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!”
Laurie, I’m not clear on most of what you’re referencing.
I don’t think anyone denies that the temple was destroyed. The question is whether or not it was actually prophesied to begin with.
I could easily explain to you why this all makes perfect sense. But I am sure it would cause some serious hostility and not many of any would really search out what I am going to say. I would give you my private email if you care to hear it
I already have yours, since you commented here. I’ll shoot you an email.
I think the earliest, near complete, copy of Mark (which predates Mathew) is around 300AD. Without a preserved original, and with varying texts, it’s hard to use the claim as proof. It could have easily been added later, or as has already been pointed out, could have simply been a coincidence.
The passage clearly indicates that jesus was referring to his own body rather than the temple, but if this truly is one of those “dual prophecies” then what about rebuilding in 3 days?
And why wasnt jesus more specific in his prophecy? the more detailed the prophecy, the harder it becomes to claim it wasnt a prophecy. It could have been a five fold prophecy, since the means of destruction and timeline werent given. If the temple gets destroyed again one day, we can all rejoice over another fulfilled prophecy, or we can sit in wonder at the destructive nature of the people living in Palestine, since the temple has been destroyed several times now, and the area has always been in conflict…
You are talking about Matthew 26, Mark 14, and John 2. I am taking about Matthew 24
mathew 24 is anything but precise or clear. jesus also describes the end of the world with angels coming down and then adds that the people of that generation wouldn’t pass until it happened, as if he was expecting judgement very soon, not thousands of years later.
Laurie, it’s just a lot to swallow and involves too much twisting and custom fitting (this is literal here, but figurative there, detailed here, but generic there, etc). When i was a believer mathew 24 didnt make much sense to me. Now that i’m no longer a believer, it actually makes more sense since I dont have to try and make it fit into reality anymore.
Could it be, Laurie, that the “prophecy” wasn’t written until after the destruction of the temple?
As for the recordings of those Jewish sages – do you mean like the Jewish sages who wrote the first five books of the Bible? The ones who invented Adam and Eve, a six-day Universe creation, a world-wide flood, a tower to the sky and all of the other fables? Yeah, I’d buy stock in those records.
Agreed, Nate – the Romans definitely destroyed the temple, they’d had their fill of the stupid set of rules and regulations the Jewish people lived by.
Oh, I see Laurie, you must be referring to the prophecy in Matthew 24:34 ‘ “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, til all these things be fulfilled.” (meaning the entire ‘End of Days’ scenario) That happened, didn’t it?
This generation shall not pass… What does the next verse say? This is about his testimony, not the world.
Matt 24: 32-34:
I don’t see how verse 35 changes verse 34…
Laurie, I’ve read that chapter a million times when i was a believer and I just reread it. Jesus is lumping it all together. Read the chapter all at once. Read the verses before and all the ones after. I’m tempted to quote the entire chapter as evidence here, but wont since anyone can just open up their bibles and read the chapter.
I think hat only because the jesus hasnt returned with his angles yet, that people are forced to say it means something other than what it says. “the bible is true and from god, so maybe it means this…” and insert whatever explanation seems to hold the story together, except you can look at the details too closely and you cant question it too much or it all falls apart.
really, I tried believing the explanations where i was younger, but it really makes more sense you understand that the bible isnt perfect and that it isnt from god.
And like I’ve said before, faith in the bible isnt faith in god. How could it be? It was written by men. translated by men. given to us by men. explained to us by men. everything about it relies on trusting those men were not only sincere and truthful, but accurate. It’s faith in the claims of man, nothing more. No matter how much we might have imagined our “relationships” with god and jesus – it was random and nameless men who told us about them, not god or jesus themselves…
I’m not clear as to how you can interpret it that way, the entire chapter deals with the coming end of the world, culminating in the prophecy that all of these events will occur within the lifetimes of his audience, then in the next verse, 35, he reassures his audience that his statements are true, saying that heaven and earth are less permanent than his words.
It doesn’t, it merely substantiates it.
Like I said at the start, I don’t want to get into an argument, but I would still like to clarify what you originally said. I am referring to these two comments:
“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”
But of course if you know about Q, then you know that Matthew (or somebody) did indeed have their own “story” to tell – in this case it was mostly sayings from Q and narrative from M.
“Mark, John and Paul had any significant degree of originality about their work”
And if you know about Q, then you know that about 45% of Matthew and about 70% of Luke are not from Mark. The Q material is an important fourth source (about 20% of Matthew and Luke), and the new material Luke and Matthew bring in makes up more than 20% of Matthew and half of Luke, making 6 significant sources.
Were you aware of these things, and if so, don’t they modify your two statements slightly?
I thought I had made that clear – the subject was the existence of Yeshua, I said there was no valid evidence that he ever existed, and continued by pointing out that even the writers of the four Gospels hadn’t been who they were purported to be, that there was no evidence that any of them ever met Yeshua. So “Q” is no more relevant in terms of Yeshua’s existance, than any of the other four.
Am I amiss, unkle, unless I provide a complete list of ALL of the people who never met Yeshua? I suppose I could start with a phone book, but I’d really rather not bother.
Are you saying that Matthew could have been the author of one of those 6 sources you mentioned? Is that what you’re driving at?
To me it makes little difference when the texts were written because its contents are refuted by scientific reality.
The Bible claims: the earth is fixed and immovable (Joshua 10:12; 1 Chron. 16:30; Ps. 93:1; Ps. 96:10; Ps. 104:5) and rests on pillars (1 Sam. 2:8; Ps. 75:3; Job 9:6)
Science informs us: the Earth rotates around it’s axis and orbits the sun.
The Bible claims: the stars will fall from the sky (Isa. 34:4; Mt 24:29; Mk 13:25; Rev. 6:13)
Science informs us: stars are giant gas furnaces many magnitudes larger than our Earth, and except for our own star (the sun) many, many, many light years away.
The Bible claims: the heavens have storehouses of hail and snow (Job 38:22), lightning (Job 38:24), and jars of rain water (Job 38:37)
Science informs us: meteorology explains the causes for these natural phenomena.
The Bible claims: the earth is flat (Dan. 4:10-11; Mt 4:8; Lk 4:5)
Science informs us: the Earth is an oblate spheroid.
The truth claims of Christianity rests upon one — and only one — crucial piece of missing evidence: an actual living, breathing, resurrected messiah.
Can you present one?
I am just going to assume you know those verses are figures of speech and that you wouldn’t tell a scientist he was stupid if he said sunset was at 6:18 tonight.
The scriptures also told us
The earth is sphere isaiah 40:22
Incalculable number of stars Jer33:22
Earth free floats in space job 26:7
Light moves job 38:19,20
Air has weight job 28:25
And so on and so on……
Way before science figured it out
There’s no need to assume anything. This is what the ancients truly believed:
The Three-Story Universe
To assume those verses to be figures of speech, requires the assumption that the writers of them knew the actual, scientific truth, but chose those “figures of speech” instead – that strikes me as quite illogical.
And the sunset is logical?
The scriptures also told us:
“The earth is sphere isaiah 40:22” – says the earth is a circle, not a sphere, a flat circle.
“Incalculable number of stars Jer33:22” – a glimpse into the night sky makes that obvious to anyone.
“Earth free floats in space job 26:7” – let me quote it exactly: “He (god) stretches out the north over the empty place and hangeth the earth upon nothing.” this is a fictitious, didactic poem, intended to deliver a moral, hardly the venue for announcing scientific knowledge – possibly you can explain, “He stretches out the north over the empty place,” at which time, we can move on to the placement of the earth.
“Light moves job 38:19,20” – this chapter deals with god basically telling Job that he doesn’t know squat – the actual passage is,
“19: Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,
“20: that thou should take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldst know the paths to the house thereof.”
So according to god, light lives somewhere and dark somewhere else, and they commute on a regular basis – anyone can see that light moves by simply removing an object from in front of a light, and watching the light fill in the space that was previously in shadow. But apparently this god was unaware of that.
“Air has weight job 28:25” – more specifically, “To make the weight for the winds….” – I’m not exactly seeing that that means, air has weight – the right wind can lift heavy objects and tear trees out of the ground, so clearly it has force, would not that which can lift heavy objects, have its own weight? But let’s go a couple of verses back, to 28:24, “For he (god) looketh to the ends of the earth….” – earth is a globe, globes have no ends – so much for “The earth is sphere isaiah 40:22”