Well, it’s that time of year. Christmas is almost a week away and we are already seeing various media channels releasing stories, articles, and documentaries on Jesus. And when the dust settles, they all make the same point: the real Jesus is a lot different than you think.
As some might recall, this same sort of thing happened last Christmas with Kurt Eichenwald’s Newsweek article, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin.” You can read my two part response here and here.
This Christmas it is happening again with an article by Valerie Tarico, “Here are Five Reasons to Suspect Jesus Never Existed.” But she takes things even further than most other Christmas articles on Jesus. Rather than suggesting Jesus is different than we think, she is arguing that Jesus never existed at all.
I suppose that might put a damper on some people’s Christmas.
Before I respond to her five reasons below, it may be helpful to understand how unusual articles like this really are. The reason most Christmas articles simply want to rewrite the story of Jesus is because virtually all scholars agree–liberal and conservative alike–that there is little reason to doubt his existence.
Indeed, so convinced are scholars that Jesus certainly existed, that it is difficult to even find scholars who might argue otherwise. The most notable modern example is no doubt Richard Carrier and his book, The Historicity of Jesus.
And incredibly, even the consummate biblical critic, Bart Ehrman, has responded to Carrier in his book, Did Jesus Exist? I must say, it is an unusual experience reading Erhman when he is actually defending (to some degree) the historicity of the Gospel accounts!
So, can Tarico (a psychologist by training) overcome the vast scholarly consensus in favor of Jesus’ existence? Here are her five arguments:
1. No first century secular evidence whatsoever exists to support the actuality of Yeshua ben Yosef.
Not surprisingly, Tarico begins with the fact that secular sources don’t talk about Jesus in the first century. But there are a number of problems with this line of reasoning:
(a) It is functionally an argument from silence. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Secular historians would have little interest in a stir created by a backwater preacher from Galilee. This simply would not have been on their radar screen. Arguments from silence are widely regarded as fallacious precisely because we don’t always know why historians talk about some things and not others.
(b) Tarico conveniently rules out the numerous Christian sources that do tell us about Jesus (Gospels, epistles, Acts, etc.). She will claim, no doubt, that these sources cannot be trusted. But, ironically, these are precisely the sources that would have actually taken notice of a person like Jesus. Many of the New Testament authors would have actually been in Galilee and Judea and would have been able to record such things (more about this below).
(c) Tarico fails to mention the comments about Jesus in the writings of the first-century historian Josephus. Perhaps this is because Josephus is Jewish and therefore not “secular.” But this is hardly a convincing reason to omit his testimony. As a Jew, he would have had little sympathy to the burgeoning Christian movement.
2. The earliest New Testament writers seem ignorant of the details of Jesus’ life, which become more crystalized in later texts.
Next Tarico appeals to the well-worn argument that since Paul, our earliest Christian writer, provides little biographical details of Jesus’ life, then Jesus must not have existed. This argument is problematic on a number of levels.
(a) First this argument misunderstands entirely what Paul’s letters were designed to do. They were epistles, not Gospels, and therefore not intended to recount the words and deeds of Jesus. Tarico is confused about the genre of early Christian writings and assumes they would all cover the same territory.
(b) Paul actually knows quite a bit of historical details about Jesus and these come out in various places in his letters. One key example is how he recounts (in detail) what Jesus did and said at the Last Supper (1 Corr 11:23-26).
(c) Paul would have known the immediate disciples of Jesus, such as Peter and John, and would have had access to many other people who lived during the time of Jesus. If Jesus never existed, are we to think that Peter and John just lied to Paul? Or are we to think that Paul just made up characters of Peter and James and the witnesses of the resurrection (1 Cor 15:3-8)? And if Jesus never existed, would not Paul have heard this from other people who were alive in the purported time of Jesus’ life? In the end, Paul’s life is nonsensical if Jesus didn’t really exist.
3. Even the New Testament stories don’t claim to be first-hand accounts.
At this point, Tarico’s misunderstanding of the New Testament documents becomes even more apparent. She claims that “we know” that the Gospels were not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. That is patently false.
John’s gospel, for instance, claims to be written by someone who is actually at the last Supper and an immediate disciple of Jesus (John 21:24). And the historical evidence for John as this person is very strong (the link between Irenaeus and Polycarp bears this out).
Another example that the Gospels contain “eyewitness” testimony comes from the Gospel of Mark. We have early, widespread, and uniform patristic testimony that this Gospel was written by Mark the disciple of Peter, and that the Gospel therefore contains Peter’s eyewitness accounts.
Tarico would have done well to familiarize herself with Richard Bauckham’s book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses which paints nearly the opposite picture she has presented in her article. If she had, she would realize that there is tremendous evidence that the Gospels are first-hand accounts of the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
4. The gospels, our only accounts of a historical Jesus, contradict each other.
I suppose it was inevitable that the issue of supposed contradictions between the gospels would be raised. But, this argument simply doesn’t work:
(a) Declaring it doesn’t make it so. Notice that Tarico has just assumed there are contradictions without showing that there are contradictions. Yes, the Gospels offer different perspectives on the life of Jesus, but there is no reason to regard these as contradictory. A lot of these so-called contradictions evaporate upon closer inspection, especially when methods of ancient historiography are taken into account (which are quite different than modern ones).
(b) Even if the Gospels contradict each other, this doesn’t prove Jesus didn’t exist. There is a non sequitur in Tarico’s argument here. Even if some historical sources disagree at points, this doesn’t require a wholesale abandonment of the historical realities that stand behind them. Indeed, if we adopted Tarico’s standards here we would not be able to affirm hardly any historical events!
5. Modern scholars who claim to have uncovered the real historical Jesus depict wildly different persons.
Again, this is a non sequitur in Tarico’s reasoning. Since scholars disagree about the details of Jesus’ life therefore he never existed? How does that follow? Jesus could really exist and scholars could also disagree about the specifics–the two are not mutually exclusive.
Also, what Tarico fail’s to understand is that the disagreement amongst scholars is not necessarily due to problematic sources. It may be due (and often is) to the fact that scholar refuse to accept the content of the sources we do have and instead insist on reconstructing Jesus for themselves.
Thus, the failure of scholars to agree about Jesus says more about modern historical methods (and the refusal of modern people to accept the Gospels as they are) than it does about whether Jesus actually existed.
In the end, Tarico has provided few reasons to think we should doubt the existence of Jesus. On the contrary, each of her suggested reasons, when explored more fully, reveal that we actually have very solid reasons to believe in the existence of Jesus.
In short, the scholarly consensus on this matter exists for a reason. Scholars may disagree about a great many things regarding Jesus. But his existence is not one of them.
Wonderful response! I’m reminded of Jn 15 – “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also.” Her sin of unbelief leading to illogic really comes out in points 4 and 5.
Enoch Anti says
Perfect response from Michael. Even as a layman, I was startled reading some of the things she wrote. I was particularly surprised about her points on Paul.
“Paul fails to cite Jesus’ authority precisely when it would make his case. What’s more, he never calls the twelve apostles Jesus’ disciples; in fact, he never says Jesus HAD disciples –or a ministry, or did miracles, or gave teachings. He virtually refuses to disclose any other biographical detail, and the few cryptic hints he offers aren’t just vague, but contradict the gospels. The leaders of the early Christian movement in Jerusalem like Peter and James are supposedly Jesus’ own followers and family; but Paul dismisses them as nobodies and repeatedly opposes them for not being true Christians!”
I thought this is blatant ignorance about the things Paul wrote. She should have indeed familiarise herself with Paul’s epistles before making this point. There is no doubt Paul acknowledged the other Apostles. He called them pillars of the faith as far as I remember. His disagreement with Peter is even recorded in Galatians.
David Wagner says
Some observations — If we in the 21st century can detect the apparent contradictions in the New Testament accounts, then certainly the 1st century authors, editors and compilers of the New Testament accounts could too. The question then is, why did they leave them in? This fact is very strong evidence that the New Testament was not fiction, and was not made up. Those who sought to create and perpetuate a hoax would likely have smoothed over these apparent discrepancies. Secondly, is there any other fictional character from the literature of antiquity who commanded a following the likes of Christianity? Again, this is very strong evidence that fictional characters do not have the power to create or cause organized, global religious organizations. There is no “Church of Loki” for instance.
Isaac Shrum says
Great comment. I would also add that when you read the Gospel accounts, you discover that the authors [especially Luke] would often incriminate themselves and their associates. Myth/fiction writers don’t do that, but the Bible writers did. Why? Because they were serious about recording real history. This to me is one of the great evidences of the validity of Scripture and more specifically, the historical existence of Christ.
John Morgan says
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/thethinkingatheist/id412308695?mt=2&i=327967120 I thought I’d share this podcast episode with Dr. Richard Carrier and two other scholars who argue that Jesus never existed. They seem pretty convinced that they have a substantial and convincing argument for their view that Jesus never existed and that they can say we who believe in in the historical Jesus are fools.
John Morgan says
By the way, these scholars give convincing evidence that it is foolish to site Josephus as evidence of the historical Jesus.
If you want to be taken seriously, perhaps you should interact with what Dr. Kruger has written above…for all to see and react to.
steve hays says
I think you mean “cite,” not “site.” It’s understood that the Testimonium Flavianum contains some Christian scribal interpolations. However, we can reconstruct the original minus the interpolations. So it’s still 1C historical witness to the existence of Jesus from a hostile, but well-placed source.
Isaac Shrum says
John, it’s sophomoric to bring in a podcast argument out of left field. As others have said, interact with the article above in order to convince someone of your position.
Check out Tim O’Neill’s blog:
Tim is a highly educated scholar who describes himself as a “Wry, dry, rather sarcastic, eccentric, occasionally arrogant Irish-Australian atheist bastard.” He argues convincingly from his vast knowledge of antique manuscripts that anyone who believes Josephus’ writings can’t be trusted is being willfully blind. For instance, those “scholars” on your podcast never mention the fact that other writers who predate the time in which Josephus’ writings were supposedly altered cite the changes that were… um, “added later”.
You’ll have to scroll down a bit. The article is the size of a small book.
If only secular belief would put its own ideas under the spotlight of interrogation, cross examination & scrutiny into mainstream media.
Overreach seems to be King in the modern world.Take into account the evolutionary dogma instilled in education systems with its everchanging deductions including the absense of evidence which we are meant to swallow hook line & sinker.No need to think, just accept the consensus, that is a real conspiracy.
Good on Dr Kruger for his encouragement & discernment, demonstrating real & helpful thought when it comes to all those programs & articles that seek to skew their own history to satisfy there own tastes & mislead so many in the process.
Timothy Mitchell says
Tacitus for all intents and purposes is a first century source. He lived most of his life within the first century (ca. 56-117 CE) and likely began collecting material for and began composing his famous “Annals” within the first century. The fact that he “published” his history within the first few years of the second century makes little difference in regards to it accuracy. (for his reference to Christians and to Jesus see “Annals” 15.4)
Timothy Mitchell says
sorry, that should read (“Annals” 15.44)
steve hays says
Regarding Richard Carrier, even a leftwing NT scholar like James McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix) routinely debunks Carrier’s mythicism.
steve hays says
It’s odd that Tarico says no 1C “secular” evidence exists to support the existence of Jesus, but then quotes Bart Ehrman about “pagan” authors. Since when is “pagan” a synonym for “secular”?
Jason Engwer says
Though individual non-Christian sources like Josephus and Tacitus are important, we should start with non-Christian sources in general. Tertullian, for example, comments on how non-Christians in general acknowledge Jesus’ historical existence (Apology, 21). Similarly, Trypho, Celsus, Celsus’ Jewish source(s), and other early non-Christians accept Jesus’ historicity. Before getting to an individual like Josephus, ask yourself what the best explanation is for the acceptance of Jesus’ existence among non-Christians in general. Why is Jesus’ non-existence of so little concern that men like Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Origen don’t even address the view? They address a large number and variety of views held by Christianity’s critics, including the views of many individuals and small groups, but they saw no need to interact with any claim that Jesus didn’t exist. The best explanation for the widespread affirmation of Jesus’ existence among early non-Christian sources is that he did exist. Non-Christians, just like Christians, had a faculty of memory and had motives and means to pass on information from one generation to another. The idea that they collectively forgot what happened in the first century, and collectively replaced that true memory with a false view that was so favorable to Christianity, is absurd.
With regard to Paul and the other earliest sources, keep in mind that there are multiple ways for them to have commented on Jesus’ historicity. For example, when Paul refers to Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament passages, that often involves a probable affirmation of Jesus’ historical existence on earth. Old Testament Messianic expectations suggest a historical Jesus. The Messiah was expected to live on earth, come from an earthly descendant of David, etc. Thus, passages in Paul and other early sources that apply a term like “Messiah” to Jesus or refer to Messianic prophecy fulfillment in Jesus’ life, for example, are thereby providing evidence for an earthly, historical figure. In a sense, we shouldn’t start our consideration of the evidence for Jesus’ existence with the New Testament. We should start with the Old Testament and other pre-Christian sources.
Roger Sanders says
When the poor go hungry or the naked remain unclothed, does it matter if Tarico is somehow arguably accurate that Jesus bar Joseph didn’t live at Bullhockey Lane in Bethlem? Is the work less impactful if someone else penned the words appearing under Shakespeare’s name? Perhaps cellular physiology trumps the rippling energy of holiness however manifested, or the poetry is less important if the poet as we might envision him never was, but I doubt it.
Jason Engwer says
Jesus wasn’t a poet. He made claims of major significance that rise or fall based on his identity and his activities in history. When you claim to be the Messiah, the Son of God, and the judge of all mankind and promise to answer people’s prayers and raise the dead, for example, more than poetry is at stake.
Roger Sanders says
Jason and Steve: Thanks. i might conceive of it differently: that the resulting truth of Jesus, whoever’s life initiated the narrative and hoilness of energy still felt, still meaningful 2,000 years later, is far more important than the particulars associated with a specific human anatomy. But then again, what does a country lawyer know? Best wishes. Roger
Hello Roger, It appears you are approaching Jesus and Christianity through a worldview of eastern mysticism. There is no such thing as a holiness of energy still felt from Jesus. It doesn’t matter how educated a person is, no one has a legitimate view of Jesus apart from coming to him for forgiveness of your sins as he is revealed in both the Old and New Testaments. Christianity is not about feeling an energy, but about actually knowing God and his Son through his word. But as long as someone claims they are good and does not need forgiveness and refuses to turn from their sins, they will never know Jesus.
It is Jesus who teaches us about love & mercy in the parable of the good Samaritin when being challenged by an expert in the law. Luke 10:25-37.
Meanwhile the universe bears a silent glorious witness to the handiwork of God.
Jesus is concerned with the iota, the rich, & the poor & much much more.
Gossip Police says
But MAN wrote the bible, not God and there’s no proof that God “inspired” it, asked for it to be written, approved it once it was written or any of the translations since. No perfect God would take credit for a book so full of mistakes and contradictions.
steve hays says
What books on the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture have you read? What moderate to conservative scholars have you read? What’s your familiarity with that side of the argument?
Gossip Police says
“What do I labour for? If there be no God — there can be no soul — if there is no Soul then Jesus — You also are not true.” Mother Theresa
Roger Sanders says
of course, and that is the point, isn’t it: to live, not talk about, the Jesus we know however we know that Jesus? Who cares about whether he was 5’11” with brown eyes, or lived on Bullhockey Lane in Bethlehem? From the Gospels, he didn’t care. why should we? i suspect the whole idea of a “historical” Jesus — on all sides — is driven by some fear that the embroideries of our religion are challenged, not the heart of Jesus message. John reported that by our love, (John 13:35, eg.) we as followers of Jesus are known. What i read here on the entire post between and among some of the responders makes me wonder how that essential Christian characteristic is evidenced in some of the exchanges. Perhaps you all know each other and sarcasm and impoliteness pass for loving treatment. Not where i come from. I am a trial lawyer, former judge, and Presbyterian lay pastor. I confess that what i don’t know fills the stadiums of the world. But of this i am certain: we are called to address the needs of the Matthew 25 “least of these.” What distracts from that, in my humble view, is of no more value than the debate over end times, endlesslessly entertaining, but irrelevant. (Matt 24:36, eg.)
When it comes time for our accounting for the life and time we have been given, i doubt we’ll be asked about what evidence we have that the “historical” Jesus existed, but rather whether the Jesus we know, by the light the Lord has given us to see, led to transforming the lives of the less fortunate. Hve we done justice, loved mercy, walked humbly, as Micah records? I don’t see a lesser command except by religionists who pursue arguments driven by fear or desire for power. My sense, more like the fortunate thief on the cross, is that the grace of the Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Lord of all, transforms lives through those here, struggling, in pain, incapacitated by many things, but guided and freed to help transform the lives of others. When the times comes, i suspect i’ll be needing to ask a thief for a vouching recomendation.
I wish you all the best, and a Merry Christmas. Blessings. Roger
steve hays says
“From the Gospels, he didn’t care. why should we? i suspect the whole idea of a ‘historical’ Jesus — on all sides — is driven by some fear that the embroideries of our religion are challenged, not the heart of Jesus message.”
i) In the Gospels, Jesus did care about who people thought he was. He makes it emphatically clear that people are supposed to believe certain things about him. Their salvation depends on it.
ii) You don’t understand what Christianity is. The existence of the historical Buddha is secondary to Buddhism because Buddhism is about having and acting on Buddhist ideas. If Buddha never existed, the ideas could still exist. Someone else could say the same thing. In principle, Buddha is dispensable to Buddhism.
Christianity is entirely different. It isn’t reducible to a set of ideas. It’s also about events. About God’s activity in human history. About Jesus doing things that only God Incarnate can do. About Jesus demanding unconditional allegiance to himself. Demands that only God is entitled to make. It’s about relating to God in the right way.
Your problem is that you don’t feel the need for that. It’s not important to you.
But that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant to the Christian faith. You are reinterpreting Christianity to comport with your religious indifference.
“When it comes time for our accounting for the life and time we have been given, i doubt we’ll be asked about what evidence we have that the ‘historical’ Jesus existed…”
What’s your source of information for how you think you will be judged? Clearly not the Bible, since you are very selective in what parts of the Bible you quote. Your position is based on wishful thinking. Because the doctrinal aspects of the NT don’t personally resonant with you, you act as though that’s not at the “heart” of the Christian faith.
No Roger, the point is not to live as Jesus taught instead of talk about him. The point is that we need forgiveness of our sins and only he by his blood and bodily resurrection can wash away our sins and cover us in his obedience. That is the “heart of the message.” You mentioned being a presbyterian – PCUSA? You wrote of “our religion” but there is no “our” here. The author of this blog, myself, and others here are Christians and do not share your religion. You are espousing a works-righteousness in your concept of judgment on the last day and it all stems from your denial of Scripture’s truthfulness as you write of “however we know that Jesus.” Only a Christian knows Christ and they know him only in the written word of God.
steve hays says
The question at issue is not human anatomy, but whether humans have any purpose for existing, and whether humans pass out of existence. Secularism nullifies the value of human lives. So, yes, it makes all the difference in the world whether Jesus is the Creator and redeemer of sinners.
Gossip Police says
I’ve read no books on the subject. I’ve also never read any books on how to cook, but I know how to cook. I’ve never read a book on preventable medical errors, but I know a lot about the subject as both my mother and disabled sister died of preventable medical errors, while God sat back and watched…doing nothing.
One doesn’t need to read a book to know how to do something or to have knowledge about something.
steve hays says
So you now admit that your position is based on anger. You think God let you down.
Keep in mind that in a godless universe, your loved ones are wholly unimportant. Just fleeting bits of matter.
You don’t honor your loved ones by embracing a nihilistic creed.
steve hays says
Actually, the historical Jesus does matter. If Jesus didn’t exist, if secularism is true, then the naked hungry poor are just temporary organizations of matter that have no objective value. When they die, they will be quickly forgotten, as if they never existed. On that worldview, everyone is replaceable and ultimately interchangeable.
If Jesus was just a moralist or ethecist then he wouldnt have had to pay a price & make atonement.
If our purpose is to have no purpose then nothing really matters & there is no truth, just chemical reactions in various forms & shapes.
Those that spent time with Jesus & passed it on would be the most reliable source. But because the text is of a religious nature it is automatically disqialified but its OK to believe in the Gospel of Q (or something like that ?) I have heard.
According to prophecy it matters where Jesus lived in transit & the prophecies match. It seems absurd to say what only matters is that we care fore the poor. Important as that is God requires of us to consider much more of what Jesus said & did. 2 Tim 3:16.Mark 8:27-29.
Gossip Police says
He didn’t have to pay a price…all God had to do was waive his hand and make it right. Imagine this perfect God screwing up so many of his own plans?! He creates 2 people and then puts something in their midst that could tempt them into ruining his whole plan for eternity. Why did he put it there in the first place??? He creates the world, lets it fall into rack and ruin and then wipes it out with a flood to start over. He sends his son to earth to fix even more problems, but makes him live 30 years in obscurity and then when he finally breaks out, chooses a path that gets him killed. Some plan, huh?!
It really doesn’t seem like God is very bright, does it? He can’t seem to create anything without doing it in such a way that it’s going to self-destruct. So how perfect does that make him?
We make our own purposes. If you’re going to go down that road, why would God create this enormous universe with billions of planets and stars, and only put people on this tiny speck called Earth? What’s the purpose of all the other planets and all that space, if most of us will never see it and it will never have any effect on us?
You’re right, those that spent time with Jesus, all those that did end up following him, could have easily written down about his existence…but no one did, except those intrinsically involved in the bible. How odd. Joan of Arc was a peasant woman, but lots of people wrote about her. Jesus is the central character of the Christian Bible, and yet, no other biblical sources ever wrote about him.
Prophecies are easily manipulated to be whatever anyone wants. Nostradamus made all kinds of prophetic predictions. When he’s right, people say, “Oh look, it was a prophecy!” When he’s wrong, it’s forgotten. But it’s easy to take current events that happen to match one of his prophecies and say that was the one he was talking about.
People are now saying that he predicted Obama’s presidency and that he’ll be the US’ last president. It’s no different with biblical prophecies.
The verses you quoted don’t say what God requires, it says what man said God requires. Big difference.
Well you say He didnt have to pay a price, all He has to do is wave a hand. Thats your opinion. Scripture says otherwise. Living by faith is alleged to be lazy & easy but thats not what the historical Jesus says. Many were put to death for faith in Christ, hardly easy.
What is really easy is to dismiss biblical text in the name of modernism. That is deadly easy.Nostradamus is not OT prophecy. Similarities do not equate to something being the same as, despite what you may believe & conveniently blend together. Scripture is far more precise than this.I know little of Joan of Arc but know a lot about Jesus, quality & quantity are not the same thing are they & the absence of evidence may come into play here among other things.
The universe declares the glory of God, His immensity, His wisdom, His power. But then it can also be seen in the ant & earth with all its complex design & order.
Your belief that Scripture is uninspired is not such a modest claim…how can I tell it is not born out of ignorance or arrogance & what makes you any different to Matthew or Mark or John…just because you say so…after all you seem to operate from an A priori position that denies the existance of a creator so you are always going to interpret data in the light of that no matter what comes your way.
Although you claim God messed up, the text reveals that it was humans that messed up big time, even after being forwarned…not so bright or decieved are two different things again.Many say the teachings of jesus are incredibly wise & much of humanism aligns itself with godliness so if God is not so bright what does that say about modernism I wonder.
God, not man, calls me to live by faith. Jesus saves, completely, totally. I can know this by faith says Scripture.Heb 11:1.if you dont have it how can you know, its not a natural force but a spiritual one, modern science has already disqualified itself from that.
steve hays says
“He didn’t have to pay a price…all God had to do was waive his hand and make it right. Imagine this perfect God screwing up so many of his own plans?! He creates 2 people and then puts something in their midst that could tempt them into ruining his whole plan for eternity. Why did he put it there in the first place???”
You’re not giving this much thought. Consider science fiction movies where a time-traveler goes back into the past to make things better. He changes the past to improve the future. But what he does has unintended consequences.
Yes, God could prevent sin from ever happening. But it doesn’t occur to you that you, your mother, and your sister are the end-result of a chain of events that involve sin and evil in the past. You wouldn’t exist, they wouldn’t exist, in a perfect world. That would be an alternate timeline with a different set of people. So there are tradeoffs.
Gossip Police says
The argument of silence part really doesn’t apply here. Come on! We’re talking about Jesus Christ, the single most important character in the Christian bible. We’re to believe that out of the blue, 3 wise men traveled a long distance to witness his birth (how did they know when and where to go?) but NO ONE documented it anywhere at the time? It was supposedly prophesized for generations, no? Prophecies were extremely important to people back then and this was a huge prophecy…yet no one wrote about his birth at the time, or anytime during his lifetime? Highly improbable.
And why is there no documentation of his life from birth to his 30’s? Again, this is a very important person and yet, we’re to believe that he was totally hidden and unimportant for most of his life? That people weren’t always traveling long distances to see him and meet with him? Why, if 3 wise men knew of his birth out of the blue, was it so hard for him to explain who he was once he was an adult, and prove he was god’s son?
Likely, because it was all made up after the fact.
Jason Engwer says
You need to distinguish between how people reacted to Jesus during and just after his lifetime, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, what’s extant today. Other Jewish religious leaders who lived around the time of Jesus, such as John the Baptist and Gamaliel, also aren’t mentioned in our extant historical records that date to their lifetime. The vast majority of scholars, including the large majority of the most liberal ones, accept the historicity of the apostle Paul and the general outline of his life that’s found in several of the Pauline letters. Yet, we have no extant record of Paul’s life (as a leader among the Pharisees or as an apostle) until close to the year 50 A.D. This sort of thing is commonplace in the ancient world. It not only occurred with other Jewish religious leaders around Jesus’ time, but also with many pagan figures. It’s commonplace for ancient figures to not be mentioned in any of our extant records until after their lifetime. For more on this subject and why your objection doesn’t carry much weight, see:
You refer to the magi, the star of Bethlehem, and prophecy. From what we can tell, there was no widespread Jewish expectation that the Messiah would have a birth star, so Old Testament prophecy doesn’t have much relevance here. The star probably was a highly local supernatural phenomenon, roughly like the pillar of fire in the book of Exodus or the angels in Luke 2. That’s why only one group of magi comes looking for the child, and that’s why Herod is so dependent on them for information on the star. There’s no reason to expect sources other than Matthew to mention it. The star was a highly local phenomenon that occurred during a time in Jesus’ life that none of the other gospels cover (when he was getting close to two years old; see Matthew 2:16). Other events surrounding Jesus’ childhood are mentioned in other sources, including non-Christian ones. You mentioned the star and the magi, but didn’t specify anything else. Your objection is vague, so what do you expect people to say in response?
Your suggestion that accounts like the one about the star of Bethlehem were “made up after the fact” is a poor explanation of some of the characteristics of those accounts. Many aspects of the accounts are early, attested by multiple sources, attested by sources with significant credibility, meet the criterion of embarrassment, and are more restrained than fictional accounts would typically be. Some aspects of the infancy narratives are corroborated by ancient non-Christian sources. For many examples of what I’ve just referred to, see the following:
The series of posts in my second link above addresses your claim that it was “so hard for [Jesus] to explain who he was once he was an adult”. See, especially, the first two posts in the series, in which I address some of Raymond Brown’s objections to the infancy narratives. The remainder of the series is relevant as well.
We are meant to believe in an out of the blue non living matter transforming into living matter on the basis of experts, those wise enough to speculate & provide consensus.However we are meant to bow at their superiour non logic. Almost daily aliens are said to be kidnapping humans or sighting made, scientists hold to panspermia without a shred of evidence. So yes stuff is certainly made up & distorted after the fact.
Documentation is not the same as word of mouth which was also pretty popular back in the day, especially amongst the poor. That God should choose to be God & do things in His own way is not OK…Only Frank Sinatra & humans can do that ?
Certain prophecies & unique announcements are made about the Christ child but his ministry begins when He is 30(ish?). Thats when the boat is rocked in society as He & John the Baptist begin their task. A price must be paid & miracles be performed to demonstrate & fulfil His purpose for a lost humanity. He proved who He was…& humanity was spiritually blind to this except for the angels creating awareness, celebration & glory to God.
Not every one is the Queen of Sheba although we are told Pontious Pilate had news of this Jesus & He was creating a stir that was dividing the status quo. Nicodemus went to vist Jesus at night such was the danger at the time…so maybe writing about Jesus had implications also.
If your claim is all about probability then you have no reason to deny that it wasnt made up. Psalm 22:1-31. is known as Messianic/prophetic, also Isaiah 53:1-12.
steve hays says
i) Jesus wasn’t born famous. Some people become famous as adults. Some people become famous after their death.
ii) In addition, you’re raising questions the narrative answers. They Magi were guided by a prodigy. In addition, the Magi received angelic directions. You find both in Matthew.
You may not believe it, but you act as if the account doesn’t address those questions, when it does.
And, of course, we know about it because we do have documentation.
Yes, Jesus is the most famous person in the Bible. But, of course, the NT wasn’t written during his lifetime here below.
iii) Biographies are frequently written after someone dies. Have you never made that elementary observation?
Gossip Police says
But you’re overlooking the fact that he’s “JESUS CHRIST” not just John the Baptist or Gamaliel. He was supposedly the son of GOD whose life had been prophesized. People were waiting for him to come and then they didn’t write about it????
Old testament prophesy DOES have relevance here! I wasn’t just referring to the typical signs like the star. Prophesies are big in Christianity and given a lot of weight. So the fact that Jesus was prophesized and then not written about once he was here is highly unlikely.
“Regarding Jesus’ birth—Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 9:6: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
“Concerning Jesus’ ministry and death—Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Psalm 22:16-18: “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
“Likely the clearest prophecy about Jesus is the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Isaiah 53:3-7 is especially unmistakable: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”
“The “seventy sevens” prophecy in Daniel chapter 9 predicted the precise date that Jesus, the Messiah, would be “cut off.” Isaiah 50:6 accurately describes the beating that Jesus endured. Zechariah 12:10 predicts the “piercing” of the Messiah, which occurred after Jesus died on the cross. Many more examples could be provided, but these will suffice. The Old Testament most definitely prophesies the coming of Jesus as the Messiah.”
My “made up after the fact” was not meant as an explanation for those accounts. I think all the fallacies and inconsistencies in the bible go to prove that it was made up after the fact, along with the fact that much of it was written by old men many years after the occurrences (I can’t even remember what I was doing 5 years ago, let alone being a 70+ year old man writing about events 25+ years prior). The fact that they co-mingled these stories with other real events only helped to make people fall for them through the years.
While a “Jesus” may have been born and some of those events occurred, that in no way proves that he was the son of God and that all the events occurred. Again, for such an important character, there is sketchy information at best about his life.
steve hays says
People weren’t waiting for “Jesus Christ” to come. The prophecies don’t name the Messiah, or give his birthdate.
Jason Engwer says
I linked you to some articles that explain why your reasoning is wrong, and those articles provide examples of oral and written communication about Jesus’ life that would have been circulating while he was alive. I also linked some articles that provide evidence for the historicity of the Biblical accounts of Jesus’ childhood. You’ve ignored all of it. For the most part, you’re repeating and expanding upon your earlier claims without interacting with the counterarguments already offered.
You comment that you “can’t even remember what [you were] doing 5 years ago, let alone being a 70+ year old man writing about events 25+ years prior”. My grandfather, who died in 2013, frequently gave me detailed accounts about his memories of serving in World War II (and earlier events in his life) several decades earlier. We don’t have to rely on your experiences with memory. Other people have had experiences as well, and they don’t agree with your (dubious) claim that you can’t remember anything from more than five years ago. I doubt that you’ve forgotten everything you experienced with your parents during your childhood, everything you were taught in school, etc. And why should we think your experience is comparable to what people experienced in an oral culture like ancient Israel, which placed so much more emphasis on developing memory skills? Furthermore, the issue here isn’t what one person remembered. Much of what’s reported about Jesus’ life was of a public nature (miracles performed in public, teaching delivered publicly, etc.). They wouldn’t have been depending on one person’s memory. And, again, the fact that we don’t possess, say, a written record from Jesus’ lifetime doesn’t prove that no such record existed in the past. You keep confusing categories. As if what we possess today must be all that everybody in the past had access to. You need to distinguish between what’s extant today and what existed in the past. When Luke opens his gospel by referring to “many” accounts of early Christianity circulating in his day, we can’t assume that he must have only been referring to documents extant today.
When you claim that the Biblical accounts are erroneous, you’re probably relying on comparing the Bible to a lot of ancient sources (Josephus, Tacitus, etc.) who wrote after the events in question (including five or more years later, since you claim that you can’t remember your own life five years ago). If we can’t trust Biblical accounts written something like ten, thirty, or sixty years after a purported event, then do you also reject extrabiblical accounts of the same nature? If Josephus contradicts the Bible on an event several decades prior to when Josephus wrote, do you reject Josephus’ testimony as unreliable? I doubt it. Your approach to these issues seems to involve a lot of double standards.
I wouldnt say the NT is sketchy by any stretch of the imagination. You make the claim that it tells you enough & contradicts enough that you can satisfactorly come to a conclusion, although you dont clarify what those things are.
The prophecy in Isaiah tells us he would be despised & rejected. Not being seen for who He really was. Jesus fits that prophecy in detail to the point of death(& beyond).
There are a lot of things I dont remember about my youth also but then my culture is overloaded with all kinds of data & meaningless information. Yet i recall life changing events in my life & heart in great detail, even the stuff I am not particulary proud of or want to remember.
You seem to be mingling your own belief to come to conclusions that may not be factual. But in the end you concede that Jesus may have been born & some of those evnts may have occured. Yes that is very sketchy.
Gossip Police says
Jesus WAS born famous…his birth was prophesized! He had wise men come bearing expensive gifts. People most assuredly WERE waiting for him to come! They may not have known his given name, but the fact that they predicted a messiah and that they say that Jesus was that messiah proves that they were waiting for him to come…just like they’re waiting now for him to return.
I’m assuming by “prodigy” you mean the star. But the bible says that the wise men had to inquire “where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Herod then sent them to find him in Bethlehem. Matthew does not mention that they were guided by an angel. The angel in Matthew came after they went back to their country and appeared to Joseph in a dream.
1. Why would they come if he weren’t famous? 2. How would they know the star had any significance if he weren’t famous?
So clearly you don’t know the biblical account as well as you think you do. And your “documentation” is the holy bible. That’s not proof of anything…read on.
Biographies are usually written after someone dies, but you don’t write a biography of someone who wasn’t famous and you don’t write it based on no evidence of something. Luke never witnessed anything he wrote about himself.
“Some scholars uphold the traditional claim that Luke the Evangelist, an associate of St. Paul who was probably not an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry, wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles. Others point out that Acts contradicts Paul’s own letters and denies him the important title of apostle, suggesting that the author was not a companion of Paul’s. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_reliability_of_the_Gospels#cite_note-101
I didn’t read any of your links because your theory was invalid from the get-go as I proved. You can’t include any writings that eventually appeared in the bible as proof of Jesus on earth. Your source is still talking about the “shroud of turin ” as though it’s authentic when even Pope Francis has urged believers to be cautious about its authenticity.
Using scripture to try and prove Christ’s existence is like using the Book of Mormon to prove the existence of the planet Kolob.
You talk about your grandfather giving your detailed accounts…how do you know what he said was accurate? I have an uncle who swears that my grandparents traveled from Indiana to California in 1897 in a covered wagon. I have photographs of them on their honeymoon in the car that they drove from Indiana; my grandfather was a mechanic! Unless you’ve gone back and proven that everything your grandfather said was true, and that he relied solely on his memory from all those years ago and from nothing written in the interim, that theory doesn’t hold water.
So my claim isn’t dubious just because you want it to be to prove your point.
You’re right, though, in that the bible isn’t just one person’s memory. It’s a lot of people’s memories and often the stories contradict each other. Then you have to take into consideration mistranslations and the church’s need to control what was disseminated to the world. We know that the Catholic Church (and people like King James) had a very big part in picking and choosing what went into the bible, and that they left things out that didn’t suit their needs. (Where is the Gospel of Mary?)
It doesn’t matter if something existed in the past to prove his existence. If it doesn’t exist now, it’s not evidence of his existence. Luke’s “account” is all second-hand knowledge…he experienced none of what he wrote about, himself.
When I’m talking about erroneous, I’m talking about thousands of things that we can prove today are just flat out wrong. http://bibviz.com/
Josephus is just another interpreter of biblical writings. He wasn’t there to witness it himself.
“Given the above canons, it is no mystery that many scholars hold that Josephus is woefully inaccurate at times. And, it would appear from the work of Schurer, Broshi, Mason, Mosley and Yamauchi that such a conclusion is fairly warranted.” https://bible.org/article/josephus%E2%80%99-writings-and-their-relation-new-testament
@Anaquaduck…my musings may be “sketchy,” but no more sketchy than anything in the Holy Bible.
Jason Engwer says
There are far too many absurdities and irrelevancies in your latest response for me to respond to everything in detail. You keep changing the subject and making up and redefining your standards as you go along.
Dismissing the Biblical documents as inadmissible at the outset makes no sense. They can be evaluated like other historical sources, and I’ve provided reasons for accepting them as trustworthy.
And I cited more than the Biblical documents. Not only did I explain that in the material I linked, but I also explained it in my earlier posts here. I told you that I was citing both Biblical and extrabiblical sources. Why are you misrepresenting what I said?
Since your attempt to undermine human memory consisted of nothing but your own (dubious) claim about how poor your memory is, there’s nothing wrong with my citing my own memories and the memory claims of other people, like my grandfather, in response. If you want corroboration of our memory claims, then why aren’t you offering corroboration of your own? Why should we believe you when you claim that you can’t remember what happened five years ago? Are we to think that you have no memories of your childhood? No memories of your adulthood from five years ago and more? All of the information you’re writing about in your posts comes from what you read or heard less than five years ago? You’re not relying on any memories of anything earlier? I doubt that. But why don’t you provide us with corroboration of your memory claims? Or is that just another one of your double standards? We have to provide evidence, but you don’t.
By your own admission, you have a horrible memory. It leaks like a sieve. You’ve also demonstrated horrible reasoning and a lot of ignorance of the issues under consideration. (Citing King James in a discussion of textual and canonical issues? As if the post-Reformation history is relevant here? Citing the Gospel Of Mary as a significant candidate for inclusion in the canon?) Why should we keep interacting with somebody like that?
In response to your ridiculous objections about human memory, here’s some material I’ve written on the subject:
On the canon:
On textual issues:
You’ve missed the point about Luke. The issue I was addressing wasn’t whether Luke was an eyewitness. (He was for some portions of Acts.) Rather, the issue was what sources he had access to. Those sources don’t have to be extant today in order for Luke to have had access to them. When you claim that nobody wrote about Jesus during a particular timeframe, you can’t just cite extant documents to support that claim. Jesus could have been written about in documents no longer extant. The opening of Luke’s gospel illustrates that fact.
“my musings may be “sketchy,” but no more sketchy than anything in the Holy Bible.”
How do you know…you were not there, as you like to argue. But where humanity fails to see & act, God does not.
Usually the media electrifies at the hint of the tiniest fragment as proof of this or that, particularly in world of science & history but time & again it comes to nothing.
I take John’s words & the inspired Scripture over yours. Just because some man made rules about modern science & history seek to revise history & allege a conspiracy theory doesnt change what God is doing in the hearts of humanity.No matter how much political clout there is or isnt, truth will always be truth.
Gossip Police says
@anaquaduck You weren’t there either! Neither were the millions of people who change their entire lives to be Christian (or any other religion). Yet, they believe in this stuff like it’s written on giant stone tablets instead of by men decades after the fact, then translated and re-translated, misinterpreted and mistranslated and then picked and chosen over by the church and a king. Yet, they’re sure it’s “god’s infallible word.”
But to answer your question, we can prove things wrong in the bible very easily. It’s very easy to prove that the story of Noah is fiction for a number of reasons. First and foremost, how did the animals from other continents get to the ark and back? Kangaroos are only found in Australia and New Guinea, so how did they get there and why are there no kangaroo bones shown in a migratory path from Mt. Ararat to Australia? It’s very easy to imagine that the story of Noah and the flood is fiction because people of the time weren’t even aware that there were other continents and had no reason to make that element make sense in the story.
What are you talking about, God does not fail to see or act. That’s baloney! Both my mother and disabled sister died of medical negligence and that hands of negligent doctors. Where was god for them? He sat back and allowed them both to die horrific and tragic deaths. http://4patientsafety.org/stories/caliandrist
Where was God during 9/11? He just sat back and allowed terrorists to knock down those buildings, killing almost 3000 people. Surely there were Christians in there praying to be saved who had read their bibles and knew that they had been promised multiple times, “Ask and ye shall receive.” They didn’t receive…the bible lied to them.
Got does not see a lot and he most assuredly hasn’t “acted” on anything in a long, long time…if he ever did.
Do you also take Joseph Smith’s words in the Mormon Bible as “inspired scripture?” If not, why not? It’s no different than the inspiration in the Christian Bible.
Provable evidence will always rewrite history. It’s “history” that the world was flat. We know today that isn’t true. Should we not believe the science that proves that because of the baloney people have in their hearts due to faith?
Truth WILL always be truth, and the holy bible is far from true.
I am not saying I was there, I am saying that Scripture is reliable, I dont operate from a man made imagined rule, Thou shalt not trust the Bible.
You claim the account of Noah is not true. Some things to consider from the account of Noah.http://creation.com/the-sixteen-grandsons-of-noah
Seeing the scientific fossil interpretation is such a mess & extremeley sketchy & always changing i dont see how kangaroo bones or the lack there off will clarify anything for you really. But you can check out the site & search bar from the above link.
In this sense ‘provable’ evidence wont rewrite history at all, particularly when it comes to scientific investigation through the bias of naturalism.
God does not act or God does not act the way you want Him too seems to be the heart of the matter. So sorry to hear of your loss. A true story that is familiar to me is the life of Horatio Spafford who comes to a different conclusion than yourself regarding loss & grief.
I have also lost loved ones, so thankful that God gave them to me, families can be a true blessing & yes we all make mistakes, some with tragic outcomes.
Then there is God himself who provides medicine & comfort in our own suffering & Jesus who came that He would undo the deception that has its grip on the hearts & minds of humanity. So yes God is at work but Secularism is against this kind of help & makes rules up so it cannot be shared.
No, I dont take Joseph Smith at his word, or the belif of Sam harris or Richard Dawkins either
The Bible doesnt teach that the earth is or was flat, yet some have mistakenly intepreted it that way…Science is a gift from God, combining human intellect, investigation & creation.Modern science gets it oh so wrong too. Even secular scientist reject the big bang but we never hear that side of the story. Science is just as political as religion.Not all religions are true.
Blind pitiless indifference is at the heart of atheistic belief so I dont see that leading us to truth any time soon. Postmodern thought says you can believe what you want so I dont think it is interested in truth either.
Jesus on the other hand said He was the way, the truth & the light. I know he didnt have a lab coat or a pair of glasses but his fellow workers have published a lot of papers regarding eye witness accounts. I am happy to read them & be immersed in Scripture, The Bible tells me they wont find Jesus bones here on earth but His church will remain until He comes again.
You do youself & the Bible an injustice by claiming God will give us anything we want when we want it. Versism is not context. God is not some impersonable stoic being but one who weeps & laughs, we mirror his image but our is a fallen image, darkened in our undersanding & in need of light.
Humanity is in a terrible state that is for sure.God has come in the flesh(JESUS),died & rose again.This demonstration of love & sacrifice is ignored by many as people walk on by, unless its a tiny fragment that may lead to a conspiracy.Then they get all electric. Meanwhile the Bible declares & corrects & encourages by God’s wonderful provision & Spirit.
Gossip Police says
How do you know the scripture is reliable? Have you personally compared the writings to the original transcripts and in turn compared them to other writings depicting the same events? Or do you just accept that all the translation after translations and editings after editings are true?
I don’t know what the “sixteen grandsons of Noah” have to do with how the animals got back to all the other continents after the flood.
Finding Kangaroo bones ANYWHERE else other than Australia, in a line from Mt. Ararat would give credence to the story that they migrated somehow to Australia. But it can’t have happened since the flood happened after the separation of the continents. They would have needed the Love Boat to get back to Australia.
You’re right, provable evidence would change nothing for most current Christians because they automatically refute anything that refutes their versions of the bible they’ve been brainwashed with.
God made certain promises in the bible. “Ask and ye SHALL receive” is one of them and it is mentioned 7 or 8 times. But it’s a lie. People ask all the time and receive nothing. The verse doesn’t say, “Ask and I’ll think about it.” I prayed for my mother and sister’s suffering to be stopped and to live. Neither thing happened. God allowed them to suffer horrifically at the hands of negligent doctors who killed them. My sister was mentally retarded. People always told us that she was God’s “perfect child.” Yet, she lived her whole life being ridiculed by people, and then God not only allowed her to suffer with all kinds of medical problems, he also let her die horrifically. I will be haunted forever by her screams of pain in her hospital bed, crying out “Please God help me…it hurts so bad!” She didn’t even have the mentality to really understand who God was, but nonetheless, she prayed for relief. But instead, the hospital (and God) allowed her to lay there for 15 hours with no pain medication. Turns out she had a strangulated bowel that had burst, sending toxins into her abdomen causing sepsis, a horrifically painful condition.
God was nowhere to be seen, and we were in a Catholic hospital. The nurses ended up giving her a drug that sent her into cardiac arrest. They were under the wrong impression that she was a DNR and while she lay there with her heart stopped, they stood around doing nothing….just like God. When they realized they were wrong, they called a code blue and revived her 17 minutes later, but she was nearly brain dead by then. She died the next day. So God allowed her to be born mentally retarded, to live a life of torment and with all kinds of medical conditions, and then allowed her to die a terrible and painful death.
Some God, huh?
Why don’t you take take Joseph Smith at his word? His writings are no different or less “inspired” than any writer in the Christian bible.
I never said that bible teaches that the earth was flat….that was an example.
Sure, science gets lots of things wrong, but at least some research goes into science and it’s not a bunch of lazy people just accepting what they’re told blindly.
I never said God will give us anything we want when we want it. I said that bible says “Ask and ye SHALL receive.” There’s no other way to take that verse.
You don’t know that god weeps and laughs…you know nothing about god, only what man told you about him. You don’t find it odd that once man wrote “his word,” he basically disappeared from the picture? Odd coincidence, no?
steve hays says
“God made certain promises in the bible. ‘Ask and ye SHALL receive’ is one of them and it is mentioned 7 or 8 times. But it’s a lie.”
The Bible speaks in generalities. But it wouldn’t be possible for God to answer every prayer, since one person’s pray may contradict another person’s prayer.
Likewise, we have duties. If I have a duty to provide for a needy, elderly parent (Mt 15/Mk 7), then God isn’t going to answer my prayer to end my life if that means I won’t be around to provide for my needy, elderly parents.
So prayer was never meant to zero out everything else. It has to be counterbalanced by other considerations.
Gossip Police says
Absurdities and irrelevancies to you, because you won’t allow yourself to face truth.
I haven’t changed the subject once…we’re talking about whether Jesus is real. My standards also have not changed. Just because you choose to say it’s so, doesn’t make it so.
It makes perfect sense to dismiss the biblical documents. 1. We don’t have them at our disposal to make sure that what you’re choosing to use as proof is even in them or has been translated properly. We already have proof of mistranslations including the very important mistranslation about the word “virgin” in the nativity story….which really meant “young woman.” 2. Using biblical documents to prove the bible is real is like using the TV special of “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” to prove that Santa Claus is real. Just because someone writes something down, doesn’t make it real, especially if it’s uncorroborated or other people wrote different accounts, which is what happens in the bible stories. Matthew and Luke’s versions of Christ’s birth don’t match.
I never said there was something wrong with you citing your own memory claims. But clearly you chose to ignore the point I made. Can you prove that your grandfather’s memories were accurate and not based on anything he read during his lifetime?
Not remembering and remembering are two different things and have two very different modes of proof. Why would a person ever have to prove they don’t remember something? It’s the absence of information….there’s nothing to prove. On the contrary, a “memory” could be wrong, altered, made up, or not a real memory at all…it could be something someone was told or read. If it’s important to the story, it would be important for that person to be able to prove their memory.
You can’t seem to prove that your grandfather’s memory was accurate and not garnered some other way during his lifetime.
You’re also taking my “I can’t remember what I was doing 5 years ago” literally. It’s ridiculous to think that I couldn’t remember ANYTHING from 5 years ago….it was a figure of speech. If you were to ask me what I did for my birthday 5 years ago, I certainly couldn’t tell you without looking at a calendar or photographs. It’s just not something I choose as important information to retain.
But instead, you choose to pick on my words to try and undermine the point I was making, instead of choosing to see the point I was making. It has nothing to do with “standards.”
I never said I have a horrible memory or that it leaks like a sieve. Those are your words, not mine. You’re choosing to be provocative because you’ve been backed into a corner you can’t get out of without trying to make everything I say look ludicrous. Clearly you can’t have a logical and adult conversation without trying to change other people’s words to fit your needs.
This is not a discussion of textual and canonical issues….those are your issues…they are only relevant to you, not me and I told you why. Why wouldn’t the Gospel of Mary be significant? It was written like all the other inclusions in the bible and purposely left out. That’s very telling and very important.
I’m not going to your blog posts and reading more of your self-important drivel.
What portions of Luke were eye-witnessed and how do you know? Were you with him? The sources Luke used must be “extant” today so that we can prove that what he wrote about was accurate and not fictionalized. What if the people that wrote the bible had no intentions of it being historical documents, but rather fictionalized accounts for enjoyment and the church (Paul) then turned it around and just SAID it was historical? We have no proof one way or the other. Did those writers of the epistles intend for their words to be used as historical proof? Did they even give permission for them to be used as such? Were they accurately transcribed? Were the transcriptions accurately translated over and over? What editing took place by the church? You have no proof for any of that.
I CAN “just cite extant documents to support that claim.” I did do that and I stand behind it. Anything other than proving the documents is hearsay.
I don’t see God doing ANYTHING for humanity. People are suffering and dying all around us. The planet is in a terrible state. God is nowhere to be seen.
Elaine Bittencourt says
“I don’t see God doing ANYTHING for humanity. People are suffering and dying all around us. The planet is in a terrible state. God is nowhere to be seen.”
You speak as if God owed you anything. He does not. You should be thankful you are alive. Whatever good comes into our lives, it’s only by His grace. Whatever bad we do not experience, or experience less than other people, it’s only by His mercy.
God does not own anyone anything. He is the creator and we His creation, not the other way around.
Gossip Police says
No I don’t. God is supposed to be our “father.” What father would ignore their children when they’re in need???
Why do you think he DOESN’T owe us? Why should I be thankful to be a live? He had nothing to do with it…that was my parent’s doing. His GRACE??? LOL
He sat back as my mother and disabled sister died horrific deaths from medical negligence. Where was his grace then? There’s no grace and mercy. That’s just you being brainwashed by several thousand years worth of brainwashed baloney. I can understand ancient people falling for these fairy tales, but people today are supposed to be smarter than that. You do realize that less than 1/3 of the planet is Christian and the number is falling steadily? That Christianity isn’t even the primary religion in the birthplace of Christianity?
God owes me a great deal of answers and if I EVER see him face to face, which I doubt highly, he’s got a lot o’ ‘splaining’ to do .
As for being his creation…what parent who creates their own children leave them to fend for themselves when they are sick and/or dying?
Jason Engwer says
In a response to Steve Hays earlier in this thread, you told him that you haven’t read any books addressing the issues under consideration. And you just told me that you don’t want to read any of my online material that I link. If you’ve done so little research, know so little about the issues, and refuse to consult the sources people provide you with, that’s your problem, not ours.
You’re largely raising and repeating objections that have already been addressed in previous posts in the thread and in material that’s been linked here. It’s not our responsibility to make you be honest, to make you think, or to make you do research. If you refuse to behave responsibly, that’s your fault.
Where you aren’t repeating arguments already refuted in earlier posts in the thread, you’re bringing up new objections that are simplistic and suggest that you aren’t being honest, don’t know much about the issues, or both. You raise the problem of evil in a simplistic way, without making any effort to interact with counterarguments that have been circulating for thousands of years. You object that some books were “purposely left out” of the Biblical canon, which also can be said of other canons of literature and does nothing to prove that books were left out for an invalid reason. You initially objected that nothing was written about Jesus within a particular timeframe. Then, when presented with counterarguments that you should have anticipated, you changed the subject to whether the sources that existed during the relevant timeframe were accurate ones. You defend the reliability of your own memory by appealing to qualifications that have been used by Richard Bauckham and other scholars to argue for the reliability of the memory of the Biblical authors. You’d know that if you’d read the article I linked on memory issues. But you refused to read it. Yet, you expect us to take the time and effort to address everything from King James’ influence on the Biblical text to Noah’s ark to why God didn’t intervene when your mother and sister were suffering from medical negligence.
Gossip Police says
I never said I did little research. Research comes in other forms than “books”…this is the 21st century.
I said I wouldn’t read YOUR blog, because it’s your blog and your ramblings are not creditable.
I don’t care about other threads, this is my first visit to this website. Did you expect me to go back and read all the other threads here before I ever posted something? Who said it was your responsibility to do anything? Behave? WTF?
Simple doesn’t mean wrong. I’m sure that just infuriates you because someone can simply toss your ramblings out the window, simply. You’re right, it is all very simple. It all boils down to the fact that there is no other proof of Jesus Christ than biblical writings, and those really can’t be used to prove his existence, at least to most lay people, because the proof doesn’t exist.
I never said that books were left out for an invalid reason. Stop trying to put words in my mouth. They were left out…period. Who was anyone in the church or King James’ reign to decide what documentation belonged in the Holy Bible? They weren’t chosen by God to make those decisions.
I’ve not changed the subject once, again, that’s your words, not mine. You clearly don’t live in any kind of reality outside of your own.
I don’t need to read any articles on memory issues because it isn’t a problem of memory issues. YOU brought up the story of your grandfather’s memory and I refuted it…perfectly. You have never once answered my question of can you prove his memories were correct and if so, that he didn’t read any of them at some point during his lifetime, so that they were indeed his “memories” and not just stories he read somewhere.
So YOU are refusing as well. Stop pointing fingers.
Us? Do you have a split personality? I expect nothing of anyone here. I came, I made my point, and wouldn’t have returned if no one had responded.
I never expected you to address my mother and sister’s suffering.
Why do you love putting words in other people’s mouths?
steve hays says
Your selective hyperskepticism is self-defeating. On the one hand you make deliberately impossible demands about how Jason needs to go back and independently check everything is grandfather told him, about how we can’t trust copies, &c.
On the other hand, you expect perfect strangers to believe your uncorroborated reports about your mother and sister.
Gossip Police says
@Joey Henry….so you read the original documents and not translations, right? Because otherwise, you were reading someone else’s words, not Mary’s. Because it wasn’t included in the Holy Bible, do you have proof that the tone of other books weren’t changed so that they had a similar feel, leaving the Gospel of Mary to sound different?
Does it really matter what “scholars” think? If God “inspired” Mary to write it like all the other writings that did end up in the bible, who is anyone else to say that it doesn’t belong?
The main reason it doesn’t appear is that it refutes stories that they did want to appear in the bible, and it was written by a lowly woman.
How could historical data tell you that Luke saw something himself instead of merely passing along a story he heard?
But the bible is FULL of fictionalized accounts! What are you talking about? Matthew and Luke’s version of the nativity story don’t even match. They clearly added elements that they thought were relevant. Remember too, some of these writings were letters, probably not intended for publishing.
Of course people WANT to take it as historical accounts. To do otherwise breaks down all of Christianity. It’s like the naysayers who won’t believe the scholars when they say that the word “virgin” has been mistranslated in the bible. That blows the basics of the whole virgin birth story out of the water! What Christian is going to readily just say, “Oh, I didn’t realize it was mistranslated, I’ll change my way of thinking now.”? What if they prove that Jesus didn’t die on the cross and he and Mary married and had children and lived in France? How many die-hard Christians will EVER accept even the most blatant proof of that? To do so would be accepting that any part of Christianity could and probably is a lie.
What you’re saying is like going to court and a witness not needing any proof that a murderer killed someone, just the fact that they said they saw him do it. They can’t prove they were there, there is no murder weapon….nothing. But according to you, unless we have opposing data, we have to believe the witness’s story.
Remember that 95%+ of Christians today believe based on inherited hearsay. They’ve done little to no research themselves outside of the Holy Bible and church. A lot of Christians would swear to you right now that the bible specifies an apple as being from the Tree of Knowledge in Genesis, even though it doesn’t specify a particular fruit. A lot would tell you that “Three Kings” came to visit baby Jesus, even though they weren’t kings at all and many more would probably tell you that there was a little drummer boy there playing. And I could go on and on. This doesn’t even get into the fact that Christmas isn’t a real celebration of Christ’s birth, it was the church’s way to appease pagan’s celebrating a pagan holiday. But look how many Christians get up in arms about “taking the Christ out of Christmas.”
steve hays says
The existence of evil is hardly inconsistent with Biblical theism. To the contrary, the Bible bears witness to the existence of pain and suffering from Genesis to Revelation. The Christian faith is based on the fact of suffering and death. Far from disproving Christianity; that’s a presupposition of Christianity.
There’s a great deal of evidence for divine intervention in the world. What God intervenes at some times and place rather than others is mysterious to us, but that doesn’t negate the evidence for divine intervention.
steve hays says
Your statement is confused. The fact that the Messiah was a famous category doesn’t mean Jesus was famous for being the Messiah at the moment of birth.
People were waiting for the Messiah to come. They weren’t waiting for Jesus to come. They didn’t know ahead of time that Jesus would be be Messiah.
You’re arguing from silence. But according to Matthew’s account, the angel is a source of knowledge, both for Joseph and the Magi. In addition, we must make allowance for narrative compresion.
To say the Bible isn’t proof of anything is another confused statement on your part. You’re accusing the narrative of inconsistency. So the question at issue, as you yourself implicitly frame the issue, isn’t factuality, but consistency. I’ve demonstrated how the narrative is internally consistent. It makes sense on its own terms.
The fact that you complain about how that doesn’t prove anything exposes your inability to follow your own argument.
You multiply confusions when you say a biographies are written about famous people. But, of course, that’s just equivocal. Many biographies were written about people who became famous, not people who were famous at birth.
Indeed, biographies can be written about people who were only became famous after they died. You can have a scientist or mathematician who made a discovery that was ahead of his time. The importance of his discovery only came to be appreciated long after he died.
To say Luke’s Gospel isn’t based on evidence because he never witnessed anything he wrote is just plain silly. Consider war historians or presidential biographers who write about things that happened before they were born.
In addition, Matthew, Mark, and John were arguably eyewitnesses to some or most of what they wrote.
The fact that you rely on a hack source like Wikipedia demonstrates that you are not a truth-seeker.
steve hays says
On the one hand you say “Anything other than proving the documents is hearsay” and “Luke’s ‘account’ is all second-hand knowledge.”
On the other hand you say “People are suffering and dying all around us. The planet is in a terrible state.”
Yet what you believe about the global extent of human suffering and death is based on second-hand information and hearsay.
Joey Henry says
Why wouldn’t the Gospel of Mary be significant? It was written like all the other inclusions in the bible and purposely left out. That’s very telling and very important.
I’ve read the Gospel of Mary. There are similarities of how it was written versus the NT Gospels but couldn’t help notice the vast difference. Many scholars don’t believe it should be classed as a Gospel. Most scholars also believe it was written in the 2nd century because it seems clear to present gnostic views. The GoM is not dismissed as irrelevant in the search for the historical Jesus but its contents serve as its coffin when trying to gather evidence. It didn’t give us enough historical data to verify the narratives’ authenticity. Rather the data it provides us point us to see that it is later work removed from the historical event and the charcters it gives is simply borrowed from known earlier works. Simply, the GoM disqualifies itself as a reliable source.
What portions of Luke were eye-witnessed and how do you know? Were you with him?
Being with the writer is not the only way we can know that the historical data of Luke is not from an eyewitness. For example, we can have sufficient knowledge by checking the known historical data that Luke gives us: Jewish culture, geographical locations, rulers, dates, etc…
What if the people that wrote the bible had no intentions of it being historical documents…
That is possible but highly unlikely. The historical data presented in the Gospel wouldn’t fit a fictionalised account. We can check this for example from the claims of the writers. Second, the psychological aspect of writing a fiction and presenting it as facts on which the eternal destinies of their countrymen hang; and in a culture that immersed themselves with the Jewish tenet of honesty as portrayed in their Law was a barrier against motives of lying. Third, they presented the veracity of their message and their challenge that if it is false, they are to be pitied and their faith in vain. Then you can check how the followers took their message. We can see a unanimous acceptance that it should be taken as historical accounts. The intended effect of the writers is seen when almost all the known characters associated with the authors of the text understood it be historical not fictionalised. We don’t have any historical data opposing that it should be viewed this way. Even with the gnostic gospels they would like to deceive christians that what they wrote are historical accounts to gain acceptance. This shows that the community that apostles established based their beliefs on historical grounds and the gnostics knew that in order to penetrate their community they must pose to have historical data too. There are many methods we can employ to gain confidence of that the Gospel is meant to be a historical account. What about you? How do you account for the historical data and support your hypothesis?
Virtually every person/scholar who has tried to refute Christian myth theory has been a Christian. Similar to those who are creationists – you find many scientific Christians refuting creation myth but virtually zero secular scientists supporting it. Bias is clear.
A fairly confused statement. The fact of Jesus’ existence is not even an issue for scholars of antiquity. Yes, there are even agnostic/atheists scholars who don’t doubt the historicity of Jesus.
Jasper Dale says
i have been reading this thread and i want to say that as Christians, we need to be WAY more sympathetic to the suffering of others. i, for one, actually watched Gossip Police’s video about his sister and it is so tragic. Gossip, i am so sorry that your sister went through such a painful death.
i have been a follower of Jesus for over 35 years. right now, i am dealing with chronic pain, and just a few nights ago, i was up all night in literal agony, begging Jesus for healing. my shirt was literally drenched with my tears. and yet…….i still trust Him with my life.
this is not about me being raised religious because i wasn’t. after many years of study and reflection, i realized that what the Gospels say……..is TRUE. you seem to raise a ton of objections, and you can find answers. it doesn’t sound to me like you are looking for answers right now.
believe me, i can understand how a person in your position could find themselves angry with God. really, just angry with everything. i “will” tell you this. there is no doubt in my mind that your sister is with Jesus of Nazareth right this moment and that she is happy. heaven is not a magic kingdom in the sky. it is a real place where people are waiting to be reunited with their physical bodies when Christ returns.
personally, i do not think that there is anything anyone on this forum is going to say to you that will “persuade” you to reconsider whether or not Jesus truly has risen from the dead. Jesus says that God Himself must reveal Himself to you and that if you truly and sincerely seek to know the Truth, you will find Him.
i plead with you to open your heart to the God Who made you. do you really think that your sister is nothing but a random piece of meat who evolved from slime? no way. even though she faced severe disabilities all her life, you say in your video that even though she had the mental ability of a child, you loved and embraced her and that she MEANT something to you. your sister HAS to be worth more than what is left in a grave or ashes in an urn. the world around you screams that there is a Creator and that He is personal.
i cannot give you an “easy” answer that will transform you instantly into a “believer”. i am a horrible doubter by nature and i came to believe that Jesus is Lord because of the evidence He revealed to me. Jesus will do the same for you if you will let Him.
once again, please know that i am praying for you this holiday season because i’m sure it is lonely for you. but for you to miss eternity would be the worst loneliness of all. besides, i think it is unreasonable to think that we, as finite beings, will ever 100% understand every aspect of theology or correct interpretation. what is more important is whether or not Jesus truly has the power to bring people back from the dead.
if He is God and if He conquered death………..then all our suffering and questions are temporal at best. if He conquered death……then people like your sister will have an eternal physical body with NO pain and she will be free from all her disability. and if you reach out to Jesus and find Him………you will be with her as well.
there is too much riding on the line for you to give up on God. SOMETHING happened in that tomb that shook the people of the first century. the Old Testament prophecies ARE too specific to be a coincidence. there is MORE than enough evidence to make you reconsider your views as to Who Jesus really is.
i hope and pray that you don’t write off Jesus too soon. i do not plan to endure this pain forever because i am convinced that my Savior has the power to one day soon give me a brand new body…….free from all pain and suffering. because your sister had the mind of a child, i have no doubt Biblically that her sins were atoned for at the cross and that she has already received eternal life. she is just waiting for her body to be reunited with her spirit.
you have talked a lot about the evil in the world and how unfair life was to people like your sister. i agree. satan has ravaged this planet………….but not for forever. this may not sit well with you, but you HAVE to put things in perspective. a billion years from now, your sister will have long ago forgotten all her pain. Jesus WILL have made all things right. the world WILL be at peace and all evil and pain will be forever erased.
i truly hope that you are a part of that forever kingdom. i know i will be. and i know your sister will be there too.
In relation to the coming King(Jesus). Many were expecting one of Davidic proportions more in keeping with a political outcome. Israel had lost track of God’s ways. So for me (with the hindsight of Scripture) it was no surprise that Jesus appears under Israels radar.The kingdom will include the gentiles via Paul, like Jonah & Ninevah. At times God looks after a remnant while the majority wander.The gospel age with all its centuries & millenia is amazing stuff.
Even with video & multiple accounts & scientific investigation 9/11 has its fair share of conspiracy theories.
I sympathise with Gossip police also but it doesnt really assist when regarding did Jesus really exist, but I too get off topic at times & we should be prepared to give an answer if we can.Struggling with heartbreak & injustice can be so hard.
I have learnt much from Dr Krugers site & how academia formulates things. There is a stack of information regarding the canon & its formation explained really well.It takes time to put it all together & I forget things at times but having this made available is a blessing.
Life comes full circle.
I am old enough to remember when people denied that Jesus actually existed. Then, things changed as more research turned up more evidence that Jesus actually existed.
So, then the story changed and the existence of Jesus was admitted, but HIS deity was denied. Jesus was then turned into a historical figure who was a brilliant teacher.
Now, an article like this appears, denying that Jesus ever existed.
Articles such as these, full of willful blindness, sometimes turn out to be societal markers that point toward toward a religious fork in the road.
Monsoon Harvard says
It’s sad to see this woman so obviously handed over to sin by the Lord. It is a great example of Romans chapter 1, where it says the wrath of God is shown in the here and now on people. Her state of unbelief and eagerness to debunk anything she can about the truth of Jesus is in itself punishment and wrath from God upon her.
Keith Throop says
Thanks for you solid and readable response. The Church needs more men who are willing to respond to such things in a way that is helpful for the average reader. I’ll post a link for the readers of my blog.