Not long ago, fellow blogger John Zande wrote an excellent post titled “Jesus Christ: Just Not Worth a Sheet of Paper.” It’s actually not as derogatory as the title suggests. Some apologists have suggested that the reason we have no contemporary accounts of Jesus’ life is that paper was so expensive. That’s the argument John deals with in his post.
His post is great — you should read it. But what I actually want to write about is one of the comments that someone left on it. Diana of NarrowWayApologetics.com left a lengthy comment that I decided to include here in its entirety. I identified with it a bit. It reminded me of some of the thoughts I used to have as a Christian:
One of the main reasons people believed Paul was because he explained the reason for Jesus coming into the world. His teachings were amazing. They explained how Jesus “fulfilled the law and the prophets.” I wrote this comment in response to John Zande’s comment on my blog last night. Forgive me for posting it here. Just ignore if you don’t want to read it.
“This passage about Jesus fulfilling the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17-20) is one of the main reasons I believe the Gospel message. The incredible ways that Jesus did this are beyond human ability to create. I don’t think any mystery writer could have weaved together the incredible ways Jesus fulfilled the law and the prophets.
I know this post is long, so if you want to skip the parts between the dotted lines, I understand. I just wrote it for anyone who might be interested.
First of all, there are many ways Jesus fulfilled the law. In fact, believers are constantly astounded by how intricately Jesus fulfilled the law.
One way he fulfilled the law was by fulfilling the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the seventh day of rest that the Jews were commanded to obey. Jesus fulfilled the law of the Sabbath by becoming our rest for us. (Hebrews 4:9-11) He said his burden was light and his yoke was easy. Christians no longer practice the Sabbath. They worship on Sunday, rather than Saturday. They enter into his rest and no longer do religious works for salvation. (They are saved by grace through faith.)
Jesus fulfilled the law when he became the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. His death on the cross was similar to the Exodus story, which described the lamb, whose blood would be placed on the doorposts of the home, causing the death angel to pass over that home. (Hebrews 9)
Jesus fulfilled the law when he became the unleavened bread of the Exodus story. Leaven is a symbol of sin and false teaching (1 Cor. 5:6-8, Matt. 16:12). Jesus fulfilled this feast by being sinless and being the TRUTH.
Another way that Jesus fulfilled the law was by becoming a tithe (firstfruits) for us. (Leviticus 23:10) He fulfilled the tithe by becoming the firstfruits from the dead when he was resurrected. (1 Cor. 15:20) Christians are no longer bound by a tithe, instead we are told to be cheerful givers. We are also promised that there will be a resurrection for us because of what Christ did for us.
Jesus fulfilled the law when he became a light to the Gentiles. In the law of Moses, the people were commanded to leave behind the gleanings (or leftovers) of the harvest for the poor and aliens. (Lev. 23:22) This would be fulfilled at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down and the gospel was preached in all languages, offering salvation to all, not just the Jews. (Acts 10:34-35)
These fulfillments of the law were actually the first 4 feasts that would be celebrated every year by the Jews. They would be celebrated according to the seasons. The feasts celebrated during the early rains were the fulfilled at the time of the early church. Three more feasts are waiting to be fulfilled at the end of the age (or at the time of the latter rains). These three feasts are the feast of trumpets (representing the return of Jesus), the feast day of atonement (representing the salvation of the Jews), and the feast of tabernacles (representing the time when we will all be with the Lord).
There are so many other ways in which Jesus fulfilled the law and the prophets. And none of it has to do with Jesus expecting or commanding Christians to obey the law to perfection. It has to do with how it’s impossible for anyone to keep the law. That is why Jesus came. How could any human conceive of a way to have even a made-up, fictional character fulfill all these things? And I’ve barely scratched the surface of the way Jesus accomplished these things.
The greatest concern I feel burdened about is how to convey the magnificence of what I’m trying to explain. He was the manna from heaven. He was the living water. He was the high priest in the order of Melchizedek. He is the “I AM.” He is the Word become flesh. He became a slave for us. (Philippians 2:7) He became a curse for us. He became sin for us, so we could become righteous before God. He offers us mercy because his blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat. All of this is explained in the scriptures.
I haven’t even begun to explain the way Jesus fulfilled the prophets.
The story of Jewish history and the giving of the law is actually a way to PROVE the reality of God’s plan for the salvation of humanity through Jesus Christ. One random fact doesn’t prove anything, but the cumulative effect of ALL the fulfillments makes the Bible a miraculous book. This is why some of the brightest and best minds in the history of the world have loved and received Jesus. It isn’t a decision based on emotion alone, but a decision based on knowledge. And the more I learn, the more I am in awe of what God did and how he accomplished it.”
To say that the story of Jesus was just created by pasting together myths, fictional narratives, sayings, and borrowed phrases (as Ken Humphreys does) is a ridiculous claim because only a Christ could have conceived of a Christ. Who could have created the amazing Jesus portrayed in the Gospels and explained further by Paul?
Of course, I now see that there are several problems with this line of thinking. In 2015, Star Wars Episode 7 is supposed to hit theaters. Will it shock anyone if the movie syncs up perfectly with the previous 6? The thing is, when there is already an established back story, it’s not impossible to construct a narrative that builds upon it. The fact that we as readers see the parallels between the stories of Jesus and events in the Old Testament is not an accident. The authors intended for us to see those parallels, and there’s no reason why they couldn’t have invented them — even if Jesus was a real person.
Matthew is one of the best books to look to for evidence of this. Matthew is the only book that tells of Jesus’ family fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod’s infanticide. Both events, fleeing to Egypt and the infanticide, seem to be inspired by Matthew’s reading of the Old Testament. Hosea 11:1 says, “out of Egypt, I called my son.” Matthew says that this prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus’ family returned after fleeing to Egypt. But when you read the entire chapter of Hosea 11, it’s very evident that the passage has nothing to do with the Messiah, but is simply talking about Israel’s period of captivity in Egypt.
Matthew also claims that Herod’s slaughter of infants in Bethlehem was to fulfill this prophecy:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.
But once again, when we read all of Jeremiah 31, this was no prophecy at all. The chapter is talking about Israel’s captivity in Assyria. Nothing else.
The author of Matthew took these passages and used them to add parallels to the story about Jesus’ birth. It didn’t require magic or divine inspiration to do that — it only took knowledge of these passages. Just like the people working on Star Wars 7 don’t need divine intervention to let them know about Darth Vader.
Diana ends her comment by asking who could have created such a compelling story. Who could have created Christ? But why couldn’t we ask this about anyone? Who could have created Darth Vader? He’s quite a compelling character himself. Who could have created someone as magnificent as Santa Claus? Or Paul Bunyan? Or Achilles? Or King Arthur? Just asking this question doesn’t really mean anything. If Jesus never existed, then someone did just create his story. Or if he was a real person, but not divine, then his story was embellished. We have to draw our conclusions about Jesus based on the evidence, including the fact that Matthew seemed to feel the need to create “prophecies” to give Jesus credibility.
354 thoughts on “It Just Fits Together So Well!”
Reblogged this on James’ Ramblings.
Nate – as I was reading her comment, I was already preparing, in my head, the answer to her question, “Who could have created the amazing Jesus portrayed in the Gospels and explained further by Paul?” by explaining that any good fiction writer, with a thorough grasp of the Tanak and it’s prophecies, could easily have written the story. One must remember that both Matthew and Luke copied heavily from Mark (and if “Matthew” had actually been Levi, the tax collector, as his Greek name, Matthew, implies, he would have had his own story to tell, and no need to copy from Mark), so only Mark, John and Paul had any significant degree of originality about their work.
Then I reached the end, and saw that you had already said basically the same thing.
I’m one of the visiting christians to this site, and I’m trying to avoid getting into arguments and negativity. So may I just comment on one aspect of what you say, in the hope that it will generate light and not heat.
If we accept what the scholars say (and many don’t) then it is likely that Matthew is not composed by one author from one single source. Papias, writing about 120 CE wrote of Matthew:
“For Matthew composed the logia [sayings] in Hebrew style; but each recorded them as he was able”
Now scholars debate whether this is trustworthy testimony, but let’s assume for the moment that it was. So the claim is that disciple and eyewitness Matthew wrote down the sayings of Jesus with only limited narrative (note as a tax collector he was probably one of the few disciples who could write) and others recorded/used/translated (apparently these are all possible interpretations of his words) them for their own purposes.
Then we note that in Matthew’s Gospel, most of the sayings of Jesus are in clumps set among the events (the so-called sermon on the mount in chapters 5-7 is one of these clumps of sayings), which at least looks prima facie like it could indeed have been the sayings that Matthew recorded, compiled together with parts of Mark and parts of some other sources.
So that reconstruction may not be true, but it is at least plausible and fits the evidence we have. And Maurice Casey in his recent book about Jesus suggests this may have been the case. So it isn’t true that only Mark, John and Paul had any “originality” – both Matthew and Luke have additional material, plus the material which scholars call “Q” and which included some of the sayings material discussed above. (That’s actually at least 6 sources).
I’m not suggesting that this discussion will change your mind about believing in Jesus, but I think it explains what you are talking about here and shows that there is a quite adequate explanation of the “problems” you find. I hope you will investigate this matter further.
Who would have created Harry Potter? All you need is a creative imagination and a story line and you are game.
Great analysis Nate
Actually, unkle, I’ve done a great deal of study, both of the Old Testament and the New, and I’m quite familiar with the “Q” source, “Q,” from the German “quelle” actually meaning, “source,” so I guess in a sense, “Q” source is a bit redundant, much like “Mount Fujiyama.”
Just as the majority of biblical scholars know that the five Old Testament books labeled, “According to Moses,” were not written by Moses, so all four of the New Testament Gospels were written anonymously – the dates are usually considered circa 72 CE for “pseudo-Mark,” 75 CE for “pseudo-Matthew,” 80-85 CE for “pseudo-Luke,” and 90, to, some sources say as late as 150, for “pseudo-John.” The decision to ascribe the names of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John didn’t occur until much later.
And as for, “believing in Jesus,” I didn’t say Yeshua never existed, I said that there is no evidence that he ever existed, there IS a difference.
Hi archaeopteryx1, thanks for your reply. But it has left me a little confused.
If you know about Q, why did you ignore it in mentioning original sources, and in discussing whether Matthew could have been written, or partially written, by the disciple? Or have I misunderstood your words?
When you consider the level of education, communication, language and time issues, it seems ridiculous to claim that the Bible is a product of man’s imagination. It just takes too much unsubstantiated faith to believe.
Spot on. Diana is a funny one; fabulously immersed in her peculiar world which she seems to manage with hefty doses of “nah nah nah i can’t hear you!” I asked her “What was Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s motivation for inventing Batman?” to which she never answered. She simply doesn’t want to address these types of questions. I don’t think she’s insane, but she is willfully ignorant… and quite frankly, i think the latter is worse.
Jim, I can maybe get what you mean by “education issues,” although we all know there were people back then who were educated enough to read and write, but what do you mean by “language and time issues?”
Even today, many people in third world countries speak several languages – to the shame of the USA.
And time? If the bible had been written complete in a single day, or over a single week, by numerous authors from different parts of the world, without computers, internet, phone or wire, then I could see that as being miraculous if it all matched up perfectly. But the bible doesn’t match up perfectly, number one. And two, it was written over a long period time, and that latter authors had been familiar with the previous works – that doesn’t seem miraculous, it seems common place. they had time to read and consider the works before them before they wrote their own books and letters… how’s that miraculous?
And you said – “It just takes too much unsubstantiated faith to believe.” of what substance is your faith based that is better from other opposing faiths?
Because my purpose was not to give the entire history of the New Testament in a blog comment, it was to demonstrate the unreliability of the biblical sources, and whether Pseudo-Matthew copied from both Pseudo-Mark and Quelle, or just Psuedo-Mark alone, was irrelevant to that fact that if Pseudo-Matthew had been a disciple, he would have had his own story to tell, from his own perspective, and had no need to copy from anyone.
Psuedo-John, for example, does away entirely with the whole, “fishers of men” story of the Synoptic Gospels, and tells of how he and brother Jim, as well as Peter and brother Andy, were followers of John the B, and met Yeshua, who was walking along the banks of the Jordan River – and this, from (had it been the REAL John) one of the very sons of Zebedee, whom Yeshua sent running to ManPower for temp help on the fishing boat, when his boys traipsed off to follow an itinerant rabbi. You would think he would know the REAL story, so if he IS the real John, and his meeting with JC at the Jordan was true, then the whole “fishers of men” thing is an obvious fabrication.
When you have two contradicting stories about the same event, both cannot be true.
You know, I said the same thing about the Chronicles of Narnia – such a place MUST exist, no human imagination could POSSIBLY invent such a fabulous story! You have no idea how many wardrobes I’ve tried to fit into, but so far, no luck – but someday, SOMEday —
“Hissssss….Jesus..I am Your Father.”
“Noooo. It’s not true! Unklee is my father.I have an Australian accent and I can cure leprosy and and sheep.”
“Jesus, you know it’s true. Your mum, Sheila, wasn’t a virgin, and you hate Fosters lager. Search your feelings. ”
“No, no, noooo. Unklee, save me, please.”
(Enter George Lucas off stage left)
“Er…guys. If I might just have a quiet word,please?”
Darth: The script is wrong with this one.
Where did you get the information for your dates of authorship? Did you search for accurate dates yourself, or are you just going off of what others believe?
The evidence suggests a much earlier date for the writing of the New Testament
I just read something on another blog that fits so well with this discussion (or any other related to the bible, Jesus, hell, etc., etc.)
The blog writer made this comment: “Everyone seems to be so sure about what they think that they know. Virtually, everyone.” He adds, ” … everyone seems to have an opinion and they are absolutely certain that they are right.” He uses, as an example, the one-time belief that the sun revolved around the earth. While those that believed this were absolutely certain of its truth, it turned out to be an incorrect belief.
For me, his comment says volumes about what “Diana,” or any other Christian, writes as they attempt to “prove” something about their faith. I admit some non-believers are “sure” their perspective is the right one as well, but in my experiences, many are simply providing food for thought, which I think is always a worthwhile endeavor.
Largely from Bart Ehrman and Richard Friedman, as well as some other sources I have in my files, and really don’t have time to fish out right now – those two should do, as I’m sure they contain references to still other sources.
Most everyone who has a belief will only study what fits into that belief, and can not be trusted. It sound awful to say, but it is true. There is a reason people want to believe in a late date, but the data doesn’t support that.
Just think about this for a second. If you were going to write a book to prove Yeshua was the Messiah, what would be
The most helpful tool?
Yeshua prophesied that the temple would be destroyed and in 70ad this happened. Why didn’t anyone think to point this out in their works?
“If you were going to write a book to prove Yeshua was the Messiah, what would be what would be the most helpful tool?”
“Yeshua prophesied that the temple would be destroyed and in 70ad this happened. Why didn’t anyone think to point this out in their works?”
I see where you’re going with this, you’re saying that the temple destruction in 72 CE hadn’t happened yet, and had it, it would have been shown to have been proof of the prophecy.
I’m speaking off the top of my head here, and have no time presently to properly research your issue, but one reason may well be that the temple had already been destroyed more than once, it was a safe bet. Then too, Yeshua said it would be torn down and raised back up in three days – no one understood at the time that he was referring to himself, rather than the actual temple, but once the realization set in, any destruction of the actual, physical temple was irrelevant.
Question, Laurie – and I ask this only because I’m rushed for time, I could look it up this evening, if I think of it – in how many of the four Gospels is any prophecy of the temple mentioned? My thought is, that possibly the other anonymous authors were unaware of the alleged prophecy. Just a thought – gotta run!
Mark 13 says the same basic thing. Of course, most scholars believe these books were written after the temple’s destruction…
Thanks, Nate, for doing my work for me – at the moment, my research is centered on the OT, and sometimes, it’s not easy to switch mental gears when you don’t have a synchronized transmission.
Wow, so not only did jesus predict the destruction of the temple 40 years before it happened, he also predicted it would only take 3 days to rebuild it. A building that size would usually take… twice as long to build… so accurately predicted only 3 days is impressive… oh, what’s that? It wasnt rebuilt in 3 days… well, 1 out of 2 aint bad… and that part was figurative, while the destruction was literal… anyone can see the simplicity in that.
Oh but William … didn’t you know that Jesus was talking about Himself??? Ummm, I’m sooo confused.
This is a detailed prophecy that not one stone would be left upon another and you think they left it out? The prophecy came true you know! The temple burned so hot that the gold melted through the bricks and they were removed one by one to retrieve it. Further more, the Jewis sages kept record that the scarlet cord failed to turn white for the next forty years, the temple doors opened and shut on their own, and the candle went out by itself. The also draw the black stone each year. Why? Why didn’t the day of atonement get accepted after Yeshua?