Jesus Christ: just not worth a sheet of paper

Spend an hour with any Christian apologist and a single, non-scripted word will penetrate, pervade and ultimately describe everything they say or do: EXCUSE. From the hastily tailored explanations made for why their Middle Eastern god is invisible, inaudible and impotent to the petitions presented for why the character, Jesus, didn’t say anything new or even marginally useful a defensive plea will shadow every subject of every discussion… and for very good reason: there isn’t a single facet of Christianity that is free from serious question hanging over it. The gospels are a mess of outrageous contradictions, the Jesus described in one book is consistently at odds to the one described in the next, and no two (anonymous) authors of any of the canonical, gnostic, or so-named apocryphal books seemed even capable of getting Christianity’s triumphant and climatic ending correct. The oldest of the synoptic works, Mark, didn’t originally mention a resurrection, and in the gnostic gospel of Thomas the character isn’t even executed. In the Gospel of Peter Jesus is sentenced by Herod Antipas, not Pontius Pilate, and in the Gospel of Truth the hero is nailed to a living tree, not a Roman cross, which then spews forth fruit like an exploding piñata. It is a bizarre script bungle only bested by the (anonymous) author of Matthew who went completely off the reservation when he detailed his post-crucifixion Zombie Apocalypse; a jaw-dropping, brain-haemorrhaging, eye-popping event so astonishing that it was missed by absolutely everyone in all of Roman occupied Palestine.

Something else that was missed by absolutely everyone in all of Roman occupied Palestine was, it appears, Jesus himself.

In a word, there is no word, not even a simple artistic rendering, and the excuse proffered as to why no one along the entire eastern Mediterranean seaboard bothered to jot down a single line about Christianity’s miracle-performing hero during his allegedly remarkable life is as comical as it is appallingly unsatisfactory: Prudent economic practices. To the fleet-footed apologist short-pocketed, tight-fisted, penny-pinching stinginess best explains the total absence of a solitary word until well over two generations after the exploding piñata event. That is to say, paper was allegedly so expensive that the day-to-day economics favoured an oral, not written tradition which (by extension) implies almost everyone in 1st Century Palestine was functionally illiterate, and all those who could write didn’t bother because they couldn’t afford to… even if they’d just seen a man raised from the dead.

Ignoring the deafening silence from professional historians and social commentators like Philo, Pliny (the elder), Seneca, or even Gaius Licinius Mucianus (men who were in the business of noticing small things like the heavens rearranging themselves to herald a virgin birth), the mechanics of the widespread illiteracy argument simply don’t match reality.

“No foreigner is to go beyond the balustrade and the plaza of the temple zone. Whoever is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his death which will follow”

1st Century BCE graffiti written in Safaitic and Nabataean found in southern Syria and eastern Jordan is proof people were certainly jotting down their thoughts, and warning signs posted on Herod’s Temple (9BCE) are a clear indication that reading and writing was common among ordinary folk. If this were not the case then surely a town crier, not a mute stone sign, would have been more in order, particularly when the punishment for disobeying the warning was death. Perhaps even more telling is that before the Jewish revolt the high priest Yehoshua ben Gamla (cir. 64 C.E.) appointed teachers in every town and village of every province throughout Palestine to provide an education for boys aged six and up. Regarded as the founder of formal Jewish education for children Gamla’s sweeping policy directive assumes a vast stock of professionally literate laypeople ready to fill classrooms in every miniscule, deadbeat, backend, go-nowhere village across Palestine which, in-turn, presupposes that major regional centers already had well established education systems dating back decades, if not well into the 1st Century BCE. A single classroom without a qualified teacher is, after all, about as useful as a car without petrol. Hundreds of classrooms without qualified teachers is simple madness.

Even the gospels contradict the illiteracy excuse. In the Infancy Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas there’s a school in Nazareth where the teacher, Zacchaeus, teaches reading and writing to the children. Jesus himself (the lowly son, we’re told, of a carpenter in a pimple-sized village) read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue, quoted from Jewish holy books, and was forever yelling at his accusers: “Have you not read!?!” (Luke 6:3, Matthew 12:3, Matthew 12:5, Matthew 19:4, Matthew 21:16, Matthew 21:42, Matthew 22:29, Matthew 22:31, John 5:39). This not only screams literacy to his opponents, but also to himself and to his apostles; a point that is reflected in the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-13) where Jesus orders a whole slew of simpleminded debtors to physically write down what he tells them.

A written tradition was evidently very much alive and well across 1st Century Palestine, and although papyrus imported from Egypt might indeed have been considered expensive (monopolised products typically are) a quick search through the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Papyrus Collection, reveals numerous contemporary examples of the medium in wide use across the eastern Mediterranean for such mundane purposes as receipts, lists, lease agreements, marriage and divorce documents, and even run-of-the-mill business letters. The cost however of papyrus is entirely irrelevant. Far cheaper and more readily available parchment fashioned from lime treated animal hides (vellum) was the medium of choice and although subject to rot when exposed to humidity documents considered important enough were repeatedly reproduced, as exampled in the library of Qumran. Unearthed in 1946 the libraries 972 handwritten (mostly) leather documents (which date from as early as 408 BCE) represent the continual copying of scriptures, the creation of new ones, ordinances, apocalyptic visions, commentaries, liturgical works, and even accounts of contemporary events as expressed in the Jeselsohn Stone; an ink on stone work discovered near Qumran and believed to denote the early 1st Century CE messianic Jewish rebel leader, Simon of Peraea. If Simon had warranted a contemporary stone record a generation before Jesus, why then not Christianity’s central hero figure; a man-god who we’re told inhabited an entirely new category of awesome.

Indeed, according to Christians, Jesus was the greatest person ever; a god born of a virgin who as a two year-old toddler slaughtered an entire gaggle of hideous fire-breathing DRAGONS, performed mass exorcisms, breathed life into clay statues, brought eight very dead people (two of whom he murdered) back to life, blew snakes apart with a word, transformed into a ball of light and met with spirits, controlled the weather with a wave, walked on water, fed 5,000 awestruck people with next to nothing (not once but twice), healed the blind, reanimated limbs, defied chemistry by turning water into wine, and performed so many other miracles that John (21:25) said “If every one of them were written down the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” All this and more was done, we’re told, and yet no one in all of Palestine was apparently moved enough by any of it to scribble down a single word… not even Lazarus; a man who one might naturally assume would’ve been inspired to pen (or simply commission) a cheap-as-chips Jeselsohn-like Stone to commemorate his unusually good turn of luck.

Simply put, literacy levels don’t support the ear-spitting silence, and the price of paper can only be considered a mildly feasible explanation if the Christian apologist first concedes that something as trivial as a pedestrian business letter was tremendously more important and massively more meaningful (and therefore significantly more worthy of the expense) than absolutely  E  V  E  R  Y  T  H  I  N  G  the character, Jesus, did or said in his entire life. And even if the cost of paper was an issue and papyrus, vellum, stone and wood slabs were so preposterously priced that even Emperors couldn’t afford a single sheet then the 24hr Cash-Machine Jesus descrbed in Matthew 17:24-27 could surely have magically conjured up enough gold coins to cover any bill, no matter how outlandish: “Go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin.”

Voilà! Enough paper to fill eight Alexandria Libraries… and that’s before we even begin to ask why Jesus himself didn’t jot down a word of two.

267 thoughts on “Jesus Christ: just not worth a sheet of paper”

• Children’s excuses can be inventive and fun… Adults excuses are typically just weird and pathetic.

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1. Just to play Devil’s Advocate here… maybe Christianity should be judged by the texts they themselves think are canonical. They’re enough to be going on with! (Now going off to read the Gospel of Peter.)

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• Fair enough. Then we have to ask why mark (the oldest of the synoptic works) didn’t originally have a resurrection event. Without that there is no Christianity.

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• You do not need to see his identification. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. He can go about his business. Move along. Move along.

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• 🙂 These aren’t the droids we’re looking for. They can go about their business. Move along.

Tildeb, if you have the patience for it, the poster down at the bottom of this thread, Potato, needs some of your careful attention….

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• People like Potato don’t want to consider the merits of honest questions and certainly don’t want to seriously consider any honest answers; they want to provide pseudo-answers that to all appearances are excuses regardless of their pertinent quality, and pretend they themselves are in a position to correct others misinterpretations – defined as anything contrary to favoured beliefs. This kind of apologetics is a garrison kind: always defensive and rooted to remain so. Learning and gaining new knowledge is not just the last thing desired by the garrison’s defenders (because it’s irrelevant to the task of guarding the theological fort) but a very real danger of allowing this learning (and John, you do – along with several other valuable commentators – teach a shit-load of relevant but little known particulars) to undermine the foundations of the garrison itself.

So I decline your offer because it’s not something that I think I can add more than what you and your readers have done here: expose the excuses for what they really are.

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• “Garrison defense,” I like that. And i understand you staying out. It’s true, Potato isn’t interested in advancing a knowledge base, be it his or anyone else’s. I think he’s gone, anyway.

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• Potato says:

Mark clearly alludes to the resurrection in places like Mark 9:9 and Mark 14:28. He reports the tomb as empty and in Mark 16:6, the angel mentions that He is risen anyway.

Furthermore, as Nick Peters notes, “Mark has hints throughout the book about what is happening towards the end. The book is very fast-paced as indicated by the use of “immediately” throughout. Mark has identified the book as good news at the beginning and identified Jesus as the Son of God. He would not end the story then having Jesus being dead in the tomb and not even vindicated. Instead, Mark 16 has Jesus being risen. The women leave in awe and this is typical of Mark. Mark is meant to grip awe into you with the wonder about what happened next. Readers have enough information to know. That this gospel is written and ends there is to say that the story of Jesus has not ended.”

So, what are you talking about?

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• One small problem there, Potato: verses 9-20 were not part of the original text.

The oldest manuscripts of the New Testament are Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, both of these Greek manuscripts have no ending for Mark. That is to say, no 9 to 20. The “longer’ ending which includes a resurrection event was a 4th Century Christian addition… a deliberate, rather sneaky forgery.

In A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Bruce Metzger wrote: “Clement of Alexandria and Origen [early third century] show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them.”

Nice try, though 😉

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• Potato says:

Excuse? Really? Taking things within a cultural context and by the word of scholars is now an excuse?

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• Potato,

Mark 16:16-18 says:

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

You’re a True™ Believer, right? So could you please demonstrate this for us by curing all the intensive care patients at your local hospital? Once this miracle hits the national news, I’ll be thoroughly convinced your beliefs are for real.

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• Potato says:

One small problem here John. I never mentioned verses 9-20.

I cited verses 1-6. Nice try though.

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• Granted. You said resurrection, Potato, and there is positively no resurrection in that verse… not even an allusion to one. Like I said, nice try.

What we have here in Mark is clear evidence of Christian tampering with what you consider a source document. Tell me, Potato, why do you think 4th century Christians saw it necessary to forge documents?

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• Potato says:

“Granted. You said resurrection, Potato, and there is positively no resurrection in that verse… not even an allusion to one. Like I said, nice try.”

>So what does Mark 16:6 mean? What is Mark alluding to in the previous verses? What about Mark 14:28 and Mark 16:7?

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• Answer the question, Potato: why do you think 4th century Christians saw it necessary to forge a new ending to mark? Surely there’s an answer to this. People don’t just go out of their way to deliberately (secretly) tamper with documents, do they? There has to be a reason for this crime, wouldn’t you say? So let’s hear it: why do you think 4th century Christians saw it necessary to falsify a new ending to mark?

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• Potato says:

“Why do you think 4th century Christians saw it necessary to forge a new ending to mark? Surely there’s an answer to this. People don’t just go out of their way to deliberately (secretly) tamper with documents, do they? There has to be a reason for this crime, wouldn’t you say? So let’s hear it: why do you think 4th century Christians saw it necessary to falsify a new ending to mark?”

>Why does it matter?

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• Potato says:

Again, why does it matter?

Does it prove Christianity to be false? No.

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• It was a rather straightforward question, Potato: Why do you think 4th century Christians saw it necessary to molest the oldest of the synoptic gospels, Mark, and secretly insert a new ending?

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• Potato says:

“Why do you think 4th century Christians saw it necessary to molest the oldest of the synoptic gospels, Mark, and secretly insert a new ending?”

>Again, why does it matter?

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• Perhaps it wasn’t as straightforward a question as I thought. OK, Potato, one more time: Why do you think 4th century Christians saw it necessary to molest the oldest of the synoptic gospels, Mark, and secretly insert a new ending?

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• Potato says:

Perhaps it wasn’t as straightforward a question as I thought. Why does it matter?

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• See? Potato knows exactly what the evidence means (to undermine his garrison mentality to defend his beliefs whether they are true or not) but doesn’t have the intellectual integrity to face it honestly. That’s why he plays this churlish little word game.

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• Potato says:

TILDEB, I gave the word of scholars, along with historical context.

Don’t be a hypocrite.

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2. Awesome, John! Too bad it will have zero effect on Christians themselves who seem to be immune or impervious to reasoned argument. Kind of reminds me of my last boxing match in high school (ever, actually). At the start of round one, I quick stepped across the ring and threw my best right hand flush in my opponent’s face. He didn’t even blink! I spent the rest of my time in that match just trying to survive. Christians seem to be like my opponent then, wired differently: nonsense makes sense, sense seems nonsence. It is amazing they function at all well in secular society.

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• 🙂 That image is going to remain with me: A burly young Steve staring at his opponent, thinking: “Oh, holy crap, I’m in some serious trouble here…”

If you can believe it (of course you can) the “paper was too expensive” argument was presented to me last week and i nearly fell off my chair laughing. Worth a little investigating though.

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• Potato says:

Nice try, though.

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• Potato says:

*was

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3. Well, in regard with the gnostic gospels, christian could say that those are not “real” versions, and so explain the contradictions away. However, this leaves them the explain why those gospels are invalid.

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• Precisely. In my mind all canonical accounts of Jesus are admissible as evidence, regardless if some men in 300CE decided they “personally” didn’t like those texts. Who cares? I’m not bound by their censorship… and that leaves a fabulously odd and divergent character, Jesus, to try an wrap your head around.

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4. Brilliant. One of your best pieces yet, John.
I am singularly impressed by your erudite prose and apparent bottomless appetite to *Shatner illusions
(”Boldy go where no man ..” .and all that stuff)

With all this new info (new to me) about paper I can go back to a piece a I wrote a foes years ago and smile as I speculated that there seems no way Jesus could have been the illiterate country bumpkin some wish to portray him as and neither anyone else he came into contact with…friend or foe.

Maybe you should do make a mini-literary series of these particular pieces – the Moses one and their partners – and lodge them in a separate folder so we can refer back?
It would be a help for me as I like to come back and reread regularly then follow up on the links.

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• Cheers Ark… high praise indeed from a master wordsmith.

I do like this excuse as it pretty much damns apologists at every turn. There’s no good way out for them, and that’s kinda’ hilarious for we mischievously minded folk 🙂

A mini-literary series, huh? Could just do a short book 😉

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5. rautakyy says:

It all reveals how a myth is build. Long time ago, in a far away land, happened something extraordinary and the narrative explains how it all went down. It is a plausible story as long as one has just heard one version and one has an inclination to take supernatural explanations as natural (and not see them unnatural as they actually are).

When under critical examination the story breaks up, but then, if some people have really built their identity on this particular story being true, then they will of course come up whith the most ridiculous excuses for it to be true.

It is kind of sad, when even comparatively intelligent people present a need to come up whith the most childish excuses for the superstitions they sincerely hold.

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• I find it funny (and a little disturbing) that apologists ignore the gnostic and apocryphal books. Why? Because the shadowy charlatans at the 1st Council of Nicaea decided those works were too divergent? Why should we accept their censorship? It’s all evidence, and that evidence really doesn’t support a historical character. In fact, the evidence screams metafictional character; an invention by 1st Century crisis cultists that was completely misinterpreted by the Jewish diaspora. Willful ignorance is never pretty.

Hey, Raut, thanks so much for helping G. You’re a champion. She got the new text to the sound director this morning.

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• Why should we accept their censorship?

Because this is the basis for the economy of sophisticated theology: outright a priori censorship.

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• I get that part. What i don’t get is why people who aren’t in any way bound to this censorship adhere to it. Bugger that, I say! As Mord said above, the apologist has to explain to us why we shouldn’t use these accounts of a hundred-headed character.

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• The apocryphal books were in the original King James bible and remained there for several hundred years. I believe most are still in the Catholic Bible. It makes it a little difficult for the “Hit & Run” apologists to downplay them. It seems as though you & Nate have been attacked at the same time by these Christianazi’s. They jump in, spew their vitriol for a day or 2 then vanish. Oh, I might add that they fail to answer any of your questions first. Christianazi’s. That’s what I call them. 🙂

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• 🙂 B’wahahaa… I’m going to have to remember that one, Ken. I don’t mind the attention, though. It’s reassuring to know the Christianazi’s are on the defensive, and getting crazier by the day 😉

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6. Wow! It is just a touch strange that there is no documentation of the ‘greatest man in history’ especially by the Romans who were bureaucrats extraordinaire. Christianity is built on a ‘house of cards’, the bottom card, Jesus himself, possibly having never existed.

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• A little odd, right?

I’m of the opinion that “Jesus” was originally a metafictional character probably fashioned on factual individuals like the revolutionary crisis-cultist, Simon of Peraea (who was put to death in 4 BCE), and Menahem, the leader of the Qumran sect who lived a generation later. Parcels may also have been taken from the likes of Simon Magus, Apollonius of Tyana, Athronges the Shepherd, Judas the Galilean, John the Baptist, the Samaritan prophet, Theudas, the Egyptian prophet, John of Gischala, Jonathan (the weaver), and even Simon bar Giora as late as 70 C.E. Into these real life stories (of which there is external evidence that they actually existed, unlike Jesus) were inserted simple creative embellishment borrowed from far older messianic plotlines such as a short-lived ministry, miracles, betrayal, sacrifice, resurrection after the 3rd day, and a 2nd coming prophecy.

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• And most reputable biblical scholars agree with the metafictional nature of the historical record of this compendium we call ‘Jesus’.

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• Do they? I knew many scholars were entertaining the idea of a composite character, but I thought i was out on a limb with the metafictional claim. Couldn’t find any other references to it, at least. By metafiction here i mean a literary tool (or vehicle) used by 1st Century crisis cultists to impart their doctrinal points. It’s a cunningly clever narrative tool used to expose the ‘truth’ through illusion by implanting a work of fiction inside another work of fiction, like Will Ferrell’s character Harold Crick in the movie, Stranger than Fiction. The purpose of this method is to draw the audience deeper into the story in the hope they will get more out of it. It’s a layered effect, a technique of immersion which until recently was believed to have only first been used in the 20th Century. That, however, has proven to be incorrect. Leeds University’s Owen Hodkinson has demonstrated the tool was not only known to the ancients but was in use throughout the eastern Mediterranean well before the 1stCentury… and this might lend some credence to the idea.

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• Biblical scholar Crossan writes,

There is a Jesus as a political revolutionary by S.G.F. Brandon (1967), as a magician by Morton Smith (1978), as a Galilean charismatic by Geza Vermes (1981. 1984), and a Galilean Rabbi by Bruce Chilton (1984), as Hillelite or proto-Pharisee by Harvey Falk (1985), as an Essene by Harvey Falk (1985), and as an eschatological prophet by E.P. Sanders (1985) … But that stunning diversity is an academic embarrassment. It is impossible to avoid the suspicion that historical Jesus research is a very safe place to do theology and call it history, to do autobiography and call it biography. [from John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant, xxviii, in Hector Avalos, The End of Biblical Studies, 198]

In addition, many modern biblical historians present Jesus this way or that way or the other way and the fact that there isn’t a clear consensus among these scholars shows the amplitude of this historical record. The greater the amplitude, the greater the historical uncertainty. And this clearly the case regarding Jesus.

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• Oh, that is a brilliant passage! It does make the mind boggle when you lay it all out side by side. You honestly have to wonder how on earth this thing has survived since Charles François Dupuis and Constantin-François Chassebœuf first tore the OT open and revealed its errors in the 1700’s.

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7. Engaging with you has been a delightful increase. Thank you sir.

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• Feeling’s mutual. Enjoy your break… I’ll miss the turn of words and the music 🙂

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8. nannus says:

Religions that tie themselves too close to reality would soon be destroyed by it (coupling to reality leads to science), so decoupling from reality is necessary for it to emerge and survive. So this is what is to be expected. For the same reason, however, your words will unfortunately not reach anybody who got caught up in that as-if-bubble. The bubble has a lot of wholes, but they have spent almost 2000 years inventing patches (excuses).

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• The biggest hole has not yet penetrated into the public arena yet, but when it does the Abrahamic religions are in a real mess: archeology. It’s known now by the leading biblical archeologists that the entire Pentateuch is a geopolitical work of fiction commissioned to justify a northern land grab after the fall of Mamlekhet Yisra’el (Kingdom of Israel) in 722 BCE, and monotheism only emerged in the post-Exilic period, 5th Century BCE; 1,500 years later than claimed. Even jewish rabbis admit to this now, and that spells “reality doom” for Christians and Muslims.

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• nannus says:

Yes. The Semites are the branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family that made it out of Africa. The original belief system of this group of cultures seems to have been a worship of clan clan deities. Besides that, there seems to have been a belief in demons. People did not claim that their respective deity was the only one, but it was the only one they worshiped (Henotheism). The clan deity had formed an alliance with the founder of the clan. In the Abrahamic case, you can see this pattern in the story of Abraham. The first commandment “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” does not mean that this god is the only god but that his chosen people should only worship this god. So you have lots of small chosen peoples each with their own god. In the case of the Jews, only much later this was reinterpreted into a monotheism and a creation story added (which shows clear Sumerian/Babylonian influence). And being the chosen people of their clan-deity now turned into being _the_ chosen people (a step still causing trouble).
In Egypt, on the other hand, the unification of many small groups into an empire resulted in the merger of their respective clan deities into a polytheistic pantheon (So funnily, the Abrahamic religions are historically related to the Egyptian religion). Here, the creation part was added by the Nilo-Saharan people south of Egypt who had a monotheistic religion long before and who dominated the empire in an early period of its history. The original Afro-Asiatic Henotheism does not have a creation mythology, the starting myth is normally a story of the founding ancestor forming an alliance with a god.
Another branch of the Afro-Asiatic family, the Kushites, developed a monotheistic religion, probably under Nilo-Saharan influence.
In still another branch of the language family, the speakers of the Omotic languages, the original type of Henotheism can still be found.

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• Fascinating. Thank you, nannus. Is there a source I can use for this information?

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• When it comes to Africa Nannus is a treasure trove.

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• nannus says:

Yes, http://www.amazon.com/The-Civilizations-Africa-History-1800/dp/081392085X
This is an introductory textbook and I think the best book about early African history available. However, it is an introductory text that in turn does not give too many sources so you would have to do some research in the Libraries. Christopher Ehret is Professor for History (especially African History) at the University of California at Los Angeles.

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9. Where reports about Jesus are concerned the silence from the contemporaries is deafening.

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10. exrelayman says:

Been lurking a while. This was such a good post I felt compelled to congratulate you on it. I don’t care to blog, and particularly I dislike argumentation with theists (did you ever win an argument with a 3 year old about why they should not have that candy?). Because of my failing, those of your ilk who carry the burden are much appreciated!

The part where you bring out the known usage of writing materials at that time for much more mundane matters was particularly droll.

(Note – some problems with word press are making me use a now defunct email address so I can use my usual moniker – sorry about that.)

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• Lurk all you like! Lurking is fun. Yeah, arguing with three-year-olds can be testing, but it’s also kinda’ enjoyable to watch them leap through hoops. I actually had heaps more written about all the existing examples of (the more expensive) papyrus in use but appropriate post-size is a harsh editor and it all got cut. There’s one early CE fragment in the Yale library of what might be a simple shopping list! That sort of ruins the idea of “specialty” press, doesn’t it 🙂

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11. ” find it funny (and a little disturbing) that apologists ignore the gnostic and apocryphal books.” Incorrect. I know of a church teaching Gospel of Thomas, another, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene (which includes her gospel), another taught Elaine Pagels et al, etc etc. You really must get out more. I myself have espoused gnosticism and in fact been to Qumran where the Essenes hung out…still haven’t read Bishop Shelby Spong I take it?

Oh my, the Lutherans just made a WOMAN Bishop — what is the world coming to?

Have a nice day.

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• Glad to hear some churches are being open minded, but I hope you’re not implying its anything mainstream. Question is, though: are they using all the books, or are they picking and choosing? I mean, the Gospel of Peter has Jesus being executed in Rome. And what about the infancy Gospels which have the murderous 5 year old Jesus killing kids left right and center… and slaughtering fire-breathing dragons. And what about the homosexual Jesus in James 2nd Apocalypse? Are they accepting of these stories, or are they ignoring them in a process of self-censorship?

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• People in churches accept teachings on an individual basis. I know atheists – and have discussed and worshipped with them. Some are deeply involved in their church for the community, social time, opportunity in arts and learning, singing in choir. The “mainstream” is increasingly accepting of all facets of belief.

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• What “mainstream” are we talking about here? And you didn’t answer my question: are churches teaching about the homosexual Jesus, or the child-killing Jesus, or the Dragon-slaying Jesus, or the Jesus killed in Rome, or even the Jesus who demanded the total separation of the sexes and clearly didn’t like women, whom he called “error” (Gospel of the Egyptians)… or are these accounts being censored?

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• I took a class in a church, taught by a scholar, author, professor, and former missionary priest, where Jesus as homosexual was freely discussed. He taught Jesus as an illiterate good person, who was killed over politics. “Mainstream” would be the ECUSA, Methodist, Lutheran among others. Poke around Patheos.com if you’re curious.

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• Will do. So, no child-murdering, dragon-slaying Jesus, though? 😉

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• I’m not as familiar with that one but I’m sure myriad theories abound in proof that people simply cannot talking, writing and making about that in which they do not believe. ; )

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• Thanks – had seen that.
Tell me what scares you more: that the apologists you disdain know all this stuff and still live, teach & believe as they do — or that said apologists are ignorant (and you’re in the know and bound to enlighten them) and stooped to stay blissfully so?

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• Oh, nice question. Not sure if “scared” is the right word though. I’d use “frustrated with the nonsense.” Also, not sure if the apologist is my target. A person who has chosen to defend any of the Abrahamic religions has more or less declared themselves deliberately and consciously ignorant.

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• I’m shocked at your dogma!
No really, having studied Torah with Rabbi’s and been to Israel, as well as my university experiences and worship with Jews and others…I must disagree. Yes, some folks stick heads in sand and lie to themselves for all manner of reason (take smokers, for example — some are otherwise brilliant). The Torah and Talmud writing, Mamoinides, oh well there’s too much to go on about so I’ll politely disagree ; )

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• Ah, but even conservative rabbis now openly admit the Pentateuch is nothing but a geopolitical myth invented in the 7th Century. Read the Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary. It’s the first authorised commentary on the Torah since 1936. Published in 2001 by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (in collaboration with the Rabbinical Assembly and the Jewish Publication Society) the 1,559 page long Etz Hayim concludes with 41 essays written by prominent rabbis and scholars who admit the Pentateuch is little more than a self-serving myth rife with anachronisms and un-ignorable archaeological inconsistencies, and rather than triumphant conquest, Israel instead emerged slowly and relatively peacefully out of the general Canaanite population with monotheism only appearing in the post-Exilic period, 5th Century BCE.

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• Correct. My point – they aren’t ignorant, delusional and willful liars. There are a variety of beliefs and practices, as there are human personalities, psyches, pursuits. I’ve dined with liberal reform Rabbi who teaches Zohar , fellowships with Christians and other religious, but he still keeps the faith. In fact I first met him in a Catholic monastery gift shop, where I (never Catholic) was volunteering.

As these blogs show, people want to hook up with those who share their beliefs and mindsets, as well as those who do not and it’s good when done with compassion and beginner mind ; )

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• You’re a rare gem, which is precisely why you’re now Buddhist (sort of). Go to someone like Prayson Daniels blog and you’ll see batshit crazy Christians who’re indeed ignorant, delusional, willful liars. These people aren’t interested in reality. In fact, they go out of their way to deny it. These are creationists, bible literalists, burn-in-hell, beam-me-up-Jesus whackjobs who should seriously not have any contact with children. That said, you know me well enough to know I’m not anti-spiritualism, nor do I find anything unsavory about Deists. Meaning can be found on many levels, and more power to the person who has found meaning while maintaining a grip on reality.

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• Well said. I’m not Buddhist tho find some of their technology of practice useful. Yes…there’s a lot of craziness this tiny planet, thank God I’m the only sane one! ha ha.

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12. Next time I stumble across a Christian, I’m so sending them here! You’re so convincing I re-deconvert every time you post. Seriously, have you thought of starting your own cult? You could make a fortune!

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• Oh, a cult sounds like so much fun. You can be a bishop (who handles Taliban Catholics across the green isle) and Ark can be a deacon because he’s so very patient 🙂

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• I can’t wait! (That means I’m in charge of Ark, right?)

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• Of course! We’ll need costumes, too… including giant red clown shoes. Being noticed is important. Brand recognition is everything.

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• Oh dear sweet Veles! Surely we could find someone else a little more deserving, like Newton, perhaps.

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13. Violetwisp ”I can’t wait! (That means I’m in charge of Ark, right?)”

Now if I had said, “That means I”m in charge of Violet, right?” I would have had to endure at least two blog posts of anti- sexist abuse informing me and the whole of blogville how I was a misogynist dingbat who objectifies women etc etc, but now I just have to bend over and pretend I’m Max Mosley.
Sheesh!

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14. “You honestly have to wonder how on earth this thing has survived …”

Christianity would have been relegated to a small cult following had not Constantin sanctioned it and gave it credibility long enough for it to become institutionalized. Something that becomes so ingrained in our culture never dies easily and usually has enough appeal in it where it can be exploited by ambitious people like Constantin. History is replete with such con men. George W. Bush being the most recent example.

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• Exactly! Yet ”On the ground Crispyun’s” are keen to shout that God’s word would have got out irrespective.
Constantine and Theodosius and that Lying Prat Eusebius.
No wonder the Catholics made Old Constantine a Saint.

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• We single young Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus out, but we often forget the real puppeteer, Flavia Iulia Helena Augusta: the young generals domineering mother who was a religious nutcase.

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• Do you reckon she had a hand in before the battle of Milvian bridge, or only came to the fore after Constantine has his vision?

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• Don’t know, but i’d like to. Do we know the name of the priest who was there to “interpret” the vision? We should villainise him, too 😉

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• Well, I spoofed it in that piece, How Christianity Was Brought t the world, and suggested it was Eusebius, as he was the foremost source of Constantine’s life I’m sure?

Historical accounts suggests it was an astute political decision. so’s he could take over the whole empire.
Dear old Mum had a hand in the murders of his missus etc but it depends how much one can trust historical accounts.
If you were to take a pinch of this and a pinch of that you still have:
Constantine Power, Church, Religion, Helena, Eusebius, Emperor, Empire,Christianity, Nicea, State Religion. Jeruselem, Jesus, tomb, Cross, other artifacts,Nazareth.
Bingo!
Get an engineer to draw out a flow chart and it is surprising how EASY it becomes.
Now find a nice cosy place to insert Paul. 😉

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• Hey, check this out: http://www.bibviz.com/

its an interactive of every bible contradiction (which you can click on to get the passage/s). Plus, the site also has all the contradictions in the qur’an. Nice stuff.

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15. Good post. It neatly encapsulates how impotent the apologist renders his omni-max God with these “Yeah, but…” arguments. Every time they’re proffered, I’m immediately reminded of this excerpt from Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot:

In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed”? Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.”

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• Oh, I like that.

I have you to thank you for the Cash-Machine Jesus, Ron. He was a mystery to me until you opened my eyes 🙂

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• The “holey” texts are full of gems, aren’t they? And Cash-Machine Jesus is a brilliant moniker. Next time an apologist claims financial problems were a factor, I’ll just respond: WWCMJD?

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• Ching-Ching indeed! CMJ has been exceptionally good to the Church of Rome and these “fishers of men.”

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• Looks like the CMJ argument may soon be on the rocks. It appears that Geisler is accusing yet another apologist of heresy:

He denied the historicity of Jesus’ command about getting the coin from the mouth of the fish (in Matthew 17:27), saying, “Yet even the most superficial application of form criticism reveals that this is not a miracle story, because it is not even a story” (“NT Miracles and Higher Criticism” in JETS 27/4 [December 1984] 433). But this is a futile attempt to defend his disbelief by diverting attention from his denial of the historicity of this text on the grounds that it was not a story but a command (B, 263, n 113). By focusing on these factors, attention is deflected from a crucial point, namely, that Blomberg does not believe this event ever happened, as the Bible says it did. Blomberg added, “Further problems increase the likelihood of Jesus’ command being metaphorical” (B, “NT Miracles,” 433).

So there you have it. According to Blomberg, Jesus only commanded Peter to fish for the coin; however there’s no record of him having carried out that request. Ergo, it’s just a story.

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• Oh, this is just no fun! How can we play if the apologist keeps redefining everything in a crazy game of My Hermeneutics is Better Than Your Hermeneutics!?

In my mind, CMJ stands!

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16. Gemini Gemma says:

I just love how the self proclaimed new agers although they do not believe in a religion, still seek ‘knowledge’ and teachings of Jesus. Surely, Jesus (probably a fictional character anyway) said some truthful things that could help humans, but what self-hep book doesn’t? So yes if humans want wisdom just pick up a psychology self help book, rather than worship some imaginary creature called Jesus.

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• The Cat in the Hat has more useful and practical advise than the entire New Testament. If you ever get a chance, ask a Christian to name something Jesus said which was actually useful. It can be a fun exercise 🙂

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• Cheers, Eric. I much prefer the idea of you lurking than some skylarking Middle Eastern deity 🙂

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• Well, the Internet is metaphysical in a way. You can be present and observe without being seen or felt. And no messy ectoplasm to deal with! Unless I’m looking at porn.

Doh!

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• No, they are just a guardian angel watching over us.

**sigh**

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17. Potato says:

“Spend an hour with any Christian apologist and a single, non-scripted word will penetrate, pervade and ultimately describe everything they say or do: EXCUSE. From the hastily tailored explanations made for why their Middle Eastern god is invisible, inaudible and impotent to the petitions presented for why the character, Jesus, didn’t say anything new or even marginally useful a defensive plea will shadow every subject of every discussion… and for very good reason: there isn’t a single facet of Christianity that is free from serious question hanging over it. The gospels are a mess of outrageous contradictions, the Jesus described in one book is consistently at odds to the one described in the next, and no two (anonymous) authors of any of the canonical, gnostic, or so-named apocryphal books seemed even capable of getting Christianity’s triumphant and climatic ending correct.”

>Assertions are always fun, no?

“The oldest of the synoptic works, Mark, didn’t originally mention a resurrection”

>We’ve been over this, John. There are many bits about that. tektonics.org/lp/markend.html

“and in the gnostic gospel of Thomas the character isn’t even executed. In the Gospel of Peter Jesus is crucified in Rome by Herod Antipas, not Jerusalem by Pontius Pilate, and in the Gospel of Truth the hero is nailed to a living tree, not a Roman cross, which then spews forth fruit like an exploding piñata. ”

>Which is irrelevant. Completely.

“It is a bizarre script bungle only bested by the (anonymous) author of Matthew who went completely off the reservation when he detailed his post-crucifixion Zombie Apocalypse; a jaw-dropping, brain-haemorrhaging, eye-popping event so astonishing that it was missed by absolutely everyone in all of Roman occupied Palestine. Something else that was missed by absolutely everyone in all of Roman occupied Palestine was, it appears, Jesus himself.”

>I’ve said before, John. They’d be targets, like Lazarus, so the pharisees would keep it hidden. If they made it a huge event out of it, or left it alone, people would know something was up. Moreover, it probably wasn’t much to note anyway. They came out of tombs (implying they had a fair sum of money), and they were considered holy. How much would that be? Probably about what- 10 people?

“In a word, there is no word, not even a simple artistic rendering,”

>Which was hardly common in the Jewish cultural context.

“and the excuse proffered as to why no one along the entire eastern Mediterranean seaboard bothered to jot down a single line about Christianity’s miracle-performing hero during his allegedly remarkable life is as comical as it is appallingly unsatisfactory: Prudent economic practices. To the fleet-footed apologist short-pocketed, tight-fisted, penny-pinching stinginess best explains the total absence of a solitary word until well over two generations after the exploding piñata event. That is to say, paper was allegedly so expensive that the day-to-day economics favoured an oral, not written tradition which (by extension) implies almost everyone in 1st Century Palestine was functionally illiterate, and all those who could write didn’t bother because they couldn’t afford to… even if they’d just seen a man raised from the dead.”

>Indeed. Papyrus was expensive (See. Harry Y. Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church (Yale University Press, 1997), 44-50, 266; Achtemeier, 11f; Whitney Shiner, Proclaiming the Gospel (Trinity Press International: 2003))

>Indeed. Most people were illiterate. See Harris, Ancient Literacy.

“Ignoring the deafening silence from professional historians and social commentators like Philo, Pliny (the elder), Seneca, or even Gaius Licinius Mucianus (men who were in the business of noticing small things like the heavens rearranging themselves to herald a virgin birth), the mechanics of the widespread illiteracy argument simply don’t match reality.”

>All of which had been dealt with. See this for more- http://www.tektonics.org/qt/remslist.html. On the other hand, I wonder why only one eyewitness bothers to mention the Eruption of Vesuvius.

“Warning signs posted on Herod’s Temple (9BCE) are a clear indication that reading and writing was common among ordinary folk.If this were not the case then surely a town crier, not a mute stone sign, would have been more in order, particularly when the punishment for disobeying the warning was death.”

>No, not really. The literacy rate for Burkina Faso is less than 30%. However, there are signs there too- isrrt.org/images/isrrt/Workshop%20in%20Burkina%20Faso%201.JPG

“Perhaps even more telling is that before the Jewish revolt the high priest Yehoshua ben Gamla (cir. 64 C.E.) appointed teachers in every town and village of every province throughout Palestine to provide an education for boys aged six and up. Regarded as the founder of formal Jewish education for children Gamla’s sweeping policy directive assumes a vast stock of professionally literate laypeople ready to fill classrooms in every miniscule, deadbeat, backend, go-nowhere village across Palestine which, in-turn, presupposes that major regional centers already had well established education systems dating back decades, if not well into the 1st Century BCE. A single classroom without a qualified teacher is, after all, about as useful as a car without petrol. Hundreds of classrooms without qualified teachers is simple madness.”

>The program probably did not go very far because of the war. And “education”, which meant religious instruction, didn’t require writing anyway.

“Even the gospels contradict the illiteracy excuse.”

>No, you’re just having trouble reading. The majority of people were illiterate; no one said everyone was.

“In the Infancy Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas there’s a school in Nazareth where the teacher, Zacchaeus, teaches reading and writing to the children. Jesus himself (the lowly son, we’re told, of a carpenter in a pimple-sized village) read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue, quoted from Jewish holy books, and was forever yelling at his accusers: “Have you not read!?!” (Luke 6:3, Matthew 12:3, Matthew 12:5, Matthew 19:4, Matthew 21:16, Matthew 21:42, Matthew 22:29, Matthew 22:31, John 5:39).”

>So? The literacy rate in urban areas were 10% and rural areas were 3%, not 0.

“This not only screams literacy to his opponents, but also to himself and to his apostles; a point that is reflected in the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-13) where Jesus orders a whole slew of simpleminded debtors to physically write down what he tells them.”

>Those debtors were merchants who had people debted to them; so, they would have a fair sum of money.

“A written tradition was evidently very much alive and well across 1st Century Palestine, and although papyrus imported from Egypt might indeed have been considered expensive (monopolised products typically are) a quick search through the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Papyrus Collection, reveals numerous contemporary examples of the medium in wide use across the eastern Mediterranean for such mundane purposes as receipts, lists, lease agreements, marriage and divorce documents, and even run-of-the-mill business letters.”

>Which is also irrelevant. Yes, rich people had money. Yes, rich people wrote letters and receipts. Yes, indeed, some people even re-used paper. However, none of that is any good for something as lengthy as the Gospels. So items used for mundane purposes wouldn’t support you.

“The cost however of papyrus is entirely irrelevant. Far cheaper and more readily available parchment fashioned from lime treated animal hides (vellum) was the medium of choice and although subject to rot when exposed to humidity documents considered important enough were repeatedly reproduced, as exampled in the library of Qumran.”

>Here’s an excerpt from one of JP Holding’s books- “Parchment (made of animal skins) was also an available medium, but it was more difficult to make.” Moreover, this quick rotting material wouldn’t be too good for documents that were constantly passed around, like the Gospels.

“Unearthed in 1946 the libraries 972 handwritten (mostly) leather documents (which date from as early as 408 BCE) represent the continual copying of scriptures, the creation of new ones, ordinances, apocalyptic visions, commentaries, liturgical works, and even accounts of contemporary events as expressed in the Jeselsohn Stone; an ink on stone work discovered near Qumran and believed to denote the early 1st Century CE messianic Jewish rebel leader, Simon of Peraea. If Simon had warranted a contemporary stone record a generation before Jesus, why then not Christianity’s central hero figure; a man-god who we’re told inhabited an entirely new category of awesome.”

>Column A-
(Lines 1-6 unintelligible)
7. [… ]the sons of Israel …[…]…
8. […]… […]…
9. [… ]the word of YHW[H …]…[…]
11. YHWH, you ask me. Thus said the Lord of Hosts:
12. […]… from my(?) house, Israel, and I will tell the greatness(es?) of Jerusalem.
13. [Thus] said YHWH, the Lord of Israel: Behold, all the nations are
14. … against(?)\to(?) Jerusalem and …,
15. [o]ne, two, three, fourty(?) prophets(?) and the returners(?),
16. [and] the Hasidin(?). My servant, David, asked from before Ephraim(?)
17. [to?] put the sign(?) I ask from you. Because He said, (namely,)
18. [Y]HWH of Hosts, the Lord of Israel: …
19. sanctity(?)\sanctify(?) Israel! In three days you shall know, that(?)\for(?) He said,
20. (namely,) YHWH the Lord of Hosts, the Lord of Israel: The evil broke (down)
21. before justice. Ask me and I will tell you what 22this bad 21plant is,
22. lwbnsd/r/k (=? [To me? in libation?]) you are standing, the messenger\angel. He
23. … (= will ordain you?) to Torah(?). Blessed be the Glory of YHWH the Lord, from
24. his seat. “In a little while”, qyTuT (=a brawl?\ tiny?) it is, “and I will shake the
25. … of? heaven and the earth”. Here is the Glory of YHWH the Lord of
26. Hosts, the Lord of Israel. These are the chariots, seven,
27. [un]to(?) the gate(?) of Jerusalem, and the gates of Judah, and … for the
sake of
29. …. Thus He said, YHWH the Lord of Hosts, the Lord of
30. Israel: One, two, three, four, five, six,
31. [se]ven, these(?) are(?) His(?) angel …. ‘What is it’, said the blossom(?)\diadem(?)
32. …[…]… and (the?) … (= leader?/ruler?), the second,
33. … Jerusalem…. three, in\of the greatness(es?) of
34. […]…[…]…
35. […]…, who saw a man … working(?) and […]…
36. that he … […]… from(?) Jerusalem(?)
37. … on(?) … the exile(?) of …,
38. the exile(?) of …, Lord …, and I will see
39. …[…] Jerusalem, He will say, YHWH of
40. Hosts, …
41. […]… that will lift(?) …
42. […]… in all the
43. […]…
44. […]…

Column B-
(Lines 45-50 are unintelligible)
52. … the [me]ssengers(?)\[a]ngels(?)[ …]…
53. on\against His/My people. And …[…]…
54. [… ]three days(?). This is (that) which(?) …[… ]He(?)
55. the Lord(?)\these(?)[ …]…[…]
56. see(?) …[…]
57. closed(?). The blood of the slaughters(?)\sacrifices(?) of Jerusalem. For He said,
YHWH of Hos[ts],
58. the Lord of Israel: For He said, YHWH of Hosts, the Lord of
59. Israel: …
60. […]… me(?) the spirit?\wind of(?) …
61. …[…]…
62. in it(?) …[…]…[…]
63. …[…]…[…]
64. …[…]… loved(?)/… …[…]
65. The three saints of the world\eternity from\of …[…]
66. […]… peace he? said, to\in you we trust(?) …
67. Inform him of the blood of this chariot of them(?) …[…]
68. Many lovers He has, YHWH of Hosts, the Lord of Israel …
69. Thus He said, (namely,) YHWH of Hosts, the Lord of Israel …:
70. Prophets have I sent to my people, three. And I say
71. that I have seen …[…]…
72. the place for the sake of(?) David the servant of YHWH[ …]…[…]
73. the heaven and the earth. Blessed be …[…]
74. men(?). “Showing mercy unto thousands”, … mercy […].
75. Three shepherds went out to?/of? Israel …[…].
76. If there is a priest, if there are sons of saints …[…]
77. Who am I(?), I (am?) Gabri’el the …(=angel?)… […]
78. You(?) will save them, …[…]…
79. from before You, the three si[gn]s(?), three …[….]
80. In three days li[ve], I, Gabri’el …[?],
81. the Prince of Princes, …, narrow holes(?) …[…]…
82. to/for … […]… and the …
83. to me(?), out of three – the small one, whom(?) I took, I, Gabri’el.
84. YHWH of Hosts, the Lord of(?)[ Israel …]…[….]
85. Then you will stand …[…]…
86. …\
87. in(?) … eternity(?)/… \

The stone is indeed attributed to him, however, it’s not a historical account like the Gospels.

“Indeed, according to Christians, Jesus was the greatest person ever; a god born of a virgin who as a two year-old toddler slaughtered an entire gaggle of hideous fire-breathing DRAGONS, performed mass exorcisms, breathed life into clay statues, brought eight very dead people (two of whom he murdered) back to life, blew snakes apart with a word, transformed into a ball of light and met with spirits, controlled the weather with a wave, walked on water, fed 5,000 awestruck people with next to nothing (not once but twice), healed the blind, reanimated limbs, defied chemistry by turning water into wine, and performed so many other miracles that John (21:25) said “If every one of them were written down the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” All this and more was done, we’re told, and yet no one in all of Palestine was apparently moved enough by any of it to scribble down a single word… not even Lazarus; a man who one might naturally assume would’ve been inspired to pen (or simply commission) a cheap-as-chips Jeselsohn-like Stone to commemorate his unusually good turn of luck.”

>Because like I said,

1) Why would the contemporaries need to write anything down, when they were traveling around with Jesus and talking to people face to face? Oral tradition was preffered by Jews then, and even now (aish.com/jl/b/ol/48943186.html). You can’t question a piece of paper.

2) Literacy rate was not so high.

3) Rocks are no good for this kind of thing. Would you pass around rocks?

4) Samuel Byrskog notes that the historian was suppored to interpret and report history so as to make it a bridge between the past and the present. Material was selected for relevance to readership, not necessarily because it was amazing.

“Simply put, literacy levels don’t support the ear-spitting silence, and the price of paper can only be considered a mildly feasible explanation if the Christian apologist first concedes that something as trivial as a pedestrian business letter was tremendously more important and massively more meaningful (and therefore significantly more worthy of the expense)”

>The Gospels weren’t as short as business letters.

“than absolutely E V E R Y T H I N G the character, Jesus, did or said in his entire life. And even if the cost of paper was an issue and papyrus, vellum, stone and wood slabs were so preposterously priced that even Emperors couldn’t afford a single sheet”

>Vellum was noted above. Stone and wood slabs wouldn’t be good for the purpose of the Gospels. The Gospels were Greco-Roman bioi that were passed around by Christians.

“then the 24hr Cash-Machine Jesus descrbed in Matthew 17:24-27 could surely have magically conjured up enough gold coins to cover any bill, no matter how outlandish: “Go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin.””

>”Could” does not mean “would” or “should”. Why should I give this argument any credibility?

“Voilà! Enough paper to fill eight Alexandria Libraries… and that’s before we even begin to ask why Jesus himself didn’t jot down a word of two.”

I invite you to TWeb. I wonder how long they will laugh at you.

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• Ah Potato… The inspiration for the post! Thanks for this giggles! Indeed, we have been through it all in your failed attempt to provide a single historical waypoint for the magical Jesus, so if anyone is interested in looking at those pages of awkward and incomplete excuses then here it is: http://clubschadenfreude.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/not-so-polite-dinner-conversation-so-if-i-agree-to-a-possible-historical-jesus-then-what/

Now Potato, you’re exceptional at evading the actual core questions, but when you do try the excuses you present are thoroughly entertaining, and for that I salute you. Paper too expensive was a gem; one of the best I’ve heard… but it doesn’t quite match-up to the magical 24hr walking, talking Cash-Machine Jesus (Matthew 17:24-27), now does it…. Or are we to ignore that part of the inerrant bible?

We’ve established reading and writing was indeed common… even a kid named Jesus from a dead-end village could read and write, apparently. We’ve established that paper was freely available for such mundane purposes as penning lists and letters. And we’ve established that there existed a very strong tradition for recording messianic and religious deeds… so why then, Potato, didn’t a single soul (indifferent, friend, or foe) make a single note about this miraculous chap named Jesus? Are you still insisting that a business letter asking for 100 Drachmas (about $400 in today’s money) was more important than A B S O L U T E L Y E V E R Y T H I N G the miracle-performing, death-defeating (walking ATM) Jesus said or did in his entire life? That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of your Middle Eastern god, is it? What I do find most hilarious here is how ready you are to scream that written accounts were not at all important, and yet your tune suddenly changes completely at the end of the 1st Century when you yell even louder that we should all blindly accept the anonymously written (canonical only) gospels as proof-positive “FACT!” Rather odd change of position, don’t you think? And why did Paul write so much? He didn’t seem to be shy of a sheet of paper or two, or 500. Is there an excuse you have for why writing suddenly became so immensely important to the Jesus movement, but wasn’t a few decades before? Like • Potato says: John, repeating your already refuted arguments don’t make them any stronger. “Paper too expensive was a gem; one of the best I’ve heard… but it doesn’t quite match-up to the magical 24hr walking, talking Cash-Machine Jesus (Matthew 17:24-27), now does it…. Or are we to ignore that part of the inerrant bible?” >Why should I give your “argument” (if you can even call it that) any credibility? “Could” does not mean “would” or “should”, nor was it even preferred. “We’ve established reading and writing was indeed common…” >Uh, no. We’ve established from the word of scholars that reading and writing was indeed not common. Catherine Hezser, “Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine”; Meir Bar-Ilan, “Illiteracy in the Land of Israel in the First Centuries C.E.”; William Harris, “Ancient Literacy”. Etc. “even a kid named Jesus from a dead-end village could read and write, apparently.” >I’ve said 3% in rural areas; not 0. “We’ve established that paper was freely available for such mundane purposes as penning lists and letters.” >We’ve already established that that proves nothing. Rich people had money. Rich people wrote receipts. People recycled paper. However, that wouldn’t be any good for the Gospels. “And we’ve established that there existed a very strong tradition for recording messianic and religious deeds…” >Simon’s stone is vague and doesn’t speak of any “deeds” or events, nor was it even for the same purpose as the Gospels. How does one stone = “strong”? I said predominantly. “so why then, Potato, didn’t a single soul (indifferent, friend, or foe) make a single note about this miraculous chap named Jesus? Are you still insisting that a business letter asking for 100 Drachmas (about$400 in today’s money) was more important than A B S O L U T E L Y E V E R Y T H I N G the miracle-performing, death-defeating (walking ATM) Jesus said or did in his entire life? That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of your Middle Eastern god, is it?”

1) Why would the contemporaries need to write anything down, when they were traveling around with Jesus and talking to people face to face? Oral tradition was preferred by Jews then, and even now (aish(dot)com/jl/b/ol/48943186.html). You can’t question a piece of paper.

2) Literacy rate was not so high.

3) Samuel Byrskog notes that the historian was supposed to interpret and report history so as to make it a bridge between the past and the present. Material was selected for relevance to readership, not necessarily because it was amazing.

“What I do find most hilarious here is how ready you are to scream that written accounts were not at all important, and yet your tune suddenly changes completely at the end of the 1st Century when you yell even louder that we should all blindly accept the anonymously written (canonical only) gospels as proof-positive “FACT!” Rather odd change of position, don’t you think?”

>Arguments for the resurrection don’t depend on the Gospel’s reliability.

“And why did Paul write so much? He didn’t seem to be shy of a sheet of paper or two, or 500.”

>Rich converts, like Sergius Paulus.

“Is there an excuse you have for why writing suddenly became so immensely important to the Jesus movement, but wasn’t a few decades before?”

>The apostles started dying off, and Christianity started to grow.

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• Ahhhh, so you’re now saying the price of paper wasn’t an issue when the apostles started dying. Suddenly writing became very important and affordable. Odd how no one in the movement predicted that a tad earlier, like when the apostles (or Jesus for that matter) were allegedly alive… although we must remember none of the anonymous authors actually claimed to meet ANY of the apostles. If we’re to believe your excuse (that it suddenly became extremely urgent to make a record) then its rather strange how there’s no “first hand” witness testimonies. Unexplainable, huh? And then we have the problem with Paul writing so much… although he never met anyone either who’d been in contact with the character, Jesus.

Seems your excuse simply unravels, doesn’t it? You’re also still desperately trying to avoid answering why no one who wasn’t a part of the later Jesus movement penned a word. I can, of course, fully sympathise with you here: it is a frightfully awkward position to try and defend. As the Classicist , Alan Dempsey, wrote recently: “The Romans and Greeks were utterly fascinated by mysticism and miracles. If you know anything about their belief system, you’d know that if Jesus performed miracles, the Romans and Greeks would have documented the shit out of them.”

Yes… Yes they would have. But alas, not a solitary word.

Now, rather than just re-visit all your excuses proffered in Clubs post (all ten days of them) I’ll just re-post the link so anyone can go and read all your oftentimes hilarious evasions there.

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• Potato says:

“Ahhhh, so you’re now saying the price of paper wasn’t an issue when the apostles started dying. Suddenly writing became very important and affordable.”

>Perhaps the literacy rate in contemporary society is much lower than I thought.

“Odd how no one in the movement predicted that a tad earlier, like when the apostles (or Jesus for that matter) were allegedly alive… although we must remember none of the anonymous authors actually claimed to meet ANY of the apostles. If we’re to believe your excuse (that it suddenly became extremely urgent to make a record) then its rather strange how there’s no “first hand” witness testimonies. Unexplainable, huh?”

>Matthew and John were the eye-witnesses.

And then we have the problem with Paul writing so much… although he never met anyone either who’d been in contact with the character, Jesus.”

>He met Peter, James, and John (Galatians 1-2).

“Seems your excuse simply unravels, doesn’t it?”

>No, but your ignorance is showing.

“You’re also still desperately trying to avoid answering why no one who wasn’t a part of the later Jesus movement penned a word. I can, of course, fully sympathise with you here: it is a frightfully awkward position to try and defend. As the Classicist , Alan Dempsey, wrote recently: “The Romans and Greeks were utterly fascinated by mysticism and miracles. If you know anything about their belief system, you’d know that if Jesus performed miracles, the Romans and Greeks would have documented the shit out of them.”

>I believe I left you with this- tektonics(dot)org/qt/remslist.html. On the other hand, I wonder why only one eyewitness bothers to mention the Eruption of Vesuvius, 30 years later.

And on this, I’ll also quote Nick Peters-

“Suppose you are an official in the Roman Empire and you have a servant come to you and say “Sir! There is a report that in Jerusalem, there is a rabbi who has been traveling and teaching and though crucified, he has risen from the dead!” What are you going to be thinking?

Jerusalem…A strange area in the world known for trouble-making and rabble-rousing. The people there have strange beliefs and have been known to have rebellions regularly.

Miraculous claims-Something we don’t need to take seriously. The gods are not intervening in our lives and if they are, they certainly won’t choose a place like Judea. They would choose us.

A rabbi. Why on Earth would I take the idea of a rabbi seriously as being a Messiah figure? If anything, we’ll just send a squadron of troops down there if these people get problematic and squash them like we always have.”

“Yes… Yes they would have. But alas, not a solitary word.””

>Tacitus is no longer a Roman?

I once again invite you to TheologyWeb. They’ll laugh at you for a while.

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• Tacitus: writing three generations after the alleged death.

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• Potato says:

“Tacitus mentioned Christians, not Jesus. Careful there, potato, lying is a sin….”

>”Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus”

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• Yes, i just realised that and changed my comment. Perhaps you could try and name a contemporary? Should i wait?

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• Potato says:

“Tacitus: writing three generations after the alleged death.”

>Contemporary accounts are not always necessary for ancient history. For example, the best accounts of Tiberius (note, I said best, not earliest) is about +80. Alexander the Great’s contemporaries are all gone. The best source is around +300. Vesuvius has one eyewitness noting it and is over a generation later.

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• Small problem with your example there, Potato… Alexander founded 23 cities which he named Alexandria, had artistic renderings made of him, coins minted, battlegrounds excavated and artefacts recovered, and even era-specific scorch marks in Persepolis. His presence was, of course, also felt through the Ptolemaic line and even the causeway he built to connect the mainland to Tyre is still there!

Ghastly physical evidence.

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• Potato says:

“Small problem with your example there, Potato… Alexander founded 23 cities which he named Alexandria, had artistic renderings made of him, coins minted, battlegrounds excavated and artefacts recovered, and even era-specific scorch marks in Persepolis. His presence was, of course, also felt through the Ptolemaic line and even the causeway he built to connect the mainland to Tyre is still there!

Ghastly physical evidence.”

>Which is irrelevant. We were discussing written sources.

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• Ah yes, Potato’s favourite evasive tactic: ignoring the awkward bind by dismissing it as “Irrelevant.” Lovely!

Now, we weren’t discussing anything. You were making excuses for the total, complete and utterly devastating silence in one era, then making additional excuses for why there was then suddenly a heap of (fabulously contradictory) writings, which, in-turn, negates your original excuse for the silence. You see, you’ve just been chasing your tail, and I’ve been watching on in quiet amusement.

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• Potato says:

“Ah yes, Potato’s favourite evasive tactic: ignoring the awkward bind by dismissing it as “Irrelevant.” Lovely!

Now, we weren’t discussing anything. You were making excuses for the total, complete and utterly devastating silence in one era, then making additional excuses for why there was then suddenly a heap of (fabulously contradictory) writings, which, in-turn, negates your original excuse for the silence. You see, you’ve just been chasing your tail, and I’ve been watching on in quiet amusement.”

>You were asking for the silence on literary sources.

The argument from silence is a terrible way to approach history. No outside source mentions Josephus, nor Gamaliel. I guess they didn’t exist. Josephus doesn’t mention Rabbi Hillel. But he should have, considering Josephus was a devout Pharisee. 90% of the people in Pompeii survived. Are you telling me no one noticed it, especially when it affected multiple cities? It’s because it didn’t happen! Don’t use arguments from silence. It is a terrible way to confront history. See also: christianthinktank(dot)com/5felled.html

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• Potato says:

“You were making excuses for the total, complete and utterly devastating silence in one era, then making additional excuses for why there was then suddenly a heap of (fabulously contradictory) writings, which, in-turn, negates your original excuse for the silence. You see, you’ve just been chasing your tail, and I’ve been watching on in quiet amusement.”

>Uh, no, you just can’t read. Paper was expensive and oral tradition was preferred. As the apostles started to die off, they had to write things down to preserve it. Rich converts would have helped to pay for this. Nothing contradictory about what I said.

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• In your rather strangely wired mind, perhaps.

Tell me, Potato, do you believe the two-year-old Jesus slaughtered a whole gaggle of fire-breathing dragons?

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• Potato says:

*who “witnessed” Vesuvius; not, in Pompeii

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• Hey Potato…

By what metric do you evaluate the validity of the competing truth claims passed on through oral tradition?

It’s now been 18 days since I first asked you that question. When can I expect an answer?

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• Potato says:

“Hey Potato…By what metric do you evaluate the validity of the competing truth claims passed on through oral tradition?It’s now been 18 days since I first asked you that question. When can I expect an answer?”

>I’ve invited you to TWeb to discuss the issue.

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• Evasive, run away, run away. Answer Ron, Potato…..

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• Potato says:

“Evasive, run away, run away. Answer Ron, Potato…..”

>I wonder what that would make ClubS.

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• You still haven’t answered. Let me guess: you can’t answer, correct?

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• Potato says:

>So, what would that make you, Ron, and ClubS?

Simply put, the evidence. Now, if you want me to answer your question further, I would appreciate it if you answered my request to come to TWeb, in place of ClubS.

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• “Simply put, the evidence.”

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• Potato says:

>You say this with your childish arguments and Ron’s immature comments on Nick?

Why should I honor your request, when you cannot honor mine?

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• “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15

I guess Potato doesn’t revere his Lord.

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18. My god they’ll be calling you JC instead of JZ soon! Ironic… a little… maybe??? lol

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• You’re growing yourself a clan of followers, or should I say ‘usual’ disciples [chuckle – you know I’m enjoying this right?]. I’m referring to all the adulation that you’ve been getting of late, even Ark joked about you having your own following. It’s great, power to you my friend you deserve such recognition for your efforts. Good writers, and clever and funny ones to boot are hard to come by around these parts, so enjoy your new found glory…. just saying… JC!

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19. Potato says:

“Who the hell’s Nick, and why should I care?”

“Rather than waste digital space i’m going to delete these comments up to my last “waiting”. That seems like an appropriate place to leave it until you do in fact answer ron. Just letting you know.”

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• Potato, i don’t even know what you’re talking about. Now answer Ron. It’s been 18 days you’ve been evading the question….

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• Potato says:

Ron has evaded my whole post. You have done the same for my other post. Nick Peters has been waiting 33 days for ClubSchadenfreude to answer his rebuttal of her post. Unfortunately, per your claim, ClubS is an evasive coward with no answer.

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• What is your problem in answering Ron, Potato? Are you not able to? Do you not have an excuse ready for that?

Waiting….

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• Potato says:

Then per your claim, neither do you, neither does Ron, and neither does ClubS.

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• Potato says:

John, I may answer Ron’s question here or on ClubS. But at a later time.

I’m with family right now.

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• Well, after 18 days of evading a rather straightforward question I somehow doubt you will answer, but we can always hope, can’t we?

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20. Another great post, John.

Too bad the folk who need this kind of information will probably never see it – – at least you caught one fumblementalist Potato-head, and generated some interesting text during the “discussion”. As usual, you can’t really debate with religious types because they already have all the answers and will not consider other possibilities, especially if it contradicts the Gawd-given “facts” found in their handbook .

Looking forward to your next bit of wisdom/knowledge.

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• Thank you, my stargazing friend. Indeed, common sense isn’t a particularly strong card in the apologists deck 😉

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21. A very interesting post indeed. I have read other posts of yours and they were not any less impressive 🙂 . I do not come from a christian background so there are many things in your discussions that I am not familiar with, but it is the mindset that caught my attention and interest, actually you can apply the same mindset to any religion and come out with the same conclusion. No religion can stand to any scientefic analysis or criticism, and its supporters always tend to use endless bunch of excuses and mechanisms trying to defend their beliefs instead of looking closer. I think it is time for people to embrace spirituality rather than religions which are actually extremely materialistic and exclusive. Though I agree with you in almost everything, I believe there is an important part to be considered in any discussion of religions in general, which is the fact that most people everywhere have always had a tendency towards embracing a religion (whatever it is), which means that there is a useful purpose that religions serve, otherwise the whole religions thing would have faded very long ago. Of course this can be explained on psychological basis as a need for security or seeking a divine father figure and these stuff, but if you want my opinion, I don’t think that is the whole story. It is the feeling that there is something beyond, something beyond the material that makes people embrace religions. They feel that religion is like a window to a vague spiritual realm they can sense but can not grab, and this is the only fact religions use to attract their audience, but the miserable fact here is that spirituality constitutes a very minor part of any religion, like an introduction, and the rest are materialistic, exclusive and mostly aggressive teachings that the majority of the followers of any religion never abide to, but still they do not dare to attack because they take the whole thing as a lot, a system of beleif that must be taken as a divine lot. It is the need for a system that makes the problem, and I beleive that people do not need to discard religions altogether, but they can simply change their approach to understand religions in a cultural context, like some sort of spiritual folklore that gives them peace. If people stop thinking of their religion as the single absolute truth, and start dealing with it lightly as a constituent of their culture, then most religious rituals would be harmless practises.

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• It’s true, dogma is never pretty. All religions proceed from a position of segregation and separation (an “us” and “them” mentality) which you rightly identified does have a social benefit in terms of a shared belief (of inclusion), which in-turn strengthens the group. Problems seem to arise when people start taking it all seriously.

I like your idea of spiritual folklore. I’m a hopeless fan of all fairytales and lore. They certainly don’t come with garbage attached to dogma, and there’s something priceless about these stories which I think G.K Chesterton best summarised in saying: “Fairy Tales are true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

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• I like this expression very much ” an us and them mentality “, very well said. I believe that the whole religious fanatism was a political product playing on that human trait, the need for living in a herd if I may use this expression. The idea itself is appealing for most people, we are the chosen group, the divine father bless our steps,…ect . I think that the best approach would be something like ” be the master of yourself “, in other words to be open on all schools of thought and discard the “divine lot” theory in favour of creating your own unique religion! but most people ” I met ” are not ready to accept this yet.

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• Your writings remind me of a good book written by an egyptian scholar, it is called the ” The legend and the heritage “. I do not know if it is translated to english, but if it is, I think you would enjoy it. It discusses the mythological background of the so called Abrahamic religions. It inspired me that idea of spiritual folklore

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• Just looked for the book but couldn’t find it. Still, that doesn’t mean I won’t get my hands on it one day, now that I know I’m looking for it… and, perhaps more importantly, it knows I’m looking for it.

You’re in Egypt, right? The whole religious fanaticism thing must be fairly pronounced there today. I only have to put up with zombie-like Catholics and a wave of highly enthusiastic, very noisy evangelicals here in Brazil. Nothing compared to what you’re seeing. Couldn’t be fun, especially if you clearly recognise the childish silliness of religion.

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• Yes, I am in Egypt, and yes it is not fun at all nowdays. It is not just religious fanatism but a lot of troubles, social and political turmoil that were repressed for decades coming up to the surface now, and in times like this you expect every kind of fanatism be it religious or political. It is troublesome, but I think it is an inevitable step for the growth and maturity of our society.

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• …most people everywhere have always had a tendency towards embracing a religion (whatever it is), which means that there is a useful purpose that religions serve, otherwise the whole religions thing would have faded very long ago

Well, that explain the common cold: it must serve a useful purpose!

Umm, no. It’s a powerful meme based on indoctrination and magical thinking that provides pseudo-answers at best.

If people stop thinking of their religion as the single absolute truth, and start dealing with it lightly as a constituent of their culture, then most religious rituals would be harmless practises.

I disagree because whether it is a dogmatic religion or airy-faery woo, anti-vax to alternative medicine, belief in ghosts to the afterlife, it’s all of a kind: granting credence and tolerance and respect for faith-based beliefs independent of compelling reasons and evidence that reduces the equivalent respect for reality and the knowledge we have gained about it. What I’m saying is that ALL faith-based beliefs are the same broken methodology, and all causes real harm to real people in real life. In the same way we moved past excusing slavery as a traditional companion to culture, so too do we need to move past this willingness to suspend criticism from every kind of faith-based belief in Oogity Boogity.

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• Tildeb, if I could hug you I would. I’m constantly in awe of your relentless soundness.

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• Well, John, I am aware that what you call ‘relentless soundness’ many others call ‘a broken record’. Yet I feel the point is important enough to keep repeating: beliefs do not determine how reality works. Reality does. The point seems difficult for many to keep front and center, sidetracked as they are by other various considerations than respecting first what is justifiably considered true.

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• Well, I do not think that the common cold serves the Ego stabilising purpose that religions serve for people, I believe that was a sort of an irrelevent sarcasm, but back to my point to declare my view. A father figure is very important for the psychological stability of a child, and the same applies for societies in their collective childhood if I may use this expression, and simply as a child grows up and matures to drop that undefeatable father myth and embraces reality, societies can just drop the mythological part of religions when they mature, and deal with religious practises as I mentioned before, as a sort of spiritual folklore which are again harmless practises from my point of view

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• I disagree with your diagreement, but that is not what matters to me. The real problem I see is the extreme need for a system of belief manifested by almost everyone. The funny thing is that atheism is almost no different than theism in this context, it is a system of belief that has its enthusiastic defenders and applies the same attitude of religions, the one I call the divine lot, except that it calls it here the logic lot! I do not find a need in myself to embrace any system of beleif, ( believing in something ot in nothing ), it is as simple as dropping the whole issue and dealing with it lightly, just to believe in what I see, smell, touch, or feel, my own unique version. The missed truth by most believers (in something or nothing) is that reality is multifasceted, and there is no point at all in convincing another, it is just about sharing or discussing and that is all.

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• Morning, my Egyptian friend! Again, I do like the idea of spiritual folklore as it’s innocuous by nature. It comes with a safety valve in the advertised warning: “fiction.” 🙂 Atheism, though, is not a belief system, rather an absence of belief. “New’ Atheism, which is more vocal, is as Sam Harris put it: “the noise reasonable people make in the face of unjustified religious interference.” If the religious did not meddle in the functioning of our societies then there’d be no need to make any noise.

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22. Morning :)..I understand your point and I like that concept of ” reasonable noise ” which is justified and actually required against the meddling of religions in the functioning of societies. I just tried to bring up a personal view, which implies getting outside the whole system ” believing in religions Vs not believing in religions “, as if it matters! Religions gained popularity because they tried ( or pretended to try ) answering the existential question about the purpose of life, and though they did not give a satisfactory, reasonable answer to that question, atheism did not give an alternative satisfactory answer, it is more like a reasonable rebellion against religious false answers, but still, it does not answer the existential question ( at least for me ). Religions are mostly a fiction, I totally agree, but a vague spiritual realm is not, this is my own personal point of view. Moving from that point of view, as I am sure that religions give a false answer to the existential questions, but still I do not have the answer, I find it more reasonable to ask people to practise their preferrable sort of spiritual folklore but without taking it seriously, which is almost a bit deeper version of secularism, that intersects with atheism at some points but does not go the whole way with it 🙂

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• I’m sure you’re a very nice person and have the best of intentions, and I know John appreciates your contributions, but I think you haven’t realized why your opinion is not just wrong, not just accommodating the unreasonable, but a dangerous opinion to hold and promote.

My intention is to reveal why what you think is a reasonable opinion isn’t.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if religions practiced what you say they innocuously are: institutions that provide pseudo-answers and ‘ego stabilization’ to existential questions, in which case your response would be quite reasonable. Alas, the reality we face is quite different, that these institutions are not as you say they are, and so your response is not reasonable. I think you’ve been fooled into promoting the kind of accommodationist claptrap that serves only one master here – that it is okay in some disconnected-from-reality way that the beliefs of the theist are in some way okay to support by misrepresenting what they are and what they do to allow them to continue to impose it on others. This tacit support you allow is a very great danger to all of us that in effect attempts to enhance tolerance and respect for the intolerable and the set of incompatible values of the anti-scientific, anti-secular, anti-enlightenment religious set.

Too extreme? Too ‘militant? Consider:

The fact of the matter is that religions make substantive claims about reality that are false all the time (that you are sort-of, kind-of willing to admit is most cases but not all when you change the language to mean ‘spiritual’), claims that when acted upon (and they are acted upon all the time) harm real people in real life, that attack and undermine human rights of equality and dignity of real people in real life and that continue to attempt to influence the public domain to a demonstrable negative cost to us all to continue and promote this inequality and lack of dignity… all of which requires a more reasonable and forceful response than promoting vague references to the rainbows and puppy dogs that supposedly is proper faith in your mind before it is put into action. I think this is where your reasoning leaves the road of reality and enters into wishful thinking.

The root of these faith-based actions come from the bizarre notion (that you have convinced yourself is not just tolerable but reasonable) that faith-based beliefs themselves are someone inherently respectable. This assumption offers respect to faith-based belief in a philosophical way that deserves none based on the knowledge they produce (zero, in fact); faith-based belief is richly deserving of scorn and ridicule and sustained criticism because it is founded on a methodology (faith) that inaccurately describes reality and pretends to produce an equivalent kind of knowledge about reality to a method that does (science). When these claims come into conflict (and they do all the time), then we are left with a divide that has one side (the method of faith) divorced from reality’s arbitration of its claims (the method of science). Pretending that this doesn’t matter is not reasonable in the face of overwhelming evidence that it causes real effect.. claims that when acted upon produces this harm against what’s true about reality in the name of piety.

For example, where you see faith-based beliefs to be synonymous with innocuous folk tales and mythology (when they aren’t examples of faith at all but fiction, as John rightly points out), I see the faith-based belief root hard at work that empowers measles outbreaks: a toleration and respect for those who extend their faith-based beliefs into actions (in this case non vaccinations) that cause real but unnecessary harm to real people (including those of us who have been inoculated). Paying lip service to not believing being okay while allowing the swinging fist of another’s faith-based belief to connect with my nose in the form of a preventable disease is not innocuous, not reasonable, and does deserve criticism… not to evangelize atheism (as you imply) but to stand up for your right (as well as mine) to live free of being subjected to another’s harmful beliefs. To pretend that this real harm is innocuous is not reasonable; nor is it reasonable to paint the criticism of the exercise of faith-based belief in the public domain as a philosophical existential question when it’s anything but. It isn’t innocuous and it’s unreasonable to believe it is. Such a misplace belief that faith is innocuous is a way to allow others to avoid taking responsibility for their faith-based actions for exercising unreasonable, wishful assumptions about reality that are demonstrably harmful, and an excuse to allow its exercise to continue. That, in effect, is what you are doing, what you are supporting whether you know it or not, and I’m calling you on it.

To add insult to injury, it is not reasonable to present this necessary and responsible criticism of the unreasonable to be equally problematic and equally distasteful as any other faith-based belief, and that such criticism is unpleasant to the palate of tolerant and reasonable people like yourself. It is a distortion of what’s true.

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• Thank you very much for your nice words. I truly appreciates it that you took the time to write this thoughtful and quite impressive response. I have read your reply 3 times and I have to admit that I admired your vivid logic and your well organized thoughts very much. Now, if I am going to speak up my mind regarding what you have said truthfully, I would say something that is a sort of childish and not so smart, but it is not my habit to lie to look smart or wise, so I will just say, my mind totally agrees with evert word you said, but my heart does not! I know it sounds stupid from my side, but I will try to explain it more.

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23. There is one single item I personally share with religions, which is the beleving in a supreme creative power in this universe, the power religions call God. I can not say this is an idea I can prove or defend with logic, it is just a feeling, a persistent feeling that hits me every now and then. I am aware that I am possibly deluded, affected by the common cultural concepts and the pattern of my upbringing, but it is possible I am not, I just do not know. I understand and agree that all religious institutions play a malicious role, and I have never seen people who are as cunning as religious men, and I salute every free voice that stand up for them, but I am not much concerned in my discussion with the institutions as much as I am concerned with the ideas or may be it is more proper to say, the spiritual feelings. I agree with you that real harm could affect real people when unreasonable beliefs interfere with serious matters, but I do not feel that my opinions are dangerous because I am all for secularism, and by applying secularism you nullify any possible harm that could be caused by anybody’s beliefs, and then the matter of beliefs would be as it is supposed to be, a very personal and emotional matter and no further. I understand that what I am saying would sound ridiculous for almost everybody here, and quite unreasonable, but that is just the way I feel ( at least for the time being ) I just think that the human phenomenon can not always be completely understood by reason alone. Anyway I really appreciate thses thoughtful discussions, and I want to thank John for giving me the chance to express myself on his webpage .

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• I understand your sentiment perfectly. The universe and the creative forces within it are awe-inspiring. And we each are privileged and humbled to be a part of it. These feelings are only right and proper for anyone who even momentarily glimpses the grandeur of being some element in it. Hence, I can appreciate our shared personal and emotive response, which I think are not in the least ridiculous or unreasonable but a sign of a healthy mind and living heart open to the possibilities of what it might contain. I chide no one for holding such profound sentiments.

But, as you know, I do insist that we must respect it enough to be honest in our dealings with it, and that includes permission for all to use probably the most under-used phrase of them all: “I don’t know.” This is the starting assumption that doesn’t lead us astray, doesn’t fool us into thinking beyond what reality is willing to offer in return for our inquiries. And the method that best suits this honest endeavor is the scientific method that reliably and consistently yields knowledge that works for everyone everywhere all the time. And what a remarkable and hard won achievement that method is!

So when people start to cherry-pick which bits of science they’ll accept and which they’ll reject based on satisfying personal faith-based beliefs not adjudicated by reality but imposed on it, I get greatly annoyed because this method is not open to social compromise to avoid offending local sensibilities; it either works to produce knowledge or it doesn’t regardless of who is boiling the water, where the water is boiled, by what ethnicity the person doing the boiling might be, with what gender or race or age or sexual preference identity he or she might accept. So when science comes up with a demonstrable way to eliminate a disease and people grant their contrary faith-based beliefs as much respect in their considerations and expect me to go along with this equivalency-for-social-reasons charade, then I’ve got a real problem being told I’m the unreasonable one when I won’t go along with it and feel frustrated that otherwise intelligent and literate people continue to fall for this deceptive ploy. And that’s why I respond the way the I do, hoping that my words may just have some small effect in stemming this rising tide of relative accommodating ‘truth’.

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• Again I have to say, I really admire your logic and your way of thinking. Though we are a bit different in our perspectives, I think we still share a lot of common views, and really enjoy reading your opinions and thoughts.

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• I should be the one thanking you for sharing your thoughts. Not a greater gift can a fellow human being bestow. You’re inspiring me to remember a lot of quotes, so here’s one of my favourites which I think bridges our perspectives:

“We are the cosmos made conscious, and life is the means by which the universe understands itself.” (Prof. Brain Cox)

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• This is one magnificent quote!! amazingly meaningful, and it does not only bridge our perspectives, it bridges reason and sentiment! Thank you for sharing it

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24. Argus says:

Could it not be that when the very busy SOG (Son Of God) left things in the capable hands of his secretary … he goofed?

Perhaps he should’ve spent less time on the home brew and quack cures, and put pen to paper. (And maybe then he wouldn’t have been misquoted all the time; honestly, some scribes, it’s enough to make anyone get cross~!)

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• Grrr. As there’s even examples of 1st Century BCE graffiti in southern Syria and eastern Jordan (written in Safaitic) one would at the very least expect a simple rendering of the SOG.

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25. Pingback: Once upon a time….. | A Tale Unfolds

26. There’s a post up of Tildeb’s first reply.
I couldn’t agree more with him or with John’s response. This type of common-sense should be required reading and if I could have phrased my arguments so well I wouldn’t have had to endure some prize d********s who shall remain nameless.

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27. I was going to say something like “Wow, thanks for this; it is interesting and a long haul away from the normal arguments about why the Bible is unreliable tripe. It is informed and fascinating.” There were also going to be other resplendid compliments im there. But somewhere through reading your comments i lost the will to think.

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• I’ll take that as a compliment, and place all blame on Potato. I believe he thinks he has Jedi mind powers.

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• LOL…

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• Go grab a coffee…I have a post coming up in a minute that will raise a few eyebrows.

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• Mine are already sticky-taped on… stops them leaping off every time i read a Lux, Potato, or Silenceofthemind comment. They make PeW sound rational.

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28. Am late to the party, this is simply awesome. As to the last question you ask, maybe the Jesus fellow if he lived didn’t find any of the things he said original to warrant writing them down

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• Ha! Probably 🙂

Hey, you’ve attracted some serious nuts on your last post. Congratulations!

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• Thanks, I have done well but usually they don’t stay so long. They hit and then hide, wait to see if there is a loud explosion then come back. On the other hand, you seem to have resident nuts on your site 😛

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• I keep them in a deep closet, under the stairs, behind boxes of gardening books.

I responded on your post, so if i don’t get an alert let me know if i get any answers, ok. Could be fun 🙂

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• I am hoping they will not start their hide and seek and respond to the questions.

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• Argus says:

JZ:

You, Sir, are unique and I salute you (waves paw over eye) — not many men keep their nuts in a closet …

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• OK, you’ve stumped me on that one, Dog. I believe that was the perfect delivery; the fabled, mythological unplayable ball 🙂

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• Argus says:

It was a bit grubby—touching base there I noticed a wee discussion going on about how your blog attracts nuts, and you cope by keeping your nuts tucked away …

That’s what we get for not being able to target a reply. Dumb dog. Bugger, I’m hanging myself here …

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29. John, great post, legitimate content to digest. Which I’ll try to do. Thanks for that. Your writing style is like a sustained salvo of staccato vibrancy and content. 🙂

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• Hehehe… Thank you! From a wordsmith like yourself that means something.

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30. Awesome post. Didn’t know much of that!

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• Cheers, Nate! The fruits of a rather bizarre exchange on another blog. I hadn’t heard the “paper too expensive” excuse before and just had to investigate.

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• Yeah, I’ve never heard that before either, but I’m sure it will make it’s way around to me at some point. Now I won’t be blind-sided!

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31. It is mind boggling how much you know. Do you study this non-stop? Is this your profession? I’m amazed. Another masterpiece. Bravo!

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• Oh, I don’t know it, but the interwebs do. I just arrange it in a mischievous way 😉

I hope you don’t stop your blog, i’ll miss your brilliant wit. Just write sporadically if need be.

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32. Well, we’re pretty certain that there was a gospel prior to Mark – the hypothetical Q. This does not change the fact that numerous alterations occurred to later texts… I’m just saying. Also, Saul’s work (although significantly different from the canonical gospels) can be dated to 50 CE.

Our earliest extant fragments of the NT is the Rylands papyrus, dated somewhere around 150 CE. This consists of portions of John, principally from the Byzantine-type text if I’m not mistaken.

Anyway, the illiterate argument has it’s merits, to be sure; but there were plenty of literate scholars in the region that surely would have documented something.

Great work, John!

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Q, though, is a phantom; an invention of the mind. As far as I understand there is no mention of it by any of the first church fathers, which is precisely how we know Mark never originally contained a resurrection. If it existed (in whatever form) there would (surely) be references to it.

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• Grand is an understatement, John! Hopefully this go-around will be more consistent. I actually quit my job and moved to a small town with the aim of focusing intently on writing… time will tell if this was a good decision. 🙂

You are correct with regard to the Q. It could merely be a phantom of the imagination; posited on suppositions deduced from the apparent commonalities between Matt and Luke. Personally, I am of the mind that Jesus never existed at all. There are several theories out there for such a belief; most notably, in my opinion, are those of G.A. Wells. Though he does not specifically refer to these figures (if I remember correctly), Wells’ theory supports those that propose Jesus was a fictional character based on Yeshu ben Pandera, Balaam, etc. as principally derived from the Talmud. Though, the Appolonius of Tyana theory is also persuasive.

This subject is far too convoluted for most (including me), which I believe is the cause for, as you say, “excuses.”

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• Agreed. The likelihood of a real person (a gnostic teacher) is staggeringly remote. I think the amalgam character makes more sense (a metafictional devise knitted together by judean crisis cultists), and it was a story (or method of storytelling) that was grossly misunderstood/misinterpreted by the northern diaspora.

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• Yes, there is evidence that the book of Daniel was written in such a way – Judean crisis literature. Like much of the OT/NT, it is a pseudepigraph that was intended to promote resilience within the greater Judean community during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. Daniel’s triumphs over the Babylonian’s were meant to inspire opposition and promote unity during Antiochus’ reign of terror.

So, this theory of yours has quite a lot of merit. The Judeo-Christian writings are full of such examples, as vaticinium ex eventu is one of their favorite practices.

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33. FYI, I came across this debunking of the paper shortage written by Farrell Till. The opening is rather lengthy, but the meat of the article starts about a third of the way down the page at the paragraph beginning with: “Anyway, Turkel was arguing”.

It cites passages which contain verbatim copies of other passages and partial repetitions like this one:

Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And Yahweh said to him: “You are old, advanced in years…”

His website also contains lengthy write-ups deconstructing other apologetic excuses and biblical absurdities like the exodus.

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• Excellent find! Just read the linked article and the guy is thorough. I think his Turkel is our Potato 🙂

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• Well, they certainly swim in the same pool. Turkel (aka JP Holding of tectonics) and Nick even have their own comment sections on TWeb. And a quick read through those (and other) sections quickly reveals how very “Christ-like” they treat their “invited” skeptical guests — which is the reason why Potato would like to have the discussion moved over there.

However, it’s all good. Their particular brand of apologetics is to Christianity what nuclear fallout is to real estate values in Chernobyl.

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• Ah, the famed tectonics site! Now its all starting to come into better focus. What is this TWeb, anyway? Got a link?

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• Mmmm, that looks like a whole lot of crazy. I’ll however save any participation until i’m bored and feeling uncontrollably mischievous.

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• Engage at your own risk. And if you really want to ingratiate yourself over there — i.e. crawl under their skin — then deliberately refer to Holding as Turkel, because he legally changed his name (click “I Acknowledge” at the bottom of the disclaimer) a few years ago and still bristles that “dumb atheists” fail to acknowledge this fact.

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• Ha! I shall call him the name his mother gave him 🙂

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• Hi Diana, good question. If Jesus was indeed a fictional character he was no doubt an amalgam of numerous messianic characters who lived at the very end of the 1st Century BCE and through the 1st century CE up until the end of the Jewish-Roman wars… after which we have the beginnings of the gospel tradition. You have to remember that Rabbinic Judaism was in the early 1st Century only its formative phases. There were literally orchids of competing Yahwehist sects, many of which fell under the “crisis cult” banner. These were people who perceived tremendous external pressure from physical Roman occupation and were easily given over to religious fantasising and the messianic dreams that had been handed down since the Zoroastrian concept of a Saoshyant-led end times prophecy made its way into popular Judaic religious thought. To these ends dozens of individuals rose up from the turbulent Judean sands and promised just that; pieces of which all seem to have been knitted together to give us the kernels of the character, Jesus. Now, principle amongst the factual individuals from which the Jesus character may have been drawn (if at all) is the revolutionary crisis-cultist, Simon of Peraea, who was put to death in 4 B.C.E, and Menahem, the leader of the Qumran sect who lived a generation later. Parcels may also have been taken from the likes of Simon Magus, Apollonius of Tyana, Athronges the Shepherd, Judas the Galilean, John the Baptist, the Samaritan prophet, Theudas, the Egyptian prophet, John of Gischala, Jonathan (the weaver), and even Simon bar Giora as late as 70 C.E. Into these real life stories were inserted simple creative embellishment borrowed from far older messianic plotlines such as a short-lived ministry, miracles, betrayal, sacrifice, resurrection after the 3rd day, and a 2nd coming prophecy.

So, to answer your question, nameless Judean crisis cultists, but I think it’s far more interesting than that. I don’t however see a conspiracy nor do I think there is a mystery of any great depth or cunning. Simply put, the crisis cultists weaved their philosophical doctrines into an easily transportable metafictional devise… a story with doctrinal points contained within like the presumably aboriginal teachings of “the first will be last and the last first” which surely was very appetising to people who truly were the “last:” the poor, the subjugated, and the displaced… and the further afield the metafictional character travelled the more solid the physical interpretation of the character became.

In the end it’s clear that the absence of any evidence pointing to a historical Jesus raised some fairly ugly problems for the early Christian marketing managers; problems that could not be ignored after the religions greatest ever benefactor, Constantine, hopped on board. The fact that Josephus would even bother to pen 600 odd words on the wildly obscure messianic figure known as Athronges the Shepherd, or some 200 words on a nameless Samaritan prophet, but fail to dedicate a single word to Jesus ( the self-proclaimed son of God who we’re told performed miracles across galilee, preached to enormous crowds, and stirred up terrible trouble in Jerusalem which surely should have been noticed by someone) must have been terribly embarrassing. The early church fathers, none of which were actually Judeans, were sitting on a colossal fraud, a fraud of their own making, and in response apologists like Eusebius, Jerome, and Clement of Alexandria to name just three of the more notable charlatans, set about to create an illusion of life where there never was one. The demigod we know today was promoted and the historical metafictional reality of the story shown the door.

Now, the reasons why this happened are however as common today as they were 55 generations ago: the horse had already bolted, Rome had adopted Christianity as its state religion, and the cash registers were ringing. In his twenty year-long, \$65 billion Ponzi scheme, disgraced financier, Bernie Madoff, gave almost exactly the same explanation to a prison counsellor when asked how it had all happened: “People just kept throwing money at me.”

So, whereas nameless Judean crisis cultists might have fashioned the character as a literary devise it was the early church fathers who pulled the historical fast one, which the 5th century theologian and bishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom, alluded to in his Treatise On The Priesthood (Book 1): “For great is the value of deceit, which ought not to be called deceit, but rather a kind of good management, cleverness and skill, capable of finding out ways where resources fail, and making up for the defects of the mind.”

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• So you believe it was Judean “crisis cultists.” Do you have any evidence for this?

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• No, I don’t “believe” that, there isn’t enough evidence to draw any firm conclusions, although it appears a likely explanation for the wild divergences in character detailed in the synoptic and apocryphal works.

Do you have any evidence at all that the character Jesus ever drew an earthly breath?

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• By that reasoning the fact that there are fans of Batman is PROOF Batman is real.

The gospel tradition is nothing but evidence people believed a story fashioned some three or four generations after the character supposedly lived… It’s not evidence the character ever lived.

Got anything else?

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34. Yes I do. 🙂 It sounds like we are in the same situation concerning the existence of Jesus as we are concerning the truthfulness of evolution. The evidence found seems to support my assertion.

I say this because you have NO evidence that a mysterious mastermind wrote the New Testament, while I have all of the written testimonies.

Just as you have no evidence in the fossil record, no evidence of interspecies change, no evidence of civilizations dating back beyond thousands of years, etc . . . while everything I believe is reflected in the reality of the world we live in.

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• No, we’re not in the same situation regarding the historical evidence for Jesus and the evidence for evolution. For Jesus we have precisely zero. For evolution we have entire museums filled with the evidence. I’ve already given you a list of the genetic evidence on your blog, but here’s just a quick list of transitional fossils:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_transitional_fossils

Now, I never said a mysterious mastermind wrote the NT. Like evolution it was just a node in a process of successive misinterpretations of a messianic story fashioned in Judea. As I previously said, I don’t see this whole thing starting out as a conspiracy.

Out of interest, what “written testimonies” are you talking about? Isn’t that precisely what this very post was about… or didn’t you read it? Perhaps you should read it right now as it does raise some rather awkward problems regarding exactly your allusion to “written testimonies”… namely why there isn’t any. I’d be genuinely interested to hear your opinion of the post.

To your final point, are you implying the earth is only 5,000 years old?

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• Just as you have no evidence in the fossil record, no evidence of interspecies change…

What on earth are you PRATTling on about?

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• Diana, what kind of physical evidence do you have for the existence of a man named Jesus? Are there any journals, diaries, teachings or sermons penned in Jesus’ hand? Are there contemporaneous accounts of his life and ministry? Or legal documents attesting to his birth, arrest, trial, execution, and death? An inscribed burial chamber? Sworn affidavits traceable to identifiable witnesses who saw a resurrected man? Portraits, paintings or drawings? Extant samples of his artisanship?

What information do we have on the authors of the NT canon and how do we know that their accounts are honest and reliable? Who were their sources and how do we know those people were honest and reliable? What were the names of the 500 witnesses alluded to by Paul and how do we know that their testimony was honest and reliable?

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• Ron,

The stories came from somewhere. They either came from real testimonies or they came from a mystery writer(s). They didn’t just rise up out of the primordial soup. They had a source.

(Of course you realize the existence of Jesus has been accepted by nearly all scholars and historians, and that there’s more evidence and testimony for his existence than for most historical figures in history.)

I just think it’s interesting that your rejection of the existence of a “real” Jesus, testified to by witnesses who generally shed their blood for what they considered to be the truth of his existence, leaves you in a quandary that forces you to have to believe in the existence of an unknown writer(s)–of which you have absolutely no proof.

Who has to have more faith?

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• Diana, I asked you to present tangible physical evidence in support of your previous assertion that Jesus existed, and even provided examples of what form that evidence might take.

I also asked you what information we had about the NT authors and on what basis we should conclude their stories are honest and reliable accounts of the events they describe.

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35. What was the motive for the Judean crisis cultists to create their new mythical god?

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• What was Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s motivation for inventing Batman?

I don’t, however, think they did invent a god. Not intentionally. I think it was a metafictional devise, a storytelling tool employed to encourage an audience to engage the story at a deeper level. I think that’s why we have the Sayings gospel like Thomas. These were the key doctrinal points and micro-stories (parables) which any travelling gnostic teacher could easily remember. This would certainly explain the astonishing contradictions in the story when it was finally written down generations later.

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• @ Diane
Maybe one ought to to simply apply a little common sense.

The promised Jewish Messiah never turned up, the Jews were involved in wars and insurrection right left and centre and the Romans weren’t going anywhere.
So some member of the Essenes decides it’s time for a change and begins wandering around preaching peace and goodwill and smoke marijuana and wot not but it doesn’t catch on with the Jews because they think he is a headcase. and his message of universal love and peace fizzles out to zip.
But, behold, another Jew hears about him and begins collecting a few of his supposed sayings and it was a case of “Okay, we might have something here,” and it would have been okay if some dumb gentile had not chanced upon the story and we all know what happened then, don’t we?
By simply omitting “Once upon a time”, a Star was Born….and soon we had a new religion and the Romans eventually conquered the known world with it.

Similar to how the Old Testament was compiled but with less begats and begots,, less Incest and genocide.

See? Easy peasy…:)

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36. Hi Arkanaten,

I have a large family and I can’t always respond quickly, but I try to answer as soon as I can.

So you think the gospels were written by the gentiles. Are you saying a Roman wrote the Jesus myth?

I’m just trying to understand what you all believe.

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• What I believe is this.
a) It was either a complete fiction.
or
b) the biblical character of Jesus is very loosely based on an itinerant eschatologist who was possibly an Essene.

Definitely no miracles or virgin births or other divine nonsense.

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• So then, you believe the New Testament wasn’t a factual account; it was fiction.

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• Of course it is fiction. What on Earth possessed you to think it is fact? Good grief!

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• So then, who wrote the story? And where is your evidence that this writer existed?

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• Okay, let’s start with the gospels as these ‘books’ are the only ones that mention a ‘real’ flesh and blood Jesus.
First, Mark is the only gospel necessary to consider as the others were all based on his and largely copied and were certainly not eye witnesses. I am assuming you know how many verbatim verses of Mark are in Matthew etc?
I did not suggest there was only a single writer, so please don’t start to put metaphoric words my mouth.
What is not known is who were the original authors.The synoptics give no clue as to who wrote them and are void of internal evidence.
The traditional names, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, were added around the 2nd century.

This is all anyone knows. The rest is speculation.
But let me reiterate, there is no internal evidence to suggest the gospel names are of real people featured in any of the stories, or of disciples either. Only extreme fundamentalists believe this as this view ties in with the erroneous belief they are eyewitness accounts, which even a cursory read by a fifth grader could show this was not true.

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• The author is unknown I thought I explained this?
Consider it like this. I am a writer and have one published novel, but if my name was not on the manuscript it would be anonymous.
Now, imagine the publisher after reading it decided that from the way it was written it sounded like the author could have been one of the characters, even though there is no evidence, and therefore decided to write the character name he chose on the cover.
And there you have it. The gospel according to Fred.

That is how it was done, and the experts in hermeneutics agree.

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• Smile 🙂
No, dear, I didn’t say the authors are unknown to me. I said the authors are unknown. Period.
As I have mentioned several times, only extreme fundamentalists consider the names Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John are the actual authors.
I take you have read them? Surely even you can understand why they cannot possibly be authored by these people?
The names were added to the manuscripts later – if of course one is to believe they were actually written late first century at all.
Be that as it may, no serious biblical scholar, Christian or otherwise, believes they are eyewitness accounts.

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• Hi Arkenaten,

If you believe they aren’t eyewitness accounts, that they are works of fiction, then you must believe they were authored by somebody. The question I have for you is this:

WHO IS THE UNKNOWN MYSTERIOUS AUTHOR WHO WROTE THE NEW TESTAMENT?

Again, rather than believing the documents in front of you as testified to by many people who died to uphold the veracity of their statements, you would rather believe in some conspiratorial account of a secret writer for which you have no evidence. Something that no historian even hinted at. Instead Josephus, Paul, Tacitus, Lucian the Playwright, and on and on, refer to the Christians and the the crucified Jesus as facts.

There’s never any mention that there was no Jesus and that he was a made-up character anywhere in any document in history. No historian ever questioned the reality of the existence of Jesus in the past and no credible historian does now. What you are doing is making an assertion that isn’t based in reality, but is based on your own desires–an assertion that has no evidence, no proof, anywhere, to back it up.

Your BELIEF is based on piffle.

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• WHO IS THE UNKNOWN MYSTERIOUS AUTHOR WHO WROTE THE NEW TESTAMENT?

First of all, the new Testament has several authors.
Surely even you know this?
Second, you are now losing credibility because of your blatant intransigence by apparently refusing to pay attention to what I write.
This maybe a fundamentalist thing, I don’t know.

I am NOT a qualified historian, and unless you say otherwise, I will assume that neither are you.
Aside from plain common sense I base my belief on the overwhelming opinion of the qualified historians and biblical scholars who all agree that the gospels were not written by the those that tradition has attributed the names, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.
I reiterate, only extreme fundamentalists hold on to this erroneous belief. Are you such a fundamentalist?
I hope not.
If you would be happier I am sure I could direct you to several Christians, or Christian sites that would also tell you this. Would this make you happier? If so, let me know.
I, nor anyone else (which, Diana, includes <em YOU has evidence to identify the authors of the gospel. They are unknown.

What has Josephus and all got to do with the writers of the gospels?

A great many people have questioned the historicity of the character of Jesus, including historians.
Many still do.

My belief is based on evidence, the opinion of highly qualified scholars and common sense.

Regarding authorship of the Gospels, I suggest you read Professor Bart Ehrman.

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• I’m not disputing with you over WHO the authors are, but whether they were real people, giving testimonies, or parts of a made-up fictional story.

What say you?

And can you tone down the condescending arrogance? Please.

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• Yes, they were real people.
No, they are not giving eye witness testimonies.
The writers are unknown. Who do you think they could have been?
The original story was passed on via oral tradition.
There is a pattern to the texts:Mark uses a great many joining phrases, such as… “and straightaway”. and “immediately”.
This was used in lieu of specifying actual dates or time to give the events in the text a continuous flow like a real story.
The content of the texts clearly demonstrates that it is a fictional tale overlaid onto a partially factual geographic socio-political setting.

The geography is wrong in many places.
Luke’s description of Nazareth for example.
The erroneous details of the census.
The location of Bethlehem.
The ridiculous tale of the Magi and the slaughter of the innocents by Herod.
The texts are full of such obvious fictitious events and the main objective is to obviously to convey a theological message.

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• So these are four different authors who made up fictional accounts together?

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• Yes, they are fictional accounts. They copied from each other.
As I have explained previously.
Let me try again. Mark’s gospel was the first.
There is no way of accurately dating it as there are no originals.
The destruction of the temple by Titus and the Tenth Legion in 70 AD is usually the basis for dating when the gospels were written – before or after.

So, after the composition of Mark, the writer of Matthew wrote his,which was based on Mark’s gospel, and he added the birth legion. Matthew’s text contains 661 verses, over 600 of which appear in Matthew.
The Resurrection in Mark was a later ”add on”.
The oldest original documents did not feature it.

I have no real inclination to write a comment like a tome. It’s late here and I am tired.
All these details are in any average Encyclopaedia Britannica.
”Luke” also borrowed from the other two gospels and Acts, which he is supposed to have written contains material that he got from Josephus.
And the Paul in Acts reads like a different figure than the one in the Epistles.
Crumbs, I have read and researched all this and i am not even a Christian. What have you been taught that you wouldn’t know this stuff?
Why not go and research the work of a proper historian?
As I suggested, Bart Ehrman is a pretty good start.
His work on the gospel texts is considered excellent.

I’m not the source you should be asking.

But if you want a truly honest evaluation then for goodness sake stay away from people like Habermas and Licona who are incredibly biased.
In fact Licona lost his job because he failed to retract a statement in his 2010 book that the rising of the dead after Jesus was crucified did not happen and the senior evangelical bigwigs claimed he was undermining the literal inerrancy of the biblical text!
Can you believe that?
What idiot would actually believe that dead people rose up out of the earth and went wandering around Jerusalem?

The best advice I could offer if you want at least a half decent and hopefully honest rendering of the biblical texts then read a well respected biblical scholar who is definitely not an evangelist.
Best of luck

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• No, i said an easily transportable metafictional devise/character (invented by Judean crisis cultists) best explains the literally “in-credible” contradictions in the Jesus character/story.

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• Ok. Whatever. But it wasn’t a gentile, or a Roman. And neither of you have any evidence for what you believe.

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• You don’t have any evidence that it wasn’t a gentile, or a Roman… although I doubt a Roman. We don’t even know the names of the gospel authors.

Diana, have you actually read this post? I’m suspecting you haven’t and would ask that you do. It addresses these very issues and i’d honestly like to hear your opinion on it all. It’s an important issue, and your opinion is valued.

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37. Deflection, John. I’ve read the post, and even though you point to the supposed lack of evidence for the existence of Jesus, since his story exists and was written by SOMEBODY, you must have some explanation and EVIDENCE for your BELIEF that the Jesus myth was created by some sort of writer(s) other than the authors who claim to have written the New Testament.

Who was it? And give me proof.

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• By “supposed lack of evidence” you of course mean, “No contemporary evidence at all.” Please, if you have some, present it. I’d be happy to review it.

Also, Diana, i asked you above but you haven’t answered, are you implying the earth is only 5,000 years old?

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• And I would like your evidence for who the mystery writer of the New Testament is.

And here we stand.

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• So you have no evidence?

Did i ever say there was a “mystery writer”? What i have said is we don’t even know the names of the authors of the gospels. That is a factual statement. We know Mark, the oldest synoptic work, didn’t originally contain a resurrection event. We know “someone” secretly added that part generations later. Who was that secret editor? Why did they change the ending of the oldest gospel? Who even wrote the first gospel?

Now, Diana, i would like an answer to the question: do you believe the earth is 5,000 years old? You seemed to allude to that above and i’d just like to have the point clarified by you.

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• I have no idea how old the earth is.

You must believe in a mystery writer who wrote a fictional account if you don’t believe the authors who claim to have written factual accounts.

What other option is there?

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• The earth is 4.54 billion years old…. So now you know, and can teach your children that fact of geological history.

Why do I have to believe in a mystery writer? There’s no logical reason to believe of such a shadowy person. I’ve said it before: I don’t believe it all started as a conspiracy. Humans just aren’t that smart, and there’s every chance the anonymous authors of gospels thought they were scribbling about events that happened. The best explanation (in my mind) for the wild divergences in the character Jesus as recounted in the synoptic, gnostic and apocryphal works is a very loose story (full of “sayings” and philosophical teachings) originating inside gnostic sects; crisis cults who were into messianic dreams. This story was passed on, and through a game of Chinese Whispers (what Americans call the Telephone Game) got progressively misinterpreted. I mean, in two gospels we have a baby Jesus slaughtering an entire gaggle of fire-breathing dragons. Do you believe Jesus battled dragons, Diana?

The misinterpretation of the story appears to have manifest most strongly in the northern Jewish diaspora post the Roman-Jewish wars, which is precisely when and where we see the beginnings of the gospel tradition. It probably also explains why the wholly Judean gospel of Thomas is nothing but a sayings work. In fact, it’s a near perfect work of metafiction. The Jesus character presented in this late 1st Century work does not move or eat or exhibit any life at all… he’s not even executed. The character simply speaks in cryptic kōans, a form of single-person dialogue to challenge the audience and more specifically in parables when the character himself is addressing larger (fictional) audiences. It’s a strikingly clever devise which exposes the real audience members to a fictional audience listening to a fictional character. It’s a layered effect which leads the listener deeper into the experience in the hope that they’ll in-turn get more out of it.

So back to this post: Tell me, Diana, if you believe the written accounts are so important, why didn’t anyone write a single word about Jesus during his life? My post establishes that people were most certainly literate and materials were widely available, so why no word until some 2 or 3 generations after his supposed death? Is there an explanation for this silence?

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38. Perhaps nobody wrote about Jesus during his lifetime because he was just another Jewish teacher while he was living. It wasn’t until he was resurrected that people began to look to him as God. After the resurrection there were many accounts written of his life by people who lived at the same time as Jesus.

The letters of Paul were written to the churches in Asia minor. Paul lived contemporaneously with Jesus. He began starting churches within a few years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. He was a Jew who initially persecuted the Christians. (This means the persecution of Christians began even before you say the myth was written down [ad 50-100?]. It also means the persecution began before Paul wrote his letters to the churches.)

Whoever put together the Jesus myth would have had to write the letters of Paul also, wouldn’t they? Or was Paul converted to the faith by hearing the oral stories about Jesus? (He says he was converted on the road to Damascus, not by a story.) Was Paul real or was he also a fictional creation?

Again, while I have the testimony of Paul as evidence, and I believe his story (along with nearly all credible historians–even the skeptics such as H.G. Wells or Hitchens) you arrogantly make assertions that aren’t backed up by any evidence at all. You deny the testimonies of the New Testament writers, saying they were merely made-up stories, yet you can’t give an alternative explanation for who wrote the New Testament, at least not one which is backed up by any evidence.

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• Paul wrote his first letter 25 years (at the very earliest) after the alleged death, these letters (most written during the Roman-Jewish wars) were not life accounts, and he never met Jesus… so no, that’s not a contemporary source.

Why could Paul not be a simple charlatan, a mid 1st century Rael or L. Ron Hubbard peddling a mystic story which was lapped up by Jewish refugees in the north? What evidence there to say this possibility is categorically inaccurate? Seriously… what evidence exists to debunk this possibility?

And no, you do not have a “testimony” in Paul’s letters; you have letters written by a man about another man he never met… ie, letters about a story he might have, or might not have heard about. Regarding the gospels, there is no evidence showing any of the works were in existence, in their present form, earlier than a hundred years after the time at which Jesus is supposed to have died. Christian scholars, having no reliable means by which to fix the date of their composition, assign them to as early an age as their calculations and their guesses will allow. We’re told that Mark was written some time after the year 70, Luke about 110, Matthew about 130, and John not earlier than 140 A.D. Let me impress upon you that these dates are conjectural, and that they are made as early as possible. The first historical mention of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, was made by the Christian Father, St. Irenaeus, about the year 190 A.D. The only earlier mention of any of the Gospels was made by Theopholis of Antioch, who mentioned the Gospel of John in 180 A.D. The Gospels are also written in Greek… every one of them. They were not translated from some other language. Every leading Christian scholar since Erasmus has maintained that they were originally written in Greek. This proves that they were not written by Jesus’ disciples, or by any of the early Christians. Foreign Gospels, written by unknown men, in a foreign tongue, several generations after the death of those who are supposed to have known the facts… Not terribly convincing, is it?

So back to the post: I’ll ask again… What possible, viable, reasonable, rational explanation could there be for no one in all of Roman-occupied Palestine jotting down a single word about the miracle working Jesus? Surely there is an explanation. Also, if Jesus was a historical character, why was it necessary to forge documents to prove his existence? Did anybody ever think of forging documents to prove the existence of any person who was really known to have lived? The early Christian forgeries are a tremendous testimony to the weakness of the Christian cause. Tampering with evidence is a sure sign of guilt, is it not? The question is, guilty of what, exactly?

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• Paul may have never met Jesus, but he knew of Jesus. He was at the stoning of Stephen, which happened within a couple of years of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This makes Paul a person who lived at the same time as Jesus. If Jesus wasn’t real, wouldn’t Paul have been the first to scream about it? Why, after the church began to develop, do we never hear anyone saying that the Christians were crazy and that Jesus wasn’t real?

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• Sorry, I edited my comment just as you replied. By no means did I mean to add text sneakily. If you like I can delete your last comment and give you time to respond to my larger reply. Just let me know.

Now, to your point: Quite on the contrary, Hippolytus wrote in the 3rd century, “[the Ophites] taught that Christ did not exist in the flesh” (Haer. 2.1-4). There is clear proof some Judeans were yelling, “Fraud!” and if not fraud, then at least “Misinterpretation!” The Docetists and the Naassenes also came under fire from the early church for teaching a non-flesh and blood version of the story. These three sects were all Judean, unlike the early church located in northern Syria and Turkey (which spoke Greek, not Aramaic).

Now, you also haven’t established why Paul couldn’t just have been a mid 1st century L. Ron Hubbard. All you have is Pauls account of Paul (which is not evidence) against a backdrop of total and complete silence.

So the question remains unanswered: why didn’t a single person in all of Roman-occupied Palestine jot down a single word about the miracle performing Jesus during his life?

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39. John,

You must know that the Ophites were a Gnostic sect. There was never any question about Jesus’ existence, but because Gnostics believed the material world was evil, they couldn’t believe Jesus came in the flesh. They believed he only “appeared” to have a fleshly body. This was their own belief, something which was countered by the disciples.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.” (1 John 1:1-3)

Hippolytus wasn’t saying the Ophites denied the existence of Jesus, but rather that their worldview couldn’t allow him to have a fleshly body. This is Doceticism.

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40. As far as Paul is concerned, are you saying he might have been a real character, who completely changed his mind about Jesus (as being an evil heretic), to becoming his greatest proponent, even though Jesus wasn’t real?

Wouldn’t people have come up to him and proclaimed that there was no real Jesus? He was a great debater, but he never tried to defend that point! Paul suffered, was beaten, went to jail, went hungry, and eventually laid his head on a chopping block. Would he have done all this for a mythical, fictional person who supposedly lived and walked the same streets he walked at the same time he was alive?

Paul would have had to be crazy–and yet there are no indications anybody, anywhere in history believed that. No historian recorded the mental illness of Paul.

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• What corroborating evidence is there to support any of those assertions about Paul? And by what methodology would the scientifically ignorant people of that era have determined whether or not someone was mentally ill?

Furthermore, lots of crazy people have founded cults and gained followers willing to die for their mistaken beliefs Why should the followers of Paul be an exception?

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• One of the main reasons people believed Paul was because he explained the reason for Jesus coming into the world. His teachings were amazing. They explained how Jesus “fulfilled the law and the prophets.” I wrote this comment in response to John Zande’s comment on my blog last night. Forgive me for posting it here. Just ignore if you don’t want to read it.

“This passage about Jesus fulfilling the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17-20) is one of the main reasons I believe the Gospel message. The incredible ways that Jesus did this are beyond human ability to create. I don’t think any mystery writer could have weaved together the incredible ways Jesus fulfilled the law and the prophets.

I know this post is long, so if you want to skip the parts between the dotted lines, I understand. I just wrote it for anyone who might be interested.

———
First of all, there are many ways Jesus fulfilled the law. In fact, believers are constantly astounded by how intricately Jesus fulfilled the law.

One way he fulfilled the law was by fulfilling the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the seventh day of rest that the Jews were commanded to obey. Jesus fulfilled the law of the Sabbath by becoming our rest for us. (Hebrews 4:9-11) He said his burden was light and his yoke was easy. Christians no longer practice the Sabbath. They worship on Sunday, rather than Saturday. They enter into his rest and no longer do religious works for salvation. (They are saved by grace through faith.)

Jesus fulfilled the law when he became the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. His death on the cross was similar to the Exodus story, which described the lamb, whose blood would be placed on the doorposts of the home, causing the death angel to pass over that home. (Hebrews 9)

Jesus fulfilled the law when he became the unleavened bread of the Exodus story. Leaven is a symbol of sin and false teaching (1 Cor. 5:6-8, Matt. 16:12). Jesus fulfilled this feast by being sinless and being the TRUTH.

Another way that Jesus fulfilled the law was by becoming a tithe (firstfruits) for us. (Leviticus 23:10) He fulfilled the tithe by becoming the firstfruits from the dead when he was resurrected. (1 Cor. 15:20) Christians are no longer bound by a tithe, instead we are told to be cheerful givers. We are also promised that there will be a resurrection for us because of what Christ did for us.

Jesus fulfilled the law when he became a light to the Gentiles. In the law of Moses, the people were commanded to leave behind the gleanings (or leftovers) of the harvest for the poor and aliens. (Lev. 23:22) This would be fulfilled at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down and the gospel was preached in all languages, offering salvation to all, not just the Jews. (Acts 10:34-35)

These fulfillments of the law were actually the first 4 feasts that would be celebrated every year by the Jews. They would be celebrated according to the seasons. The feasts celebrated during the early rains were the fulfilled at the time of the early church. Three more feasts are waiting to be fulfilled at the end of the age (or at the time of the latter rains). These three feasts are the feast of trumpets (representing the return of Jesus), the feast day of atonement (representing the salvation of the Jews), and the feast of tabernacles (representing the time when we will all be with the Lord).

There are so many other ways in which Jesus fulfilled the law and the prophets. And none of it has to do with Jesus expecting or commanding Christians to obey the law to perfection. It has to do with how it’s impossible for anyone to keep the law. That is why Jesus came. How could any human conceive of a way to have even a made-up, fictional character fulfill all these things? And I’ve barely scratched the surface of the way Jesus accomplished these things.

The greatest concern I feel burdened about is how to convey the magnificence of what I’m trying to explain. He was the manna from heaven. He was the living water. He was the high priest in the order of Melchizedek. He is the “I AM.” He is the Word become flesh. He became a slave for us. (Philippians 2:7) He became a curse for us. He became sin for us, so we could become righteous before God. He offers us mercy because his blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat. All of this is explained in the scriptures.

I haven’t even begun to explain the way Jesus fulfilled the prophets.

——–

The story of Jewish history and the giving of the law is actually a way to PROVE the reality of God’s plan for the salvation of humanity through Jesus Christ. One random fact doesn’t prove anything, but the cumulative effect of ALL the fulfillments makes the Bible a miraculous book. This is why some of the brightest and best minds in the history of the world have loved and received Jesus. It isn’t a decision based on emotion alone, but a decision based on knowledge. And the more I learn, the more I am in awe of what God did and how he accomplished it.”

To say that the story of Jesus was just created by pasting together myths, fictional narratives, sayings, and borrowed phrases (as Ken Humphreys does) is a ridiculous claim because only a Christ could have conceived of a Christ. Who could have created the amazing Jesus portrayed in the Gospels and explained further by Paul?

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• Diana,

I appreciate the reply, but my specific questions still remain unaddressed. Where is the corroborating evidence? What you’ve presented is merely a series of claims drawn from the very texts under question. That’s called circular reasoning.

And your examples of fulfilled prophecy are equally uninspiring. For me, a real prophecy would be completely unambiguous by providing exact dates, times and places for events which could not possibly be influenced by man.

For example:

A magnitude 9.0 (Mw) undersea earthquake off the coast of Japan will occur at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC) on Friday 11 March 2011, with the epicentre approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku and the hypocenter at an underwater depth of approximately 30 km (19 mi).

What biblical prophecy for Jesus matches that description?

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• Again, it’s not very impressive because it’s ambiguous enough to allow any later event to be interpreted as fulfillment of prophecy. In fact the Jewish interpretation claims that Cyrus was the “anointed one” mentioned in Daniel (see also Isa. 45:1) and that the second part of the prophecy (the desecration) occurred with the death of the anointed high priest Onias.

Got anything better?

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• Hi Ron,

It doesn’t matter how many prophecies I put before you, you will mock them and find fault with them. I could spend time explaining the reason Cyrus couldn’t have fulfilled the prophecy, but it won’t matter to you. You aren’t really interested in finding the truth, you are more interested in mocking religion. Your attitude: “Got anything better?” betrays your heart.

I could also explain Isaiah 53 to you and how Jesus was the suffering servant who was bruised for our iniquities and wounded for our transgressions and you would pounce on it like a dog on a piece of chicken, already prepared to discredit the prophecy and mock it. I’ve been down this road with atheists time after time.

I love you in the Lord, though, and will take time to explain the prophecies in more detail if you want. For example, there are several prophecies that promise Israel would be regathered as a nation and restored in one day. This day happened on May 14, 1948.

Concerning Jesus and his death, some people look at him and say, “thank you, Lord” and others look at him and mock him and spit at him. I can’t figure out what makes each person respond so differently.

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• Ron says:

Diana,

If the Jews don’t find your interpretation of their own prophecy convincing, then why should I? Nor is this an isolated case. Given that two-thirds of the world’s population does not subscribe to Christian beliefs, and that Christianity is itself divided into thousands of competing sects due to doctrinal disputes and disagreements over the “correct” interpretation of the texts, it’s hardly an exaggeration to suggest the so-called evidence in support of your beliefs may not be quite as compelling as you’d like to believe.

And what you call mockery and fault-finding is what non-believers call a critical evaluation of the materials presented for consideration. Be honest now. You wouldn’t shy away from testing the religious claims of others simply for the sake of politeness, would you? So why expect anything different for your own?

I’ll also grant that you’re unlikely to woo me over with more examples of fulfilled prophecy. To convince me will require solid evidence; that is, the kind of evidence I originally requested on September 17, 2013 at 5:14 pm.

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• Sorry, but you still haven’t established why Paul couldn’t just have been a mid 1st century L. Ron Hubbard. Mentally unbalanced people believe their delusions are real and suffer for them every day. Could Paul have been mentally ill? Possibly. Could he simply have been a charlatan? Also possible.

Still, we are drifting way off what this post is centered on. You seem to be avoiding my questions regarding why no one along the entire eastern Mediterranean seaboard wrote a single line about the miracle performing Jesus. Above you presented some idea that maybe Jesus was ignored because he was just a Jewish teacher while he was living. I am astounded you even proffered this as it contradicts absolutely everything in the gospels. We also have Jesus calling himself god, like in John 14:7-10 “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

And again in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.”

And again in John 10:31-33 “Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, [32] but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” [33] “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

There are many more references, but you get the point.

So, what we have, apparently, is a man running around Roman-occupied Palestine performing so many miracles that John (21:25) said “If every one of them were written down the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

So, again, what possible, viable, reasonable, rational explanation could there be for no one in all of Roman-occupied Palestine jotting down a single word about the miracle working Jesus during his life?

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