The Historicity of Jesus

On a recent blog post, conversation turned toward the reliability of the New Testament, and more specifically, how much evidence we have for whether or not Jesus ever existed. Instead of continuing the discussion there (since it had already broken the 500th comment mark and this would have taken the conversation in a different direction), I thought it might be a good idea to do it here. Makes it easier for other people to find.

So without further ado, here are the three main comments that kicked it off. Feel free to add additional comments below.

UnkleE:

Hi kcchief1, it’s impossible ion a blog comment to do justice you your question, so I’ll give you a few quotes and some references.

EP Sanders, possibly the most respected NT scholar of the last few decades:

“Historical reconstruction is never absolutely certain, and in the case of Jesus it is sometimes highly uncertain. Despite this, we have a good idea of the main lines of his ministry and his message. We know who he was, what he did, what he taught, and why he died. ….. the dominant view [among scholars] today seems to be that we can know pretty well what Jesus was out to accomplish, that we can know a lot about what he said, and that those two things make sense within the world of first-century Judaism.”
(from The Historical Figure of Jesus, p281)

“I shall first offer a list of statements about Jesus that meet two standards: they are almost beyond dispute; and they belong to the framework of his life, and especially of his public career. (A list of everything that we know about Jesus would be appreciably longer.)

Jesus was born c 4 BCE near the time of the death of Herod the Great;
he spent his childhood and early adult years in Nazareth, a Galilean village;
he was baptised by John the Baptist;
he called disciples;
he taught in the towns, villages and countryside of Galilee (apparently not the cities);
he preached ‘the kingdom of God’;
about the year 30 he went to Jerusalem for Passover;
he created a disturbance in the Temple area;
he had a final meal with the disciples;
he was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, specifically the high priest;
he was executed on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate.”

(from The Historical Figure of Jesus, p10-11)

“I think we can be fairly certain that initially Jesus’ fame came as a result of healing, especially exorcism.”
(from The Historical Figure of Jesus, p154)

Maurice Casey:

“[Mark’s] sources, though abbreviated, were literally accurate accounts of incidents and sayings from the life and teaching of Jesus. …. The completed Gospels of Matthew and Luke are also important sources for the life and teachings of Jesus ….Some of his [Matthew’s] special material … shows every sign of being authentic material literally and accurately translated from Aramaic sources.”
(from Jesus of Nazareth, p 97-99)

Classical historian, Michael Grant:

“The consistency, therefore, of the tradition in their [the Gospels’] pages suggests that the picture they present is largely authentic.”
(From Jesus: an historian’s review of the gospels, p 202)

Craig Evans:

“the persistent trend in recent years is to see the Gospels as essentially reliable, especially when properly understood, and to view the historical Jesus in terms much closer to Christianity’s traditional understanding, i.e., as the proclaimer of God’s rule, as understanding himself as the Lord’s anointed, and, indeed, as God’s own son, destined to rule Israel.”
(from http://craigaevans.com/Third_Quest.rev.pdf)

John A.T. Robinson:

“The wealth of manuscripts, and above all the narrow interval of time between the writing and the earliest extant copies, make it by far the best attested text of any ancient writing in the world.”
(From Can we Trust the New Testament?, p36)

You can find more quotes on Jesus in history, <a href="http://www.is-there-a-god.info/belief/nthistory.shtml"Are the gospels historical.

Note that both Evans & Sanders claim to be reporting the view of the majority of scholars.

I don’t think archaeology can help much because it can throw light on places, but not much on the text. But the much-maligned John’s gospel has been found by archaeology to report accurately several locations that were destroyed long before it was written – see Archaeology and John’s gospel.

So that’s as much as I should write here. Please check out the references for more.


kcchief1:

unkleE, you can always find Scholars to support your claims. That doesn’t mean they are right. Here are just a few Scholars who don’t agree with your Scholars. If your evidence was conclusive, why this disagreement amongst Scholars. Also when you tour Jerusalem the most common statement your Tour guide will make before he talks about a Holy Site or Holy person is the famous, ” Tradition tells us” NOT “History tells us” I was recently in the ancient city of Ephesus and someone from my group asked the local guide why he kept using the phrase,”Tradition tells us Paul preached here …isn’t there archaeological evidence for this?” The guide said ,”It’s your story not ours” I have no proof there wasn’t a Jesus any more than you have proof there was. I agree that much of the NT is historical in as much as certain cities, villages, and government official’s names are true. But you can’t boldly proclaim there is historical evidence for the main character, Jesus.

Oh not that it really matters because it proves nothing either but here are scholars who question the historicity of Jesus and/or the NT.

When the Church mythologists established their system, they collected all the writings they could find and managed them as they pleased. It is a matter altogether of uncertainty to us whether such of the writings as now appear under the name of the Old and New Testaments are in the same state in which those collectors say they found them, or whether they added, altered, abridged or dressed them up.

-Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)

The world has been for a long time engaged in writing lives of Jesus… The library of such books has grown since then. But when we come to examine them, one startling fact confronts us: all of these books relate to a personage concerning whom there does not exist a single scrap of contemporary information — not one! By accepted tradition he was born in the reign of Augustus, the great literary age of the nation of which he was a subject. In the Augustan age historians flourished; poets, orators, critics and travelers abounded. Yet not one mentions the name of Jesus Christ, much less any incident in his life.

-Moncure D. Conway [1832 – 1907] (Modern Thought)

It is only in comparatively modern times that the possibility was considered that Jesus does not belong to history at all.

-J.M. Robertson (Pagan Christs)

Many people– then and now– have assumed that these letters [of Paul] are genuine, and five of them were in fact incorporated into the New Testament as “letters of Paul.” Even today, scholars dispute which are authentic and which are not. Most scholars, however, agree that Paul actually wrote only eight of the thirteen “Pauline” letters now included in the New Testament. collection: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Virtually all scholars agree that Paul himself did not write 1 or 2 Timothy or Titus– letters written in a style different from Paul’s and reflecting situations and viewpoints in a style different from those in Paul’s own letters. About the authorship of Ephesias, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians, debate continues; but the majority of scholars include these, too, among the “deutero-Pauline”– literally, secondarily Pauline– letters.”

-Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, (Adam, Eve, and the Serpent)

We know virtually nothing about the persons who wrote the gospels we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

-Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, (The Gnostic Gospels)

Some hoped to penetrate the various accounts and to discover the “historical Jesus”. . . and that sorting out “authentic” material in the gospels was virtually impossible in the absence of independent evidence.”

-Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University

The gospels are so anonymous that their titles, all second-century guesses, are all four wrong.

-Randel McCraw Helms (Who Wrote the Gospels?)

Far from being an intimate of an intimate of Jesus, Mark wrote at the forth remove from Jesus.

-Randel McCraw Helms (Who Wrote the Gospels?)

Mark himself clearly did not know any eyewitnesses of Jesus.

-Randel McCraw Helms (Who Wrote the Gospels?)

All four gospels are anonymous texts. The familiar attributions of the Gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John come from the mid-second century and later and we have no good historical reason to accept these attributions.

-Steve Mason, professor of classics, history and religious studies at York University in Toronto (Bible Review, Feb. 2000, p. 36)

The question must also be raised as to whether we have the actual words of Jesus in any Gospel.

-Bishop John Shelby Spong

But even if it could be proved that John’s Gospel had been the first of the four to be written down, there would still be considerable confusion as to who “John” was. For the various styles of the New Testament texts ascribed to John- The Gospel, the letters, and the Book of Revelations– are each so different in their style that it is extremely unlikely that they had been written by one person.

-John Romer, archeologist & Bible scholar (Testament)

It was not until the third century that Jesus’ cross of execution became a common symbol of the Christian faith.

-John Romer, archeologist & Bible scholar (Testament)

What one believes and what one can demonstrate historically are usually two different things.

-Robert J. Miller, Bible scholar, (Bible Review, December 1993, Vol. IX, Number 6, p. 9)

When it comes to the historical question about the Gospels, I adopt a mediating position– that is, these are religious records, close to the sources, but they are not in accordance with modern historiographic requirements or professional standards.

-David Noel Freedman, Bible scholar and general editor of the Anchor Bible series (Bible Review, December 1993, Vol. IX, Number 6, p.34)

Paul did not write the letters to Timothy to Titus or several others published under his name; and it is unlikely that the apostles Matthew, James, Jude, Peter and John had anything to do with the canonical books ascribed to them.

-Michael D. Coogan, Professor of religious studies at Stonehill College (Bible Review, June 1994)

A generation after Jesus’ death, when the Gospels were written, the Romans had destroyed the Jerusalem Temple (in 70 C.E.); the most influential centers of Christianity were cities of the Mediterranean world such as Alexandria, Antioch, Corinth, Damascus, Ephesus and Rome. Although large number of Jews were also followers of Jesus, non-Jews came to predominate in the early Church. They controlled how the Gospels were written after 70 C.E.

-Bruce Chilton, Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College (Bible Review, Dec. 1994, p. 37)

James Dunn says that the Sermon on the Mount, mentioned only by Matthew, “is in fact not historical.”

How historical can the Gospels be? Are Murphy-O-Conner’s speculations concerning Jesus’ baptism by John simply wrong-headed? How can we really know if the baptism, or any other event written about in the Gospels, is historical?

-Daniel P. Sullivan (Bible Review, June 1996, Vol. XII, Number 3, p. 5)

David Friedrich Strauss (The Life of Jesus, 1836), had argued that the Gospels could not be read as straightforward accounts of what Jesus actually did and said; rather, the evangelists and later redactors and commentators, influenced by their religious beliefs, had made use of myths and legends that rendered the gospel narratives, and traditional accounts of Jesus’ life, unreliable as sources of historical information.

-Bible Review, October 1996, Vol. XII, Number 5, p. 39

The Gospel authors were Jews writing within the midrashic tradition and intended their stories to be read as interpretive narratives, not historical accounts.

-Bishop Shelby Spong, Liberating the Gospels

Other scholars have concluded that the Bible is the product of a purely human endeavor, that the identity of the authors is forever lost and that their work has been largely obliterated by centuries of translation and editing.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “Who Wrote the Bible,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

Yet today, there are few Biblical scholars– from liberal skeptics to conservative evangelicals- who believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John actually wrote the Gospels. Nowhere do the writers of the texts identify themselves by name or claim unambiguously to have known or traveled with Jesus.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The Four Gospels,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

Once written, many experts believe, the Gospels were redacted, or edited, repeatedly as they were copied and circulated among church elders during the last first and early second centuries.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The Four Gospels,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

The tradition attributing the fourth Gospel to the Apostle John, the son of Zebedee, is first noted by Irenaeus in A.D. 180. It is a tradition based largely on what some view as the writer’s reference to himself as “the beloved disciple” and “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Current objection to John’s authorship are based largely on modern textural analyses that strongly suggest the fourth Gospel was the work of several hands, probably followers of an elderly teacher in Asia Minor named John who claimed as a young man to have been a disciple of Jesus.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The Four Gospels,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

Some scholars say so many revisions occurred in the 100 years following Jesus’ death that no one can be absolutely sure of the accuracy or authenticity of the Gospels, especially of the words the authors attributed to Jesus himself.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The catholic papers,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

Three letters that Paul allegedly wrote to his friends and former co-workers Timothy and Titus are now widely disputed as having come from Paul’s hand.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The catholic papers,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

The Epistle of James is a practical book, light on theology and full of advice on ethical behavior. Even so, its place in the Bible has been challenged repeatedly over the years. It is generally believed to have been written near the end of the first century to Jewish Christians. . . but scholars are unable conclusively to identify the writer.

Five men named James appear in the New Testament: the brother of Jesus, the son of Zebedee, the son of Alphaeus, “James the younger” and the father of the Apostle Jude.

Little is known of the last three, and since the son of Zebedee was martyred in A.D. 44, tradition has leaned toward the brother of Jesus. However, the writer never claims to be Jesus’ brother. And scholars find the language too erudite for a simple Palestinian. This letter is also disputed on theological grounds. Martin Luther called it “an epistle of straw” that did not belong in the Bible because it seemed to contradict Paul’s teachings that salvation comes by faith as a “gift of God”– not by good works.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The catholic papers,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

The origins of the three letters of John are also far from certain.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The catholic papers,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

Christian tradition has held that the Apostle Peter wrote the first [letter], probably in Rome shortly before his martyrdom about A.D. 65. However, some modern scholars cite the epistle’s cultivated language and its references to persecutions that did not occur until the reign of Domitian (A.D. 81-96) as evidence that it was actually written by Peter’s disciples sometime later.

Second Peter has suffered even harsher scrutiny. Many scholars consider it the latest of all New Testament books, written around A.D. 125. The letter was never mentioned in second-century writings and was excluded from some church canons into the fifth century. “This letter cannot have been written by Peter,” wrote Werner Kummel, a Heidelberg University scholar, in his highly regarded Introduction to the New Testament.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The catholic papers,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

The letter of Jude also is considered too late to have been written by the attested author– “the brother of James” and, thus, of Jesus. The letter, believed written early in the second century.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The catholic papers,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

According to the declaration of the Second Vatican Council, a faithful account of the actions and words of Jesus is to be found in the Gospels; but it is impossible to reconcile this with the existence in the text of contradictions, improbabilities, things which are materially impossible or statements which run contrary to firmly established reality.

-Maurice Bucaille (The Bible, the Quran, and Science)

The bottom line is we really don’t know for sure who wrote the Gospels.

-Jerome Neyrey, of the Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, Mass. in “The Four Gospels,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

Most scholars have come to acknowledge, was done not by the Apostles but by their anonymous followers (or their followers’ followers). Each presented a somewhat different picture of Jesus’ life. The earliest appeared to have been written some 40 years after his Crucifixion.

-David Van Biema, “The Gospel Truth?” (Time, April 8, 1996)

So unreliable were the Gospel accounts that “we can now know almost nothing concerning the life and personality of Jesus.”

-Rudolf Bultmann, University of Marburg, the foremost Protestant scholar in the field in 1926

The Synoptic Gospels employ techniques that we today associate with fiction.

-Paul Q. Beeching, Central Connecticut State University (Bible Review, June 1997, Vol. XIII, Number 3, p. 43)

Josephus says that he himself witnessed a certain Eleazar casting out demons by a method of exorcism that had been given to Solomon by God himself– while Vespasian watched! In the same work, Josephus tells the story of a rainmaker, Onias (14.2.1).

-Paul Q. Beeching, Central Connecticut State University (Bible Review, June 1997, Vol. XIII, Number 3, p. 43)

For Mark’s gospel to work, for instance, you must believe that Isaiah 40:3 (quoted, in a slightly distorted form, in Mark 1:2-3) correctly predicted that a stranger named John would come out of the desert to prepare the way for Jesus. It will then come as something of a surprise to learn in the first chapter of Luke that John is a near relative, well known to Jesus’ family.

-Paul Q. Beeching, Central Connecticut State University (Bible Review, June 1997, Vol. XIII, Number 3, p. 43)

The narrative conventions and world outlook of the gospel prohibit our using it as a historical record of that year.

-Paul Q. Beeching, Central Connecticut State University (Bible Review, June 1997, Vol. XIII, Number 3, p. 54)

Jesus is a mythical figure in the tradition of pagan mythology and almost nothing in all of ancient literature would lead one to believe otherwise. Anyone wanting to believe Jesus lived and walked as a real live human being must do so despite the evidence, not because of it.

-C. Dennis McKinsey, Bible critic (The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy)

The gospels are very peculiar types of literature. They’re not biographies.

-Paula Fredriksen, Professor and historian of early Christianity, Boston University (in the PBS documentary, From Jesus to Christ, aired in 1998)

The gospels are not eyewitness accounts

-Allen D. Callahan, Associate Professor of New Testament, Harvard Divinity School

We are led to conclude that, in Paul’s past, there was no historical Jesus. Rather, the activities of the Son about which God’s gospel in scripture told, as interpreted by Paul, had taken place in the spiritual realm and were accessible only through revelation.

-Earl Doherty, “The Jesus Puzzle,” p.83

Before the Gospels were adopted as history, no record exists that he was ever in the city of Jerusalem at all– or anywhere else on earth.

-Earl Doherty, “The Jesus Puzzle,” p.141

Even if there was a historical Jesus lying back of the gospel Christ, he can never be recovered. If there ever was a historical Jesus, there isn’t one any more. All attempts to recover him turn out to be just modern remythologizings of Jesus. Every “historical Jesus” is a Christ of faith, of somebody’s faith. So the “historical Jesus” of modern scholarship is no less a fiction.

-Robert M. Price, “Jesus: Fact or Fiction, A Dialogue With Dr. Robert Price and Rev. John Rankin,” Opening Statement

It is important to recognize the obvious: The gospel story of Jesus is itself apparently mythic from first to last.”

-Robert M. Price, professor of biblical criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute (Deconstructing Jesus, p. 260)


kcchief1:

unkleE, I could have shortened my last post by 90% by simply providing one Scholar whose reputation speaks for himself. Geza Vermes

Géza Vermes or Vermès (Hungarian: [ˈɡeːzɒ ˈvɛrmɛʃ], 22 June 1924 – 8 May 2013) was a British scholar of Jewish Hungarian origin—one who also served as a Catholic priest in his youth—and writer on religious history, particularly Jewish and Christian. He was a noted authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls and ancient works in Aramaic such as the Targums, and on the life and religion of Jesus. He was one of the most important voices in contemporary Jesus research,[1] and he has been described as the greatest Jesus scholar of his time.[2] Vermes’ written work on Jesus focuses principally on Jesus the Jew, as seen in the broader context of the narrative scope of Jewish history and theology, while questioning the basis of some Christian teachings on Jesus.[3]

Geza Vermes on the Resurrection

Vermes contends that neither the empty tomb or resurrection appearances satisfy the “minimum requirements of a legal or scientific inquiry. The only alternative historians are left with in their effort to make some sense of the Resurrection is to fall back on speculation…”(141) This speculation requires the dismissal of “two extreme” theories – (1) the “blind faith of the fundamentalist” who accept the bodily resurrection and (2) the “unbelievers” who “treat the whole Resurrection story as the figment of early Christian imagination.” (141) So what are the alternatives between this spectrum?

1. The Body was Removed by Someone Unconnected with Jesus
The emptiness of the tomb was genuine, but there are a number of reasons aside from Mark 16:6. The swift nature of the burial in a tomb “obviously prepared for someone else” is explained that someone – possibly the gardener (Jn 20:15) – “took the first opportunity to move the body of Jesus to another available tomb.” (142) It was this innocent transfer of the body that later developed into the “legend of the Resurrection.” (143) Vermes notes that this is itself problematic – those who organised the burial were well known and could have explained this.

2. The Body of Jesus was Stolen by His Disciples
Those familiar with the narrative in Matthew will recognise this hypothesis as a current polemic against the empty tomb tradition (Matt 28:15). Vermes points out that this theory “presupposes that a fraudulent prophecy concerning Jesus’ rising from the dead was widely known among Palestinian Jews.” (143) Evidently, this is a “later Jewish gossip” circulating the time the evangelist was writing and its value for the Resurrection is “next to nil”.

3. The Empty Tomb was not the Tomb of Jesus
Drawing on the fact that the witness of women was not very convincing, the disciples who investigated the report of the empty tomb (Luke 24:11) may have suspected the women had “gone to the wrong tomb.” The disciples may have simply been mistaken, and the resurrection appearances that soon followed “rendered such an inquiry [as to the location of the tomb] superfluous.” (144)

4. Buried Alive, Jesus Later Left the Tomb
This is self-explanatory, and is elaborately forwarded by Barbara Thiering. Josephus’ Life 420 evidences crucifixion victims surviving. The theory is that Jesus was on the cross for such a short time that he was not dead when Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body. John’s mention of the spear in the side was an apologetic to dispel these sort of doubts. (John 19:34) However, I would argue that John’s mention, if invention, would have more to do with suffering servant styled prophecy fulfilled. Vermes sees this as implausible – a “semiconscious Jesus crept out of the tomb in the darkness of night…” (145)

5. The Migrant Jesus
A belief evident in contemporary Ahmadiyya Islam which believes Jesus was revived and eventually died in Kashmir, India. Others such as Thiering believe that Jesus wandered off to Rome where he died. Vermes concludes “In the absence of real ancient evidence, these modern musings need not retain us.”(146) By real evidence, he is of course referring to Thiering’s discovery by using “Pesher” to find whatever she wants in whatever document. For a brief review of pesher see my earlier post.

6. Do the appearances suggest spiritual, not bodily, resurrection?
Visions of the risen Jesus are abundant in the Christian sources (with a notable exception being the shorter ending of Mark.) These visions are separated into 4 categories:
1. “In Matthew no concrete details are given”
2. John/Luke – unknown man such as the gardener and travel are later recognised as Jesus
3. Luke/John – “a spirit mysteriously enters the apostles’ residence despite the locked doors”
4. “The ghost later becomes a stranger with flesh and bones, who says he is Jesus and invited the apostles to touch him, and eat with him.” (146)
As the evangelists do not mention appearances to people outside the circle of his close followers Vermes takes these to imply that the Resurrection was not meant to be an extension of public ministry. In essence, the “Resurrection becomes a purely spiritual concept without requiring any accompanying physical reality.” (147) The idea of spiritual resurrection accounts for the visions, but the Jewish bond of body and spirit spurred the empty tomb and physicality of the body in John and Luke. In appealing to the mystic tradition, Vermes contends that this view is no different from crosscultural experiences. [I didn’t explain this option best although in my defence neither does Vermes.]

Conclusions
Vermes really does come to something quite unsatisfying – “All in all, none of the six suggested theories stands up to stringent scrutiny.”

Geza Vermes on the Nativity
‘The nature of the birth stories and the many fabulous features incorporated in them, angels, dreams, virginal conception, miraculous star,’ bring Dr Vermes to the view that the Infancy Gospels are ‘not the stuff out of which history is made’.

Thank you for your time

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163 thoughts on “The Historicity of Jesus”

  1. I found a few of Lee Stroebel’s books to be good arguments against some of the common arguments against the historicity of Jesus. Not conclusive, but a good rebuttal. Just in case anybody is looking for the other side of the argument, Cliff Notes style.

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  2. Fascinating stuff. Thank you for re-posting these comments separately.

    For me, the uncertainty and ambiguity surrounding the gospels (and the Bible as a whole, for that matter) makes me smile a bit: if the gospels *are* The Infallible Truth, God orchestrated their construction and preservation in such a way that there would never be enough certainty about their factuality to negate the necessity of faith. Maddening, yes, and possibly cruel on the part of the Almighty.

    That said, I think the focus on factuality takes away from the truths people can glean from the scriptures: things like the value and power of genuine empathy, the transformative power of love and the importance of humility. *Truth*, I have come to discover, is much larger than *fact*.

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  3. I agree — that was a great comment, Rodalena!

    I have to admit that I sometimes struggle appreciating the truths and beauty that can be found within the Bible. I still feel betrayed by it a lot of times. But I know I need to have a healthier attitude toward it, so thanks for posting that comment. It reminds me that I need to step back sometimes and let it be what it is — not judge it so much for what it isn’t.

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  4. The value of our most enduring stories is in that they can, if we’ll let them, make us better human beings.

    This isn’t to say that facts don’t matter, or that history and archaeology and science aren’t valuable. Instead, it’s to help us see that Jesus, just like King Arthur or Achilles, can teach us things we need to know, even if they never actually existed.

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  5. I think honesty and truth are not always the same things. A person might honestly disbelieve or believe, but their honest position doesn’t mean they are factually right or wrong.

    People are also made up of contradictions and opinions. And truth can be mixed in with opinion and misguided emotions at different times. If there is any truth in something a person has expressed, the other opinions and desires of that same person can distract from this truth.

    In these references, what is the historian’s attitude and what is the fact. The studies of literature and history are not like the study of mathematics 🙂

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  6. Hi kcchief1, you have presented a lot of material. When I first saw it, I thought I would have to agree with Nan that “dueling scholars” would be a waste of time. But as I read and checked the material you presented, I find that it needs to be analysed.

    1. What we are discussing

    We need to be clear about this. I have said that: “But the same isn’t true of the NT. There the scholars are much more in agreement that most of it is pretty good history”

    Note three things I have also made clear:

    1. I don’t suggest the scholars say the NT is without error, or anything like it, just that it is a good basis for history
    2. I’m not suggesting all scholars accept the christian explanation of the historical facts – clearly many do not.
    3. I recognise that there is a wide range of scholars (and an even wider range of non-scholars), from ardent christians to ardent sceptics. The important thing is to avoid the extremes and give greatest weight to the consensus of those with expertise, and that is what I have done.

    2. Your list of quotes

    It’s a mighty long list. I presume you cut and pasted it from Did a historical Jesus exist?? I am not one who criticises cutting and pasting – information is information wherever it comes from – but in this case it has led to some unfortunate results. It is a committed atheist site, and so biased from the start. Have you read any of the authors quoted? Did you read many of the quotes? Did you check the credentials of those quoted? I have done all three, and found some interesting things.

    2.1 Scholars?

    A scholar is someone who (1) has relevant qualifications (PhD in a relevant field), (2) is active in their field, (3) publishes in peer-reviewed journals or reputable publishing houses (not just self-published) and (4) is respected by their peers – or at least most of these. These are the criteria used to identify the credentials of scientists, and it should be the same for NT historical scholars.

    Unfortunately, your list is probably only 50% “scholars”. For example, some of the early quotes are so old than can have no relevance to modern scholarship; Doherty fails most of these criteria and has only a Bachelors degree; Spong is a Bishop and theologian with no special expertise in the NT history field; Sheler is a reporter (though he apparently believes the Bible is “fairly reliable” according to this site, despite your quotes, which is interesting); Helms is an English professor; Romer is an Egyptologist.

    Of course there are some very reputable scholars there too – e.g. Chilton, Pagels, Fredriksen, Vermes and others.

    In contrast, my quotes come from eminent scholars, except for Robinson, who is seen as a NT scholar although not with the same credentials as others.

    2.2 Consensus?

    There is a wide range of scholarly opinion on many matters. Anyone wanting to present a view for others’ consideration needs to show they have read across that range, otherwise their views have been biased before they start. Unfortunately, that is true for this list. I am not familiar with all of them, but the ones I know are very much on the sceptical end of the range. e.g. Doherty and Price are Jesus mythicists, Pagels & Spong are very sceptical. There is no problem quoting the genuine scholars among these, but there is not one scholar I recognised that comes from the other ‘side” to give balance (though there may be some I didn’t recognise or check on).

    In contrast, 3 of the 5 scholars I quoted are non-christians (Casey and Grant would be about in the centre, Sanders slightly on the sceptical side) and one (Robinson) was a very liberal christian somewhat like Spong. Only one (Evans) is an evangelical christian. I do this to give balance to my own thinking as well as to what I present to others.

    2.3 What do the quotes tell us about the matter we are discussing?

    I have briefly scanned through the quotes, so I may have missed something, but which ones actually tell us what the person concludes about whether the gospels are “pretty good history”? I see lots of quotes about problems, lack of known authors, inconsistencies, but most ancient historical documents have problems, and scholars deal with it. I didn’t find any from reputable scholars (apart from Price) that went on to say therefore the gospels weren’t useful in understanding history. The Vermes quotes are about the resurrection, not the gospels as history. If I missed something, please let me know.

    3. Conclusion

    So we have a biased selection of quotes from a biased website, including many non-scholars, and not addressing very strongly the question we are discussing. (If there are any from scholars that I missed, please just re-quote them, so we can discuss them.)

    I still think (1) there is a wide range of opinion, and (2) the consensus of the best scholars is that the Gospels are good historical sources, of course not without their problems. I think the bias and irrelevance of most of your references (is that the best they could do?) supports both of these conclusions rather than throws them into doubt.

    You have said: I am not trying to win a “Battle of the Scholars” here. I’m not trying to even prove I’m right.” I agree with you – I hope we are trying to find the truth. I suggest you won’t find it by cut and pasting from an atheist website, but by doing some serious reading across the whole spectrum of scholarly thinking.

    I am still in this discussion because people keep asking me questions. I haven’t tried to convert anyone. I’ve just answered questions and tried to point out where historical evidence doesn’t support some claims. After a while it gets tedious responding to veiled innuendos and comments about my closed mind, especially when I have shown I am more willing than others to engage with people who think differently to me.

    So can I suggest we make a choice? I see three options for us here. (1) We can decide not to discuss further. (2) You can do some more serious reading across the range of scholarly views and we can continue to discuss. (3) You can continue to use biased sources with little relevance, in which cased I will not be interested in further discussion. I don’t wish to be rude, but life’s too short to continue on with all this stuff without some commitment on both sides to base what we say on the best evidence.

    Best wishes.

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  7. I am enjoying the discussion, fellas. However, when we talk about historical accuracy we are employing a concept that is relative not absolute, at least in the ancient world. In the modern age, we think of historical accuracy as verbatim, objective accuracy, which seems to stem from our use of electronic devices, (voice recorders and computers) writing materials, and a high literacy rate. And this idea of absolute historical accuracy is a sensible approach in the modern age. Although, for the ancients, it is not something that was achievable nor preferable. In antiquity, perhaps five percent of people could read or write and at the best of times the literacy rate might reach ten percent of the population of the ancient world. As a result of the low literacy rate, people operated orally, primarily. In this cultural context, the idea of objective historical accuracy is impossible. Accuracy means something quite different for the ancients, as a result. When you cannot go to the texts to define the accuracy of a tale, saying, or recounting, the idea of accuracy means something else entirely. In my mind, it probably means faithfulness to the Jesus’ tradition, in the case of the early Christians. The ancients relied upon this oral tradition and, in fact, may have preferred it. Written words could be manipulated in any situation and they removed the writer from taking responsibility for them. The ancients, particularly the illiterate, distrusted the written word. Plato didn’t really trust books, preferring instead an oral storyteller. Papias, the church elder upon whom we rely for our earliest information about Christianity, was also suspicious of books. He liked to go straight to the wandering preachers of the oral tradition for his information. So, I am not at all surprised that there is no eyewitness written record about Jesus because people could not write and, if they could write, may be they did not want to write.

    Mark was certainly a part of that ancient world and, as such, was not a historian, at least as we understand historians, but he certainly fit in the category of ancient world biographies. Plutarch’s Lives, for instance, is more along the lines of how most biographies of the ancient world were designed. And, in fact, they are more aretalogies than biographies, which is to say, the author is more concerned with recounting the great deeds of great people; not with the bare facts of that person’s life. It is not historical so much as it is doxological. Mark falls in line with this idea. He writes, in his own words, the good deeds of Jesus Christ not the bare facts of his life. He is more a theologian than a historian, which is not a new or radical postulation. Of course, this has implications for Matthew and Luke because they use Mark as a source. But what this really means is that we have no historical record for Jesus’ life outside of a few details like his origins in Galilee and his death in Jerusalem. However, I should point out that just because Mark’s narrative seems to be filled with creativity and imaginative theology, that does not mean that all of it is rubbish. In fact, I think the Gospel of Thomas, the distinctiveness of certain Synoptic ideas, and sociological and anthropological studies of first century Palestine lend strong historical support to a number of elements within the Gospel tradition.

    The main point is that we need to recognize that we can’t look to the Gospels or any NT writing for that matter with modern eyes. We must realize that objective historical accuracy was of little interest to the Gospel authors and perhaps did not even exist as a concept in the ancient world.

    Regards

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  8. Wow, guys, this just gets better and better!! Thanks Persto and UnkleE for the comments. I’m really enjoying this thread (though I have absolutely nothing to offer to it except thanks). 🙂

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  9. LOL!
    Missed out on a lot, by the looks of it.
    Good old Unkle E.
    Still beating that tired old consensus drum.
    Rather than dissect the minutiae of the NT go read Finklestein and Herzog.
    I’ve been pointing to them for ages,now John Zande has done a super post on Yahweh etc. which renders everything NT pretty much moot.
    A point that has been raised with Unklee on several occasions and which , like all ding bat believers, he deftly sidesteps.

    As Hendrix once sang: ‘And so castles made of sand, drift into the sea….eventually.’

    http://thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/well-this-is-a-little-embarrassing-isnt-it/

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  10. unkleE, I was paying for Interent Time on the airplane when I copied and pasted and I admit, some of the sources I provided were merely Journalists. I simply didn’t have time to remove those. I don’t see why I should eliminate ALL Atheist and Agnostic Scholars any more than I should eliminate any Christian ones. Is Christian Scholarship the only Scholarship that counts??? You don’t think they are biased ? This is why I later said the only one I needed to provide was Geza Vermes. I noticed you didn’t comment on him ? Why ?

    Yes, I have read many of the books published from the list of Scholars I have provided to you. I agree about the bias of many scholars. This is why I try to read from as many Atheist and Agnostic Scholars as I do Christian scholars to see what EVERYONE is saying. Bart Erhman was a Christian Scholar who has now admitted he is Agnostic. Does this make him any less of a Scholar ? Obviously for him the evidence made him draw a different conclusion. I think it could be said of Albert Schweitzer as being a Scholar and yet he said the Historical Jesus probably didn’t exist. Does this make him any less of a Scholar ?

    I think I am done here. Persto says we can’t look at the Gospels or any NT writing with “Modern Eyes” If this is true, then the NT wasn’t meant for modern man at all. The “Masses” are going to Divinity School so they can learn how to properly read the NT.

    I appreciate the time you take to explain your positions although I don’t agree with many of them.

    In the future I will be happy to post when I have something new to say but for now I think I’m done. The Best to you and all who contribute here.

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  11. Ark!, where have you been? In the 500+ comment post, i was forced to imagine your responses… you were missed.

    And that Hendricks quote is one I think often recite in my own head.

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  12. KC,

    I think if you want to be a Christian, then read the Gospels in whatever way suits you. However, if you want to examine the historicity of the Gospels or Jesus, then you cannot proceed in this manner for a whole slew of reasons, some of which I outlined above.

    Regards

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  13. JudahFirst – Listening to The Gods Aren’t Angry. Pretty amazing. I actually like Bell a lot.

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  14. Josh, great! I enjoy his videos and absolutely loved his book “Jesus Wants to Save Christians”. I wasn’t a fan of “Drops Like Stars”, though (the video) and I have not had time to read “What we talk about when we talk about God” yet, but it’s on the list.

    Did you read “Love Wins”? (Please forgive me if you already said … I forget a lot.)

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  15. Yes, I read Love Wins. Excellent book. Finished the video. I’ll definitely be watching it again and taking notes :). Thanks for the tip!

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  16. Josh, you are quite welcome! Now on to “Jesus and the Undoing of Adam”!! 🙂 That’s where you need to land, my friend. “Razing Hell” and “Stricken by God?” are next.

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  17. unkleE, Here is my response to 2 of your comments. I still maintain you tend to diminish whatever evidence I or others may have when it doesn’t measure up to your standards.

    2. Your list of quotes

    “It’s a mighty long list. I presume you cut and pasted it from Did a historical Jesus exist?? I am not one who criticises cutting and pasting – information is information wherever it comes from – but in this case it has led to some unfortunate results. It is a committed atheist site, and so biased from the start. Have you read any of the authors quoted? Did you read many of the quotes? Did you check the credentials of those quoted? I have done all three, and found some interesting things.”

    Even your statement about these sources being listed on a “Committed Atheist Site” caught me totally off guard ! It may be an Atheist Site but what has that got to do with the Sources they used ??? Does that make their sources invalid ?? I checked these sources out too and have listed their credentials. What bothered you so much about them. The fact they weren’t your favorite Christian Apologists ?

    2.1 Scholars?

    “A scholar is someone who (1) has relevant qualifications (PhD in a relevant field), (2) is active in their field, (3) publishes in peer-reviewed journals or reputable publishing houses (not just self-published) and (4) is respected by their peers – or at least most of these. These are the criteria used to identify the credentials of scientists, and it should be the same for NT historical scholars.”

    Again here are the list of Sources I found on the supposed Atheist Website you mentioned. Most of them appear to be qualified to me. Most of them happen to be Christian Scholars too. As you happen to have a habit of doing, I feel here again you have diminished my response and evidence. I’m still waiting for your take on Geza Vermes as well.

    Quotes / Author/ Qualifications
    1 Thomas Paine (Deist)
    1 -Moncure D. Conway (Unitarian Clergyman)
    1 -J.M. Robertson (Most likely Atheist)
    3 -Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University (Nowhere is she stated as an Atheist)
    3 -Randel McCraw Helms (Professor and Critical Author of the Bible) Nowhere does it say he is an Atheist
    1 Steve Mason, professor of classics, history and religious studies at York University in Toronto (Nowhere does it state he is an Atheist)
    1 Bishop John Shelby Spong (Definitely NOT an Atheist)
    2 John Romer, archeologist & Bible scholar (Nowhere does it state he is an Atheist)
    1 Robert J. Miller, (Rosenberger Chair of Christian and Religious Studies at Juniata College in Pennsylvania. A Fellow of the Jesus Seminar since 1986, he was Scholar-in-Residence at Westar Institute in 2001) No evidence that he is an Atheist
    1 David Noel Freedman, Bible scholar and general editor of the Anchor Bible series ordained Presbyterian minister (Hardly an Atheist)
    1 Michael D. Coogan, Professor of religious studies at Stonehill College (Nowhere states he is an Atheist)
    1 Bruce Chilton, Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College (Nowhere stated he is an Atheist)
    1 Daniel P. Sullivan, Author (No where can I find he is an Atheist)
    1 David Friedrich Strauss (German Christian Theologian, not Atheist)
    10 Jeffery L. Sheler (Journalist and possibly an Atheist although I don’t find it stated)
    1 Maurice Bucaille (Not an Atheist but could be an Islamic Sympathizer)
    1 Jerome Neyrey, of the Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, Mass
    1 David Van Biema (Award Winning Journalist)
    1 -Rudolf Bultmann, University of Marburg, the foremost Protestant scholar in the field in 1926
    4 Paul Q. Beeching, Central Connecticut State University
    1 C. Dennis McKinsey, Bible critic
    1 Paula Fredriksen, Professor and historian of early Christianity, Boston University
    1 Allen D. Callahan, Associate Professor of New Testament, Harvard Divinity School
    2 Earl Doherty, Author
    2 Robert M. Price, professor of biblical criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute

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  18. kcchief1: “I still maintain you tend to diminish whatever evidence I or others may have when it doesn’t measure up to your standards.”

    Glad I’m not the only one that feels this way.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. “I don’t see why I should eliminate ALL Atheist and Agnostic Scholars any more than I should eliminate any Christian ones. Is Christian Scholarship the only Scholarship that counts??? You don’t think they are biased ?”

    kcchief1, I don’t think you read what I wrote carefully enough.

    1. I DID NOT say you should “eliminate all atheist and agnostic scholars”. I said: “There is no problem quoting the genuine scholars among these, but there is not one scholar I recognised that comes from the other ‘side” to give balance “

    2. I did NOT say “Christian Scholarship the only Scholarship that counts”. I said: “3 of the 5 scholars I quoted are non-christians …. I do this to give balance to my own thinking as well as to what I present to others.”

    3. You say “This is why I later said the only one I needed to provide was Geza Vermes. I noticed you didn’t comment on him ? Why ?” Did you not notice that I included Vermes in my list of the reputable scholars on your list? Or that I said: “The Vermes quotes are about the resurrection, not the gospels as history”? Vermes was close to the most respect NT scholar out there, but he had a fairly sceptical and non-christian viewpoint and had his critics, so he should be in the mix, but we still need balance.

    4. You said: “This is why I try to read from as many Atheist and Agnostic Scholars as I do Christian scholars to see what EVERYONE is saying. “, but there were very few on that list.

    5. You said: “Bart Erhman was a Christian Scholar who has now admitted he is Agnostic. Does this make him any less of a Scholar ? Obviously for him the evidence made him draw a different conclusion.” and I agree, Bart Ehrman is an eminent expert on this topic,and should be quoted – but you didn’t quote him (unless I missed him on the list)! But if you checked out the links I included in my earlier post, you’ll see that I do quote him, reference him and draw on his conclusions.

    6 You say: “Again here are the list of Sources I found on the supposed Atheist Website you mentioned. Most of them appear to be qualified to me. Most of them happen to be Christian Scholars too.” Many are scholars, but not working in the field, many are not at all. Most seem to me to come from the sceptical end of the spectrum. Few of the quotes address the question we were discussing.

    As I pointed out before, if you want to discuss inerrancy, then these quotes will do the trick, but most scholars are not inerrantists, they accept most of what is said on your list about historical problems, but they still treat the Gospels as good historical sources. I’m not sure if you have picked up on that yet. A “good source” is not a perfect source, merely one from which good historical information can be obtained.

    7 You say: “I still maintain you tend to diminish whatever evidence I or others may have when it doesn’t measure up to your standards.” This is another misunderstanding, I’m sorry. It isn’t “my standards” we are talking about – we are talking about standards of evidence in historical study. If you want to choose to accept evidence from only one side of the question, or from non-experts, then you are free to do so, but that is not a basis for discussion of history. And I don’t diminish half of your evidence, I just point out is is from only one side of the question.

    So to clarify yet again. There is a wide range of views on some matters, but some clear consensus among most scholars. I believe if we want to form an evidence-based view, we need to read across the range, and especially focus on those most respected scholars who are generally closer to the centre of the range, both believers and sceptics.

    I did that. I quoted 3 non-believers and 2 believers, all well-respected and representative of the broad consensus. I did not quote christian apologists. But your list was heavily biased to the sceptical end and included non-scholars and extreme views. That is your privilege. But in a discussion on the best evidence, it should be seen as biased and unrepresentative.

    Preferable in my view is to try to stick to the best scholars, and then form our conclusions from there. That still leaves both of us free to choose christian or non-christian conclusions, and then discuss our different conclusions. But I agree, moving on is now probably the best.

    Best wishes.

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  20. unkleE, from reading other posts here, I am not the only one who feels you minimise our comments and sources. I read posts from at least 3 other contributers here. I guess the 4 of us are wrong but unkleE is again and always will be right. Yes we need to move onto another subject . You have to be getting tired of being right on this subject. 🙂 I’m being serious but also will always enjoy giving you a hard time. Somebody here needs to at least try to keep you humble. 🙂 If I had to look up the meaning of Ultimate Christian Apologist , your picture would have to be next to it. I will hand that much to you. That was a compliment.

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  21. @Judah first
    Your utter lack of knowledge and understanding of the gospel’s history and composition is demonstrated by the sheer ignorance of your comment.

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  22. Well, let’s not turn this into a flame war.

    While, like Ark, I’m skeptical of the gospels, I wouldn’t say they should be dismissed out of hand. I think it can tell us a number of things about what the early Christians were thinking, if nothing else.

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  23. @Nate.
    Sorry, Nate, you know me…I meant from an ‘historical jesus’ perspective they are of no use whatsoever, other than to demonstrate how disingenuous their compilers were…

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  24. Persto,

    Thank you for your comments on Historical Accuracy. I thought it was Spot On. I would have posted this earlier but have been traveling a lot. I think I will remain a Deist but I still actually enjoy reading the Bible , questions and all.

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  25. Based upon some of the earlier comments, I had this thought: If we were to dismiss certain scholars or sources based upon their credentials, then that’s fine. If we dismiss certain scholars or sources based upon their conclusions, we may need to reconsider ourselves; whether we’re being consistent and so forth.

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  26. Persto-
    I also wanted to lend my thanks for your insightful comments on historical accuracy. Very nicely done.

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  27. This is my favorite quote:

    Even if there was a historical Jesus lying back of the gospel Christ, he can never be recovered. If there ever was a historical Jesus, there isn’t one any more. All attempts to recover him turn out to be just modern remythologizings of Jesus. Every “historical Jesus” is a Christ of faith, of somebody’s faith. So the “historical Jesus” of modern scholarship is no less a fiction.

    -Robert M. Price, “Jesus: Fact or Fiction, A Dialogue With Dr. Robert Price and Rev. John Rankin,” Opening Statement

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  28. I was just reading some of the comments posted here and the original blog where people were trying to tell us we weren’t reading the scriptures as the 1st Century World did and this was adding to our confusion. Didn’t the 20th Century Translators of the NIV, NLT, The Word, The Message, etc. make their Bibles so 20th Century (and Beyond) readers could understand The Scriptures ?

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  29. KC, i see it only as an attempt to excuse or find a way for the internal biblical problems to suddenly not matter. “Oh, it only seems like a problem because you’re not understanding as the people long ago would have…”

    you can “fix” any problem that way and it’s absurd, especially for a book by god, that was supposedly written to reach all of mankind…

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  30. William,
    It’s been very quiet here this week. Thank you for your last post. I’m reading Bishop John Shelby Spong’s new book, “The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic”. Like many of his books, he discounts many of the “Historical” claims in the NT and urges readers to look at much of it as Allegory not Fact. He feels you can gain new meaning through this process and not be troubled by the Historical Problems. As a Deist who still has an interest in reading the Bible, I would tend to agree with him.

    Having said this, I still find it difficult understanding some of Jesus’ comments regardless of the way you read them. Matthew 10:5,6 “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6Go
    rather to the lost sheep of Israel. or Matthew 15:24, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

    Today’s world population is 7,122,994,664 and of that there are 13,800,000 Jews. Hmmmm.

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  31. joenbjerregaard , I think you are referring to Acts 28 as there is no Acts 29. I have read this many times before . It doesn’t erase the 2 scriptures I used previously. It only proves that the Bible is all over the place. Use one scripture to prove a point and someone else will use another to refute your point. Paul also uses the age old excuse of the hardening of hearts when people don’t receive the scriptures. In the OT God hardened many hearts . Why would a God who wants the World to worship him harden people’s hearts??? Makes absolutely no sense to me. Anyway, thank you for your comment.

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  32. kcchief1, maybe I reply too late, I did not notice your response before. Well the doctrine that the preaching would be aimed at the gentiles at a turning point is all over the Bible. It’s in the Old Testament, it’s at least 3 of the gospels, it’s in romans, ephesians, and many more. Scripture references can be provided if requested. So you have to look for disagreements – as skeptics often do – to see them. We can’t expect every doctrine to be taught on every page, it is not reasonable.

    Why would God do this and that? Your guess is as good as mine. The smaller the concept of God, the more the demand for God to explain himself to us. I’m pretty skeptical of much in the Old Testament, but I go along and say God hardened many hearts, as a punishment. Pharaoh was against God and Moses from the beginning but and some point he was not allowed to turn whatever he decided and he became a tool for God to show a point.

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  33. Joe,

    I can agree that every doctrine shouldn’t be expected to be seen in every page – it isn’t reasonable as you’ve stated.

    And Skeptics often do look for disagreements. Looks like I agree with you again. But I think we should elaborate this point. Christians are skeptics too – just of every faith other than their own. They’re skeptical of science that may disagree with the bible (hares chewing cuds, the earth being supported by pillars (though I admit is likely just poetic writing), a seed having to die before it germinates, the sun and moon being under the atmosphere, etc).

    Christians will seek problems in those things as well as in books like the koran to discredit them. So the atheistic/agnostic skeptics are indeed the same. And shouldn’t something so powerful, something from the most powerful, most perfect, most fair, most loving, most wise, and most eternal being stand up to such scrutiny?

    But like the koran or the Sunday paper, shouldnt it be telling of its human origins when it cannot stand up to such scrutiny – no matter how skeptical?

    Look at the contradictions within the bible. Did god bring the birds from the water or from the earth? What day did jesus die? What is the correct linage of jesus through Joseph? Is Tyre in existence or not? Are all the prophecy fulfillments in Mathew really originated in prophecies? How long were the Israelite enslaved in Egypt? When did the Israelites actually take all of canaan – if ever? How did Judas die? … and the list goes on and on…

    But beyond skepticism, the believers will often dismiss and ignore any issue and only focus on the good parts or the cohesive parts. But the problems dont go away no matter how hard you try to ignore them or hide them.

    And really, why would anyone believe the bible was from god anyway? because the bible says it is? because the old authors of the bible claimed that they spoke on behalf of god, as if god couldn’t write a book for himself, as if it was just too tiresome for god to speak to everyone and clear everything up face to face, man to man? Come now. We can be better than that. Where’s the verification? What proves the authors’ claims? Oh yeah, they said there had been miracles that proved it… And that’s great – for those who allegedly witnessed them, but not for anyone else. Where’s the proof of those supposed proofs? Get my question?

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  34. William,

    I don’t know if there is no plausible apolegetic solution to any issue you draw attention to – that could be interesting a when time is avaible – but generally I agree that from one perspective you have some obvious problems outlined here.

    My favourites points to defend are the old “science” of the Bible and the gospel contradictions. Old “science” / myths to old people. Do you expect neo-darwinian evolution in Genesis 1? I saw a cute comedy act some years ago where the disciples asked Jesus how the world came to be. He started with a scientific explenation and they were dumbfunded and clueless. So he gave them the Genesis 1 presentation and they could breath free again. This issue is similar to those that demand Revelation should speak about airplanes and nucler bombs. It would make no sense to the original receivers. You claim an imperfection here, I claim that putting modern science into the bible would be foul play to the original receivers. Just too bad, that it would be great evidence today lol.

    The gospels’ on Jesus’ death and resurrection? Of cause any 21st century person see the problem, me too. But I still think contradictions are better more proof of authentic eye witness accounts. People will see stuff and experience it differently, maybe add some religious imaginary, old times less informed than many modern people etc. And, if this was a big problem to the ancient church, why no attempt to correct this? Modern skeptics would die to have some evidence that the church struggled with all sorts of corrections and alterations to these specific passages but it was never a big quarrel. Instead the variations of the big 4 was appreciated.

    Believers should give little attention to points like hares chewing cuds or the sun and the moon being under the atmosphere. In the 16th century Calvin was more modern thinking than todays young earths. He saw in the creation account an account to simple unlearned man. Why waters above? Well how do you expect it could rain or the earth be flooded if not… ? 🙂

    Believers should give great attention to the Gospel and the moral teachings where details in occurances and ancient science has no relevance. The entire New Testament agrees Christ died and was raised, and also that Judas died, whether he he was struck by lightning or run over by Roman calvalry. These issues you draw attention to do not do any damage to doctrine.

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  35. Hi Joe,

    In John 3:12, Jesus says “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”

    In light of that, how can we dismiss all the inaccuracies of the Bible and say they “do no damage to doctrine”?

    Thanks for your comments!

    Nate

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  36. @joenbjerregaard , “My favourites points to defend are the old “science” of the Bible and the gospel contradictions. Old “science” / myths to old people. Do you expect neo-darwinian evolution in Genesis 1?”

    You can’t trivialize the contradictions on one hand then expect us to be serious about the rest of it.

    Most of you would like to leave out the OT all together. Can’t do that because your NT writers point to it too often to back up their stories about Jesus.

    There has been a change in the wind of Christian Scholars who are re-evaluating their positions on the virgin birth and the resurrection . Geza Vermes and Raymond Brown have to be in the top 5 of NT Scholars. They are not trivializing the flaws of the scripture to explain them away.

    Vermes goes as far as telling Christians they need to rethink their doctrines .

    Attempting to explain away the contradictions doesn’t make the rest of it any more true.

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  37. Joe,

    There was one other thing I meant to mention. You said that early Christians weren’t bothered by the discrepancies in the gospels, but that’s not the case. The Diatesseron, written in the late 2nd Century, combines the 4 gospels and rationalizes their discrepancies. We also know that early Christians attempted to find ways to explain the differences in Jesus’ genealogy. And we know that Jerome wrote about being unable to explain why Tyre was still in existence after Ezekiel’s specific prophecies against it.

    So the idea that early Christians saw no problems with these issues is simply a myth perpetrated by those who want that to be the case. Luckily for the church, most people couldn’t read back then…

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  38. Nate,

    Your question concerning John 3:12; do you think Jesus is speaking about issues in the Hebrew scriptures? On the contrary, Nicodemus in sounds like a American Bible fundamentalist in John 3:4 expecting any statement to be true in a strict literal sense. But Jesus is “spiritualizing like them liberals spiritualizing everything they can’t accept” quote fundamentalist :).

    The Diatesseron was never accepted outside the Syrian church (considered very heretical by the Latins and the Alexandrians in the first many centuries) and its main motivation was not to solve an apolegetic issue. It is also much more obscure and doubtful issue than certain internet sources would say. You are making much more of it than there really is to it. But it is a good story. There are numerous books that were used to various extent in the early centuries and rejected later. I read book of enoch and gospel of peter and I fail to see the problem in the church discarding those. I dont miss them and they do not resemeble any of the canonical books.

    The difference in Jesus genealogy is not an issue I can get excited about. Because of the virgin birth, any lineage will not be straightly biological. In good ancient tradition, Jesus is unnaturally inserted into a lineage by given birthright in time. “Also I will make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth” Psalm 89:27. It is a very unlikely issue to bother the believer and it is much more in line with myth (in the old meaning of the word, “sacred history”) to see symbolic and authoritative explenations for the records rather than some modern journalism.

    I want to tell you that this exaggerated American Bible word for word truism and literalism has never been a part of historical Christianity. The Bible was not seen as a quran dropping down from the sky. That is a newer American invention creating much food for this blog :). Faith in God preserving his eternal Gospel is not the same as book faith where a collection of books is supposed to be verbatim true from a to z and – as american fundamentalists in the most scary way do – be quoted like a law book, like Christianity was a law faith replacing the old testament law faith. People should always keep in mind what matters.

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  39. Nate, About Tyre, I’m no expert but we should remember verbal exaggerations in the ancient near culture. There are many expressions in the Bible that doesn’t add up to modern western literal assumptions. Some classic examples:

    Isaiah 34:9-13. Beast living in burning pitch where nobody can pass.
    Zephaniah 3:8-9-11: The whole earth devoured, yet not devoured and the people restored.

    It is similar to the Mosaic accounts of nations destroyed yet showing up again. There is no issue unless you believed the Bible dropped down from the sky and has modern America as first audience.

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  40. kcchief1, I dont think the Old Testament is much needed to understand the New, especially if we keep in mind and accept the many clear references to 1st century Jews as the first preaching audience. The gentiles were as nations (proselytes always existed) left out of the picture until the Gospel went to them. I think the terms New Testament and Old Testament are very fitting. I dont have the Old, I have the New. What I need to learn from the Old can be written in a few lines or – to be generous – on one page.

    Ancient “science” or ANE verbal exaggerations are not real problems. They just require us to see things a little from the perspective of ancient people and I think we can do the little part. If you ask Ken Ham, not taking Genesis 1-11 literally and scientific is a big problem, but I just dont agree. I do have see an issue with the portrayal of God’s character in slaughters and such. I propose a sync between Marcion and orthodoxy by suggesting a angelic reign in the Old Testament which there are many indications of in the prophets and the New Testament, but I dont believe everything in the Old to be true. As I say, our our main attention and emphasis should be on the New Testament.

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  41. Very well done, Joe ! Basically you have taken an exacto-knife and carved up the entire bible to make it fit what you believe. I thought that was against the rules ? Not changing a jot or tittle ? 🙂

    Joe you say, “Nate, About Tyre, I’m no expert but we should remember verbal exaggerations in the ancient near culture. ”

    And you don’t think a virgin birth and a resurrection could be an exaggeration ? Raymond Brown conceded these could have been exaggerations in order to compete with other divine stories of the day.

    Speaking of virgin birth, can you tell me how Jesus was born without sin when his mother was human and all humans are supposedly born with sin ?

    Why no comments about Geza Vermes or Raymond Brown ? Most Christian Apologists don’t want to talk about their works. Very interesting.

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  42. Joe, since we both apparently agree that the Bible is unreliable about many of its claims, why do you believe the religion associated with it (Christianity) over any other revealed religion? Or over deism?

    What is there to make you believe the claims that Jesus is divine?

    Thanks

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  43. Hi kcchief1,

    The ANE verbal exaggerations I refer to are those we can identify from the texts. Like the examples I gave. Edom could be the example to fit Tyre, it would be a similar usage. Like when wiped out people continue to exist. Or perhaps like when Sodom and Gomorrha suffers eternal or eonian fire (Jude 7). There are no such examples of the resurrection and virgin birth. On the contrary, there is not anywhere in the New Testament that the resurrection could be denied.

    I have no idea who Geza Vermes or Raymond Brown is. I’m not an apologist rather a proponent of what I believe Christianity is about.

    Hi Nate,

    Accepting the New Testament doesn’t depend on accepting everything collected in the Old Testament. Nor does accepting that the Bible should be read as historical and with original audience in mind, ancient “science” or ANE culture symbolism and exaggeratons lead to the verdict of an unreliable collection of writings. I have to hightlight the point again that American Bible Fundamentalism is not historical Christianity. God given faith in the Gospel and testing the spirits of what we accept does not demand us to believe non-spiritual matters like that hares chew cuds, or believe that Genesis 1 was ever intended to be scientific or to accept any genocide attributed to Yahweh in the Old Testament. It simply doesn’t follow – regardless of what American Bible Fundamentalism considers True Christianity(TM). Of cause faith in God is no. one here, not sophistry about every Gospel irrelevant word being true.

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  44. Sorry Joe. That doesn’t answer my question. Jesus was born of a woman. The bible plainly says in Romans 3:23 , ” for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” How did Jesus become sinless when his mother was born with sin ?

    @Joe, ” I have no idea who Geza Vermes or Raymond Brown is. I’m not an apologist rather a proponent of what I believe Christianity is about.”

    Do you ever do any research to see if what you believe has any evidence ?

    I might be a pushover but Nate is pretty well rehearsed in what he does and does not believe. Don’t take a butter knife to a gun fight . 🙂

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  45. Thanks KC! You do a nice job yourself. 🙂

    Joe,

    I appreciate your comments, though I’m not sure you see what I’m driving at. I’d like to know what makes you believe Christianity over all other world religions. If it’s not the quality of the Bible — and obviously it isn’t — what’s the source of your belief?

    Thanks!

    Nate

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  46. Hi kcchief1,

    Well let us look for a good tale here. What was the use of the virgin birth and / or the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, if it didn’t do anything supernatural? What are the alls of Romans 3:23, anyway? Does it include God and bed bugs or is it mankind in general? Is a man supernaturally infused into mankind included? That seems counterproductive to the whole supernatural mission of Christ. Fighting this is too ambitious, even with a sharp buter knife.

    I googled those guys and the Jesus according to historic theorizing is of little to no interest to me. I guess that is why I never came across those name. There is a lot of nice theories. I read that this “Jew” (your know their whole existence today is very unlikely) Geza favoured a Jewish only Jesus but there is no more historical evidence for Matthew 15:24 than any Pauline gentile favouring writing and biblically the pieces on this fit together nicely. He had a theory and not in the scientific meaning of that word. Theological science is a ridiculed discipline anyway in 2013.

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  47. Hi Nate,

    I do believe the Bible contains truth. But why are some arguing that every word in the Bible is true OR is supposed to be true? Perhaps you can explain, as one who seems to accept this premise? As a believer, one must of cause believe that God had a hand in the compiling of a collection of books containing the Gospel, but where does it follow that every word is true? I was simply not raised in that assumption.

    The source of the Christian faith is God. That is a basic belief in biblical Christianity and historical Christianity. To argue the Bible is the source is a faith in a book rather than in God. The reformers were the originators of this belief.

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  48. Perhaps better to say the source of the Christian faith is by far and foremost God, most secondary the Bible.That is of cause a declaration of faith. Christian faith without faith or without faith as the foundation makes no sense.

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  49. The historical beef with faith as the foundation of Christian faith (rather obvious right) – which is continued in the USA when some want to confuse the kids by demanding that evolution denial should be taught as science – is that people were sadly forced by people. An idea utterly foreign to the New Testament. Sad as that is, it doesn’t change the foundation of Christianity.

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  50. Hi Joe,

    Sure, I can explain why some of us think the Bible would need to be inerrant if it were inspired. I believe the only way to learn about Christianity is via the Bible. Well, the Bible is simply a book — so when it describes miraculous events that couldn’t possibly be true in a purely physical world, why should we believe it? After all, we have many, many ancient texts that talk about miraculous things, and we know those are superstitious exaggerations. Take the writings of Homer, for instance. Or the tale of Beowulf. So why, when it comes to the Bible, should we actually believe the fantastic?

    According to the Bible, when God’s messengers spoke to the people, they often used signs (miracles) so the audience would see that these people had supernatural powers. Those powers gave credence to their claims that they spoke on God’s behalf.

    Since that’s the pattern — extraordinary evidence to support extraordinary claims — where’s our evidence today? Some Christians believe that there are still those today who can perform miracles or give prophecies by the power of God. But many Christians don’t believe this. I was one of the latter. So the one “sign” that I believed we had been left with to convince all people of the truth of Christianity was the Bible. I believed it was without error — and that was the miracle we were given to help convince us. After all, how likely is it that a book written by so many different people and over such a long period of time could be in perfect harmony if it was only the work of ordinary men? And how could we explain the Bible’s prophecy fulfillments, unless the Bible had been inspired by God? Finally, if God is perfect, and he wants to deliver a message to mankind, couldn’t he deliver that message perfectly? How could he do anything less?

    Of course, I finally realized that the Bible doesn’t fit together perfectly. It contains contradictions, some of its prophecies completely fail, some of the “prophecies” weren’t actually prophecies at all upon closer examination, some of its morality is barbaric, and some of the history and science it recounts is completely wrong. The Bible is still an important historical work. But there appears to be nothing divine about it. It’s exactly what we should expect from an anthology of Jewish theological texts.

    I hope that explains the thought process a little better — please let me know if it doesn’t. But could you also answer something for me? For people whose faith is not strictly based on the Bible, where does your faith come from? How do you learn about Jesus? And what evidence do you point to as the basis for your faith as well as the reason someone else should convert to Christianity?

    Thanks

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  51. @ Nate.
    You should embark on a speaking tour to counteract dingbats like WLC and his ilk.
    You could gather a few former fundamentalists, ( there are some prime candidates here in blogville, and some live in neighbouring States, I think?) get an agent and do speaking engagements all over the States.
    You have an excellent manner ( and anyone who can engage unklee without requiring medication is all right in my book LOL)

    You would be doing some real good, you;d make a biot of money.and some of the profits could go to The Ark’s Weekend Real Ale fund.
    Which you would naturally be invited to drink providing you brought it with you!
    Jokes aside, if Krauss and Harris make it work, why not a real live refugee from Christianity like you?

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  52. Hi Nate,

    I believe God gives the faith (Romans 12:3). Some agree, some disagree, some believe it can be resisted, others not. The Bible is a means of learning about the Gospel. It contains other doctrines and opinions also. As a means of conversion, I will give you that it has weakened over the years. All the criticism and various mostly unnecessary doctrines at odds with modern knowledge such as the weird idea that Genesis 1 is science and literal, that it should concern us what ancient Jews believed about hares or mustard seeds or the widespread ignorance about something as in reality simple as symbolism

    All the assumptions and opinions. Paul not the author of all the works ascribed to him? Perhaps, hard to say today. But it could also be that someone wrote a letter for him after instruction in his authority. If the Bible record is so altered what do people argue about? Why would someone not correct the two creation records if that was a problem? Why would someone (other than that obscure Syrian issue previously discussed) not correct the significant differences in the ressurection accounts if seeing a problem here is not just one big misunderstanding? The Jesus copycat teachings went out of commision when people started looking in the sources. But it is very rare that we can consult external matters in Bible related controversities.

    Some problems obviously do exist. While genuine gaylove might not have been common knowledge in his time, Paul’s singlehanded attack on what is difficult not to see as a the very sex-act (as opposed to temple prostitution, Roman master’s penetration of male slaves, cultic related bisexual acts etc.) was a serious problem in the aftermath. But here we must discern the spirits and simply say that it is certain that true love can’t be wrong. Even if God himself said so – just for the sake of the isolated argument – there would not be much of a relationship with God, if we could not diagree with God.

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  53. Ark, thanks for the kind compliment! I may look into something like that… you know how dear the Ark’s Weekend Real Ale Fund is to my heart! 😉

    Seriously, thanks. I wouldn’t mind having an opportunity to do something like that; I’ve just never looked into the feasibility. Maybe I can figure something out.

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  54. Hi Nate,

    Thanks for providing a very thorough explenation. I believe this perspective is what is wellknown in the US as “Arminian”. The weakness in this is as you so honestly describe when the center of faith doesn’t seem to be what you thought it were, faith weakens or falls. But I do not believe “my solution” is in my hands :).

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  55. Joe, LOL… I cant tell if you’re being serious or just messing around. So basically, your point is that the bible isnt ever really serious, and cant really be pinned down on anything other than “jesus saves?”

    “the early man wouldnt have understood scientific accuracy, and god was too busy to educate them, so he gave a ridiculous story because it was easier…” I guess that could make sense… it at least seems to to a lot of people. I think it’s crazy, but hey.

    “could have been,” “maybe this happened…” and others like them arent valid or working arguments – they’re excuses.

    Tyre is there. And at least the North Tyre Harbor is the original one. The bible says it shouldnt be there. yeah, maybe it was being facetious. maybe Ezekiel was just exaggerating, although that kind of harms the prophecy. And maybe, Ezekiel just got it wrong. And maybe god wasnt really talking to him. the bible says something and it’s wrong – and it doesnt end there.

    The Genealogy problem doesn’t go away as easily as you’d like. mathew says x. y. z joseph, jesus. Luke says, b, m, q, joseph, jesus, and neither match the OT. There is no reasonable way to explain this other than by labeling it contradictory. And if this isn’t a contradiction, what is?

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  56. @Joe, “I googled those guys and the Jesus according to historic theorizing is of little to no interest to me”

    If you googled “these guys” ,either the country you live in scrutinizes what you are allowed to see or you didn’t look at the top 5 listings for Geza Vermes. wikapedia.com, “he has been described as the greatest Jesus scholar of his time”

    You like to refer to those who happen to live in America as American Fundementalists as if we are all radical fundementalists and now you are discounting one of the premier scholars in the world because he happened to be a Jew.

    I tend to wonder like William, are you serious or just messing around ? Regardless, it seems as though your religion has no roots as you have minimalized most of the bible and you can only defend whats left of it by minimalizing those who question it.

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  57. I just added an image to my blog that says this:

    So the Bible means what it says … ?
    but it doesn’t say what it means?”

    I think that sums it up very well.

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  58. Hi William,

    No it is not my point the Bible is not serious.

    When we believe in both God and history records, we must conclude that God let mankind run its cause. We might ask for a magic help on the way but it doesn’t seem like mankind had one. Ancient man prior to the Greek science revolution did not concern itself with science. Genesis 1 is no more silly than other ancient creation records. A spiritual mindset, especially one ignorant of science but well acquinted with ANE symbolism, will appriciate it.

    Bible fundamentalists and Bible critics / atheist debators both claim 1-0 wins. I believe the reasonable believer should be more than happy with 1-1 scores showing the exaggerations of both opponents.That ancient history in modern journalistic sense is very badly documented is in that context therefore to our advantage. We can’t pick up dissolved scrolls like we can pick up ancient bones and dna. My example of Paul is most pragmatic. I learned that Bart Erhman argues this point also. Different Greek doesn’t settle the point that the socalled canonical pseudographical letters were not written in the authority, instruction and approval of the man in question.

    About Tyre – and as I said – this issue never concerned me much, IF it is true that Nebu’ was the hand that made Tyre shrink considerably in power, that sounds fully sufficient. When a man is likened to a cherubim in Eden and another man to a dragon in the Nile (Ezekiel 28-29), then sorry guys, but it is not sound to demand a literal fullfilment of prophecies.

    Genealogy. Well what do you expect of a modern day genealogy? A literal and historical accurate one. Nothing else makes sense – today. But it was not so in ancient days. There were cultural, authoritative religious motivations for infusing someone into a genealogy and nobody has ever been more infused into a genealogy than Jesus.

    I’m sorry if all this comes across to you as excuses. I guess when we argue that it would be pointless and cruel to the first century readers to have the book of Revelation speaking of things they could not know and understand, we also support those saying the book was only and fully the product of 1st century men.

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  59. Joe, no, no – it’s fine. And I sort of agree. I also think the bible was written to people of that time with the general understanding of that time. But most christians (at least the ones I know and the one I used to be) maintain that the bible is for all people, for all time.

    If that is the position, then it is problematic. it may be that first century christians (and those religious peoples even earlier) commonly gave inaccurate and conflicting genealogies as evidence, why it would have served as reliable evidence for anything e is beyond me, but perhaps they did.

    Regardless, i imagine that even despite their practice of genealogical malpractice that they still would have understood and would not have been confused by an accurate genealogy. Why, if that’s what we had, then no one would could argue that it was a problem. No one. We would not be discussing it now. It’s just harder to point to accuracy and say, “look at that problem.”

    Further, most christians I know also maintain that god is all knowing. Wouldnt an all knowing perfect god have known that the man of today would see an inaccurate and conflicting genealogy, which was presented as some sort of evidence for some bold claim, as anything other than contradictory? it could have been so easily fixed. And i am just supposed to believe that it should be okay?

    and this line of reasoning really applies for the other specific issues as well. The bible is flawed – I see that as a problem when it’s reported to be from something perfect. And everything seems like it can simply be dismissed as allegory or figurative language. That is convenient. perhaps the man jesus was also simply a parable, and not meant to be taken literally… I guess we can do this all day with everything since the the early jews would’ve been fine with it.

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  60. Well put, Nan.

    @Joe, ” A spiritual mindset, especially one ignorant of science but well acquinted with ANE symbolism, will appriciate it.”

    Sorry Joe, this just seams to fit with your comment. What Author Alvin Boyd Kuhn says about Christianity, ” As ignorance was its mother and the source-spring of its world power, it is bound to cherish ignorance as its patron saint and monitor forever, for the breadth of knowledge would wither it away.”

    Forgive me Ark & John Z for posting this again but the first time here on this blog.

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  61. @Joe, “Ancient man prior to the Greek science revolution did not concern itself with science. Genesis 1 is no more silly than other ancient creation records”

    You don’t know your history Joe. Before the time Genesis 1 was ever put to print the ancient egyptians were very much into science. Without it there would have been no pyramids. Medical science owes much to the egyptians who were some of the first to practice surgery.

    Your ability to dismiss non-believers and your own bible is only surpassed by your ability to play loose with historical facts.

    You can’t really say the bible isn’t that relevant to your faith because you probably would never had heard of a man named Jesus without it.

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  62. William,

    Well according to the Bible the birth of Jesus was supernatural. Jesus was never literally and historically a part of these genealogies. I was born in a certain year and a certain place as the result of some sexual activities of two people, my parents. They in return both had parents, my grandparents. I will very likely have children and grandchildren. A very literal genealogy. But Jesus entered “out of nowhere” by a supernatural act. The literal mother appears to have been Mary but the literal father is missing…. At the same time one of the Messianic premises is that the Christ is the son of David. This unique supernatural irrational situation couldnt have a literal genealogy and we do know they already did creative genealogies. Hebrews 7:3 is an example in perfect accordance with that. Old man Melchizedek is described in thus terms as “without father, without mother, without genealogy” as one with no known genealogy account opposed to the Levites who safeguarded their genealogy records with great zealousness.

    You loose me when you criticize those applied genealogies internally. As much skepticism this fails its own battle cry for reason .

    kcchief1,
    Egyptian science was not all that and was always highly infused with religion:
    http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/timelines/topics/medicine.htm
    Of cause I know about it, but I also know we don’t talk of the Egyptian scientific revolution, but the Greek. All high culture will as we see from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs progress on certain issues, but the most progressed Egyptian mind was far more grounded in belief in the supernatural than the scientific quest. Even the desert dwelling Jews had either by God’s revelation or – your only choice – by empirical observation concluded that certain cleanliness laws were necessary.

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  63. Joe, not to be rude, but you’re either insane or lying if you believe the issue with the genealogy is without reason. I cant even begin to understand how you’re lost by it…

    The genealogies were written and presented for a reason. What was that reason? To show that Jesus was through the line of David, Judah, and Abraham. Well, when the bible presents two NT genealogies, that both report to go through Jesus’ adopted earth father Joseph, yet are nearly completely different (3 names are the same – how would this be possible?), it shows a discrepancy. And the fact the neither match the OT genealogies is just gravy and still equals “problem.”

    And if the bible was trying to point out that jesus didnt need linage, then why give two different ones and push them off as “proof” when they could have presented him as hebrews presented Melchizedek?

    It is not a leap to find this troubling. In fact, the only leaps being made, and the suppositions regrading this being presented are those that try to dismiss or reconcile the problems.

    It’s like a police officer storming your house and giving you what he calls a warrant, but when you look at it, it’s a McDonald’s receipt from his lunch. It’s just bogus and means the dude really doesnt have the authority he said he did.

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  64. Hi William,

    “Joe, not to be rude, but you’re either insane or lying if you believe the issue with the genealogy is without reason. I cant even begin to understand how you’re lost by it…” hehe, not rude at all lol. This lunatic or liar reminds me of someone C.S. Lewis spoke of in his “trilemma”. Oh oh, could it be a sign…? LOL

    Seriously, no I don’t see it as already explained. Long time ago, I noticed that a terrifying number of people, believers and unbelievers, have great difficulty in comprehending that when you read something, you first define the genre, then the context and then the message. Your natural genealogy requirements to the accounts of Jesus is mind boggling. Are you really being serious? Or is that ridiculous Bultmann approach of reading in naturalistic unbelief into religious texts? That makes no sense. It’s pointless.

    I left it at saying earlier: “Genealogy. Well what do you expect of a modern day genealogy? A literal and historical accurate one. Nothing else makes sense – today. But it was not so in ancient days. There were cultural, authoritative religious motivations for infusing someone into a genealogy and nobody has ever been more infused into a genealogy than Jesus.”

    That is sufficient. Of cause you can take it further. Here is what one of the guys I sometimes have consulted says. Adolph Earnest Knoch is the most unusual I have used, not always orthodox, but mostly have some great points – for believers of cause 😉

    Concerning Matthew 2:1;

    “This is the royal lineage of the Son of David as well as the title to the land granted to Abraham. In contrast to the genealogy given by Luke, we are given the actual physical descent by the male line to Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of our Lord. The three sections bring before us three distinct phases of rule and the failure of each. First we have the theocracy until David, which ended when the people clamored for a king (1 Sam.8:6-22). Then comes the period of the kingdom, which was a series of failures, until the Babylonian exile. Since then the nations ruled Israel, until the birth of Messiah, when they were under the Roman yoke. It was a dismal descent, and proved conclusively that no male issue of this line would ever be competent to sit upon the throne of Messiah.

    David was the greatest of the kings, yet his son Solomon was a living evidence of his terrible sin. And so degenerate did the line of his sons become that at the time of the exile Jechoniah drew down upon himself the curse of Jehovah:

    “Thus saith the Lord,
    ‘Write this man bereft,
    A master who shall not prosper in his days:
    For no man of his seed shall prosper,
    Sitting on the throne of David
    And ruling any more in Judah’.” (Jer.22:30)

    Neither Joseph, nor any of his progenitors since the exile, were eligible the throne. If Christ were his natural son, He also would be debarred. The Messiah cannot be of the seed of Jechoniah. Hence the absolute necessity of the virgin birth. Being begotten by God, the sins of progenitors did not taint His blood, and the curse of Coniah had no claim on Him. Yet, as the Son of Joseph, He inherited the title to the throne and all the honors of the house of David.”

    Concerning Luke 3:23;

    “23 Maturity and sonship, as distinguished from nativity and minority, were not attained at birth, but waited until the thirtieth year. The genealogy here given does not deal with birth or begettal, but with sonship. Hence it is not introduced until He arrives at His full manhood, and God Himself claims Him as His Son. The following pedigree is hardly intended to prove Him a descendant of Adam, but rather to show that this line, through which He came as to flesh, was absolutely incapable of producing the Sinless One, apart from His divine paternity.

    23 This genealogy gives us the “Seed of the woman” (Gen.3:15) Who shall crush the serpent’s head. Unlike Matthew’s pedigree, it does not trace the physical male ancestry, but the legal line, through Mary back to Adam.
    Christ is first proclaimed as the Son of God. Then He is shown to be the legal (not physical) son of Joseph. Joseph, also, is not the offspring of Heli, whose son he is said to be, for in Matthew we read that he was begotten by Jacob. He was, therefore, the son-in-law of Heli, by his marriage with Mary, Heli’s daughter. As Heli had no son of his own his allotment passed to his daughter’s husband (Nu.27:8) and so Joseph is the legal son of Heli and the physical son of Jacob.”

    Lots of great stuff here.

    It also answers your Hebrews 7:3 question. I add that Hebrews is totally justified to have it its own take on the spiritual truths and is a more complex writing that the synoptics and that it has been difficult for later ages to understand what that verse means.

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  65. Joe,

    I’m sort of dumbfounded.

    CS Lewis’ “trilemma” was incomplete and therefore invalid – but that’s another topic.

    Again, what you say and who you cite to try and justify the problems are conjecture. Why didnt the bible solve it’s own problems by just explaining it the way the two guys you mentioned did if they were correct? Was the bible only written for the early people, or fall all people?

    And you may not agree with me, but say that you just don’t get it or that it loses you just boggles the mind and makes me question your integrity. What i have laid out makes perfect sense. Agreeing or disagreeing may be another matter – I allow that. But nonsense? c’mon, that’s just dishonest.

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  66. William,

    What is mind boggling and leaves me dumbfounded is that you insist to apply modern western cultural thinking into the Bible. And it is impossible to free you of the charge of dishonesty. As a nonbeliever and skeptic you already accept without any clarification that the Bible was written in certain times and cultural settings vastly different from the 21st century – whereever you live, I guess the USA or some other Western country. So it’s very dishonest of you to throw standard Christian diatribe against me, like “Was the bible only written for the early people, or fall all people?” The answer of cause that it was written for contemporary people and then became the inheritence of the believers.

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  67. Joe,
    Wouldn’t you think the contemporary bibles like the NIV or the NLT etc which have been translated over the past 60 years would have translated the ancient scripture for today’s readers to understand ? And yet the inconsistancies and errors persist.

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  68. Joe, I was once a believer and while I live in North America, i have traveled much of the world, including several nations in the middle east. And as I’ve stated before, I can agree that the old book was written for its contemporaries.

    Most books are. They’re written to reach a desired audience. The fact that it doesnt resonate with me or many other people of this century may indicate that it was not written with us in mind.

    You may not be among them, but I said that most of the chrsitians I knew and know believed the bible was written for all people for all time. You seem to disagree. I do too. There are both obvious and easy ways to reconcile some if these issues (including the genealogy) that would be suitable for everyone – the bible doesn’t do this.

    “What is mind boggling and leaves me dumbfounded is that you insist to apply modern western cultural thinking into the Bible.” is it really? seeing as how I live and exist in modern times i would think it obvious. I also live and exist in reality, which is another reason I have hard time talking to you.

    Let’s back up here and be honest with each other. I can come off as jerk sometimes. I am sorry. But let’s not pretend that what i’m saying is absurd – whether you agree or not, you should still be able to see my reasoning.

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  69. Joen,

    Sorry I didn’t have time to reply earlier. I think William and KC have made some good points about the importance of the Bible. Think of it this way: when you type your comments here, you’re trying as hard as you can to make your points clearly — we all are. We want to communicate with one another as perfectly as possible so we can cut through any misunderstanding.

    Of course, we’re all imperfect, so we just do the best we can. But if we were all-knowledgeable and all-powerful, we could definitely communicate in a way that would ensure we would be understood. Now imagine that the message we needed to communicate was the most important message anyone could ever receive — it didn’t just save lives, it saved them eternally. Wouldn’t you make sure you communicated it correctly?

    Instead, as William and KC have pointed out (and as you’ve actually agreed with), the Bible seems to be a very human document. It contains mistakes, bad morality, bad history, bad science, prophecies that fall flat, etc. Yet it supposedly contains the most important message one could ever receive, and it supposedly comes from a perfect being. To me, that just doesn’t make sense.

    On another note, if God gives faith to people, why doesn’t everyone believe? And why do you spend any time trying to convince people of something they can’t believe anyway, until God gives them the ability to?

    Thanks

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  70. William,

    Haha, “I am sorry” you say and yet the radical insults continues “I also live and exist in reality, which is another reason I have hard time talking to you”. What apparently discounts me from reality is lack of desire to read +1,900 years old ANE documents as yesterdays newspaper LOL.

    I found some quotes here saying the same in other words. If we look past the faith element, i.e. believing it’s from God in some radical terminilogy, disagreeing with this is like I have already described.

    “2. The Bible is a Covenantal Book.

    Remember that the Bible is a covenantal book from Genesis to Revelation. It is not concerned about the physical and literal so much as it is with the spiritual and covenantal. The creation and prophetic portions of scripture are primarily covenantal, not literal.

    4. Audience Relevance.

    None of the Bible was written to us. It was written for us, but not to us. For example, when John wrote Revelation, he was writing to seven historical churches that existed at that time. He was not addressing Christians in America in the 21st century. When we read the New Testament epistles we are literally reading somebody else’s mail. How did the original audience view that particular book in the Bible? What did it mean to them? We must read the Bible through an Ancient Near East viewpoint, not a modern 21 century Western culture viewpoint. The Bible must be read through a Hebrew (covenantal) mind, rather than a Greek (scientific) mind.

    6. Historical Context.

    When was the book written? To whom was it written? Why was it written? Under what circumstances? If someone 2,000 years from now got a hold of a newspaper from our time and saw cartoons with elephants and donkeys, they would not understand the true meaning of those cartoons if they tried to take them literally. They would have to understand that the elephant and donkey were symbols for the political parties. Such is the case when we read the Bible. If we try to take the images given in Revelation literally, we completely miss the point.”

    Note “None of the Bible was written to us. It was written for us, but not to us.” corresponds with my “The answer of cause that it was written for contemporary people and then became the inheritence of the believers.”

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  71. Hi Nate,

    That I believe faith is from God, doesn’t mean I know where anyone is currently walking on the road map (this is in accordance with Luther and classic Calvinism also) nor do I assume people need faith to understand what I say here. What I do argue here and yes you can say try to convince, is simply radical/fundamentalistic misunderstandings about my inheritance.

    I don’t agree with all this bad mouthing of the Word. My spirit senses the anger in here. Only thing I agree to bad mouth is certain wrathful and angered Old Testament passages and then a lot in the Old Testament doesn’t do much for me. But I think the criticism against the Bible construct is loaded with all the assumptions and excuses you recite about what should be. But when people say oh the Bible should be this and that, they are demanding the very thing that they critisize the Bible for; the Bible as a human product. One of the believer’s basics is “God knows better”.

    Another thing overlooked is that the believer loves the Word. He or she doesn’t have this tired attitude, that she or she wont do a little effort to learn some basics. Not because it is needed. The Gospel can be written in a few lines or in your hand. But because they love the Word and are curious to to explore the Bible.

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  72. Joe/Joen,

    I get what you’re saying when speaking about revelation and books like that, but when the bible speaks about physical people, and their physical blood ties together, I think it is fair to take that at face value and see if it’s right – otherwise there is literally no point in presenting a genealogy. I get that jesus was basically Joseph’s adopted son, but mathew and luke still go to the trouble of laying out a linage through him as if it means something, as if it was proof for something.

    And if luke’s account was actually Joseph’s in laws, then why not say that? It would have been too easy to do so… but even then there’s problems with it, since the 3 or so names actually match with Mathew…

    I dont buy that presenting fallacious genealogies werent confusing or were somehow the norm for the first century christians and jews – it just doesnt make sense. I know what a geneaolgy is. i know what they’re used for – and it’s the same as it’s always been. people are only forced to say otherwise when trying to defend these passages – that’s it.

    You can even see that for yourself in the bible. They always say, “Abraham, isaac, and Jacob”- not “Cleveland, Isaac, Benjamin, Forester and Abraham…” Genealogies lose their validity when tossing random names in the mix, while leaving out important ones. Am I to belive that the latter example would’ve made perfect sense to the early jews? .. or that they’d be confused by an accurate genealogy?

    And parts of the bible have to be literal if you’re a believer, or do you think the man jesus was just a story?

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  73. Joen,

    I think where we keep missing each other is in this: you seem to take for granted that the Bible was actually inspired by God. The rest of us need some kind of evidence to believe that. Can you provide any?

    Also, out of curiosity, what is the Bible for, in your opinion?

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  74. William,

    a) How can a person coming to be through virgin birth have a literal human father and a literal genealogy? What’s that? You say you don’t believe in the virgin birth? Well then you don’t believe in the background of the record and shouldn’t pretend you are critical of the its details. Your non-virgin birth believing criticism is irrelevant to how an argument based on belief in the virgin birth is made.

    b) If you are not just being dishonest, read up a bit about what the various motivations was for ancient royal and noble men genealogies. Don’t worry. If you dont want to buy the exhaustive knowledge we have on this, I will buy it for a dollar. Maybe the problem is modern man with his self absorbation needs to find another term for these ancient accounts than genealogy. I dont think the term is wrong, as the term “ancestor” doesnt leaves us with only one standard. Ancient rulers believed and / or claimed gods to be their ancestors for quite obvious reasons. There are some very clear heritage demands the supernaturally infused Messiah had to live up to. Could that be expressed in more than one way? Of cause Sherlock..

    Nate,

    As I said earlier I go for 1-1. Just as much as you go for 0-1. Here is a great work, to spread awareness.

    Just one issue with much modern discussion concerns the various accounts of the ressurection. Was it an early church problem? Was it corrected? Apparently not. The vast majority of Christian tradition never took in the Diateresson or other even more obscure works.

    I cant free the Christian traditions for making many errors supporting skepticism. “The Bible means what it says like yesterdays newspaper” is the battle cry of both the skeptics and the fundamentalists and hardline evangelicals in the USA and all those outside that emulalte either side.

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  75. Nate,

    Let’s see what the world would speak about as “evidence” in case the skeptics capitulate before we speak of evidence. Current situation has great impact on that.

    The Bible is a witness to the world, believer and unbeliever. The believer upon coming to faith will rush to the water he is thirsty for (Revelation 21:6).

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  76. Hi Joen,

    I’m afraid I didn’t understand your last two points to me. Are you essentially declining to answer my questions?

    Thanks,

    Nate

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  77. Nate,

    Sometimes men when they argue want to trap the opponent in a vacuum, where the inexperienced rat is supposed to be trapped attempting to answer something the setup up excludes him from answering.

    William rejects the ancient Jesus genealogies’ constructions because they don’t live up to modern standards. He wants me to agree they should speak live up to modern standards, although it is impossible on two levels; they are ancient and they are supernatural. If I disagree, I am “insane or lying”.

    Your convinctions about the Bible’s failure can be summarized in;

    “Of course, we’re all imperfect, so we just do the best we can. But if we were all-knowledgeable and all-powerful, we could definitely communicate in a way that would ensure we would be understood. Now imagine that the message we needed to communicate was the most important message anyone could ever receive — it didn’t just save lives, it saved them eternally. Wouldn’t you make sure you communicated it correctly?

    Instead, as William and KC have pointed out (and as you’ve actually agreed with), the Bible seems to be a very human document. It contains mistakes, bad morality, bad history, bad science, prophecies that fall flat, etc. Yet it supposedly contains the most important message one could ever receive, and it supposedly comes from a perfect being. To me, that just doesn’t make sense.”

    So you believe the – according to historic Christianity – heresy and historically irrelevant belief that the Bible is supposed to be a means of salvation. You also believe the heresy that the entire canon is to be seen as one book in the fullest sense. This belief is nothing else but simpleton sophistry. Some down the ages played with these thoughts but they were asserted full-assed by American Fundamentalism. I don’t believe in these tenants, never had. Faith is no. one full stop and everything written is subject to the spirits test.

    I readily consider the various accusations against the Bible. The problem is that the vast majority of them are based on false assumptions. One example is the the abysmal comment that the Bible contains bad science. Well of cause I should remember where you came from, but that doesn’t seem like any excuse now. Now you see, don’t you? You have been liberated. So why do you continue to read modern thoughts into amazingly preserved ancient documents, continuing the newer tradition of denying poor ancient man the right to understand what is being said. Failed prophecies? Wtf..? We can’t even agree what they are supposed to mean. Yet, all these points you take to the scene or court with the verbal conviction of a Southern Baptist minister.

    So we don’t agree that the Bible should be a Savior, we don’t agree about most of the premises of the accusations against the Bible. What is it you want evidence for again?

    Thanks for the discussions anyway. They have helped me understand better both Skeptcism and Bible fundamentalism. How people think and how I might address such people at a later point.

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  78. Here is what Bishop John Shelby Spong today has to say about Christianity and the New Testament, “The gospels, we need to state clearly, are not the dictated word or words of God, but are rather the time-bound and time-warped explanations of the Jesus experience, couched in the language and understandings of the first century. At the time the New Testament was written, no one knew that women had an egg cell, so the story of Jesus’ birth to a virgin could be used to explain the experience, which was that in Jesus they believed they had encountered something, which human life by itself was not capable of producing. In that time, we need to understand that no one quite understood what happens to the body at death. They could, therefore, reasonably assume that the death process could be reversed, if the reversal occurred within three days, after which the decaying of the body became obvious. When the New Testament was written, no one knew about germs, viruses, tumors or cardiovascular disease and so sickness was interpreted as divine punishment for sins committed. That was why it made sense to treat sickness by offering prayers and sacrifices. If we assume, as fundamentalist Protestants and conservative Roman Catholics still seem to do, that the gospel narratives are in fact literal renditions of what actually happened in time or in history, then religion has become idolatrous. It has invested the perfection of God in something that is in fact a human creation. By literalizing the Bible, religious people have also unknowingly literalized the world view of the first century that assumed that anything that could not be understood by first century minds must be a miracle, explained only by an appeal to the presence of a supernatural power. So the presumably “inerrant” Bible of Protestant fundamentalism and the presumably “infallible” theological doctrines of Roman Catholicism, become nonsensical in the 21st century. A Christianity based on those outdated ideas can never be compelling to 21st century people unless they are willing and able to close their minds to modern knowledge. Biblical inerrancy is therefore not just ignorance, it is a distortion of both truth and humanity. To quote the Bible to oppose equality for women or justice and dignity for homosexual people is to confuse the cultural fears of yesterday with ultimate truth. It is also to be pathetically and profoundly uninformed.”

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  79. Joe,
    I have trouble understanding why you would believe in the Birth, Death and Resurrection stories of Jesus since their only source is from the fallible bible ? Why would these stories be any more believable than the other stories you readily admit are false ? I again assert you would have never heard of the name Jesus if the fallible bible did not exist .

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  80. Joen- ” How can a person coming to be through virgin birth have a literal human father and a literal genealogy?” that is a good question and one I second. In any event, the bible gives several to chose from, and neither match what was previously given in the OT. Claiming that order or accuracy doesnt matter is ludicrous. The only reason to present them is for evidence – when it can be shown to be inaccurate, how is that evidence “for?”

    I’m really not understanding you. and just as aside, I quit believing when things such as this started piling up so high, I could no longer claim that Christianity was superior to any other man made religion with their basis in “false assumptions.”

    And all the earlier emperors and ruler who claimed to be descendants from gods were also using genealogies in the way i using them. yes, i believe they were wrong, lying or mistaken, but they still used it in a literal sense – otherwise it means nothing. Not today and not back then.

    And in your response to nate, were you trying to say that the bible was all fouled up my people who compiled and translated it? I mean, i agree with you and all, but I have trouble understanding how you can take a book with errors in it, in which everything written in it could mean anything (because ancient people apparently only communicated in nonsense, and the rest was figurative) and still believe in it? I mean, do you believe it was from god? do you believe in jesus? if not, then I guess we agree on the larger parts.

    And I’m glad you now have a better understanding of skepticism and fundamentalism, but i still am miles away from understanding your position. And where are you from, if you dont mind my asking?

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  81. This question from KC is the crux of the issue:

    I have trouble understanding why you would believe in the Birth, Death and Resurrection stories of Jesus since their only source is from the fallible bible ? Why would these stories be any more believable than the other stories you readily admit are false ? I again assert you would have never heard of the name Jesus if the fallible bible did not exist.

    I would like to know why you believe Christianity at all. What’s your evidence for it? Why do you believe it over Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Deism, or any other -ism?

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  82. Joen,
    We’re obviously talking past one another; coming from very different places.
    I think you understand where I’m coming from regarding my issues with the genealogies and why I see them as problematic.
    Let me try to clarify why I’m not understanding your position.
    1. You say that the people long ago regularly listed genealogies in such a way and would readily understand and accept it. I have a hard time with this for a few reasons:
    a. Wouldn’t the people of long ago still have understood an accurate genealogy? This would have eliminated this problem entirely making it without issue for all people for all time.
    b. What would two inaccurate genealogies have meant to the people of old? Why even go to the trouble of presenting rubbish as if it meant something?
    2. Jesus wasn’t literally the son of Joseph (but the son of god) so the genealogies are not literal either.
    a. Sure they’re not literal in the sense that jesus was adopted, but the genealogies at least appear to be presenting the adopted son as being in the line of david through his adoptive father, Joseph. So the bloodline to jesus is ”figurative” (although adoptive may be more accurate) but through Joseph it is presenting itself as literal – it doesn’t make sense otherwise.
    b. If it were figurative and if it didn’t matter what names were presented, then what possible significance could it have? Why give it at all?
    Again, you may disagree with my end conclusion, but I think you’d have to at least understand WHY I see it the way I do, and HOW I got there… I think my position is pretty simple.

    And you gave an earlier analogy regarding the mention of donkeys and elephants in today’s newspaper as making no sense a thousand years from now. I get that. People reading that would try to rationalize it somehow, because people aren’t really donkeys or elephants, so they would likely try to predict what it stood for, what the comparison or symbolism was about – because it couldn’t be literal unless whoever wrote the paper was just insanely incorrect.
    Similarly, that’s how I take the bible. Either jesus wasn’t a god on earth in the form of a man (meaning the bible authors were wrong/incorrect) or they were using the term figuratively to mean or represent something else… either way, jesus wasn’t literally the son of god, no more than anyone else. Is this what you mean?

    of course, all of this only after nate and KC’s question…

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  83. @joe, “William rejects the ancient Jesus genealogies’ constructions because they don’t live up to modern standards. He wants me to agree they should speak live up to modern standards, although it is impossible on two levels; they are ancient and they are supernatural.”

    Joe, If they were made up and written down by man , I would agree with you. Because you claim they are “supernatural” , all the more reason they would hold up to modern scrutiny. If it were truly God doing these supernatural wonders , he wouldn’t dare make contradictions in their stories for fear man would discredit them as manmade myth.

    You still haven’t answered the multiple requests from William, Nate or I about why you believe in the virgin birth, dying, resurrected Jesus ?

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  84. It looks fair to say that Mythicism has some obstacles, that so far have proven insurmountable to solve probably:

    1. Paul, a first-century writer who lived before the fall of Jerusalem, on a few occasions clearly refers to Jesus as a human being (Gal. 4: 4, Rom. 1: 3); besides he casually claims to have met his brother (“the brother of the Lord”, Gal. 1: 19, he meets him again – only called James this time – in Gal. 2: 1-10).

    2. The gospels contain material that are unlikely as inventions for a fictional person. For example, there was no expectation of a crucified messiah in second-temple Judaism (contrary to Fundamentalist claims), crucifixion was an egregiously dishonourable punishment for loathsome criminals. Since inventing something like this was simply horrible PR (attested by Paul, 1 Cor 1: 22-23), the crucifixion is likelier historical. Other such are Jesus’ inability to perform miracles in Nazareth (Mar. 6: 5) and his baptism by John the Baptist (Mar. 1: 9), implying subordination (and thus emended or omitted in gospels other than gMark). In a wholly fictional account with the agenda to promulgate a religious cult, you would expect the storyline to be much more smoother.

    3. The Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus refers to Jesus twice, in Ant. XVIII 63-64 and Ant. XX 200. Ant. XVIII 63-64 has been mangled by a Christian interpolator, but while there is no agreement on what’s exactly authentic and what not, several additions are extremely obvious (“if it’s okay to call him a man”, “he was the messiah”). It seems that our interpolator was no master forger, so it is unlikely that he made the whole passage up. That means that there was likely an original passage referring to Jesus. And interpolations are often assumed by Mythicists in Ant. XX 200, but the evidence for it is very thin. It is difficult to explain why a Christian would forge this section as they have little to gain from it. That does not mean there are no Mythicist attempts to explain it, but they are unconvincing.

    Mythicist have their strategies to evade these points, for instance claiming that “brother of the Lord” is not describing a relative but either “Christian” in general (I wonder how that works out in combination with 1 Cor. 9: 3-6) or a special group of Christians that is mentioned nowhere else. The only reason to read it this way is because it is inconvenient to the Mythicist cause, so this reading isn’t based on evidence.

    Now there are many Mythicist arguments on what should have been if Jesus had existed: Paul should have mentioned many more details about Jesus, many more writers should have mentioned Jesus and the like. The problem with this is that Paul didn’t write epistles to provide people biographical details about Jesus, but in order to manage congregations at a distance, congregations he had been to and who already knew the gospel he preached. And the bizarre list of people who should have mentioned Jesus seems more based on the expectation that they would write about a Jesus Christ Superstar – but the thing is that Jesus was an outback preacher who would not have drawn empire-wide attention.

    So I think there is a convincing case that Jesus indeed did exist. Now it is true that there is a significant diversity of opinion among scholars about who Jesus was – but that is not a valid rebuttal. On the same token, many Mythicists disagree about what kind of myth Jesus was.

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  85. @ignorantianescia, ” And the bizarre list of people who should have mentioned Jesus seems more based on the expectation that they would write about a Jesus Christ Superstar – but the thing is that Jesus was an outback preacher who would not have drawn empire-wide attention.”

    Starting from his birth it looks like Jesus drew empire-wide attention to me and beyond since the Magi probably came from the Orient . He was supposedly from Royal Lineage too !

    I think there should have been more written about him if the biblical evidence about him is valid.

    Mt 2: 2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

    3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

    6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
    for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]”
    7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

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  86. yeah, I think jesus was real for some of the same reasons you pointed out, but I also think most of what Christians believe about him is myth, for obvious reasons. jesus being a guy who lived in the first century = believable and likely true. Jesus being the literal son of god, born of a literal virgin, died a literal death and literally flew into heaven after raising from the dead = safely in the “myth.”

    I also believe the Trojan War was real, but I think Homer made most of it Myth – I also think this for for obvious reasons.

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  87. ignorantianescia, I don’t think you can downplay what little evidence exists outside the bible when there is so much supposed evidence in the bible from his birth to his resurrection.

    He may have existed on earth as a human. I don’t think many here would argue that possibility. It’s the Divinity issue where I would take exception.

    Are you claiming he was just a man or divine ?

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  88. “Starting from his birth it looks like Jesus drew empire-wide attention to me and beyond since the Magi probably came from the Orient . He was supposedly from Royal Lineage too !”

    Point taken, but I don’t think that the (two incompatible) infancy narratives are acceptable as a historical source.

    “I think there should have been more written about him if the biblical evidence about him is valid.”

    I agree that there are many embellishments and fantastic stories in the gospels, but that does not prevent historical traditions being present. As I have argued under point 2, it’s very probable that there are historical traditions in the gospels.

    “ignorantianescia, I don’t think you can downplay what little evidence exists outside the bible when there is so much supposed evidence in the bible from his birth to his resurrection.”

    Again, I would wholeheartedly agree that several episodes about Jesus are implausible or simply impossible, like the infancy narratives and f.e. Mark 5: 1-20. But overall, the picture that emerges from the gospels is a Jesus who was a messianic claimant who proclaimed the Kingdom of God, a travelling teacher who focussed on the poor and sinners and someone with the reputation of a faith healer and exorcist. Josephus doesn’t portray Jesus as a messianic pretender, but he does call him a “performer of perplexing deeds” and a teacher. That doesn’t mean every miracle or parable in every gospel originates from Jesus – in any case, secular history can only accept miracles that can be explained as psychosomatic or from anthropology of healing.

    “He may have existed on earth as a human.”

    Then I don’t think we have any discussion here.

    “I don’t think many here would argue that possibility.”

    You’d be surprised!

    “It’s the Divinity issue where I would take exception.”

    I think most people who think Jesus existed would.

    “Are you claiming he was just a man or divine ?”

    I’m claiming here that there was a first-century Jewish man named Yeshua’ who really existed.

    However, if I’d leave it at that, I wouldn’t be truthful, as I’m also a non-dogmatic Trinitarian Christian – so I believe he wasn’t just a man. But I am not interested in discussing that here, as I intend to remain on-topic and discuss the historical Jesus defended by secular historians. Feel free to ask me at some other time, though.

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  89. Ah, I get along with that. jesus was a historical dude who had a series of embellished letters books based (maybe loosely) on his life. I agree with that historical notion of jesus. I do not agree that the “divine” or “miraculous” version of jesus was historical, though.

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  90. Thank you for your candid and honest comments, Ignorantianescia. I think you, William and I share a lot of common ground until we get to the Divine Nature of Jesus. I think believing in his divinity is where faith has to come into play. I don’t see where you could provide compelling evidence for this otherwise.

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  91. If there was a Rabbi named Yeshua he sure as heck was not the person reflected in the Gospels, nor the one referred to by Paul. That figure is a pure narrative construct.
    And aside from the bible, just what evidence is there for Saul/Paul?

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  92. I visited the ancient city of ephesus in Turkey not so long ago and asked my guide that same question , Ark. He said there was no archaeological evidence of Paul ever being there. He referred to it as a Christian Tradition not History.

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  93. “If there was a Rabbi named Yeshua he sure as heck was not the person reflected in the Gospels, nor the one referred to by Paul. That figure is a pure narrative construct.”

    “Pure narrative construct” is an overstatement as there is a body of evidence that likely reflects the historical Jesus – and several scholars who investigated the historical Jesus accept actually a surprisingly large amount of Jesus traditions from a naturalistic perspective, while others are of course much more sceptical – but I agree that the gospels are slanted, not interested in unbiased or even critical biography and often eager to make theological or polemical cases. There are good reasons to doubt that the general synoptic set-up is not chronological, for instance. However, there is also much that fits very well in the setting of early first-century Palestinian Judaism in the gospels, despite some anachronisms.

    “And aside from the bible, just what evidence is there for Saul/Paul?”

    I have not delved deeply into extrabiblical sources for Paul, but he is alluded to in 1 Clement, for what it is worth. Considering that we have a number of authentic letters from the man and a theological/historical account from another man (the author of gLuke and Acts) who may have travelled with him, that is a persuasive body of evidence for him – ancient people who have worse attestation are generally not doubted to have existed either. Even many Jesus Mythers tend to stay away from Paul scepticism and I know of no current scholar with an academic position who denies Paul’s existence – so I am not inclined to doubt his existence.

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  94. @ignorantianescia

    ”There are good reasons to doubt that the general synoptic set-up is not chronological, for instance. However, there is also much that fits very well in the setting of early first-century Palestinian Judaism in the gospels, despite some anachronisms.”

    Would youy care to offer up any evidence for this claim?

    ‘Alluded to” .Means what exactly?.
    ”They are claimed to be authentic” And why are they claimed to be authentic?

    ‘the author of gLuke and Acts) who may have travelled with him,” hearsay.

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  95. @kccchief
    ”I visited the ancient city of ephesus in Turkey not so long ago and asked my guide that same question , Ark. He said there was no archaeological evidence of Paul ever being there. He referred to it as a Christian Tradition not History.”

    There are parts of his journey (the shipwreck) that have remarkable similarities to Josephus.

    There is a line from the movie Life of Brian that I find apt in such circumstances and although a bit childish, is ideal for the Christian explanation.

    “He’s making it up as he goes along.”
    Yes…I am afraid they did…

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  96. Would youy care to offer up any evidence for this claim?

    I will give some examples. Though I hope you agree that I may then also ask you to present evidence.

    * Mark 7: 1-23 features a confrontation between Jesus and some Pharisees on purity. The Pharisees accuse the disciples of not following the non-biblical tradition that hands should be washed before eating because impure hands pollute the food and that impure food contaminates the person eating it, making him ritually impure. Casey expounds on this episode in Jesus of Nazareth, page 326 to 331 in great detail, noting that orthodox Jews had expanded purity laws in this respect and he gives an example from the Mishna of late first-century Rabbis who assume that food eaten with unwashed hands indeed causes impurity. This shows that this episode makes good sense in the first century. There are very good reasons to suppose that this episode was not made up by the author but was based on an earlier tradition. In 7: 19b he explains that Jesus suspended dietary laws, but that is not what Jesus did at all. Since he shows he did not understand the story, it makes no sense to assume he made the happening that he misunderstood up.
    * In Mark 15: 21 soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry the (crossbeam of the) cross. This is a case of soldiers using their right of angaria, to make people do compulsory labour. It is not a guarantee the story is historical, but again, it does make perfect sense in first-century Palestine.
    * John 5: 2 describes in sufficient detail a pool with five porticos near the Sheep gate in Jerusalem. The pool has been discovered. This is information that predates the destruction of Jerusalem in the First Jewish War. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pool_of_Bethesda

    If you want, I can also give you examples of anachronisms.

    ‘Alluded to” .Means what exactly?.

    1 Clement 47. He is mentioned there as having written a letter to the Corinthians.

    ”They are claimed to be authentic” And why are they claimed to be authentic?

    Coherency of style, similar theology (despite developments in thought and inconsistencies), they claim to be written by Paul and overall they seem to describe the person portrayed in Acts, despite important differences between the accounts.

    ‘the author of gLuke and Acts) who may have travelled with him,” hearsay.

    No. At several points, the narrative of Acts changes to the first person. The exact meaning of this is the subject of debate, but it is a valid view that the author actually travelled with Paul. Hence I deliberately used a modal verb.

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  97. You are using the bible to justify the bible.
    ”… despite important differences between the accounts.”
    So therefore one can dismiss the discrepancies and find the bits that do fit because this is what you want to find?
    This is simply cherry picking.

    There are no verifiable non-biblical references to back any thing concerning Paul, and much of the biblical accounts are so ludicrous only a Christian could possibly find anything to consider worthwhile for their belief.
    The epistles bear the name name, Paul. But that is as far as one can go. They might as well have borne the name The Ark.

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  98. You are using the bible to justify the bible.

    This is not a valid objection, actually. The (Christian) Bible is a collection of documents ranging from the early 1st millenium BCE to the second century CE, with some texts likely even stemming from the late 2nd millenium BCE. That means there is much disparate material. In the case of witnesses for the historical Jesus, it is valid to ask to what measure the traditions are independent or interdependent and modern scholarship does and has done exactly that. They conclude that the Pauline epistles do not depend on the gospels, most gospels (with the possible exception of gLuke) do not seem to depend on the Pauline epistles and there are sophisticated models of interdependence between the synoptic gospels (with division in Marcan material, Q material, M material and L material).

    Furthermore, I am not “justify[ing] the bible”, I am – not originally – using biblical texts critically to argue for a historical Jesus.

    ”… despite important differences between the accounts.”
    So therefore one can dismiss the discrepancies and find the bits that do fit because this is what you want to find?
    This is simply cherry picking.

    We must take care not to be overtly dichotomic or positivistic with our method. Discrepancies between accounts are a dime a dozen, the presence of discrepancies cannot be seized upon to discredit a source completely.

    And the context of that quote is from where I state that Paul the writer of epistles can be identified with Paul a protagonist in Acts. The thing is, these Pauls can be said to be the same. For instance, note these similarities in portrayal:

    – Both are Jews (Phil. 3: 5, Gal. 1: 13; Act. 21: 39).
    – Both are (former) Pharisees (Phil. 3: 5; Act. 23: 6).
    – Both have persecuted the early church (Phil. 3: 6, 1 Cor. 15: 9, Gal. 1: 13; Act. 8: 1-3).
    – Both joined the church ‘late’ (1 Cor. 15: 8; Act. 9: 18).
    – Both are converted by a visionary experience (1 Cor. 15: 5-8; Act. 9: 1-8).
    – Both are involved in a council in Jerusalem (Gal. 2: 1-10; Act. 15).
    – Both have a sidekick named Timothy (2 Coe. 1: 1, Phil. 1: 1, 1 Cor. 4: 17; Act. 16: 1-3, Act. 18: 5).

    So unless we suppose that there were two Pauls, who were former Pharisees, former persecuters of the church, who converted late, a late birth, because of a christic vision, went to a council with the church leadership in Jerusalem and had a sidekick named Timothy, one the writer of the authentic epistles and another for the author of Acts to refer to, we can infer that this is about the same person. What seems more probable? This does not mean that both sources are completely accurate on all points, just that all are identifiable (it is possible that the author of Acts embellished these episodes, for instance).

    There are no verifiable non-biblical references to back any thing concerning Paul, and much of the biblical accounts are so ludicrous only a Christian could possibly find anything to consider worthwhile for their belief.
    The epistles bear the name name, Paul. But that is as far as one can go. They might as well have borne the name The Ark.

    See above. There are plenty of events in the New Testament that secular history cannot accept, but that does not preclude the usefulness of the NT as a source. It’s not only because the letters have Paul’s name that they are considered authentic, but even then it’s a non-argument. The Bar Kosiba letters are mainly identified as the second-century Jewish king’s because they bear his name and other letters in the corpus are addressed to him. Do you think they might as well carry the name “The Ark”?

    More importantly, does the fact that you only address my points on Paul mean you agree with my other points?

    Also, may I ask what your views are regarding the existence of Paul?

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  99. ”Furthermore, I am not “justify[ing] the bible”, I am – not originally – using biblical texts critically to argue for a historical Jesus.”

    Smile….Okay, I will call that an attempt ( and a poor one) at sophisticated bullshit.
    It might not have come straight out of the WLC book of apologetics but damn close. Sorry, old fruit. This wont wash.
    Try again….

    ”See above. There are plenty of events in the New Testament that secular history cannot accept, but that does not preclude the usefulness of the NT as a source”
    Cannot accept? Have not historical or evidentiary grounds grounds to accept.
    As a source for what, pray? Jesus? lol….Once more…total nonsense. Pure apologetics.

    The Paul in Acts does not resemble the Paul in the epistles on numerous occasions.
    Events don’t tie up characters don’t match, and much of the story is rather silly.
    I reiterate, only a Christian is able to glibly harmonize Acts and the Epistles.

    The shipwreck is a particular case of how ridiculous the story is.
    And, no, I am not going to bother dissecting that point by point because you are simply not open or intellectually honest enough to handle it. You demonstrate this by using the gospels to justify the gospels argument.
    And you and I have had a few head to heads in the past over at unklee’ spot, especially over such topics as the mythical town of Nazareth for me to even consider you would be anything other than disingenuous.

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  100. ”Furthermore, I am not “justify[ing] the bible”, I am – not originally – using biblical texts critically to argue for a historical Jesus.”

    Smile….Okay, I will call that an attempt ( and a poor one) at sophisticated bullshit.
    It might not have come straight out of the WLC book of apologetics but damn close. Sorry, old fruit. This wont wash.
    Try again….

    Anyone can see that I am not “justifying the bible with the bible”, so your criticism does not succeed. That you glibly compare it with Craig’s apologetics is telling. Do you think actual scholars have a hand at apologetics.

    It is also notable you do not give any substantial critique of either my intent or my reasons why this is painting the situation with too broad a brush: we need to analyse individual.

    ”See above. There are plenty of events in the New Testament that secular history cannot accept, but that does not preclude the usefulness of the NT as a source”
    Cannot accept? Have not historical or evidentiary grounds grounds to accept.
    As a source for what, pray? Jesus? lol….Once more…total nonsense. Pure apologetics.

    Yes, there are plenty of events in the New Testament for which there is not enough evidence to accept them, that was more or less what I had in mind with “cannot”, not that it were too biased (though it has its limitations). But okay.

    And it can be used as a historical source, if used critically. If material is embarrassing to the purpose of the author, it is likely an authentic tradition, for instance. Historians are used to sift through sources with a critical mind.

    Consider the modern pseudohistorical genre of Ronald Reagan hagiographies. To read one at face value you would get served to pure ordure. It would paint Reagan as some kind of demigod, personally responsible for manhandling Gorbachev and his “Evil Empire”, as a saviour of the world economy and as a highly intelligent man. Such traditions are unreliable. However, if it would justify the support of Contras in Nicaragua by arguing against West-European and UN observers who stated that the Sandinistas were elected democratically and fairly, that is good evidence for Reagan having supported counter-revolutionaries against a democratically elected government.

    Along similar lines, I doubt that any historian considers the long speeches in Acts genuine or that there the many fulfilled prophecies mentioned in gMatthew are of any value. But few deny his itinerant ministry, his crucifixion in Jerusalem, his status as a reputed healer, his involvement in Jewish religious debates and his upending of sales tables within the Temple grounds.

    The Paul in Acts does not resemble the Paul in the epistles on numerous occasions.
    Events don’t tie up characters don’t match, and much of the story is rather silly.
    I reiterate, only a Christian is able to glibly harmonize Acts and the Epistles.

    I think you may have misunderstood my point. I have already noted that there are incongruities. Nevertheless, you have not refuted my grounds for identifying the Paul of the epistles with the Paul of Acts.

    We are on full agreement that a complete harmonisation is only possible from within the Christian faith – and I must say that I do not have an interest in doing so. However identification is definitely possible and some harmonisation (some reports could be about the same event, though perhaps in this source from a very skewed perspective) must not be ruled out on prior grounds.

    The shipwreck is a particular case of how ridiculous the story is.
    And, no, I am not going to bother dissecting that point by point because you are simply not open or intellectually honest enough to handle it. You demonstrate this by using the gospels to justify the gospels argument.
    And you and I have had a few head to heads in the past over at unklee’ spot, especially over such topics as the mythical town of Nazareth for me to even consider you would be anything other than disingenuous.

    I’m not sure what you consider “intellectually honest”, but I surely consider myself that sufficiently to be capable of discussion. Ditto for “open”. If you have a substantial argument against that accompanied with evidence, for instance when I deliberately misrepresent others’ opinions, then I, and I suppose others here, would be interested to be in the know. Not bothering to reply while you assume that I am too dishonest isn’t fair though.

    What was disingenuous about the Nazareth discussion?

    I have already indicated what’s wrong with claiming I “use the Bible to justify the Bible”. The same applies to the allegation that I were “using the gospels to justify the gospels argument”.

    The shipwreck is a single case, it cannot be used to discredit an entire souce.

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  101. @ignorantianescia

    What was disingenuous about the Nazareth discussion?”

    LOL…no, sir, we will not got there. I am not going to enter into an argument over that once more. An certainly not jive arse like you who delights in semantics.
    I would merely draw your attention to the account in Luke.
    The whole Nazareth scene is a crock from beginning to end, and well you know it.Helene, Bagatti, Pffan and all managed one of the greatest cons in biblical history.
    You enjoy your your delusion…..

    The shipwreck is a single case, it cannot be used to discredit an entire source.

    😉 Then please tell me,how many examples would you accept before you were honest enough to go from this stance to ”Okay, Ark, I see your point, it is crap.”

    Five, ten, twenty, fifty?

    Give me a figure and I will see if I can match it.
    Your call…..

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  102. Yes, to end blockquotes tags are needed. But no worries, I can read it. I’ll comment on it later (maybe tomorrow), as I’ll be busy for the rest of the day.

    Best wishes.

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  103. I spent a bit of time practicing..I reckon I have it sorted.
    So…how many little oddities in Acts etc would you like me to find?
    I have the whole afternoon free.?

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  104. I’ll comment on it later (maybe tomorrow), as I’ll be busy for the rest of the day.

    Sorry, didn’t notice this about being busy. Posting too quickly.

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  105. …and his upending of sales tables within the Temple grounds.

    Sorry, I missed this one… and it is quite funny.
    Yeah, right…one can just imagine that old JC got away with that without any interference at any time let alone during passover.
    An apparent beserker left unchallenged? Nah..com on. You’re a bit more savvy than that, surely?
    Anyhow, don;t let this sidetrack you from coming up with those examples you would like me to offer about Saul and Acts I just thought I;’d give you a little something else to think about…but then again, maybe you tagged this piece of nonsense on specifically as bait? yeah, you’re not that stupid. Good one! Point to you.

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  106. What was disingenuous about the Nazareth discussion?”

    LOL…no, sir, we will not got there. I am not going to enter into an argument over that once more. An certainly not jive arse like you who delights in semantics.
    I would merely draw your attention to the account in Luke.
    The whole Nazareth scene is a crock from beginning to end, and well you know it.Helene, Bagatti, Pffan and all managed one of the greatest cons in biblical history.
    You enjoy your your delusion…..

    Come on, there’s nothing wrong with semantics. 😉

    You know there is good archaeology evidence for Nazareht to have existed at the time, contrary to Bethlehem in Judaea. It is overwhelmingly probable that Luke had no accurate geographical of the place, as , well, ancient Nazareth is not anywhere near a “cliff”. That does not mean Nazareth did not exist back then.

    Are you saying that these scholars are engaged in a conspiracy? Do you have any evidence for that?

    The shipwreck is a single case, it cannot be used to discredit an entire source.


    😉 Then please tell me,how many examples would you accept before you were honest enough to go from this stance to ”Okay, Ark, I see your point, it is crap.”

    Five, ten, twenty, fifty?

    Give me a figure and I will see if I can match it.
    Your call…..

    The issue isn’t one of taking the sum of all untrue stories. Take the Reagan analogy. Even if all other bits of info are complete guff, surely we would still have to take the possibility that Reagan supported violent insurrectionists against a fairly elected democratic government most seriously. It might sound horribly sodomite, but let’s not throw the baby away with the bath water.

    If you do not mind, I have a few questions for you in return:

    Now, will you go to refuting the reasons I mentioned for identifying the two Pauls with eachother? Also, can you elaborate what your thoughts exactly are on the historicity of Paul? Do you think that there might have been a Paul, but that he is not the one about whom the author of Acts intended to write?

    Also, may I ask whether you now think that Jesus likely existed, though he was a human rabbi?

    In any case, do you think the argument from embarrassing materials is sound?

    Or would you accept the Josephan evidence as well or instead?

    Finally, do you think that if Jesus or Paul did not exist, this must be put into a coherent and plausible framework? (Please feel free to ignore this if the conditions do not apply.)

    I will respond to your comment on the disturbance at the Temple, but I’ll get to it later (likely tomorrow)!

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  107. ”Are you saying that these scholars are engaged in a conspiracy? Do you have any evidence for that?”

    Conspiracy…my goodness.! What a shocking suggestion. Christians and their sympathizers having an agenda. Who would think such a thing? Why don’t you just come out and ask if I think they are all a bunch of two bit liars?

    My view has not changed since that pleasant tete a tete over on you buddy’s blog.
    My view is still very much in line with Bernard’s.

    And your Reagan analogy…are you going to two-step again? Yes , one can pretty much chuck out the baby with the bathwater..and the soap and the flannel.
    So…I go back to my original question which you haven’t answered.

    How many examples would you accept before you acknowledged it was pretty much all nonsense? 10, 20, 50 100! More?
    By answering this question, and allowing me to provide the number of anomalies you state (I will do my very best with the numbers you request providing it isn’t completely ridiculous – but even then , it still might be very possible) I can then show you a different perspective and maybe you will be able to understand why I asked the question in the first place.

    Once you do this it will then be a lot easier to answer the other questions and move the discussion forward.

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  108. And your Reagan analogy…are you going to two-step again? Yes , one can pretty much chuck out the baby with the bathwater..and the soap and the flannel.
    So…I go back to my original question which you haven’t answered.

    I have replied to your question and I have indicated what is wrong with it. That a simple tally will invalidate a source, is a too simplistic notion. The Reagan analogy works quite fine, as it outlines a similar (hypothetical) methodological problem. Yes, I’ll agree that the consequence is that Acts would then be an unreliable source. So the only answer I’d consider rational is “all”.

    In other words, I have responded, so the way is free for you to answer mine. If you think this is insufficient, you have to address what you think is wrong with my Reagan hagiography analogy.

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  109. I have replied to your question and I have indicated what is wrong with it. That a simple tally will invalidate a source, is a too simplistic notion.

    No. Now you are just playing silly buggers, so typical of someone who is afraid to face the subject head on. If you are not prepared to answer the question in a direct manner it demonstrates quite clearly you are already painfully aware of the likely outcome – which wont suit your worldview.
    Christians and those who are only interested in proving their point without addressing the evidence love to utilise these sort of tricks and think this makes them look clever, so they can puff up their chests and declare…”Aha! So there!”.
    This type of attitude is used so often in apologetics it is almost nauseatingly cliche. Your mate is a prime example and he had his his arse handed to him by Bernard over Nazareth and like him, you are now behaving in a similar fashion. But I don’t have bernard’s patience.

    And if anyone would like to read that particular exchange, between Unklee & Bernhard Schornak here it is:

    http://www.is-there-a-god.info/blog/belief/nazareth-re-visited/

    However,instead of making Christians look clever all this ‘tactic’ does, In fact, is just make them – and in this case you – look bloody stupid.

    Reagan analogy, babies and their bath water. What next?

    So, for the record, you have not, in fact, responded and plainly have no serious intention of doing so.
    Fortunately this is not unkleE’s blog and any normal people that are following this dialogue can deduce their own answer regarding the story of Paul, Acts and the Epistles.

    If you wish to reply feel free.

    I won’t play this game with you again.

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  110. The reason Jesus would have been allowed to cause a ruckus is not mysterious, as Josephus describes what is pretty much the counterfactual. In Jewish War II, 5 – 13/Jewish Antiquities XVII, 206 – 217 it is described how an uproar at the Temple led to 500 soldiers being stoned to death (in the sense of having rock pelted at them, not of being high on THC) and 3000 Jews slaughtered. So there were quite reasonable motivations for not starting any skirmishes on the Temple grounds.

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  111. Ark, I am definitely not afraid of directly addressing the subject. I have done so several times in this discussion (recall your question about the evidence for Paul, which I addressed head-on). Also have I addressed your question about the tally of unreliable accounts before we can completely discarded. The reasons why I find fault with this have I spelt out, but as I noted in my second reply, the logical conclusion is that you would to demonstrate that all events are completely unreliable. There is no basis for claiming I have evaded the question.

    Any parallel with apologetics has to be mighty obscure, as I can see none.

    In any case, for the record, I have responded. My reply can be found in these two posts:
    https://findingtruth.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/the-historicity-of-jesus/#comment-5875
    https://findingtruth.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/the-historicity-of-jesus/#comment-5904

    Now what I do find saddening is that thee questions I posed are still unanswered, though you have confirmed that you still think Jesus and Nazareth are mythical.

    So to briefly reiterate the case for the existence of Jesus:
    1. Paul mentions meeting Jesus’ brother James in Galatians 1: 19. Fictional people do not have real brothers.
    2. Josephus provides independent witness of Jesus, and of James’ status as Jesus’ brother.
    3. Embarrassing traditions about Jesus are more easily and rationally explained as genuine traditions about a historical Jesus.

    Now for Paul:
    1. We have a corpus of letters ascribed to Paul that share their style, theological opinions and practical occupation.
    2. Paul is amply portayed as a historical person in the Acts of the Apostles, written in the late first century. Non-existent people do not write letters.
    3. 1 Clement 47 mentions Paul as the author of an epistle to the Corinthians.

    Best wishes.

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  112. In case anyone should consider I am unaware of what you are trying to push here….

    I will not respond on Josephus as this is so worn out it is beneath contempt.

    A closing thought for you:

    If ‘Paul’ was who the bible claims, then he would have been aware of who Yeshua was,( they were around the same age) and he was a devout Jew, a zealot even.
    He even had family there, supposedly and studied there as well.

    He most certainly would have been in Jerusalem during passover and would have been the perfect contemporary witness for the Crucifixion. Yet he recounts absolutely nothing of this event.

    The story is a fabrication.

    We are done.

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  113. I will not respond on Josephus as this is so worn out it is beneath contempt.

    Actually, I don’t understand why it would be worn out. I have mentioned Josephus relatively often in this exchange, but you have only dropped his name two or three times.

    If ‘Paul’ was who the bible claims, then he would have been aware of who Yeshua was,( they were around the same age) and he was a devout Jew, a zealot even.
    He even had family there, supposedly and studied there as well.

    He most certainly would have been in Jerusalem during passover and would have been the perfect contemporary witness for the Crucifixion. Yet he recounts absolutely nothing of this event.

    First of all, Paul would have been a younger contemporary of Jesus, as he is referred to as a young man after Jesus’ death (Acts 7: 58). Second, Paul would have been a Diaspora Jew, so there is little reason to suppose he’d go to Jerusalem every Passover: in his letters he claims not having gone to Jerusalem for years after his conversion (a claim that is contested by several scholars), so there is not much reason to suppose he had much of a stake in going to Jerusalem yearly. Why would he have met Jesus then? Because, third, Jesus’ ministry was focussed in Galilee.

    Paul does mention that Jesus was crucified, which I have already referred to (1 Cor 1: 22-23). So it is clear he believed in Jesus’ crucifixion, but never mentions himself as a witness. That is a good reason to suppose that he thought the crucifixion really occurred and that he wasn’t an eyewitness of it. You ought to refute the case for the authenticity of the accepted Pauline epistles for this argument to work.

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  114. I’m not sure why people put so much stock into Josephus. He was born after Christ had died. I’m sure it lends credence to there being a man named Jesus who some people regarded, but little else. And if the passage in Josephus’ writing are forged as some believe, then it means nothing.

    I always here believers point out that Josephus wasn’t a Christian as if it means he was an unbiased observer – but he never observed Christ, again, he was born after Christ had died. And too, even if Josephus had knowledge of jesus, he obviously wasn’t convinced enough to believe the miraculous claims.

    But if he did, I imagine it would go a little something like this:

    Josephus: “Jesus was the Christ and rose from the dead.”

    Random man: “wow, that’s amazing, what was it like?”

    Josephus: “well I wasn’t there, but I imagine it was spectacular.”

    Random man: “oh… I guess it would have been great… can we go see him now?”

    Josephus: “no, he’s gone now.”

    Random man: “well, when he comes back?”

    Josephus: “he went to heaven and no one knows when he’ll come back. Just amazing.”

    Random man: “ah. Well, what did he say to you?”

    Josephus: “me? Oh, I’ve never seen him.”

    Random man: “so you didn’t actually see him rise from the dead?”

    Josephus: “no.”

    Random man: “but you did see him go to heaven?”

    Josephus: “no.”

    Random man: “well… you saw some of his miracles.”

    Josephus: “no.”

    Random man: “but you have seen some of the people he’s healed?”

    Josephus: “no.”

    Random man: “hmm”

    Josephus: “some of his followers are writing letters that explain most of this and they are guided by a Holy Spirit.”

    Random man: “what does the spirit look like?”

    Josephus: “no one can see it and only they can hear it. God works in mysterious ways.”

    Random man: “Josephus, how do you know that they’re being truthful?”

    Josephus: “well God wouldn’t lie, would he? So if God is telling these people what to write, who are we to discredit it? And look at all of his believers. They couldn’t all be wrong could they? And I haven’t seen Jesus’ body, so it must be in heaven, right?”

    Random man: “I guess… So you really believe all of this, huh?”

    Josephus: “oh yes.”

    Random man: “so you’re going to follow his teachings and will become a disciple of Jesus?”

    Josephus: “nah”

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  115. Why would anyone trust what Josephus had to say anyway ?

    He fought the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War of 66–73 as a Jewish military leader in Galilee. Prior to this, in his early twenties, he traveled to negotiate with Emperor Nero for the release of several Jewish priests. Upon his return to Jerusalem, he was drafted as a commander of the Galilean forces.[9] After the Jewish garrison of Yodfat fell under siege, the Romans invaded, killing thousands; the survivors committed suicide. According to Josephus, he was trapped in a cave with forty of his companions in July 67. The Romans (commanded by Flavius Vespasian and his son Titus, both subsequently Roman emperors) asked the group to surrender, but they refused. Josephus suggested a method of collective suicide: they drew lots and killed each other, one by one, counting to every third person. The sole survivor of this process was Josephus (this method as a mathematical problem is referred to as the Josephus problem, or Roman roulette),[10] who surrendered to the Roman forces and became a prisoner. In 69 Josephus was released.[11] According to his account, he acted as a negotiator with the defenders during the Siege of Jerusalem in 70, in which his parents and first wife died.

    What a worthless piece of human flesh !

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  116. The early Egyptians were some of the first to believe in an afterlife. It was late into the OT that the Jews started believing in an afterlife because they were being persecuted by the Babylonians and weren’t getting their earthly rewards for being observant Jews.

    If we were all honest with ourselves, most would admit it would be nice to have another chance to be with the ones we love after this life is over. Where we differ is how real we think this possibility is.

    Obviously the atheists consider the likelihood 0%-1%
    Deists (like myself) 1%-2%
    Christians and Muslims 50% – 100%

    It’s a pleasant thought but where some really go off the cliff is not caring enough about making this life count and instead waiting for the next life to come. Unfortunately there are those who are quite willing to end this life sooner than later for the opportunity to get that 2nd chance.

    I like to mix it up with other people on these blog sites but in reality at the end of the day what does it matter? I understand Ark’s concern that people are filling their children’s heads with utter nonsense. I get that.

    Though I am only 1% or 2% away from an atheist, something inside me wishes there might be more to come. It’s not something I dwell on however. My main concern is to spend every waking moment making this life as pleasurable for me and those around me.

    If anything happens after I die, great ! If not, I will have not been cheated.

    Most everyone here is passionate about their beliefs. I just hope everyone here is just as passionate about making this life count .

    Someone once said the thing we learn from history is that we never learn. Maybe it’s time to change this course before it’s too late.

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  117. @kcchief
    The case of Josephus and his TF was kicked into touch – by Christian scholars -a long long time ago and was only dug out for a rethink by later Christians who must have felt they were losing ground?
    Maybe the entire TF was always considered genuine by fundamentalists?
    But for a while the more fashionable approach of a genuine core gained some ground.
    In reality, it is a fraud and if one is prepared to look at it in context it becomes glaringly apparent that it is – and likely the work of someone such as Eusebius.

    The same contextual methodology should be applied to Nazareth, and also to the character of Saul/Paul – take in the whole picture, not just cherry pick bits and say well this or that could be true.
    One doesn’t have to be a theology scholar either, simply read and apply common sense.

    Ask the questions: What evidence is there to demonstrate that Nazareth existed at the time of Jesus? Answer None.
    Can Acts and the (supposed) ‘genuine’ Epistles be harmonized. Answer: No.

    And the really big issue, the evidence that Moses, the Exodus and invasion of Canaan shows beyond any reasonable doubt that it is ALL fiction, clearly demonstrates that Christianity and Islam are built upon the foundation of a perpetuated myth.
    And if the biblical character of Jesus mentions Moses and Abraham, he was mistaken or lying as was Saul when Acts claims he was spoken to by Jesus of Nazareth.

    When people like Ignorantianescia begin to use analogy and try to harmonize blatant anomalies and contradictions, picking some texts while dismissing other they consider irrelevant you should know you are dealing with someone who refuses to acknowledge the evidence and only wants to shoehorn everything to fit their religious worldview.

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  118. Sorry to post something so lengthy but I believe it merits it. It shows some of the troubling scriptures of the NT that I don’t see being explained rationally.

    Why Jesus?
    Jesus has been held in high regard by Christians and non-Christians alike. Regardless of whether he existed in history, or whether he was divine, many have asserted that the New Testament Christ character was the highest example of moral living. Many believe that his teachings, if truly understood and followed, would make this a better world.

    Is this true? Does Jesus merit the widespread adoration he has received? Let’s look at what he said and did.

    Was Jesus Peaceable And Compassionate?
    The birth of Jesus was heralded with “Peace on Earth,” yet Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace: I came not to send peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” (Luke 22:36) “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” (Luke 19:27. In a parable, but spoken of favorably.)

    The burning of unbelievers during the Inquisition was based on the words of Jesus: “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6)

    Jesus looked at his critics “with anger” (Mark 3:5), and attacked merchants with a whip (John 2:15). He showed his respect for life by drowning innocent animals (Matthew 8:32). He refused to heal a sick child until he was pressured by the mother (Matthew 15:22-28).

    The most revealing aspect of his character was his promotion of eternal torment. “The Son of man [Jesus himself] shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:41-42) “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.” (Mark 9:43)

    Is this nice? Is it exemplary to make your point with threats of violence? Is hell a kind, peaceful idea?

    Did Jesus Promote “Family Values”?
    “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

    “I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matthew 10:35-36)

    When one of his disciples requested time off for his father’s funeral, Jesus rebuked him: “Let the dead bury their dead.” (Matthew 8:22)

    Jesus never used the word “family.” He never married or fathered children. To his own mother, he said, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” (John 2:4)

    What Were His Views On Equality And Social Justice?
    Jesus encouraged the beating of slaves: “And that servant [slave], which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” (Luke 12:47) He never denounced servitude, incorporating the master-slave relationship into many of his parables.

    He did nothing to alleviate poverty. Rather than sell some expensive ointment to help the poor, Jesus wasted it on himself, saying, “Ye have the poor with you always.” (Mark 14:3-7)

    No women were chosen as disciples or invited to the Last Supper.

    What Moral Advice Did Jesus Give?
    “There be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” (Matthew 19:12) Some believers, including church father Origen, took this verse literally and castrated themselves. Even metaphorically, this advice is in poor taste.

    If you do something wrong with your eye or hand, cut/pluck it off (Matthew 5:29-30, in a sexual context).
    Marrying a divorced woman is adultery. (Matthew 5:32)
    Don’t plan for the future. (Matthew 6:34)
    Don’t save money. (Matthew 6:19-20)
    Don’t become wealthy. (Mark 10:21-25)
    Sell everything and give it to the poor. (Luke 12:33)
    Don’t work to obtain food. (John 6:27)
    Don’t have sexual urges. (Matthew 5:28)
    Make people want to persecute you. (Matthew 5:11)
    Let everyone know you are better than the rest. (Matthew 5:13-16)
    Take money from those who have no savings and give it to rich investors. (Luke 19:23-26)
    If someone steals from you, don’t try to get it back. (Luke 6:30)
    If someone hits you, invite them to do it again. (Matthew 5:39)
    If you lose a lawsuit, give more than the judgment. (Matthew 5:40)
    If someone forces you to walk a mile, walk two miles. (Matthew 5:41)
    If anyone asks you for anything, give it to them without question. (Matthew 5:42)
    Is this wise? Is this what you would teach your children?

    Was Jesus Reliable?
    Jesus told his disciples that they would not die before his second coming: “There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28). “Behold, I come quickly.” (Revelation 3:11) It’s been 2,000 years, and believers are still waiting for his “quick” return.

    He mistakenly claimed that the mustard seed is “the least of all seeds” (Matt. 13:32), and that salt could “lose its savour” (Matthew 5:13).

    Jesus said that whoever calls somebody a “fool” shall be in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:22), yet he called people “fools” himself (Matthew 23:17).

    Regarding his own truthfulness, Jesus gave two conflicting opinions: “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true” (John 5:31), and “Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true” (John 8:14).

    Was Jesus A Good Example?
    He irrationally cursed a fig tree for being fruitless out of season (Matthew 21:18-19, and Mark 11:13-14). He broke the law by stealing corn on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23), and he encouraged his disciples to take a horse without asking permission (Matthew 21).

    The “humble” Jesus said that he was “greater than the temple” (Matt 12:6), “greater than Jonah” (Matthew 12:41), and “greater than Solomon” (Matthew 12:42). He appeared to suffer from a dictator’s “paranoia” when he said, “He that is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30).

    Why Jesus?
    Although other verses can be cited that portray Jesus in a different light, they do not erase the disturbing side of his character. The conflicting passages, however, prove that the New Testament is contradictory.

    The “Golden Rule” had been said many times by earlier religious leaders. (Confucius: “Do not unto others that you would not have them do unto you.”) “Turn the other cheek” encourages victims to invite further violence. “Love thy neighbor” applied only to fellow believers. (Neither the Jews nor Jesus showed much love to foreign religions). A few of the Beatitudes (“Blessed are the peacemakers”) are acceptable, but they are all conditions of future reward, not based on respect for human life or values.

    On the whole, Jesus said little that was worthwhile. He introduced nothing new to ethics (except hell). He instituted no social programs. Being “omniscient,” he could have shared some useful science or medicine, but he appeared ignorant of such things (as if his character were merely the invention of writers stuck in the first century).

    Many scholars are doubtful of the historical existence of Jesus. Albert Schweitzer said, “The historical Jesus will be to our time a stranger and an enigma.” No first-century writer confirms the Jesus story. The New Testament is internally contradictory and contains historical errors. The story is filled with miracles and other outrageous claims. Consisting mostly of material borrowed from pagan religions, the Jesus story appears to be cut from the same fabric as all other myths and fables.

    Why is Jesus so special? It would be more reasonable and productive to emulate real, flesh-and-blood human beings who have contributed to humanity–mothers who have given birth, scientists who have alleviated suffering, social reformers who have fought injustice–than to worship a character of such dubious qualities as Jesus.

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  119. You’re welcome! And I have to say this last posting is even better. You’ve presented facts that few can deny because it’s all right there in black and white (in the bible).

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  120. Wow, KC! Fantastic post! I have nothing to add but look forward to reading attempts to explain away the laundry list of legitimate points you made. 🙂

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  121. Thanks Graham. I copied that from a website I linked a couple of years ago and stumbled onto it earlier this evening. There’s not much new that Nate, William and others haven’t posted before. It’s more of a compilation of all the questions rolled into one post.

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  122. One more thing. There are several Christians on this blog who tend to offer simplistic explanations to our questions and then look at us as though we are idiots because we don’t understand and agree with them.

    I just read a 29 page article written by the late Raymond Brown who was arguably one of the foremost Bible Scholars of the Catholic Church. The title of his work is, “Does the New Testament call Jesus , “God” ?

    You would think a Christian could answer this with a yes or no. After reading his 29 page article, I was left with blurred vision and dizziness. I think this only substantiates the confusion many atheists and de-converts have with the bible.

    If you too would care to scratch your head, here is the link to his article:

    http://raymondebrownss.weebly.com/uploads/2/0/5/9/20590956/raymond_brown_does_the_nt_call_jesus_god.pdf

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  123. I find it strange that a God who purportedly spoke the universe into existence felt it an unworthy endeavor to leave irrefutable evidence of his earthly passage — that is, incontestable evidence which even the most hardened skeptic would find impossible to deny. IMHO, a deity incapable of making its existence known is indistinguishable from one which doesn’t exist.

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  124. William,

    I’m not sure why people put so much stock into Josephus. He was born after Christ had died. I’m sure it lends credence to there being a man named Jesus who some people regarded, but little else. And if the passage in Josephus’ writing are forged as some believe, then it means nothing.

    Yes, he was no contemporary of Jesus in any sense. But Josephus is still relevant. He was alive and old enough to remember the death of a certain James the Just in the 60s. Now guess whose brother that was. Bingo.

    The uninterpolated testimony from Josephus doesn’t indeed offer much beyond Jesus’ existence and what kind of human he was: a devout Jew, a teachers and miracle worker, with a still remaining following consisting of Jews and Gentiles, possibly a claimed messiah.

    But the belief that the Testimonium Flavianum is entirely forged is much on its recess, being about as impopular as the notion that it is completely genuine. The “some” are mostly Mythicist pseudoscholars. And rare is the scholar who thinks that the second reference to Jesus in Ant. XX is also a forgery.

    Besides, the parts of the TF that are thought to be genuine conform well to Josephus’ style in Greek, whereas the most clear interpolations are bloody obvious. There is certainly debate about the extent of what’s interpolated and what’s not, but the problem for complete inauthenticity remains: why are some parts of the forgery so clever and smooth while other parts are so hamhanded and transparent? Are we to suppose two interpolators, first an intelligent one and then a dense one, or one extremely clever one who was farsighted enough (with double entendre) to perform reverse psychology on scholars more than sixteen centuries later by forging part of his interpolation in Josephan style, part in a different style?

    Also, see this (Christian) website:

    http://www.bede.org.uk/Josephus.htm

    I always hear believers point out that Josephus wasn’t a Christian as if it means he was an unbiased observer – but he never observed Christ, again, he was born after Christ had died. And too, even if Josephus had knowledge of jesus, he obviously wasn’t convinced enough to believe the miraculous claims.

    He was not unbiased and he was certainly no believer – though he might have believed Jesus to have been a miracle worker (in the sense I described in a post above).

    kcchief1,

    Why would anyone trust what Josephus had to say anyway ?

    He fought the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War of 66–73 as a Jewish military leader in Galilee. Prior to this, in his early twenties, he traveled to negotiate with Emperor Nero for the release of several Jewish priests. Upon his return to Jerusalem, he was drafted as a commander of the Galilean forces.[9] After the Jewish garrison of Yodfat fell under siege, the Romans invaded, killing thousands; the survivors committed suicide. According to Josephus, he was trapped in a cave with forty of his companions in July 67. The Romans (commanded by Flavius Vespasian and his son Titus, both subsequently Roman emperors) asked the group to surrender, but they refused. Josephus suggested a method of collective suicide: they drew lots and killed each other, one by one, counting to every third person. The sole survivor of this process was Josephus (this method as a mathematical problem is referred to as the Josephus problem, or Roman roulette),[10] who surrendered to the Roman forces and became a prisoner. In 69 Josephus was released.[11] According to his account, he acted as a negotiator with the defenders during the Siege of Jerusalem in 70, in which his parents and first wife died.

    What a worthless piece of human flesh !

    Josephus isn’t very reliable about his own life, being rather apologetic. In any case, he is an important source and on other subjects considered relatively reliable (when he doesn’t depend on the OT as his source), even if he has his biases and fantastic stories. How we view his life is not very relevant to that.

    If you don’t mind, I won’t reply to your post about the afterlife. It is interesting, but I’d rather not get drawn into religious debates in this comments thread.

    Arkenaten,

    The case of Josephus and his TF was kicked into touch – by Christian scholars -a long long time ago and was only dug out for a rethink by later Christians who must have felt they were losing ground?
    Maybe the entire TF was always considered genuine by fundamentalists?
    But for a while the more fashionable approach of a genuine core gained some ground.
    In reality, it is a fraud and if one is prepared to look at it in context it becomes glaringly apparent that it is – and likely the work of someone such as Eusebius.

    The history of scholarship isn’t particularly relevant, as an appeal to it for truth is simply the genetic fallacy. In fact, one of the earliest advocates for partial authenticity was Jewish. This is spectacularly irrelevant, but does refute you.

    Yes, some Fundamentalists believe that the TF is completely genuine. The late Peter Carsten Thiede, a Swiss Anglican who seemingly was something of an unholy hybrid between a Protestant Fundamentalist and a Roman Catholic archtraditionalist, thought that no Christian could have written “he was the Messiah” and concluded that Josephus must have believed in two messiahs, a Davidic (Vespasian) and Aaronic (Jesus), and ditched the priestly messiah. But I argue nothing of the sort, so what is the point of it?

    It likely is not a fraud entirely actually. The style is in part Josephan

    Can you substantiate that someone like Eusebius was the forger? What reasons do you have for this?

    The same contextual methodology should be applied to Nazareth, and also to the character of Saul/Paul – take in the whole picture, not just cherry pick bits and say well this or that could be true.
    One doesn’t have to be a theology scholar either, simply read and apply common sense.

    Ask the questions: What evidence is there to demonstrate that Nazareth existed at the time of Jesus? Answer None.
    Can Acts and the (supposed) ‘genuine’ Epistles be harmonized. Answer: No.

    If you contest that the genuine Epistles are only supposedly genuine, you have to argue a case for it.

    As for your method, it is not sufficiently sophisticated. It does not account for the fact that a source can be biased on particular points (like embellishments in the NT), that it uses a reliable and an unreliable source (like the stories about the saints rising from the grave in Matthew) or that it is just confused on occasion (Theudas in Acts). Washington Irving was ignorant about the debate surrounding Columbus’ voyage to ‘India’. Does that mean Columbus never set sail to the west? You have to be more critical. Calling it cherry picking is too simplistic.

    There is plenty of evidence for Nazareth, recently including Early Roman coin finds reported by Alexandre.

    And the really big issue, the evidence that Moses, the Exodus and invasion of Canaan shows beyond any reasonable doubt that it is ALL fiction, clearly demonstrates that Christianity and Islam are built upon the foundation of a perpetuated myth.
    And if the biblical character of Jesus mentions Moses and Abraham, he was mistaken or lying as was Saul when Acts claims he was spoken to by Jesus of Nazareth.

    I’m not going to discuss the Exodus and the Conquest here, though I agree that the OT is not a reliable source for them.

    And yes, if Jesus refers to Abraham and Moses as historical persons, that is a mistake. It is possible Paul did have some vision of Jesus, which may be accepted if there are plausible naturalistic mechanisms. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

    When people like Ignorantianescia begin to use analogy and try to harmonize blatant anomalies and contradictions, picking some texts while dismissing other they consider irrelevant you should know you are dealing with someone who refuses to acknowledge the evidence and only wants to shoehorn everything to fit their religious worldview.

    This is a complete caricature of what I have done, you are attacking a straw man.

    The analogy is simply an explanation of how to apply a critical method, unlike a rather blunt one. Checking for embarrassing material in unreliable sources is a rather good criterion for authenticity.

    I have not tried to harmonise blatant anomalies and contradictions. If I did, you should be able to provide examples. This is actually a quite severe accusation, so it demands demonstration.

    As I am defending a secular historical perspective on Jesus here, you invoking religious views is not a fair argument. Honestly Ark, I don’t want to take on a telling off attitude, but it takes two to tango for a considerate debate.

    I will reply to the later comments at some other time. I’d also appreciate it if people were to engage with my arguments for a change.

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  125. I dont doubt that Jesus was a real man, that some people thought of as a religious guru. I dont have an opinion one way or the other as to whether Josephus’ “testimony” of the man jesus was a latter addition or not. I guess I dont even think it matters.

    All josephus really provides is that there was a dude named jesus and some people thought he was somebody. And if Josephus wasnt a christian (which we all know he was not), then what ever healing josephus thought (or recording what others thought) jesus had done was not convincing enough to be converted by, as josephus was no believer. So if we take what is supposedly written by joseph as evidence, then perhaps we can take his conclusion of jesus as evidence as well.

    That’s all I’m saying. Nothing in Josephus’ writings seem to indicate or support the claim jesus was divine or that he rose from the dead or that he then flew into heaven, or that josephus himself really thought jesus wrought miracles.

    We can cite josephus all day long, but it only gets us so far. Know what I mean?

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  126. William (a quick comment, kcchief1’s biggie is next!), I think we don’t have any argument then. My intention here is to argue for a historical Jesus.

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  127. @ignorantianescia
    A historical Jesus is not out of the realm of possibility . I have no problem with this. It’s the divine element which I can no longer accept.

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  128. Thanks William.

    @ignorantianescia, “William (a quick comment, kcchief1′s biggie is next!), I think we don’t have any argument then. My intention here is to argue for a historical Jesus.”

    You don’t need to work out a response to “Kcchief1’s biggie” if you are only trying to make an argument for a historical Jesus.

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  129. Okay, thanks, I won’t then. 🙂

    I gather that the text is from the Freedom from Religion Foundation? I had some issues with this part, though (that touch on the historical Jesus), so I’ll only comment on this:

    Many scholars are doubtful of the historical existence of Jesus. Albert Schweitzer said, “The historical Jesus will be to our time a stranger and an enigma.” No first-century writer confirms the Jesus story. The New Testament is internally contradictory and contains historical errors. The story is filled with miracles and other outrageous claims. Consisting mostly of material borrowed from pagan religions, the Jesus story appears to be cut from the same fabric as all other myths and fables.

    1. If the FFRF claims there are many scholar who doubt Jesus’ historicity, they should produce a list of them. The only NT scholars I know who deny Jesus’ historicity are Robert Price and Thomas Brodie (and in earlier times John Allegro, whom no Mythicist takes seriously any more). Taking it to include OT scholars, there’s also Thomas L. Thompson, who’s a biblical minimalist (a minority position).
    2. Albert Schweitzer did not deny Jesus’ historicity. What he is saying in this quote is that the historical Jesus will be a disconcerting figure to our (or actually Schweitzer’s) time. This has to do with Schweitzer’s view that Jesus was an apocalypticist. This view is widespread among scholars, I think it is only denied by conservative Christians and some liberal Americans who prefer cynical stand-up comedians or onanistic jizzers whizzers wizards.
    3. There are actually very few things taken from pagan parallels in the Jesus story. This is not surprising, because the earliest Christian communities were Jewish and unlikely to borrow from pagan myths.

    Cheers.

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  130. @ignorantianescia You need to read the end of Schweitzer’s book. Your explanation of this particular quote doesn’t agree with the last chapter of the same book.

    Chapter XX
    “The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, and died to give His work its final consecration, never had any existence. ” From:The Quest of the Historical Jesus

    ignorantianescia says, “1. If the FFRF claims there are many scholar who doubt Jesus’ historicity, they should produce a list of them. The only NT scholars I know who deny Jesus’ historicity………….”

    You are using “doubt” and “deny” interchangeably . I’m sure the FFRF could produce dozens of scholars who would “doubt” without “denying” Jesus’ historicity.

    What difference does it make which website I got my material from ? You always have the right to refute their claims.

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  131. ignorantianescia says, ” 3. There are actually very few things taken from pagan parallels in the Jesus story. This is not surprising, because the earliest Christian communities were Jewish and unlikely to borrow from pagan myths.”

    You must not have studied ancient Egypt or been there. Circumcision , baptism, the cross as an eternal life symbol , the Trinity just to name a few are all customs from ancient Egypt. If you believe Moses and the children of Israel lived there for 440 years (there is no evidence) , it would be silly NOT to believe they borrowed a few customs from them.

    And to say Jews were unlikely to borrow from pagan myths is very naive . How many times throughout the OT did the Jews in fact worship other Gods ??? Even King Solomon at the end was worshiping pagan gods. And they brought those gods back to their camps from time to time.

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  132. kcchief1,

    I have read that chapter, actually. Schweitzer is arguing against the liberal Christian lives of Jesus of the time, who painted him as an ethical teacher of the Kingdom of God, teaching mankind the highest ethic. “He is a figure who was thrown up by rationalism, brought to life by liberalism, and clothed by modern theology using the historical method.” Schweitzer rejects that Jesus, but definitely thinks the eschatological preacher of the Kingdom of God existed.

    Re doubt/deny, what I said was confusing, but I stand by what I said, not intending to use the two interchangeably. And there aren’t many more scholars who merely doubt Jesus existed but don’t deny it. The only one I can think of is Hector Avalos, who’s also an activist atheist.

    What difference does it make which website I got my material from ? You always have the right to refute their claims.

    Yes, but we must be careful about our information, much that’s on the web is unreliable. I could scrape a lot of quotes from the horrible CARM website, but their information would be too biased.

    I have not been to Egypt, but in any case I meant Jews from Jesus’ time. I don’t think we can speak of “Jews” before the Babylonian captivity. There is religio-cultural exchange of ideas, but that was not my goal – my target were immediate pagan copycats.

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  133. @ignorantianescia , you need to stop and read what you are saying. Your comments on this subject have been focused on explaining away, discounting, re-interpreting anything that has been quoted or written for or against your faith in Jesus being historical and divine.

    I have used material from Scholars which is less than 100 years old. If you are able to discount, explain away, re-interpret works that are so recent, how do you expect non-believers to accept evidence from you that is 2000 years old ???

    You don’t like being called an apologist, but this is what an apologist does. Do you know what an apologist and Mohammed Ali have in common? Rope-a-dope. They lay on the ropes and deflect their attacker by bouncing around until they hopefully wear their attacker down. 🙂

    On the other hand, you have conceded that many of our arguments are valid. Doesn’t this mean anything to you ?

    I compliment you for being civil . I wish you the best. I don’t think you are really interested in seeking “The Truth” however. That’s just my opinion.

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  134. ”There is plenty of evidence for Nazareth,

    There is NO evidence for Nazareth at the time of when the biblical character of jesus was supposed to have lived.
    Jesus H…even Bagatti couldn’t be so specific , and he was Catholic for your god’s sake and if anyone was going to be biased it was likely going to be him him.

    …..recently including Early Roman coin finds reported by Alexandre.”

    And this piece of spurious nonsense is what?
    Coins..yes, anyone familiar with the Pfann/Alexandre ”Nazareth farm dig” is aware of the history of the amazing and rather sudden if rather late appearance of these coins. And you are even more vague than Alexandra and supply no dates at all. At least she did say around when she thought they mightbe. But, like all evidence from that dig, no peer review or anything.

    You really are such a poor excuse as a christian apologist.

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  135. Can you substantiate that someone like Eusebius was the forger? What reasons do you have for this?

    If you know the history and dating of the TF then you will know why. If not, I have not the slightest inclination to educate you.

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