Aron Ra vs. Twitter Apologist – 31 Reasons Aron Ra Was Right All Along
Aron Ra is, I’d say, one of the best atheist activists in the movement. If a stranger asked me to recommend a good resource in combating religion, Aron is one of the first ones I mention. Known as the Texan Tank, Aron demolishes creationist arguments with stunning and precise-worded arguments. When I first discovered Aron Ra, he was an activist on YouTube, but what separated him from the thousands of other YT atheist activists was he didn’t stop with just YouTube. He defended science and education, from public marches to directly confronting the Texas Board of Education trying to weasel in anti-evolution BS into the textbooks. Aron Ra started a podcast (the Ra-Men podcast), he published a book (Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism), heading and working on the Phylogeny Explorer Project, former Texas state-director of the American Atheists and current president of Atheist Alliance of America, and is now running for Senate in the state of Texas. (Please donate to his campaign)
I have much respect for Aron and his work, and I’m very happy that I met him in person. I hope to meet him again in the near future, hopefully have a beer with him. I’ve met a lot of atheist activists and authors, such meeting Dan Barker twice; having lunch with Eddie Tabash and Prof. Hector Avalos; and one of my favorites, Richard Carrier. All of these activists and authors have expressed their doubts on the historicity of Jesus… and recently I learned that Aron Ra has joined the club.
Aron has done many amazing speeches and numerous conventions. Recently he did a speech that touched on the credibility (or lack thereof) of the Bible, and he touched on the historicity of Jesus, which you can watch here:
… and a certain Christian blogger watched it and wasn’t happy about it. She wrote a lengthy blog responding to certain lines in Aron’s speech, lengthy as in she had 31 counter-responses to Aron Ra’s presentation. The apologist is Stephanie SJ Thomason. From what I gathered, she’s a college professor specializing in human resource management with a Ph.D. and all relevant qualifications are in business… oh, and she’s a proponent of Intelligent Design. (Go figure.)
When Aron Ra shared her blog on his Facebook, I was intrigued. I always give people a chance, and a part of me always hopes to hear or read something new. I like learning and exploring, and despite apologists consistently being nothing but disappointments, I still cling to the desire to learn. With high expectations, after looking over her blog response to Aron… it was so bad I couldn’t fight the urge to respond back, in length. I have broken my silence and have returned to write again.
This blog is going to be a bit tricky, I’ve never done a response blog to a response blog, and it’s important to include the lines from Aron Ra’s speech. For Aron Ra, his lines will remain in black bold, whereas the apologist will be in BLUE Italics, and my counter-arguments will be in normal text. I will include ALL of SJ’s words. It may make my blog lengthy, but I feel most comfortable when my readers get the whole picture and no one can cry “you’re taking my words out of context!”
**Also, Aron Ra notified me and asked for me to include his own response to a certain question.
SJ opens on how authors like Dawkins have capitalized on societies slow gravitation away from theism. I would normally ignore this opening, until I read this line: “Their fervor and the fact my own brother regards the work of Sam Harris highly have inspired my passion against this movement.” I’m a Sam Harris fan, and I’m glad her brother at least appreciates Harris. Let me make one thing clear: A great deal of fervency from atheists is a response to the hostility directed at them for simply not believing in gods. To be condemned, criticized, marginalized, and dehumanized by people who are unwilling to allow us to live our lives; who impugn our morality; who tell us we don’t belong in the country in which we were born; who distort our education; attempt to monopolize government; who ostracize us for not participating in their rituals. Treat any group of people in such profound disrespect, and it would be surprising not to find to see fervency from some of them. Fervency is not a result of simply being an atheist, but nor is it solely a response to the disgusting manner in which atheists are treated. It also comes from a wide sense of injustice at the way that people are being treated around the world
Today, I listened to Aron Ra’s video, which I’ll label as a gas-lighting festival against Jesus. Aron makes a number of points that seem to slam Jesus into a corner. I’ve highlighted thirty one of his most significant points below and have offered the reasons why his points are not credible and should not be taken seriously. Each point he makes is in bold print, followed by my response.
1. Modern scholars depict wildly different persons of Jesus
This point is flawed in multiple ways. Consider the depictions by modern scholars of any historical figure. If we have more than a single source of information on an historical figure, it is likely the opinions of the sources on that figure may differ. Secondly, the depictions by modern scholars matter less than the depictions of eyewitnesses to the accounts in the New Testament. Thirdly, modern apologists who understand the Gospels depict Jesus similarly, as a loving, generous, kind teacher who advocated humility and forgiveness and was crucified for our sins.
Even the claimed eye-witness testimonies in the New Testament differ, in HUGE ways about Jesus’ figure and life. It’s true that we should expect sources to vary in reasonable parameters, but the depictions of Jesus as presented in the New Testament vary wildly, as Aron correctly stated.
Also, even if all Christian apologists agree the Gospels depict Jesus as a kind teacher, so what? Put a hundred Rabbi’s in a room, and even if they all agree the Torah depicts Moses as a kind teacher, does that make Moses a historical person? No, it does not. Even with a crowd of happy Rabbis, Moses would still be a historical legend regardless. Likewise, the matter isn’t whether the Jesus character is a nice guy, it’s whether we have reason to believe if he was real or not.
The very first opinions on Jesus were shared by Paul in the creed in 1 Corinthians 15: “For what I received I passed on to you as first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”
Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, which made a very clear claim that five hundred of his contemporaries saw the risen Jesus. If he were lying about all of these people, surely they would have called him out. We have no evidence that anyone said there were not five hundred eyewitnesses.
We have no evidence that there was five hundred eyewitnesses to begin with! All we have is Paul’s say-so. Ask yourself, who were these 500 people, and doesn’t it seem like an odd number? Why didn’t Paul name them; or tell us where they came from; or record their age; or where they’re from and where they went; or tell us anything of value. Either this is a great example of piss-poor journalism, or – and this is most likely – it’s a fake number used to bolster the mystery cult’s ranks, to give them more credibility on their mission to convert.
When I was in college working toward my BA in History, I used to volunteer at the Museum of Tolerance twice a week. Half the time I would provide tours for the public, the other half working in the Library and Archives with Holocaust survivors. Before permitting anyone to provide tours, the Museum always dedicates about 3 to 4 months making sure we knew European history as well as how to engage people, essentially prepping us to be sure we knew how to answer as many questions presented to us by the public. During the lectures addressing the commonly asked question on “how did the Nazi party” gain momentum to win control of Germany, there are a lot of reasons on how this happened, but I recall a very interesting story. The Nazis were a fringe group of racist radicals, but they were small and insignificant. So what did the Nazis do to be taken more seriously? They boosted their own membership ranks by 500, and when new recruits signed up to join, they were given a number. Example, if Hanz signed up and was Member #576, in reality he was the 76th guy to join. Why do this? Because a group of at least 500 members is taken more seriously then a small group with a dozen members.
“We have no evidence anyone said that there were not five hundred eyewitnesses,” first of all, the burden of proof is on the one making the positive claim. No one has to disprove something that hasn’t been proved to begin with. Besides, how can the Corinthians verify Paul’s statement if he didn’t name any of them? Paul didn’t even name the time and place where these 500 witnesses were. Paul must have known it would be virtually impossible to disprove such a claim, considering the primitive means of communication of the age.
Also consider, why is an incident of this magnitude not mentioned in any Gospel or the book of Acts? And how could there be five hundred men at this appearance when the book of Acts (1:15) tells us that there were only around 120 believers total at the time of Jesus’ ascension? Either Paul or Luke (or both) is wrong about these figures, but they can’t both be right.
Furthermore, regarding Paul himself seeing Jesus, the book of Acts gives us a hint of what Paul saw (or didn’t). Paul’s claim in 1 Corinthians that Jesus lastly appeared to him… but Paul doesn’t say exactly what he saw. So some decades after 1 Corinthians, the author of Acts tells us that Paul saw a light that blinded him and heard a voice (Acts 9:3-7, 22:6-9, 26:13-15) whereas in Acts 9:7 the men with Paul are said to hear the voice, but see no one: “And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.” In Acts 22:9 the claim is made that those accompanying Paul “saw the light, but did not hear the voice.” In Acts 26:13-14 Paul is quoted as saying that all those present saw the light, but mentions that he alone heard a voice. The light, it is claimed, blinds Paul. However, no one else but he is said to have been effected by the light. So what we have here is a contradiction among other witnesses, and a man (Paul) who had a seizure and heard a voice, but saw no form because he was blinded.
In 1 Corinthians 12:5-8, the verb ophthe simply expresses Paul’s claim that Jesus “appeared” too them. The use of ophthe within the context of Paul’s statement is significant. Paul’s use of ophthe in expressing both his own visionary experience and those allegedly seen by the disciples is significant because his supposed encounters with the risen Jesus are never with a tangible form. In claiming the same experience for himself as experienced by the disciples, Paul is relating that “what was seen” by the disciples is also a visionary experience devoid of any physical component.
In Acts 22:17-18 it is said that Paul “saw” (idein) Jesus while in a “trance” (ekstasei) in the Temple. The word ekstasei is a combination of stasis, “standing,” and ek, “out.” It suggests the idea of standing out of oneself, that is, the nature of a trance. In this description, Paul uses a different verb for seeing the apparition then he uses when describing the experiences of the disciples.
For his and the disciples’ experience, Paul used the word ophthe (“appeared to“). Yet, when he described his vision while in a trance in the Temple he used the word idein (“saw“). “Have I not seen [heoraka] Jesus our Lord?” Paul asks rhetorically in 1 Corinthians 9:1.
In summary, according to Paul, both his experience and that of the disciples were respectively not with a material bodily form. So according to Paul himself, did Jesus really rise from the dead? Or, as Richard Carrier noted here, perhaps Paul and the disciples believed that Jesus was not a historical person but a celestial being like an archangel.
2. The Gospels contradict each other.
The Gospels do not contradict each other.
Oh they most certainly do. Especially about Jesus.
One example: the death of Judas. SJ addresses this near the end of the blog, to which I will show how she failed to untangle that knot.
They each provide a piece to a larger puzzle. In my blog entitled “Resolving controversies surrounding Joseph of Arimathea and the women who discovered Jesus’ empty tomb,” I present a blending of the Gospel accounts of the discovery of the empty tomb, which tells a richer story of what happened that day. Just as a detective collects multiple eyewitness accounts to an incident to gain a fuller picture of the event, the Gospel writers provide multiple perspectives on the events that occurred during Jesus’ ministry.
J. Warner Wallace (2013) notes many “un-designed coincidences” where questions from one account are answered in another. Several examples are here:
- Matthew 8:16: Why did they wait until evening to bring those who needed healing?
- Answer in Mark 1:21, Luke 4:31: It was the Sabbath.
- Luke 23:1-4: Why didn’t Pilate find a charge against Jesus even though Jesus claimed to be a King?
- Answer in John 18:33: Jesus told Pilate His Kingdom was not of this world.
Wow…. she cited J Wallace. For those of you unaware of who he is, he’s an ex-cop. He has exactly zero degrees in any relevant subject and has never published a single paper or book on this at any peer reviewed venue.
SJ thinks this guy is an acceptable source.
Wallace notes several “un-designed coincidences”…. apparently he didn’t look close enough.
Here are rules of the Sanhedrin that were in place at the time according to the Jewish Mishnah:
- No criminal session was allowed at night.
- No Sanhedrin trial could be heard at any place other than the Temple precincts.
- No capital crime could be tried in a one-day sitting. (Mishnah law required that a capital sentence be voted on the day after the trial, so the judges could think on it before taking a life. See the Mishnah, Sanhedrin 5.5).
- No criminal trial could be held on the eve of a Sabbath or festival.
- No one could be found guilty on his own confession.
- No blasphemy charge could be sustained unless the accused pronounced the name of God in front of witnesses.
- The Sanhedrin were allowed to execute people on their own and did not need the Romans to do so for them.
The trial of Jesus according to the Gospels violated all of these rules.
That it was illegal even for Romans to perform executions on Jewish holy days in Judea at that time: Carrier, ‘Burial of Jesus’, in Empty Tomb (ed. Price and Lowder), p. 373-75, 377-78, 382-85 (with Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4.1k-l and 5.5a). See also Carrier, Proving History, pp. 139-41, 154, and 317.
More information on the laws of the Sanhedrin can be found here: The Sanhedrin
The crucifixion scenes in the Gospels are so utterly symbolic and based on the scriptures that as history they are unbelievable. The events of the arrest, trial, and execution defy our knowledge of Jewish law of the time. On the eve of, or during, Passover these are things that they simply did not do. There is also considerable doubt that the Jews would have had any reason to go to the Romans to carry out the execution, or that they would have had him crucified, since the law required death by stoning for blasphemy, which is what Jesus was supposedly charged with. However, “Christ crucified” was already a theme in the teachings of Paul. Crucifixion was a means of execution that was performed by authorities, while stoning was performed by the public. In the apocalyptic and messianic stories of the time where leading figures were executed, the leading figures were executed by authorities, typical heavenly authorities.
3. Even the New Testament authors don’t claim to be first-hand accounts. The authorship is also a question.
Paul clearly claims to be a first-hand account.
He’s as much of a first-hand witness as a bloke in New Hampshire swearing he had a vision and saw John Lennon.
Paul never met Jesus in his entire life. Paul is a man whose entire ministry rests on a man he never met, only relying on “visions” and “revelations” he had about a figure he credits to be Jesus. In Gal. 1.11-12, Paul says he learned the gospel only from a hallucinated encounter with Jesus (a ‘revelation’) whom he experienced ‘within’ himself (Gal. 1.16). He confirms this in Rom. 16.25-26, where Paul says, “My gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ is according to a revelation.”
And Paul was not the only one having visions, he lists many believers hallucinating in Acts.
- Acts 7, Stephen hallucinated Jesus floating up in the sky, but no one else there sees it.
- Acts 9, Paul hallucinates a booming voice and a beaming light from heaven (and suffers hysterical blindness as a result)
- Ananias hallucinates an entire conversation with God.
- Acts 10, Cornelius hallucinates a conversation with an angel, and Peter falls into a trance and hallucinates an entire cosmic dinner scene in the sky.
- Acts 27, Paul hallucinates a conversation with an angel.
Many Christians receive spirit communications (‘ prophesy’), as indicated in Acts 19.6 and 21.9-10. Paul says (meaning the apostles), ‘God revealed [the secrets of the gospel] through the Spirit’ (1 Cor. 2.10). Likewise, in Rom. 12.6, Paul says Christians in all congregations ‘have gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us; if it be prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith’ (and Paul indicates that these prophets were communicating with spirits, which were under the prophet’s control: 1 Cor. 14.19-32).
So what we have is the word of a guy, his mates, and whole congregations that all engage in hallucinations and visions… and Christian apologists would have us believe they are reliable and trustworthy sources.
Luke also joined Paul in his travels, as he documents by referring to himself in the first person, starting in Acts 16.
So we have a guy who accompanies a dude going around and preaching about a guy neither of them have met in their lives? Are you not seeing the problem here?
Regardless of whether the Gospels were penned by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John or by their scribes or apprentices, we know they’re attributed to those four authors. Additionally, of the Books in the New Testament, Matthew, Peter and John were among Jesus’ apostles, James and Jude were His half brothers, and Paul indicated he saw Jesus on his way to Damascus.
- Paul was a persecutor of Christians
- James was a skeptic
- Peter had doubts
- Then they saw the risen Jesus
- They preached for decades illegally, risking gory deaths
- All were martyred
- Why did they do what they did?
- See #4
Okay, a lot to unpackage here. First of all, Paul never met Jesus. His entire ministry is based on the claim he had a “vision” and saw a spirit he credits as Jesus. This does not make Paul an eyewitness, no more of an eyewitness as a random bloke in New Hampshire having a vision of John Lennon even though he never met John Lennon in real life.
So what cause Paul’s vision? There is some evidence that Paul had multiple seizure-like episodes comes from his letter to the church in Corinth 22 years earlier where he described multiple visions and called his illness a “thorn in the flesh” and from Satan.
“My wealth of vision might have puffed me up, so I was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to rack me and keep me from being puffed up; three times over I prayed to the Lord to relieve me of it, but he told me, “It is enough for you to have my grace; it is a weakness that my power is fully gel.”
2 Corinthians 12:1-9
Interpretation of parts of the epistles of Paul suggest his facial motor and sensory disturbances were coming after ecstatic seizures and that his religious conversion recurred as a result of ecstatic visions associated with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE).
Also, do we have evidence that James is real? And which James are we talking about?
Authorship does not indicate validity. Content indicates validity and the content of the Gospels is validated by no less than nine secular and thirty three Christians within 150 years of Jesus’ resurrection. Historians require two sources: we have forty two sources validating the life and ministry of Jesus. I have offered the names of these sources, along with other archeological evidence in my blogs entitled “Archeological and historical extra-biblical evidence in support of Christianity” and “And Babylon will never be inhabitable.” The secular sources include Josephus (37 – 100), Thallus (5 – 60 AD), Mara Bar-Serapion (70 – ? AD), Phlegon (80 – 140 AD), and Tacitus (56 – 117 AD).
Oh boy… this is going to be a long post.
There is so much to unpackage here, I must minimize it as much as possible. Essentially, every single one of these “secular sources” can be dismissed out of hand because every single one of them are not eyewitnesses, or even close enough to be considered contemporary. All of their material is based on Hearsay. Not only that, ever single one of them focuses on the group identifying as Christians. The main time they mention Jesus (if at all) is only regarding to the context of “those dudes believe in a guy name Jesus” – that validates the existence of the group, but not the guy they worship.
Going in order, here are the details…
Josephus Flavius, the Jewish historian, lived as the earliest non-Christian who mentions a Jesus. Although many scholars think that Josephus’ short accounts of Jesus (in Antiquities) came from interpolations perpetrated by a later Church father (most likely, Eusebius of Caesarea), Josephus’ birth in 37 C.E., well after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus, puts him out of range of an eyewitness account. Moreover, he wrote Antiquities in 93 C.E., after the first gospels got written! Therefore, even if his accounts about Jesus came from his hand, his information could only serve as hearsay.
At first glance, Josephus appears to be the answer to the Christian apologist’s dreams. He was a messianic Jew, not a Christian, so he could not accused of bias. He did not spend a lot of time or space on his report of Jesus, showing that he was merely reporting facts, not spouting propaganda like the Gospel writers. Although he was born in 37 C.E. and could not have been a contemporary of Jesus, he lived close enough to the time to be considered a valuable second-hand source. Josephus was highly respected and much-quoted Roman historian. He died sometime after the year 100. His two major tomes were the Antiquities of the Jews and the Wars of the Jews.
Antiquities of the Jews were written sometime after the year 90 C.E. It begins, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” and arduously parallels the Old Testament up to the time when Josephus is able to add equally tedious historical of Jewish life during the early Roman period. In Book 18, Chapter 3, this paragraph is encountered (Whiston’s translation):
“Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the[ Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal man amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day.”
This truly appears to give historical confirmation for the existence of Jesus. But is it authentic? Most scholars, including most fundamentalist scholars, admit that at least some parts of this paragraph cannot be authentic. Many are convinced that the entire paragraph is a forgery, an interpolation inserted by Christians at a later time. There are at least seven reasons for this:
1) The paragraph is absent from early copies of the works of Josephus. For example, it does not appear in Origen’s second century version of Josephus, in Origen Contra Celsum, where Origen fiercely defended Christianity against the heretical views of Celsus. Origen quoted freely from Josephus to prove his points, but never once used this paragraph, which would have been the ultimate ace up his sleeve.
In fact, the Josephus paragraph about Jesus does not appear at all until the beginning of the fourth century, at the time of Constantine. Bishop Eusebius, a close ally of the emperor, was instrumental in crystallizing and defining the version of Christianity that was to become orthodox, and he is the first person known to have quoted this paragraph of Josephus. Eusebius once wrote that it was permissible “medicine” for historians to create fictions—prompting historian Jacob Burckhardt to call Eusebius “the first thoroughly dishonest historian of antiquity.”
2) The fact that the Josephus-Jesus paragraph shows up at this point in history—at a time when interpolations and revisions were quite common and when the emperor was eager to demolish Gnostic Christianity and replace it with literalistic Christianity—makes the passage quite dubious. Many scholars believe the Eusebius was the forger and the interpolater of the paragraph on Jesus that magically appears in the works of Josephus after more than two centuries.
3) Josephus would not have called Jesus “the Christ” or “the truth.” Whoever wrote these phrases was a believing Christian. Josephus was a messianic Jew, and if he truly believed Jesus was the long-awaited messiah (Christ), he certainly would have given more than a passing reference to him. Josephus never converted to Christianity. Origen reported that Josephus was “not believing in Jesus as Christ.”
4) The passage is out of context. Book 18 (“Containing the interval of 32 years from the banishment of Archelus to the departure from Babylon”) starts with the Roman taxation under Cyrenius in 6 C.E. and talks about various Jewish sects at the time, including the Essenes and a sect of Judas the Galilean, to which he devotes three times more space than to Jesus. He discuss Herod’s building of various cities, the succession of priests and procurators, and so on. Chapter 3 starts with sedition against Pilate, who planned to slaughter all the Jews but changed his mind. Pilate then used sacred money to supply water to Jerusalem. The Jews protested. Pilate sent spies into Jewish ranks with concealed weapons, and there was a great massacre. Then in the middle of all these troubles comes the curiously quiet paragraph about Jesus, followed immediately by: “And about the same time another terrible misfortune confounded the Jews…” Josephus, an orthodox Jew, would not have thought the Christian story to be “another terrible misfortune.” If he truly thought Jesus was “the Christ,” this would have been a glorious story of victory. It is only a Christian (someone like Eusebius) who might have considered Jesus to be a Jewish tragedy. Paragraph three can be lifted out of the text with no damage to the chapter. In fact, it flows better without it.
The phrase “to this day” shows that this is a later interpolation. There was no “tribe of Christians” during Josephus’ time. Christianity did not get off the ground until the second century.
5) Josephus appears not to know anything else about the Jesus outside of this tiny paragraph and an indirect reference concerning James, the “brother of Jesus” (see below). He does not refer to the gospels not known as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, or to the writing or activities of Paul, though if these stories were in circulation at that time he ought to have known about them and used them as sources. Like the writings of Paul, Josephus’ account is silent about the teachings or miracle of Jesus, although he reports the antics of other prophets in great detail. He makes no mention of the earthquake or eclipse at the crucifixion, which would have been universally known in that area if they had truly happened. He adds nothing to the Gospels narratives, and says nothing that would not have been believed by Christians already, whether in the first or fourth century. In all of Josephus’ voluminous works, there is not a single reference to Christianity anywhere outside of this tiny paragraph. He relates much more about John the Baptist than about Jesus. He lists the activities of many other self-proclaimed messiahs, including Judas of Galilee, Theudas the magician and the Egyptian Jew Messiah, but is mute about the life of one whom he claims (if he wrote it) is the answer to his messianic hopes.
6) The paragraph mentions that the “divine prophets” foretold the life of Jesus, but Josephus neglects to mention who these prophets were or what they said. In no other place does Josephus connect any Hebrew prediction with the life of Jesus. If Jesus truly had been the fulfillment of divine prophecy, as Christians believe (and Josephus was made to say), he would have been the one learned enough to document it.
7) The hyperbolic language of the paragraph is uncharacteristic of a careful historian: “…as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him…” This sounds more like sectarian propaganda—in other words, more like the New Testament—than objective reporting. It is very unlike Josephus.
Julius Africanas / Thallus. In the ninth century a Byzantine writer named George Syncellus quoted a third-century Christian historian names Julius Africanus, who quoted an unknown writer named Thallus on the darkness at the crucifixion: “Thallus in the third book of his history calls this darkness an eclipse of the sun, but in my opinion he is wrong.” All of the works of Africanus are lost, so there is no way to confirm the quote or to examine its context. We have no idea who Thallus was, or when he wrote. Eusebius (fourth century) mentions a history of Thallus in three books ending about 112 C.E. so the suggestion is that Thallus might have been a near contemporary of Jesus. (Actually, the manuscript is damaged, and “Thallus” is merely a guess from “_allos Samaritanos.” That word “allos” actually means “other” in Greek, so it may have been simply saying “the other Samaritan.”) There is no historical evidence of an eclipse during the time Jesus was supposedly crucified. The reason Africanus doubted the eclipse is because Easter happens near the full moon, a solar eclipse would have been impossible at that time. (Even ancient skeptics knew that full moon occurs when it is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun, where it is unable to move between the sun and the earth to produce an eclipse.)
Mara Bar-Serapion (circa 73 C.E.). There is a fragment of a personal letter from a Syria named Mara Bar-Serapion to his son in prison that mentions that the Jews of that time had killed their “wise king.” However, the New Testament reports that the Romans,, not the Jews, killed Jesus. The Jews had killed other leaders; for example, the Essene Teacher of Righteousness. If this truly is a report of a historical event rather than the passing on of folklore, it could have been a reference to someone else. It does not mention Jesus by name. It is worthless as evidence for Jesus of Nazareth, yet it can be found on the lists of some Christian scholars as proof that Jesus existed.
Phlegon, was a Greek writer who lived in the 2nd century AD. So already he’s not a contemporary witness… but it gets worse then that. We don’t have the word of Phlegon mentioning Jesus, rather we have the word of another guy who says Phlegon mentioning Jesus. It’s hearsay of hearsay. Who’s the guy? It’s Origen of Alexandria (182-254 CE). In Against Celsus (Book II, Chap. XIV), Origen wrote that Phlegon, in his “Chronicles”, mentions Jesus.
Pliny the Younger, a Roman official, was born in 62 C.E. His letter about the Christians only shows that he got his information from Christian believers themselves. Regardless, his birth date puts him out of the range of eyewitness accounts.
He said “Christians were singing a hymn to Christ as to a god…” That’s it. In all of Pliny’s writings, we find one small tangential reference, and not even to Christ, but to Christians. Again, notice, the absence of the name Jesus. This could have referred to any of the other “Christs” who were being followed by Jew who thought they had found the messiah. Pliny’s report hardly counts as history since he is only relaying what other people believed. Even if this sentence referred to a group of followers of Jesus, no one denies that Christianity was in existence at that time. Pliny, at the very most, might be useful in documenting the religion, but not the historic Jesus.
Note that Pliny is relaying what those arrested said they believed (and there is no reference here to a ‘Jesus.’)
The Christian sources were often apprentices to the disciples. As an example, we know that John taught Ignatius (35 – 117 AD). Ignatius’ portrayal of Jesus includes the following (Wallace, 2013, p. 217):
- “The prophets predicted and waited for Jesus.
- He was (and is) the ‘Son of God.’
- He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
- He was born of the Virgin Mary.
- He was baptized by John the Baptist.
- He was the ‘perfect’ man.
- He manifested the will and knowledge of God the Father.
- He taught and had a ‘ministry’ on earth.
- He was the source of wisdom and taught many commandments.
- He spoke the words of God.
- He was unjustly treated and condemned by men.
- He suffered and was crucified.
- He died on the cross.
- Jesus sacrificed Himself for us as an offering to God the Father.
- This took place under the government of Pontius Pilate.
- Jesus was resurrected.
- He had a physical resurrection body.
- He appeared to Peter and the others after the resurrection.”
- Jesus is the manifestation of God the Father.”
John also taught Polycarp (69 – 155 AD). Polycarp affirmed much of what Ignatius stated. He stated (Wallace, 2013, p. 219):
- “Jesus was sinless.
- His death on the cross saves us.
- We are saved by grace.
- Jesus was raised from the dead.
- His resurrection ensures that we will also be raised.”
Once again, SJ cites the unqualified and unreliable source that is J Wallace.
So Ignatius and Polycarp were good at parroting what the faith told them what to believe. Notice they both merely repeat what the gospels proclaim about Jesus, but neither of them provide anything useful to confirm any of stories about Jesus.
Tradition has it that Ignatius was arrested by the Romans, and while in prison he met Christians who converted him, and then he started writing about his new faith. For the record, there are also several forged Ignatian letters, fabricated by someone who also rewrote the authentic ones by inserting a large number of interpolations into them.
Paul taught Clement, whom he identified in Philippians 4:3. Clement referenced a number of examples from the Old Testament and referred to the life and teaching of Jesus as it was passed down to him. From Clement we know the following about Jesus (Wallace, 2013, p. 223):
- “He was resurrected from the dead.
- He taught principles as described by Mark and Luke.
- He was humble and unassuming.
- He suffered and died for our salvation.
- His resurrection makes our resurrection certain.
- He is ‘Lord’ and ‘Son of God.’
- All creation belongs to Him.”
“John Mark was the cousin of Barnabas and his childhood home was well known to Peter (Acts 12:12-14). Mark became so close to Peter that the apostle described him as ‘my son’ (1 Peter 5:13). Peter preserved his eyewitness testimony through his primary disciple and student, who then passed it on to the next generation in what we now recognize as the gospel of Mark” (Wallace, 2013, p. 226).
A little tiny itty-bitty detail Wallace forgot to mention…. 1 Peter was likely not written by Peter.
There is a class of books called by scholars pseudepigraphy (literally “false writing”) characterized by pseudonymity (“false name”) in which the author deliberately tries to present his writing as originating from someone else. Another word we use to describe something like this: FORGERY.
We all know there are many religious writings outside the Jewish and Christian canon that are pseudepigraphical. 2 Peter is unanimously considered to be pseudonymous, with most scholars also lumping 1 Peter into the same category. Three other Pauline Epistles (Colossians, Ephesians, and 2 Thessalonians) are also considered by a majority of scholars to be pseudonymous. James and Jude are also generally considered to be pseudepigraphical works.
4. The earliest New Testament authors seem ignorant to the details of Jesus’ life that become clearer later.
To assert that details of Jesus’ life became clearer later, by non-eyewitnesses, perhaps in the gnostic accounts that were written between the second and fourth centuries is to assert nonsense. Why would we prefer accounts written centuries later when we have eyewitness accounts by Peter, Paul, John, Matthew, John, James, and Jude?
For one thing, Paul wasn’t an eyewitness; James and Jude are considered forgeries; John and Matthew were not eyewitnesses but they were good at copying most of their reports straight from Mark (who also was not an eyewitness).
Whether you want to focus on the Gnostics or Paul, neither will do you any good because both of them are not eyewitness accounts.
The Gnostic Gospels reveal an entirely different genre of material. For example, the Gospel of Truth in the Nag Hammadi Library reads, “Despite its title, this work is not the sort found in the New Testament, since it does not offer a continuous narration of the deeds, teachings, passion, and resurrection of Jesus.” The Gospel of Philip says “it is not a gospel like one of the New Testament gospels. The Gnostic Gospels depict Jesus as more of a lecturer on metaphysics than a Jewish prophet, taking the message from its historical context (Grootjuis, n.d.)
5. “We know that the virgin birth was fabricated and inserted later on.”
This is an assertion without evidence. In the Gospels, Luke and Matthew document the Virgin birth of Jesus to Mary. As noted above, Ignatius also documents Jesus’ birth.
Ignatius only documents what Christians CLAIM they believe in regarding Jesus’ birth, Ignatius doesn’t provide credible evidence that a miraculous birth took place.
Aron Ra is spot on, the “virgin birth” story is a fabrication. Luke and Matthew mistook parts of Isaiah, and inserted that mistake into their faith. Isaiah never claimed that the Messiah would come of a virgin birth. The Greek-speaking authors of the Gospels translating the Hebrew scripture slipped up and translated ‘almah’ (young woman) [המלע] into the Greek ‘parthenos’ (virgin). The Hebrew word for virgin would have been ‘betulah.’
This “virgin birth” story clearly indicates that the Greek-speaking authors of the Gospels, while educated, didn’t fully understand Judaism. Why? Because the “virgin birth” is not a criteria for becoming the Messiah. Rather, the “virgin birth” story shoots Jesus’ credibility in the foot (which isn’t so bad considering the bullet would go through the hole in Jesus’ foot. Waka-waka!) The reason why is because the Scriptures make it clear that the Messiah is to be a descendant of King David AND King Solomon, and genealogy in the Bible is only passed down from father to son (Numbers 1:1-18). So when Jesus claims that he did not have a birth father (Matt. 1:18-20) he admits that he has broken the male-to-son genealogy that could link him to David and Solomon. Christian apologists try to claim that Mary connects Jesus to David, but this approach completely ignores the fact that tribal affiliation is patrilineal. Even if we let that slide, there’s another problem. The genealogy from Luke does not include Solomon. Matthew does mention Solomon, but also says Jesus is a descendant of King Jeconiah… whose descendants have forever been disqualified as kings of Israel (Jeremiah 22:24). However you want to slice it, Jesus failed the requirements to be the messiah. These are some of the many reasons why Jews reject Jesus as the messiah (as they should! As we all should).
When Matthew cites Isaiah 7:14, not only does he get the “virgin birth” wrong, he [and all Christian apologists] also misunderstands the name Immanuel. The word “Immanuel” does not mean “God has become a man and walks among us” nor does it mean “God has become flesh and is with us as a man“. Such assertions contradict Scripture. According to God, he isn’t a man, as we find in (Numbers 23:19) “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”
6. No first century secular evidence exists to support Jesus.
Yeah, see above. Aron was correct.
We have forty two sources within 150 years of Jesus’ resurrection and many of the sources lived within a few decades of either Jesus’ ministry or the ministry of his earliest disciples.
*Sign Oh no, the 10/42 argument.
Additionally, “there are 2,328 manuscripts and manuscript fragments surviving from the earliest centuries of the Christian church and representing all portions of the Gospels. The earliest fragment of any portion of the NT currently in existence is the John Rylands papyrus fragment of John 18:31-33, 37-38, which probably dates to 125 AD or within about thirty years of the original composition of the fourth Gospel. Twenty-one papyri containing major sections of one or more of the Gospels can be dated to the third and fourth centuries, while five virtually complete NTs survive from the fourth and fifth centuries. Compared with the numbers and ages of manuscripts which have survived for most other ancient documents, including many believed to be reliable accounts of historical events, this evidence is overwhelming.” (Green, McKnight, & Marshall, 1992, p. 292).
“Even though P52 is the earliest piece of any book of the New Testament we have, it is so tiny we can scarcely make any pronouncements on just what its text says or how much it matches our Gospel of John – the entire text could sit upon a credit card and contains no complete sentences, and only one complete word (see below). Besides which, P52 only goes back to some uncertain point in the mid-second century c. 150 C.E., possibly even later. Scraps like this are not datable any more precisely than a 75 year window. Carbon dating is not accurate enough, so we can only judge by the script style, and we can’t say precisely when a particular script style was in fashion. (Source: 28. Price, ISSOM, p. 34 and Wilson, p.251). Lulu. Kindle Edition. ) Yet even if P52 did date as early as apologists wish it did, to c. 125, the fact would still remain that there is not a single New Testament manuscript, original or copy, not even a scrap, that can be dated to within the lifetime of any biblical character.” (Source: Nailed, Myth No. 7 by David Fitzgerald, 2010)
What SJ, and other apologists, are doing here is playing an inflation game, using scraps like P52 and counting them as “New Testament manuscripts” that Christians love to trumpet. Apologists gloss over the fact that for the first thousand years of Christianity the majority of manuscripts are tiny fragments, not complete texts that could help determine how reliably the Gospels were transmitted. And yet, apologists are still happy to count them as more “manuscripts” of the New Testament, as if they were complete sets of all the New Testament books. But it’s dishonest to claim fragments like P52 are even a “manuscript“ of the Gospel of John, let alone the whole New Testament.
7. The Gospel of Mark was written decades later.
We know Paul was beheaded in 62 AD by Nero, so it is clear and uncontested that he wrote his epistles prior to that date. The fact that he quotes Luke in 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians confirm that Luke wrote the Gospel prior to Paul’s death. Luke also wrote the Book of Acts after the Gospel, as he indicated at the outset in Acts.
Scholars have indicated that Mark is the first Gospel and the other Synoptic Gospels (Luke and Matthew) used some of the material from either Mark or a source called Q. So at the very least, we have multiple accounts within a few decades of Jesus’ resurrection.
“Within a few decades”?… try 45 years, best estimate when Mark was written. And you don’t have “multiple accounts”… you have 1 account. If 5 people copy from 1 person, you don’t have 6 sources total, you have 1 source.
Furthermore, should we trust a source written 45 years by a non-eyewitness. If you said “Yes” consider this: Fifty years after the Persian Wars ended in 479 BCE Herodotus the Halicarnassian (often called the “Father of History”) asked numerous eyewitnesses and their children about the things that happened in those years and then wrote a book about it. Though he often shows a critical and skeptical mind, sometimes naming his sources or even questioning their reliability when he has suspicious or conflicting accounts, he nevertheless reports without a hint of doubt that the temple of Delphi magically defended itself with animated armaments, lightning bolts, and collapsing cliffs; the sacred olive tree of Athens, though burned by the Persians, grew an arm’s length in a single day; a miraculous flood-tide wiped out an entire Persian contingent after they desecrated an image of Poseidon; a horse gave birth to a rabbit; and a whole town witnesses a mass resurrection of cooked fish!
So, to those who answered “Yes” earlier, do you want to stick to that answer?
Personally, I see no reason why we should trust Mark any more then Herodotus reporting on the Persian War.
Earlier on Point #3 I mentioned that there is a class of books called by scholars pseudepigraphy (literally “false writing”) characterized by pseudonymity (“false name”) in which the author deliberately tries to present his writing as originating from someone else. Another word we use to describe something like this: FORGERY.
Why mention this again? Because SJ cited 1 Timothy an credited Paul as the author. The fact is the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus) are considered by a vast majority of critical scholars not to have been written by Paul. **Remember this next time someone cites 2 Timothy 3:16 as proof the NT is all inspired by God… whenever they cite this, they are LITERALLY citing the claims of a lying forger.
8. Paul was not an eyewitness but he pretended to be. This is the first example of a Christian claiming to seeing something he didn’t see.
In his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15), Paul quite clearly indicated that he saw Jesus. He spent decades preaching for him illegally, risking and enduring beatings and imprisonment, which he documented often in his writings.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15: 5-8), he gives us a laundry list of appearances of the risen Jesus. However, his list doesn’t tally with any of the other accounts and raises more questions.
According to Paul, Jesus was seen by the following, in this order:
- then the Twelve
- then more than five hundred brethren at once
- then James
- then all the apostles
- lastly, by Paul himself
SJ said “Paul quiet clearly indicated that he saw Jesus”…. she’s acting like Paul met Jesus in the flesh, which never happened.
Paul specifically tells us that his knowledge of Jesus Christ has not come from any human, but has come to him directly by “revelation” from Jesus Christ himself. “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:11-12)
9. Jesus said he would return very soon while apostles were still alive. It puts his second coming in the first century. “We’ve been stood up. He ain’t coming.”
Jesus did not make this statement. In Matthew 24:34, Jesus states “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
The interpretation of the word “generation” has led some people to believe that Jesus was referring to a generation of people. The original Greek word for generation is “genea (γενεά),” which means generation, race, family, times, or nation. In Acts 14:16, genea translates to times. “In the past times, he let all nations go their own way.” In Acts 15:21, genea also refers to times. “For the Law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” In Philippians 2:15, genea translates as a nation. “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” Some scholars believe genea refers to the nation of Israel. The translation to times may also be the case, considering the earth’s age (4.5BY) and the time since Jesus walked the earth is relatively short.
Okay, here Aron Ra made his own response:
Jesus’ second coming was supposed to be back when some of his apostles were still alive, meaning he’s about 1,950 years overdue. Of course, the wanna-believers must then deny that the Bible really says that:
In Mark 9:1, Matthew 16:28, and Luke 9:26-27, Jesus says, “there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until [they see Jesus returning in his kingdom].” This has been interpreted symbolically, to imply that a Christian disciple would only die in the flesh but not in the spirit. There are several problems with that. First, since the soul is alleged to be immortal, that would give no time limit at all and would render the preface of Jesus’ prophecy meaningless. Second, Jesus said they would not even “taste” death, which more than accounts for the death of the flesh.
Regardless of the posthumous promises of an eternal afterlife, Christians, pagans, and atheists alike may find themselves writhing on the floor clutching their chests, trying to take that last breath. That’s what death tastes like. No religion saves us from that, and that’s the only part of death worth being afraid of. As Mark Twain wrote in his autobiography, “Annihilation has no terrors for me, because I have already tried it before I was born—a hundred million years—and I have suffered more in an hour, in this life, than I remember to have suffered in the whole hundred million years put together.”
Finally, Jesus also specified that only some of his listening audience would still be alive by then, and that negates all the other symbolic interpretations I have ever heard. Because if only some of the apostles but not all of them would be dead, then we must be talking about natural death “in the flesh,” and that means we’re talking about events due to occur within a few decades of that time at most. In Mark 13:30 and Matthew 24:34, Jesus specifies that he is talking about “this generation,” referring specifically to those individuals standing with him at that time. He says they “will not pass away” until a great tragedy occurs in which people flee to their rooftops or the hills, when the sun and moon go dark and the stars fall from the sky (as if that were even possible). They will then see a more powerful Jesus returning in clouds. So it is clear that Jesus meant to imply that he would return before all his original disciples died. That means the second coming of Christ should have been in the first century CE. After waiting for another twenty centuries since then, it’s safe to say we’ve been stood up; he ain’t coming.
Some have argued that maybe Jesus was referring to the transfiguration that immediately follows. But that wasn’t even a week later, and that neither fits the descriptions of “coming in the clouds at the right hand of power” nor the prophesied apocalypse either. As Ken Harding writes in BibleTrash.com,
“This apologist basically says: “It can’t mean those living at the time of Jesus, because he would not have said that.” They say that “this generation” means the generation that’s alive during the tribulations. Let us take a good look at this ‘explanation.’ First, the claim that ‘generation’ could mean race, family, or the nation or tribe of Israel.”
What are the Greek words for Nation, Tribe, Family and Generation? Generation is “genea,” the root of genealogy. “Family” is “patria.” “Tribe” is “phule.” “Nation” is “ethnos,” as in ethnic. Next, we need to look up these words as they appear in the New Testament, and cross-reference the Greek words with the English words. I have done this. Every single occurrence for Nation that I looked up gave the word “ethnos.” Every single occurrence for Generation that I looked up gave the word “genea.” When the writers meant nation, they wrote ethnos. When they meant generation, they wrote genea. They were apparently very clear in this. They never used “patria” or “phule” in any of these instances.
So this is one of several prophecies of the messiah that never came true, yet should have been fulfilled a long time ago if it was ever to come true at all. There are plenty of other examples of that too.
[The above came from Aron Ra’s book, Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism, Chapter 2, page 52]
10. There are already Christian bishops and deacons thirty years after Jesus walked the earth.
Why wouldn’t there be bishops and deacons thirty years after Jesus walked the earth? He started the Christian church. By the time Christianity was legalized by the Roman emperor Constantine in 313 AD, millions of people considered themselves Christians (Wawro, 2008).
Did Jesus start the Christian church? Did he?
Recall back to Point #3 where Paul notes that he and the Christian community were “tripping” on regular occasions and receiving visions. 1 Corinthians 14, Paul sets rules to prevent a problem arising in the church of so many people describing their hallucinations and spirit communications and speaking in tongues that they were talking over one another (on hallucinations in particular: 1 Cor. 14.26, 30).
In 1 Cor. 12.28, Paul ranks the members of the church in order of authority: “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”
After setting up these rules, how reasonable is it that shortly after Paul’s hierarchy that eventually people were given titles (like Bishop) and secure positions themselves as authorities within the church? What’s relevant about this and Aron’s skepticism of the historicity of Jesus? Could it be that this mystery cult who is head over heels in hallucinations could be both the creators of a mythical messiah AND creators of hierarchy’s in their own church? I really think so.
11. The Abrahamic religions have been at war with each other continually since their inceptions.
Wars have been waged, but Christians were not guilty of persecuting non-Christians while Christianity was illegal.
Aron was not talking about persecutions, he is addressing wars. And Aron was right, the Abrahamic religions have been at war with each other pretty much from the start. Hell, Christians have been at war with themselves to this day.
And no, I’m not just talking about in America (ex. from Puritans killing Catholics to Christians killing Mormons). The Abrahamic religions are at war with each other and with themselves allover the world. Palestine (Jews vs. Muslims), the Balkans (Orthodox Serbians vs. Catholic Croatians; Orthodox Serbians vs. Bosnian and Albanian Muslims), Northern Ireland (Protestants vs. Catholics), Sudan (Muslims vs. Christians and animists (this long civil war is occurring in the Darfur region)), Nigeria (Muslims vs. Christians), Ethiopia and Eritrea (Muslims vs. Christians), Ivory Coast (Muslims vs. Christians), Philippines (Muslims vs. Christians) Iran and Iraq (Shiite vs. Sunni Muslims), and the Caucasus (Orthodox Russians vs. Chechen Muslims; Muslim Azerbaijanis vs. Catholic and Orthodox Armenians) are merely a few, recent cases in point.
All but one of Jesus’ disciples (John) died gory deaths. Peter was crucified upside down, James was killed by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12: 1-2), and Paul was beheaded by Nero in Rome. These were confirmed by the Eusebius, the first church historian, in his book “Ecclesiastical History.”
Was Eusebius a valid eyewitness to these executions, or is all his reports based on Hearsay?
Furthermore, here’s the $64 question: did Jesus’ buddies really die gory deaths? How do we know, where’s the proof?
Was Peter crucified down? The first mention of this is recorded nearly 200 years after Peter was allegedly crucified. Was James, son of Zebedee, killed by Herod Agrippa? It’s only mentioned in Acts 12. And Paul, who said that he was beheaded and who can confirm that? The New Testament does not say when or how Paul died.
“Clement does not say why Paul was killed, only that it was a result of some sort of envy and its resulting betrayal. He mentions Peter having been martyred for the same reason, but not where or when. He then mentions other recent Christian martyrs in general (naming no one in particular). Notably absent is any mention of James having been martyred— despite that supposedly happening around the same time as Peter and Paul, and despite his supposedly being the very brother of Jesus (and in later legend a major leader of the church). In fact, Clement does not appear to have any knowledge of Jesus having had brothers.” (On the Historicity of Jesus, Chapter 8, Element 5, Richard Carrier)
The martyrdoms of Peter and Paul were also documented by Dionysius of Corinth, Tertillian and Origen. The martyrdom of James was also documented by Josephus, Hegesippus, and Clement of Alexandria (Habermas & Licona, 2004).
Were these contemporary sources? Paul is believed to have been killed sometime before the end of Nero’s reign in 68 CE. Dionysius’s letter mentioning Peter and Pauls martyrdom was written about 100 years after the end of Nero’s reign. Tertillian’s source was written in 200 CE.
See the problem here? Even if we agree that Paul and Peter were executed, how can we know they were martyred for their faith? How do we know they never broke faith? For all we know, all of the so-called martyrs dropped their faiths in prison, only for Christian followers generations later re-write history and hype-up the deaths of the first believers.
Or, consider that the great fire that consumed Rome under Nero’s reign. After the disaster, the ruler needs to save face. We have historical evidence that Nero was a cruel ruler with a temper. Tacticus wrote at least 50 years later that Nero deflected any responsibility and blamed the fire on a scapegoat, and he picked the Christians. Bear in mind that torture and public execution were common for a whole host of crimes, and it is within this context that we should judge the treatment of Christians.
A great quote by Charles Colson says “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Everyone was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world – and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”
How do you know they never once denied it? How do you know they were tortured? Every source Charles, SJ and other apologists rely on are sources recorded centuries after the incidents.
For all we know, every single one of them confessed it was a lie, only to have later converts generations later re-write history as a Christian recruitment tool.
A quote by William Lane Craig–
–offers details on early Muslims:
“Jesus said that we should love unbelievers, just as God does, even if they are our enemies. Mohammed’s attitude and teaching were quite different. Early on in his career, when he himself was in the persecuted minority, Mohammed had a very positive attitude toward Jews and Christians, whom he called the “People of the Book” because of their adherence to the Bible. He believed that once the Jews understood his message, they would willingly convert to Islam. Passages in the Quran from this early period of Mohammed’s life are quite positive toward Jews and Christians.
But when the Jews did not convert, but opposed Mohammed, he became increasingly embittered against them. As Mohammed acquired political and military strength, the persecuted prophet changed to the ruthless politician. He began to have the Jews in Medina, where his base of operations was, either killed or dispossessed. In the year 627, after an unsuccessful attack on Medina by the Arab army from Mecca, Mohammad rounded up hundreds of Jewish families in Medina. 700 Jewish men were put to the sword, and Mohammad had their wives and children sold into slavery.”
So I agree with Aron that religious wars exist and have existed for centuries. I do not deny some of the horrible persecutions over the centuries that non-Christians have endured since Christianity was legalized. However, that does not suggest Christianity is untrue. It merely suggests that man sometimes misinterprets the message. Jesus told us not to live by the sword when He said that those who live by the sword, die by the sword.
While his criticism of Islam has merits, if Craig and/or SJ thinks that will make us forget all the evils of the Bible and even Jesus, they’re sorely mistaken.
In Luke 19 Jesus told a parable which includes these ruthless words: “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither, and slay them before me.” He is clearly comparing the “Lord” in the parable to himself. In Matthew 10:34 Jesus said, “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” In Luke 22:36 he told his disciples that “he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” If Jesus wanted us to not perish by the sword, his messages are more confusing then a homeless man under house arrest.
I wonder what Jesus would say to slaves taking up arms and revolting…. oh wait, in Luke 12:47,48, Jesus said: “And that servant [Greek doulos = slave] which knew his Lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did not commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.” Jesus encouraged the beating of slaves!
And if Jesus is God and Jesus doesn’t want you to raise your weapons to avoid being killed… kinda contradicts everything God commanded the Jews to do when the left Egypt, doesn’t it?
Duet. 7:1-3 “When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.…”
12. “One Corinthians…I will destroy the wisdom of the wise.”
Aron is making a quick joke about this being the goal of the Bible from the start: destroying wisdom.
Funny…. and true. Not only are there few verses of wisdom in the Bible, the entire premise of the Bible is antithetical to wisdom. Why? Because of faith. The Bible demands we believe on faith, it is encouraging us to believe without reason. In fact we are blessed if we believe the most outrageous illogical inconsistent contradictory claims without any evidence at all. That’s not wisdom, that’s “make-believe.”
The Bible advocates wisdom for the righteous and the just.
The Bible is as much of an advocate for wisdom as Hannibal Lecter is an advocate of good psychiatry.
I could go to town ripping apart this false notion that the Bible is for wisdom, but this blog response is already getting too lengthy. Which is why I encourage all my readers to watch presentations and videos by Aron Ra, he does an excellent job at going over the twisted views of the Bible.
As Psalm 37:30 states, “The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom and their tongues speak what is just.” Proverbs 1:7 says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul was not referring to the righteous and just, but to people with opposing values.
Any madman or fool can claim they are “righteous” but that does not guarantee that whatever falls out of their mouths is pure gold.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…. my foot.
“The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps” – Proverbs 14:15
13. Christianity has impeded and retarded progress.
Top Ivy League universities in the United States were founded by Christians. Harvard’s Puritan founders intended “to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches.” Yale was founded in 1701 by Puritans who thought Harvard was too liberal and Princeton was founded in 1746 by people who thought Yale was too liberal. Dartmouth’s motto, “a voice crying out in the wilderness” is a reference to John the Baptist, taken from Isaiah 40:3.
That’s the best you got? Harvard, Yale and Princeton?
Plus I think SJ needs to pay closer attention. The line from Aron Ra says “progress” not “education.”
How has Christianity impeded and retarded progress? Honestly, where do I start?
The list of examples I could provide would be massive, but I’m trying to keep this blog as short and sweet as I can. In Europe, progress ground to a halt for over a thousand years as any ideas that countered the Bible were crushed ruthlessly by theists. In fact, it’s particularly telling that Copernicus delayed publication of his “On the revolutions of the heavenly spheres” because he feared the scorn and perhaps the retribution of Christians, that Christians jailed Gallieo for expounding helio-centric model and that Christians did not allow the publication of Copernicus’ book for almost 300 years after his death.
And today it is Christians that’s trying to remove evolution from science class or insist that their stupid stories are taught beside it – and that goes for Intelligent Design as well. It’s Christians that helped prevent stem cell research that could save millions from devastating disease, and it’s the Christian faith and community that sticks its nose into the private lives of others when its none of their bloody business.
14. Paul preached circumcision. “If God meant for us to be circumcised we wouldn’t be born with foreskins.”
This statement equates to saying if God meant for us to get haircuts and trim our fingernails and toenails, we wouldn’t be born with hair and nails.
Well, Yahweh did say something about not cutting hair… Leviticus 19:27 – “You shall not round the edge of your head, nor shall you destroy the edge of your beard.”
Does SJ not realize that she is arguing against both Aron AND Jesus? In John 7:21-23 Jesus said whoever circumcises their junk, they are “angry” with Jesus because he “made man whole.”
Cutting hair is optional. Cutting nails is healthy. Cutting up the end of a dick… that’s just sick. It’s unnecessary. (Based on all the health and scientific data has revealed, circumcision doesn’t make men healthier or perform better. Being clean can be achieved just by washing, and wearing a condom has a better chance to protect oneself from HIV – Weller SC, Davis-Beaty K. “Condom effectiveness in reducing heterosexual HIV transmission.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4.) Defending Yahweh’s sick obsession for foreskins (and using them like currency and dowries, such as 1 Samuel 18:25) is like defending a god’s commandment to cut off your ear. Just because cutting nails is healthy does not mean it’s healthy or right or rational to cut off your ear or parts of your genitals.
15. Christians are fools for Christ’s sake. They accept improbable claims with insufficient evidence.
Contrary to what Aron states, Christians are rational people. People don’t accept improbable claims with insufficient evidence.
This ignores the fact that Aron is reading directly from the holy book SJ holds dear, the book telling her to become a fool. 1 Corinthians 4:10 “We are fools for Christ; you are wise in Christ” (in Greek: hemeis moroi dia Christon, humeis de phronimoi en Christo). The word translated here as “fools” is related to the English word “moronic.”
Besides that, her response is only half-true. There are rational people who can be religious, the key thing is that they apply rationality to just about everything else in their lives except when it comes to religion. When it comes to religion, every time they have to accept it with insufficient evidence.
For the record, SJ supports Intelligent Design – a pseudoscience that has been completely refuted in science and in courts. So already she’s accepting a belief with insufficient evidence. Aron Ra has pointed out numerous times that there are scientists who both accept Christianity and the theory of evolution. When it comes to these men, they are rationalists…. Rationalists for science! While these men were working hard to unlock the mysteries of nature, SJ’s kind (creationists) were making themselves useful by calculated how many angels could fit on the head of a pin.
In addition to the Bible, the entire Christian Apologetics movement provides that evidence and millions of books have been sold by authors such as Gary Habermas, Mike Licona, J. Warner Wallace, C.S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, Timothy Keller, Nancy Pearcey, and more
TWL became famous when the Founding TWL Fathers first banded together to refute Lee Strobel. This guy is simply a quack. He’s a mouthpiece for the Discovery Institute.
Again, J Wallace is not a historian. And Gary Habermas, the guy is the Ken Ham of history, thinking that just because the Bible says it therefore makes it historical fact.
16. Robin Hood, Sir Lancelot, the Holy Grail, and King Arthur are legends, so perhaps Jesus is a legend. Dracula is the “only one we can be sure really lived.”
In 1897, Bram Stoker penned his book on Count Dracula. The book was loosely based on Vlad Tepes, who was born in 1431 in Romania. Dubbed Vlad the Impaler, Vlad was a prince of Wallachia who had some of his enemies impaled. Word of his cruelty spread throughout the Ottoman Empire and he became a recognized figure in many countries.
Suggesting we can only really be sure that Vlad the Impaler lived implies that Aron considers Jesus to be a legend, yet as stated at the outset, we have forty two sources (9 secular) within 150 years of Jesus’ resurrection that validate Jesus’ life and ministry.
This 10/42 argument has already been refuted.
In addition, Jesus is well recognized in every country of the world and Christianity is practiced by 2.2 billion believers today. Few recognize Vlad the Impaler today and his story has been reduced to a vampire legend.
Argument ad populum.
17. Modern apologists say people only know to wash their hands because God told them to do same and Jesus said not to wash hands.
No, modern apologists do not make this silly assertion.
Really? No apologist gives God the credit for giving us the knowledge to wash our hands?
Jesus did not instruct us not to wash our hands. Luke 11:39-41 indicates that Jesus did not first wash before a meal. He wanted to make the following point to the Pharisees, to demonstrate that their rituals should not take precedent over their love for God. “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did the one who make the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you – be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.’”
18. We have only one source for Socrates and “that should be sufficient” because he wrote philosophy and he isn’t God.
Such a double standard highlights Aron’s biased views of Jesus.
If we apply the same methodology that shows Socrates was not real, then so be it. Historians shouldn’t play favoritism, if there is no evidence for a person, then there is none. Even if Socrates turns out to be a legend, what have we lost? Socrates is known for his philosophies that taught us how to think. His philosophies will still stand even if we conclude he didn’t exist. One thing that separates Socrates from Jesus is that Socrates never said, “believe what I tell you or you will be doomed.”
But there is no need to worry about Socrates becoming a non-historcal person. Why? Because unlike Jesus, we actually have better evidence proving he was a real historical man. We have the names of over a dozen eyewitnesses who wrote books about Socrates. The books that survived are by Plato and Xenophon, each of whom was an eyewitness and disciple to Socrates, who each recorded his teachings and reported stories and other information about him. From them, we also know the titles of other books about Socrates, and a number of paraphrases and quotations from them survive in other sources. Not only that, we also have a relatively unfriendly eyewitness account of Socrates: The Clouds of Aristophanes.
We have nothing like this for Jesus. None of his Disciples wrote down anything about him or what he taught. Paul doesn’t count because he never met Jesus in his life. Nor do we have any contemporary sources at the time that were critical of Christ and Christians.
19. All that “Old Testament stuff still applies to Christians.”
This statement is also untrue. One of Jesus’ purposes was to share the New Covenant in which we follow two basic commandments to love our God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Is that so? Then why did the Apostles, the guys taught by Jesus himself, go to a town of Gentiles (Acts 15) and command them if they wanted to be true Christians they would have to abstain from eating the meat of strangled animals as well as food scarified to idols. These aren’t “moral” codes, these are diet codes grounded in Old Testament laws.
So according to the Apostles themselves, parts of the Old Testament still does apply. Aron Ra was once again right.
20. No prophet has respect in his own home town. “The people who knew Him…knew He was full of **it.”
Christian apologists note the presence of much “embarrassing” testimony in the New Testament, which demonstrates the likelihood that New Testament writers were not crafting falsehoods. Peter’s doubts and his thrice denial of Jesus, Jesus’ mother and brothers’ initial thoughts that Jesus had gone mad, and the lowly woman who washed Jesus’ feet are several examples of such testimonies. Aron identified another.
So somehow… Mary thought her son had gone mad but totally forgot that she was a virgin that gave birth to a kid AND an angel visited her and Joseph? Or the Magi and shepherds? I mean what in the actual Hell? Did Mary and Joseph suffer from short-term memory loss?
Highly unlikely that Mary forgot about a miraculous birth, was visited by an angel and eventually thought her son was mad. No, I think the Gospel authors are making these up as they go. So why say that Mary thought her son was mad? What’s the catch? Seems cleverly simple. Saying that Jesus’ followers and family thought he was “mad” and called “possessed” (Mark 3:22, John 7:20) makes it sound like people have already expressed their doubts and skepticism, yet still became believers anyway. These stories imply that people were already cautious and put some thought before they converted. The Gospel authors knew what they were doing, they’re clever religious hustlers. The Gospel author’s scheme is this to the local Jews and Gentiles: if other people have already applied their skepticism and still came to accepting Jesus, why should you bother applying your skepticism? Someone already did it for you. So lower your guards and believe. The Gospel authors are essentially saying, “it’s okay, no need to think about it, go and jump in, embrace the Savior before you’re doomed!”
Even if we skip all that, I must ask: how are the above that embarrassing? Students do not always get the message or lesson right off hand. The Disciples were merely human, and humans make mistakes which makes all the more reason for the authors to include such things to make Jesus appear better and more relatable. This is a common tactic comic book authors do with side-kicks; make a few embarrassing moments for the side-kicks to make the superhero look better. However, this does not mean these superheros existed in reality.
If writers were merely crafting a story, they would not have put in parts that would not be influential in driving people to Christianity. But they did. They wanted to tell the truth.
Or they were very crafty to portray their mystery cult’s mystic leader in a relatable way to make conversion more effective. After all, if you preach that the central guy to your mystery cult was human, you better make him seem human. Humans bathe, humans think strange people are mad, and humans often doubt one another. Has SJ ever been human? If not, then newsflash: it’s what we humans do, all the time. Hell, I’m doubting so many humans right now… the ones telling me that a disembodied mind manipulated the laws of physics to create a flawed world; placed this blame unto his imperfect creations; and punished them by flooding the entire world with the exception of a single floating zoo boat… only to have the world repopulated after a single family had a massive depraved incestuous gang-bang while taking breaks from… shall we say “tending to”… the goats, sheep and other assorted ungulates that they took on board their boat to keep them company on the long winter nights.
Does SJ think that Christians or even Jews were the first ones to come up with the idea to make the gods they worshiped more relatable and throw in a few embarrassing moments here and there? The fact is is that humans have tried to make their gods more human-like and thus more relatable in many religions. The Scandinavians believed in gods that acting very human-like. Their gods drink, argue, fight, bleed, cheat, love, deceive, they’re greedy… their gods even get tricked (just ask Loki and Hodr). How embarrassing for a god to be fooled, so by SJ’s logic that “embarrassment = truth,” then logically the Norse gods are real.
HAIL ODIN!!! ALL HAIL THE ALLFATHER!!!
When Jesus died on the cross and the apostles’ initial reaction was to hide in fear, writers detailed the account because it was the truth. When women (who were considered second class and whose testimonies were not to be trusted) were the first to discover Jesus’ empty tomb, all four Gospel authors documented that women made the discovery – because it was the truth.
I’m personally sick to bloody death hearing “testimony from women weren’t trusted.” Richard Carrier thoroughly refuted this claim that “woman’s testimony was not reliable” in his book ”Not the Impossible Faith” pg 297-321.
If you don’t have the book, I highly encourage you to get it. Until then, you can read snippets of Carrier’s work here:
21. People want to believe Christianity without testing it. Jesus said not to put God to the test.
We are not to put God to the test, but we do test our faith and those who may influence us. 1 John 4 says “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”
That’s the test? Ask the “spirits” (whatever that means) if they accept Jesus? Ugh… ever heard of a guy named Judas? He professed to believe in Jesus… look how that turned out. Even for the sake of the argument that we accept that “spirits” are real, what makes SJ think that they are incapable of lying?
Galatians 1:8 – Even angels can preach a false gospel.
2 Corinthians 11:14 claims that even Satan can appear as an angel of light.
2 Thessalonians 2:11 says that even God can deliberately make people believe in delusions.
So who can you believe? A demon can trick you into believing it’s an angel, and even if it’s a genuine angel from upstairs it can still make you believe a lie. Even if you receive a direct signal from the big kahuna himself, it could be a false delusion. He is so powerful, how could you tell if you were being deceived?
Paul says even angels can preach another gospel. So even angels can’t tell who the messiah is? How does Paul know who these angels are? How do you know who is right? Who would you rather believe, whose word would you rather take: a mortal or an angel of the lord?
Even after learning this, certain people will still be in denial. Often claiming that God would not lie because he cannot lie. Why would God lie when he commanded thou shall not lie? It’s a classic example of do what I say, not as I do. The fact is numerous times in his own book, God admits he circumvents a person’s free will and conscience and makes people lie. “Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets” – 2 Chronicles 18:22
22. Jesus “made His money” off of His evangelism.
There is no indication that Jesus made any money off of his evangelism. Instead, he was crucified for it.
Perhaps, but there is indication that Jesus was spoiled with expensive stuff (like gold) ever since he was a kid. From the gifts of the “wise men” to being covered in expensive oils.
23. Jesus was a cult leader who demanded His disciples to serve Him. He said if you don’t hate your loved ones, you cannot be His disciple.
Gotquestions.org answers this question as follows:
“First, we must take this verse in the context of the chapter. Jesus is teaching His disciples, and like any good teacher, He begins with a truth statement that is hard to understand in order to get His students thinking. Then, He clarifies the difficult truth statement with a metaphor. The truth statement is the confusing verse 26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” So, if we don’t hate our family and our own lives, we can’t be His disciple. But does He mean we are to have real hatred for our parents? Next, Jesus relates a metaphor about a man who builds a house without counting the cost and finds that he cannot follow through with what he set out to do. He leaves the house unfinished because he cannot pay what is required. Jesus is showing us the explanation to His difficult statement—that we must count the cost of discipleship. This is the point of the passage. In order to be a disciple, we must be willing to give up everything for Jesus. Therefore, if our parents will not follow Jesus, or even if they disown us for being Christians, we must still choose Him over them. It is in this sense that we are “hating” our family members who reject the Lord or reject us because of the Lord. This is not easy, and of course it is right that we should love our family members and want our family members to love and follow God. After all, 1 John 4:7-8 says “Beloved, let us love one another for love is from God and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God for God is love.” And that is only one of many passages commanding us to love others. But despite our love for the people we know, here is the key: if they don’t love Jesus, He must still be our first priority. We must esteem Him more highly than the people we love here on earth and we must love Him more than our own lives. In fact, we must love Him so much that our earthly loves pale in comparison, even to the point of seeming like hate.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/hate-father-mother.html)
This isn’t helping SJ one bit. If anything, it amplifies Aron Ra’s point: Jesus was a cult leader who commanded his followers to serve and dedicate their lives to him.
Regardless if you want to call rejection of family and friends to serve a cult leader entirely an act of “hate” or “love,” the end result is the same: you’ve created gullible fools.
Fools because only fools call a being like the God character of the Bible things like “God is love” when all logic and expression from the very book the God character features in displays that God is anything but love.
Every single word describing God by Dawkins is correct, and there is Biblical proof to back it up (and more). Read all about it in Dan Barker’s book “God: The Most Unpleasant Character In All Fiction.”
Also, as a bonus point, you can add Luke 14:26 to the collection of Biblical contradictions. Think about it, Jesus tells his followers to hate their family… yet this is the same Jesus who claims to be God, the same God who commanded “Honor thy father and mother” (Exodus 20:12) and “love your fellow as thyself” (Lev. 19:1).
24. He didn’t know when figs were in season or the smallest seeds.
In Mark 11:12 – 21, Jesus cursed a fig tree, which subsequently withered. The story provides a prophetic sign for the people (Ezekiel 4: 1-17, Jeremiah 13: 1-11, Jeremiah 19: 1 – 13) of the Temple and the worship of Israel, which also bore no fruit. Mark placed the account near the account of the cleansing in the Temple (Mark 11:15 – 19).
Using a fig tree and blaming it for not being in season based on personal ignorance is a terrible prophetic sign because it implies the one doing the cursing (God) is an ignorant dumbass.
In Mark 4:30 – 32, Jesus said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”
Mustard seeds were known to the people in Israel with whom He shared the parable as the smallest of seeds, so using the mustard seed to illustrate spiritual growth was appropriate.
The point Aron Ra is making is that Jesus didn’t know what the smallest seeds in the world was. The smallest seed are tropical orchids. For someone who claims to be God and knows everything about the world when he created it, getting this wrong is inexcusable. Also, there were other seeds smaller then the mustard seed commonly known at the time in Israel, one of which was the black orchid seed. Given that, now Jesus really has no excuse for screwing up that one.
25. The devil took him up on a mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the earth, so He must have thought the world was flat.
Aron makes the assumption that both Jesus and the devil are bounded by physical limitations and can only see what is physical in the world. Neither are bounded by such limitations, so when the devil showed Jesus the kingdoms of the earth, they were likely revealed in a metaphysical way.
Aron Ra is assuming that we’re addressing a person in the historical context, not whether a person in the past had mystic powers. And what does it mean to “see the world in a metaphysical way”? Does that mean seeing leprechauns at the end of the rainbow? Or, as Aron presented, seeing the world as a flat earth as the Bible indicates?
26. There are two stories of the loaves and fish and people were surprised both times, so at least one must be a lie.
If Jesus had turned water to wine twice or walked on water twice, people would have been surprised in both cases. Just because the miracle occurred twice and people were surprised both times does not mean the miracle did not occur the second time.
If Jesus followers witness that Jesus can perform a miracle like creating bread out of thin air, there is no good reason to be surprised that he can do it again, and again and again. If anything, his followers should have been expecting Jesus to perform the same miracle again before they entered town. To be surprise like you’ve never seen it before indicates that they likely have not seen it before, which would mean the first story about the miracle likely is a fiction.
27. Baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem yet He’s from Nazareth. He had to come from both places.
People may be born in one place and raised in another. For example, my kids were born in a hospital in one Florida town and raised in another. They consider themselves from the latter.
Someone is not reading their Bibles. Notice SJ didn’t even use chapter and verses to make her case.
Luke 2:1-7 reveals “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem.”
So Luke says that Joseph and his family were from Nazareth.
Whereas Matthew 2 has Jesus born in Bethlehem (“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king”) where the wise men visited him.
28. Jesus was born before Herod’s death in 4 B.C. and after the census of Quirinius 10 years later.
Bible scholars suggest that Jesus was born between 4 and 5 BC and that Luke was referring to a census conducted by Quirinius before the one Aron has cited. Quirinius took office in 12 BC and likely took a census around the time in which Herod died and a transition in leadership took place.
Luke 2:2 states “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria). Perhaps the census referenced by Aron is the second census Quirinius took.
According to the Gospel of Luke, and in contradiction to Matthew, it was the census called by Quirinius that compelled Joseph and the pregnant Mary to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1), rather than (as in Matthew) the other way around (and for a different reason: fear of Herod’s successor, Archelaus). The census is undoubtedly a historical event. But unfortunately, the problems begin to pile up the moment we consider the whole story in more detail.
- According to Luke 2:3-4, Joseph had to go to Bethlehem because he was a descendant of David, who was from that town. Apart from being a logistical nightmare, this method of going to one’s ancestral hometown to register for the census is unheard of in other historical sources. Evangelicals refer to a papyrus dated to 104 CE where the prefect from Egypt ordered all “to return to their homes” to register for the census, as supporting evidence for such a requirement. But such an interpretation is incorrect. Many scholars have pointed out that Roman census were done for taxation purposes. This means that the “homes” being referred to in the order above is to where one’s properties are. In other words, the location of registration is at one’s permanent residence not their ancestral hometown.
- Luke 2:1 states Caesar Augustus ordered a census for “all the world.” Yet historians know of no such worldwide census. While the Romans did periodically conduct censuses at different times in various locations, there is simply no evidence that there was ever a simultaneous worldwide census under Caesar Augustus.
- According to Luke (1:26) Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth. But the area under the jurisdiction of Quirinius covered only Judaea, where Bethlehem was, not Nazareth. Nazareth in Galilee was under the rule of Herod Antipas (d. ca. 40 CE) and would not have been under the control of Quirinius. Given what Luke says, there is no way a census under the supervision of this Roman governor could have applied to Joseph and Mary who supposedly lived in Nazareth.
- Finally, the clincher. Both Matthew and Luke said Jesus was born during the time of Herod the Great (Matthew 2:1, Luke 1:5). Herod’s date of death is unassailable—it was 4 BCE. The date of Quirinius’s census is also firmly established—6 CE. In other words, there is a discrepancy of about ten years between the two events—the death of Herod and the Quirinius census.
The last point has been doggedly attacked by evangelicals. The reason for such determined apologetics is understandable. If the above is unassailable, then the case is settled: the Bible contains fiction, and the biblical inerrancy is confined to the scrap heap of human history. Let us look in detail at some of these apologetic attempts.
The first step is to claim that there was an earlier census under Quirinius that was done during the reign of Herod the Great. This means that Quirinius was twice governer of Syria, once between 6 CE and 12 CE and another earlier tenure during the reign of Herod the Great. As “evidence” to prop this, the British archaeologist Sir William Ramsay (1851-1939) is normally invoked, together with the inscription Sir Ramsey interpreted to mean that Quirinius was governor of Syria not once, but twice, separated by a few years on both of the occasions mentioned above. This argument is obsolete, as it has been proven false. The reasons as follows:
- The inscription found by Ramsay simply mentioned that Quirinius was honored for his role is achieving a military victory. It was Ramsay who guessed that Quirinius’s reward for his rule was an earlier appointment, prior to 6 CE, as governor of Syria. Nothing in the inscription even suggests this. It is not surprising that most historians are of the opinion that the inscription does not provide any evidence to support the assertion that Quirinius was governor of Syria earlier than 6 CE.
- From Josephus we know most of the Roman governors of Syria around that time. Table 6.1 below shows the governors of Syria during the last years of Herod’s reign were Gaius Sentius Saturninus, who held the post from 9 to 6 BCe, and Publius Quintilius Varus, who was his successor from 6 to 4 BCE. It was Varus who, as governor, suppressed the uprising that occurred after the death of Herod (Antiquities 17:10:1). There are only two “blanks” in the list of governors between 23 BCE to 7 CE; once between 13-11 BCE and another time between 3-2 BCE. The latter gap is of no consequence, since by then Herod was already dead, and the former gap was probably filled by Marcus Titus, from 12 to 9 BCE, as we know he was governor sometimes in that period, and a three-year term was typical.
- Quirinius’s career is relatively well documented in our primary sources. Tacticus’s Annals of Imperial Rome (3:22-23, 3:48), Suetonius’s Tiberius (49), Strabo’s Geography (12:6:5) and Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews (17:13:5, 18:1:1) all mention aspects of his career. From these accounts we know that he was born sometime before 50 BCE and that he died in 33 CE. We know that he was consul of Rome by 12 BCE. He was in Asia Minor between 12 and 6 BCE, where he fought the war against the Homonadenses. He was the governor of Pamphylia-Galatia between 6 to 1 BCE. And he was serving as the adviser for Gauis Caesar for several years before 4 CE. Josephus mentioned Quirinius several times when he became governor of Syria in 6 CE (Antiquities 17:13:5, 18:1:1). So we read of Quirinius’s career spanning twenty years from 12 BCE to 6 CE, yet not once was he mentioned as taking over the governorship of Syria at any time during the reign of Herod.
The conclusion is inescapable—Quirinius could not have been governor of Syria twice.
To add on to this insurmountable difficulty there are still others concerning the suggestion of an earlier census. For instance, there is no historical evidence for any Roman census in Judea before 6 CE. The Romans took direct control of Judaea only after that time. Prior to this time the province was a “client kingdom”—under Roman domination but not direct Roman rule. The Romans have never been known to initiate any census in their client kingdoms. As mentioned above, the Roman census is taken primarily for taxation purposes. By all accounts Herod the Great was an obedient subject of Rome who paid his dues properly. There was no need for Rome to intervene directly with any kind of census in Judea prior to 6 CE.
29. He compares Hercules, Bacchus, Dionysus, Perseus, and other myths with Jesus. Jesus is merely an imitation of these gods. “Why would God create His Son to be a cheap sequel” to these other gods?
William Lane Craig (2009) offers an answer to this question.
Oh bloody hell, here we go again….
“First, scholars came to realize that the alleged parallels are spurious. The ancient world was a virtual cornucopia of myths of gods and heroes. Comparative studies in religion and literature require sensitivity to their similarities and differences, or distortion and confusion inevitably result. Unfortunately, those who adduced parallels to Christian beliefs failed to exercise such sensitivity. Take, for example, the story of the Virgin Birth, or, more accurately, Jesus’ virginal conception. The alleged pagan parallels to this story concern tales of gods’ assuming bodily form and having sexual intercourse with human females to sire divine-human progeny (like Hercules). As such these stories are exactly the opposite of the Gospel story of Mary’s conceiving Jesus apart from any sexual relations. The Gospel stories of Jesus’ virginal conception are, in fact, without parallel in the ancient Near East.
Or consider the Gospel event of most interest to me: Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Many of the alleged parallels to this event are actually apotheosis stories, the divinization and assumption of the hero into heaven (Hercules, Romulus). Others are disappearance stories, asserting that the hero has vanished into a higher sphere (Apollonius of Tyana, Empedocles). Still others are seasonal symbols for the crop cycle, as the vegetation dies in the dry season and comes back to life in the rainy season (Tammuz, Osiris, Adonis). Some are political expressions of Emperor worship (Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus). None of these is parallel to the Jewish idea of the resurrection of the dead. David Aune, who is a specialist in comparative ancient Near Eastern literature, concludes, “no parallel to them [resurrection traditions] is found in Graeco-Roman biography” (“The Genre of the Gospels,” in Gospel Perspectives II, ed. R. T. France and David Wenham [Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1981], p. 48).”
So much falsehoods in here. Then again, should we be surprised? This is Craig we’re talking about.
I mean, no parallel connections between Jesus and other virgin-born gods in the ancient Near East? Give me a break.
And what Aune says is literally true but misleading and a non sequitur. No Greco-Roman biography is Jewish, by definition; so to not find the resurrection narrative in Greco-Roman biography Judaized is expected; when the tradition got translated into a Jewish Novel, e.g. Gospels, it was Judaized, as one would expect; so that it was Judaized is not an argument for it not being borrowed; all borrowing transforms, to merge an outside cultural theme with a local one, that’s the definition of syncretism)
At the end of the day, Aron’s point of comparing Jesus to previous pagan gods does in fact have merit. There are connections and parallels between Jesus and pagan dying-and-rising gods, and by comparison Jesus does look like a cheap sequel.
For more in-depth information on pagan dying-and-rising gods, I recommend reading Richard Carriers book, On the Historicity of Jesus, Chapter 5 Element 31. You should also read his book Not the Impossible Faith chapter 3.
30. Mark says on the day Jesus was crucified said that sun was obscured from noon to 3 p.m. Matthew added an earthquake. Matthew reanimated corpses. That wasn’t confirmed. Witnesses didn’t record this.
According to Mark 15:33, “at noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’). Mark 15:37-39 continues, “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed His last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how He died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God.”
Luke 23:44-45 states, “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When He had said this, He breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’”
Matthew 27:45 says, “From noon until three in the afternoon, darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani’ (which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Matthew 27:50-52 continues, “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely He was the Son of God!”
According to the prophet Joel (which is recounted by Luke in Acts 2:15-21) “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious days of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
There is some other evidence that on the day of the crucifixion the sun was darkened and/or the moon appeared like blood. The so-called Report of Pilate, a New Testament Apocryphal fragment (see DeLiso & Fidani 2014 for a more complete review) from the fourth century, states “Jesus was delivered to him by Herod, Archelaus, Philip, Annas, Caiphas, and all the people. At his crucifixion the sun was darkened; the stars appeared and in all the world people lighted lamps from the sixth hour till evening; the moon appeared like blood.” Thallus is a relatively unknown pagan author who also cited darkness during the crucifixion, as reported by both him and Africanus (DeLiso & Fidani, 2014). As expected, however, some pagans rejected the reports, including Origene, Jerome, and Chrysostom (DeLiso & Fidani, 2014).
Does SJ not read her own words as she writes them? The source she provides to prove the sun going dark for hours…. is a source written 300-400 years after the event. Well, by that logic, I can claim that George Washington and his army crossed the Delaware River under the cover of darkness due to a solar eclipse, not at night, and beat the British forces. (I know it’s that wasn’t even 300 years ago, but still, making a bold claim about something that happened a long time – a phenomenon no one else noted or recorded – and taking that claim seriously is just stupid).
We have second and third hand passages that report to record statements made by non-Christians regarding a darkening of the sun and earthquakes. The first of these comes to us from a 9th century monk who quotes the 3rd century Christian chronicler Julius Africanus, who comments on statements attributed to Thallus and Phlegon . None of the quoted works by Thallus or Phlegon remain, nor does the work by Julius Africanus that presumably makes these references.
Oh, and btw, total solar eclipses can only last a little bit past 7 minutes but no longer then 8 minutes. Not 3 hours. The gospel claiming that there was a total solar eclipse for 3 hours breaks the laws of physics just as much as the Old Testament claiming that the sun stopped in the sky at noon for several hours. Since total solar eclipses can’t last longer 8 minutes, that means Mark 15:33’s claim that there was a 3 hour solar total eclipse is wrong by a margin of 99.96%.
(Source: Mark Littman; Fred Espenak; Ken Wilcox (2008). “A Quest to Understand”. Totality: Eclipses of the Sun. (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press Inc. ISBN 0-19-953209-5. “Eclipse expert Jean Meeus calculates the maximum possible eclipse duration of totality in a solar eclipse is currently 7 minutes 32 seconds.”)
That’s what physics proves, what does history prove? Well, there was a total solar eclipse in the 1st century Israel…. except it happened 4 years BEFORE Jesus was supposedly crucified.
Scholars have reported that devastating earthquakes occurred in Jerusalem during Christ’s death (Mallet, 1853; Rigg, 1941). This occurred in a region that includes the Dead Sea fault, which is a plate boundary that separates the Arabian plate and the Sinai sub-plate (Garfunkel, 1981). This fault has been active since the Miocene (Kagan, Stein, Agnon, & Neuman, 2011) and the fault is still active today (De Liso & Fidani, 2014). The fault extends from the Red Sea in the south to the Taurus Mountains in the north.
Kagan and colleagues (2011) analyzed seismites in the Holocene Dead Sea basin by constructing two age-depth chronological models based on atmospheric radiocarbon ages of short-lived organic debris with a Bayesian model. Seismites are sedimentary beds and structures, which are deformed by seismic shaking. The scholars analyzed seismites in different areas of the basin, finding that several synchronous seismites appeared in all sections during particular years, including 33 AD (+/- 2 sigma; 95% confidence interval). Other years in which earthquakes occurred as evidenced by seismites are (AD unless otherwise noted): 1927, 1293, 1202/1212, 749, 551, 419, 33, 31 BC, and mid-century B.C.
After analyzing laminated sedimentary cores recovered at the shores of the Dead Sea, Migowski, Agnon, Bookman, Negendank, and Stein (2004) also confirmed an earthquake in 33 AD with a magnitude of 5.5. They documented earthquakes around 33 AD in 31 BC and 76 AD. The scholars analyzed seismites using radiocarbon dating.
Ben-Menahem (2014) conducted a literature review of empirical studies over 4,000 years of seismicity along the Dead Sea Rift. The scholar referenced the aforementioned studies along with one by Enzel, Kadan, and Eyal (2000) before concluding that earthquakes occurred in Masada in 31 BC, Jerusalem in 33 AD, and near Nablus in 64 AD.
In summary, the literature on seismicity along the Dead Sea basin supports the assertion that an earthquake occurred either in or very close to the year 33 AD. Jesus was crucified on April 3, 33.
Where did SJ get that date of Jesus’ death? I did a little digging. It appears this date has been proposed by Colin Humphreys.
Also, even if there was an earthquake in Israel in 33 CE….. so what!?!?!!?
Thanks to plate tectonics, earthquakes are common worldwide. They will happen with or without a guy getting crucified. In fact, odds are that many earthquakes occurred when the Romans were crucifying people.
And more important, even if a person finds evidence that a earthquake happened, that doesn’t mean the rest of the legend is true.
Case and point, if we are to take the “earthquake proves Jesus crucifixion story” serious, then we ought to do the same with a Native American legend. Native American tale speaks of a Thunderbird (T’ist’ilal or Tistilal, in the Quileute language.) was a benevolent supernatural avian being that swooped down into the sea, caught a whale and lifted it back to the land.
During this struggle, powerful waves were generated, and many people on the land were killed in the chaos. Eventually, the Thunderbird managed to lift the whale out of the sea before dropping it onto the land.
Incredibly, back in the 1980s, geologists uncovered evidence that a powerful earthquake occurred in the Pacific Northwest in 1700, one which dislodged enough of the ocean in order to cause a tsunami. Not only did this hit the American coast where the tribe would have lived, but it was so powerful that it managed to reach Japan.
Additionally, Aiornis, a prehistoric giant bird that early North American settlers would have seen, may have been the inspiration for the Thunderbird. With a wingspan of up to 5 meters (16 feet), it used to swoop down on whale carcasses to feast. Although it’s unlikely it would have lifted one onto land.
I could go on and on to make my case. I could retell the legend of of Loki, the Sly One. The trickster god was responsible for the death of Baldr. As punishment, Loki was hunted down, captured, then taken to a nasty and dark cave, chained him to three rocks, and a vile serpent would drip it’s venom from it’s fangs unto Loki’s face. Loki would struggle, and every time he pulled on his chains it would cause an earthquake. I can use whatever data of tsunamis and/or earthquakes I’d like to try to give this legend credibility… but we all know that data of tsunamis and floods would not prove anything.
Learn this lesson, just because a legend uses real places, lists real kings or leaders, or mentions real events, that does not mean that the legend is true. Case and point: Homer’s Odyssey describes the travels of king Odysseus throughout the Greek islands. The epic describes, in detail, many locations that existed in history. But should we take Odysseus, the Greek gods and goddesses, one-eyed giants and monsters as literal fact simply because the story depicts geographic locations accurately? Of course not. The authors of mythical stories, fictions, and novels almost always use familiar landmarks as placements for their stories.
31. Judas died two different ways using the same 30 pieces that He both kept and returned.
Zechariah 11:12-13 “So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’’ – the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the LORD.”
In Matthew 27:3-8, Judas’ suicide is recounted. “When Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ ‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘That’s your responsibility.’ So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the coins and said, ‘It is against the law to put this money into the treasury, since it is blood money. So they decided to use the money to buy a potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day.”
Acts 1:18 – 19 continues recounting the passage. “(With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is Field of Blood.)”
Biblical scholars note that Judas’ body likely decomposed after his death by hanging, which is why his body burst open when he fell onto the ground. Only a decomposed body would burst in such a way that one’s intestines would spill out. Furthermore, Judas symbolically “bought a field,” as the silver coins he returned to the chief priests ended up being used to purchase a potter’s field.
The hypothesis that Judas’ hung himself then burst open when his corpse fell from a tree has a serious problem.
Acts shows a selfish and greedy Judas, thinking that he got away with his wickedness, God strikes him down. But in Matthew, Judas expresses guilt and remorse, both lead him to self-inflicting suicide (God exercised no wrath against Judas). No matter how you slice it, this is a contradiction. A contradiction of motives and a contradiction of God’s wrath.
As for SJ trying to rescue the contradiction about the money, she is seriously stretching the reasonable bounds. How do you “symbolically” buy a field? Acts explicitly says “Now this man [Judas] purchased a field with the reward of iniquity.” Is she suggesting that Judas gave the priests the money, they accepted it, and then the priests used it to buy a potter’s field under Judas’ name?
Here’s a response to this from Aron Ra:
“We know that Judas Iscariot died in the potter’s field. But who owned the field, and how did he die? Judas sold Jesus out to the chief priests either before Passover (Matthew 26:14–25, Mark 14:10–11, Luke 22:3–23) or after Passover (John 13:21–30). The priests paid him thirty pieces of silver, which Judas used to buy the potter’s field (Acts 1:18). But he also gave the same money back to the priests, and they used the same money to buy the same field themselves (Matthew 27:3–7). They didn’t buy it from him either, because they bought it after he died, in the version where he never bought anything. In the version where Judas threw the money back at the priests, he then went to the field that they eventually bought and hanged himself. In the alternate reality where Judas owned the field, he went there and fell “headlong,” busting his guts open. The implication is that he dove off a cliff or something similar. But however you do it, it’s really hard to fall “headlong” when your head is tied to a tree.” (Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism, Chapter 2, page 68)
Hopefully the truth has set you free. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
The truth has already set me free…. free from the shackles of faith and the prison of delusions. If this exchange has shown me anything it is that SJ may be a professor, but she really needs to do her homework.