Nox's Wall of Text, Part 1.

Over in the forum we have a relatively new theist to debate. Unlike most who visit our quiet little corner of the blue nowhere, NotAshamedofChrist isn’t a drive-by poster and isn’t a troll. S/he seems genuinely interested in debating our lack of faith, and honestly curious as to how we have come to have views so completely different to his/her own. Kudos, NAoC.

Somewhat inevitably, though, NAoC fell back on an old Christian argument in the face of adversity:

“[The] Bible is not biased the apparent contradictions actually confirm its truth take the gospels for example you have four different eyewitness accounts of the same events its unlikely that each person from a slightly different standpoint would come up with exactly the same details.”

Regular poster Nox is something of a Bible scholar, and in response to that assertion he produced what I can only describe as an epic wall of textual ownage, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that all ur bible r belong 2 him. Because he put so much work into it and covered so much ground, I decided to reproduce it on the blog for all of y’all. Note that this wall of text is part of an ongoing discussion, so at times it addresses NAoC directly and references earlier posts. The link above is to the whole discussion if you need context.

Now, I’m usually guilty of dismissing epic posts as tl;dr – in this case, however, I recommend making yourself a cup of your favourite hot beverage, settling yourself down and having a good read. You’ll learn a lot.

Over to Nox:

Welcome back NotAshamed,
I’m glad to see you decided this wasn’t a waste of time. And I hope you are getting something out of it. I always enjoy a good discussion. Sorry I wrote you off a bit early. You understand we do get a lot of drive by posters here. But I do give you credit for still being here and being willing to discuss these issues. As a former christian I am familiar with the discomfort that comes from having one’s faith criticized. But I honestly am trying to help you, and I do hope you’ll stick around for awhile.
“Besides, all the new Testament books were written down only 40 years after Jesus died.”
Where do you get this figure? Mark, the first gospel is believed to have been written down around 70 AD (about 40 years after the estimated date of the crucifixion) with Matthew and Luke showing up about 10 to 20 years later. The gospel of John was almost certainly written in the 2nd Century, around 90 years after the estimated date of Jesus death. There is however, pretty solid reason to believe that some of Paul’s letters (ie Galatians) were written less than 40 years after 33 AD. These dates aren’t controversial. They are accepted by the majority of biblical scholars (both secular and christian).
“Everyone believes that Julius Caesar came to Btitain in 55 BC but we have only 9 or 10 manuscripts to support this, and the earliest was written 900 years after the event!”
We have Caesar’s own account of his campaigns in Gaul and Pompey, written by Julius Caesar while Julius Caesar was alive (that may sound redundant but it is an important distinction). We have nothing that was written by Jesus. Nor do we have one thing that was written about Jesus during his lifetime. We have only the gospels, which show themselves to be historically inaccurate, and the letters of Paul (who never met Jesus) which give us almost nothing in terms of biographical details. And we have the unanimous silence of contemporary historians about a guy who would have been noticed if he did the stuff the gospels describe him doing. And while there may be thousands of “manuscripts” from the middle ages, it is worth noting that we do not have the original manuscript of any of the 4 gospels.
You said earlier “its just that I genuinely wonder how people do not believe in God when, in my mind anyway the wonders of creation the human body and brain shout out the existence of God”. We could get into how cosmology makes the deist god unnecessary. Or how natural selection explains the complexity of life without needing to invoke an extra party. Or how a modern understanding of electricity calls into question the existence of Thor. But what we are really talking about here is yhwh, the god in the bible. And the reason I don’t believe in the god in the bible is because I’ve read the bible. And really when you get down to it, there isn’t really any other source for the claim that yhwh exists (this is why I wanted to make a point of clarifying that yhwh is the god we are debating).
Let me give you a few examples of what I mean and why I can’t buy the bible as a historical document (at least not as an accurate historical document), and certainly not a reliable enough source to upon which to base belief in any entities which have not thought to give us any other reason to suspect their existence. There are scientific and philosophical issues as well, but since the bible is the topic that’s come up (and its kinda a hobby of mine), and since for me personally the bible was what convinced me that the bible was not true, then what I’d like to talk to you about today is the bible. ”

To be continued – I couldn’t post the whole lot at once because it’s gigantic – I’ll post more over the next couple of weeks. Thank you, Nox, for having a gigantic brain and sharing it with us!

Stephen Fry: This Is a Book...
Noah's Ark, A Great Children's Story
Newsflash, Abraham
To the Bible!
  • Mark the Pilgrim

    Seriously, this was pure ownage. That guy knows his stuff.

    • Nox

      Thanks Mark.

  • UrsaMinor

    And sadly, the poster it was aimed at has left the building.

    • Skippy

      I was perusing that thread…the poster did seem to give y’all the Xtian version of “Fuck off” and “LALALALALA, I can’t hear you!” Congrats to all who hung in there and tried to reason with NotAshamed (OrCriticallyThinking).

  • Michael

    I read the wall. It’s pretty interesting, although a large portion is listing gospel contradictions, and frankly, there are just too many of those to list on a forum. Still, it does seem impressive when you stick a dozen or so into prose.

    I’ve had some walls in my posts before and I usually find that nobody has the time to respond to them, so I get brief, confused snippets of nonsense that hardly address anything, or else I get a response to just one or two points I made. That’s totally understandable, but it still is a little disappointing given the time I put into the post.

  • nazani14

    Commas. Paragraphs. Use them, if you expect people to make the effort to read your writing.

    • Jabster

      “if you expect me to make the effort to read your writing.”

      There we are, corrected that for you … :-)

    • JohnMWhite

      There are plenty of commas and plenty of paragraphs, the formatting just mucked up the paragraphing by not putting line spacing between them. If you cannot get over that tiniest inconvenience, then tough luck.

    • Nox

      I originally did make some use of paragraphs, but there were some formatting issues (probably cause it was written in msword then copied). Had to go through and manually reenter the breaks afterward. I think what Custador got here was my original post with the margin error.

      The cleaned up original (with commas and everything) is over here and should be a little easier on the eyes,

  • Igor

    Thank you, nazani14. You beat me to it. It’s tough enough to read a wall (even one as good as this), but the e-world is shunning punctuation and grammar at a frightening pace; let us please continue the effort to utilize the basic foundations of understandable writing. It’s not too much to ask. Besides, the good holy nuns beat punctuation and grammar into me, and it would be a shame to waste all their good deeds. ;-)

  • Mike

    The Bible was also my prime reason for questioning the Bible. After reading it through in one hit, there was just too much stuff that didn’t fit together with the religion it is used in.

  • Peter Cross

    “… four different eyewitness accounts of the same events its unlikely that each person from a slightly different standpoint would come up with exactly the same details.”

    The canonical gospels are not eyewitness accounts, they don’t even claim to be. The manuscripts are anonymous, and assignation of authorship is based on early church tradition, with no solid basis in the texts or in fact.

    Sometimes several of the canonical gospels relate the same events in exactly the same words. Independent verification, or cheating?

    What about all those pesky non-canonical gospels, that say wildly different things? Could it be that the four canonical gospels were selected because of their congruence with orthodoxy? Doesn’t that suggest circular reasoning in using them to support a claim of uniform accounts?

  • John C

    Anytime a believer attempts to substantiate supernatural ‘proof’ claims (ie Christ lives, the Bible is true, etc) based on anything other than His (kind & quality) of Life in us in the here and now, he or she has already (unknowingly/inadvertantly) lowered the bar and conceded the scriptures as mere historical text, myth, fable, etc and consequently subject to contentious dispute, debate and hence will make for ‘easy pickins’ by those who abide in and ‘own’ that very same ‘place’ in which he/she has elected to play in ignorance, yet well-meaning as he or she may have been. It is now made subject to those same standards of scientific scrutiny, subjective reasoning, etc. The problem is the gospel does not originate from that ‘place’, that reasoning realm.

    Nothing about the gospel is reasonable to the natural mind of man, will never make sense, quite the opposite, will be cause for offense in its simplicity and child-like naivete. But journeying past that ‘place’ by faith (which Love supplies) one finds a whole ‘nother ‘place’ opened up to him or her that those same scriptures call ‘the kingdom of God’ and which JC said was a ‘present day reality’ and could be found ‘within us’, in the child-like heart that is.

    In love, all the best.

    • Yabo

      a.k.a. God did it.

    • Skippy

      So, the “gospel” originated from…where? Valhalla? Sto’Vo’Kor? The Grey Havens?

      Actually, a Klingon gospel would probably be ten times more awesome than anything those Bronze Age goatherders could have come up with…

      • UrsaMinor

        Nah, the Klingons always struck me as what Bronze Age goatherders would be like if you gave them disruptor pistols and an unlimited charge account at the local leather outlet.

        • Michael

          As he said, ten times more awesome.

        • Skippy

          Exhibit A: from DS9, “Homefront”
          Kira (to Worf): I suppose your gods are less vague?
          Worf: Our gods are dead. Ancient Klingon warriors slew them a millenium ago. They were…more trouble than they were worth.

    • trj

      Hm, so because the Bible is divinely inspired it appears to us as offensive, simplistic nonsense.

      Meaning the Twilight Saga is divinely inspired. Who knew.

    • Mogg

      The only problem with that, John C, is that the quality of God’s supposed life in you or any other Christian is completely and utterly indiscernible from the quality of regular, ordinary life in anyone else. Isn’t the life of God in you supposed to be an obvious trait clearly seen by everyone?

    • mikespeir

      Well, it’s going to have to be reasonable to my natural mind if you want me to believe it.

    • claidheamh mor

      Speaking of repeated infections of wall-o’-post….

      • Skippy

        To be fair, it’s been a while since our resident spiritbabbler posted a wall o’text. Generally, he’s kept it to two or three sentences. Granted, his comments are usually incomprehensible, but they could hardly be considered walls of text.

  • Scott Bailey

    1) I am a biblical scholar… though in Hebrew Bible/DSS, but still some familiarity with NT issues

    2) Dating above generally correct but much more complicated (virtually all scholars date Mark 65-75 but differ on whether it was written before the destruction of the temple or after). A sentence such as “The gospel of John was almost certainly written in the 2nd Century” should be offered with a little more caution. There are Johannine scholars who make decent arguments for this document to have been written in the first century, though of course, towards the end of the last decade. No big deal, but words such as ‘certainly’ can be used in very few scholarly issues…

    3) My experience has been that many Christians are unaware of the influences of the Enlightenment on their expectations of history and genre. They are like fish swimming in water to which they are oblivious. What they really value is not the Bible, but rather, having been inculcated and socialized in the 20th century, what they truly value is ‘fact’ and ‘history’; therefore, when they go to the biblical text this is what they think they are reading, when in fact they are often reading myth, cultural legitimation, and social memory. The real issue in my mind is not one of facticity of the text but of function of the text, especially in primarily oral cultures. What we can learn from these texts is not history per se, but the concerns of the author or scribal group behind a text. Social theories are often good for examining these issue, but it is an entirely different issue other than ‘fact’ (will also significantly affect the dating of a book).

    4) Almost always a waste of time to try and have this conversation with a Christian. One, they don’t have the categories to understand the conversation. Two, even if an angel showed up, on fire, holding a talking snake while making manna rain from heaven and said, “yeah, these aren’t actual history books from eyewitnesses” they wouldn’t believe him!

    • Custador

      I doubt that Nox was writing with the expectation that his audience would consist mainly of scholars, and I certainly didn’t have that in mind when I reproduced it here.

      • Scott Bailey

        Yeah, I know. Like I said, it’s not a big deal. Just adding a litlle nuance (probably an insignificant amount!)

        • Scott Bailey

          Also known as ‘little’…

          • WarbVIII

            Always thought that once the kingdom of Isreal was founded they were not so much an oral culture(at least as far as the codification of the torah and the laws anyway), even more so for the new testament…being written as it was in a greco-roman wide ranging civilisation(most of the med and parts of the middle east,europe, and africa) at least most of the upper classes were literate, and wasn’t Jewish Palestine a very literate place comparatively in it’s time ?

            • Scott Bailey

              The kingdom of Israel does not exist after 721 BCE, Judah which makes it a little longer is gone after 587 BCE. Some elites from Judah are taken to Babylon (there is no empty land), then some of their offspring return to the Persian province of Yehud. At that time the ‘kingdom of Israel’ only existed in their legitimating texts.

              There are differences in opinion as to when Judah/Yehud was scribal and literate, and what percent of the population could read. I tend to favor the arguments of scholars who suggest this was a post-exilic phenomenon, but there are good arguments for earlier periods.

              Reading Koine Greek was not easy. It was all in caps with no spaces or punctuation (GODISNOWHERE <– imagine an entire page like that!). Letters would have to be read several times before they could be read to the intended. I can't remember who it is off of the top of my head but there is someone who mentions in a letter that he has an extremely gifted slave who can read letters on first sight.

              The difficulty in thinking of orality vs literacy is not importing our typographic assumptions. Writing and reading are learned forms of technology that were, at the very least, not even in the area code of western civilization.

          • Nox

            “Almost” actually was my attempt at adding a little nuance. But Scott is right that this sentence was an oversimplification, and in retrospect I’d agree that I probably should not have used the words “almost certainly” here.

            Scott, would you consider it wrong if that sentence had said “It is pretty well established that the gospel of John was written sometime in the second century”?

            • Scott Bailey

              No you could say that, especially in a forum comment or a blog post. If we can’t simplify and make some generalizations in a blog post then what’s the point? We only have so much time!

              I tend to write with more caution–not that it is better, can get way too wordy–so I would have to acknowledge those who adequately argue for the first century.

              Austin Farrer writing on another biblical text wrote, “The datings of all these books are like a line of tipsy revelers walking home arm-in-arm; each is kept in position by the others and none is firmly grounded.” The fact that this book gets dated anywhere from pre-70 CE to 170 CE is on the one hand kind of comical, but on the other, indicative of how established most issues are in the scholarly world.

              There are certainly authoritative voices that can be used for placing John in almost every decade of the second century, I would only suggest acknowledging that there are arguments for the last part of the first century that hold water as well. I suppose the only thing that threw me of–and this could just be the way I read it–is that your sentence, to me, made it sound like a second century consensus. Which on the one hand, can be well argued, but then, as with most things as far as higher criticism goes, there will always be other opinions that are also well argued and reasonably account for the data.

              However, I may be the only one who cares. Perhaps I was merely nitpicking to avoid work!

    • Kodie

      4) Almost always a waste of time to try and have this conversation with a Christian. One, they don’t have the categories to understand the conversation. Two, even if an angel showed up, on fire, holding a talking snake while making manna rain from heaven and said, “yeah, these aren’t actual history books from eyewitnesses” they wouldn’t believe him!

      I have been thinking about this – while it seems mostly like talking to a brick wall, deconverts from Christianity come from somewhere, something got to them. And while this didn’t seem to impress NAoC well enough, it’s almost evident it impressed him/her too much and that’s why they left. It’s very hard to argue. There was not as much of a counter-argument that we were initially promised. We are also now hashing out some things about percentages of possibilities and statistics (very basic) with another taker… don’t know how that will turn out either, but even if something doesn’t work on NAoC, it might still be valuable for the person who is seeking or doubting, that they will have information to find when they go looking for it. They don’t have to report to us, they might just happen on the page and get something from it that failed to reach someone specific, but I think Nox takes these walls out – because it’s an overwhelming shock of information to someone who is not aware, that it is difficult to argue with all of it. If you let them weasel one point at a time, they have an answer for everything. I think we were also talking about this in reverse context the other day – how Christians debate by coming up with too many counter-arguments to manage. However, I never find their version of the “wall” convincing, nor do I feel compelled to argue with. I can’t speak for Christians, but I imagine many of them feel the same way, but it still has a chance of making fuzzy things clearer for some of them.

      • Custador

        Process of atrition, I suspect. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that NAoC talked to his/her “church leaders” prior to vanishing from the site. Score one for my prediction about how they’d react to his request for advice, really.

      • Mogg

        Hey, it took me years to get around to accepting that non-belief was a possible option, and that was someone who _wasn’t_ absolutely convinced deep down inside that Jesus Loves Me. You never know.

      • Scott Bailey

        Kodie, you are right, my statement could use more nuance because there are those that change their minds, so let me put it this way.

        A wise man once said, “When the student is ready the master will appear.” A cliche but perhaps in this instance appropriate. What I was referring to above is when someone is in what I call “Apologetic Mode.” Unfortunately this almost always begins with epistemic certainty about what they ‘believe’ and strong adherence to ‘biblical authority’. This person is often not really trying to engage in dialogue but rather seeking to prove you wrong and prove their self right. When someone is convinced that they are right because God and their pastor told them so, well then… I have not found many conversations with these sort of people profitable.

        But, as you point out, there are those that deconvert. I suppose a little doubt has to come first, and then a slew of good questions, and of course, some actual research and reading in a variety of fields. But this is a much different epistemic position than absolute certainty. Apologetics mode is ‘defending’ the faith; when someone begins the process of deconversion they often begin by ‘probing’ and ‘testing’ the faith, and as you are aware, there are categories and tests that if reasonably sustained lead many to seriously question what they have been told to believe.

        • Thin-ice

          Yes, the “apologetics mode” is one that I used to get into during my years as a Bible School graduate, maybe subconciously using it as a shield to stop me thinking about doubts. But the de-conversion process quite often takes years, and with me the seed was planted in a secular Philosophy college class, taking 46 years to finally germinate and sprout to life. I’ve seen more fruit recently with christians by simply asking a genuine question or two about some N.T. contradictions, and letting them think about that, and not engaging in actual debate. I think if anyone expects the grand “ah-ha” moment from a christian who suddenly sees the error of his thinking, you’re going to find that it’s extremely rare . . .

    • Michael

      I’m glad you posted that. It’s good to have reasonably accurate and researched posts, but it is even better to have them with corrections and additions from people who know more about the subject.

      I would also like to add that the Gospels are not the only NT books that are hard to date. Revelation, for example, is a total bitch.

      What really surprised me, though, was the dating disputes over some of the OT books. Ecclesiastes, for example, was generally believed to be written in the first or second century BCE by older authors (ca. 1900), but now most authors say it must have been written in the third or fourth century. A prominent historian even thought it was written by a Sadducee, but it is now believed to have been written decades before the Sadducees even existed. And traditionalists try to date it during Solomon’s reign, 600 years earlier still! (note: That last date is pretty much impossible.)

  • WarbVIII

    Totally forgot about that as a probable reason for his leaving….one point given,lol

  • Baconsbud

    I have known you had a forum for while will admit this is the first time I have actually read any of it. Wow Nox that was some serious work you did there. I read most of the comments but skipped most of the alcohol, picture and clothing comments. I think one of the reasons he left might have been the fact that many of you were making him doubt his beliefs and question the truth he has been told his whole life.

  • Francesc

    It’s not that long!

    • Kodie

      That’s what she said.

    • Michael

      Well this is just part one.

      And I would say it’s a fairly long wall of text. I’m sure it took a while to write.

      • Francesc

        Of course it took time to write, but it is well structured and pretty clear, making it easy and fast to read. Besides, it is interesting.

  • TheReturnedCatholic


    I am seriously not surprised why NoAC left. And seriously, those of you speculating about de-conversion of the poster smacks of hubris. Oh, I did notice that the comment policy says “no evangelizing”… hmm … or is “de-evangelizing” illogically kept out of the definition?

    In any case, what Nox’s piece amounts to is an ad bacculum argument, if simply the point is to overwhelm NoAC so that he/she is pushed into de-conversion because he/she has no time to weigh the claims made against her case. So, I will offer the point-by-point rebuttal:

    (1) Firstly, Nox starts off by being extremely patronizing. I am certain that Christians in the USA (I am not American) are familiar with being criticized, as that is apparently the only thing the US media knows how to do vis-a-vis religion. I noticed that you guys consider as “drivel” anything that doesn’t fit into your materialist categories… so well … I am not convinced by the argument that this blog receives lots of drivel.

    (2) Actually, Mark is believed to be written in the period 50-75 AD; that is the consensus of most biblical scholars after the 1950s. The real issue here is that most biblical scholars tend to be dismissed by atheists, for the simple fact that they hold on to conservative Christian beliefs. So naturally, Nox’s Christian scholars agree with his secular scholars, because they all come from the same liberal tree.

    John is dated as between 90-120 AD on average, although scholars like Earl Docherty – even after being re-buffed many times – will try to claim it’s written closer to 175 AD. Such a dating is incredible, because it is referred to by the earliest epistles and writings by Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, and these are second-century denizens.

    And again, the dating of manuscripts is based on current recovered manuscripts. For many reasons – not least the Great Siege of Jerusalem in 68 AD – the original manuscripts might have been lost. Papyrus, it must be remarked, does not survive flames very well. Paul’s letters would have survived because they were written to Gentiles, not to Jews.

    (3) Julius Caesar left lots of information on his campaign in Gaul, but NoAC’s comment was over Britannia, which is a totally separate province from Gaul. So, unless Nox’s definition of “Gaul” includes “Britannia”, he hasn’t successfully rebutted NoAC yet. It is notable that NoAC was not arguing that Julius Caesar did not exist, to which Nox’s reply would have been sufficient rebuttal.

    In any case, the classic response to the charge that the NT is unreliable because it is written more than 30 years after the event is to note that the earliest Manuscripts of Plato are compiled more than a century after his death, in fact more than two centuries, yet no atheist seems to doubt the existence of Plato. Nor in fact, is the existence of Socrates doubted, although the earliest account of Socrates comes from Plato. So if the Gospels are unreliable, so should Plato’s account of Socrates be regarded in the same light.

    Does Nox, or anyone else, have any reply to this?

    (4) Jesus didn’t write anything, because he was actively preaching and going around doing miracles. The Gospels were never intended as a complete account of Christ’s life and ministry, just a sufficient account, Also, Jesus, since he was a carpenter, would have been illiterate. To fully realize the Incarnation, he would have had to take on the necessary human limitation befitting his social station.

    (5) Nox has not proven that the Gospels are historically inaccurate at all. I must suppose he is thinking of the “inconsistencies” in timing for the resurrection narratives.

    I think that has been explained sufficiently by other scholars as owing to the differences between the traditional Jewish calendar and the Roman calendar, which considered the start of the day to be at different times of the day. The timing appears not to coordinate because one of the Gospels was written for Jewish Christians who followed the Jewish calendar, and the other was written for Jewish Christians who followed the Roman calendar.

    (6) Paul was interested in what Jesus taught, not the laundry-list details of his life. This excruciating need for 100% empirical detail forced onto Paul’s epistles does little historical justice to how Paul set out his priorities. And also, papyrus, pens and ink were expensive in those days.

    (7) Cosmology does not make the Personalist God unnecessary, let alone the Deist God. The Deist God could have set up the cosmological system and left it to operate. And Isaac Newton, although usually mistakenly regarded as a Deist, actually fitted the Personal God into his cosmological system, and not as a God of the Gaps, but as the God that keeps everything going.

    (8) Natural selection appears to explain away God, whether personal or Deist, but the explaining-away comes at a price: Nature is taken to play the role of God, and it must play the whole role of God, not just a part. In which case, Nature becomes subject to the Euthyphro Dilemma. If Nature wishes to usurp the role of God, than it has to answer to the same questions that God needs to answer to. This argument is presented by the Deist Anthony Flew in the last book he published before his recent death.

    (9) God is a Person, and people have names. So, find God’s name and then discuss properly whether or not an entity with a such a name can exist, and exist necessarily. Hint: It is in Exodus. YWH (The tetragrammatron) is not a name; it is a nickname because the Israelites didn’t want to address God by full name.

    Lastly, there is the usual category error. Yahweh is “God”, not “god”. Ignoring the distinction is intellectual laziness.

    • Revyloution

      Just off the cuff, Ill address Plato and Socrates.

      Yes, there are secular scholars who doubt the existence Socrates. They argue that Socrates was a literary invention of Plato to explain the Socratic method.

      I will accept that Socrates quite likely might have been a fictional character. I will even accept that Plato might have been as well. This doesn’t change the fact that the Socratic method of thinking is extremely useful. It also doesn’t change the fact that the few writings that have survived are beautiful literature. Both of these characters could be entirely fictional, and it wouldn’t change my world view, or the function of the writings attributed to them.

      Compare this to Christ. The bible has some beautiful literature, I feel anyone who wishes to be fluent in English writings must have at least a passing knowledge of the KJB. There are also some great morals to be gleaned from the text. Yet, if Christ is conclusively shown to be fictional, the real value of the bible won’t be lost, but your entire world view will be completely changed.