Who the Hell Hired Matthew to Write a Gospel?

By David Madison

Editor’s Note: While I know David Madison to be a mild-mannered guy. He sure can get riled up when it comes to the Bible! Here he goes after the Apostle Matthew as only an atheist ex-clergy Ph.D. can do – with facts, humor and reference to “fake news.” Reposted with permission from Debunking Christianity.

==================

No, it is not okay to just make stuff up

Gospels are sacred things. In some churches it is the custom for the congregation to stand when the gospel lesson is read. The worshippers are surrounded by stained glass windows that depict the cherished stories found in the Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—and those same stories, in illuminated manuscript form, have become works of art. When we say that something is “the gospel truth”—well, who could ask for more?

Houston, We Have a Problem

Historians, however, have played the role of spoiler. Not that this was the intention at the outset. Most of the historians who have made careers of gospel study have been (and are) devout—even ordained. But after a couple of hundred years intense scrutiny of these charter documents of the Christian faith, we can say that worship-grade adoration of the gospels is misplaced. We would have to report to Mission Control that there are, in fact, two problems:

(1) Even if there are nuggets of history buried here and there, the gospels do not qualify as history because: (a) they are totally unsupported by contemporary documentation; (b) they were created by unidentified authors decades after the depicted events; (c) we have no clue what their sources were; (d) there are clearly many themes and elements borrowed/stolen from pagan religions. I could go on, but you get the picture. Even devout scholars hem and haw about the quotient of history in the gospels, but nonetheless manage to come up with justifications for still believing in Jesus.

(2) The churches have failed utterly—and intentionally—to report these finding to the folks in the pews. The laity remains in the dark about the monumental labors of Bible scholars—and their discovery that the gospels fall outside the realm of history. Well, you can’t really blame the church, can you? Doubt is always knocking at the door, even for a lot of those who show up on Sunday morning. The last thing that the ecclesiastical bureaucracy is going to admit is that the “good news” in the gospels is pretty much fake news.

Naturally, there is a minority of evangelical and apologist scholars that cannot admit that the gospels misreport anything. They blend sophistry, special pleading, and distortion to show that the gospel writers told it like it was.

But it takes only a few examples from Matthew’s gospel (among many) to blast any claim that he wrote history—or that he even knew how to. Yes, I’m picking on Matthew here, but Mark, Luke and John are absolutely no better. So here goes.

Example 1: So, okay, I’m going first for the low-hanging fruit, the passage that nonbelievers like to quote for its sheer absurdity, Matthew’s report of what happened when Jesus died, 27:52-53:

“The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.”

Christians, please don’t waste any of your It’s-A-Miracle energy on this one, unless you want to push Matthew as the inventor of Halloween. It’s no use trying to turn a tall tale into anything more than that. None of the historians who chronicled the period report a horde of corpses stalking Jerusalem. Mark didn’t either, and when Luke and John surveyed Matthew for what to copy, they left it out. These two verses in Matthew are the only mention in the New Testament of this “event.” Matthew made stuff up.

Rembrandt_-_Evangelist_Matthew_and_the_Angel_-_WGA19119

 

Example 2: Look what Matthew does to Mark 1:13, i.e., the temptation of Jesus:

“And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.”

Matthew expands this to eleven verses (4:1-11), and adds a conversation between Jesus and Satan. Where does this information come from? Clearly there could have been no eyewitnesses—and there is no hint whatever that Jesus wrote any of it down. And we find the dramatic detail that Satan whisked Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and to a “very high mountain.” Industrial Light and Magic™ could be hired to create the film versions of those flights. Matthew made stuff up.

Example 3: Matthew had a knack for landing on Old Testament verses that had nothing whatever to do with Jesus. The 8th century BCE preacher Hosea, reflecting on Israel’s past, wrote (Hosea 11:1),

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”

As in, the Exodus. But Matthew ignored the first part of the verse, and invented the story of the baby Jesus being taken to Egypt. His only reason for spinning this yarn was to make the wild stretch that “out of Egypt I called my son” applied to Jesus. Mark had never heard of this. Neither Luke nor John—who scanned Matthew for useful material—saw fit to repeat it. Matthew made stuff up.

Example 4: After going to all the trouble, in his opening chapter, of tracing Jesus’ descendants back to King David (a crucial pedigree for claiming that Jesus was the messiah), Matthew then spliced in the story that Jesus didn’t have a human father after all. Again, he had landed on a text in the Greek version of the Old Testament that had nothing whatever to do with Jesus, Isaiah 7:14,

“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son”

–and it was a mistranslation to boot. The original Hebrew was simply “young woman.” Did Matthew have anyone check his work? You can’t have both “descended from King David,” and “born of a virgin.” Matthew made stuff up.

Example 5: Where did Matthew get the Sermon on the Mount? Mark didn’t know about it, and John chose not to repeat it in his gospel. Luke trimmed it considerably, which must have meant that he didn’t consider Matthew’s source infallible. And he felt free to change the wording. Matthew had written, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” but Luke wrote, “Blessed are you poor.” Matthew wrote, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” but Luke shortened this to “Blessed are you that hunger now.” We can see that author tinkering played a role here, but what were the sources? Are we to suppose that the peasants and disciples who heard Jesus speak carried around pads of paper and pencils? No. Are we to suppose that the words of Jesus were handed down by word-of-mouth accurately for 50 years before Matthew wrote them down? No. Richard Carrier has pointed out that the Sermon on the Mount “…cannot have come from some illiterate Galilean. In fact, we know it originated in Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic…these are not the words of Jesus. This famous sermon as a whole has a complex literary structure that can only have come from a writer, not an everyday speaker.” (On the Historicity of Jesus, pages 465 & 466) Matthew made stuff up.

Example 6: Do pious readers even pay attention? Matthew gets really silly in 21:7, where we read about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem:

“…they brought the ass and the colt, and put their garment on them, and he sat thereon.”

He has Jesus riding on two animals! Why? Because the text that is being “fulfilled” is Zechariah 9:9, which is an example of parallelism in Hebrew poetry, i.e., restating an idea in a second line using different words:

“…your king comes to you…humble and riding on an ass, on a coal the foal of as ass.”

Geez, don’t take things so literally! The other gospels writers settled for Jesus riding on a colt. Matthew made stuff up.

By the way, Matthew was a blatant plagiarist as well. He copied about 90 percent of Mark’s gospel—without telling his readers he was doing so. He had no idea that his gospel and Mark’s would one day be bound together in gazillions of Bibles. Ooops.

Who would have thought that “gospel truth” would be so hard to find in the gospels?

=============

David Madison headshotDavid Madison is an ex-clergy atheist who was raised in a conservative Christian home in northern Indiana. Under the tutelage of his mother, he was fascinated by the Bible which prompted him to pursue the ministry. He served as a pastor in the Methodist church while working on two graduate degrees in theology, including a PhD in Biblical Studies (Boston University). But by the time he had finished the PhD he had become an atheist. He shares the story of this transition in the Prologue of his book. He gave up his ordination, left the church and pursued a successful business career.

His interest in the Bible did not diminish, however. Not because he was still searching for God—far from it, he says. “Like Dan Savage has pointed out, ‘I didn’t lose my faith, I saw through it.’” Madison’s thinking about Christianity’s many points of vulnerability resulted in his book, published in 2016: 10 Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith.

>>> Photo Credits: By Rembrandt – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15885357

 

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  • Kevin K

    Good stuff. My own take with regard to the Sermon on the Mount is that it sounds like several different sermons cludged together. The Beatitudes are strikingly different from the section that tells you to cut off your right hand if you masturbate.

    • tolpuddle1

      But as Jesus said both sections, what’s the problem ?

      • Kevin K

        It’s my contention that there was no such person as “Jesus”. So, the sayings attributed to him are a mish-mash of the sayings of a bunch of apocalyptic preachers of the era, bound together in an almost-completely incoherent mess.

        Add to the the issues with the reporting of the SoM as noted in the OP, and you have some pretty broad problems. Which parts of those are “real” and which were “made up”? You have no way of knowing.

        • tolpuddle1

          Scholars agree that there was. A mish-mash of apocalyptic preachers wouldn’t have had their sayings collected – which takes work.

          • alwayspuzzled

            But it could have been one very charismatic preacher whose original sayings became part of a collective memory, with additional, non-authentic sayings attributed to him over the next couple of centuries. As the movement began to institutionalize, the leaders may have wanted to attribute sayings to the original preacher that justified the institutionalization.

          • tolpuddle1

            “Could have been” , “may.”

            Jesus “may” have been an extra-terrestrial from Planet Zog, for that matter.

            But no, He wasn’t – and the Gospels record the sayings of one person, Jesus.

          • Steven Watson

            “Scholars agrree…” Richard Carrier surveyed the literature, some hundreds of scholars. The thing is the field is so large no one person can be awre of all the depth of it. You work your way to a PhD, your field of expertise narraows. For great chunks you rely on what others “know”. The trouble arises from the field abounding with unexamined assumptions and circularities. One particular scholar will be aware some fraction of the Jesus tale is fictional but will assume some parts are not. Mark Goodacre, no fool and a man doing this shit for donkey’s years, swore blind on radio that Paul written certain things in his epistles. Richard told him otherwise. When Mark went and looked – low and behold he was mistaken. The same thing happened to Zeba Crook, another scholar who is not a tool. That was Richard’s finding after several years examining the assumption of Jesus from the ground up: practically all scholars not fundie or having to describe to a faith declaration find significant parts of the Jesus story to be ahistorical. When he totalled it all up, it was ALL unsubstantiatable; it was all more easily explained on other grounds than reality. Midrash of the LXX, transvaluation of Homer, the Orphic Mysteries, and the Pauline epistles and their theology pretty much wholely account for G.Mk. Plagiarising G.Mk, the Epistle of James, and Didache pretty much account for G.Mt. G.Lk is written with Mk., Mt., and Josephos open on the desk. Acts puts the words of Dionysos from Euripides into Jesus’ mouth. Have you actually read G.Mk? If you think that reads like the story of a real person, I’ve got this bridge you might be interested in…

          • tolpuddle1

            You quote various scholars and sources at me, attacking – nay, demolishing ! – Christianity.

            With a little googling, I could quote another host of scholars, sources and viewpoints upholding Christianity.

            None of these people have the tiniest authority in any case – scholars find what they want to find.

            So Christianity survives unscathed.

            And unless you want to live in an Islamic world, you’d better pray that it continues to do so !

            BTW, when you meet Jesus Christ, don’t try to excuse your disbelief by quoting Richard Carrier (who he?) – that’ll go down like a lead balloon, along with yourself.

          • Steven Watson

            If the latter were to happen I suspect the Jesus Christ I would encounter would be Paul’s; not one of the gospel versions and not the Jesus Christ of the Chalcedonian Creed. I certainly wouldn’t be meeting any of the Personal Jesuses in what passes for American Christianity.

            Try this. I have ten thousand toadstools from around the world, I ask a hundred botanists from around the world if they are good to eat. They can tell me based on their personal knowledge and the botananical knowledge they have access to whether x number of those toadstools are poisonous. They cannot tell me they are all poisonous or whether some of those outside their purview are good to eat. They can only tell me what they actually know; they have to make assumptions about the rest. However when I have canvassed all those hundred botanists, I can know all those toadstools are poisonous. It is what has been done in almost evrery field of human knowledge. It is what Dr Carrier has done for the Gospels.

            I don’t think either Christ or Krishna, if either should turn out to have a reality, are going to fault me for going with reason. The holy writings have Christ and his Apostles acclaiming reason. Paul and several of the Early Fathers make a point that their beliefs are going to appear daft to most thinking people.

            Our knowledge base is crowd-sourced. ‘God’, whatever that might be, is as far as we know mediated through individuals and nothing takes place outside of a natural rubric. Normalising for the particual culture of the individual experiencing ‘God’, It seems to me we have an irreducible residue. ‘God’ is a natural pehonomena that appears to always happens in the same way 1+1 will always equal 2 in whatever form of numerical notation or base you use.

            I don’t think Xtianity is true; I don’t think it is necessarily true; but I do think that it could be reformulated to better fit the evidence, facts and human knowledge. ‘God’ can very, very probably only be known through human minds. Humans are fallible. Paul’s was his best shot in his context, and Martin Luther’s in his in the same way as Newton’s and Einstein’s were the best in their’s.

            I don’t think we have even begun to explore the ‘God’ hypothesis as it should be explored: We have only had the knowledge and tools to do that in recent decades. To think we could have come by all the answers millenia before Science was born from Philosophy, and when we had only naive explanations for even the most mundane things is the most arrogant hubris.

          • Jim Jones

            > I could quote another host of scholars, sources and viewpoints upholding Christianity.

            Sure you could. But they would offer no evidence for anything they claim. And your own beliefs are mere wishful thinking.

            You are the Jesus equivalent of a Brony.

          • tolpuddle1

            These are merely your opinions – those of an Atheist brony.

            It is Atheism that is wishful thinking.

          • raven

            Hitchen’s Rule
            Assertion without proof or data.
            May be dismissed without proof or data.
            You are wrong and Just Making Stuff Up.
            This is what not very bright or educated xians do incessantly.
            It’s very boring.

          • tolpuddle1

            You are much too stupid to realise that Hitchens’ Rule applies to you and your atheist pals.

          • raven

            Oh, threats.
            Didn’t take long to run to the default of xianity, threats of eternal torture.
            This is just a restatement of Pascal’s Wager.
            BTW, you’ve blown a million years of your next lives.
            Brahma hates Pascal’s Wager!!!
            You will be reincarnated as a tapeworm or slug and have to work your
            way back to human again.

          • raven

            FWIW. Brahma is a far more benign and merciful god than the xian Sky Monster.
            You get infinite tries at the goal. No hell.
            In the eternal universe, a million years isn’t much.

          • tolpuddle1

            Don’t be a fool – you don’t believe in Brahma any more than I do.

          • Jim Jones

            They are incoherent and contradictory. No real person could be like that or say those things.

          • tolpuddle1

            The four Gospels accepted by the Church are remarkably coherent and non-contradictory. They obviously reflect only one person, Jesus of Nazareth.

            Any Jewish rabbi of those days would have spoken and acted much as Jesus of Nazareth did, though Jesus’ holiness, wisdom and working of miracles reflect His divine nature also, true.

          • Raging Bee

            But a bunch of propagandists,bigots and con-artists WOULD have written down whatever would have suited their agenda. That’s rewarding work.

          • tolpuddle1

            What “reward” did the Early Christians get except hatred and martyrdom ?

          • Raging Bee

            So you’re saying early Christians would NOT have engaged in propaganda because they were hated and martyred? Is that what you’re saying? Because that’s not a very strong thesis.

          • tolpuddle1

            You accused early Christians of being “propagandists, bigots and con-artists.”

            Such people do not, in fact, die the deaths of defenceless martyrs, as the early Christians did.

          • Raging Bee

            I didn’t say who the propagandists, bigots and con-artists were; you just did. :-)

          • Jim Jones

            What reward did the Solar Temple devotees get? What about the Heaven’s Gate cultists.

          • Kevin K

            “Scholars” do not agree on any such thing. Cherry picking your experts is useless. There is no evidence.

          • tolpuddle1

            I’m not. You are.

            That Jesus of Nazareth really existed, is about the only thing in this field there is a scholarly consensus about.

          • Kevin K

            Sorry, no. You’ve been misinformed by people whose opinions are colored by their belief in magic.

            The list of scholars who do not agree with the single-Jesus hypothesis is long and growing. They are divided into two main camps … those that argue the corporeal Jesus was totally mythical, basically an invention of the author you know as “Mark”, who wrote a Homeric parody about him that was taken to be true by a Jewish cult, whose work was revised and updated by “Matthew” and “Luke”, with “John” coming along last writing what basically can be seen as a separate fan fiction. The second camp argues that “Jesus” is a composite character, comprised of several 1st Century Messianic preachers. Which is why the Jesus portrayed in each gospel is vastly different from one another. I vacillate between the two positions myself, there not being enough evidence to securely form a final opinion one way or the other.

            What you don’t have is any sort of agreement that there was a sole-human Jesus who preached in the 1st century, proclaimed himself a king and was executed by the Romans because of it. There is precisely and exactly zero evidence suggesting that portrayal is true.

            Sticking your fingers in your ears and going “LALALA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU” is not a form of argumentation.

          • tolpuddle1

            Your post is Fake Scholarship.

            Take your fingers out of your ears and hear the words of the Gospel that can save you.

          • Kevin K

            I can assure you that I do not need “saving” in any way, shape or form. Nor do you.

            But if I did need “saving”, I would call someone who could perform an actual physical act of “saving”, and not rely on the mere belief in a mythical/proto-mythical god-man from the first century.

          • tolpuddle1

            Everyone needs spiritual salvation – its only source is Jesus Christ.

            The only alternative is Hell.

            Physical salvation isn’t possible except on a temporary basis – we will all die.

            “A person is doomed to die – and after that, the Judgement.” (St Paul’s letter to the Hebrews)

          • Kevin K

            Sorry, no. There are no alternative post-death experiences, pleasant or otherwise.

            When you die, you decompose. That’s it. There is no heaven, no hell, no purgatory, no Hades, no reincarnation, no Nirvanna (although “blessed nothingness is closest to what really happens).

            Jesus is a mythical figure who was created in the immediate post-diaspora era by displaced Jews who thought the world was literally coming to an end within their lifetimes.

          • tolpuddle1

            Monsieur, you have NO IDEA WHATSOEVER what happens to a human personality beyond physical death. No one has; we merely have beliefs on the subject.

            Your statements are thus only your beliefs – or more accurately, your wishful imaginings on the subject. For what is Atheism, except wishful thinking ?

            Your final paragraph is not even a belief, but a lie. But that you know.

          • Kevin K

            When you die, your “personality” ceases to exist. That’s it. Nothing more. Nada. Zip. Bupkis.

            Heck, when people suffer Alzheimer’s, their “personality” ceases to exist. People with organic brain damage. People who get in car crashes. People who have heart attacks and are vegetables for the rest of their lives. Their “personalities” cease to exist as well. And their brains are still alive.

            Once the candle is extinguished, the flame ceases to exist. There is no “flame heaven”. The human brain is nothing more than a slow-burning candle, bioelectrical impulses powered by adenosine triphosphate, sitting on top of a meat-and-bone sack that is an efficient forager for food to provide more fuel for the system. It’s fascinating to study how such a system has evolved (yes, that word) into human consciousness and higher-level thought. But it’s not magic, and there’s nothing “else” behind it.

            Proposing something else violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics at the very least.

          • tolpuddle1

            No, the flame is immortal, for good or for evil, much though Atheists would like God’s Judgement on them not to exist.

            As this flame is supernatural, your mention of the Second Law of Thermodynamics is total absurdity, even by Atheist standards.

            Brain damage ? : the brain is the instrument of the soul, as the violin of the violinist. Damage the violin and the violinist is stymied as far as this world is concerned. (You seem completely ignorant that Aquinas dealt with this question about 800 years ago -.read something other than Atheist tootings.

          • Kevin K

            Sorry, no. Physics accounts for that. A “supernatural flame” has to interact with the human brain in order to work. You can’t weasel your way out of that. If it interacts with the human brain, it must be detectable. If it’s detectable, it would already have been detected. There would be, specifically, a Feynman diagram describing its mass energy. There is no such a diagram. It doesn’t exist because the thing you’re trying to claim is non-existent as well.

            Good grief, Aquinas? The man who argued that women are inferior to men because Yahweh made the second and out of a man’s rib? That Aquinas?

          • tolpuddle1

            You are stubborn in persisting in your superstitious delusion that Science has all the answers, that it can detect all that exists.

            BTW – Aquinas, one of the great Western philosophers: that Aquinas.

          • Kevin K

            Seriously, have you actually and really read the Summa? I think not.

          • Kevin K

            You can’t read the Summa in an hour, if that’s what you’re trying to do. Is millions of words. Don’t even think there’s a Sparks Notes on it, either.

            Poor you. Invoking a theological apologist who you haven’t read. Why not try Kirkegaard? No, maybe not…too dense. You seem more the Lee Strobel type.

          • Kevin K

            No, the flame is immortal, for good or for evil, much though Atheists would like God’s Judgement on them not to exist.

            Evidence required.

          • tolpuddle1

            The word of Jesus Christ, who is Truth.

          • Kevin K

            Um. That’s a mythical, proto-mythical figure. No more real than Hercules. May or may not have been based on the life-and-times of someone; but there’s precisely and exactly zero evidence in favor of that contention. More likely a completely mythical figure who became the focal point for a collection of sermons and lunatic ravings of several first century apocalyptan Jews.

          • tolpuddle1

            Lunatic ravings ? – like your posts.

          • Kevin K

            Are you still here? Finding it difficult to gain traction for your superstitious nonsense, are you? Blaming the messenger for your failures is a common defense mechanism.

            Why don’t you try over at the Buddhist channel. I hear they’re very receptive to Christian proselytizing.

          • tolpuddle1

            Finding it difficult to make progress for your Atheist superstitions ?

          • Kevin K

            “Nones” — those who have no religious preference, including atheists, agnostics, and apatheists, are the fastest-growing demographic, and now represent more than one-fourth of the total US population.

            You were saying?

          • tolpuddle1

            Religious unbelief is doing well in dying countries like the USA and the rest of the West.

            In fairness to US “Nones” , that’s partly due to most US Christianity’s being an idolatrous religion that worships only the Dollar and the Flag.

          • Kevin K

            And you just directly contradicted your earlier statement. Nice going.

            You should probably quit while you’re behind.

          • Kevin K

            BTW and FWIW: Paul was a religious maniac suffering from temporal lobe epilepsy. He was a false prophet, because he too thought the world was coming to an end within his lifetime — so much so that he did not see the necessity for the proto-Christian community to marry and have children.

            False prophet. If he were alive today, you would have to stone him.

          • tolpuddle1

            False only with regard to timing. Otherwise a true prophet, which is why people like you hate and despise him.

          • Kevin K

            False is false. Deserving of stoning. Glad we agree.

          • Jim Jones

            There is no consensus except by those whose income depends on their acceptance.

            Philo of Alexandria was born: 25 BCE in Alexandria, Egypt. He died: 47-50 CE. He wrote an account of the Jews covering the entire time that Jesus is said to have existed on earth. He was living in or near Jerusalem when Jesus’ miraculous birth and the Herodian massacre occurred. Philo spent time in Jerusalem where he had intimate connections with the royal house of Judaea. One of Alexander’s sons (and Philo’s nephews, Marcus) was married to Berenice, daughter of Herod Agrippa, tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, 39-40. After the exile of Herod Antipas – villain of the Jesus saga – Marcus ruled as “King of the Jews”, 41-44 AD. But nothing from Philo on Jesus, the other ‘King of the Jews’.

            Philo was there when Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was there when the crucifixion with an earthquake, daytime darkness, and resurrection of the dead ‘saints’ took place and when Jesus rose from the dead after 3 days. He was there when Jesus ascended into heaven. About thirty manuscripts and at least 850,000 words by Philo are extant. It was Philo who developed the doctrine of the Logos, or Word, and although Jesus, this Word incarnate, was walking around giving speeches and performing miracles, Philo wrote not one word about him or any of this.

          • tolpuddle1

            Philo was a Herodian and politico.

            Of course he wasn’t interested in Jesus ! And doubtless hated even the thought of Jesus. Christianity was merely an obscure Jewish heresy in Philo’s times, thought by most to be insignificant and / or doomed.

            1. Herod’s massacre of the infants – not very likely to be mentioned by an Herodian !
            2. Jesus’ miraculous birth, later resurrection and ascension – witnessed by and known to very few until later.
            3. Eclipse during the Crucifixion is astronomical fact (both 30 and 33 AD fit the bill).
            4. “My Kingdom is not of this world” said Jesus to Pilate – thus of no interest to an Herodian.

            Fact is, Christianity has always been sniggered at by the Smart Sets and hated by the evil.

            Why join with such people, why risk sharing their eternal destiny ?

          • b s

            “Eclipse during the Crucifixion is astronomical fact (both 30 and 33 AD fit the bill).”

            You mean an eclipse during the day, when there would be a full or nearly full moon at night during Passover? The sky being darkened for 3 hours when they can last for about 7 minutes at most?

          • Kevin K

            The “I am rubber, you are glue” argument is among the lamest one can use.

            There is no scholarly consensus about JoN. Ask any Hindu scholar. Or Buddhist scholar. Or Jain scholar. The fact that disagreements in the scholarly community exist based on the religious beliefs of said scholar should give you a clue.

            Have a nice day.

          • tolpuddle1

            It gives me a “clue” that those scholars are non-Christians and bitterly hate and oppose Christianity.

            But I’d already guessed that !

          • Kevin K

            That means, of course, that you expect that only Christian “scholars” express a positive opinion on the subject. Which is incorrect, since Muslim “scholars” also believe there was a “real” Jesus (just not a god-man).

            So. Now we’re at the crux of the matter. If the “scholar” bases his/her belief on their religious teachings, then it’s not “scholarship”. It’s “apologetics”.

            And as far as “hating” Christianity … who in the world would do that? It’s a set of primitive superstitions. The religion itself is nonsense. How can you “hate” something so banal?

            The acts of Christians? That’s another thing altogether.

          • ThaneOfDrones

            That Jesus of Nazareth really existed, is about the only thing in this field there is a scholarly consensus about.

            Well here’s a trick of the English language. Is that just the consensus of scholars? Or is it a consensus that is scholarly?
            Do they cite evidence for their belief in His existence? Is that evidence convincing?
            Many of them have written books about who the historical Jesus was. Do their speculations converge on a single answer?

          • Jim Jones

            ‘Collected’? Invented!

      • mason
      • Jim Jones

        Here’s your chance to convince us all you are right.

        Q: Name one person who met Jesus, spoke to him, saw him or heard him, who wrote about the event, has a name and is documented outside of the bible (or any other gospels).

        • tolpuddle1

          Herod the Great, Pontius Pilatus, Annas and the High Priest Caiaphas are all Gospel characters independently recognised by all historians as real.

          Naturally they didn’t leave written testimony about Jesus – bearing in mind their shameful and murderous roles in Jesus’ life.

          • Jim Jones

            So you failed this simple test.

            Jesus never existed.

    • Objective Judgment

      I agree, its pretty obviously a summary and interpretation of what he thought Jesus’ teachings were.

    • Jim Jones

      The reported part seems awfully short for a multi hour sermon.

      • Kevin K

        Getting those thousands of people to climb a mountain (which one?) also seems a bit excessive, doesn’t it? And apparently none of them thought to pack a light lunch.

        • Jim Jones

          > And apparently none of them thought to pack a light lunch.

          Or that explains the ‘miracle’ of loaves & fishes: Everyone took the handout as a signal that it was lunchtime and took out their lunch.

  • See Noevo

    Why do you keep dinging Matthew, when you don’t know who wrote the “Gospel of Matthew”?

    • Raging Bee

      You really think that question REFUTES his thesis here?

    • Jack Baynes

      You want him to keep writing “The author of Matthew” over and over again?

  • tolpuddle1

    David Madison MAKES THINGS UP.

    He only proves what he starts off by assuming to be a Given.

    • Raging Bee

      But he did prove it. Your point…?

      • tolpuddle1

        But he only “proves” it by starting with the a priori assumption that it’s true.

        Some proof !

        • Raging Bee

          Wrong. Can’t you even TRY to sound credible?

          • tolpuddle1

            No, I’m right.

            Address your comment to the writer of the article.

          • Raging Bee

            Why? Because you’re not listening?

    • Objective Judgment

      Yes, given our knowledge of science and how it has explained so many things we used to think of as miraculous or evidence of the supernatural, its taken as a given that ‘miracles’ do not occur. If you assert they do, despite all the evidence we have amassed, its up to you to prove otherwise. We apply the same standard to faeries, and Greek myths of cyclopes’ and Minotaurs. When considering stories about faeries, do you adopt the starting point that they exist? Or the starting point that unless there is some proof, they don’t exist?

      • tolpuddle1

        To compare God – but for whom neither nature or science would exist – to faeries, cyclops, minotaurs etc, is absurd, even from a secular, philosophical viewpoint.

        You forget that Christianity began in the sophisticated, scientific world of the Roman Empire.

        • mason
          • tolpuddle1

            Precisely, Ricky. Well put.

        • kraut2

          “You forget that Christianity began in the sophisticated, scientific world of the Roman Empire.”

          And that is what they thought about this crap:

          The
          three Roman historians whose writings we have investigated were all
          contemporaries, and all reflected the aristocratic, well-bred Ro-man’s
          judgment that Christianity was one of a multitude of degraded foreign
          cults—“atrocious and shameful things” as Tacitus put it—that infested
          Rome… Romans of higher social classes believed that these oriental
          superstitions polluted Roman life and that they attack-ed the very fiber
          of society like a debilitating disease…Some of the liturgical
          practices of Christians, notably glossolalia, confessions of sins,
          prophecies, sacraments, and the sexual aberrations of fringe groups, may
          have contributed to a distorted picture of this “oriental
          superstition.”[56]

          Christian book burning began early,[59]
          even before the composition of those most Christian of books, the
          gospels. “The burning of books was part of the advent and imposition of
          Christianity.”[60]

          “[Christianity’s] more extreme pro-ponents equated pre-Christian
          learning with paganism…in finding a home in a pagan building the books
          themselves became tarred with the brush of pa-ganism.

          http://www.debunking-christianity.com/2016/04/robert-conner-christianitys-critics.html

          and it gets better:

          Like
          many apocalyptic movements since, early Christianity exemplified
          sex-ual psychopathology and extremism. Origen took Matthew 19:12
          literally, as have other believers such as the Russian Skoptsy, a
          millenarian sect that prac-ticed self-mutilation and believed the
          Messiah would return once their mem-bership reached 144,000.[29] The 4th century heresy hunter Epiphanius describ-ed a Christian sect, the Valesians, and said of them, “all but a few are eu-nuchs.”[30] Origen’s theology of castration epitomizes self-loathing; he urged fellow Christians in his Exhortation to Martyrdom, “Therefore, hate your souls because of eternal life,[31] persuaded that the hatred Jesus teaches is noble and useful.”[32]

          Little wonder that the Stoic Marcus Aurelius despised the Christians, calling their preaching “the claims of the miracle-mongers and sorcerers (twn terateuo-menwn kai gohtwn) about incantations and casting out devils (daimonwn apo-pomphj),”
          and characterized their fascination with martyrdom as originating not
          in personal acts of judgment but from “dissent unsupported by evidence” (kata yilhn parataxin),[33] “from mere obstinacy based on irrational ideas.”[34]
          If Marcus despised the Christians, the Christians despised him right
          back; his magnificent bronze equestrian statue “remained intact only
          because it was mistakenly believed to be of Constantine.”[35]

          http://www.debunking-christianity.com/2016/04/robert-conner-christianitys-critics_16.html

          • tolpuddle1

            If you believe in the Romans and their degraded pagan superstitions to Christianity, you’re welcome to them.

            One point though – the Roman Empire is dead, Christianity is alive.

          • kraut2

            “Christianity is alive”

            Yes, after the decimation of a lot of those who didn’t want to believe.

            “Christianity is alive”

            And? so is Buddhism,Islam, Hinduism..and considering that Christianity was spread through quite a violent colonialism I would as a Christian not be too proud of that fact.

          • tolpuddle1

            The decimation of those who didn’t want to believe ? – examples please.

            The colonialists were certainly brutal – but indigenous peoples are still Christian, though no longer forced to be so (if they ever were).

            Moreover, if they were not Christians, they would have be Muslims.

            Would you prefer that ?

          • kraut2

            “The decimation of those who didn’t want to believe ? – examples please.”
            No. I give you ignorant asshole no examples. If you are unawares of the bloody history of your own religion, so be it. I am not here to educate one who wilfully is ignorant. Fuck off.
            As to the rest – of course, after having been converted by force – subsequent generations don’t know else. nd as to being Muslims – half a dozen of one….

          • Raging Bee

            I answered your question already, and you keep on repeating it and ignoring my answer. You’re a liar and a bigot.

          • kraut2

            “If you believe in the Romans and their degraded pagan superstitions to Christianity”

            And pray tell what is the difference between the Pagan “superstitions” of a Roman Empire? and the heretical offspring of Judaism?

            And nice try to wiggle out of your statement that somehow should prove the “acceptability” of Christianity in the Roman Empire. When demonstrated that the belief was despised except by those with either low social status or low intellect you put your tail between your legs and run into a different bolthole.

          • tolpuddle1

            There are a number of differences – Roman paganism was polytheistic, for example.

            Christianity “heretical” ? How very dreadful !

            Christianity appealed only to those of low intellect ? Well, there are so many Church writers of the Early Christian centuries who disprove that. And what did the very Bright Romans who despised Christianity believe in, then ? In many cases, they believed in polytheism – how very Bright !

            Low social status ? – initially, largely so: but many of the Roman aristocracy and business classes accepted Christianity well before Constantine.

            And so what ? – do you really think that smart people of high social status are wiser or better than others ?

          • Jim Jones

            You aren’t a Christian. That would be impossible.

          • Raging Bee

            Lots of innocent people are dead, because they were murdered by bigoted Christians. Does that fact alone mean they were wrong?

          • tolpuddle1

            Examples please.

          • Raging Bee

            Read some US history and get back to us later. This isn’t a remedial history class.

          • tolpuddle1

            Since the Christian scriptures explicitly forbid murder, you should substitute “Churchgoers” for “Christians.”

            Collective guilt doesn’t exist. That there have been minorities of Bad Christians doesn’t make all Christians (of the past or the present) guilty, any more than some Americans being criminal makes all Americans criminals.

          • Raging Bee

            “Christian scriptures” have been used to justify all sorts of atrocities, so you can’t just pretend the perps weren’t Christian. (Also, “murder” means killing without good cause, so a Christian could still kill as many people as he wanted, as long as he could make up a “good cause” for it. Or that, at lest, is how several Christians have indeed justified all of the atrocities committed in the name of their God.)

          • Raging Bee

            Start by looking up the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Reformation, and (relatively minor here, but still telling) the Burning Times. Oh, and the KKK.

          • tolpuddle1

            The Crusades began as an attempt to save Europe from Muslim conquest. Unless you wish you were a Muslim, you should thank the Crusaders.

            It was only the Spanish Inquisition that shed much blood – it was politically and racially motivated.

            The Burning Times: of witches ? – caused by popular fear of witchcraft.

            The KKK – Christians only in their own imaginations.

            Christianity has been going for 2,000 years and been powerful for about 1,700 of those.

            Christians in general have in fact been far kinder than secular people or people of other religions.

          • Raging Bee

            The Crusades began as an attempt to save Europe from Muslim conquest.

            Yes, and they very quickly grew into something far worse, none of it justified by the claim of “he fired first!”

            The Burning Times: of witches ? – caused by popular fear of witchcraft.

            Intentionally drummed up by Christian bigots.

            The KKK – Christians only in their own imaginations.

            They said the same thing about their Christian critics, and with just as much supporting evidence.

            Christians in general have in fact been far kinder than secular people or people of other religions.

            Only when you knowingly ignore all the Christians who weren’t. You’re just another liar who doesn’t have the guts, or the decency, to acknowledge that your religion isn’t as wunnerful as you were told it was.

          • tolpuddle1

            Christianity is even more wonderful than I was told.

            Some self-declared Christians aren’t – just like all human beings.

            Does The Catholic Church recognise the KKK as Christians ? – no.

            Your ignorance of European history is shining through.

          • Raging Bee

            Yeah, the ideal of Christianity is perfect and wunnerful and totally without blemish or imperfection; it’s only the people who practice it who suck. Just like the ideal of Communism.

          • tolpuddle1

            No, Communism was tainted at source.

          • Raging Bee

            Yeah, “tainted” by the same thing Christianity was “tainted” with. Once again, you have no idea what you’re talking about.

          • tolpuddle1

            Are you really as ignorant as you appear to be ?

            Communism was tainted at source by the shortcomings of Marx and Engels.

            Jesus Christ was perfect, thus Christianity isn’t tainted.

          • Raging Bee

            Jesus Christ was portrayed as perfect by his followers — just as Marx and Engels were by theirs.

          • tolpuddle1

            Yes, but only the followers of Jesus were correct.

          • Raging Bee

            There’s no evidence to support that assertion, and plenty to disprove it. You’re not fooling anyone.

          • tolpuddle1

            The Gospels prove it correct

            There’s no evidence against it.

            That bad or foolish people hate Jesus Christ and Christianity, is the best argument possible on their behalf.

          • Raging Bee

            Which Gospels? People who have actually read them know they contradict each other on some key points. You got nothing, just like all those Muslims who say the Koran proves them right.

          • tolpuddle1

            Which Gospels ? – the four approved by the Church.

            These differ only on points of narrative detail (thus proving they haven’t been doctored), not on points or religious belief.

          • Raging Bee

            There are plenty of people, who show far more knowledge of the Gospels than you do, who seem to agree that you are wrong.

          • tolpuddle1

            But as they all hate Christianity, their testimony has less worth than a dog turd.

            Especially as many other scholars, equally knowledgeably about the Gospels, wholly disagree with them.

          • Raging Bee

            Thanks for admitting that you never listen to anyone who doesn’t already agree with you. That pretty much sinks whatever credibility you hay have once had.

          • tolpuddle1

            You’re manifestly incorrect, otherwise I wouldn’t be on a Non-Believing patheos site.

          • ThaneOfDrones

            If Jesus were perfect, why would he curse a fig tree for not bearing fruit out of season?

          • tolpuddle1

            He was making a religious point. The barren fig tree symbolised the spiritually barren Israel of His time; its destruction was a warning to His fellow-Jews (via the Apostles) of Israel’s forthcoming destruction if they did not repent.

            Most of them didn’t; Israel was destroyed for some 1,800 years.

          • ThaneOfDrones

            Does The Catholic Church recognise the KKK as Christians ? – no.

            The Klan was anti-Catholic, and you can still find many Americans today, of Protestant Evangelical or Southern Baptist stripes denying that Catholics are true Christians. I have no idea if the Holy Roman Catholic Church returns favour by denying that the KKK are true Christians, nor do I much care.

            The KKK’s war on Catholics

          • Raging Bee

            Christianity has been going for 2,000 years and been powerful for about 1,700 of those.

            You brag about how HUUUUGE Christianity is, but at the same time, you insist that all the people who did things you can’t defend weren’t “true Christians.” Both can’t be true at once, so which is it?

          • Raging Bee

            Roman sources are more reliable than anything you’ve posted here so far.

          • tolpuddle1

            Well, only if you’re interested in the doings of thugs like the Roman Emperors, which is very largely what the Roman sources are about.

          • Raging Bee

            What, you’re saying the Roman Empire was populated entirely by “thugs?” Do you have ANY clue that you’re talking about?

          • tolpuddle1

            (sigh) But I didn’t say that.

          • Raging Bee

            Yeah, you kinda did.

          • Steven Watson

            “You forget that Christianity began in the sophisticated, scientific world of the Roman Empire.”
            “If you believe in the Romans and their degraded pagan superstitions to Christianity, you’re welcome to them.”

            Those statements are a tad contradictory. Enough; you are an irrational dickhead. Fuck off and go play in the traffic.

          • tolpuddle1

            The Romans were educated, civilised and sophisticated.

            They were also degraded, superstitious and immensely cruel.

            How are these two statements contradictory ?

            You have only to look at today’s world to see that many scientists and educated people are as foolish as they are clever and well-informed about their specialisms. And that many of the most evil and degraded people of our time are clever, well-educated people with a bitter hatred of Christianity.

          • Steven Watson

            Scientific and superstitious are mutually exclusive. I note you have now dropped mention of ‘scientific’. Leave the goalposts be.

            I can equally note that many of the most evil and degraded people of our time are clever,
            well-educated people with a heatrfelt belief in, and love of, Christianity.

          • tolpuddle1

            Many scientists are theists, some of them Christians.

            Since theism and Christianity aren’t superstitions.

            Who are these Christians who are such evil, degraded people ?

          • Steven Watson

            I hope that is rhetorical, such people are exposed to air on almost all the blogs on this channel almost every day. If it isn’t you are just bone stupid.

          • Jim Jones

            Christians have a 2,000 year history of savagery to themselves and others.

            Massacre at Béziers – Wikipedia

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_at_Béziers

          • Jim Jones

            Christianity was spread by four basic methods:

            Deceit
            Fear
            Torture
            Murder

            They were used in that order, and with great enthusiasm. Only the rise of skeptics and atheists was able to check the last two and ISIS proves that the savagery of religion is always close to hand.

          • tolpuddle1

            Deceit ? – no, almost all Christians have been sincere.

            Fear ? – if people are in danger of falling over a cliff into eternal darkness and torment, it’s only humane to warn them of the fact.

            Torture, murder ? – Christian missions have rarely used such methods.

            Christianity learns by its mistakes, hence has renounced the Dark Side of its history.

            Islam hasn’t and may never do so.

          • Jim Jones

            You can’t be a Christian unless you are a Jew and Jews aren’t Christians.

            Matthew 15:24-26

            Try reading the bible sometime.

          • tolpuddle1

            “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

            Try understanding the Bible honestly sometime.

          • Jim Jones

            > “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

            > Try understanding the Bible honestly sometime.

            Why does Matthew 28:19 completely contradict Matthew 15:24-26 ???

            Could it be? I don’t know. That the books are contradictory fiction written and altered by different people at different times? As Bart Ehrman summarizes, “Since god didn’t protect the bible words from alteration and even destruction it is clear that god wrote none of it”.

          • tolpuddle1

            There is no contradiction, since Matthew 15 is from before Jesus’ death and resurrection (and refers to His earthly ministry), whereas Matthew 28 occurs after His resurrection and refers to the ministry of the Church in extending Jesus’ work to the world outside Israel.

            BTW, since you evidently want to regard Bart Ehrman as Infallible, as Truth Incarnate – let me remind you he isn’t God nor even a distinguished scholar.

          • Jim Jones

            What a silly mistake. I regard no one as infallible (least of all you). I select the ideas which I find accurate and trust worthy.

            The bible is neither of those. It’s a collection of ignorant and evil nonsense.

          • Jim Jones

            What a liar you are – which proves I am right.

            > Deceit ? – no, almost all Christians have been sincere.

            All are liars. They may delude themselves, but nothing they claim is true.

            > Torture, murder ? – Christian missions have rarely used such methods.

            They have used them every time, everywhere, except where secularists forced them to follow good morals.

            > Christianity learns by its mistakes, hence has renounced the Dark Side of its history.

            It can’t even stop molesting children.

          • tolpuddle1

            Christ hasn’t been debunked, has he ? Though attempts to debunk Him have done Islam a power of good.

          • Jim Jones

            > Christ hasn’t been debunked, has he ?

            Totally, utterly, finally. Jesus never walked the earth.

          • tolpuddle1

            Only in your dreams is your post true.

          • Raging Bee

            The Gospel version of Christ can be considered debunked, for lack of any independent confirmation of any of the outrageous miracle stories. Just like all the other miracle stories from all the other religions.

          • tolpuddle1

            No, it’s considered so only by those who hate Christianity anyway.

          • Raging Bee

            You lie.

        • Raging Bee

          What’s so absurd about comparing one imaginary/unproven supernatural being with another?

          • tolpuddle1

            Because God is self-evidently real.

            People create imaginary beings – but the human mind and imagination are mere products of God’s imagination.

          • Raging Bee

            WHICH interpretation of WHICH god is “self-evidently real?”

          • tolpuddle1

            There is only One God.

          • Raging Bee

            And which of us has the right understanding of him?

        • Objective Judgment

          I think you’re forgetting that Christianity is a sect of the Jewish religion which religion pre-dates the Roman Empire, and that Christianity was started by someone neither scientific or roman. I think he was a great philosopher and sophisticated thinker but there’s no evidence he could even read or write. Besides, the Romans believed in their own pantheon, its only since the beginning of the scientific revolution that we started systematically studying, recording and explaining phenomena to the degree that we can now confidently assert that all of these very similar things just don’t happen, or at least they don’t happen now, and so we are right to require evidence.

          Besides, your argument is obviously circular and therefore hopelessly fails – my God is true and your God is false therefore my God is true. Lol, nonsense on stilts I’m afraid.

        • Raging Bee

          Actually, to be a little more accurate, Christianity began in one of the LEAST sophisticated and scientific parts of the Roman Empire, Roman-occupied Judea.

          • tolpuddle1

            The Jews were as learned then as they are now.

          • Raging Bee

            So you’re saying the Jews haven’t learned anything new while the rest of the world moved on?

        • ThaneOfDrones

          You forget that Christianity began in the sophisticated, scientific world of the Roman Empire.

          Wherein the Christians quickly earned a reputation for being thoroughly gullible.

          Lucian: The Death of Perigrinus

          • tolpuddle1

            Not nearly as gullible as the Roman pagans (or modern Atheists) though, gulping down all Satan’s lies.

          • ThaneOfDrones

            … gulping down all Satan’s lies.

            Anyone who has actually read the Bible knows that YHWH lies (Genesis 2:17)
            while the Serpent (widely interpreted to be Satan) tells the truth (Genesis 3:4-5)

            BTW, Satan is a Christian thing; he was not a part of the Roman pantheon and is not believed in by modern atheists.

          • tolpuddle1

            Genesis 2:17 : “Thou shalt surely die” : yes, the horror that we know as human death (and human terror and anxiety about it) entered our existence the very day Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

            God telling the truth, as always. It is satan who is Father of Lies.

            Satan is a Judaeo-Christian thing. That modern atheists don’t believe in satan’s existence doesn’t of course for a moment mean that satan doesn’t exist – indeed, it suggests very clearly that he does.

    • mason

      So why not give an example of your criticism instead of relying on ALL CAPS and yelling?
      :) http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/

  • Etranger

    Amazing post! I never knew any of this.

    • mason

      You’ll find many hundreds of “bible” contradictions, absurdities, etc. here … (you might want to be sitting down when you read them :) )
      http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ad2c4bf0acfe3ba7bce6df423867926d4ada68a98e9a09b6184f4b587e98f228.jpg

    • Steven Watson

      Are you new here? I see you are not. Come on you MUST have come across some of this before, it comes up often enough across the blogs on here. It even comes up on Christian blogs; the Mennonite Corey’s for instance. American education is even more defective than I thought. Then again, I am always astonished when people don’t know things I’ve known since I was a child.

      • Etranger

        Oh great, snarky, rude comment from a fellow atheist. F*ck off.

        • Steven Watson

          My apologies; any snark is for eeducation not towards you, I genuinly am astonished.

          • Etranger

            I would not consider learning about the inconsistencies in the book of Matthew to be essential to one’s education. My education was great, thank you very much. (one of 400 accepted out of 8000 applicants to a science and tech high school, fluent in 3 languages, studied abroad, several MAs so did pretty well).

          • Steven Watson

            My, aren’t we a sensitive and pretetious soul. Prat.

          • Etranger

            Really? You are the one who laid into me for complimenting the article’s author and content. You said you knew more than me before you were 7 or something. Talk about pretentious. Yeah, just f*ck off and get a life.

          • Etranger

            It’s “education” not eeducation. Genuinely not “genuinly”. Just FYI, oh learned one.

      • Etranger

        You knew all the inconsistencies in the bible when you were a child? That is astonishing!!!

        • Savoy47

          Richard Carrier mentioned in the article has a presentation of his research here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUYRoYl7i6U

          He has has a Ph.D. in the history of philosophy from Columbia University, and is a published philosopher and historian, specializing in contemporary philosophy of naturalism, and in Greco-Roman philosophy, science, and religion, and the origins of Christianity.

          • Etranger

            nice!

          • ElizabetB.

            Thanks very much Savoy! It’s been interesting to know that Carrier is a Westar Fellow, but when I’ve read his conclusions, they’ve seemed to strain credulity… Hearing him put them in perspective, tho, gives me something to consider. Interesting! So thank you!

  • alwayspuzzled

    “This famous sermon as a whole has a complex literary structure that can only have come from a writer, not an everyday speaker.”
    This is very much like the Shakespeare deniers who claim that Shakespeare could not have written the plays attributed to him because he did not go to university.

    • Steven Watson

      Would Jesus have been followed around by a court reporter or similar recording him verbatim? The gospel is written in good Greek, that alone btrays an educated author. The errors of the Virgin Birth and riding ttwo donkeys at once tell is the writer wasn’t Jewish, didn’t speak Aramaic, and wasn’t anywhere in Syria, let alone Palestine. Almost all speeches recorded in Greco-Roman histories are the author’s creation. That isn’t to say the speech doesn’t contain anything that was actually said: it is just far more likely this is an invented speech than otherwise.The arguments against the Goispels and Jesus are cumulative, like those for Science and Evolution. Some parts may be wrong, but in sum the level of improbability is just way too high.

      You can question Shakespeare as the author of the plays, but attempting to attribute them to anyone anyone else raises more problems than it solves. That Shakespeare was the author turns out to be the best hypothesis. Anomalies remain, but in history we have to settle for less than perfect knowledge.

  • Mark Rutledge

    It’s not that those ancient people we’re dumb and wrote literal stories and history and we are now smart enough to take them symbolically and metaphorically. No the problem is they knew they were writing metaphorically and symbolically oand we are now dumb enough to take them literally

    • mason

      nah … they were superstitious, manipulative believers writing there nonsense in the same way other humans around planet Earth were writing their pre-science superstitious manipulative nonsense. :)

      • Sophotroph

        Stop, you’re both right!

        • mason

          :)

  • Keulan

    All of the gospel writers made stuff up. There is absolutely zero historical evidence that the events described in the gospels actually happened, or that Jesus even existed at all.
    http://www.worldfuturefund.org/History/jesushistory.html

  • mason

    Well done David! I especially like your starting off with “Matthew’s” tale of the Zombies heading out to party, as I’m sure any newly revived corpse would do, in Jerusalem. I wish he’d given more Zombie details and I’m sure he’d love to see how popular the current shows about Zombies are.

    After I realized what a bunch of bunk the bible contained years ago I henceforth assumed someone was telling me a lie when they said, “It’s the gospel truth,” just as I’d always previously assumed, and rightly so, that when a person said, “Well, to tell you the truth,” that the person’s normal behavior was not to tell the truth, but now they would attempt to make an exception. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c6ca1fd5423554469e3536d84505ee53510da4ca926464689abc8c50586ce19f.jpg

  • ElizabetB.

    It’s very interesting that “Who the?” posted the same day an email arrived from Westar — home of the Jesus Seminar, the Christianity Seminar, and now the God Seminar — with a link to a new video “Westar on the Road.” One of the Fellows says, “From the clergy I get, ‘I can’t tell my people this’; & from the people in the pew I get, ‘Why didn’t anybody ever tell me this?’ There’s a kind of conspiracy of silence out there” (NT prof emeritus, Phillips Seminary).

    Sounds like they’re taking the Seminar on the road to address just Madison’s complaint — to communicate that “Matthew” etc is NOT history — it’s from a different culture & time “that we have largely lost — we’re on our knees listening through a keyhole, to an ancient conversation not intended for us.”

    I’m so interested to see David Galston — one of the founders of the Clergy Project, I think? — saying that now they’re working on the question that I’ve mentioned wondering about earlier: “Now we’re doing ‘god’ ….we certainly do need to find a new way to talk about ‘god’ — if that word is going to be a viable word in the future.”

    Of course, if or when most people come to understand that the bible is not history, the question is, what do we do from here? — This is where I think Rational Doubt is a help, and Westar. So thanks!!!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbkvQcf6kJg

    • mason

      Interesting and well produced video that seems targeted at Christian liberals.

      I think the first two statements, that there’s nothing in the bible about homosexuality, and that women in the “New Testament” had authority are quite a bit off the mark.

      Homosexuality: You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. Leviticus 18:22
      If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. Leviticus 20:13

      Women & the Church: For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, women are to be silent in the churches. They are not permitted to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they wish to inquire about something, they are to ask their own husbands at home; for it is dishonorable for a woman to speak in the church. I Corinthians 14: 33-35

      Also, …. towards the end the statement, “Jesus was a real person” is open for debate and I’m still convinced he was a composite messianic character, not a singular person.

      Matthew, (whoever he was) was just continuing in the basic tenet subscribed to by the pre-science scripture writers, today known as fiction authors …”Thou shalt make things up, the more audacious the better.”

      One of the most successful made up hoaxes perpetrated by an early writer was that the pyramids in Egypt were built by Jewish slaves. Still today, even modern Rabbis are unable to get their congregations or Hollywood to quit believing this nonsense. Even if bible dates are used, the Jews would have been enslaved 300 years after the pyramids were completed! Oy!

      https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/the-jewish-thinker/were-jews-ever-really-slaves-in-egypt-or-is-passover-a-myth-1.420844

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/staks-rosch/the-biblical-exodus-story-is-fiction_b_1408123.html

      • ElizabetB.

        Thanks, Mason! Homosexuality… they may be referring to the argument that until recently, the assumption was that everyone was hetero, and same-sex relations were a choice heterosexuals made. [Don’t get me started on Sodom — the only time a concordance will list an actual sexual act, it’s in Jude, where “men were going after ‘hetero’ [‘different’] flesh” — those visiting angels — not a word about ‘homo’ flesh : ) ] Women… it depends on where you’re reading, plus who’s translating. I love it that in the NT, the feminine for “elder” has been translated “older woman” and for minister, it’s “servant.” Paul mentions Junia as a worthy apostle, & Chrysostom took it as a woman, but translations have substituted “Junias” or “Junianus” : )

        I think you’re right about the likely congregations that will be inviting the Seminar — but I think it will help to get the message out into the general population.

        Thanks very much for the links! I like the way they advise feeling free to use and critique the metaphors, just be careful not to take them literally.

        • Steven Watson

          The trouble is the Jesus Seminar is too easily blown out of the water when their very daft methodologies are given an airing. Intellectually naive doesn’t begin to describe them.

          • ElizabetB.

            Thanks, Steven! I’m guessing you’re thinking about Fellows’ voting on how likely they think it is that a particular saying goes back to Jesus? If they were going on intuition alone, I’d agree! but their hunches follow rigorous scholarship, I’ve thought. Or, are there other methodologies you’re thinking of?

        • Steven Watson

          Theodora Episkopa, bishop to you, 9th(!) century mosiac in a Roman church; Epiktas, named as ‘presbytis’, preist, in a 4th century epitath on Thera. see Torjeson, ‘When Women Were Priests’.

          • ElizabetB.

            Many thanks for the Women Priests! One challenge on this side of the pond is that for many, nothing outside the canon counts. Even tougher, the denomination I grew up in still has pockets of severe allergy to the idea of “bishop” or “priest,” no matter how many precedents there are in the NT. So even working from the texts can run up against opposition. As our dear leader says, sad : )

      • Jim Jones

        > Homosexuality: You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. Leviticus 18:22

        > If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. Leviticus 20:13

        Wrong translations.

        Google (centurion pais)

        Google “lyings of a woman”

    • Steven Watson

      “From the clergy I get, ‘I can’t tell my people this’; & from the
      people in the pew I get, ‘Why didn’t anybody ever tell me this?’ It must have been forty years ago now since I first read all this is taught in seminaries and never makes it to the pulpit. Less you think this is a peculiarly American thing, I’m English. The trouble is it is not true. Every dacade some bishop will produce an Honest to God, or venture comments about “A conjuring trick with bones.” It’ll cause uproar, knock about in the media for a couple of months, and then drop of the radar again as if it never occurred. The average person can’t stand too much reality, apparently.

      • ElizabetB.

        I remember Honest to God… very encouraging, and refreshing! I don’t remember its focus being on detailed biblical scholarship, which seems to me to be of high interest to people currently — at least, here in the U.S. I think popularizing that may be what’s different now.

        Madison’s hypotheses are different from the ones I learned — for example, that Mark was probably first, that John likely was using a different tradition stream, and that there seems to have been a collection of sayings that Mtt, Mk, & Lk drew from (but so far it’s only a hypothesis). I like looking at the different versions as stand-alone creations… I’d like to know who “Luke” was — I like his take most of all — ‘Jesus’ as more freedom fighter, feminist, and forgiver : )

        • Steven Watson

          ‘Freedom fighter, feminist, forgiver’ – probably an anachronistc eisegesis. You might want to look out Randel Helms’ “Who Wrote the Gospels?” He makes quite a good argument that the G.Lk author was a woman.

          Only the Canon counting and priest allergies can be countered with… the Canon. Paul has no clergy. Hebrews has Jesus as the only clergy you need. Paul tells you where he and his fellow apostles were getting their teaching from – “scripture” and visions; not wandering rabbis; not the disciples of wanfdering rabbis.

          G.Mark tells you it is a parable; an allegory and not history. The Son of God is going to know you cannot get figs out of season. You know, HE’S THE SON OF GOD.

          G.Mt tells you it was written by an educated Greek who wasn’t a Jew: the Vigin Birth can only be a misunderstanding of the Septuagint and no Jew would so misunderstand his own scripture that Jesus has to enter Jerusalem astride TWO donkeys. When G.Mt isn’t plagiarising G.Mk it gets its story from Septuagint and often tells you. Read the Epistle of James along side G.Mt. and you can derive the rest, more or less.

          Try and catch Paul, James or Hebrews refererncing Jesus’ teachings or Gospel events. Their teaching winds up in Jesus’ mouth; never the other way around. When “Jesus said or did this…” would be expected as a slam-dunk illustration, it never occurs.

          In short the Canon defeats itself.

          • ElizabetB.

            Nope, not eisegesis. I like the inaugural sermon that talks about good news for the poor, release for the imprisoned… & goes on to talk about the times god favored the out-groups instead of the in-group — enraging the hearers who’re ready to throw him off the cliff. Mary’s song, Magnificat, talks about the 1% about to be jostled & the 99% lifted up. Mtt spiritualizes “Blessed the poor in spirit”; Lk has straight-up “poor.” Angels appear to despised shepherds; no mighty magi paying homage. In Luke, women were traveling along with Jesus and the others… that’s quite a picture : ) Mary was accepted as a disciple, a learner, wasn’t chased off to the kitchen with Martha. The woman washing his feet is announced to have already had her sins forgiven — no rituals, rules, sacrifice, etc. On the cross, “Forgive them….” When the story continues in Acts, more boundary-breaking with Peter & the Gentiles. And then a eunuch, which many see as a gender-inclusive move. So I’ve taken to wondering what the writer of Luke was like : )

            Yes, the canon discrepancies are what all the fuss is about over here… One study trying to understand how the U.S. became so literal traces it back to the first seminary here, Princeton, and their choice of textbook — not something from the Christian humanists, but from scholasticism. Their students taught others, and literalism became the major outlook… which I think we’re suffering from today. It’s quite a struggle!!
            [“The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible: An Historical Approach,” Rogers & McKim, 1979/99]

          • Steven Watson

            At that remove, discerning feminism is probably anachronistic. Different culture, diiferent mores, and different ethics. I don’t dispute the mustard seed; but the great bush sheltering all the birds of the air hasn’t grown yet.

          • ElizabetB.

            ok, I’ll take “proto-feminist” : ) Thanks, Steven!

          • Steven Watson

            I like that. Look at the Centurion’s Servant in G.Mt and G.Lk. G.Lk alters pais, ‘boy’ to doulos ‘slave’. The Matthean usage is more probably homo-erotic; the Lukan usage more probably disavows such a reading. The Xtianities I can find in the NT are a lot more interesting and in many ways a lot more worthwhile than prescriptive Evangelicism or the like.

          • 62peppe62

            Pais can also mean servant, not substantially different from doulos (slave). For example, in the Septuagint, in Psalm 18:title: “David, the servant of Yahweh”, Psalm 36:title “the servant of Yahweh “, Psalm 69:17 “do not turn away from your servant”, Psalm 86:16 “Give to your servant your strength, to the child of your servant your saving help”, Psalm 113:1 “Alleluia! Praise, servants of Yahweh, praise the name of Yahweh.”
            So, no homo-erotic usage by the evangelist Matthew. It is just about the centurion’s servant or slave.

          • Steven Watson

            The language allows the inference. That could be said if we only had G.Mt. The alteration of the language in G.Lk narrows what is allowed by it. The Lukan author regularly alters what is read in G.Mt. when it does not fit their mores or theology. The substtution of pais removes a homo-erotic inference. Was such G.Mts meaning? We can’t say but G.Mt can be understood that way and the Lukan alteration increases the probability of that it was being interpreted that way. Sixty-Forty odds form.

          • ElizabetB.

            Interesting… I’d never noticed the pais/doulos difference between Mtt & Lk. Looking at my cheater bible (interlinear!) I see that Lk did use ‘pais’ once in that story, so doesn’t sound like a thoroughgoing erasure of ‘pais.’ Thanks for raising the question!

          • ElizabetB.

            Thanks 62peppe! I think much depends on usage. I’ve read that ‘pais’ in a setting like the Centurian’s often implied intimacy. It’s possible usage could have evolved over the almost 2 centuries since the LXX was completed…. I haven’t read deeply into this story… just reflecting.

          • Jim Jones

            You wish.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      What do we do from here? Here’s a quote from Andrew Dickson White in the introduction to his 1896 book, A HISTORY OF THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE WITH THEOLOGY IN CHRISTENDOM

      My belief is that in the field left to them–their proper field–the clergy will more and more, as they cease to struggle against
      scientific methods and conclusions, do work even nobler and more beautiful than anything they have heretofore done. And this is
      saying much. My conviction is that Science, though it has evidently conquered Dogmatic Theology based on biblical texts and
      ancient modes of thought, will go hand in hand with Religion; and that, although theological control will continue to diminish,
      Religion, as seen in the recognition of “a Power in the universe, not ourselves, which makes for righteousness,” and
      in the love of God and of our neighbor, will steadily grow stronger and stronger, not only in the American institutions of
      learning but in the world at large. Thus may the declaration of Micah as to the requirements of Jehovah, the definition by St.
      James of “pure religion and undefiled,” and, above all, the precepts and ideals of the blessed Founder of Christianity
      himself, be brought to bear more and more effectively on mankind.

      You can see that he still considered himself to be a theist and a Christian. But I cannot agree with him, and I have to wonder, what did he think was left of Christianity?

      • ElizabetB.

        Thanks ThaneOfD. First impression is that White thinks there is an *ethical* power in the universe greater than we mere mortals, which science doesn’t speak to but which people who used to be interested in theology will enjoy developing — along the lines of “To act justly and to love mercy” [Micah], “look after orphans and widows in their distress” [James], and “love your enemies” “love your neighbor as yourself” [blessed Founder of Christianity]. I think this is sort of happening in process theology — they accept scientific understandings of reality and focus on people’s relationships with one another and the universe. Yet they still keep the word “God” — sort of to signify the majesty and mystery of everything (tho I’m not sure I’m characterizing that correctly). — Does that speak at all to what you are asking?!

        • ThaneOfDrones

          I consider it moot since I do not share that view.

          • ElizabetB.

            O — was your question meant to make the point there’s nothing left of Christianity if the Bible is not considered history and one accepts the scientific method ? I thought it was just a plain question! : ) Thanks!

  • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

    I suppose they could claim another miracle here, and say that God told Matthew what was said. That just leaves us with the mystery of why Mark, Luke and John got different messages however. So it’s a lesser version of the inconsistent revelations issue.

    • mordred

      God works in mysterious ways?

      • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

        I guess so, as usual.

    • queenofmeanie

      It was pass the blunt time.

      • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

        Maybe so.

    • Kevin K

      I ask that same question about why Mark gets the Middle East geography so completely fouled up. Isn’t it the “promised land”? Doesn’t Yahweh know how to get from one place to another? For a divinely inspired story, it certainly reeks of human invention.

      • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

        Some scholars even believe that Mark (and Matthew, I think) were never in the area at all, but part of the Jewish communities elsewhere. It is odd that God couldn’t fill them in on the details though, or stop each from contradicting others.

        • Kevin K

          Yes, my point was apparently muddled. Commenting in short-hand, I think.

          From what I understand the authors of Mark and Matthew most likely were Greek Jews living in the post-diaspora era, meaning not in the Middle East because that was forbidden. Mark in particular is sure to have never visited the area in question, because he gets the geography so bass-ackwards wrong.

          But if his work was “divinely inspired”, as many theists would have you believe, then it wouldn’t matter. Yahweh surely knows every inch of his “promised land”, doesn’t he? Based on that, we should be able to site all of the events described to within a yard. Any mistake whatsoever is clear, compelling, and incontrovertible evidence that the work was not divinely inspired.

          • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

            I think that Jews were only exiled in the mid-2nd century, and they wrote prior to that. However many Jews were already living elsewhere before. Matthew lived in Rome, some scholars theorize, as his gospel shows more knowledge of it than Judea.

            Beyond any problems with each Gospel, it seems odd that we have four at all. Surely an all-knowing God can get a straight message across in one?

          • Kevin K

            I actually know the answer to this one! Out of the many, many, many gospels that were candidates for the canon, four were chosen because that’s how many corners the Earth has! No kidding, you could look it up, as they used to say.

          • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

            I remember Irenaeus wrote this, but that always seemed a like an absurd after the fact rationalization. Apparently what happened is the four gospels were the most popular “orthodox” ones, although John was resisted somewhat for a long time. The rest didn’t make the cut.

  • Jack Baynes

    Reminds me of a song from the Book of Mormon, where one of the missionaries, who never studied his scripture, ends up sticking Darth Vader and Star Trek in to the stories he tells. While he imagines his parents, Joseph Smith and Jesus criticize him for making things up again

  • Jim Jones

    > Matthew’s report of what happened when Jesus died, 27:52-53:

    This is one of many reasons I regard the gospels as comic books without pictures.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Even devout scholars hem and haw about the quotient of history in the
    gospels, but nonetheless manage to come up with justifications for still
    believing in Jesus.

    As the instructor of my New Testament class several decades ago put it, “New Testament scholars generally agree that about half of the saying attributed to Jesus in the Gospels are fabricated. They just disagree over which half.” (paraphrased)

  • ThaneOfDrones

    As in, the Exodus.

    In Matthew’s defense(?) he wasn’t the first to ‘make stuff up’ here, since there is absolutely no archaeological evidence for Jewish slaves in Egypt nor a 40 year exodus in the Sinai desert.

  • Lerk!

    “Matthew had written, “Blessed are the poor
    in spirit,” but Luke wrote, “Blessed are you poor.” Matthew wrote,
    “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” but Luke
    shortened this to “Blessed are you that hunger now.”

    I love the apologist explanation of this. Well, you see, Jesus preached the sermon more than once, to different audiences, just like preachers do today. He changed it up a bit from time to time! The writers are just quoting from different occasions!