Agnosticism, Atheism, Bible Geography, Bible Study, Christianity, Faith, God, Politics, Religion, Truth

PolitiFact Misses the Mark on Jesus

I love PolitiFact. I follow them on Facebook, and I always appreciate the fact-checking they do every time a politician makes a claim. Last week, they had an article that caught my eye, titled “Jesus was an ‘undocumented immigrant,’ ordained minister says.” The minister, Ryan Eller, is the executive director of a group that works to promote awareness about immigration issues, and he was trying to point out that people shouldn’t be so judgmental toward undocumented immigrants — that even Jesus would have been considered an undocumented immigrant when he and his family fled to Egypt to avoid persecution from Herod.

PolitiFact decided to investigate this claim, and they quickly pointed out that during Jesus’s life, Egypt was part of the Roman Empire. Therefore, the comparison doesn’t really hold up — Jesus and his family were still traveling within the boundaries of the same empire, which was allowable under Roman law.

All of that is fine. But where I have a bit of a problem is that PolitiFact didn’t deal with this as thoroughly as they could have. Consider this paragraph, for instance:

Even though many scholars don’t agree on the exact years Jesus was born or moved to Nazareth as a youth, we know the family left Egypt after Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E. The region known as Judaea (where Bethlehem was) became a Roman province in 6 C.E., after Rome removed Herod’s son Archelaus, who had become king of that portion of Herod’s kingdom. Nazareth, meanwhile, was in Galilee, an area later ruled by Herod’s son Antipas, known as the king who eventually beheaded John the Baptist.

“We know”?! No, we really don’t know. Yes, if Matthew’s story (his is the only gospel that tells us about this flight to Egypt) is to be believed, then Jesus’s family left Egypt after the death of Herod. But we don’t really know that Jesus’s family went there in the first place. Earlier in the article, we read this:

Luke 2:1-5 says Joseph lived in Nazareth with Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus, when the Roman emperor called for all the residents of the empire to be counted and taxed. Joseph left for Bethlehem, where King David had been born, because Joseph had roots there.

Anyone who celebrates Christmas is pretty aware what happened in Bethlehem, but Eller is referring to what happened after that.

Matthew 2:12-16 describes how the Magi visited Jesus, then were warned by God in a dream not to tell King Herod, who wanted to kill the child. Joseph then took Mary and Jesus to Egypt. According to Matthew, Herod then had every male child in Bethlehem younger than 2 killed. Verses 17-23 say Joseph moved the family back to Nazareth after Herod died.

But here’s the thing, as many of you who read this blog know, it’s pretty apparent that Luke’s and Matthew’s versions of Jesus’s birth can’t be reconciled with one another. One or both of them is a fabrication. According to Luke, Joseph and Mary are from Nazareth and are only in Bethlehem temporarily; therefore, it’s only in their version that we have the manger scene. Shepherds come to witness his birth, but no wise men are mentioned. According to Luke, around 6 weeks after Jesus’s birth, the family goes to Jerusalem to present him at the temple, do the sacrifices, etc. And once they finish that, they go straight home to Nazareth.

Matthew, on the other hand, starts his account with Mary and Joseph already in Bethlehem. There’s no mention of a trip to Jerusalem, and there’s no mention of the shepherds who witness his birth. However, we’re told that when he was born, some “wise men from the east” traveled to Jerusalem to find him. We have no idea how much time has passed since his birth. But after the wise men tell Herod why they’re there, Herod decides to kill all the children in Bethlehem under the age of two in an effort to eradicate this threat to his throne. Joseph is warned of this by an angel, and he and the family flee to Egypt. Matthew also tells us this was done in accordance with some prophecies, but when you look at those “prophecies” in their original context, you see that they aren’t prophecies at all. It’s also important to note that no historians of the time talk about this slaughter of children that supposedly took place, even those who had no love for Herod. Finally, Matthew tells us that after Herod’s death, the family decides to go back to Judea (the province in which Bethlehem is situated). However, Joseph worries that Herod’s son, who has now taken the throne, might still be a threat. So instead of going back to Judea, they go to Galilee and settle “in a city called Nazareth,” which seems like an odd way to refer to their hometown.

In Matthew’s version, instead of a journey to Jerusalem, it becomes the most dangerous place they could travel to. And in Luke’s version, there’s no mention of a trip to Egypt. Instead, they go to Jerusalem shortly after Jesus’s birth and then go home to Nazareth. Traveling to Egypt is simply unnecessary. Even if Herod had actually decided to kill all the children in Bethlehem, there was still no reason to go to Egypt. They could simply have gone back home to Nazareth. The city wasn’t under Herod’s control, and he didn’t actually know who they were, anyway.

In other words, there’s very little reason to think that Jesus ever went to Egypt at all. I know PolitiFact isn’t in the business of fact-checking religion. But since they took the time to examine this preacher’s claim, why not address it fully? Their entire shtick is fact-checking. I don’t expect them to flat-out say that Jesus never went to Egypt. But they could have at least mentioned that there’s no scholarly consensus about whether or not this even happened.

It reminds me of an article that Lawrence Krauss wrote for the New Yorker a couple of days ago that describes why scientists should stop being so PC with religion. We can still be respectful of individuals without compromising our standards of truth when it comes to their belief systems. And I feel that PolitiFact got it wrong this time.

47 thoughts on “PolitiFact Misses the Mark on Jesus”

  1. One of the many lost Christianities – the adoptionists – believed that Jesus, by himself, had no divinity, that the “Christ” entered him at his baptism, then left him at his death (only to return three days later) – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

    (Actually, that passage was taken from the Psalms, and was just another effort to tie the Yeshua legend to OT scripture.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Arch, I think you could argue that if Mark’s gospel is looked at in isolation it could be used to support an adoptionist theology.


  3. I just wish they had published minutes of the Councils of Nicea and the Council of Constantinople, just so we could know what kind of machinations went into the entire process.


  4. OMG.

    I woke up this morning in a state of extreme despair and melancholy. After battling with the Christian supernaturalists over on Theology Web for several weeks now, and being the only non-theist left in that epic battle for quite sometime (since William and Dave abandoned me), and not seeing any activity on Nate’s blog for what has seemed like an ETERNITY…giving me no place to solace with like-minded friends for socializing and discussion, I faced another day of bleak reality.

    Then, just by chance, I clicked on a link to Nate’s blog, hoping, and praying (to whom I can’t say for sure), that finally, Nate and my friends on “Finding Truth” will come back, giving me a place of respite, comfort, and refueling to fight the good fight against the evils of supernaturalism…and there it was…this blog post…followed by so many comments from so many of my non-theist friends!

    Joy filled my soul…or brain!

    I’m SO glad everyone is back…

    …but don’t leave me alone like that again!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. sorry, Gary. Theology Web was just too much to tolerate. It’s impossible to discuss anything rationally when your discussion partner wants to make up imaginary rules as it suits them.

    You’re endurance for the absurd is a wonder.

    It’s good to see you in the realm of reason again.


  6. Thanks, William.

    FYI everyone: I found a counter-apologist blog that I want everyone to be aware of. The author’s name is Matthew Ferguson. He is a PhD graduate student in the Classics. He has some really good articles on his blog. I especially like the one I am going to post a link to below. It counters all the ridiculous assertions by Christian apologists for why we should consider the historicity of their highly implausible, highly improbable, supernatural claim of a first century resurrection.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Gary, based on what you have posted in the past, I think you would enjoy the latest post at JZ’s site on why Jews don’t believe in Jesus: Here


  8. It is a very good article, Peter. I re-blogged it on my blog. Thanks!

    One issue the rabbi brings up is that since Jesus had no earthly father, he would have had no tribal affiliation, as tribal affiliation is only passed from the father. Even if Joseph had adopted Jesus it wouldn’t have made any difference by Jewish law. So Jesus could not be said to be of the tribe of Judah, and therefore could not have met the requirement of the messianic prophecy that the Messiah will come from the tribe of Judah.

    Christians have invented all kinds of excuses to get around this. The rabbi who wrote the article addresses the most common, but I have heard an even more outrageous excuse: Supposedly Christians have evidence that Mary had no brothers, therefore her father’s “lineage” would die out at his death. In these situations, a son of a daughter (a daughter of the sonless man), even if born out of wedlock, could inherit and pass on the tribe and “lineage” of his maternal grandfather.

    My god. A pretzel isn’t as twisted as this Christian “harmonization”.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Something no one seems to address – If Yeshua had no earthly father, he would have had no Y chromosome, and thus would have been an exact clone of her mother.


  10. Hi Arch,

    When I bring that up to Christians they say that God has the power to *poof* a Y chromosome into existence. Wasn’t that Unkle E who said that?


  11. Wasn’t that Unkle E who said that?” – Probably, but I don’t take a lot of stock in anything Unk has to say:

    Would you buy a used car from this man?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. FYI: My discussion with Nick and other conservative Christians over on Theology Web has now been viewed almost 59,000 times. Since most of the people on that forum are Christians, it is my hope that at least a few of those views are by Christians who have never been exposed to evidence exposing Christianity as the superstition it is, will read the thread, and a light will flicker on in their brains to that they to begin to question the fable they believe as reality.

    Thanks be to…Reason!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. That’s cool, Gary. Yeah, you’d like to think with that many numbers at least a few of them will feel compelled to ask some difficult questions and do the necessary research.

    Kudos for making the effort to hang in there with them so long!


  14. Anyone ever wonder why it is that no one knows the date of death of the most famous human being who ever lived but we do know the dates of death of so many other famous people from antiquity?

    This to me is proof that there is ZERO eyewitness testimony in the New Testament.


  15. Aren’t there enough obnoxious conservative Christians on the internet to keep you and Ark busy, Arch, without picking on the Jewish theists over on “yourphariseefriend.wordpress”?


    Since most Jewish theists don’t try to proselytize or legislate their beliefs (at least in my country), I’m not particularly interested in going after them. If they want to believe that big, bad Yahweh spoke to three million of their ancestors out of the clear blue sky at Sinai, let them believe it. They can’t prove it, but let them believe it.

    Why don’t you come over to Theology Web and help me take on some obnoxious, know-it-all conservative Christians like Nick Peters, the son-in-law of Mike Licona, the evangelical apologist? I could use you and Ark quick wit and biting comebacks.



  16. Since most Jewish theists don’t try to proselytize or legislate their beliefs (at least in my country), I’m not particularly interested in going after them.

    I agree with you about the Jews, but there are Christians over there too.

    I’ll check out the site you mention and possibly bookmark it, or at least follow it, but if things go right, I’m going to be very busy today.


  17. Hi Arch,

    How DARE you challenge my scholarship regarding the presence of ancient horses in North America over on Theology Web!


    I’m glad you jumped into the conversation over there. I could use some help. There are actually a couple of people there who I think could be brought to their senses regarding the superstitions of Christianity. They follow evidence and not just dogma. However, there are a couple who are hopelessly brainwashed, like “Mikeenders” and “Apologiaphoenix” aka Nick Peters, son-in-law of Mike Licona, the evangelical Christian apologist.

    Nick is VERY big on scholarship and majority consensus opinion. So if any of Nate’s readers have some expertise in NT scholarship, your contributions on the Theology Web discussion thread would be appreciated.

    I strongly believe that the more we non-theists challenge Christians on their websites, the greater the chances that more Christians will be exposed to the REAL truth, and the ranks of conservative Christianity in the educated western world will continue its downward trend.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I strongly believe that the more we non-theists challenge Christians on their websites, the greater the chances that more Christians will be exposed to the REAL truth

    Especially the lurking frnce-straddlers.

    How DARE you challenge my scholarship regarding the presence of ancient horses in North America over on Theology Web!

    Hey, a horse is a horse, of course, of course, and no one can talk to a horse, of course – but that’s a horse of a different color —

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Didn’t the army use that song to torture prisoners in some war? Good god, if I had to listen to that song for more than one minute I’d go stark raving mad.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s