(2001) Editing the canon
If God wanted to produce a bible he would have assured that the books that belonged in the bible would have been selected without any hint of controversy. It would have been a seamless process. And because a book included in the Bible is given a divine credential versus other books of merely human origin, this selection is extremely critical. But it didn’t happen like that. The following was taken from:
Around 170 AD, Melito of Sardis gives an Old Testament list which excludes Lamentations, Nehemiah, and Esther (Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, Book IV, Chapter 26, Section 14)
Also dating from around 170 AD, the Muratorian fragment gives a New Testament list which excludes James, 1 & 2 Peter, Hebrews, and 3 John and includes the Book of Wisdom.
Around 240 AD, Origen gives a New Testament list excluding Revelation (Homilies on Joshua, 7.1), and an Old Testament list for the Jews which excludes the 12 minor prophets and includes the Epistle of Jeremiah – part of the book of Baruch (Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, Book VI, Chapter 25, Section 1-2).
Around 350 AD, Cyril of Jerusalem gives a New Testament list excluding Revelation, and an Old Testament list including the book of Baruch (Catechetical Lecture 4, sections 35-36).
Around 367 AD, Hilary of Poitiers gives an Old Testament list which includes the Epistle of Jeremiah – part of the book of Baruch, and notes that some accept Tobit and Judith (Expositions of the Psalms, 15).
Also around 367 AD, Athanasius in a letter gives the first full New Testament list comprising all 27 books. He also gives an Old Testament list, including Baruch and excluding Esther. He says Esther, the book of Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, Tobit, the Didache, and the Shepherd of Hermes were called non-Canon but profitable for instruction in the word of godliness (Letter 39).
Around 382 AD, the Council of Rome was held which gave the full New Testament list, and gave an Old Testament list including the full Deuterocanon (Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, the Book of Wisdom, etc) (Decretum Gelasianum, Damasine List, Section II).
Around 385 AD, Epiphanius of Salamis gave an Old Testament list which included Baruch. He also noted two more books of disputed canonicity, Sirach and the Book of Wisdom – which he later on called ‘divine writings’ (Panarion viii. 6 and Panarion lxxvi. 5).
Around 390 AD, Gregory of Nazianzus gave a New Testament list excluding Revelation, and an Old Testament list excluding Esther (Concerning the Genuine Books of Divinely Inspired Scripture).
Also around 390 AD, Augustine gave the full New Testament list, and gave an Old Testament list including the full Deuterocanon (Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, the Book of Wisdom, etc) (On Christian Doctrine, Book II, Chapter 8, Section 13).
Also around 390 AD, Jerome argues the Book of Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, Tobit, and 2 Maccabees should be placed among the Apocryphal writings (Prologue to the Books of the Kings).
Note that Jerome did not explicitly exclude Baruch. Indeed, later Jerome quotes from Baruch as a prophet (Letter 77, Section 4). It’s reasonable to assume that Jerome included Baruch as tacked on to the end of Jeremiah, a common practice in that day.
This list of canonical tweaks is consistent with a project engineered by a cast of human players bereft of guidance from a supernatural agent. This strongly suggests that the Bible is not of divine origin.
(2002) Jesus’s temptation based on pagan tradition
The three synoptic gospels recount a story of Satan leading Jesus up a mountain to tempt him, even though if Jesus was God, it is difficult to understand how he could have been vulnerable to such a scheme. The author of the Gospel of John judiciously left this mythical story out of his account. There are a lot of pagan preludes to this story as discussed below:
The retirement to the wilderness may well be an ‘historical fact, but the story of the temptation is an obvious allegory to be understood in a spiritual sense, though the source of some of the details may be traced. The hoofed god Pan is the prototype of Satan, and there is a pagan legend which relates how the young Jupiter was led by Pan to the top of a mountain from which he could see the countries of the world. This mountain was called the ‘Pillar of Heaven.’ which perhaps explains the introduction of the pinnacle of the temple into the story. Zoroaster, the founder of the Persian religion, went into the wilderness, and was tempted by the Devil; Buddha did likewise, and was tempted; Moses and Elijah had both dwelt in the wilderness, and the former fasted on Sinai forty days, while the latter fasted on Horeb forty days; Ezekiel had to bear the iniquity of the house of Tudah for forty days; the destruction of mankind in the Deluge lasted forty clays; there were forty nights of mourning in the mysteries of the pagan Proserpine; there were forty days of sacrifice in the old Persian ‘Salutation of Mithra’; and so forth.” (The Paganism in Our Christianity, Arthur Weigall, p61)
The story of the temptation was an inadvertent mistake by the gospel authors because they did not realize at that time that Jesus eventually was going to be made into a god. From their perspective, they probably felt that adding a feature familiar to the followers of the pagan faiths would make it easier for them to accept Jesus as a genuine religious figure.
(2003) Tomb burial improbability
In the gospels, Pontius Pilate acquiesces to allow Jesus to be buried honorably in a privately-owned tomb in Jerusalem. This on face value is unusual because crucifixion victims of that time were almost always buried dishonorably in mass grave pits. But there is another good reason to believe that this story is fictional- if the Jesus story is remotely true, then Jesus would have been viewed as a threat to Roman rule of Judea, given that Jesus had proclaimed himself to be the King of the Jews. Most historians believe that Jesus was sentenced to death on account of sedition, not blasphemy. Pilate would not have wanted this burial tomb to become a shrine for a martyred hero, thereby stoking revolutionary motives. The following was taken from:
There is one final reason to think that Pilate would have ensured that Jesus did not receive an honorable tomb burial. Raymond Brown notes, “There was in this period an increasing Jewish veneration of the tombs of the martyrs and prophets.” Craig agrees, stating, “During Jesus’s time there was an extraordinary interest in the graves of Jewish martyrs and holy men and these were scrupulously cared for and honored.” If Pilate considered the historical Jesus to be an enemy of the state, how much more would Pilate have to fear not only making him a martyr but also establishing a shrine to Jesus right in Jerusalem? It is in Pilate’s best interest to make certain that Jesus would have been buried without honor and in obscurity.
This is further evidence that the burial narrative in the gospels is likely fictional. This in addition to the lack of (what should have been) a tomb shrine ever being mentioned, venerated, and attended by early Christians.
(2004) The time-symmetric theory of creation
Christian apologists often point to the ‘creation’ of the universe as having an obvious supernatural explanation, one that they infer was the result of their god’s effort. However, science has begun to chip away at the assumption that the creation of the universe required a cause at all. In the following discussion, it is conjectured that the universe began as a duel-sided singularity, one part going in a certain direction of time and the other part going in the opposite direction. Each universe sees its time proceeding into the future while the other universe marches into the past from their point of view. The other universe sees it exactly the same way.
However, another possibility exists that can lead to a quite significant and permanent result. The fluctuation energy can appear instead as spacetime curvature within this tiny region, which is called a “bubble of false vacuum.” This bubble still contains no matter or radiation, but is no longer a “true vacuum” because of the curvature, as expressed by a non-zero cosmological constant. According to the de Sitter solution, the bubble will expand exponentially in what is called inflation.
The energy density is constant for a brief interval of time. As the volume of the bubble increases exponentially during that interval, the energy contained within also increases exponentially. Although the first law of thermodynamics may seem to be violated, it is not. The pressure is negative and the bubble does work on itself as it expands. By the time it has inflated to the size of a proton, in perhaps 10-42 second, the bubble contains sufficient energy to produce all the matter in the visible universe today. Frictional processes (this is all in the equations–see Stenger 1990) bring inflation to a halt, particle production begins, and the familiar Hubble expansion of the big bang takes over.
We can label as t = 0 the time at which the initial quantum fluctuation takes place. The expansion then proceeds on the positive side of the t-axis, as defined by the increasing entropy on that side. As first suggested by Boltzmann a century ago, the direction of time is by definition the direction in which the entropy of the bubble universe increases.
Now, what about the negative side of the t-axis, the other half dimension? If we look at Einstein’s equations, nothing forbids an expansion in that direction as well. Physicists usually simply ignore that solution because most share Ross’s prejudice, expressed above, that time “proceeds only and always forward.” But the equations of classical or quantum physics, including those of general relativity, make no fundamental distinction between the two time directions. Where that distinction appears, it is put in by hand as a boundary condition.
However, a completely time-symmetric solution of Einstein’s equations for the vacuum will give exponential inflation on both sides of the time axis, proceeding away from t = 0 where the initial quantum fluctuation was located. This implies the existence of another part of our universe, separated from our present part along the time axis. From our point of view, that part is in our deep past, exponentially deflating to the void prior to the quantum fluctuation that then grew to our current universe. However, from the point of view of an observer in the universe at that time, their future is into our past–the direction of increasing entropy on that side of the axis. They would experience a universe expanding into their future, just as we experience one expanding into our future.
Would these different parts of the universe be identical, kind of mirror images of each other? Not unless physics is completely deterministic, which we do not believe to be the case. The two parts would more likely be two very different worlds, each expanding in its own merry way, filled with all the other random events that lead to the evolution of galaxies, stars, and perhaps some totally different kind of life.
This scenario also serves to explain why we experience such a large asymmetry in time, while our basic equations do not exhibit an asymmetry at all. Fundamentally, the universe as a whole is time-symmetric, running all the way from minus eternity to plus eternity with no preferred direction, no “arrow” of time. Indeed, the whole notion of beginning is meaningless in a time-symmetric universe.
This elegant solution solves a lot of difficult issues regarding the fact that there is an asymmetry in the amount of matter and anti-matter in the universe, i.e. it helps to explain why there is something here rather than nothing.
(2005) God’s narcissistic personality disorder
It has been conjectured that when humans created gods, they patterned them after the kings and rulers of their times- i.e. having strong personalities and demanding attention, respect, and, to some extent, worship. So, it is no accident that the god of Christianity shows these same traits. Based on what can be gleaned from the Bible, a psychiatric evaluation of God reveals that he has narcissistic personality disorder. The following was taken from:
Western religions have made narcissism a virtue through the worship of God, who bears all the markers of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Narcissism is a painful condition of low self-esteem masked by a shallow presentation of grandiose confidence. Through their imitation of the Divine Narcissist, the religious suffer, alternating between the crushing narcissistic wounds of superiority in salvation and inferiority in sin.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), “the essential feature of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy” (DSM-IV-TR, 714). Narcissists form a grandiose self-image as a compensatory defense in order to protect themselves from facing the pain of an actual self-image of inadequacy, which is kept out of awareness in the unconscious mind. There is no one more grandiose or egotistical (or insecure) than the biblical God. In his mind, the whole universe exists solely to worship him: “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever!” (Romans 11:36). God’s idea of heaven is a universe centered around his worship: “Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty’” (Revelation 4:8). Yet worship is nothing more than flattery. Flattery is not befitting to spiritual leaders such as God, who should serve and set a positive example by practicing humility.
Narcissists aggressively devalue or destroy those who threaten their grandiose self-image. God pours out his wrath on his followers whenever they turn their attention away from his worship. God brutally murders in hell those he considers his enemies: all Hindus, Muslims, Jews, atheists, and anyone else who lives for a purpose other than inflating his ego. In the converse of their destructive tendencies, narcissists idealize those who bolster their sense of superiority. Because narcissists’ grandiosity rests on shaky grounds, they look for the ever-elusive sense of perfection or specialness in other people and idealize them in order to identify and fuse with it. In the Bible, God idealizes brutal leaders, like Moses and King David, who, like him, extend their ego-kingdoms through violent enactment of their commands. God idealizes Jesus of Nazareth as perfect and special, even though Jesus had his flaws, like violently condemning his enemies to hell, along with anyone who refuses to worship him in the End Times (Matthew 23-24).
According to the DSM, narcissists are “often preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love” (714). God titles himself, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” and describes himself as the perfection of all traits: all-powerful (omnipotent), all-loving (omnibenevolent), all-knowing (omniscient), all-present (omnipresent). This massive self-valuation surely corresponds to an equally massive low self-esteem, and a God-sized trauma behind it.
Why is God so hell-bent on having everyone worship him? Narcissists commonly suffer from an original developmental trauma of feeling unseen. This sense of not being seen is perceived as a threat of annihilation, the feeling that, “I am not seen; therefore, I am not real, I do not exist.” God existed in isolation, with no one to acknowledge his existence or show him empathy for all of eternity-past. What could be more traumatic? God confirms this theory of eternal isolation by telling us humans exist to reflect his glory to himself (2 Corinthians 3:18): in other words, to show him he exists forever. Perhaps all of this colossal mess that’s God’s creation has been one giant attempt at divine self-love.
There is a big difference between demanding worship and earning respect. The god of Christianity succeeds on the former and fails on the latter. There can be no doubt that he was created by and is a reflection of the humans who worship him.
(2006) A grain of sand on the beach
Very few people have a competent grasp of the size of the observable universe, let alone the size of our own solar system and galaxy. But for those who do, the Christian concept of the Earth’s ‘specialness’ is brought to its knees. One of the best analogies is presented here:
People know the Universe was created by a god, though no one was there to witness when it “began.” They know this particular god cares about this planet, what its inhabitants do, think and feel, more than anything else in the Universe. They know he makes living in it challenging by populating this planet with spirits, some of them friendly protectors, others who are deceivers and wish them ill; just like people. The latest estimate for the size of the Universe is two trillion galaxies, each galaxy consisting of billions of stars and planets. With this in mind, think about Earth’s “exclusive” status. Go to any beach and remove one grain of sand, and watch the effect this has on the beach. This is what would happen if their god’s “special” planet were removed from the Universe.
Richard Feynman was once quoted to say in regard to Christianity that ‘the stage is too big for the drama.’ It made sense when everyone accepted an earth-centered model, but considering today’s understanding of the size of the universe, it seems unlikely that this single ‘grain of sand on the beach’ is the special focus of a universal god.
(2007) God contradicts Jesus’ parables
According to the Bible, Jesus told parables that implied that God was like a shepherd who would go to extremes to find a single lost sheep from his herd, metaphorically meaning that he would do the same for a non-believer who was ‘lost’ in a spiritual sense. But this is not what is happening in today’s world. The following was taken from:
To explain: the god of the Bible is described as being willing to go to any and all ends to bring just one man to his flock. Luke compares it to someone losing 1 of their ten coins and going to great lengths to find it, a shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to go to great lengths to find the 1, etc.
This is a god who very much wants everyone to believe in and worship him and one who has himself, in the person of Jesus, expressed that he will go to insane lengths to save people. Even his crucifixion is described as the ultimate possible sacrifice both on his end and on god the father’s end. Literally nothing could be a bigger sacrifice for god.
Yet, here I am, an atheist. There are many like me. We do not believe because we don’t think there’s enough proof. Most of us, myself included, would be more than willing to believe if there was proof. Personally, if god came down and spoke to me directly, performing a few miracles to show he’s god and talking about things from my life and thoughts that only someone like god would know, I would believe he’s real. Other atheists have similar requirements. It’s nothing too hard for an all-powerful deity, and it’s certainly less of a sacrifice for him than dying on the cross. God also knows that this is what it would take.
It wouldn’t conflict with our free will. Plenty of people throughout the Bible met and knew god and still had free will. Peter even denied him after having spent years with the human incarnation of god. Surely I could still freely choose if god came in human form and talked with me.
And yet, here we are. There’s no proof. These things that are simple for god to do and within his prescribed nature to want to do have not been done. If he’s real, I guess he was kind of exaggerating how hard he would really try to find that 1 lost sheep because it sure looks like he’s being lazy. He barely even answers the prayers of those who do worship him, let alone people like me.
No, I think it’s more likely that he just isn’t real and was made up, like Christians believe of every other single religion that has ever existed or will ever exist.
To address some critiques I’ve heard before:
- “God has revealed himself to you, but you’re in denial.” Who are you that you can read my mind and can know for a fact that god has revealed himself to me? You do not know my life nor can you read my mind. To make that argument requires ignorance and narcissism.
- “God is waiting to reveal himself at a time in your life where you’re more ready.” I’m ready now. I’ve been ready. Who are you to say I’m not? You’re not god, so at most you could say it’s theoretically possible that’s what god’s doing, but don’t try to play it off like it’s a fact that you know God’s mindset.
- “There’s more than enough proof. It’s on you for not being satisfied with the proof god gave.” Who are you to tell me how much proof I should require for this? God knows what it will take and he hasn’t done it, which indicates he’s not real. God can prove himself to me in the ways I ask, but he hasn’t and so I remain an atheist who does not worship him.
- “God’s timing is not your timing.” To what advantage is it to god to have me not worship him for any amount of time? It’s completely against his nature to say, “eh I’m immortal so I don’t care if he’s an atheist for decades, he’ll come around and worship me eventually.” That’s not how the Bible describes god. God does not take some passive approach. God does everything he possibly can to bring people to him. Except he doesn’t because it seems like he’s not real.
So God is not acting in the manner in which Jesus implied that he would. This is evidence of his non-existence. Apologetic defenses of this issue fall flat with atheists who are sincerely seeking the truth of their existence. There can be no doubt that if God exists he has no qualms about letting a ‘lost sheep’ wallow and die.
(2008) Empty tomb theme was common
At the time of Jesus, the empty tomb tableau was a commonly-used metaphor for demonstrating that a person was not only special but had undergone a miraculous transformation of some type, such as resurrection, angelification, or deification. The use of this theme in Christian scripture is therefore suspicious. The following is taken from a book excerpt:
“The theme of empty tombs was a familiar one in the ancient world. Aristeas disappeared from his temporary place of entombment (the fuller’s shop) and later appeared as a raven and as a phantom in Herodotus’s version. He received the honor due the gods and sacrifices in other accounts. Cleomedes, presumably still alive, disappeared from the chest he had hidden in and was honored as a hero with sacrifices. Many years after his death, Numa’s body had disappeared, although there is no evidence he underwent an apotheosis. Alcmene’s body disappeared from her bier. Zalmoxis, by the artifice of living underground, appeared three years after people thought he had died. He promised his followers some kind of immortal life resembling either resurrection or metemsomatosis…..Although Romulus was not buried (in most traditions) his body disappeared, and he was honored as the god Quirinus after appearing to Julius Proculus. Callirhoe apparently died and her lover Chaereas discovered her empty tomb with the stones moved away from the entrance. Inside he found no corpse. He assumed she had been translated to the gods…..Philinnion disappeared from her tomb, walked the earth as a revenant, and her corpse was later found in her lover’s bedroom. Lucian’s Antigonus (in his Lover of Lies) asserts: ‘For I know someone who rose twenty days after he was buried.’ Proclus included three stories of Naumachius of Epirus who described three individuals that returned to life after various periods in their tombs (none months, fifteen days, and three days). They appeared either lying on their tombs or standing up. Polyidus raised Minos’s son Glaucus from the dead after being placed in the son’s tomb. The Ptolemaic-Roman temple in Dendera vividly depicts the bodily resurrection of Osiris in his tomb. There are numerous translation accounts of heroes in which their bodies disappear when they were either alive or dead, including: Achilles (in the Aethiopis), Aeneas, Amphiaraus (under the earth), Apollonius of Tyana, Basileia, Belus, Branchus, Bormus, Ganymede, Hamilcar, and Semiramus.” -John Granger Cook, Empty Tomb, Resurrection, Apotheosis p. 598-599.
It seems that the Christian scriptural literary use of an ‘empty tomb’ was borrowed from the superstitious zeitgeist of the time and place.
(2009) Independence versus interdependence
Few Christians understand the degree of interdependence that exists within the gospels. The case can be made that they are all based to a large extent on a single person’s (the author of the Gospel of Mark) imaginatively writings. This fact greatly diminishes their perceived authenticity. The following was taken from:
Ancient Historical Writing Compared to the Gospels of the New Testament
One thing that amazes me as a Classicist is just how interdependent the Gospels are upon each other. Matthew borrows from much as 80% of Mark’s material, and Luke borrows from 65% of the material in the earliest gospel. While John does not follow the ipsissima verba of the Synoptics, the author is still aware of the same basic skeleton and is probably familiar with one or more of the earlier gospels (as shown by scholar Louis Ruprecht in This Tragic Gospel). In fact, I know of almost no other texts from antiquity that share as much material as the canonical Gospels . While it is true that the Gospels are not entirely derivative of each other, in that they do have some independent sources not copied from one another (such as the M-Source for Matthew, or the L-Source for Luke), the interdependence that is seen between the canonical Gospels is still far greater than what is typical of ancient historians. This is very bad for historical reliability, since independent attestation can be very helpful for verifying historical claims, and yet the Gospels all fail this criterion miserably.
The same is not true for ancient historical works. Consider just the four most extensive sources that we have for the life of the emperor Tiberius: Paterculus, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio. All four authors obtain their material from a much broader range of sources, rather than simply copy from each other, they write in a far more diverse range of styles, and yet they independently corroborate each other’s claims. Paterculus is an eyewitness historian writing a brief universal history of the known world, which concludes with Tiberius’ military campaigns (which he himself took part in). Tacitus is writing a year-by-year annalistic history of the Julio-Claudian period, but rather than just copy Paterculus for Tiberius, he instead draws from a whole array of authors who wrote during the Julio-Claudian period, as well as public records and other sources. Suetonius, who is writing almost at the same time as Tacitus, does not produce a carbon copy of his Annals, and very likely does not rely on Tacitus as a source at all (as argued by Tristan Power in “Suetonius’ Tacitus”), but instead writes a historical biography, not in chronological order, that is very different from the earlier sources in its style. And yet, Suetonius independently corroborates the claims of these earlier authors. Dio, who is writing a full history of Rome from its foundation in Greek prose, a different language than the earlier Latin sources, has only one part of his massive history dealing with Tiberius. Dio probably used Tacitus, but also many other earlier sources, and writes his own unique narrative that is still consistent with the other independent sources.
For the life of Tiberius we have a wide array of independent sources corroborating each other, whereas for Jesus we have sources that are all copying and redacting one another, not providing as much independent information or research, but instead repeating and adding to growing legends.
One proviso that should be noted is that ancient historians do not always corroborate each other on every claim, and there are likewise occasionally contradictions between their narratives. The historians Polybius and Livy, for example, sometimes contradict each other on the details of Hannibal crossing the Alps, even when they were drawing upon a common historical source. This criterion does not imply, therefore, that ancient historians and historical biographies always drew upon independent sources, or never contradict each other about the details of an event. Nevertheless, there is a far greater degree of independent corroboration seen in ancient historical writing than what can be found in the Gospels, which diminishes the latter’s historical reliability.
The interdependence of the gospels has frustrated historians in their effort to reconstruct an objective history of Jesus’ life. Only a few basic facts filter through and beyond that there is even a significant doubt that Jesus was an actual historical figure. It is difficult to believe that a real god would tolerate such a feeble method of communicating to his future followers.
(2010) Differing causes for the crucifixion
For the purposes of historical accuracy, it would be important for the gospels to have a consistent story detailing the reason for why Jesus was sentenced to death by the Romans. They don’t, as discussed here:
As NT scholar L. Michael White (Scripting Jesus, pp. ix-xi) explains:
[E]ach of the Gospel authors has woven such episodes into the story in distinctive ways, changing not only the running order of the narrative, but also certain cause-and-effect relationships within each story. For example, in the Synoptics–especially the Gospel of Mark–it is the cleansing of the Temple that serves as the immediate cause of Jesus’ arrest and execution. In the Gospel of John there is no connection between these events, as the cleansing is two full years earlier. In contrast, for the Gospel of John the immediate cause of Jesus’ execution is the raising of Lazarus (11:38-44), an event never discussed in the Synoptics. Thus, the story works differently in each of these versions because of basic changes in narrative…
When the main character of the action is given a death sentence, the reason for or trigger inciting such a judgment is a crucial part of the story. To fumble this critical element is an embarrassing failure for the gospels.
(2011) Direct speech
Historians evaluate the historicity of ancient and even more recent documents, in part, by calculating the percentage of the text that is devoted to direct speech. The higher this percentage, the more likely it represents literary fiction than factual history. The gospels rank high on this scale and especially the Book of Acts. The following was taken from:
Ancient Historical Writing Compared to the Gospels of the New Testament
Richard Pervo in “Direct Speech in Acts and the Question of Genre” has found that Acts of the Apostles contains more direct speech than virtually any piece of historiography or historical biography from the same period. Acts consists of 51% direct speech, which is on par with Jewish novels (e.g., Judith: 50%; Susanna 46%), and even greater than the proportion of direct speech in Hellenistic novels (e.g., Ephesian Tale: 38.9%; Alexander Romance: 34.4%). In contrast, both historiography (e.g., Josephus’ Jewish War I: 8.8%) and historical biography (e.g., Plutarch’s Alexander: 12.1%; Tacitus’ Agricola: 11.5%) have a much lower proportion of direct speech. The only piece of historiography to even come close to the frequency of direct speech in ancient novels is Sallust’s Catiline (28.3%), which is a text that contains a large number of Roman Senate orations, and even this text has only about half the amount of direct speech in Acts. Although Pervo’s study is focused on Acts and not the NT Gospels, the Gospels have a similarly high proportion of direct speech, which aligns their genre more closely with the ancient novel, than with ancient historiography and historical biography.
There were no tape recorders or stenographers recording Jesus’ words, so the only way that the gospel authors could have reconstructed them would have been from witnesses who would have had to recall the speeches from 40+ years in the past or what they had heard second or third hand. Clearly there is no way that, for example, a 600+ word speech could have been faithfully reproduced by this method. The only way around this is to say that the Holy Spirit telepathically transmitted the words into the authors’ brains, but even if this were to be conceded, it runs into trouble in that different gospels have different wordings of the same speech and differing speech styles. But aside from this, as discussed above, it is well known that writers of fiction use more direct speech than writers of non-fiction, and this bodes poorly for the gospels being true history.
(2012) Paul’s vision location
In the Book of Acts and in a few epistles, several (conflicting) stories are told of Paul’s vision of and discussion with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul’s companions were witnesses but there is a discrepancy as to whether they saw or heard anything. This allegedly occurred around CE36, or about 5-7 years after Jesus’ purported resurrection and when Paul was about 30 years old. Despite the uncertainties of what actually happened, it should be clear that the place where this happened should be one of the most important in all of Christendom. It is essentially the place where Jesus first returned to the Earth after his resurrection, and as far as most Christians believe, the only time in the past 2000 years that he has done so. So the question is, why don’t we know the exact location where this happened?
Paul would likely have made pilgrimages to the spot on at least an annual basis, perhaps in hopes of seeing and hearing Jesus again. He would have led others there to tell the story. First Century Christians would have asked him to take them there and to describe the events first hand. Paul should have written in his letters that he returned to the location to better recall exactly what Jesus had said and how he appeared. None of this happened. And today, nobody has any idea where this holy place is located. Why?
The most likely explanation is that the conversion story is made up. It is possible that Paul dreamed a sequence where he heard a voice telling him to stop persecuting the Christians. In that case, the location of where he was at the time would be less significant. Anyway, that explanation is far more likely than to think that Jesus would return to the Earth with a message for a single individual, and, even more remarkably, to a person who was actively harming his chosen ones.
(2013) Jesus did not predict his resurrection
Just by piecing together the textual accounts in the gospels, a strong case can be made that Jesus did not predict that he would be resurrected after his death. If true, all of the ‘predictions’ that are in the gospels are the result of legendary embellishments that occurred over the 40-year gap in time from the crucifixion. The following was taken from:
Believers claim that the resurrection not only happened, but did so in accordance with what Jesus taught his followers about himself and his mission. And there are several passages in God’s supposed autobiography that back up this claim. For example, Matthew 16:21 states that Jesus told the disciples he must go to Jerusalem to be killed “and on the third day be raised.” And in 27:63-64, the priests tell Pilate about the prediction, and suggest that the Romans guard the tomb lest someone steal the body to make it look like it came true. Supposedly, then, Jesus’s followers expected the resurrection, and many of his enemies knew about this.
But now imagine that that had indeed been the case. What would have been the result? I think the answer is obvious: There would have been quite a few people hanging around the tomb waiting to see what would happen. Even the disciples would most likely have come out of hiding for a chance to see the wondrous event — the single most important one of their entire lives — especially if they could have done so by blending into the crowd. And Mary and the other women who came to the tomb afterwards would definitely have been there earlier.
Instead, according to the scriptures, no one went to see if he would come out as he supposedly predicted. Not a single person could be bothered to do so.
Why not? And why, when they found the tomb to be empty, were all of them in disbelief? Could it be that the stories of Jesus predicting his coming back to life were made up later? Could it be that some of this stuff isn’t actually true? Shockingly, the answer appears to be yes.
Many of the more liberal biblical scholars believe that Jesus did not even predict his death in Jerusalem, but was convinced that through his efforts and by the grace of God, the Romans would be defeated and Judea would return to Jewish rule under his authority. The dying-and-rising doctrine was born after the fact in the wake of what was perceived by most of his followers as a complete failure of his mission. This is why very few Jewish people became Christians.
(2014) The James problem for Christianity
There is scriptural evidence that Jesus’ brother James was the successor to the Jesus movement, not Peter, as claimed in the gospels. And the way James was written out of the text of the gospels suggests a cover-up to protect the contrasting theology of Paul. This stratagem evidently detached Christianity from the original message of Jesus. The following was taken from:
But James presents an even bigger problem for Christians. He is barely mentioned in passing in the first three gospels and then only as one of Jesus’ brothers. John’s gospel (7:5) tells us Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him as a divine miracle worker.
But then suddenly, out of nowhere, James emerges in Acts 12 as the leader of Jesus’ followers after the crucifixion. And this flies in the face of Jesus’ earlier pronouncement in Matthew (16:18) that Peter would be the foundation, and surely, the leader of the new church. So how did James become the leader? We don’t know. But he certainly did.
Of course, Paul did not know Jesus in life. But Paul’s letters were written before the gospels (and The Acts of the Apostles) and his theology influenced their narratives. And Paul certainly acknowledges James’ leadership in his letter to the Galatians (2:9, 12). And Acts (15 and 21) confirms that impression when James is given the last word in his dealings with Paul.
As I’ve written elsewhere, we know from Paul’s letters and Acts that there were significant disagreements between James and Paul on various issues. We have no writings from James or his followers except the disputed Epistle. We only have a summation of these disagreements from the Pauline camp. And it would not serve their interests to bring up disagreements about basic Pauline positions like the divinity of Jesus and belief in Jesus’ divinity as a requirement for salvation. Keeping the matters of these disagreements confined to issues like the need for Gentiles to obey circumcision and dietary requirements, etc., served the Pauline camp. It gave them a few areas of disagreement since it was well known there were disagreements. But if it were known there were disagreements with those who actually knew Jesus in life on his divinity, etc., it would undermine Paul’s cult dogma on the foundational points.
Using the Pauline camp’s own history, we can guess that there may have been disagreement between the two groups on these points. How? When James’ followers were arrested and tried by the Sanhedrin, the leader of the Pharisees speaks up for them and they are promptly freed (Acts, Chap.5).
But later, when the Hellenized Jew Stephen is arrested for preaching his theology (and Paul’s), he is convicted and stoned to death (Acts, Chap. 7). (“Hellenized” Jews here means Jews like Paul and Stephen who grew up in other parts of the Empire rather than Palestine and spoke and wrote in Greek, the lingua franca of the time.)
Despite possible Pauline obfuscation about these two incidents in Acts, this suggests to me that James’ followers were preaching something different (and less provocative) than what the Hellenized Jews preached. These Hellenized Jews were accustomed to “mystery cults” that featured demigods (offspring of a mortal and a god) who live as mortal humans and sometimes perform resurrections or die in some sacrificial manner to aid the human plight (Dionysus, Isis, Attis, Baal-Tarraz).
It would not be surprising that they used Jesus’ story as a basis for a mystery cult of their own since Jews were not welcome in the other cults. But this sort of thing may have been distasteful, if not roundly rejected, by James’ thoroughly Palestinian followers who might very well have seen it as blasphemy. If so, we would not know it from the Pauline camp’s perhaps obfuscated history in the New Testament. I suspect that the Pauline authors of the gospels and/or the scribes who copied the manuscripts edited much of James’ actual participation out of the narrative of the origins of the Christian cult as a means of discounting another, more factual, understanding of Jesus’ life and teaching. And if that’s true, what else has been subtracted or added?
Let me repeat — James’ mysterious non-appearance in the gospels and sudden emergence as leader of Jesus’ followers in Palestine suggests Pauline obfuscation of the facts about what happened after Jesus’ death, but also perhaps about his teachings as rendered by the Pauline camp.
I suspect Jesus was a highly charismatic wandering wisdom teacher and Jewish reformer like the great Pharisee teacher Hillel before him. He most likely did not believe he was a divine being or believe that one’s salvation depended on belief in that blasphemous idea.
What Christianity needed, but never got, were documents written by Peter or James (the epistle of James was written well after James’ death), i.e., those who were close to Jesus, rather than the self-appointed apostle Paul, who never met Jesus. Taken as a whole, the New Testament can be viewed as a heist of what was the real intent of the Jesus movement within Judaism. The voices of Peter and James were stilled while the voice of Paul and the gospel authors, who were inspired by Paul, stole the show and manufactured a whole new religion.
(2015) Gospels are hagiography, not biography
The gospel authors were not interested in portraying Jesus as he really was, but rather in the light of hero worship, unlike the strict biographers of the time. With few exceptions, they focus on a cultish adoration of the subject. The following was taken from:
Ancient Historical Writing Compared to the Gospels of the New Testament
Rather than read as the unmitigated praise of a saint who can do no wrong, ancient historical works and historical biographies were far more critical of their subjects, whom they analyzed less one-dimensionally and more as complete persons. Even for a popular and well-liked emperor like Augustus, his biographer Suetonius in his Life of Augustus still did not hold back from describing Augustus’ acts of adultery (69) and lavish behavior (70). Good historians are concerned with telling the past as it really is rather than just heaping praise upon individuals as propaganda.
The Gospels, in contrast, are not historical biographies but can be more aptly described as “hagiographies,” written in unquestioning praise of their messianic subject. Although the genre of Christian Lives of Saints developed after the Gospels, they can still be regarded as hagiographical in that they function as laudatory biographies, praising the subject, rather than as critical biographies. As a good representation of the scholarly consensus about the rhetorical aims of the Gospels, the Oxford Annotated Bible (pg. 1744) explains, “Neither the evangelists nor their first readers engaged in historical analysis. Their aim was to confirm Christian faith.” Such works, written for an audience of converts, are not chiefly concerned with being critical or investigative, but rather serve the religious agendas and ideologies of the communities that produced them.
This would be similar to reading a biography of Hitler written by Josef Mengele. Sure, you will get some nuggets of truth, but everything would be so sugar coated that you would be unlikely to obtain a true picture of the subject. Such is the case with Jesus.
(2016) The shepherd and sheep metaphor
The Bible authors were fond of using a metaphor for the relationship between God or Jesus and humankind, and it was something that they were familiar with- a shepherd managing his sheep. In so doing they unwittingly exposed a horrible truth about Christianity- it is a cult of human subservience, a destroyer of personal freedom, issuing a slavish order to ‘do this or else.’ Such a scheme does not befit a benevolent creator. The following was taken from:
It’s a metaphor used very often in Christianity and it appears many times in the bible. Depending on the occasion God himself is seen as a shepherd, Jesus is seen as the shepherd, or the priest is seen as the shepherd as much as ministers usually call themselves pastors which means exactly shepherd. The believers are the flock, specifically a flock of sheep.
Now let’s analyze the reality of it. In reality a shepherd is someone who OWNS his sheep and he just sees them as a commodity. He makes a living out of his sheep. He milks them to make cheese, he shears them to make wool, he breeds them to have more and he kills them and butcher them to have meat.
He exploits his sheep as much as he can in order to make a living and profit as much as he can from them. He doesn’t love them the way a modern man loves his house dog or his house cat, like a member of the family, he just cares about them because they’re a commodity and a source of profit. He cares about them like a taxi driver cares about his taxi, not like a father cares about his child.
The sheep on the other hand is completely clueless about this reality, the sheep always does what her shepherd wants, never questioning him or never rebelling or she gets punished, is clueless about the shepherd true intentions and is mostly considered a coward and not very bright animal. The sheep may go as far as to think the shepherd loves her. The sheep may go as far as to think he couldn’t live without her shepherd. She may not understand why the shepherd took away her lamb one day but is probably for her own good, because the shepherd loves her, that’s what the sheep feels.
How come such metaphor is so popular and so widely used when under scrutiny it backfires so spectacularly and how come no believers seem to notice, care, or get insulted by it?
The metaphor works because it is true. Christianity does not allow people to work out their lives on their own- they must do it this way, OR ELSE. It does not allow people to find their own realities- they must adopt this reality, OR ELSE. It does not allow people to construct their own sense of ethics and morality- they must adopt this set of morals, OR ELSE. It does not allow people to explore other faiths or philosophies- they must adopt this faith, OR ELSE. In essence, a Christian is like a sheep, owned by the shepherd and driven to do his bidding, OR ELSE.
(2017) Jesus story written to mimic ancient prophets
There is convincing evidence that the gospel authors deliberately fashioned their narratives around Old Testament scriptures in an effort to both tie Jesus to the ancient prophets but also to show in some ways how he surpassed them. The following was taken from:
Ancient Historical Writing Compared to the Gospels of the New Testament
Another peculiarity about how the Gospels are written is the fact that they owe a considerable amount of influence to the earlier Jewish scriptures in the Old Testament. In fact, through the literary convention known as Midrash, in which NT characters and episodes are designed to mimic OT characters and episodes, we can tell that whole sections of the Gospels’ narratives are derived from earlier literature.
For example, there are two sets of miracle collections used in Mark’s gospel, both of which are designed to model Jesus after Moses. As R. C. Symes (“Jesus’ Miracles and Religious Myth”) explains:
“Gospel stories about Jesus’ miracles are a type of midrash (i.e., contemporizing and reinterpreting) of Old Testament events in order to illustrate theological themes. Among the many miracles in Mark’s original narrative, there are two sets of five miracles each. Each set begins with a sea-crossing miracle and ends with a miraculous feeding. He uses this literary construct so his readers will recall the role of Moses leading his people through water towards the promised land, and feeding them with manna from heaven. Jesus does something similar. And with each water and feeding miracle, there is one exorcism and two healing miracles that are to remind readers of the works of the prophets Elijah and Elisha and how Jesus surpasses them. The parallels between events in Jesus’ life to those in the lives of Moses, Elijah and Elisha and others are too close for a coincidence. This points more to constructing religious myths in the gospel for theological reasons, than to reporting historical facts.”
Scholars William Telford and Richard Horsley discuss these pericopes further here and here.
This actually means that Mark’s narrative is being built around earlier outlines of Jesus’ miracles (meaning that even the mundane narrative details may have been invented to narrativize the miracles). But we can tell further that these miracles were themselves based on parallels with the OT, such as the alleged miracles of Moses. That speaks strongly *in favor* of the hypothesis of legendary development, since we can tell that stories about Jesus were being made up to parallel him with OT figures. It should also be noted that these are pre-Gospel traditions, meaning that we can detect legendary development surrounding Jesus before the Gospels were even written.
This literary technique was inventive and it helped early readers to connect Jesus to the prophets that they revered. But, in an historical sense, it reduced Jesus to a caricature of who he really was, assuming that he was a real person.
(2018) Jerusalem entrance contradictions
The sequence of events as Jesus entered Jerusalem for the final time is different in each of the gospels. Here is a summary in the order of the earliest written gospel to the latest:
In Mark, Jesus enters Jerusalem with the crowds praising him, he enters the temple court briefly, then leaves for Bethany for the overnight, curses the fig tree the next morning, then re-enters Jerusalem the next day with no pomp or circumstance, and turns over the tables in the temple court.
In Matthew, Jesus enters Jerusalem to the praising crowds, turns over the tables in the temple court, then retreats to Bethany for the night, curses the fig tree the next morning, then re-enters Jerusalem to no pomp or circumstance.
In Luke, Jesus enters Jerusalem to the praising crowds, turns over the tables in the temple court, and stays in Jerusalem and does not curse the fig tree.
In John, Jesus enters Jerusalem to the praising crowds, does not turn over any tables in the temple court, nor curse a fig tree, and stays in Jerusalem to the end.
In each step, an ‘improvement’ is made by the subsequent author. Matthew eliminates the embarrassment in Mark of Jesus doing nothing in Jerusalem after his triumphant entry before retreating to Bethany by having him immediately turn over the temple court tables. Luke eliminates the redundant retreat to Bethany in Mark and Matthew and, more importantly, eliminates the absolutely ridiculous cursing of the fig tree. John eliminates the turning over the tables in the temple court, perhaps realizing what Mark, Matthew and Luke did not understand- the temple court was many acres in size and very heavily guarded, so the disturbance alleged by the previous authors would have had Jesus arrested on the spot.
So the quandary for a Christian is to ask, which of these stories is correct? A literalist will say that they are all perfectly true because the Bible is inerrant. But anybody with any sense of objectivity can see that is not the case. The gospels are the fiction-laden creation of the authors who were obviously not shy about changing things around to suit their agendas.
(2019) The Peter/Ezekiel parallel in Acts
It can be inferred with little doubt that the person who wrote the Book of Acts copied a story from the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel to make some sort of a theological statement, but to the detriment of historical accuracy. The following was taken from:
The Book of Acts as Historical Fiction
However, the source that Acts seems to employ more than any other is the Septuagint. While MacDonald has shown that the overall structure of the Peter and Cornelius story is based on writings from Homer, the scholar Randel Helms has shown that other elements were in fact borrowed from the book of Ezekiel in the OT, thus merging both story models into a single one. For example, both Peter and Ezekiel see the heavens open up (Acts 10.11; Ezek. 1.1), both of them are commanded to eat something in their vision (Acts 10.13; Ezek. 2.9), both respond to God twice by saying “By no means, Lord!” using the exact same Greek phrase (Acts 10.14, 11.8; Ezek. 4.14, 20.49), both are asked to eat unclean food, and finally both protest saying that they have never eaten anything unclean before (Acts 10.14; Ezek. 4.14).
Clearly, the author of Acts isn’t recording anything from historical memory, but rather is assembling a fictional story using literary structures and motifs that don’t have much if anything to do with what happened to Peter or Paul. The author appears to be inventing this “history” in order to convince his readers of how the previously-required Torah-observance was abandoned in early Christianity, and to convince his readers that this abandonment of Torah-observance was even approved by Peter all along, and confirmed to be approved of through divine revelation. Yet, we know this to be a lie because Paul even tells us himself (in Gal. 2) that he was for a long time the only advocate for a Torah-free version of Christianity, and it was merely tolerated by Torah observers like Peter (and often contentiously so). Similarly, in Acts 15.7-11, we can see that it is basically just Paul’s speech from Gal. 2.14-21 put into Peter’s mouth, which is the exact opposite of what Paul told us actually happened.
The Bible desperately lacks the writings of true historians. This example shows that the authors of the Bible were focused on a theological statement, not factual history. It comes down to believing everything you read, or taking a step back and using logic and critical thinking to discern what is true and what is fantasy.
(2020) Peter, Paul, and Jesus
The Acts of the Apostles lays down some very improbably parallels among the three most prominent figures of the New Testament- Peter, Paul, and Jesus. All of this seems to be aimed at the fictional aggrandizement of Paul. The following was taken from:
The Book of Acts as Historical Fiction
As the scholar Robert Price observed:
“Peter and Paul are paralleled, each raising someone from the dead (Acts 9.36-40, 20.9-12), each healing a paralytic (3.1-8, 14.8-10), each healing by extraordinary, magical means (5.15, 19.11-12), each besting a sorcerer (8.18-23, 13.6-11), each miraculously escaping prison (12.6-10, 16.25-26).“
Likewise, just as Peter was sent by God to save Cornelius after he sends for Peter following a vision (Acts 10), Paul is also sent by God to save the Macedonians “when a certain Macedonian man ” sends for him in a vision (Acts 6.9-10).
Luke also made Paul’s story parallel that of Christ’s, where, as Price tells us “both undertake peripatetic preaching journeys, culminating in a last long journey to Jerusalem, where each is arrested in connection with a disturbance in the temple “, and then “each is acquitted by a Herodian monarch, as well as acquitted by Roman procurators “. Furthermore, both are interrogated by “the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin” (Acts 22.30; Luke 22.66; cross-referencing Mark 14.55, 15.1), and finally both know that their death is pre-ordained and they both make predictions about what will happen afterward, not long before they die (Luke 21.5-28; Acts 20.22-38; cross-referencing 21.4).
Notably however, Paul does almost everything at a larger scale than Jesus. Paul’s journeys traverse a much larger region of the world, almost the entire northeastern Mediterranean in fact. Paul also travels on and around a significantly larger sea than Jesus did (Mediterranean vs. Sea of Galilee). Even during the one particular journey by sea where Paul faces death from a perilous storm, and is saved by faith, on Paul’s occasion his ship is actually destroyed thus dramatically exceeding the level of peril that Jesus had faced during the storm he encountered. We also hear that Paul’s trial spanned several years rather than merely a single night as was the case for Jesus. Unlike Jesus, we hear that there were actual armies plotting to assassinate Paul, and also unlike Jesus, we hear that Paul had actual armies come to rescue him (Acts 23.20-24). Whereas Jesus was said to stir up violence against himself by his reading scripture in a synagogue (Luke 4.16-30), Paul actually stirs up violence against himself by his reading scripture in two synagogues (Acts 13.14-52, 17.1-5). Though Paul and Jesus both die and are resurrected from the dead, Paul alone marches right back in the city unharmed and continues to preach the gospel in public throughout the region (as if entirely unimpeded), winning many more disciples for Jesus as a result (Acts14.19-21), whereas Jesus didn’t win any new disciples after his resurrection and didn’t even attempt to do so. Even at the end, unlike Jesus, Paul is eventually sent to meet none other than the emperor of Rome himself — another example of something that Jesus was never said to have accomplished. So despite all the coincidental parallels between Paul and Jesus, by Luke’s account in Acts, Paul has been colored as someone who was not only far more famous and more successful than Jesus was, but also one who faced more dangers and at larger scales.
All of these parallels found between Peter and Paul, and between Paul and Jesus, are simply wholly improbable as history.
Literary parallels belong in fiction, not factual history. It’s also clear that Acts was written principally to reinforce the credentials of Paul as the principal custodian of Christian doctrine, eclipsing that of Peter and even Jesus to some extent.
(2021) Acts exaggerates Christian growth rate
The Book of Acts took extreme liberties with its depiction of the speed with which Christianity spread in the early days after the resurrection. Non-biblical sources refute the claims convincingly. The following was taken from:
The Book of Acts as Historical Fiction
The scholar Burton Mack has given other examples of how Luke’s version of the history of early Christianity in Acts is entirely unrealistic. He tells us:
“Luke says that the standard sermon was preached to the Jews on the day of the Pentecost and often thereafter, whereupon hundreds converted and the whole world became the church’s parish overnight…[but this is] a story that does not make sense as history by any standard.“
Not only is this nonsensical in terms of the ridiculously hyperbolized growth rate, but also in the most general sense of how people would have really behaved. As Mack says:
“No Jew worth his salt would have converted when being told that he was guilty of killing the messiah. No Greek would have been persuaded by the dismal logic of the argumentation of the sermons. The scene would not have made sense as history to anyone during the first century with first-hand knowledge of Christians, Jews, and the date of the temple in Jerusalem. So what do we have on our hands? An imaginary reconstruction in the interest of aggrandizing an amalgam view of Christianity early in the second century. Luke did this by painting over the messy history of conflictual movements throughout the first century and in his own time. He cleverly depicted Peter and Paul as preachers of an identical gospel…That is mythmaking in the genre of epic. There is not the slightest reason to take it seriously as history.“
To summarize Mack’s conclusion, the narrative we see in Acts is so incredible and unrealistic, it couldn’t possibly have been based on historical events. Rather, it is what Luke wanted to have happened and/or what he wants his readers to believe happened. This sentiment applies throughout the entire book of Acts. In terms of background information, this conclusion comes as no surprise since all other “Acts” literature written by Christians was entirely fabricated as well, for example the Acts of Peter, the Acts of Paul, the Acts of Andrew, the Acts of John, and the Acts of Thomas, and all of these Christian fabrications look quite similar to the Acts that we find in the NT. There simply isn’t any reason to trust the Acts found in the NT any more than these other Christian fabrications, especially after having demonstrated that it is riddled with hyperbole and historical fiction.
All of the Acts mentioned above tell stories that are mutually incompatible. This is the reason that only one of them could be chosen for inclusion in the Bible. It just so happens that the one they selected can be thoroughly discredited without the use of any speculation. Christians relying on these words are playing chess without a king.
(2022) Post-resurrection anomaly
The gospels and the Book of Acts gloss over a glaring issue that would have been a critical problem for the disciples and early Christians- the empty tomb, missing body, and the publicly-broadcast declaration of a risen Jesus would have caused the Roman and Jewish authorities to investigate and round up suspects, with the disciples being central targets, and Jesus being sought as an escaped fugitive. The following was taken from:
The Book of Acts as Historical Fiction
However, something rather strange occurs at this point. Throughout Acts‘ supposed history of the movement, from the time it goes public in the city of Jerusalem, at no point in the story (not in any of the 28 chapters) do we hear about either the Romans or the Jews ever showing any knowledge of there being a missing body. Likewise, we never hear about them taking any action to investigate what could only be to them a crime of tomb robbery and desecration of the dead, which were both quite severe offenses punishable by death. Matthew’s Gospel even claims that the Jewish authorities accused the Christians of such crimes before Pilate himself (Matt. 27.62-66; 28.4, 11-15), and although this too is certainly fiction, it does illustrate what could not have failed to happen, if a body actually went missing.
Due to the fact that Christians were trying to use the missing body as evidence for a risen Jesus, they certainly would have been the first suspects of such a tomb robbery, if it had indeed occurred. At best, they would have been secondary suspects, if indeed Joseph of Arimathea was the last person known to have custody of the body (Mark 15.43-46; Matt. 27.57-60; Luke 23.51-56; John 19.38-42). So he would have been the first person hauled in for questioning, and yet, conspicuously he is nowhere mentioned in this history of the church, as if nobody knew anything about him (or as if he didn’t exist). If he hadn’t been hauled in for questioning (whether he existed or not), the Christians would have been next in line to be hauled in for questioning for such an offense. Yet, we never hear a single event in Acts where Christians were accused by Romans or Jews of grave robbery, which implies that there wasn’t any missing body to investigate, and thus no empty tomb known to the Roman or Jewish authorities. This means that Christians couldn’t have been pointing to an empty tomb as evidence, for they would have been questioned about it, and possibly convicted whether they were involved or not with the disappearance of the body. Acts is conspicuously silent on this matter and suggests that there were never any disputes whatsoever regarding the body, there weren’t even any false accusations of theft mentioned, nor were there any questions about it at all.
More importantly, the Romans would have had a larger problem to deal with here other than simply grave robbery, for the Christians were said to have been preaching that Jesus had escaped his execution (whether described as a supernatural event or not), that he was seen congregating with his followers, and that he disappeared. It is doubtful that Pilate or the Sanhedrin would have believed any claims that Jesus had risen from the dead (nor is there any evidence that they did believe this), but if the tomb was empty and Jesus’ followers had been reporting that he had continued to preach to them and thus was still a fugitive, Pilate would have been inclined if not obligated to haul in every Christian for questioning and undergo a massive manhunt for such a threatening escaped convict. Furthermore, the Sanhedrin would have also been obligated to find and kill Jesus as per their initial plan. However, we don’t hear any of this happening in Acts. Nobody asked where Jesus was hiding at, nor who helped him to escape. This is more than enough to prove that Acts‘ account of the events here is fiction, let alone completely unrealistic. There was no missing body, no empty tomb, and thus no criminal that was on the run from the law, for if the Roman or Jewish authorities had heard any of this being publicly preached as claimed in Acts, we would no doubt have heard about the expected repercussions, including the likely persecution of Christians by the Roman and Jewish authorities that would have been interrogating them.
If we are to grant that the original Christians believed any of the events in Acts as historical, then the absence of all of these pertinent details and expected events (regarding the missing body), at best, supports the theory that the original Christians were actually preaching that Jesus rose in an entirely new body (a spiritual resurrection) as opposed to the old one that he discarded and left in the grave. In line with this theory is what Paul wrote, that the body that dies “is not the body that is to come “, but instead this buried body is left to be destroyed, while an even better “replacement ” body is already stored up in heaven waiting for each of us (1 Cor. 15.35-50; 2 Cor. 5.1-4). At worst, and more likely than any other theory that has been proposed, is that Acts is entirely a fabrication, and there was in fact no historical Jesus, and the earliest Christians instead believed in a celestial Jesus (where he was effectively an archangel) whom communicated to them exclusively through revelation and through hidden messages in scripture, which is a theory that is supported by the material found in Paul’s epistles (the earliest and most reliable Christian sources we have in the NT).
This is an example where the Bible is not only fiction, but bad fiction at that. If you are making up a story, at least make it seem realistic. In this case, there exists a plot hole big enough to drive a bulldozer through it.
(2023) Deconstructing Christian beliefs
The following lists beliefs that most Christians hold, with a commentary on how to view them more objectively:
- God’s nature is triune. This is sometimes expressed as the doctrine of the Trinity or “three persons in one God”. These are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
No, it is three gods and Christianity is polytheistic. They might all have the same purpose and can telepathically communicate with each other, but they are three separate beings as described. The Trinity was invented out of necessity after Jesus was made into a god in order to prevent Christianity from being tainted by the specter of polytheism that was the main criticism of the pagan traditions.
- There exists a spirit world – angels and demons – that was created by God. This includes the devil (also known as Satan or Lucifer).
No, there is no evidence of any spirit beings whether they be angels or demons. Based on our current understanding of the mind/body relationship, a massless creature cannot think, see, hear, or exist.
- The universe was created by God.
This is a baseless assumption that leaves out the more important question of how God was created. It is more likely that a chaotic explosion of matter could happen on its own than an infinitely intelligent being doing so.
- Mankind is sinful and sin deserves punishment.
Sin is an invented concept of religion and often refers to things that harm no one- neither the perpetrator nor anyone else. People do evil things and deserve punishment, but the punishment for finite crimes should be finite. The concept of an eternal hell is immoral by any definition.
- The man Jesus, in his life on earth some 2000 years ago, was God manifest in the flesh – fully God and fully man.
No, this is sleight of hand. If Jesus was fully human then, by definition, he had limitations, sinned, and was imperfect, meaning that he could not have been fully God at the same time.
- Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary, and was the Messiah.
The belief that Jesus was born of a virgin was generated by a mistranslation of Old Testament scripture that actually states that he would be born of a ‘young’ woman. The myth of the virgin birth was also created so that Jesus could compete with the pagan gods of the time, themselves allegedly the product of virgin births.
- Jesus was crucified to death but was resurrected “on the third day.”
There is no record of Jesus’s crucifixion or resurrection outside of scriptures written decades later. Contemporary historians did not record these events nor did they initially record the existence of people who had believed that this had happened.
- As a result of Jesus’ resurrection, sin and death have been defeated.
Sin and death have continued unabated since the resurrection.
- Although there is some controversy amongst Christians about the nature of salvation, most Christians would say that salvation is a gift offered by God that an individual can receive – or reject.
No, a person cannot ‘reject’ an offer that they don’t believe exists.
- When a person becomes a Christian he/she has therefore been saved by Jesus.
If you are saved from an unjust sentence imposed by the savior, it is an absurd gesture.
- As a Christian a person is a new creation, filled with the Holy Spirit and expressing God’s love in and to the world.
God’s ‘love’ all too often is expressed as shunning, discrimination, xenophobia, snobbery, condescendance, recrimination, violence, hate, and vitriol.
- Jesus shall return to earth – this is known as The Second Coming.
By his own words written explicitly into the scriptures, Jesus is late by at least 1950 years from his promised return.
- There shall be a final judgement of all people. People who are saved are destined for eternity in heaven. Those who are not saved are not destined for heaven – and, according to many Christians, are destined for hell.
Hell is the most reprehensible concept ever devised by the human mind.
- The Bible is the authoritative word of God.
The Bible has too many contradictions, absurdities, cruelties, and historical inaccuracies for it to be anything remotely approaching the word of an infallible god.
- On occasions God intervenes in the natural world through miracles – including miracles of healing – often in response to prayers by Christians.
There is no evidence other than anecdotes fueled by coincidence that prayer works. Controlled studies have shown that it has no effect on outcomes.
Christian beliefs fly in the face of everything humankind has learned over the past twenty centuries. They remain ensconced only through indoctrination and intimidation. An outsider’s objective analysis reduces them to wishful and often willfully-ignorant thinking.
(2024) God’s ‘family values’
The scriptures are Christians’ greatest enemy from advertising their faith as being administered by a benevolent god exhibiting the highest moral standards. In the following, we learn of Yahweh’s approach to family values:
“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.
“But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
Separating children from their father was fine with Yahweh or else he would force the man to be a slave for life. Where else have we heard of children being separated from their parents?….oh, yes, the Christian-fueled Republican Party of the United States, 2018.
(2025) Egypt prophecy failure
According to the Bible, God declared that Egypt would be devastated and remain uninhabited for 40 years:
“ ‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will bring a sword against you and kill both man and beast. Egypt will become a desolate wasteland. Then they will know that I am the Lord.
“ ‘Because you said, “The Nile is mine; I made it,” therefore I am against you and against your streams, and I will make the land of Egypt a ruin and a desolate waste from Migdol to Aswan, as far as the border of Cush. The foot of neither man nor beast will pass through it; no one will live there for forty years. I will make the land of Egypt desolate among devastated lands, and her cities will lie desolate forty years among ruined cities. And I will disperse the Egyptians among the nations and scatter them through the countries.
Egypt has NEVER been uninhabited, let alone for forty years, in its history (since its inception). It is currently inhabited by 101.5 million people.
(2026) Bible’ answer for suffering is unclear
Given the standard Christian belief that God is both benevolent and all-powerful, there is a serious question of why there is so much suffering in the world, involving both humans and other animals. After all, any nice person who has the ability to alleviate suffering would do so. The only objective and non-controversial source to answer this question is the Bible. But the Bible is all over the map on this issue as discussed in the following book review of Bart Ehrman’s God’s Problem:
In times of questioning and despair, people often quote the Bible to provide answers. Surprisingly, though, the Bible does not have one answer but many “answers” that often contradict one another. Consider these competing explanations for suffering put forth by various biblical writers: The prophets: suffering is a punishment for sin. The book of Job, which offers two different answers: suffering is a test, and you will be rewarded later for passing it; and suffering is beyond comprehension, since we are just human beings and God, after all, is God. Ecclesiastes: suffering is the nature of things, so just accept it. All apocalyptic texts in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament: God will eventually make right all that is wrong with the world. For renowned Bible scholar Bart Ehrman, the question of why there is so much suffering in the world is more than a haunting thought. Ehrman’s inability to reconcile the claims of faith with the facts of real life led the former pastor of the Princeton Baptist Church to reject Christianity. In God’s Problem, Ehrman discusses his personal anguish upon discovering the Bible’s contradictory explanations for suffering and invites all people of faith–or no faith–to confront their deepest questions about how God engages the world.
Thus the Bible fails to explain God’s approach to suffering in a coherent fashion, and it leads to myriad theories all of which tend to give birth to deep theological concerns. On the other hand, the atheistic model predicts that the universe was not created with humans in mind and that suffering is the expected norm. Ironically, whoever wrote Ecclesiastes was close to the truth.
(2027) Paul’s credentials under suspicion
The strange case of a man who was persecuting Christians suddenly becoming its chief spokesman and architect is something that has haunted Christianity since its inception. There is something in this story that does not add up. The following summarizes the case that Paul was a false apostle:
What is an apostle?
Apostle, from the greek ἀπόστολος (apostolos): a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders
In Luke 6:13-16, we read that Jesus chose twelve apostles:
*And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.*
Later, we read in the book of Acts how it is decided another apostle should be chosen to replace the dead traitor Judas Iscariot in order to bring the number of apostles back to twelve. Peter tells us the candidate must have been a disciple of Jesus from the beginning of his ministry until his death and also a witness to his resurrection.
*”So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us — one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.*
So in addition to the fact that the open slot was now filled, Peter’s criteria excludes Paul’s apostleship as legitimate.
In Acts 9:3-7 and Acts 22:6-9, we read of Paul’s conversion, where he was blinded by a great light claiming to be Jesus (Heard by Paul but not his companions). On what basis are we to believe this was Jesus? Paul himself said “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” in 2 Corinthians 11:14!
…It is incredible how much Paul talks up his self-proclaimed apostleship:
Rom 1:1 *Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle*
Rom 11:13 *I am the apostle of the Gentiles*
1Co 1:1 *Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God*
1Co 4:9 *For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last*
1Co 9:1 *Am I not an apostle?*
1Co 9:2 *the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.*
1Co 15:9 *I am the least of the apostles*
2Co 1:1 *Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God*
Gal 1:1 *Paul, an apostle*
Eph 1:1 *Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God*
Col 1:1 *Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God*
1Ti 1:1 *Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God*
2Ti 1:1 *Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God*
2Ti 1:11 *Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.*
Tit 1:1 *Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect*
…He is not particularly humble about his greatness as an apostle either:
2Co 11:5 *I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.*
2Co 12:11 *in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles*
2Co 12:12 *Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you*
1Th 2:6 *we could have made demands as apostles of Christ*
…He even recognizes there are “false apostles” but assures us he is not lying about his apostleship!
2Co 11:13 *For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.*
1Ti 2:7 *Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;)*
…Don’t forget Revelation 2:2 in regards to false apostles:
*thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:*
To sum up, Paul is not an apostle based on the fact that there are twelve, not thirteen apostles. In addition, he lacks the objective credentials outlined in Acts 1:21-22. There is no way to verify his self-claimed delegation by Jesus and finally, his conspicuous need to justify and self-promote his status is troubling.
If Paul was a false apostle, then Christianity is counterfeit. All of the gospels were written in light of and consistent with his epistles. The entire religion depends on Paul’s legitimacy, and an objective analysis leaves that question is serious doubt.
(2028) Punishing those who don’t know God
Christians have often been challenged to predict what eternal fate awaits those people who had never heard of Yahweh or Jesus, which encompasses most of the people from the earliest humans to even some of the isolated tribes today. Little do they know that they have a scripture in the New Testament that answers this question:
2 Thessalonians 6-10
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.
This scripture says that anyone who does not know God will be punished for eternity. That would include, for example, all of the Native Americans at least until the 16th Century or so before they might have been able to hear of Jesus. The addition of the phrase ‘and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ’ is redundant when referring to any group other than the Jews (who know God and therefore satisfy the requirement (note the use of the word ‘and’)), since not knowing God for them would preclude them from following Jesus’s gospel. At last, this dispute is solved, but at what price for Christianity?
(2029) John corrects Mark’s ‘mistake’
In the first gospel written, Mark, Jesus is seen to be distressed at what he knew was coming- his crucifixion- and asked God to let him avoid it. A few decades later, the author of John saw this as a problem and directly referred to it in a forceful rebuttal. Here are the passages:
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
This is a good example of paving over history, or in this case actually, correcting fiction to make it more consistent. It never made sense that Jesus, being God and knowing that his crucifixion was a necessary component of his earthy mission, would ask the Father to deliver him from it. This would be like an employee being sent by his boss to fix a pothole, then arriving at the pothole and asking the boss if it’s OK to not fix it. It makes no sense.
The verse in John deliberately calls out Mark for making Jesus seem less than godly, and John was determined to fix it. This is the way fiction works.
(2030) Ear-slicing fiction
All four of the gospels tell in conflicting fashion a story of one of Jesus’s companions or Peter (as only John attests) who sliced off the ear of the high priest’s servant at the moment of Jesus’ arrest. As told, it was a one-strike attack, inexplicably with no counter-attack from the Roman forces, and no attempt to arrest the person who wounded the servant. Added to this implausibility, a single sword attack is very unlikely to cut off a person’s ear. It appears likely that the author of Mark added this fictional tale to symbolize the fact that those arresting Jesus were unable to ‘hear’ his message. Then the other three gospel writers simply copied it and embellished the story to suit their taste. Here are the four gospel versions:
The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
“Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then everyone deserted him and fled.
Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”
Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
The following was taken from:
The Ear-Slicing Never Happened. This is, I think, the most plausible way to understand Jesus’ arrest. The Gospels tell us that Jesus peacefully surrendered to the authorities, without resistance. They tell us that only Jesus was arrested, and only Jesus was punished. They tell us that the disciples fled, but evidently not from arrest, as the Gospels report no subsequent effort to arrest them. Indeed, within hours, Peter would wander into the courtyard of the home of the high priest where Jesus was being interrogated, and in that courtyard Peter was able to warm himself by the fire next to the very forces who had arrested Jesus!
This is a good example of how a mythical story can propagate. A single person (the author of Mark) makes up a fictional story to symbolize the failure of the local authorities to accept the message of Jesus, then it gets copied by the three subsequent gospel authors. Then, because the same general story appears in all of the gospels, people centuries later assume that it must have happened. But we know that it didn’t happen because it makes no sense, just like the dead people popping out their graves at the resurrection (Mathew’s folly).
(2031) Is the Old Covenant still in effect?
An important question for Christianity is whether God will send observant Jews to hell because they mistakenly assume that the Old Covenant is still in effect. This is also tied to the question of whether God informed the Jews that the Old Covenant was finished, and if so, how? In the following, it is implied that the recent trend is to assume otherwise- that the Old Covenant is still in effect and is running concurrently with the New Covenant:
More and more Catholics, Protestants and Jews are seeking to overturn 2000 years of Christian teaching concerning the Old Covenant. Although the Church has always taught that the Old Covenant is revoked, what we are now being told by theologians, clerics and lay persons in high places is that it has not been revoked. These critics, who refer disparagingly to the traditional doctrine by such names as “supersessionism,” “replacement theology,” “revocation theology,” etc., are all seeking for one thing – to establish the position that: a) the Jews retain legal possession of the Old Covenant; b) that this covenant is independent of, but runs concurrently with, the New Covenant; and c) most hold that the Old Covenant is the means by which God provides salvation to the Jews. We are hearing this new teaching from almost every quarter of the religious world and it is one of the fastest growing problems in the Church today. At its root, it emasculates the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, and does so for the people who need it the most – the Jews.
Much of the writings of the Apostle Paul implies that Jesus’ resurrection marked the end of the Old Covenant, that animal sacrifices at the Temple were no longer effective, that observance of Jewish Law no longer determined salvation, and that all future salvation was dependent on acceptance of Jesus. But, curiously, the first three gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke), all written well after Paul’s letters, make no hint of this ‘fact.’ In fact, Matthew wrote something that seems to directly refute it:
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
In the Gospel of John, we do see some verses that imply that all salvation is through Jesus, thus implying the termination of the Old Covenant. But if Jesus actually taught this, then it should be a prominent feature in all of the gospels.
How on earth could something this important remain a mystery to modern theologians? Why is it not more explicitly defined in the gospels? Why do so many Christians disagree about the viability of the Old Covenant? How could God be the author of confusion? It seems the answer to all of these questions is that the entire sweep of Judeo-Christianity is an amalgam of various, uncoordinated human voices combined together into a book over centuries of time, absent a central unifying force, supernatural or not. Yes, this assumption creates an expectation that matches exactly what we observe.
(2032) Holy Spirit was a late invention
There is a problem with the claim of conventional Christianity that there is a third person of the godhead, the Holy Spirit, in addition to the Father and the Son. Based on the writings of Paul and other epistle authors, as well as the later writing of Revelation, it appears that the Holy Spirit theology didn’t initially exist, was not known to the earliest Christians, and later evolved over time. The following was taken from:
In the opening salutation of Paul’s letters to various churches (Romans through Thessalonians) he sends personal greetings from “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” If “the Holy Spirit” were an integral and personal part of a triune deity, then why does He not send His personal greetings as well?
Obviously, Paul never contemplated that there was such a person. If there were a third person involved, would not the supposedly divinely inspired Paul have known about it and included Him in his greetings to the churches? When Paul does include additional persons in his greetings, salutations and adjurations, he names “the elect angels,” not “the Holy Spirit” (1 Timothy 5:21; cf. Luke 9:26 and Revelation 3:5). It is ludicrous to think that Paul would consistently omit mention of the third person of the Trinity, if he believed him to exist.
In the other New Testament letters, every one of the authors identifies himself with “God the Father” and “the Lord Jesus Christ,” but not one does so with “the Holy Spirit.” But, if they were ignorant of the existence of the doctrine of a triune deity then their apostleship was faulty at best, and at worst they were teaching heresy. No; their failure to clearly teach the existence of a triune deity shows that the doctrine of the Trinity was not a belief of the early church. 1 John 1:3 says that for followers of Jesus fellowship is with “the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.” Why is the Holy Spirit left out?
In the eternal city of Revelation 21 and 22, both God and Jesus are presented as a featured fantasy. Each is pictured as sitting on his throne (Revelation 22:1). If “the Holy Spirit” is a “coeternal” member of a triune deity, why does it have no seat of authority on the final throne? This is consistent with the New Testament belief that there is one God, “the Father,” and one “Lord, Jesus Christ.” There is no such separate person known as “the Holy Spirit.” In point of fact, the notion of the Holy Spirit never appears in the Book of Revelation.
The gospels, aside from a few extremely vague references, also are silent on the Holy Spirit, and it appears likely that Jesus, if he was a real person, did not teach this doctrine. Most likely, the earliest Christians did not even believe that Jesus was divine and further had no knowledge of the existence of this other divine being. It is therefore obvious that the Holy Spirit is a late mythical invention.
(2033) The New Testament reads like a cult
Much of the text of the New Testament can be viewed as evidence that Christianity is a cult. It has the regular properties of such. The following was taken from:
Here’s another suggestion for those who are about to tackle the New Testament: Create an Excel spreadsheet to list verses that trigger suspicions or alarms. You are entitled to be alarmed…
• If the writer/speaker claims to communicate directly with God. That’s a trademark of cult leaders, and if you heard this in any other context than the Bible, you’d be suspicious. For example:
o Galatians 1:1, “Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father…”
o 1 Corinthians 11:23, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you…”
o John 10:29-30, Jesus: “What my Father has given me is greater than all else…the Father and I are one.”
• If the writer/speaker makes extreme demands on followers.
o Jesus, Luke 14:26: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”
o Jesus, Luke 10:27: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind…”
• If the writer/speaker makes vapid promises or extreme threats to pump up the cult.
o Paul, Romans 10:9: “…if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
o Jesus, Matthew 18:19: “…if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”
o Paul, I Thessalonians 2:12: “…lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”
o Jesus, Matthew 25:46: “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
o Jesus, Mark 3:29: “…whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin…”
I can guarantee that your spreadsheet will be pretty full by the time you finish reading the gospels and epistles carefully, meticulously, critically. And it won’t seem so outrageous that I refer to Christianity as a cult. The evidence is right in front of you. The New Testament is Exhibit A.
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck. Christianity has the required properties to be considered a cult. Only its large membership base masks this truth from the public at large.
(2034) Jewish rejection of Christianity
There exists an asymmetric relationship between Judaism and Christianity. For Christianity to be true, Judaism must be true, but Judaism can still be true if Christianity is false. Therefore, it becomes a problem for Christianity when its theology is shown to be inconsistent with its Jewish foundation. This does not mean that differences could not exist, it simply means that there should be a seamless transition without the existence of critical conflicts. In the following, it is shown that from a Jewish perspective these critical conflicts do exist:
Christians view the Jewish rejection of the Christian Messiah as the most significant issue dividing the Christian and the Jew. The fact is though that the difference runs much deeper. Our respective understandings of the very concept of Messiah stand poles apart from each other.
Aside from the technical issues, such as the difference of opinion about the virgin birth (Christians believe that the Messiah must be born from a virgin while the Jews believe that the Messiah must have a human father from the line of David,) there are some deep theological issues such as the questions of divinity and atonement. Christians believe that the Messiah must be divine, while the Jews believe that he is human. Christians believe that there is no atonement without devotion to the Messiah, while Jews believe that devotion to the Messiah has no bearing on the atonement process. (These two issues – divinity and atonement – are subsumed in the previous categories.)
Still, the list of differences does not end here. The entire thrust of the Christian concept of Messiah runs counter to the Jewish understanding of this same matter. Christians believe that a new election is achieved through devotion to the Messiah. This means that just as the Jews were elected by God on account of their fathers, Christians are elected by God on account of faith in their Messiah. Some Christians believe that this election supersedes the election of the Jewish people – in other words the Jewish people are no longer God’s elect. Others believe that these elections are parallel to each other and that there are two elect people, the Jews, and those devoted to the Christian Messiah. The Jewish people accept no such election. They see this claim to election as the antithesis of the entire thrust of God’s Messianic promise. The hope and yearning for the Messianic age is very different in the heart of the Jew than the hope that goes by the same name in the heart of the Christian. One yearns for the ingathering of the scattered of the Jewish people, a rebuilt temple, observance of the Law of Moses, and worldwide worship of the God of Israel, while the Christian looks forward to the vindication of the devotees of his Messiah to the shame of the Jewish people, he looks forward to a world in which the only recognized method of atonement is devotion to the same man. Many Christians are also looking forward to the ultimate nullification of the Law of Moses.
To put this in perspective, in order for Christianity to be legitimate, it must function as an add-on to Judaism, not as a whole-sale change. The only way around this would be to say that Judaism is faulted in ways that were corrected by Christianity, but this would be like cutting off your building’s foundation pillars in order to add some extra floors on top. Christianity’s total dependency on Judaism combined with Judaism’s studied rejection of Christian doctrine is strong evidence that Christianity is not true.
(2035) Misquoting Jeremiah
The author of Hebrews (most likely not Paul) deliberately misquoted a verse from the Book of Jeremiah to make it appear that God had abandoned the Jews. Here are the verses side by side:
It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.
The following was taken from:
One of the most shocking contradictions in the New Testament appears in Hebrews where the Jewish prophet Jeremiah is deliberately misquoted. Why did this happen? Christians want to give the impression that God has rejected or no longer cares for the Jewish people. “For they did not continue in My covenant and I did not care for them…” [Hebrews 8:9] But Jeremiah’s words were totally different! He taught that although the Jewish people may have behaved like an unfaithful wife, God remains a faithful husband and will not break His covenant with them. The verse actually states, “My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them…” [Jeremiah 31:32]
This kind of subterfuge and lying is not the sign of God-inspired scripture, but rather the workings of a devious person intent on advancing an agenda.
(2036) Christianity changed Judaism’s Satan
Christianity created a completely different figure of Satan than what existed within Judaism, in a vein more consistent with Greek mythology. But if Satan exists, he should have been portrayed consistently in both the Old and New Testament. The following was taken from:
Unlike Christianity, Jewish Scriptures do not teach that Satan is a “fallen and rebellious angel.” In fact, the first time that Satan appears in the Jewish Bible, the word refers to an angel sent by God to prevent Balaam, the non-Jewish prophet, from cursing the Jewish people. In fact, Balaam winds up blessing them. Definitely not a mission for an evil Satan!
The Jewish Bible states, “God was very angry when he (Balaam) went, and the angel (מאלך) of the Lord stood in the road to oppose (לשטן) him…” [Numbers 22:22] In this verse, the Hebrew word for “oppose” is “l’satan” and it is clearly not referring to an angel who is rebelling against God’s will. Rather, it refers to a messenger designated to carry out His will. The literal meaning of the Hebrew word “malach – מאלך” is “messenger” although it is usually translated as “angel.”
This interpretation is also consistent with the biblical account of Satan found in the book of Job. There we see that Satan has no free will of his own and is given permission by God to torment Job to test his loyalty to Him.
Thus, we see that Satan is a force, an angel, used by God to test mankind. Furthermore, we can understand the purpose of evil in this world and why the Jewish prophet Isaiah 45:7 states that God, “makes peace and creates evil (רע).” Contrary to Christianity’s viewpoint, which is similar to the one inherent in Greek mythology, Judaism does not regard Satan as a separate force that exists to oppose God.
Changing Satan from God’s errand boy to an independent rebellious agent of evil is a sign that Christianity was on an uncontrolled path to mythology, tainted by pagan influence. If Satan is a real thing, then he could not have made the change claimed by Christianity.
(2037) Jesus’ sacrifice was illegitimate
According to the Temple rules involving animal sacrifice that Jesus was taught and that were fully established under guidelines allegedly defined by God, the sacrifice of Jesus as a final atonement substitute for animal sacrifice (something that Paul preached) was not in accordance with those rules. The following was taken from:
Did Jesus’ manner of death satisfy the animal atonement sacrifice provisions for remission of sin of the Hebrew Scriptures?
According to the Hebrew Scriptures, the only animals permitted for sacrificial purposes are those that have split hooves and chew their cud. The carcass of an unclean animal deFILEs (Leviticus 11:26). On these grounds alone, human beings are disqualified for sacrificial purposes. Jesus, as a human being, was unfit for sacrificial purposes.
An animal blood atonement offering must be physically unblemished (Leviticus 22:18-25). According to the evangelists, Jesus was physically abused prior to his execution (Matthew 27:26, Mark 15:15, John 19:1; John 20:25; Matthew 27:29, Mark 15:17, John 19:2). According to Paul, Jesus’ circumcision constituted “mutilation” (Philippians 3:2) and is likened to “castration” (Galatians 5:12). As a result, Jesus would again be disqualified as a valid sacrifice.
The New Testament’s claim that Jesus’ death was “one sacrifice for sin for all time” (Hebrews 10:12) is not supported by the Hebrew Scriptures. Mere death, no matter what was the extent of the preceding violence or pain, does not satisfy the biblical requirements for those times when a blood atonement sacrifice is offered. In a blood atonement offering the animal (clean species and unblemished) must actually die as a result of blood loss. That is why it is called “a blood atonement sacrifice.”
Jesus (unclean human species and blemished) did not die within the Temple precinct, at the hands of an Aaronic priest, or through the shedding of blood. Jesus’ blood was not sprinkled on the altar by the Aaronic high priest (Leviticus 16:18-19). Animal sacrifice, offered as a blood atonement, must conform to the biblical guidelines set down in Leviticus 17:11: (a) Bloodshed (by means of shechitah–Deuteronomy 12:21), (b) Given solely to the Jewish people, (c) Blood sprinkled upon the Temple altar.
Jesus’ humanity, the physical state of his body, and the manner of his death (crucifixion) do not satisfy any blood atonement provisions found in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Virtually nothing about the human sacrifice that Christianity celebrates was consistent with the sacrificial rules established in the Old Testament. The final nail in coffin of this idea is that Jesus didn’t really die, he just became ‘unconscious’ for a day and a half.
(2038) No witnesses of the resurrection
One of the curious aspects of the gospels is that none of the four of them attest to anyone actually witnessing Jesus’s resurrection. They only tell of the discovery of an empty tomb where he was previous lain as well as later encounters with the risen Jesus. And all of those accounts were written after all of the disciples and even Paul were dead. Critically, there is no attestation to anyone seeing Jesus wake up, remove the stone, and walk out of the tomb. The following was taken from:
There is a tendency among Christians to harmonize the individual Gospel accounts with the presumption that each is historically true but reporting only a part of a larger story. Herein lies a basic fallacy in the Gospel narratives of the resurrection.
The narratives describe events surrounding the most crucial episode in Christology, the alleged resurrection, but they do not describe the event itself. The evangelists could not see the resurrection event from different perspectives since they did not personally witness the resurrection.
In fact, although Peter is alleged to have stated: “This Jesus God resurrected, of which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32), not one witness is produced who saw the resurrection. There is no actual record of the alleged resurrection in the form of an eyewitness account, trustworthy or not.
A careful reading of the text indicates that the Gospel writers can only attest to several conflicting accounts which exist concerning the events surrounding the body’s disappearance. They cannot attest to the reason for its disappearance or what was the nature of its final disposition. They knew nothing more than that on Sunday morning a few of Jesus’ disciples claimed the tomb he had been placed in on the late afternoon of his death was found empty. No one saw Jesus rise from the dead.
The disappearance of the body does not mean that there was a resurrection. The empty tomb explains nothing. When Peter declares in Acts 2:23-24, “You crucified this Jesus . . . but God raised him up,” what arose was not the dead Jesus, but the sectarian propaganda devised by the disciples. The claim that a resurrection took place is a supposition based on the alleged sightings of Jesus after his death. The purpose of the stories that developed of Jesus supposed post-resurrection appearances or manifestations were apologetic in nature. Their goal was to prove that Jesus rose from the dead.
The omission of direct witnesses of the resurrection from the gospel accounts appears to be a concession on the part of the authors that there were some ambiguities as to the reliability of the reports. Otherwise, there would have been a gospel verse similar to this:
Peter and John, remembering that Jesus had said he would rise up on the third day, went to the tomb in the early morning to keep watch, hoping that they would witness the miracle. An hour later, a bright light from the heavens shone down on the tomb and a voice from heaven was heard, ‘My son, come forth.’ Just then, the ground shook, and the stone was rolled to the side, and Jesus, still wrapped in this burial clothes, walked out, and said, ‘All is fulfilled, I have risen.’
(2039) Stephen’s error-filled speech
In the Book of Acts, Stephen gives a speech to the Sanhedrin shortly before he is put to death, ostensibly the first Christian martyr. It is alleged in the text that he was filled with the Holy Spirit at the time, making his errors difficult to explain. The following was taken from:
Stephen’s capsule summary of Jewish History, ostensibly written under the influence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:55, 6:10), and an early expression of that anti-Jewish tendency which would later come to characterize the Christian Scriptures (see, e.g., 1 Thes. 2:15, Jn. 8:39-47, Matt. 23:34- 35).
*Acts 7:4–Stephen tells us that Abraham departed from Haran “after his father died.” Had he studied the Book of Genesis (11:26,32; 12:4), he would have realized his error: Abraham departed from Haran at age 75, at a time when his father Terah was 145; since Terah lived for 205 years, he still had another 60 years of life remaining.
*Acts 7:14–Stephen related that 75 of Joseph’s relatives were called by him to come to Egypt. Moses saw it differently: see Deut. 10:22, Gen 46:27, Ex. 1:5 (And all the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were 70 in number”).
*Acts 7:16–Stephen informs us that Jacob was buried in Shechem, and that the tomb was purchased by Abraham from Emmor .
Genesis, again tells a different story. At the death of Sarah his wife, Abraham purchases the Cave of Machpelah, which is in Hebron, as a burial place. The cave is purchased from Ephron the Hittite, contrary to what Steven says in Acts. (Gen.23) It is here that Jacob is buried, as outlined in Genesis 50:13. It was Jacob who purchased a parcel of land in Shechem from Hamor, but it was purchased as a place to pitch his tent and as a place to erect an altar.
It is evident that the person writing Stephen’s ‘almost certainly fictional’ speech did not take the time to study the Torah verses cited but simply did it out of a flawed memory bank. This is not indicative of writings inspired by a god.
(2040) 2048 Resurrection stories
By matching every combination of conflicting information described in the gospels as listed below, it would be possible to construct 2048 different resurrection stories. There is no way that a divinely-inspired book would display so much uncertainty surrounding the seminal event of the drama.
BETWEEN CRUCIFIXION AND RESURRECTION, WHERE DID JESUS GO?
Was he in heaven, in accordance with his promise to the crucified thief that “today you shall be with me in paradise (Lk. 23:43)? If so, how can we account for his post-resurrection statement to Mary Magdalene, “touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (Jn. 20:17)?
RESURRECTION MORNING: THE WOMEN’S TALE(S)
(1) Who first approached the empty tomb: was it Mary Magdalene alone (Jn. 20:1) or Mary M. and “the other Mary” (Mat. 28:1) or the two Mary’s and Salome (Mk. 16:1) or the two Mary’s and Joanna (Lk. 24:10)?
(2) On first reaching the tomb, were they greeted by an angel sitting outside (Mat. 28:2,5), by two men standing inside (Lk. 24:4), by one man sitting inside (Mk. 16:5), or no one at all (Jn. 20:1,2)?
(3) Did Mary Magdalene receive word of the resurrection before her actual encounter with Jesus? Although Matthew (28:5), Mark (16:6), and Luke(24:5) answer in the affirmative, John disagrees, maintaining that it was Jesus himself who first revealed to the grief-stricken Mary that he was alive (Jn.20:14-17).
(4) Did the resurrected Jesus first appear to a joy-filled Mary Magdalene on the road (Mat. 28:8-9) or to a grief-stricken Mary Magdalene in the tomb (Jn. 20:14-17)?
(5) When the women were first informed that Jesus had risen, did they fearfully keep the news to themselves (Mk. 16:8) or did they rush to inform the disciples (Lk. 24:9; Mat. 28:8)?
(6) Was Mary Magdalene’s initial report to the disciples a hearsay account of what she had been told by two men (Lk. 24:9) or a first-person account of an actual visitation by the risen Jesus (Jn. 20:18)?
THE DISCIPLES’ TALE(S)
Did Jesus first reveal himself in Galilee to the eleven remaining disciples (Mat. 26:16, Mk. 16:7,14), in Jerusalem to the eleven (Lk. 24:33,36), in Jerusalem to the ten, with Thomas absent (Jn. 20:10,19,24), or to Peter and then to the twelve (1 Cor. 15:15) — and since Judas was already dead (Mat. 27:5), and his successor had not yet been chosen (Acts 1:26) — who was number twelve??
There are four gospel resurrection stories, but by mixing and matching the details, you can construct over 2000 distinct versions. The devil, so to speak, is in the details, and when the details are this messed up, the underlying truth of what really happened is in serious doubt.
(2041) Isaiah 53 fails as a prophecy of Jesus
For centuries, Christian scholars considered that the ‘suffering servant’ described in Isaiah 53 was a prophecy of Jesus. This claim has been largely repudiated by recent research that has determined that the ‘servant’ is a metaphor for the Jewish people. The following was taken from:
Now that most non-Jewish scholars concede that Isaiah 53 refers to the Jewish people… Some Christians
have tried to find support for their beliefs in Rabbinic writings. Traditional Judaism NEVER believed that there
would be a supernatural virgin-born Messiah who would be killed as an atonement for sin.
If this had been the traditional Jewish belief all along, it certainly came as a shock to the Jewish followers of Jesus. When the Nazerene told his followers that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer…Peter protests, “G-D forbid it lord, this shall never happen to you.” (Mat. 16:22) Peter didn’t joyfully exclaim: Praise G- D, you are the suffering servant of Isaiah 53! The Disciples never knew that the Messiah was supposed to suffer – (Mat. 17:23, Lk. 18:34, Jn. 20:9)
Jesus’ enemies, such as Herod (Mat. 2) certainly didn’t think that the Messiah was supposed to be killed – otherwise why help his cause by trying to kill him!?
In reality, the Jewish people expected the Messiah to rule as king over a restored Israel in an age of universal peace and belief. (Acts 1:6, Jer. 23:5- 6, Isaiah 11:1-9, 2:1-4, Ezekiel 37:21- 28…) This had always been the Jewish understanding of Messiah, and Isaiah 53 was understood as referring to the Jewish people all along. It’s not an idea invented by Rashi in the Middle Ages. The church father Origen reports that this was the Jewish understanding in his time, hundreds of years before Rashi. (Contra Celsum)
Actually, there are ancient sources that have explicit reference to a supernatural, virgin-born savior, who dies by murder to achieve salvation for believers who can experience him by eating of his blood and body…You can read all about it in the mythologies about Mithra, Osiris, Krishna, Tammuz, Adonis, Dionysus, Bacchus, Isis, etc.
Those Christians who desperately ransacked the Talmud to find support for their preconceived ideas are not students of the Talmud with any interest in the actual teachings of Rabbinic Judaism. They merely use the Talmud like a drunk uses a lamp post – not for illumination, but for support.
One by one, the Old Testament prophecies allegedly forecasting the life of Jesus have been shown to be referring to people and events before the time of Jesus. The connection between the Old and New Testament is continuing to erode and Christianity is starting to look like a branch without a tree.
(2042) Fetal rapture
Many Christian Protestant and evangelical denominations believe that Jesus’ second visit to our planet will entail a rapture, or gathering, of his faithful followers, transporting them instantly off of the earth and into a heavenly realm. This idea is fueled by the following scripture as well as others:
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
At the instant this happens, there will likely be millions of pregnant women who will have met the requirements to be included in this event. What will happen with their pregnancies? Surely, the fetuses will not be killed, so it must be assumed that the women will give birth in heaven and that these babies will never see or experience the terrestrial world. Yet, because they were born in heaven, by default they will be granted citizenship there, and they will spend eternity in the only place they will ever know.
Now God supposedly knows how things will turn out. Suppose he decided to wait an extra 25 years before doing the second coming. Those fetuses would then comprise millions of 24-year olds, full of university learning and free thinking, meaning that many if not most of them would be bound for hell.
So, understand how arbitrary this is- go now, and all of these millions of fetuses will be born into eternal heavenly glory. Wait 25 years and over half of them will go to hell. The entire rapture concept is a travesty of logic.
(2043) Jesus and Joseph Smith false prophecy
Christians dismiss Joseph Smith and his Mormon Church as being a fraudulent extension of the Christian faith, but they are probably unaware of an embarrassing parallel between Smith and Jesus. They both uttered false prophecies using the same words and under similar circumstances. The following was taken from:
On 20 July 1831 Joseph Smith recorded a “revelation” identifying Independence, Missouri, as “the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse” (Doctrines and Covenants 57:3). The following year, Smith further proclaimed:
[T]he word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem. Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased. Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation. For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house (DC 84:2-5)
Needless to say, this didn’t happen.
Jesus used the very same terminology in Mat. 24:34: “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled”
There is a double standard of interpretation that Christian critics use against Joseph Smith, since Jesus used the very same language in comparable circumstances. Matthew depicts Jesus as saying making a specific time-bound prophesy; Luke 21:32 repeats it. “These things” are commonly understood to refer to various signs of the End Times: wars, famines, the sun being darkened, and even the “stars falling from heaven” (Matt. 24:29, see also Rev. 6:13). Some of “these things” allegedly occurred during Jesus’ life. Some have allegedly happened after. Some have not occurred yet.
So we must ask, since Joseph Smith is charged by Christians with false prophecy concerning “this generation,” did Jesus also utter a false prophecy? Absolutely! If Joseph Smith uttered a false prophecy about “this generation,” then so did Jesus. It has been many centuries longer from the time of Jesus until now, than it has been from the 1830’s till today. All those who heard his prophecy died nearly 2,000 years ago.
Just as you reject Joseph Smith’s claims of prophesy as false, so too you must reject Jesus’ own claims!
It is probable that Smith copied the generational vow of Jesus, perhaps subconsciously unaware that he was utilizing the linguistics of a dead prophecy to legitimize his own soon-to-be realized false prophecy. For a Christian to reject one and not the other is like playing tennis without the net.
(2044) God the dominator, Christians the submissives
Christianity has much in common with the kinky world of dominator and submissive cults where people take pleasure in submitting to a strict authority, which itself enjoys the role of dominating another human. It needs to be asked if a real god would employ this objectionable tactic. The following was taken from:
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
— John 15:14
Anyone who embraces the above scripture as the central theme to their relationship with a god must be a submissive at heart. The kind of friendship described in the verse has never appealed to me, but then I have a fairly dominate personality.
They say the world can be divided into cat lovers and dog lovers, beer drinkers and wine drinkers or dominants and submissives.
Strictly speaking, we probably all fall somewhere on the spectrum in all three categories, but it’s long been apparent to me that there are plenty of people who prefer to dominate in a relationship and they tend to attract those who want to submit. I am told that in the world of the dominatrix, a lifestyle that is largely kept underground but has many loyal participants, there’s a tiny itch that must be scratched both by the submissive and the dominate personalities. Some people actually derive pleasure from submitting to the forceful will of a dominatrix. And, the dominant person does indeed derive equal pleasure from controlling, sometimes even inflicting a little pain.
The drive to create a god that apparently needs as many friends as he can get but only as long as they let him do whatever he pleases to them doesn’t take into account that there are many people who will never thrive in such a relationship.
The powers given to this god, however, far exceed that of any domineering human being. The scriptures say ye must do whatsoever I command you. That means anything. Anything! In the case of Abraham that meant being willing to kill his own son because god told him to do so. The god of the Bible certainly didn’t hesitate to demand some very harsh things of his friends. Jesus was pretty darn exacting as well. Sell everything that you own, give it to the poor and follow me. That kind of devotion is unprecedented. Want to really test a friendship? Ask your friend to give you their money.
The sacrifices that humans have reportedly made in order to submit their gods are endless.
It has even been rumored that some priests and monks self-castrated with the hope of pleasing god. Their desire to submit to his will far exceeded their desire to copulate. To be willing to do anything to please someone else in order to keep them in your life is what we now refer to as a codependent relationship. It’s not considered healthy by psychologists and is extremely difficult to terminate. Two people become so utterly enmeshed that boundaries no longer exist between where one person ends and the other begins. To reestablish a sense of independence and personal autonomy is almost impossible no matter how devastating the relationship. Yet, that’s the grounds upon which god’s friendship is offered.
Submission to a god is in a category of its own.
The encounters between a dominatrix and a submissive involve two consenting adults. Submitting to the will of god, however, leaves no room for personal preferences, new ideas, bartering (although many try through prayer), negotiating and no promise of reciprocation. It’s an all-encompassing deal, a one-sided friendship where god gets his way and his friends comply or else they’ll be punished. How will they be punished? They’ll be cut off from god forever. He won’t be their friend any longer. It’s either his way or the highway. If you refuse the deal, you’re doomed.
That’s coercion, plain and simple.
We see this same unexplainable behavior in humans when they choose an authoritarian leader over a democratic leader. Currently, the western world is flirting with fascism again, even in countries where some of the citizens can remember living under a dictator in the not-so-distant past. I suppose I need to consult my psychology books to find an explanation for this strange behavior on the part of human beings, but there you have it. Some humans crave submission. They actually feel safer with a dictator. There’s a need in many to have someone else take care of them, to turn the responsibility for solving problems over to an authority figure. They don’t even require that it be a benevolent dictator. Taking responsibility for their own lives is too daunting.
We can imagine that a god of reality would do things much differently, not demanding adherence to numerous and minute rules most of which have no effect on the welfare of the person, the society, or the planet. Such a god would most likely expect nothing much beyond the golden rule, to simply be nice and live life for the common good- not prescribing circumcision, banning foods, demanding worship, or sacrificing earthly goods. No, but a god manufactured by humans would likely be cast as a dominator, such as to be effective at controlling people and their money. Such is the fictional being we call Yahweh.
(2045) Moses makes God change his mind
In one of the most improbable stories of the Bible, God gets angry and decides to decimate his people for not doing his bidding, but Moses talks him down and he changes his mind:
“I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”
But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’ So the LORD changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.
This fictional story was made even more absurd by suggesting that God was concerned about what the Egyptians might think of him if he carried out his homicidal urges. This is the god that Christians worship, but it is unlikely that many Christians are even aware of this ridiculous fable, a story in which a mortal human shows better judgment than the almighty creator of the universe.
(2046) Did God change or did he deceive?
It is one thing for Christians to say that God established a New Covenant that superseded the Old Covenant, allowing for the somewhat unusual though not totally implausible idea that God changed his mind about how he wanted to interact with humans. But it is altogether another thing to say that God changed his very essence. That is- after being a unity God, he suddenly split himself into three persons.
If God was a trinity of persons all along, how likely is it that he hid this characteristic of himself for hundreds of years from his chosen people? And if he wasn’t a trinity of persons up until the time of Jesus, how likely is it that he split himself into three parts at that time? Neither scenario makes any sense.
Christianity suffers from its total dependence on Judaism as its foundation. If this god is real, he doesn’t change and also he doesn’t deceive, but Christians must concede one of those two options- either he did change or else he did deceive (and continues to deceive) the Jews. It would have been far better for Christianity to have immediately divorced itself from Judaism and proclaimed itself as an independent faith, with Jesus announcing that Judaism was fake and that he was the ‘real’ god. This would have jettisoned the Old Testament and all of the baggage contained therein that weighs Christianity down theologically, scientifically, ethically, and morally.
(2047) ‘Convenient’ defenses of Christianity
Christians often employ convenient defenses of Christianity to patch logic holes in their belief system. When viewed en masse it leaves the impression that they are on a leaky boat trying to patch it with bubble gum. The excuses become embarrassingly thin. The following was taken from:
Here are just a few of the convenient facts about Christianity:
- God could make himself known to each of us directly, but conveniently this would somehow violate our free will.
- Jesus rose from the dead and stuck around for 40 more days, but conveniently his followers were the only ones who could see him.
- Jesus turned water to wine, walked on water, fed a group of 5000, and resurrected a dead man, but conveniently none of that stuff happens today in the age of scientific investigation.
- Jesus promised that whatever you ask for in his name will be granted to you, but conveniently it also has to be something God wants too.
- God could put an end to all the unnecessary suffering in the world, but conveniently he’s waiting till the end of time to do that.
- Jesus promised he would return “soon” and it’s been 2000 years since then, but conveniently he meant “soon” in God’s timing, so that could mean thousands of more years.
- God could communicate his will perfectly such that virtually none of us would misunderstand him, but conveniently he chose ancient texts written by fallible men in languages most of us can’t read.
These facts are all suspiciously convenient and make Christianity highly untenable as a proposition.
Belief in Christianity requires one of two things- either detach from critical thinking, or construct a series of acrobatic defenses. As seen above, when viewed together, these defenses evaporate and become laughably impotent. Christianity claims the existence of a world that doesn’t exist.
(2048) John’s gospel separated Christianity from Judaism
The synoptic gospels, Mark, Matthew, and Luke, each maintain at least a tangible link to Judaism, making Jesus’ followers out to be still within the Jewish faith, though admittedly on a slightly different tangent. In contrast, the Gospel of John, written at least a decade later, forcefully severed this connection, moving the Jesus movement onto the rebellious path of forming a new and separate religion. The following was taken from:
The symbolism of John’s gospel while it is probably the most evocative of any in the New Testament, is also provocative. The language of John’s gospel is intentionally antagonistic at times toward Jewish tradition and toward Jewish sensitivities. The idea of the Passover of course is very Jewish but John tends to turn some of those ideas in a much sharper way against Jewish tradition. At one point in John 6 Jesus says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you will have no life in you.” But the idea of drinking blood is absolutely abhorrent to Jewish dietary regulations. So the very language and the symbolism that is so rich within John’s gospel also has a decidedly political tone to it in terms of the evolving relationship between Jews and Christians. John’s gospel is witness to a Christianity that’s moving farther and farther away from Jewish tradition. And in fact it’s seeing Jewish tradition often as actually hostile to the Christian movement.
Hostility to the Jews is seen throughout the Gospel of John. It is likely that if this gospel had been left out of the canon, which in reality it should have been because of its glaring inconsistencies with the other three gospels, then Christianity would have taken a much different trajectory. It would have been less anti-Semitic and most likely would not have elevated Jesus to godhood nor invented the Trinity. In other words, it would have remained theologically more Jewish, while simply adding an extra prophet and re-interpreting and softening some of the commandments of the Torah. Almost certainly, the tribulations of the Jewish people over the past two millennia would have been less severe.
(2049) Eyeglasses were not yet invented
It is hard to imagine what life was like during biblical times for people whose eyesight became distorted by near or far-sightedness or astigmatism. There were no eyeglasses available for correction. The following was taken from:
The first wearable glasses known to history appeared in Italy during the 13th century. Primitive glass-blown lenses were set into wooden or leather frames (or occasionally, frames made from animal horn) and then held before the face or perched on the nose. Mostly used by monks, these grew in popularity and the technology improved through the Renaissance.
The lack of good vision could explain how beliefs in mystical beings or other paranormal phenomena could have originated in biblical times. It also suggests the high probability that scribes copying sacred texts could have made numerous mistakes after their near vision deteriorated. So, not only is the verity of biblical claims compromised by the lack of cameras or other recording equipment, but also because of the uncorrected eyesight that afflicted many if not most people of that time.
(2050) Will Jesus separate a mother from her children?
In 2018, a controversy developed in the United States over a policy of separating asylum-seeking parents from their children at the Southern border. It was seen by the majority as being immoral. But within the general guidelines of Christianity, it seems like something similar is inevitable. Consider the following scenario.
A 24 year-old 7-month pregnant woman is driving in a car with her two children, ages 4 and 2. She is an atheist. The car hits a truck head on and all are killed. How will Jesus handle this situation?
By most accounts, the mother will be sent to hell to be punished for eternity. But what about the children and the fetus/child? Do they also get sent to hell to be with their mother, or do they get an automatic ticket to heaven? Or, alternately, does the mother get a defaulted ticket to heaven because of her children?
As can be seen, there is no logical way to handle this situation. Either the mother is separated for all eternity from her children or someone is sent to either heaven or hell in violation of the generally accepted rules of the faith.
This exposes what is called a boundary condition violation, an example that reveals a situation that causes a theory to fail. The heaven/hell dichotomy doesn’t work within the framework of a compassionate religion, at least, considering this scenario, when the children are infants. The men who invented hell did not think this one through.
Follow this link to #2051