this link to #4201