10 Great Reasons SJ can’t Logic
This is a response to SJ’s response to a atheist on Twitter who goes by the name @ActFactFeminist. A while back SJ made a blog entitled “Ten Good Reasons to Believe God Exists” and @ActFactFeminist made a rebuttal… and SJ decided to counter that rebuttal.
Let’s see how SJ handles criticism.
“Everything comes from God alone. Everything lives by His power and everything is for His glory.” Romans 11:36
Lord Krishna: “Furthermore, O Arjuna, I am the generating seed of all existences. There is no being – moving or nonmoving – that can exist without Me.” — Bhagavad-Gita 9.8
See I can quote holy texts too. Given that Hinduism is an older religion than Christianity, it appears Christianity is piggy-backing the idea that their God is the creator of everything. But what does the Christianity and Hinduism have in common? They both lack evidence to substantiate their claims.
The Ontological Argument
Let’s look at the start of this argument:
God is the greatest conceivable being.
If we can conceive of something greater than God, then that would-be God.
Do you want to tie yourself to this argument? All I have to do is think of a greater God and that would-be God. If you argue against what I say below then you’ve basically made “Great” such a subjective term that the argument can’t lead us to any God.
Let’s ask a question. Which God would be greater? One that condemns slavery or one that does not condemn slavery? A God that creates and requires Satan or a God that does not? My God is maximally good and would not knowingly create Satan. Does your good require Satan? Via your argument, my God would be God and your God would not be good.
In short, if you fully believe the ontological argument, you cannot believe in the Christian God since a greater God than this God can be conceived.
The bottom line to ActFactFeminist’s assertion is that God has permitted evil in this world, so he can conceive of a higher power than God who would not have permitted evil. Yet evil, as horrible as it is, has a purpose: overcoming evil makes us stronger and strengthens our spirits and character. How could we ever fully appreciate love without knowing hate, or develop empathy if we saw no suffering, or grow tolerance if never exposed to the intolerant? In a yin and yang sort of a way, we are exposed to that which we don’t appreciate to develop an appreciation of that which we do.
The main point to the ontological argument for god’s existence is that god is the greatest conceivable being. Since “existence” is what they call a “great making property,” this being must therefore exist.
There are many versions of the ontological argument, but a problem that they all have is that they attempt to demonstrate that something exists (in other words, that it is merely not fictional, that it is more than just a concept) using nothing but concepts. It’s a completely a priori argument.
Another problem is that there are other properties that I would expect the greatest conceivable being to have that the theistic conception of god clearly does not have.
1) I would expect the greatest conceivable being would be whose existence nobody could deny. That’s clearly not true with Yahweh.
2) I would expect the greatest conceivable being to be one which there could not be a privation. Nothing and nobody could ever distance themselves from it in any sense. Christians frequently fault people for not being able to “find god,” or say that people are growing “distant” or “separated” from Yahweh, and that evil is a privation of godliness. How could there be a privation from the greatest conceivable being? I would expect the greatest conceivable being to be evident to the senses. That is clearly not true with Yahweh either.
3) I don’t see how the greatest conceivable being ever could be portrayed as what Dan Barker calls “the most unpleasant character in all of fiction.” There are many properties that we could quite reasonably call “great making” which are totally absent from the theist conception of a god. Not only that, Yahweh is portrayed as having characteristics that are not great making. He is a “jealous god” (Exodus 34:14) and he has regrets (Genesis 6:6). He also creates evil (Isaiah 45:7 KJV). None of these assertions would be true of the greatest conceivable being.
The Cosmological Argument
Our current understanding dictates that there can’t be an uncaused cause. This would necessitate an infinite chain of causes for any cause. This infinite regress seems logically and quite possibly naturally impossible. This why people appeal to a supernatural cause and allow it violate what we understand. This is special pleading.
I can simply use your rules and say that the universe is an uncaused cause and has always been and will always be.
If you’re screaming at your computer now that I can’t prove that and I have no evidence of this, thank you. I can’t prove this and have no evidence of it. This however shows that there is an alternative to your uncaused cause you call God. There is more than one answer to the question and we have no way of figuring out which one is the right answer. So where does that leave us? It leaves us with the best answer to this question which is simply:
I don’t know.
Rather than come up with an answer because we so desperately need one, we must admit when we don’t know things. I don’t know how the universe began. That is such a complex question that I don’t know if we will ever know. It’s ok to say “I don’t know”.
But we do know. The majority of scientists support the Big Bang, which gives us a start date that was around 13.82 billion years ago. Therefore, we do not have an infinite regress. Instead we have a start date of time, matter, and space. What existed prior to the Big Bang had to be timeless and immaterial. What existed prior also had to have intention, omniscience, and omnipotence. God has all of those qualities. He is the uncaused cause who ignited inflation at the Big Bang.
“The majority of scientists support the Big Bang, which gives us a start date that was around 13.82 billion years ago. Therefore, we do not have an infinite regress“… the Big Bang tells us that time and space had a beginning in our universe, but not of all existence. Those same scientists who support the Big Bang also support the Multiverse, which did not start at our Big Bang. Some adopt the position that the Multiverse started our Big Bang, which means our universe has a natural cause. (Seife, Charles, 2002. Eternal-universe idea comes full circle. Science 296: 639) Given the total energy of our universe may be zero, which means our universe took almost no effort to make, so after long intervals, our universe collides with a mirror universe, creating the universe anew. Others adopt the position that the Big Bang was caused by the quantum fluctuations of something from nothing, which again would make our universe the result of natural causes. Since the total energy of the universe is zero, something from nothing would not violate the 1st Law of Thermodynamics.(Guth, Alan H., 1997. The Inflationary Universe. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley; and Tryon, Edward P., 1973. Is the universe a vacuum fluctuation? Nature 246: 396-397)
The idea that something must cause our universe must therefore make it immaterial and timeless is wild speculation. If I made a chair, does that make me immaterial and timeless? Timeless is basically saying that X exists never.
Speaking of time, one may be wondering when did the Multiverse begin? Likely the Multiverse is eternal and had no cause. Could that be? Highly recommend reading a series of books by Victor Stenger, one in particular brings up the eternal multiverse:
Also, it is possible that there is more than one dimension of time, the other dimension being unbounded, so there is no overall origin of time.
The Teleological Argument
Have you ever tried living in a volcano? Have you ever tried living at the bottom of the ocean? These are absurd ideas. No human could possibly live in these places because we can’t survive there. There are however many things that survive in these environments. There are sharks that swim through underwater volcanoes!
The truth is that the life that survives in a given environment is the life best suited for that environment. It is not shocking at all that our environment is so perfect for us. We are a product of it. What’s interesting about this argument is that it neglects the 99.99999% of the universe outside our planet (And even within).
We don’t need Jupiter, Mars or any other planet to survive on Earth. We don’t need all the galaxies. We simply need our planet. The search for a planet like Earth shows us just how rare our livable space in the universe is. Life exists on Earth because Earth allows for life to exist. Change the constants on Earth or in the universe and you’ll see life that is able to survive those constants.
You have no scientific proof that if we tweaked the constants slightly life would still survive. In fact, scientists make it quite clear that tweaking any of the constants that govern physics even slightly would make conditions not conducive to life.
Source: R. Lanza & B. Berman (2009)
In addition, as Hugh Ross points out in his book “Improbable Planet,” ongoing studies on the convergence of the habitable zones on the earth suggest that to sustain life, we could not modify any of their conditions.
As examples, the liquid water habitable zone requires an appropriate level of atmospheric pressure and temperature. James Kasting found that a planet orbiting closer than 95% of the Earth’s distance from the sun would experience a runaway evaporation. The atmospheric pressure on Mars is too low, so a drop of water would evaporate in a second.
The ultraviolet habitable zone can neither be too strong not too weak to provide for life’s needs. The range for humans is exceptionally narrow, with some UV exposure necessary for vitamin D production, yet too much exposure can cause life-threatening melanoma and blindness. The liquid water and ultraviolet zones must overlap to make conditions right for life, ruling out 97% of most planetary systems for hosting life.
The photosynthetic habitable zone requires the following factors to fall within highly specific ranges: light intensity, ambient temperature, carbon dioxide concentration, seasonal variation and stability, mineral availability, liquid water quantity, and atmospheric humidity for land-based life. “Over the past 3.9 billion years, earth has undergone some dramatic variations in solar luminosity and spectral response, and these variations impacted all seven conditions for photosynthesis. Detailed models of the early history of the sun and earth (between 4.0 and 3.0 billion years ago) show that surface radiation levels were at least thousands times higher in the 2,000 to 3,000 angstrom wavelength range than current levels in this range” (Ross, 2016, p. 86).
The ozone habitable zone describes the distance from a star where an ozone shield can potentially form. The ozone in the earth’s stratosphere absorbs 97-99 percent of the sun’s short wavelength (2,000 to 3,150 angstrom), while allowing much of the longer wavelength (3,150 angstrom) of beneficial radiation to penetrate through to the earth’s surface (Ross, 2016). “For the level of stellar UV emission to be sufficiently stable for life’s sake, the host star’s mass much be virtually identical to the sun’s” (Ross, 2016, p. 87).
The earth further has an optimal rotation habitable zone. “The faster the rotation rate, the more distant from the host star the water, UV, photosynthetic, and ozone habitable zones would be. Rotation rate would also impact (in different ways) the breadth of all these habitable zones” (Ross, 2016, p. 88).
The tilt of a planet’s rotation axis relative to its orbital axis determines the temperature of a planet’s surface. The higher the obliquity, the warmer the planet’s surface and the greater the obliquity, the further the water, UV, photosynthetic, and ozone habitable zones are pushed from the host star.
The distance range from a host star where the planet is near enough for life-essential radiation but far enough from tidal locking is referred to as the tidal habitable zone. “The tidal force a star exerts on a planet is inversely proportional to the fourth power of the distance between them. Thus, shrinking the distance by one half increases the tidal force by 16 times. If a planet orbits too close to its star, it becomes tidally locked (as the moon is tidally locked with earth), which means one hemisphere faces permanently toward its star” (Ross, 2016, p. 88-89).
The final zone is referred to as the atmosphere habitable zone. “The effective protection offered by a star’s atmosphere depends on the star’s mass and age, as well as on the density of the interstellar medium in which the star resides…The question for habitability is whether, at any given time in a star’s burning cycle, the star’s astrosphere covers the orbit of a planet with the just-right level of protection – neither too strong of a stellar wind nor too weak, all within a region overlapping the liquid water, UV, photosynthetic, and tidal habitable zones” (Ross, 2016, p. 91).
All of these habitable zones need to overlap perfectly to offer the existence of life other than the most primitive unicellular forms. According to Stanford and MIT physicists Dyson, Kleban, and Suskind, the appearance of life in the universe requires “statistically miraculous events.”
“You have no scientific proof that if we tweaked the constants slightly life would still survive.”…. this Fine-Tuning Argument centers around the desire for the end result of a minor tweak for the universe to support human life, which makes this argument desire-driven for a certain conclusion and dismissing it if any other form of carbon life springs into existence. That’s fallacious.
The Fine-Tuning argument may appear convincing given the “all these have to be right to support human life” points. They amplify this by using statistics. And how do they get these statistics? The recipe for this statistics trick is simple: simply state the odds that should be calculated before an event after the event. If you want an event to appear even more unlikely, begin adding complicating factors (which is very easy to do after the fact). and just like that VOILA! you’ve made an ordinary event appear extraordinary. Life is here, the odds against life existing before the fact are meaningless after the fact.
A major criticism of the Anthropic Principle is that it is basically a tautology, or circular reasoning. Circular reasoning is a statement that is true by its own definition. In relation to the universe the tautology is that because we are here, we exist to ask the question. If we did not exist the question could not be asked. Or stated differently, if the features of the universe were incompatible with our existence, we would not be here to notice it.
If we ignore the tautology and pursue the Anthropic Principle anyhow, to assume that the universe is “just right” for life to exist on this planet must dismiss the polyverse/multiverse/megaverse is false. The most common explanation is that the quantum fluctuations of space produce or attempt to produce billions of universes. Some have suggested up to 10^500 19 or untold trillions of universes. This has been referred to as a megaverse, a “huge landscape of possibilities—an enormously rich space of possible designs.” It is a mistake to think that all of these other universes are as fully developed as ours.
If our universe appeared as a quantum fluctuation in a preexisting space-time void, this could have happened more than once—and probably did. The multiple-universe scenario is implied by the original suggestion of Tryon (1973) and imbedded in the cosmological model of Andre Linde (1984a, b, 1990, 1994). If the universe as a whole is infinite in extent in both space and time—and we have no scientific reason to think it is not—then subuniverses can be expected to pop up randomly at different positions and times. They appear as expanding bubbles that move away from one another, never colliding or coalescing.
While the multiple-universe, or multiverse, concept is not required to deflate the fine-tuning argument—which, as we saw above, fails on its own accord—this scenario can be used to provide a natural explanation for the so-called anthropic coincidences.
Copernican Principle. The Copernican Principle is the opposite of the Anthropic Principle and states that humans do not occupy a privileged place in the universe. Successive astronomical discoveries seem to support this principle. In the middle Ages it was assumed that God created man in his image, and such, man and the earth were at the center of the universe. Copernicus and Galileo abolished the illusion that the earth was the center of the solar system and put the sun in its rightful heliocentric place. It was then found that the sun was not at the center of our galaxy, and Hubble showed that our own galaxy, the Milky Way, was not at the center of the universe. Finally, the multiverse concept suggests our universe may be just one of many constantly sprouting new universes, further diminishing the Anthropic Principle conclusion that the universe is here just for us. The Anthropic Principle emphasizes the rarity of life and consciousness while the Copernican Principle forces us to realize it was not all done just so we could exist.
The Moral Argument
If God is truly the source of morals, you have to look at the morality God gives. This really breaks down to covenant and dispensational theology. However, both point to a good with shifting morality.
In covenant theology, your God makes covenants with people. You can therefore say that we are under a new covenant. This means something that was moral could now be immoral (Animal sacrifice) and something that was not immoral could now be immoral (Slavery). How is this objective morality? This is constantly shifting.
In dispensational theology, your God gives morality over time. You can therefore say you wouldn’t know an action is immoral because your God never told you this. This means morality grows over time. How is this one objective morality? It is not. Two people are held to two different standards. This makes morality temporary and not objective.
The question here is whether our moral values and duties have changed over time and if they have changed over time, ActFactFeminist states that they must be subjective. Yet when we say morality is objective, we are saying that we have a standard that stands alone as a source of guidance rather than one that fluctuates by one’s personal tastes, influences, or opinions.
Slavery and animal sacrifice are practices and not moral values. Examples of objective moral values are truth, justice, fairness, and kindness. These are standards against which we judge the aforementioned practices.
SJ wouldn’t call herself an apologist if she didn’t meet the requirement to be capable of playing word games.
Even if we accept that Christians only use “objective moral values” to judge certain practices, these objective moral values didn’t tell them that slavery was wrong, nor did it tell the earliest Christians that slavery was wrong.
Bible stories that show God’s approval of slavery:
- After the flood, the “just and righteous” Noah (Genesis 6:9, 7:1) got drunk, and lay around naked in his tent. When his son, Ham, saw his father in this condition, Noah cursed not Ham, but Ham’s son, Canaan, and all of Canaan’s descendants, saying, “A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” This is one of many Bible passages that have been used to justify slavery. (Genesis 9:25-27)
- God blessed Abraham by giving him lots of slaves (“servants” in the KJV), insisting that all the male slaves be circumscised. (Genesis 17:12-13)
- When Sarah’s slave Hagar flees from Sarah who is mistreating her (with Abraham’s blessing), God sends an angel to tell her to go back to her abusive owner. (Genesis 16:8-9)
- Abraham’s favorite son Isaac was also a proud slave owner. You can tell how great he was by how many slaves he owned. (Genesis 26:12-14)
- God cursed the Gibeonites to be slaves of the Jews forever. (Joshua 9:23-27)
Rules for slave owners from the Hebrew Scriptures:
- Don’t let any of your uncircumcised slaves eat the Passover meal. (Exodus 12:44)
- Don’t covet your neighbor’s slaves. (It’s one of the the Ten Commandments.) (Deuteronomy 5:21)
- When buying slaves, be sure to follow God’s instructions. Espeically if you are a priest, buying a poor brother, or selling your daughter. Although special rules apply for Hebrew slaves, it’s always OK to buy foreigners, who can be inherited from one generation to another forever. (Deuteronomy 15:12, Exodus 21:2, Leviticus 22:11, Leviticus 25:39, Exodus 21:7, Leviticus 25:44-46)
- But don’t get caught stealing a slave, or you’ll be put to death. (Deuteronomy 24:7)
- It’s OK with God if you slowly beat your slaves to death. After all, they are your money. Just make sure that they survive at least a day or two after the beating. But try not to knock out their teeth or eyes. Otherwise you may have to set them free. (Exodus 21:26-27)
- If your ox gores (“pushes” in the KJV) someone’s slave, pay the slave owner thirty shekels of silver. (Exodus 21:32)
- Sell poor thiefs as slaves to pay for their theft. (Exodus 22:2-3)
- If a man has sex with an engaged slave woman, scourge the woman, but don’t punish the man, because she was a slave. (Leviticus 19:20)
- Rules for obtaining slaves during wartime. (Deuteronomy 20:14)
The New Testament’s epistles approve of slavery and command slaves to obey their masters. (1 Corinthians 7:21-22, Ephesians 6:5 , Colossians 3:22, Colossians 4:1, 1 Timothy 6:1-5, Titus 2:9-10, 1 Peter 2:18)
God’s love for animal sacrifice is shown early in the Bible. Cain offers God his fruit, while Abel kills his firstorn sheep, and offers their dead bodies and fat to God. God “had respect” for Abel’s sacrifice, but not for Cain’s. (Genesis 4:2-4)
The first thing that Noah did after the flood was build an altar and sacrifice clean beasts and fowls to God. “And the Lord smelled a sweet savour.” (Genesis 8:20-21)
God promised Abraham that he would inherit all of the land from Egypt to the Euphrates River. When Abraham ask God for a sign, God told him to kill a three-year-old heifer, and a three-year-old ram, along with a turtle dove and a young pigen. Abraham did as he was told and that evening God lit the whole bloody mess on fire. (Genesis 15:9-17)
God commanded the Israelistes to build an altar for animal sacrifices. He then gave the Israelites dozens of commandments telling them in great detail what animals he wanted them to kill for him and how he wanted them killed and burned for “a sweet savour unto the Lord.” The rituals involved things like wiping blood on the thumbs and big toes of the priests, sprinkling blood on the people, burning fat, and pouring blood on the altar.
Here are some of God’s instructions for animal sacrifice: Leviticus 8: 14-25, Numbers 18: 17-19, and Deuteronomy 12:27. For more, see the first nine chapters of Leviticus.
So there you have it. If these “practices” are objectively wrong, ergo absolutely immoral, then why did God condone them and then later decided to condemn them? That does not make sense for a being that determines X is objectively/absolutely moral or not.
If God was absolutely moral, because morality was absolute, and if the nature of “right” and “wrong” surpassed space, time, and existence, and if it was as much a fundamental property of reality as math, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?
The last resort for Christians at this point is to give in and admit that their God may change the rules for humans depending on the development of human society, but this is an admission that there is no objective morality within Christianity. If there was, it wouldn’t matter at what stage of development humans have reached, if slavery and animal sacrifices were always evil, then it was evil then yet God permitted and demanded it — which would make God evil.
Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22
The problem with using the Bible to confirm the Bible is that the Qur’an confirms the Qur’an. I 100% agree with your holy book confirms that claims within your holy book. Do you agree that other holy books confirm their claims?
Since all holy books aren’t true, this doesn’t prove any holy book is true.
Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, which were written by two different men at two different time periods, clearly and collectively predicted Jesus’ death, crucifixion, and resurrection. The Quran was written by one man at one time around six hundred years after Jesus walked the earth. The Bible was written by 33+ men over hundreds of years, many of whom were martyred for their beliefs. Please see my blog entitled “Multiple sources, martyrdoms, and early religious persecution distinguish Christianity.”
In other words, many men who wrote the Bible did not reap any tangible property or financial benefits as Muhammed did. They wrote what they wrote because they firmly believed their messages, so much so in the New Testament that authors risked crucifixions and beheadings to spread the Good News for decades.
“clearly and collectively predicted Jesus’ death, crucifixion, and resurrection.”
Do they? Let’s take a look.
I. Determining the Speaker
“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” -Isaiah 53:1
The first step in understanding any written work is understanding who is speaking and what is the subject of their writing. Isaiah 53 begins with a reference to an unidentified group, denoted by the question, “who has believed our message”. Undoubtedly, this is a hint at the speaker of the passage, and so before we go any further, we need to determine who is “our”. This can only be uncovered by looking back at the preceding chapter, Isaiah 52.
The beginning twelve verses of Isaiah 52 are encouragement to the nation of Israel, telling them not to lose hope, but to trust in God. Israel is described as “taken away for nothing” by the Assyrians, who mock them and blaspheme their god continuously (52:4-5). The author assures his audience that God will redeem Jerusalem and he will “lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations” (52:10). In the last three verses, Isaiah 52:13-15, the tone changes to focus on a servant who will be “raised and lifted up and exalted highly”. Verse 15 informs us that this servant will cause the Gentile kings to shut their mouths, “[f]or what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand”.
In Isaiah 53:1, the “our” is the Gentile kings who are made to see and understand the deliverance of Israel in Isaiah 52:15. The narrative is continued by the author as he speaks from the perspective of the kings and nations who marvel at how God redeems Israel from the midst of great suffering. The depiction of the woeful shock and regret of the Gentiles at the power of the Israelite god is not limited to this passage, but also appears in Zechariah 8:23, for example.
“In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.'” -Zechariah 8:23
II. Determining the Subject
We have determined the speaker of Isaiah 53 as the Gentile kings/nations, but we still must determine the subject of the passage to gain a full and comprehensive understanding. Isaiah 53:2 begins to describe the subject.
“He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” -Isaiah 53:2-3
Isaiah 53 is one of four passages in the book of Isaiah known as ‘servant songs’. The first song is found in Isaiah 42:1-7, the second in 49:1-6, the third in 50:4-9, and the fourth is chapter 53. Throughout the four songs, the servant is foretold to suffer in the cause of God, who will at last vindicate him after some time. Technically, the fourth song should also include Isaiah 52:13-15, where the servant is actually introduced (also, Isaiah did not have chapter divisions until approximately 400 years ago).
Obviously, Christians believe the servant of Isaiah 53 is Jesus Christ, but there are numerous problems with this interpretation. Most troublesome is the fact that the servant is specifically named in more than a few passages in Isaiah.
“But you, O Israel, my servant…” -Isaiah 41:8
“But now listen, O Jacob, my servant, Israel, whom I have chosen…” -Isa. 44:1
“Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I have made you, you are my servant…” -Isa. 44:21
“For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen…” -Isa. 45:4
“He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor’.” -Isa. 49:3
Additionally, Isaiah 52 sets the stage for chapter 53 in ways that further point to Israel being the servant. Chapter 52 describes the subjugation of Israel to the Gentiles (specifically Assyria) and tells of how Israel is made to suffer mockery and abuse at the hands of its captors. In 52:5, God mourns that his “people have been taken away for nothing”. Isaiah 53:8 tells us that under “oppression and judgment [the servant] was taken away” and verse 9 claims that, “he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth”. Not only do both chapters speak of the subject being taken away, but they also indicate that it was due to no real offense that the subject was taken, illustrating innocence. The question of “to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed” (53:1) may implicate Israel as the servant too, since it is declared that, for Jerusalem, God will “lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations” (52:10). Thus it seems very likely indeed that Isaiah 53 is a continuation of the narrative from chapter 52, from the perspective of the Gentile nations.
III. But Why Not Jesus?
I have discussed much of this evidence with Christians who have tried to use Isaiah 53 in defense of their faith, and often times it has ultimately come down to the question of, “why can’t Jesus fit?” Maybe it does refer to Israel, but maybe it still refers to Jesus as well. There are verses in Isaiah 53 that speak of how the servant was “pierced for our transgressions” and how God “laid on him the iniquity of us all”. Even more puzzling are the mentions of how the servant was “cut off from the land of the living” and “assigned a grave with the wicked”. Are these references characteristic of the nation of Israel?
As a matter of fact, they are. In Ezekiel 37:11-14 we read of a vision wherein the house of Israel is compared to dry bones and described specifically as “cut off”. Verses 12-14 speak metaphorically of the “graves” of Israel too, and how God will open them to deliver his people. The references to the bearing of inquity and punishment for transgressions can easily be understood when approached from the appropriate perspective of the Gentile kings from Isaiah 52:15. Throughout Isaiah 53, these kings and nations frequently remark on how badly they treated Israel, although Israel had done nothing to provoke them. The Gentiles then lament that Israel suffered at their hands, for their sins. We also find that Gentile nations had previously laid blame for their conquest of Israel on Israel itself, as Jeremiah 50:7 mentions that the enemies of Israel said, “We are not guilty, for they sinned against the Lord, their true pasture…”
While Israel fits the bill of Isaiah 53 with no problem, applying Jesus to the passage results in some pretty interesting theological difficulties. First of all, when Isaiah 53:5 states that, “he was crushed for our iniquities”, when exactly was Jesus ever crushed? If any of Jesus’ body was literally crushed so that his bones were broken, it would disqualify him from another so-called prophecy beloved by Christians – Psalm 34:20. Secondly, Isaiah 53:7 stresses twice that the servant kept quiet during persecution, and although Jesus does stay silent at most of his trial in Matthew, Mark and Luke, he definitely speaks up in the gospel of John, conversing both with the high priest and with Pilate.
“Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days…” -Isaiah 53:10
If the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is Jesus, how can verse ten apply to him? Jesus had no offspring, and his days were certainly not prolonged, as tradition has long stated that Christ died around the age of 30. Unless one simply ignores this problem or interprets verse ten as heavy on metaphor – which is not supported by the text – there is a real and insurmountable issue here. Another one is found with Isaiah 53:11, which says that, “by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many”. Even if you accept the footnote in NIV bibles that suggests an alternate translation of “by knowledge of him…”, this verse is still troublesome. Is it knowledge of Jesus that saves us, according to Christianity, or is it faith?
Lifting Isaiah 53 from the surrounding context and viewing it in a vacuum may help Christian apologists easily project Jesus onto the passage, but it is a total butchery of the text and creates far more problems than it pretends to solve. However, there’s still more to be said on the Christian distortion of Isaiah 53.
IV. No Messiah Here
Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew scripture are typically marked with references to a king, the root or branch of Jesse, and associations with King David (Jeremiah 23:5, Isaiah 11:1-5). The passages also speak in a future tense, with terms of finality, such as “in the last days” (Isaiah 2:2, Hosea 3:4-5). If Isaiah 53 is about Jesus, whom Christians consider the Jewish messiah, why are there no indications of messianic prophecy in the chapter? There is mention of a shoot and a root in verse two, but the connection is never made to Jesse or to David. Even more intriguing is the fact that most of Isaiah 53 is in past tense.
Christians may read chapter 53 of Isaiah and note similarities to Jesus, without noticing how it ‘prophesies’ the servant in past tense. To modern believers, Jesus is in the past, but for the author of Isaiah 53, Jesus would have been a few hundred years into the future. What sort of prophecy uses past tense to predict a future event? Not all of Isaiah 53 is in the past though. The first nine verses describe the servant in past tense, and then verses 10-12 shift the tense to the future, speaking of how God will reward and deliver his servant. This is an important detail, because then Isaiah 53:1-9 are NOT prophecy – they simply set the stage for the prophecy in the last three verses of the chapter. Once again, this gives good support to the interpretation that Israel is the servant, as Isaiah 52 encourages Israel to have hope and chapter 53 then predicts their redemption.
It is also worth noting how vague the comments in Isaiah 53 actually are. There is only reference to suffering, not specifically to crucifixion. Nothing is said about Nazareth, Bethlehem, a virgin woman, or any of the identifiable characteristics of Jesus Christ in the bible. Isaiah 53:10 states that God made “[the servant’s] life a guilt offering” too, which is not an offering of atonement like a sin offering, but is the sacrifice made for restitution or compensation, such as when a person would steal, take a false oath, or extort another individual. This seems to fit nicely with the view that Israel, though innocent, was taken captive by the Gentiles, who mocked and abused God’s chosen. Thus to make Israel a guilt offering for the transgressions of the Gentiles would be far more appropriate than Jesus being a guilt offering that somehow redeems the sins of all mankind.
V. Still Unconvinced
Isaiah 53 is such a beloved passage by Christians that it will be rare indeed to ever persuade them of its true meaning. Even if presented with all this evidence and more, they will continue to believe the chapter is a prophecy of Jesus Christ that happens to interrupt the discussion of Israel’s fall and redemption in the surrounding context. Why? Because they have convinced themselves that their holy book is truly miraculous in nature, and Isaiah 53 is justification of that belief for them. Like much of Christianity, the prophetic interpretation of Isaiah 53 is maintained at its core, by faith, not evidence.
But what is truly gained from dogmatically believing the chapter prophesied the coming of Christ? If Israel is recognized as the subject of Isaiah 53 instead of Jesus, no major or minor tenets of Christianity are undermined. Those who cling to the passage as ‘proof’ of their faith are merely preferring to delude themselves in favor of possessing some sense of comfortable (but nonetheless false) certitude. Isaiah 53 is not about Jesus, it’s about Israel, and all the faith in the world won’t change the fact that this is what’s supported by the text. And so another alleged prophecy fails to be anything but wishful thinking on the part of its followers.
Fundamentalists have always claimed that the latter part of Psalm 22:16 “They pierced my hands and my feet” (which we shall designate as Psalm 22:16b) is a direct prophecy of the crucifixion; with the “piercing” referring to the nails going through Jesus’ hands and feet. Although this is not the reading found in the Hebrew Masoretic text, support is claimed from the readings found in a Dead Sea Scroll fragment and in ancient versions of the Bible such as the Septuagint and the Vulgate.
This claim is false, for a few reasons:
The Hebrew Text Behind the King James Version
Despite the claims of its accurate rendition of the original text, the Hebrew equivalent for “they pierced” was not found in the manuscripts available to the translators of the King James Version. Indeed the word rendered in those manuscripts means “like a lion”.
The Dead Sea Scrolls
The evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls, is ambiguous at best. The word found there, kaaru, has no known meaning and may actually be meaningless.
A) Before looking at the readings of the ancient versions, it is important to know some preliminary background information about them first.
B) A careful analysis of the readings given in the ancient versions does not support “they pierced” as the correct translation. Indeed the analysis shows that there were two extant readings in the Hebrew text, one being kaari (like a lion) and the other kaaru. The very fact that translators did not translate the latter word consistently showed that even by that time, the meaning of that word was no longer known.
Use of Psalm 22:16b by the Early Christians
No early Christian writer, including the evangelists and Paul, until the time of Justin around the middle of the second century CE, made any explicit reference to the word “piercing” in Psalm 22:16b in relation to the crucifixion of Jesus although there were ample opportunities to do so.
A consideration of the various internal evidence favors “like a lion” as the correct rendering of the word found in Psalm 22:16b.
We can conclude with certainty that there is no reference to the crucifixion in Psalm 22:16b and with some probability that the correct reading there remains “like a lion”.
Christianity has survived against substantial odds.
Any religion that is around today has survived as a religion. This does not mean that religion is any more or less true. It simply means that the religion has survived.
How is it possible that a humble carpenter, a tent maker, some fishermen, and a tax collector could change the world? With God, nothing is impossible.
No other major world religion was born out of several hundred years of persecution and no other religion’s texts include prophecies. No less than 330 prophecies in the Old Testament were fulfilled by Jesus in the New Testament.
“With God nothing is impossible.” Oh really? Can God make a triangle with 5 sides? Can God create a being more powerful then himself? (Humans can, they’re called robots)
No other religion’s texts include prophecies?…. either SJ is ignorant or lying.
In the next part, I mention that I’ve researched a lot of religions after being an atheist. Prophecies are common in other religions, it is inexcusable to not know that. So either SJ never bothered to do her homework before making such a ridiculous statement, or she is lying through her ass.
If someone says they’re abducted by an alien and they got anally probed does that make their story true because such a thing would be embarrassing? No. Just because there are embarrassing things in the Bible doesn’t mean the claims are true.
The reason I pointed out what apologists refer to as “embarrassing testimony” is to discount the notion that those who authored the New Testament had fabricated the message as a “sales pitch.” Had they fabricated the message, they wouldn’t have had women make the most important discovery of the empty tomb. Peter or John would have been more believable. They wouldn’t have had Jesus’ mother and brothers try to stop Him early in His ministry and they wouldn’t have had Peter deny Jesus three times. The authors included this information because it is the truth and the authors desired to share the truth, not a fabrication.
“The reason I pointed out what apologists refer to as “embarrassing testimony” is to discount the notion that those who authored the New Testament had fabricated the message as a “sales pitch.””….. if SJ thinks the following can’t possibly see sales pitches, she wouldn’t know a sales pitch if it bit her on the ass and held on. Has she ever encountered Mormons at her front door? Ever encountered a Scientologist (I wouldn’t recommend it)? Being an atheist for about a decade thus far, I’ve encountered more religious people then ever before and researched even more religions to familiarize myself with them…. and from what I’ve seen, the “embarrassing stories” in the gospels aren’t embarrassing, they’re clear cut bait on a hook.
Think about it. “Mary stopped believing in Jesus early in his ministry”….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.
There are no testimonies of Jesus from historians who lived during his life time. The earliest testimony is that of Flavius Josephus. He writes about the followers of Jesus and the story they tell. This is enough to convince me that Jesus most likely existed. This doesn’t however convince me of the claims he writes people are making about Jesus.
On top of that, the book is a couple hundred pages and Jesus gets two paragraphs at best. You’d think if Josephus was really convinced of what they were saying about Jesus, he would dedicate a lot more time in his writing to the risen savior. This doesn’t seem to be the case though.
While historians often request two sources of evidence when piecing together histories, we have an astounding forty-two sources within one hundred and fifty years of Jesus’ resurrection that support accounts of Jesus (Habermas & Licona, 2004).
- Nine traditional authors of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Author of Hebrews, James, Peter, and Jude.
“While historians often request two sources of evidence when piecing together histories“… while she’s not wrong, SJ forgot to mention one vital detail of what historians want: contemporary eyewitness accounts.
How many of those “nine authors of the New Testament” were eyewitnesses?
2. Twenty early Christian writings outside of the New Testament: Clement of Rome, 2 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Barnabas, Didache, Shepherd of Hermas, Fragments of Papias, Justin Martyr, Aristides, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Quadratus, Aristo of Pella, Melito of Sardis, Diognetus, Gospel of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, and Epistula Apostolorum.
All of these sources come from the 2nd century or later. Since none of them are contemporary (or even unbiased) sources, they practically useless.
3. Four heretical writings: Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, Apocryphon of John, and the Treatise on Resurrection.
Again, non-contemporary sources.
4. Nine secular non-Christian sources: Josephus (Jewish historian), Tacitus (Roman historian), Pliny the Younger (Roman politician), Phlegon (freed slave who wrote histories), Lucian (Greek satirist), Celsus (Roman philosopher), Mara Bar-Serapion (prisoner awaiting execution), Suetonius, and Thallas.
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.
Tacitus, the Roman historian’s birth year at 64 C.E., puts him well after the alleged life of Jesus. He gives a brief mention of a “Christus” in his Annals (Book XV, Sec. 44), which he wrote around 109 C.E. He gives no source for his material. Although many have disputed the authenticity of Tacitus’ mention of Jesus, the very fact that his birth happened after the alleged Jesus and wrote the Annals during the formation of Christianity, shows that his writing can only provide us with hearsay accounts.
“Nero looked around for a scapegoat, and inflicted the most fiendish tortures on a group of persons already hated for their crimes. This was the sect known as Christians. Their founder, one Christus, had been put to death by the procurator, Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. This checked the abominable superstition for a while, but it broke out again and spread, not merely through Judea, where it originated, but even to Rome itself, the great reservoir and collected ground for every kind of depravity and filth. Those who confessed to being Christians were at once arrested, but on their testimony a great crowd of people were convicted, not so much on the charge of arson, but of hatred of the entire human race.”
In this passage, Tacitus depicts early Christians as “hated for their crimes” and associated with “depravity and filth.” This is not a flattering picture. But even if it is valid, it tells us nothing about Jesus of Nazareth. Tacitus claims no first-hand knowledge of Christianity. He is merely repeating the then common ideas about Christians. (A modern paralled would be a 20th century historian reporting that Mormons believe that Joseph Smith was visited by the angel Moroni, which would hardly make it historical proof, even though it is as close as a century away.)
Pliny the Younger
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.’)
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.
Lucian (circa 125 – 180 C.E.). A second-century satirist named Lucian wrote that the basis for the Christian sect was a “man who was crucified in Palestine,” but this is equally worthless as historical evidence. He is merely repeating what Christians believed in the second century. Lucian does not mention Jesus by name. This reference is too late to be considered historical evidence, and since Lucian did not consider himself a historian, neither should we.
Christian apologists mostly use the above sources for their “evidence” of Jesus because they believe they represent the best outside sources. All other sources (Christian and non-Christian) come from even less reliable sources, some of which include: Ignatius (50 – 98? C.E.), Polycarp (69 – 155 C.E.), Clement of Rome (? – circa 160 C.E.), Justin Martyr (100 – 165 C.E.), Tertullian (197 C.E.), Clement of Alexandria (? – 215 C.E.), Origen (185 – 232 C.E.), Hippolytus (? – 236 C.E.), and Cyprian (? – 254 C.E.). As you can see, all these people lived well after the alleged death of Jesus. Not one of them provides an eyewitness account, all of them simply spout hearsay.
There are also many recorded people named “Jesus” thought 1st century history: Jesus ben Phiabi, Jesus ben Sec, Jesus ben Dameus, Jesus ben Gamaliel, Jesus ben Sirach, Jesus ben Pandira, Jesus ben Ananias, Jesus ben Stada (who was crucified), and many, many more.
Celsus was a Pagan critic of Christianity (secondary century CE), just as was Porphyry (third century CE). Celsus was born long after Jesus, which makes Celsus a non-contemporary source to verify the existence of Jesus. Rather, he only verifies the existence of a cult of Christians, who claim to believe that they follow a risen savior. Proving the existence of a new religious group does not validate or verify that the central figure they worship also is real, just as Joseph Smith and the Mormons don’t verify that the angel Moroni is also real. At best, Celsus reveals to us what he thought of the Christians. He already noted the discrepancies between the Old and New Testaments and between the various books of the New Testaments. In 178 C.E. Celsus shares that he had heard from a Jew that Jesus’ mother, Mary, had been divorced by her husband, a carpenter, after it had been proved that she was an adulteress. She wandered about in shame and bore Jesus in secret. His real father was a soldier named Pantheras.
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.
Suetonius, a Roman historian, born in 69 C.E. mentions a “Chrestus,” a common name. Apologists assume that “Chrestus” means “Christ” (a disputable claim). But even if Seutonius had meant “Christ,” it still says nothing about an earthly Jesus. Just like all the others, Suetonius’ birth occurred well after the purported Jesus. Again, only hearsay.
Suetonius wrote a biography called Twelve Casers around the year 112 C.E., mentioning that Claudius “banished the Jews from Rome, since they had made a commotion because of Chrestus,” and that during the time of Nero “punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief…” Notice that there is no mention of Jesus by name. It is unlikely that Christianity had spread as far as Rome during the reign of Claudius, or that it was large enough to have caused a revolt. Chrestus does not mean Christ. It was a common name meaning “good,” used by both slaves and free people and occurring more than 80 times in Latin inscriptions.
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.)
Based on these sources, we find that (Turek, 2014, pp. 207):
1) Jesus lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar.
2) He lived a virtuous life.
3) He worked miracles.
Allegedly, according to the legend.
4) He had a brother named James.
5) He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
Allegedly crucified under Pontius Pilate.
6) He was acclaimed to be the Messiah.
And failed to meet all the requirements to be the Messiah.
I’ll let a Rabbi explain:
7) An eclipse and an earthquake occurred when He died.
There was no eclipse during the time of Jesus.
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.
8) He was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover.
Which wouldn’t happen.
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.
9) His disciples believed He rose from the dead.
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.
10) His disciples were willing to die for their belief.
Do we have any proof they did die?
The only martyrdoms recorded in the New Testament are, first, the stoning of Stephen in the Book of Acts. But Stephen was not a witness. He was a later convert. So if he died for anything, he died for hearsay alone. But even in Acts the story has it that he was not killed for what he believed, but for some trumped up false charge, and by a mob, whom he could not have escaped even if he had recanted. So his death does not prove anything in that respect. Moreover, in his last breaths, we are told, he says nothing about dying for any belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus, but mentions only his belief that Jesus was the messiah, and was at that moment in heaven. And then he sees Jesus–yet no one else does, so this was clearly a vision, not a physical appearance, and there is no good reason to believe earlier appearances were any different.
The second and only other “martyr” recorded in Acts is the execution of the Apostle James, but we are not told anything about why he was killed or whether recanting would have saved him, or what he thought he died for. In fact, we have one independent account in the Jewish history of Josephus, of the stoning of a certain “James the brother of Jesus” in 62 A.D., possibly but not necessarily the very same James, and in that account he is stoned for breaking the Jewish law, which recanting would not escape.
So James may have been arrested for breaking a Jewish law, but other than that we have no idea. So how do we know James or Stephen were arrested for their beliefs? How do we know they were tortured? And if they were tortured, how do we know that maybe they did recant, only to have the anonymous gospel authors 50-60 years later write stories that “re-wrote” history by asserting that they all “kept the faith” while being tortured?
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.
Given the above shows how little we know, how we don’t have enough proof, to claim the disciples were martyrs as a historical “fact” is dishonest.
11) Christianity spread rapidly in Rome.
And Islam spread rapidly around the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Africa. Mormonism spread rapidly in America. What does that prove?
The reason why Christianity spread rapidly in Rome is because the Christians converted the right people, primarily Emperor Constantine and his successor, who both basically made Christianity the law of the land of Europe’s largest Empire of the Age and outlawed the other pagan religions.
12) His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshipped Jesus as God.
So what? ALL the Jews who lived in 1st century Palestine denied the Roman gods, and they denied the new “Christ god.”
Ten authors mention Tiberius Caesar, who was the Roman emperor who reigned during Jesus’ ministry, within 150 years of Jesus’ resurrection: Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Seneca, Paterculus, Plutarch, Pliny the Elder, Strabo, Valerius Maximum, and Luke (Habermas & Licona, 2004).
Myths include real locations and real rulers to make them more believable, but the existence of kings or emperors doesn’t mean that the mythical character is real. Does King Richard and Prince John prove the existence of Robin Hood?
Early Christianity Bravery
Bravery doesn’t mean a claim is true. There are many martyrs for different religions. Every religion can’t be true so being a martyr doesn’t make your religion true.
I did not claim that bravery is what makes the claim to be true. Muslim extremists could be brave, but that does not make Islam any more or less true.
One needs to consider why they were brave. In the early Christian martyrs’ cases, many saw the risen Jesus. So they risked their lives for decades and took their deaths willingly to proclaim the Good News. No Muslims have ever claimed to have seen Allah, as the Quran says this is not possible. Yet we know that early Christian martyrs testified that they saw the risen Jesus.
“In the early Christian martyrs’ cases, many saw the risen Jesus. So they risked their lives for decades and took their deaths willingly to proclaim the Good News.”… read the above where I went over the so-called “Christian martyrs” and see for yourself the stretches Christians make in assuming that they were martyrs to ever begin with.
The Purpose of Life
This is merely an appeal to a greater mystery.
“The LORD has made everything for His own purposes.” Proverbs 16:4
“We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created.” Colossians 1:15
I don’t bother debating “purpose” with theists, because I’m more satisfying with “I don’t know” than what theism offers.