Make Your Very Own Prophecy (That Actually Comes True!)

Make Your Very Own Prophecy (That Actually Comes True!) January 22, 2014

Christianity prophecyChristian apologists sometimes claim that the Bible records hundreds of prophecies and their fulfillment. One problem is that many of these claims don’t hold up.

For example, Micah’s prediction of a Bethlehem birthplace doesn’t fit the details of the life of Jesus. Zechariah’s prediction of a king entering Jerusalem on a donkey is likewise talking about someone besides Jesus. Zechariah’s anecdote of the payment of 30 pieces of silver has nothing to do with betrayal as in the Judas story.

But let’s not worry about that. Instead, imagine a Bible prophecy that came true. Let’s say that the Jews returning to Israel is a fulfilled prophecy. As evidence, apologists might cite verses such as these.

I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered—with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath. (Ez. 20:34)

[In that day, the Lord] will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth. (Is. 11:12)

I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. (Jer. 23:3)

The first question, of course, is the context of these verses. Conquest, exile, and repatriation are important topics in the Old Testament because they’re part of Israel’s history. The ten tribes in the northern kingdom of Israel were conquered by Assyria in 722 BCE and their inhabitants scattered. The southern kingdom of Judea was conquered by Babylon, and Jews were taken there beginning in 605 BCE. After Babylon was conquered by Persia, exiled Jews returned home beginning in 538 BCE. Could this be the re-gathering that these Old Testament books are talking about?

Put that aside. Let’s imagine that the Old Testament said that Jews will return to Israel and, sure enough, Israel once again became a Jewish state in 1948. How big a deal is this?

Not very. It’s vague—no time is mentioned. It’s mundane—exiles have scattered and returned in other situations, including Judea itself. It was also potentially self-fulfilling when Passover Seders within the Jewish diaspora worldwide concluded with the wish, “Next Year in Jerusalem!”

(By contrast, I list common-sense rules followed by good predictions here.)

But if National Enquirer-caliber predictions are all we’re looking for, they’re not that hard to make.

You, too, can be a prophet!

To see how to create a record of correct prophecies, imagine a commodities broker who wants to attract new wealthy clients. He buys a mailing list of 1000 candidates who live in the rich part of town, and he makes up a fancy name for his proprietary technique of predicting the swing in commodity prices. To half of his candidates, he mails an introductory letter saying that he is able to take on a few select new clients. To prove his capability, he gives a free prediction: the price of gold will rise in the next month. To the other half, he predicts that the price will fall.

A month later, gold has either gone up in price or gone down, and he’s lost credibility with half his audience. No matter—to the other half, he mails another letter to remind them of his accurate prediction and gives another free prediction, this time about sugar (or natural gas or soybeans). To half, he says the price will rise, and to the rest, that it will fall.

And so on with a few more commodities. He discards the failures along the way. At the end of this process, he has 50 to 100 wealthy individual to whom he can say, correctly, that he has given them three or four accurate commodity swings in a row using his special method.

He has “predicted” the future by predicting in hindsight. The unskeptical potential clients don’t see the big picture.

You see the same thing in the days before a presidential election. There’s always the news story about the U.S. county with the longest streak of picking the winning president. Obviously, some county will be the most accurate, just like some path through a tree of random commodities predictions will be the most accurate.

With low standards like those that satisfy many Christian apologists, some of the many prediction-like verses in the Bible are bound to be correct.

A visitor to the home of
Nobel-winning physicist Niels Bohr
noticed a horseshoe on the wall.
“Can you, of all people,
believe it will bring good luck?”
“Of course not,” said Bohr,
“but I understand it brings luck
whether you believe it or not.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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  • Y. A. Warren

    You do know that one issue with science is that the failed experiments aren’t published?

    • Another: that medical research is sometimes sponsored by private companies who refuse to let negative conclusions be published.

      • Y. A. Warren

        So true. These same companies often pay for findings to be prejudiced in their favor. I bring these things up to counteract the arrogance of many who believe that all accepted “truth” must be provable. Many things, in both faith and science, must be believed before being seen.

        • I don’t care for lumping faith and science together, given that they have pretty much the opposite approach to reality, evidence, and all that.

        • Y. A. Warren

          They are both fine with promoting hypocrisy and outright lies, as long as it serves their financial purposes.

        • Greg G.

          How do we know about scientific hypocrisy and lies? Science discovers it and exposes it. How do we know about religious hypocrisy and lies? Only when they are exposed by other means.

        • See pofarmer’s comment above – it looks like the Chicago RC’s are ready to own up to some things.

        • Greg G.

          That’s one diocese releasing documents as part of a legal settlement. They are not doing it for religious reasons. They are being exposed by other means.

        • Y. A. Warren

          It usually takes public humiliation for any “experts” to own up to their falsehoods.

        • Greg G.

          There are some who falsify results but when other scientists try to replicate or expand on those “findings”, reality shows they are frauds. When it becomes apparent that they submitted fraudulent findings, their reputation is shot and they are out of a job.

          Religious claims usually cannot be tested against reality because they contrived to be untestable. Testable claims don’t fair well under objective scrutiny. Even then the followers don’t lose faith. They tend to double down. Look how many times Camping made testable predictions that failed before his followers began to doubt. If the claims are too vague to be testable, they can be maintained for millenia. It’s “Jesus is coming soon” vs “Jesus is coming on May 21” that makes the difference.

        • Y. A. Warren

          It seems to me that all of nature that we don’t understand is lumped into belief categories by both scientists (hypothesis) and non-scientists. Religion is simply one path to “faith.”

        • And science is another?

          Science has an impressive (though imperfect) track record. Religion has nothing–no valid predictions, no new understanding of nature, and so on.

        • Y. A. Warren

          Faith (belief) in an energy that is mysterious and more powerful than any one human or group of humans is millions of years old. I am unclear whether atheists object to acknowledgment of this energy or to the anthropomorphic representations of this energy.

        • It’s difficult to say much that applies to all atheists except that they have no god belief.

          Most atheists reject the supernatural. This mysterious energy would fit that category, even if not anthropomorphized.

        • Y. A. Warren

          There are still many things in the universe that humans don’t understand. Don’t these qualify as mysteries?

        • Of course. But why introduce a powerful energy into the discussion? If evidence points to one, fine, but it hasn’t done so yet.

        • Y. A. Warren

          In order to continue having respectful conversations with those who come from the direction of ancient mystery. I’m not sure what proof you need in order to acknowledge unseen energy.

        • adam

          A live demonstration would be a significant start.

        • Y. A. Warren

          Are you blind, deaf, and completely paralyzed that you aren’t continually surrounded by live demonstrations of unseen energy. I thought you were using a computer to communicate. So sorry if I have been insensitive to your special disability status that would render you unable to experience the physical world.

        • adam

          “Faith (belief) in an energy that is mysterious and more powerful than any one human or group of humans is millions of years old.”

          I see NO live demonstration of any such thing.

          Energy is the ability to do things.

          ad hominem noted.

        • Y. A. Warren

          Yes, energy is the ability to do things. It is also what makes up all matter. We can’t see energy, only the manifestations of energy..

        • adam

          Then ‘manifest’ your ‘belief’ energy and gives us all a live demonstration.

        • Y. A. Warren

          typing and sending this email is a live demonstration of manifest energy.

        • adam

          So your claim of “Faith (belief) in an energy that is mysterious and more powerful than any one human or group of humans is millions of years old.”:
          Allows you to send messages from a computer created by science through the internet created by science.

          Not very mysterious or powerful.

          I don’t have or need faith to post my messages

          My messages show up here, whether I believe they will nor not.

        • Y. A. Warren

          Science did not create the energy; science simply harnesses it into many manifestations. I have faith in the system, even though I don’t claim to understand how it works. Anyone who says they understand everything about energy is delusional or lying, as are the gurus who attempt to explain “God.”

        • adam

          So no demonstration of this great power called faith?

          I don’t need to understand everything about electrical energy to manifest it by posting a message, and I don’t need faith in a god to do it either. Even those with faith in other gods can manifest this energy to post messages.

          If you want to CLAIM that there is some power called faith, but can’t manifest it to do something, then it is not really a power.

          “as are the gurus who attempt to explain “God.”

          Exactly, how do you attempt to explain something when no such thing exists outside the imagination?

        • adam

          So you have NO demonstration of this power called ‘faith’?
          Power is the ability to do things.
          It is not a power if it does NOTHING.

        • Sounds like “manifest energy” is just a cool name for the pedestrian energy we all know and understand.

        • Y. A. Warren

          “Manifest” is simply an adjective to describe the ways we experience energy, some manifestations may seem pedestrian and some may seem awe-inspiring.

        • OK, so you’re simply talking about the kinds of energy that we all understand, nothing new. And you’re observing that sometimes our perceptions evaluate this energy in various ways.

          I thought you were making a claim of something more profound or supernatural.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I will never claim that I understand energy. The subject is simply too immense for my mind to wrap around it. I do experience the totality of energy in the universe as “super-natural” with the second definition listed below.

          I do like word play to hoist people with their own petards, especially those who attempt to convert me with their BS. I’m okay with “YWHA,” but not with “god” because my understanding of the term “YWHA” is simply breath, spirit, energy. It is very hard to pronounce, so it gets lumped in with all the other BS about an anthropomorphic manifestation of energy called “god.”
          Full Definition of SUPER
          a : of high grade or qualityb —used as a generalized term of approval
          : very large or powerful

          : exhibiting the characteristics of its type to an extreme or excessive degree

        • I think you mean YHWH for Yahweh?

        • Y. A. Warren

          Yes, sorry for the misspelling. My understanding is that YHWH, not Yahweh, is how it is spelled and can only be pronounced like the sound of a breath coming out of the mouth and lungs. The Jews actually forbade the use of a or an image name for YHWH. I don’t know where the perversion of that law began.

        • Yes, as I understand it, the vowels are just an educated guess.

        • I think we’re all on board with the electromagnetic spectrum.

          But surely you’re talking about something beyond this, right?

        • Greg G.

          I’m not sure what proof you need in order to acknowledge unseen energy.

          People would settle for objective evidence.

        • I would never ask for proof; you’re unable to provide it. Instead, I ask only for compelling evidence that it exists.

          That it might exist isn’t compelling.

        • Greg G.

          Scientists can speculate just like any person but in their capacity as scientists, their hypotheses are based on evidence with enough detail to imply further findings. If the findings pan out, the hypothesis is supported. If not, it’s back to the old drawing board. Science is tested against reality.

          Religion must avoid testable doctrinal claims. They have no interest in reality. Only in mystery and fantasy.

        • RichardSRussell

          The difference is that scientists say “This is the way it might be”, while religionists say “This is the way it is!

        • Two guys claim cold fusion. Fellow scientists try to reproduce their results and find nothing. End of story.

          Mark claims that Jesus rose from the dead. Pre-scientific people from the eastern Mediterranean pass along the story. The story encompasses the world.

          And even when “Jesus will come Oct. 22, 1844” is obviously false, some Millerites simply won’t accept that they backed the wrong horse.

        • Wait a minute–isn’t the church supposed to be the good guys? I mean, like supernaturally good? Like their work is guided by the hand of the omnibenevolent Creator of Everything?

          This is yet another example of society figuring out what’s right, with the church coming along kicking and screaming. It’d be great to see the church take a leadership role. “Hey, I know it’s uncomfortable or weird, but we need to do X” (civil rights, gay marriage, end slavery, etc.).

          Of course, the response will be that Christians were very involved in eliminating slavery. I agree, but that’s because everyone was a Christian. It ignores the fact that there were good Christians on the other side of that issue–and that the OT makes clear that God is down with slavery.

          MLK used Christianity in his work for civil rights. Excellent. But I see this as a civil rights leader using Christianity as a tool rather than Christianity saying, “Hold on, now–what’s the deal with all this unequal treatment of non-whites?”

        • Lynn

          You’re failing to make a distinction between the practice of science–aka the scientific method– and the field of science– aka what gets studied by the scientific method. Creating biased experiments to get the desired result is NOT science, it’s pseudoscience.

          And this where science and religion are different: science gives people the tools to determine whether claims made by scientists (or pseudoscientists) are in fact true. If you get a hold of biased studies, you can analyze them yourself and SEE they were poorly designed. Religion offers no such tools. Religion hands people a “sacred” text and tells them it’s sacred and the supernatural exists, but offers no tools for determining whether it’s claims are true.

        • Nice clarification, thanks.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          Where the analogy breaks down: If I find the bottom drawer where those negative studies were buried, people will stop believing that bit of science.

    • RichardSRussell

      Indeed. The field of science in general is aware of this to the extent that they’ve given the phenomenon a name — the “file-drawer effect” — but don’t seem yet to have come up with a decent method of addressing it (at least as far as original research goes; they still pay a modicum of attention to failed attempts to replicate earlier-published positive results).

    • Msironen

      Erm, what exactly do you mean by a failed experiment, from a particle physics point of view for example? Any experiment that results in data is a success (if the data don’t fit hypotheses such as supersymmetry that’s a problem with the hypothesis, not the experiment); a failed experiment would be where the collider blows up or something and I’m pretty sure LHC blowing up would make a news headline or two…

      • Just to fill out your point, sometimes the experiment is flawed. That story about neutrinos going a teensy bit faster than light (a year ago or so) was shown to be a problem with the experiment.

        • Msironen

          But that also got a huge amount of publicity, precisely because the results threatened some long held theories. Now I understand the situation might be qualitatively different in say medical research, but in most areas of science it’s exactly the experiments that disconfirm established wisdom that get the most publicity and this is a huge feather in the cap of science (when it doesn’t veer into simple sensationalism, anyway).

    • Greg G.

      Not only that, about half of what gets published is wrong. If they knew what they were doing, they wouldn’t call it “research”. The wrong research dies on the vine when it isn’t corroborated while good research leads to new discoveries. Science goes down many alleys to see which ones are blind.

      • Y. A. Warren

        My point is not to prove anyone wrong, but to point out that arrogance does not keep honest communication open. Most people have not been taught to think for themselves. Ridiculing them, rather than helping them see other avenues of thought seems counter-productive, in my experience.

        • Greg G.

          Arrogance is asserting doctrine with no evidence. Science hedges their claims according to the strength of the evidentiary support. When science makes claims that are so assertive that it sounds like arrogance, it’s because the evidence is that strong.

  • RichardSRussell

    the other trick the Biblical prophecy-fulfillment proponents have going for them is that the people who supposedly fulfilled the prophecy already had a road map, so they knew in advance what they’d have to do to make it come true.

    As I like to point out, every cake is a miraculous fulfillment of a prophecy called a recipe.

    • It’s a delicious miracle!

      • Little_Magpie

        I’ll totally have one of those miracles.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    For me, this brings back memories of WinAce(PBUH).
    Prophecy for Dummies

  • Castilliano

    I did make such a prophecy, 2 months ago:
    And now he’s coming…
    May 16th, visions will be had!
    (Check your local theater for times.)

    • I believe the link to your comment (and video) is here.

      • Castilliano

        Different commenter & his video, but right under mine.
        My other link is to new Godzilla IMDB page.

        • (I haven’t seen the trailer, but I wonder if this is good Godzilla or bad Godzilla.)

        • Castilliano

          The trailer’s well-directed, atmospheric, but not very indicative of how Godzilla will play out. I have heard there are multiple monsters, so ‘yay’ for that.

        • You do not want to piss off Mothra.

  • Greg G.

    I recently saw an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode from 1957 starring E. G. Marshall and Jack Klugman who played stock brokers. Marshall’s character began to receive letters that made startling predictions that came true. He began to make money on them and was able to retire. Klugman had been skeptical but then wanted to find the guy. His police friend told him were looking for the guy because of all the people who lost money.

  • Pofarmer

    Fucking fuckers. Need a Tim Minchin song.

    The Chicago diocese of the Catholic Church has released a trove of 6,000
    documents that show terrible child abuse by priests—and a coordinated
    effort to shield the predators from victims’ families and the law.

    • It’s hard to imagine an organization that is supposed to be here for the good of people doing so much to harm people.

      • Pofarmer

        The really sickening thing is, that this has gone on, quite literally, for centuries. I don’t think the Church has survived because it is holy, I think it has survived because it is evil, and will do anything it takes to perpetuate itself.

        • Sounds like evolution! The meme has to simply survive. It doesn’t have to be good.

      • Y. A. Warren

        The Third Reich comes to mind…

    • James Stevenson

      I literally feel physically sick after reading the stuff that went on under their watch… I’m gonna sound like a broken record as its something a lot f people say but I don’t really think it can be said enough.

      The church claims it is holy and above reproach, it takes lawsuits and settlements to drag this stuff out of them. Then they turn around and go ‘well we’re men and so we’re no better than anyone else’. As if we’re supposed to turn around and say ‘awww gwarsh aren’t you precious and repentant? All is well now’

      I can’t imagine what those poor people have gone through, and any other kids suffering similar treatment to this day. You have to be TWISTED to say with a straight face ‘we don’t think it damages them’.

      • Pofarmer

        Imagine if this were the Red Cross, or USAID, or any one of a hundred other organizations that operate world wide and they had this level of scandal revealed. I have to think they would either be summarily shut down, or put under watchdogs so strict that they had minders every minute of the day.

      • Or to be more focused on the health of the church as an institution rather than the health of the people for whose benefit the church was invented.

        (Unless Christians want to say that that’s not what the church is for.)

    • MNb

      Believe it or not, last decades something took place within the RCC I think even more sickening. I mean, I’m not convinced that childe abuse within the RCC happened more often than within comparable protestant or moslim organizations – or within the scout movement, including its secular versions.
      This though seems to be typical for the RCC.

      The RCC is a criminal organization. Its members should go to

      • Pofarmer

        Yes, the child trafficking thing is absolutely horrible.

  • Let’s look at the New King James Version…

    Exactly what in Micah 5: 2-5 is not about Christ?

    Same question re Zechariah 9: 9-10, and Zechariah 11: 10-13.

    What is odd is that you do not seem to know that the most often cited prophecy of Israel’s return as a nation are not the ones cited above, but Ezekiel 37 – the “Valley of Dry Bones.’

    • Read the post of mine in the link above. If questions remain, get back to me.

      I don’t much care about prophecies for Israel as a nation. Those verses were just examples. But thanks for the reference.

    • Lynn

      What makes you think the Micah and Zechariah passages ARE about Jesus? Context suggests they are not. Micah 5:5 specifically SAYS it’s in relation to the Assyrians (not Romans).

      • It’s ridiculous to discuss the Bible without it being present. Here is the verse in question from the NKJV:

        “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
        Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
        Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
        The One to be Ruler in Israel,
        Whose goings forth are from of old,
        From everlasting.”

        3 Therefore He shall give them up,
        Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth;
        Then the remnant of His brethren
        Shall return to the children of Israel.
        4 And He shall stand and feed His flock
        In the strength of the Lord,
        In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God;
        And they shall abide,
        For now He shall be great
        To the ends of the earth;
        5 And this One shall be peace.

        • Nemo

          That was in reference to a clan, not a town. Furthermore, the explanation given for why Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem lacks historical accuracy. No, Caesar never required his mostly illiterate subjects to go to the town their ancestor from hundreds of years ago had lived in. That would have been a disaster.

        • Greg G.

          Why go to the home of the ancestor 25 generations back instead of 20 or 30? Why didn’t every Jew go to Abraham’s hometown? The story was obviously contrived to put Jesus in Bethlehem.

          If people were traveling during a tax census, it was to avoid being counted.

        • Just checking to see what the arguments are:

          Matthew & Luke’s accounts contradict one another;
          Mark puts Jesus’ hometown as Capernaum;
          There was NO census (historical inaccuracy);
          Bethlehem refers to a clan, not a place;
          Micah’s context is about an Assyrian, not Jesus;
          The ‘Two Donkey” problem in Matthew;
          Ezekiel 37 ‘looks’ like prophecy, but is not.

          Are these the arguments that have convinced most of you that these verses are retrodictions, or misread, and are therefore, disqualified from being prophecy?

        • My approach is simpler. The authors of Matt. and Luke had read Micah, so they knew about the “prophecy.” Then they wrote their gospels.

          The natural explanation (lifting a convenient “prophecy” and “fulfilling” it in their accounts) is the obvious explanation. This is a laughably bad prediction that any Christian would see through if in another religion.

        • MNb

          “The authors of Matt. and Luke had read Micah”
          A very reasonable assumption. We should never forget that the skill to read and write in their time and place was very rare – they were well educated by definition. I find it impossible to imagine how literate early christians had not read the books from the OT, especially as these books had to be copied once or twice a century – by the very same literate people.

        • I must admit that the ‘retrodiction’ idea is new to me, and presents a challenge. This is my gut reaction to these ‘reasonable assumptions’:

          The retrodiction argument hangs by the slender threads that a group of people systematically rewrote the gospels to create a false image of Christ – and did this sometime prior to the earliest accepted discussions of the gospels, which came about in the 100’s.

          The idea seems to depend on secrecy, or collusion between people or groups, and poses the somewhat unreasonable assumption that a widespread and far flung population of gospel rewriters would be able to pass off newer, rewritten versions as ‘truth’ without opposition.

          To have these rewritten texts accepted without opposition presupposes that there were no ‘believers’ who would care what the gospels said – or that all believers were part of the conspiracy.

          It also supposes that the rewriters would do all of this rewriting while retaining the other ‘problems’ of the text, such as the donkey problem (such an easy fix!) and the many hometowns of Christ.

          Ultimately, it supposes that there was not, nor has never been, any treatment of the gospels as ‘sacred text’ that requires dutiful and accurate scribing.

          It seems to me that to accept the ‘retrodiction’ idea requires some strenuous mental gymnastics.

        • The retrodiction argument hangs by the slender threads that a group of people systematically rewrote the gospels to create a false image of Christ – and did this sometime prior to the earliest accepted discussions of the gospels, which came about in the 100’s.


          The author of Matthew picks up his pen 40 years after the events to summarize the gospel story that is popular in his church. (The other gospel authors wrote at different places and times, giving us a snapshot of their differing views.) Oral history could’ve made the Micah connection (“Hey—remember that Micah thing about Bethlehem? About the continuation of the line of David? Well that’s gotta apply to Jesus, don’t you think?”). Or it might’ve been a deliberate literary addition invented by Matthew or Q.

          If the idea of literary additions to a biography trouble you, remember that this isn’t biography. At most, it’s ancient biography, which is a different genre. Our ideas of history hadn’t caught on. Example: John changed the date of the crucifixion to the day before Passover. And he makes clear why he did so: he was drawing a parallel between the sacrifice of the unblemished lambs and Jesus, the perfect sacrifice. This was a literary device, not history.

          I don’t know how this has evolved in your mind to a cabal of cigar-smoking power brokers in a back room.

          It also supposes that the rewriters would do all of this rewriting while retaining the other ‘problems’ of the text, such as the donkey problem

          We see that as a problem. Matthew didn’t, I’m sure.

          Consider the parallel stories of feeding the multitudes. In Matthew 14, you have the first instance. And then in Matt. 15, you have the repeated version. Ever notice anything odd about that one? The disciples say, “But master, how will we feed the multitides?” Huh?? They’d just see the answer in the previous chapter!

          Two beloved stories; neither can be dropped. Same with the 2 origin stories in Genesis, 2 flood stories, 2 Goliath stories, and so on.

        • “I don’t know how this has evolved in your mind to a cabal of cigar-smoking power brokers in a back room.”

          It hasn’t evolved – I didn’t know it existed until yesterday. This is a first, fast swipe with very little research.

          To be honest, though – you really haven’t countered with anything except some additional examples.

          The retrodiction idea seems worthwhile, but I think it dissolves under scrutiny.

        • Sure seems to me that it’s evolved since what you’re concerned about has little to do with what I’m suggesting.

        • I didn’t mean to get off track. There is much here to ponder, and very challenging as always.

        • MNb

          It’s not challenging at all from a secular/scientific point of view – if we accept that the Gospels don’t present a historical account in our modern meaning of the world and contain a lot of myths – including all the supernatural stuff.
          You are facing challenges here, not we atheists relying on science.

        • Yet the science supports the gospels.

          In these discussions, we sometimes forget that the documents in question are in the thousands and that they were attested to by writers all over the ancient world beginning in the 100’s. This indicates early authorship.

          Early authorship puts the insertion of myths into the gospels during the lifetimes of witnesses – a highly speculative take on the evidence at hand.

          What we actually see are apocryphal accounts that embellished, or added, material were discarded as not rising to the level of authenticity.

          So the picture that makes the most sense is one in which ‘fictions’ were challenged and discarded, not accepted into the canon.

        • Greg G.

          There were no witnesses. The Jesus character was created after the destruction of Jerusalem when there were no witnesses in a position to refute them. It’s all myth. The fact that there was so much written in the late first century and after but none in the early first century should tell us to be skeptical of what is written.

        • I know you believe this, at least you say you do, but you can’t expect me to discard 2000 years of accepted data to accept the wild speculations of a few modern scholars.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, I do. You accept the Q hypothesis. That is fairly modern. What about the JEPD theory for the Old Testament? Most modern scholars accept that. Modern scholars have methods unavailable to earlier scholars.

        • I don’t accept the Q hypothesis and neither should you. At least, not until it surfaces as an actual document.

        • Greg G.

          Then we agree on Q. I think it is clear that some of what is called Q comes from Thomas. Some of what is called the M source, Matthew’s unknown sources, may be from the Pauline epistles, directly or indirectly. Some of what is called the L source seems to be from Josephus. Apologists say those cases are coincidences but when there are that many coincidences, it’s a pattern.

        • We’ve never seen protons, but we have evidence that they exist.

          So your rule is that clues don’t count for anything; you must have the actual document?

        • That was a poorly thought-out comment on my part.

          I learned from MNb that Jona Lendering is going to publish a book with, hopefully, some up-to-date information on ‘Q.’ I hope it’s in English.

        • MNb

          You’re too optimistic. We don’t know how much was written in the late first Century simply because nothing is left from that period.

          “It’s all myth”
          And that’s too pessimistic. Historians of Antiquity have quite reliable methods to find out what is fact and what is fiction. An excellent one is the Principle of Embarrassment, illustrated here:

          “These men made a statement which I do not myself believe, though others may, to the effect that as they sailed on a westerly course round the southern end of Libya, they had the sun on their right – to northward of them.”

          Herodotus thought the Earth was flat and makes a mistake which makes him look silly. Hence we can be sure that those Phoenician sailors rounded Africa indeed.
          The Gospels contain a few of such elements as well. The most famous example is “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This has embarrassed theologians for many centuries and doesn’t make sense for a mythical Jesus either. A Jesus from flesh and blood like you and me though probably just recited the psalms to help him endure the pain involved with his crucifixion.

        • He recited that Psalm to say it was being fulfilled in that moment.

        • Pofarmer

          Or, the author of that particular Gospel put it in his mouth.

        • Greg G.

          The criteria used by those who wish to support an historical Jesus assume an historical Jesus. The things like Jesus’ last words or Jesus being baptized would not be embarrassing when Mark wrote the stuff, but only became embarrassing as the theology developed.

          How did Mark know he said that? How did Matthew know he didn’t?

          The Criterion of Dissimilarity assumes that if a teaching disagreed with the prevailing Jewish thought and with later Christian thought, it is probably authentic. Or it could be something taken from Greek thought that was later rejected. It only works if you assume a historical Jesus.

          The Criterion of Multiple Attestation is a good criterion but whether it goes back to a real Jesus or the Jerusalem Christians who thought of a Jesus from the mythical past can’t be separated.

          The Criterion of “Aramaicisms” assumes that an Aramaic phrase couldn’t have come from an Greek to Aramaic phrasebook.

        • The criterion of embarrassment is indeed useful. Another example: does Jesus say “moved with compassion” or “moved with anger” when he healed the leper in Mark 1:40–41? It’s easy to imagine that it was originally “anger” and that later manuscripts softened this to “compassion” than the other way around.

          But be careful. Is it embarrassing that Peter denies Jesus three times? Not if you don’t like Peter! With the factional fighting in the early church, a Pauline perspective might’ve wanted to take Peter down a notch or two.

        • MNb

          “the documents in question are in the thousands”
          Eh no. The oldest complete sample of the New Testament is about 1000 years old. The oldest snippet of the Gospels is from the early 2nd Century. The rest is extrapolation, including the hypothesis of Q-document..

        • Wrong.

          Please see the Codex Sinaiticus (circle 4th Century):

          And then we can look at some fragments.

        • I don’t think that’s true. The 4th-century codices (Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and others) are complete (or very close to it). It could be, however, that they lack a book or two because the idea of which books comprised the canon changed.

        • Yet the science supports the gospels.


          In these discussions, we sometimes forget that the documents in question are in the thousands

          The total number is meaningless. What’s interesting is the age and reliability of the earliest handful. More here.

          This indicates early authorship.

          The gospels were written decades after the events. Ouch—that’s a lot of oral history.

          Early authorship puts the insertion of myths into the gospels during the lifetimes of witnesses – a highly speculative take on the evidence at hand.

          They naysayer hypothesis–that the original eyewitnesses would’ve corrected errors–rumbles with examination.

        • Greg G.

          The only things Paul knows about Jesus are things modern Christians take as prophecy. He doesn’t know about a first century Jesus, only things he would have known from out of context scripture. He disagrees with other apostles on the matter of faith vs works but there doesn’t seem to be a debate about when Jesus existed. No early epistle quotes Jesus, even when it would have made their argument solid. The never talk about him as a teacher or a preacher. All Paul talks about is “Christ crucified”.

          Edit due to new OS that doesn’t work as I expect it to.

          For example, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 says that Jesus died for sins (Isaiah 53:5), that he was buried (Isaiah 53:9), and rose on the third day (Hosea 6:2; Psalm 41:10; Psalm 16:10). The rest of the 1 Corinthians 15 describes how the earliest apostles came to be, but Paul describes the others as he describes himself.

          Paul tells us he met with Peter and James once but he also says he didn’t learn anything from humans.

          In Romans 16:25-27 and 1 Corinthians 2:6-9, he talks about the revelation coming from the writings, not from someone who taught anything recently.

          Mark used Hebrew literature, Greek literature and early Christian literature using the Greek art of kinesis. There’s nothing left that could go back to oral tradition, unless it’s the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas which puts text from Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and James into Jesus’ mouth.

        • Paul clearly quotes Christ in I Corinthians, and everything Paul wrote was ‘early’ since he was martyred in AD 64.

          I’m not following your point about Paul and Isaiah and Mark. Could you clarify?

        • Look up “gospel of Paul” here for more on how little about Jesus we can glean from Paul’s epistles.

        • Greg G.

          Paul clearly quotes Christ in I Corinthians, and everything Paul wrote was ‘early’ since he was martyred in AD 64.

          There are three “from the Lord” passages in 1 Corinthians. Compare when Paul quotes or refers to scripture. I used the footnotes of the NIV to find most of them. Paul sometimes has an accurate quote, sometimes it’s paraphrased, and sometimes his argument hinges on a poor recollection of the passage. He didn’t have access to to look up passages and using scrolls to verify the wording would be a hassle since they hadn’t invented chapter and verse numbers or even spaces to separate word, AIUI. It was probably more efficient to rely on memory so I don’t hold it against him.

          In light of Galatians 1:11-12, it is more likely that Paul is referring to scriptures rather than second-hand Jesus quotes.

          1 Corinthians 7:10-11 is about divorce. Paul is explaining Deuteronomy 24:1-4 to the Gentile audience that the Lord says women should not divorce their husbands as Deuteronomy has no provision for that but it was allowed under Gentile law.

          Mark 10:11-12
          11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

          Here Mark is talking to his disciples where the part about women divorcing would make no sense. It shows that Mark borrowed from Paul to give the idea to Jesus. It didn’t make sense that Jesus would say that to Matthew (5:31) and Luke (16:18) as they omitted that detail.

          In 1 Corinthians 9:13-14, Paul says “the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” He is probably referring to Deuteronomy 18:3-8. Note that he quoted Deuteronomy 25:4 in verse 9.

          That brings us to the Eucharist in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 where Paul opens with “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you”. The bread and betrayal comes from Psalm 41:9. The blood and the covenant association comes from Exodus 24:8. The “new covenant” part may come from Jeremiah 31:31.

          I can make a circumstantial case for the origin of the ritual coming from a pagan source and Paul used the verses above to justify it as a Christian ritual.

          Justin Martyr says that the Mithras cult stole the ritual from the Christians but he was writing about a century after Paul so he wouldn’t actually know. In the late first century, Plutarch wrote a biography of Pompey who lived in the middle of the first century BC. Plutarch notes that the pirates of Cilicia practiced Mithrasism and “They also offered strange sacrifices of their own at Olympus, and celebrated there certain secret rites, among which those of Mithras continue to the present time, having been first instituted by them.

          Cilicia was a major city in Tarsus (as in “Paul of Tarsus”) and in Galatians 1:21, Paul says he went to Cilicia after becoming a Christian.

          It seems more plausible that Paul got the ritual from them than they both came up with it independently. Justin is less credible than Plutarch, as Justin tells us that Jesus is just like pagan gods because the devil went back in time to preconfigure the pagan myths to match Jesus.

          I’m not following your point about Paul and Isaiah and Mark. Could you clarify?

          1 Corinthians 15:3b (NRSV)
          that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures

          Isaiah 53:5 (NRSV)
          But he was wounded for our transgressions,crushed for our iniquities;upon him was the punishment that made us whole,and by his bruises we are healed.

          1 Corinthians 15:4a (NRSV)
          and that he was buried

          Isaiah 53:9 (NRSV)
          They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence,and there was no deceit in his mouth.

          1 Corinthians 15:4b (NRSV)
          and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,

          Hosea 6:2 (NRSV)
          After two days he will revive us;
          on the third day he will raise us up,
          that we may live before him.

          Psalm 16:10 (NRSV)
          For you do not give me up to Sheol,
          or let your faithful one see the Pit.

          Psalm 41:10 (NRSV)
          But you, O Lord, be gracious to me,
          and raise me up, that I may repay them.

          That’s the basic gospel of Paul which he seems to have gotten from the OT, not from other people, as seen in the following excerts:

          Galatians 1:12
          … I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation…

          Romans 16:25-26
          … the revelation of the mystery… through the prophetic writings…

          1 Corinthians 2:7
          But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.

          Ephesians 3:3,5,9 (Scholars think this was pseudo-Pauline. If so, other writers had the same idea.)
          … the mystery was made known to me by revelation… it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets… the mystery hidden for ages…

          Paul uses the Greek word optanomai for how he came to see Jesus in the scriptures. He uses the same word to describe how Jesus appeared to Cephas, James, the twelve, the five hundred, and the other apostles. He doesn’t think their revelations were any different than his own.

          As for Mark, a place to start is New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price. Read The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark by Dennis R. MacDonald to see how Mark uses mimesis and then Gospel Fictions by Randel Helms. Helms often refers to parts of Mark coming from tradition and such but MacDonald shows much of that is coming from Greek literature. The first ten chapters rely on The Odyssey with Jesus putt-putting around the “Sea” of Galilee as Odysseus sailed around the Mediterranean. The Passion narrative of the last six chapters is mostly based on The Iliad, particularly the death of Hector.

        • Greg – you have obviously done a great deal of research and I respect that. There is a lot to digest here. Thank you!

        • Pofarmer

          Dissolves under scrutiny? What dissolves under scrutiny are the Gospels and prophecies. There is no indication of written Gospels earlier than the middle to the end of the first century, and they could be well towards the end. These gospels were written by educated Greek speakers, not Hebrews. Bart Ehrman talks about this a lot, and has some good blog posts on it. These authors were writing for an audience, they had decades to scour older scripture for stories to incorporate into the Gospels. This is shown, not only in the “fulfilled” prophecies, but also in the fact that most of Jesus miracles are old standards as talked about in ” The Gospel fictions”. By Randal Helms. Most of them are replays of Elijah and Eliza with a spattering of Daniel thrown in. There really is a lot of evidence of a lot of story telling that is very dependent on being knowledgable about the old testament .

        • Consider this… the gospels had to exist in order for others to comment on them, which is why I said that the so-called rewriting (retrodiction) would have had to happen very early, and very quickly, if it happened at all.

          Here are two early sources which do not support your assertions:

          •Ignatius, Letter to Polycarp
          (~107): “In all circumstances be ‘wise as a serpent,’ and perpetually ‘harmless as a dove.’” Cf. Matt. 10:16

          •Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians
          (~108): “Blessed are the poor and those persecuted for
          righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” Cf. Luke 6:20

          This puts the gospels existing in their current form in the early 100’s – which tightens the noose around the ‘retrodiction’ idea until it suffocates. Then it dissolves.

          Sorry for mixing metaphors.

        • I have no idea what you’re talking about. How do these quotes show us that the author of Matthew didn’t simply add a fragment of Micah to his gospel to give the impression of fulfilled prophecy?

        • Matthew and Luke say Bethlehem, with only Matthew referencing Micah.

          And here’s the conundrum: To say that one author inserted Micah either puts that author earlier than the other, with no evidence of that, or asks us to believe that BOTH gospel writers inserted the same location to make the same point.

          The time and distance problems of multiple retrodictions make retrodiction more and more unlikely – especially with the gospels being fully formed in the early 100’s (which is why I included the quotes above).

          It does not seem to be a very reasonable position since it asks me to believe in scenarios that are harder to believe than the gospel.

          It seems that retrodiction exists not as evidence, but as a conjectural tool to discard evidence.

        • MNb

          “To say that one author inserted Micah either puts that author earlier than the other”
          No, later. That’s how stories grow: when retold every narrator adds elements. Hence the hypothesis of the Q-document.

        • ‘If anything, the existence of Q would mean that the time between the actual events and their written record is lessened. In other words, Q would have to precede Matthew and Luke.

          ‘This would mean that there is a source even earlier than the those gospels which only adds to the validity of the accuracy of the gospels since it shortens the time between the event and the record.’


        • Greg G.

          Much of what is counted a Q seems to have come from Gospel of Thomas. There could have been other documents, too. Mark Goodacre and others propose that Matthew made up the Q passages and Luke borrowed from him.

          Also Q is very much like the Greek Stoic and Cynic literature, so it may have come from there and got attributed to Jesus.

        • Please see above about Thomas. Again, using such sources in place of the gospels is accepting lesser, weaker evidence in place of greater, stronger evidence.

        • Greg G.

          You accept that Matthew and Luke used Q and Mark as sources, don’t you? There are Jesus quotes in Mark that are similar to Paul’s writing that make sense when Paul wrote it but not in Mark’s context, like the divorce speech. There’s Mark 7 where the Pharisees challenge Jesus about the disciples not following the food laws. In Galatians 2, Peter and Paul had a similar argument but Paul and Jesus argue the same position. If Mark’s account had actually happened, wouldn’t Peter and Paul been in agreement?

          Mark 5:1-20 is about Legion the demonaic and echoes The Odyssey about the Cyclops. MacDonald points out the similarities between the two stories. I noticed something that MacDonald didn’t catch. The name “Polyphemus” means “famous” because it literally means “many talk about”. “Legio” is a Latin word borrowed and means roughly “many soldiers”. “Legio” is also very similar to the Greek word “lego” for “said” or “saying”. as it is translated in the verse. Just to make sure his readers didn’t miss the connection, Mark has Legio immediately following lego. and the word translated as “many” is “polys“. Homer’s works were the most popular writings in the Greek speaking world of that time. Anyone who could read Greek would have learned by reading Homer. It would have been so obvious to Mark’s audience that it had to be intentional.

          Mark had sources, too, and they weren’t just from Jerusalem.

        • How can I accept Q when it has yet to appear?

          As for the rest, the same question applies. Your ideas are interesting, but are not evidence-based. Or am I supposed to accept the thinking of Mr. MacDonald rather than 2000 years of accepted facts?

        • Greg G.

          You are supposed to consider the evidence that MacDonald presents and compare that with how much the second century fathers knew about the Gospel authors for a gauge as to how reliable their thoughts were.

        • In other words, I’m supposed to follow you into error and chaos? Greg, your worldview is seriously at issue. You make no case for anyone, at least not for me, to join you in your journey. I will, instead, hope that you find your way to a place that works for you.

        • Greg G.

          No, you are supposed to consider the evidence. You asked me if I had any. You aren’t pointing out anything that is wrong, only that the Christian delusion has been going on for 2000 years.

        • Greg – since you are the one making the unbelievable claims, it is up to you to prove them.

          You saying that all Christians everywhere have been deluded for 2000 years, and you and two or three scholars have figured this out. That’s a extraordinary claim, and you know what they say about extraordinary claims…

        • Greg G.

          I can only present evidence. Christians never proved their case 2000 years ago, but they have assumed it without good evidence. I think they made the wrong assumption despite the evidence.

          First you asked if I had evidence. I started to present it. Then you were asking me to stop presenting it. Now you want me to prove my case. Do you want me to present the evidence from top to bottom or not?

        • You are free to present as much or as little evidence as you have the time, ability, and capacity to present.

          But this is not my call. It’s Bob’s blog, and he gets to say when enough is enough.

        • Pofarmer

          FWIW, I don’t think that Greg G. is presenting anything that folks like, say, Bart Ehrman, would have serious issues with. He isn’t saying anything all that radical.

        • MNb

          No, it’s all very common among scholars, many of which are believers. I just checked Wikipedia; one of the first to propose this hypothesis was the German Friedrich Schleiermacher, a reformed (ie continental protestant) theologian. Another German, the Lutheranian theologian Adolf von Harnack, was the first to try to reconstruct the Q-document.

          “you and two or three scholars”
          Few things are as funny as a christian displaying his ignorance regarding his own tradition.

          It has quite an impressive bibliography. It is even an international project:

          Here are two of the scholars involved:

          Hoffmann and Heil have published too:

          Not exactly fringe. No wacko’s either.

        • The ‘two or three scholars’ reference was in response to the claim that all Christians have been deluded for 2000 years.

          I think your links are more on the broader subject of myth in general, which does not show my ignorance since that was not the subject of my remark.

        • Greg G.

          Well, he hasn’t brought up anything Bart Ehrman uses to defend the historical Jesus yet. 80)

          I was fairly open-minded on the subject and willing to argue either side if I saw poor arguments being used. I’d read about a dozen books by Ehrman so when he came out with Did Jesus Exist? I expected to see the best arguments for a real Jesus. I was disappointed. There was nothing new. Then I read Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle and Price’s The Christ Myth Theory and It’s Problems. Ehrman didn’t go after Price too much but he didn’t lay a finger on Doherty. I can’t find any flaws in Doherty’s thinking but I have disagreed with some of Price’s arguments.

          I was hoping RR would cite Galatians 1:19 or 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16.

        • since you are the one making the unbelievable claims, it is up to you to prove them.

          That’s an odd turnabout, since you’re arguing that the supernatural exists.

          You saying that all Christians everywhere have been deluded for 2000 years

          Why is that offensive? Muslims everywhere have been deluded for 1500 years, haven’t they? And Hindus for 3000 years? Christians can’t be wrong?

        • I wish you to consider that Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and religious Jews share a similar worldview (acceptance of the supernatural).

          According to Greg’s idea, if I even understand what he is trying to put forth, all of them have been deluded equally.

          Or does Greg accept the other religions and just think that Christians have been deluded? I’m hoping Greg sees this and fills in the blank.

        • The views of Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, and religious Jews are insanely, hilariously different … with the one exception that they all believe in the supernatural. That’s not much to hang your hat on.

          I look at this and conclude that pre-scientific man was determined to find religious answers to tough questions and that they’re all made up. You’re determined to glean this one commonality from the tiny overlap in the Venn diagram. And this is a victory?

        • The victory is over sin and death – but I don’t think we’ll get there from here. 😉

          I have a return question for you, Bob.

          Why do you think that Man has no recollection (memory) of a time prior to being human? Or even a time prior to writing or tool-making?

          Not trying to score a point or anything – it’s just a question. I won’t even reply with a follow-up comment.

        • Pofarmer

          The very earliest written languages were 5000 years ago. Homo sapiens sapiens emerged about 250,000 years ago, Language didn’t develop until sometime after that, so how COULD we remember anything from that period? It’s simply lost.

        • Greg G.

          The difference between the strength of any belief and the strength of the supporting evidence is imagination. The imaginary portion of the belief is a delusion. The supernatural cannot have evidence to support it or it would be considered natural.

          Religion plays on innate fears or instills new ones and offers imaginary solutions for real and imaginary fears.

          If any one of the religions could be shown to be right, it would still show that modern humans have an overwhelming tendency to be wrong in their supernatural beliefs. They could all be wrong, however.

          The Problem of Suffering is a disqualifier for any religions professing an omnipotent, benevolent being and Karma-based religions.

        • Kodie

          Yeah, extraordinary claims like a dead body disappeared and presumed to have resurrected into heaven with no investigation. Deluded.

        • How can I accept Q when it has yet to appear?

          Because it is a simple, reasonable hypothesis that nicely explains much data.

        • Pofarmer

          Why would the Gospel of Thomas be weaker evidence than the accepted Gospels? At the time they were written, there is every evidence that the Gospel of Thomas was just as influential as the others, and written just as early.

        • MNb

          I thought Thomas was written somewhat later? Am I wrong here? That would be highly interesting.

        • Greg G.

          Many scholars put Thomas at or before the time Mark was written. Religious scholars try to put Thomas after the gospels to say it is a derivative of them.

        • MNb

          Why “in place of”? Why are so many christians binary thinkers? What about using every single source available? Trying to construct a consistent and coherent theory that includes everything we can lay our hands on? Look, I’m absolutely a layman on this subject, so pardon me if I get things wrong. But one thing I know – your method of accepting what suits you and neglecting the rest won’t do.
          This goes much further than you seem to be capable of imagining. Take this example.

          The Gospels demand exactly the same approach.

          “In the first place, the laws of physics.”

          are already a decisive reason to postulate that the Gospels are full of myths. Another decisive reason is that many stories as told in the Gospels are similar to (I hesitate to write “derived from”) other myths from Antiquity. I already mentioned somewhere the function of the infanticide.

        • You are not being fair.

          You criticize me for ‘accepting what suits me and neglecting the rest’ when I have done no such thing.

          I am being asked to accept that which does not suit me such as the apocrypha treated as scripture.

          Do you see the difference?

        • Greg G.

          I think Jesus is more of a myth than Santa Claus as the origins for Santa go back to St. Nicholas who was very likely to have existed. Jesus was invented from the Messiah prophecies and out of context OT verses. MNb has argued with me on that as he accepts that there was an historical Jesus. MNb and I do agree that any evidence can tell you something and should not be discarded because it goes against your position or any other excuse.

          The people who made the decisions between scripture and apocrypha were operating under bad assumptions. They couldn’t even identify they authors of the gospels so they are anonymous. They believed that Matthew came first and Mark was the Reader’s Digest version. Mark was nearly lost to history after Matthew and Luke were written.

          You reject Thomas but are you aware of how many verses it has in common with Mark, Luke and Matthew? Do you know how many Pauline and James verses are found in Thomas but attributed to Jesus? Much of John seems to be to counter Thomas.

        • Yes, I reject Thomas. As do most Christians. Here’s one of the sayings that really gets some people riled up:

          114) Simon Peter said to Him, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of Life.”

          Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her
          male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

          Looking at that, I find that the Church Fathers got it right when they set the canon the way they did.

        • Greg G.

          I don’t accept Thomas as authoritative, either. It’s just that there are so many GoT sayings with strong affinities to Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians and James where Paul and James thoughts are attributed to Jesus. We see many gospel verses that appear as close to verbatim as possible considering we have Thomas in Coptic and the gospels in Greek.

          Just because it was not accepted as scripture is no reason to not consider the similarities and what that means.

          We also see Pauline verses in Mark attributed to Jesus. Mark and Thomas have similarities.

          I have to go so I won’t have time to reformat this copy and paste of a table but I hope you can see these places where the thoughts and phrases from the epistles have been attributed to Jesus.

          Romans 1:16
          For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for
          salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the

          Mark 7:27
          And he said to her, “Let the children
          first be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to
          the dogs.”

          Romans 1:29-31
          29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil,
          covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are
          gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of
          evil, rebellious toward parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

          1 Corinthians
          9 Do you not know that wrongdoers
          will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters,
          adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards,
          revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.

          Galatians 5:19-21
          19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication,
          impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy,
          anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and
          things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such
          things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

          Mark 7:20-23
          20 And he said, “What comes out of a man
          is what defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the
          heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery,
          22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy,
          slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things
          come from within, and they defile a man.”

          Romans 2:28-29
          “For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true
          circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly,
          and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His
          praise is not from men but from God.”

          Galatians 5:6
          For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision
          counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through

          Galatians 6:15
          For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a
          new creation is everything!

          Philippians 3:3
          it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in
          Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh—

          Thomas 53
          His disciples said to Him, “Is circumcision beneficial or
          not?” He said to them, “If it were beneficial, their father
          would beget them already circumcised from their mother. Rather, the true
          circumcision in spirit has become completely profitable.”

          Romans 5:12-14
          Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man,
          and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned—
          sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there
          is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those
          whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who
          was to come.

          Thomas 85
          Jesus said, “Adam came into being from a
          great power and a great wealth, but he did not become worthy of you. For had he
          been worthy, [he would] not [have experienced] death.”

          Galatians 5:24-25
          24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the
          flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be
          guided by the Spirit.

          Thomas 87
          Jesus said, “Wretched is the body that is
          dependant upon a body, and wretched is the soul that is dependent on these

          Romans 13:8-10
          8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one
          who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not
          commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not
          covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your
          neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is
          the fulfilling of the law.

          Galatians 5:14
          For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You
          shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

          James 2:8-10
          8 You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to
          the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you show
          partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For
          whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for
          all of it.
          Leviticus 19:18

          Mark 12:28-31
          28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing
          with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which
          commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The
          first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with
          all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31
          The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as
          yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than

          Romans 14:14
          I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is
          unclean in itself; but it is unclean for any one who thinks it unclean.

          Romans 14:20
          Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.
          Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what
          you eat;

          Mark 7:15
          “…there is nothing outside a man which
          by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are
          what defile him.”

          Mark 7:18-19
          18 He said to them, “Then do you also fail
          to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside
          cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but
          the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods

          Thomas 14c
          “…For what goes into your mouth will not
          defile you, but that which issues from your mouth – it is that which will defile

          1 Corinthians 1:22
          For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,

          Mark 8:12
          And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no
          sign shall be given to this generation.”

          Thomas 50
          Jesus said, “If they say to you, ‘Where
          did you come from?’, say to them, ‘We came from the light, the place where the
          light came into being on its own accord and established [itself] and became
          manifest through their image.’ If they say to you, ‘Is it you?’, say, ‘We are
          its children, we are the elect of the Living Father.’ If they ask you, ‘What is
          the sign of your father in you?’, say to them, ‘It is movement and

          1 Corinthians
          6 Yet among the mature we do speak
          wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who
          are doomed to perish. 7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God
          decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age
          understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of

          Mark 4:11-12
          11 And he said to them, “To you has been
          given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in
          parables; 12 so that they may indeed see but not
          perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again,
          and be forgiven.”

          1 Corinthians 2:9
          But, as it is written,
          “What no eye has seen, nor ear
          nor the human heart conceived,
          what God has prepared for those
          who love him”—
          Isaiah 64:4

          Thomas 17
          Jesus said, “I shall give you what no eye
          has seen and what no ear has heard and what no hand has touched and what has
          never occurred to the human mind.”

          1 Corinthians 4:8
          Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich!
          Quite apart from us you have become kings! Indeed, I wish that you had become
          kings, so that we might be kings with you!

          Thomas 81
          Jesus said, “Let him who has grown rich be
          king, and let him who possesses power renounce it.”

          1 Corinthians
          6 Your boasting is not a good
          thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7
          Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are
          unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore, let
          us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil,
          but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

          Mark 8:15
          And he cautioned them, saying, “Take heed,
          beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of

          1 Corinthians 6:16
          Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes
          one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.”

          Mark 10:6-8
          6 “But from the beginning of creation,
          ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a
          man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but
          one flesh.”

          1 Corinthians 7:31
          and those who deal with the world as though they had no
          dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

          2 Corinthians 4:16
          So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is
          wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.

          Thomas 42
          Jesus said, “Become

          1 Corinthians
          13 Do you not know that those who
          are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who
          serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the
          Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the
          gospel. 15 � But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing
          this to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have any one
          deprive me of my ground for boasting.

          Matthew 10:10
          “…no bag for your journey, nor two
          tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborer deserves his food.”

          Luke 10:7
          “And remain in the same house, eating and
          drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages; do not go from
          house to house.”

          1 Corinthians
          The cup of blessing that we
          bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is
          it not a sharing in the body of Christ?

          Mark 14:36
          And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are
          possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what
          thou wilt.”

          1 Corinthians
          23 For I received from the Lord
          what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was
          betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said,
          “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same
          way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my
          blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often
          as you eat this bread and drink the cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he

          Mark 14:22-25
          22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and
          broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my
          body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to
          them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for
          many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again
          of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of

          1 Corinthians 13:2
          And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries
          and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do
          not have love, I am nothing.

          James 1:6
          But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is
          like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind;

          Mark 11:23
          “Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this
          mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart,
          but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for

          Thomas 48
          Jesus said, “If two make peace with each
          other in this one house, they will say to the mountain,’Move Away,’ and it will
          move away.”

          Thomas 106
          Jesus said, “When you make the two one,
          you will become the sons of man, and when you say, ‘Mountain, move away,’ it
          will move away.”

          1 Corinthians
          25 For he must reign until he has
          put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is

          Mark 12:36
          “David himself, inspired by the Holy
          Spirit, declared, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put
          thy enemies under thy feet.”

          1 Corinthians
          Come to a sober and right mind, and
          sin no more; for some people have no knowledge of God. I say this to your

          Thomas 28
          Jesus said, “I took my place in the midst
          of the world, and I appeared to them in the flesh. I found all of them
          intoxicated; I found none of them thirsty. And My soul became afflicted for the
          sons of men, because they are blind in their hearts and do not have sight; for
          empty they came into the world, and empty too they seek to leave the world. But
          for the moment they are intoxicated. When they shake off their wine, then they
          will repent.”

          2 Corinthians 12:2
          “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up
          to the third heaven — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God

          Thomas 11
          Jesus said, “This heaven will pass away,
          and the one above it will pass away. The dead are not alive, and the living will
          not die. In the days when you consumed what is dead, you made it what is alive.
          When you come to dwell in the light, what will you do? On the day when you were
          one you became two. But when you become two, what will you

          1 Thessalonians
          14 For since we believe that Jesus
          died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who
          have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that
          we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede
          those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven
          with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the
          trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; 17 then we who are
          alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet
          the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.

          Mark 13:28-29
          28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as
          soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that
          summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things
          taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.

          Galatians 2:11-12
          11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face,
          because he stood self-condemned; 12 for until certain people came from James, he
          used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept
          himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction.

          Mark 2:16-17
          16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was
          eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat
          with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them,
          “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those
          who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but

          Galatians 3:19
          Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions,
          until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was
          ordained through angels by a mediator.

          Mark 10:5
          But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness
          of heart he wrote you this commandment.

          Romans 8:15
          For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into
          fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba!

          Galatians 4:6
          you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who
          calls out, “Abba, Father.”

          Mark 14:36a
          And he said, “Abba,

          Galatians 5:12
          I wish those who unsettle you would castrate

          Matthew 19:12
          “For there are eunuchs who have been so
          from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and
          there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the
          kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive

          James 1:5
          If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all
          generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.

          James 1:17
          Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from
          above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or
          shadow due to change.

          Thomas 94
          Jesus [said], “He who seeks will find, and
          [he who knocks] will be let in.”

          James 1:6
          But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is
          like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind;

          Mark 11:22-23
          22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in
          God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this
          mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart,
          but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for

          James 1:12
          “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood
          the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who
          love him.”

          Thomas 58
          Jesus said, “Blessed is the man who has
          suffered and found life.”

          James 3:12
          Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a
          grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

          Thomas 45
          Jesus said, “Grapes are not harvested from
          thorns, nor are figs gathered from thistles, for they do not produce fruit. A
          good man brings forth good from his storehouse; an evil man brings forth evil
          things from his evil storehouse, which is in his heart, and says evil things.
          For out of the abundance of the heart he brings forth evil

          James 5:12
          Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by
          earth or by any other oath, but let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” be no, so
          that you may not fall under condemnation.

          Matthew 5:33-37
          33 “Again you have heard that it was said
          to the men of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord
          what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not
          swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it
          is the city of the great King. 36 And do not swear by
          your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this
          comes from evil.

        • Greg – thank you for this post. It is massive – over 3500 words! I have cut-n-pasted it into a Word doc for review off site.

          it may take me awhile to get through it, and my goal is to understand it well enough to discuss it with you.

          Thank you again.

        • Greg G.

          You are welcome. Did you note my disclaimer? I included all the verses others had associated with one another to not impose my own bias on the collection. Some I think are strong and obvious while others are tenuous or coincidental.

        • Yes. Thank you again. Did you use a particular translation for all of the canonical texts, or more than one?

          I found an online Thomas that is:

          Translations by: Thomas O. Lambdin (Coptic version)
          B.P Grenfell & A.S. Hunt (Greek Fragments)
          Bentley Layton (Greek Fragments)
          Commentary by: Craig Schenk

        • Greg G.

          I tend to use the NRSV for my quotes. I usually use to look up verses where I use the “Add parallel” feature to get the NRSV and the NIV because they both provide helpful footnotes. The NIV gives more cross-references in the footnotes but I hear the NRSV is the more reliable translation.

          I like to see several translations at once for one verse at a time. I also depend on to reference the Greek and Hebrew wording. I think it is that allows you to search for usages of Greek words and you can see the next or previous word in alphabetical order to find roots of the word and where they are used. I suppose you could do the Hebrew, too, but I haven’t.

        • Great! I love Biblegateway and use it a lot. I’ve still got my nose in books to look at Greek or Hebrew – I’ll check out, thanks for the tip.

          I noticed that two verses didn’t get pasted, one from Leviticus and another from Isaiah, but you have the verses referenced, so I’ll add them into the Word doc using the NRSV.

        • Greg G.

          Those OT verses were pointers to the verse being quoted in the epistle verse. They were in a smaller font in my HTML table but the formatting doesn’t copy into a post.

        • Greg G.

          Here’s a link to more affinities between Mark and the Pauline epistles.

          I’ve read it but haven’t put the verses next to one another to work it all out.

          The whole website collects commentary from several sources in a verse by verse format. It’s more serious than the type of commentary you find on many religious sites.

        • Thanks, Greg. It’s amazing how much work has gone on in this area.

        • That link also talks about chiasmus. I recently heard a Richard Carrier discussion of chiasmus, particularly in Luke.

          (Chiasmus in English would be something like “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” In NT books, the scale was much bigger, with each element being an individual story or idea.)

          Have you heard much about this? I wonder how much Carrier’s view is the consensus.

          Curious thing #1 is that, if this structure were deliberate, that would be more evidence that literary rather than historical factors drove the narrative.

          Curious thing #2 is that this would be a reason for much of the detail that many apologists point to with delight (“See how they write as if they were a journalist, with lots of unnecessary detail?”) could become necessary simply for the literary structure, not because they actually happened.

        • Greg G.

          That’s quite interesting. I wasn’t aware of chiasmus in Luke. I’ve seen articles that rely heavily on Steve Mason’s book (which I haven’t read) that say Luke’s unnecessary detail comes from copying Josephus where the details are part of the story. So when apologists crow that Luke was a great historian because he is verified by Josephus, it’s circular.

          I read Dennis MacDonald’s book last fall. He described the Greek art of mimesis . Part of his criteria for identifying Homer in Mark was finding common elements in both stories in the same order or reversed order. After learning of the chiasmus in Mark, I’m wondering if the reversals of the elements are another chiasmus.

          Mark’s use of mimesis and chiasmus written into his Greek composition plus his in depth knowledge of Homer (compared to his misunderstandings of the Hebrew literature) signals that he was a master writer. The rough nature of the Greek language would then be intentional, perhaps a chiasmus on the high Greek of Homer or he was trying to imitate someone writing Greek as a second language.

        • That’s interesting about the author of Mark being a master writer. Often, Mark is denigrated because of the lower quality of its Greek, and the ancients focused their copying efforts on Matthew and Luke (the new ‘n improved versions) that Mark almost went extinct.

        • Greg G.

          Is Acts written in chiasmus, too.

        • I hadn’t heard that, though I’m just a newbie, too. You might see what Richard Carrier has to say (or has written).

        • Greg G.

          Sorry, Bob. I hadn’t had my coffee yet. Too much blood in the caffeine stream. I must have had you confused with Google.

          Check these out:

          Literary structure (chiasmus, chiasm) of Acts of the Apostles
          Chiasmus and Concentric Structure of whole text

          Biblical Chiasmus
          Discovering and Exploring Reverse Parallelism in the Bible


          I noticed from the first link that the chiasm hinged on chapter 12 so I Googled on it to find this link:

          Chiastic Outline of Acts 12

        • Greg – the new links on chiamus are fascinating – thank you for finding and posting them.

          I think you make a good case for Thomas being influential to, or at least known, by other NT authors. At least, the phrases that are in Thomas are shared, with varying degrees, among other NT authors.

        • Wow. Good stuff.

        • Greg G.

          OK, I admit I’m PW’d. I had to go pick up my wife.
          Those verses were collected from a few different websites. I think some are quite tenuous in their relationships but I let them stay so I wouldn’t introduce my own bias.

        • There’s nutty stuff in the canon, too.

        • No question about that.

          A question about a housekeeping matter… How do you quote a prior post? I’m working on a Mac.

        • How do you quote a prior post?

          You do it like this:

          [blockquote]How do you quote a prior post?[/blockquote]

          Except that you use angled brackets (less than/greater than) instead of square brackets.

        • You do it like this:,


          Thanks, Bob!

        • MNb

          No, this is not the problem. What you accept as scripture ie sacred and what not is entirely your business. What we are talking about is what to accept as historical and what not. That’s why the early church fathers accepting this and rejecting that is irrelevant.

        • Rejecting the church fathers is rejecting their worldview and the worldview of the Church.

          I’m not ready to go there, and even if I personally do not have a clear, concrete answer for Point A, or argument B, that’s ok.

          Please note that even if I don’t have an answer, that doesn’t mean that no answer exists – it just means that I don’t know it.

        • Pofarmer

          “Rejecting the church fathers is rejecting their worldview and the worldview of the Church.”

          So close. At least you admit that those who Canonized the gospels had a world view. Thing is, there were other world views at play in Early Christianity. You realize, that say, the Etheopian Church has extra books in it’s bible, right?

        • Yes, of course.

        • Pofarmer

          Then why be so hung up on what one particular sect of Christianity believed and pushed?

        • Even though we see many expressions of Christianity in the world today, there is only one Christ. The different expressions of Christianity are mostly ethnic and regional flourishes, yet the core message is the same.

        • Kodie

          The core message is about an imaginary afterlife, the way being forged by a man suggested to be a corporeal god 2000 years ago, walking the earth, and dying on purpose for the intention of absorbing all humankind’s sins, and then flying off into space from a locked and guarded crypt. All expressions of Christianity are team rivalries among this alleged man/god’s messages and priorities, but all suppose that resurrection is the most plausible scenario, and that he died for love of people he could not possibly have known to exist, years and years into the future. He is the messenger of an asshole god who threatens humans with damnation if they do not recognize this man/god’s “gift” of dying and devote themselves to any or none of his personal/deistic priorities. If you just throw out your brain and believe all of this happened, for you, the disgusting sinner, after you die, you get to go someplace awesome and lick the boots of your abuser. If you don’t, then you burn eternally. You all seem pathetic to call this system “love”.

          And you think we’re screwed because we call it imaginary? Because we can imagine plenty of other plausible, lifelike, realistic scenarios that don’t involve a deity planting himself on earth only to fly up into space and judge us. Maybe we’ll never know what really happened, but your standards are skewed in favor of supernatural. It’s a story, as all the other scenarios are. Taking the story you’re told, which is nothing but a reflection of outcomes drawing a scenario of magic back to the beginning, the “prophecy” to create a magical character, is, to you, “most plausible” and all other sequences of imaginary events leading up to the outcome are not – because you recognize them as invented, and you seek to call them “far-fetched” because they’re too unlikely in sequence to be plausible to you, and plus, nobody really knows for sure. But resurrection makes sense? It too is an invented sequence of events drawn backwards from the outcome with no proof. You see an empty crypt and all the alibis check out, so of course nothing that could happen in real life, like a resurrection absolving you of all sin, is believable. Nothing else could be true, no other made up plausible sequence of events leading up to it are “true” because we can’t prove it!

          Why do you jump to defend the least plausible assumption of prior sequence of events, magic, just because it’s written in the bible?

        • Is it possible that you have it backwards?

          What I mean is, Christians do not start with the ‘story’ and then struggle to make the story fit into their worldview. That seems to be what you have described, and yes, that would be foolish and maybe even pathetic.

          It is often the other way around. Experience comes first, then comes reconciling that to the story. An example:

          I began my journey with an experience of God in a way that was undeniable to me, and now struggle to make that experience part of a new worldview.

          I have found, in my experience, this to be a common thing for many of the Christians I have met (at least, those who are willing to talk about their conversion experiences.)

          What is in the Bible are the words and deeds of Christ, our Lord, and the words and deeds of those closest to Him while He lived, and how He revealed Himself throughout history.

          It is an admittedly, shamelessly, hilariously, and wonderfully complex conglomeration of many documents that was cobbled together to best demonstrate how God’s energies interact with the world.

        • Pofarmer

          Then why be so hung up on heresy or whether or not a particular piece of apocrypha is Canonical or not? Isn’t it possible you could understand Christ Better if you knew the entire historical context of the movement?

        • I actually agree with you.

          The more I understand the history, the clearer I see the reasons for why some documents are accepted and why others are not. Thus my stance on accepting non-canonical documents alongside canonical ones as being in error.

        • MNb

          “Thus my stance”
          So theology surpasses science for you. I don’t think so. That’s one big begging the question. You believe something because you want to believe something. Once again: what you accept or not accept for your belief system is none of our business. What’s to be accepted as a historical source and what information we can derive from it is none of the church fathers’ business. I’m sorry for your fragile belief system if it can’t bear it – not.

          “Rejecting the church fathers is rejecting their worldview and the worldview of the Church.”
          I’m not interested in their worldviews. I’m interested in science – in this case the branch of science called History of Antiquity. The church fathers didn’t know the scientific method, simply because it hadn’t been methodized yet. Modern historians do know. For them it’s perfectly legitimate to use any non-canonical stuff as a source of information. No theologian is going to prevent them and certainly not a prejudiced believer like you. Because that’s what this is

          “accepting non-canonical documents alongside canonical ones as being in error.”
          – just a prejudice of a believer who’s afraid of his beloved personal believed system falling apart. Well, that’s your problem, not ours and not of any scholar.
          The judgment of your beloved church father on matters of history is as relevant as their judgment on the higgs-boson – exactly zero.

        • That is a very unreasonable argument for a man of ‘reason’ to make.

          You disallow me my findings, and remove them not because of more compelling evidence, but because you have decided that what I have found to be true is unworthy – in your opinion.

          Nice rant, though. I’m touched that you worry so much about my delicate feelings. I think you worry about it more than I do.

        • MNb

          “That is a very unreasonable argument …”
          What’s unreasonable about establishing the fact that for you theology surpasses science?
          It’s correct I take that badly.

          “You disallow me my findings”
          You do the disallowing yourself by dictating what scientific findings should be because of your theology.

          “what I have found to be true is unworthy – in your opinion”
          It’s not a matter of opinion to judge your findings unworthy. They are unworthy for the reason you gave us yourself – theology surpasses science for you. “This can’t be true because the churchfathers this and the churchfathers that.”
          “I think you worry”
          A wrong thought. I just won’t take you seriously anymore when discussing science.

        • Pofarmer

          All that means is thay you agree with the ones who canonized it.

        • I believe Richard Carrier also thinks that rejecting Q (that is, Luke copied from Matthew) is the more parsimonious explanation.

        • Greg G.

          Parsimony is an attractive feature as it eliminates a hypothetical that exists for no other reason. It raises questions about why Luke changed the genealogy and the Bethlehem birth narrative. Perhaps he didn’t like Jesus coming from the illicit affair that produced Solomon. Perhaps he thought the baby killing Herod was not historical since Josephus didn’t record it so he substituted the census described by Josephus.

          I recall Carrier’s discussion of an amiable radio debate he had with Goodacre. I don’t remember the subject but I recall the irony of RC being in studio in England while MG, the Brit, was in the States. RC sympathized with MG but I haven’t seen him express an opinion about his theory.

        • MNb

          “which only adds to the validity of the accuracy of the gospels since it shortens the time between the event and the record.”
          This is a non-sequitur because it completely neglects what I wrote above: when retold every narrator adds new elements.

        • You mentioned Q, here’s Q. You don’t like what Q implies, so now you drop Q.

          As to your statement, I’ll accept that every narrator adds new elements, in this field they are called ‘scribal glosses,’ and their existence is complimentary to what is being affirmed, not a denial.

        • Greg G.

          He mentioned the “Q-hypothesis”.

          The only evidence we have for Q is the similarity between certain passages in Matthew and Luke that are not in Mark.

        • MNb

          That’s one reason I’m looking forward to Jona Lendering’s new book on the split of judaism and christianity – to find out if the Q-hypothesis is consistent.

        • Greg G.

          Sounds interesting. From Wikipedia, I see that he runs My Googlefu has taken me to that site before.

          I’ve read Burton Mack’s ideas on Q and he follows Kloppenborg with the three layer model. I’ve read most of Mark Goodacre’s website and he follows the Farrar model that most of Q was what Luke took from Matthew, citing many minor disagreements. Initially, I favored Mack but now I’m not sure. I think some of what is called Q comes from the Gospel of Thomas based on a few weak indications, but no slam dunk proof. Any idea where Lendering falls in the spectrum?

        • I know we’re arguing in other places, but I would to acknowledge that MNb’s suggestion of Prof Lendering’s work is an excellent one.

        • MNb

          I don’t drop Q. I write that it’s obvious that Q implies that when stories are retold every narrator adds new elements. You’re getting incoherent.
          There is Q; the four authors of the Gospels knew it and some knew each other; all four added their own elements because they 1) shared a common agenda (namely unifying early christianity) and 2) each had personal agenda’s too (promoting their own views). The authors were quite open about 1 (and Greg has shown this is correct for Paulus too); 2 was common practice during Antiquity.
          You’re poking at an imaginary inconsistency.

        • …We have one fellow arguing that the gospels are all myth, another saying that the gospels are somewhat myth, and me being insulted because I asked for evidence that wasn’t just the other guy’s opinion.

          I like a good absurdist comedy as much as the next fellow, but this is over the top.

        • Greg G.

          I provided Paul’s stated opinion as evidence.

        • As did I in an earlier thread. I’m not trying to be cute, but this thread is getting really cumbersome and it’s difficult to keep track of what’s going on.

        • Greg G.

          I agree and understand. It is even more difficult for you engaging in three separate conversations. 80)

        • You have no idea, although I’ve seen you tackle some hefty conversations, too. Thank you for understanding. I really mean it.

        • MNb – I looked at this response again, and must concede that your summary is correct and valid.

          I have no idea how this discussion became so strange.

        • Yes, Q is hypothesized to precede Matt. and Luke.

        • Greg G.

          Only Matthew and Luke talk about Jesus’ early life. They had no knowledge so they extracted scripture passages and pretended they were about Jesus. The early Christians started the practice, thinking taking passages out of context was a new way to gain knowledge and the late first century continued the practice after they assumed the early Christians were talking about an early first century Jesus.

          Matthew seems to have a fetish about Jesus fulfilling prophecies and makes it obvious but Luke is coy.

          There are only about 20 passages that refer to God promising that David or his seed being on the throne. It’s not that improbable that they would both find that one most useful as a birth narrative. The fact that the stories they came up with being so different show that it doesn’t come from the same oral tradition. They both took Bethlehem as a factoid and built a story around it.

        • The picture presented appears to be solid – except it assumes isolated authors, working at distances, who ‘had no knowledge,’ and yet came up with the same fiction.

          This seems to be very unlikely, more unlikely than the gospels themselves, which makes the ‘theory’ of Christians creating Christ cumbersome, messy, and unreasonable.

          And we haven’t even touched on the ‘Why would they do that? part – which is a huge question considering their outcomes.

        • Greg G.

          Who was isolated? Paul had interactions with Peter, James, and other apostles per Galatians and 1 Corinthians. Peter, James, and John were pillars in Jerusalem. The Epistle of James seems to be a direct response to Galatians. Mark used some of Paul’s writings. Mark and Thomas have similar and nearly verbatim passages in common (allowing for the different languages). Matthew and Luke copied Mark. John seems to have taken some of Mark’s stories, too. They all came from the Jerusalem group but diverged rapidly because the original teachings were vague since they were coming from out of context scripture.

        • Greg, either they had knowledge or they did not. The best evidence I have seen says that they did, so I agree with this post – except the speculation that all they had was out-of-context scripture and a vague story to tell.

        • Greg G.

          My post here does not contradict the earlier post. If you agree here, then perhaps you should agree above.

          Paul disagreed with Peter and James but not about how they came to their beliefs. Mark read some of Paul’s letters but I’m not sure he wasn’t writing a fictional story based on the literature of the day, sort of like how Virgil wrote The Aeneid using Homer but combining Roman ideals to the story.

        • I appreciate your passion and your willingness to engage, but please stop trying to get me to accept your opinion.

        • Greg G.

          I am presenting the evidence on which my opinion is based. You did ask if I had evidence earlier today. Didn’t you expect me to have any to present?

          Like we often see on this blog – it’s great that you have opinions, but
          do you have any evidence that would convince me that what you say is

          The first paragraph of my response said:

          I don’t know what you would accept as evidence. Many Christians only
          accept evidence if it confirms their belief no matter how sketchy and
          reject conflicting evidence no matter how strong.

          I guess I made a prophecy that came true as in the topic of the article.

          Is the evidence so compelling that it makes you uncomfortable?

        • No, Greg. Your ‘evidence’ is so convoluted that I can’t make sense of it.

          You list multiple Bible verses, and claim it proves something, but what does it prove?

          You use the apocrypha as if it were scripture, which is in error, and then expect me to accept your conclusions.

          I’m not trying to be a jerk, I’m just being honest.

        • Greg G.

          Thank you for your honesty. Would it help if I presented it chronologically?

          The verses I have provided show that the early Christians were using the Old Testament verses for Jesus information and not actual information about a first century person.

          I use apocrypha as textual evidence. Scripture is just textual evidence, too. There is nothing magical about scripture. If you step back, you can see the early Christians used both and the later Christians decided what they thought was scripture and what was apocrypha. In the time period we are discussing, there was no distinction.

          I do not believe there is a god or a son of god. It doesn’t matter to me whether there was a historical Jesus. That indifference allows me to see both sides of the argument and the case against the historical Jesus appears much stronger. I have presented part of the evidence I have but there is still more. I am learning about more of it all the time.

          I am not being a jerk about this. I understand that when when a person makes an idea a part of who they are, an argument against the idea seems like an attack on the person. This is just a debate about an idea. You may disengage if it is too hard to deal with at this time. It may take weeks or months or years to separate your self from the idea.

        • Thank you.

          “The verses I have provided show that the early Christians were using the Old Testament verses for Jesus information and not actual information about a first century person.”

          I disagree. All OT references by Jesus or about Him prove the continuity of God, not that there was no historical Jesus.

          “I use apocrypha as textual evidence. Scripture is just textual evidence, too. There is nothing magical about scripture. If you step back, you can see the early Christians used both and the later Christians decided what they thought was scripture and what was apocrypha. In the time period we are discussing, there was no distinction.”

          Your practice is simply in error, and it is evidenced by your many errors. What you dismiss as later Christians deciding what was scripture and what was not is crucial to an accurate understanding of God.

          “I do not believe there is a god or a son of god. It doesn’t matter to me whether there was a historical Jesus. That indifference allows me to see both sides of the argument and the case against the historical Jesus appears much stronger.”

          What you call indifference is actually sloppiness. If you cannot distinguish between scripture and apocrypha, or distinguish between historical or mythical, how can you be trusted to distinguish between true and false in any capacity?

        • Greg G.

          I disagree. All OT references by Jesus or about Him prove the continuity of God, not that there was no historical Jesus.

          Paul flat out tells us that he is getting his information about Jesus for the OT and not from any human. He takes the OT references to be about an event that happened in the deep, mysterious past, like some of the Greek legends for the creation of the Milky Way, for example.

          Can you provide any evidence of a first century Jesus from the early epistles?

          Your practice is simply in error, and it is evidenced by your many errors. What you dismiss as later Christians deciding what was scripture and what was not is crucial to an accurate understanding of God.

          This is what I predicted this morning. You reject all evidence that works against you, wither using the excuse that it’s apocrypha or that I’m not understanding the scripture. You are only accepting evidence that supports your position. That practice will maintain your position all right, even if it’s wrong. You can’t even check to see if you’re right with that practice.

          What you call indifference is actually sloppiness. If you cannot distinguish between scripture and apocrypha, or distinguish between historical or mythical, how can you be trusted to distinguish between true and false in any capacity?

          You have that all backwards. If you can’t question scripture or apocrypha, historical or mythical, or true or false, your initial assumptions are untestable and therefore suspect. If you your ideas can’t stand scrutiny under the light of new evidence, then it’s time to abandon your position and adopt one that can.

        • Pofarmer

          Might I ask, what is your religious background?

        • I was an atheist for 30 years.

        • MNb

          Pofarmer used the present tense, not the past tense.

        • I don’t think I have represented myself well enough to associate myself with a particular church.

          There may be a seeker who won’t check out that particular church simply because they didn’t like something I said.

        • MNb


        • So you’re an atheist then …

        • I was a lazy atheist. I did no research, I knew nothing about the Bible (although I thought I did), and dismissed what I didn’t know because it suited me at the time.

          Reading your blog and engaging in the comments has shown me that there are hard-working atheists, and I’m deeply impressed by the level of scholarship and commitment demonstrated by the commentary.

        • Thanks. I’m glad it’s been helpful.

          What are your religious beliefs?

        • Bob – would you like me to post the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed, or are you familiar enough with it that it answers your query? I mean this is in a good way. It may interesting for some people to see what the creed is, they may have heard about it, but have not seen it for themselves.

        • You’re a Christian. That’s fine-grained enough for me for now. Thanks.

        • If you cannot distinguish between scripture and apocrypha, or distinguish between historical or mythical, how can you be trusted to distinguish between true and false in any capacity?

          But you’ve got it figured out? How do you distinguish between historical and mythical? (“Legendary” would be the term that I’d prefer.)

        • I may be the rest of my life distinguishing between the historical, mythical and the legendary. Part of that will be a methodology, and honestly, that’s one of the things I’m trying to figure out.

        • Historians universally scrub out supernatural claims from figures in history–Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus, Alexander the Great.

          That’s a pretty good rule to follow, at least as a null hypothesis.

        • Pofarmer

          The apocrypha is just the stuff that the early church fathers didn’t want in their bible, or, stuff that they thought was written too late to consider. That in no way invalidates the fact that it was circulating, and could have affected the scriptures which later DID get accepted as canonical.

        • No, there is a difference between scripture and apocrypha. The apocrypha was considered and rejected.

        • MNb

          So what? The church fathers accepted somewhat older myths and rejected the newer ones. You’re getting nowhere.

        • This thread is going nowhere – I’m doing just fine. Thanks for the thought, MNb.

        • Greg G.

          The epistles don’t even support the gospels. The epistles don’t say anything about a teacher, a preacher, or a miracle worker. How could both categories be scripture? If there was extrabiblical evidence that supported the gospels or the epistles, would you accept it because it supports your position or reject it because it wasn’t scripture? Are you wiling to accept the Testimonium Flavianum even if Josephus’ information comes from apocrypha? Would you accept it despite not knowing where the information came from or even if it was written in?

        • Greg – you behave as if it is a crime to accept the canon and reject the apocrypha.

        • Greg G.

          Well, it depends on why you accept or reject something. I think the scholars who reject the Pastoral Epistles as being written by Paul are correct for the reasons they give. But I would accept them as evidence for what some thought in the second century, for the same reasons.

          We know the gospels got things wrong. Jesus saying that it’s what comes out of a man that defiles him, not what goes in happens to be ignorance of germs, as Richard Carrier has argued in a debate recently. We know the epistles got things wrong. Take Paul’s misquotes of the OT. The people who differentiated between scripture and apocrypha were wrong in their assumptions as mentioned above.

          There is no intellectually honest reason to make a distinction between scripture and apocrypha from the same era.

          We might reject The Gospel of Peter because it tells of Peter resurrecting a smoked salmon. But should we reject Acts for the same reason because it says people were healed by Peter’s shadow passing over them. The power of Jesus grew with each gospel but he never was that powerful.

          Still both works tell us what people thought about at the time. That’s how I use the apocrypha. I use the scripture the same way. There is no reason to reject what I say when I show the similarity between scripture and apocrypha simply because I mention the apocrypha. When you do, it seems like an irrational fear instilled by religion.

        • If a religion has flavors A, B, and C, and group A has a conference to decide the canon, they’re going to accept A books and reject B and C books.

          Yes, the apocrypha was considered and rejected … by people who tended to not want that as canon. More tellingly, look at the books declared heretical (Gnostic, Marcionite, Ebionite books).

          When 3 or 4 religions fight it out and one comes out the victor, don’t pretend that that means that that one is correct or divinely anointed or anything.

        • In this case – the apocrypha – it wasn’t 3 or 4 religions, it was early Christianity.

          I don’t pretend that the ‘orthodox’ view is correct and divinely inspired, I affirm it. I expect no one else to accept that just because I say so, and there are some here with very strong arguments against this position.

        • Yes, the apocrypha, by definition, is the not-quite-canonical texts of the flavor of Christianity that won. My point is that that flavor is just one of several. It’s like the chick that pecks its nest-mates to death. It’s simply the one that succeeded, not necessarily the correct one.

        • Perhaps the greatest challenge of well-fed, well-housed, well-clothed people in this day and age is to find that ‘correctness.’

        • Greg G.

          It could be that Constantine liked that flavor of Christianity best because it promised pie-in-the-sky after death so he didn’t have to fulfill promises out of his own pocket. It won out because it was to one person’s advantage and his political allies.

        • Ah, Constantine. I recently likened a fundamentalist Christian’s comment that everything wrong with the church was thanks to Constantine to a ‘Blame Bush’ argument – he’s an easy target who can’t fight back, but the argument grows weaker the deeper you look into it.

        • Greg G.

          I agree. Nothing that is wrong with Christianity is Constantine’s fault. It was already a mess in his time. It got worse. It got better when it lost political power.

        • A question, Greg. How many years do you find the church enjoying political power in Constantinople? No need for exact dates or citations, just a rough estimate. I’ll go first, if you like – I’m curious if we see the history in roughly the same terms, at least in a broad sense.

        • Greg G.

          I’ve probably studied more Asian history for that time period than church history. So, off the top of my head, I think the church was in a position to fill the power vacuum of the fall of the Roman Empire. Royalty needed an excuse to rule superstitious people and a blessing from the church allowed them to claim Divine Providence to justify their positions. That gave them political power. Their strength increased until the time of the Black Plague which may have weakened their grip enough to allow the Renaissance, Enlightenment, another I can’t bring to mind, and the rise of Protestantism. Their power waned so that intellectuals didn’t need to account for God in their descriptions of reality, which allowed the scientific method to develop. By the 18th century, the civilized world had regained the technological level the Romans had.

          Gotta go and the computer is acting weird.

        • Thanks, Greg. I’m going to dig into your material, and will have some thoughts tomorrow afternoon.

        • Greg G.

          We had a discussion in this forum about the Black Death a few months back. I think I was over-emphasizing its importance. MNb pointed out that there were other factors at play. So my position now is that the Black Death may have greased the skids for the changes in European societies. I wanted to make that nuance clearer.

          I’m interested in history but nowhere near as informed as I’d like to be. I always preferred the certainty of mathematics but when applied to reality, you introduce the error of measurement.

          So we’re stuck with interpreting reality with the methods available to us. There’s a lot of slop in what the literate decided to write about and their readers decided to preserve. We may not have enough information to make correct and complete inferences but if we limit the information we use to that which leads to where we want to go, we are less likely to go in the right direction. It’s more interesting to gather as much evidence as possible and follow where it leads than to follow where people have gone with limited evidence and predetermined interpretations.

        • I’d heard that the plague put a lot of extra rags into the market, which pushed down the cost of paper, which helped to make the perfect storm that was Gutenberg’s printing press (though I’m not sure the dates work out).


        • Greg G.

          I Googled “rags Gutenberg printing press” and the first link returned supported your trivia about the Black Death relationship.

          FC74: The invention of the
          printing press and its effects

        • Greg G.

          I’m posting this to you and radicalrevelation.

          See the last three pages here.
          The Parallel Concentric Structure

          Investigating the above led me here:
          On Greek Beauty
          Are the mathematical squares part of athestics? It wasn’t what I was looking for but it raises more interesting questions.

          Chiastic structure on Wikipedia confirmed that it could be a mnemonic device.

        • Greg G.

          See the last three pages here.
          The Parallel Concentric Structure

          Investigating the above led me here:
          On Greek Beauty
          Are the mathematical squares part of athestics? It wasn’t what I was looking for but it raises more interesting questions.

          Chiastic structure on Wikipedia confirmed that it could be a mnemonic device.

        • Man – that’s one step away from Kabbala. You’re going to have to do that math, Greg, that ain’t my side of the brain.

          I replied to you earlier on the post from yesterday, and now I don’t see it – I think Disqus is acting up again.

        • Disqus hides things. To reliably find an old post, go to the bottom and keep clicking on the Load More Comments button. Then search for the post you want.

        • Thank you, Bob. Please visit with us on this thread for an orderly chat when things get too crazy on your latest blog. I think you might set a record number of comments with that one.

        • Greg G.

          If you click on an email link, you get a different threading for the post you are responding to. It eliminates the subthreads, leaving the direct ancestry of that post. If you go to the article, you should see all the posts in the order you select (Newest, Oldest, Best). This behavior may kick in when the number of posts reaches some threshold. That’s my theory, anyway.

        • That’s amazing stuff, though I wonder how much of this chiasmus is actually there and how much is just shoehorning of the actual structure into a chiastic form.

        • Greg G.

          I keep asking myself two questions:
          1. What does all this mean?
          2. Are they pulling my leg?

          I woke up wondering about GThomas. It has 114 sayings plus the Incipit. The sayings are demarcated by phrases such as “Jesus said”, “so-and-so said”, and “he who has ears, let him hear”. But sayings like 39 could be broken into three different sayings. Do that to few others and we could get to 121 sayings, or 11 squared. Invert the bottom half and line it up with the top should produce a few coincidental similarities or oppositions. Then see how much creativity it takes to see a relationship in the others.

          The one link to the book page stirred my curiousity about Greek theories of beauty like the Golden Ratio in art and architecture. I wonder if they used numeric relationships in literature like we see in poetry, limericks, haiku, and even music?

        • There are lots of areas where we need to wonder if a curious feature is really there or if this is paredolia. The 153 fish, for example–clearly not just an arbitrary number. But what curious mathematical property of that number were they celebrating, and why?

        • (And you mentioned 11 squared. The I Ching has 8 squared chapters, and the Tao Te Ching has 9 squared chapters. Then there’s the 36 Strategems, with 6 squared chapters. Those aren’t coincidences.)

        • MNb

          Oh, it seems to me that the early church fathers did a pretty good job here as the apocryphical stuff seems to be dated later than the four Gospels that made it into the NT. Of course this no way contradicts the statement that the four canonical Gospels are full of myths, as RR so eagerly wants to do.

        • I feel no need to contradict a statement that has not yet been proven.

        • This isn’t math. You won’t find anything proven in theology or history.

        • Pofarmer

          If you look here You will see that the Gospel of Thomas is dated possibly before all the gospels, and possibly some of the epistles.

        • Pofarmer

          “but please stop trying to get me to accept your opinion”

          Then what’s the point of you even coming here?

        • I hope you’ve dropped the idea of people inventing the Jesus story. Yes, various authors used literary license to write their stories (our idea of “history” or “journalism” wasn’t done back then), but they believed.

          And we haven’t even touched on the ‘Why would they do that? part

          Why do you do it? There’s your answer.

          You haven’t seen Jesus, and yet you believe. That’s how it was for the early disciples.

        • What I’m saying is obvious. That this is giving you such a hard time suggests that I’m not communicating it right.

          Guy reads prophecy, writes the fulfillment (and cites the prophecy), and then we read this 2000 years later. 100% natural. Not surprising.

          Can we agree that this is roughly a billion times more likely than the supernatural fulfillment of a prophecy?

        • Pofarmer

          All that tells us is that the Gospels were existing in 107. I don’t see where this speaks to the method of their authorship.

        • There is a time and distance component that the retrodiction argument doesn’t seem to address very well.

          The shorter the timeframe and the greater distance between the gospel writers, the more unlikely it is they would add into the story the same elements.

          Yet two gospels say Jesus was born in Bethlehem. They were written at different places, at different times, for different audiences, and some say maybe even in different languages, yet they agree.

        • Pofarmer

          THey agree on Bethlehem, but still disagree on many of the other accounts of the activities surrounding Jesus birth. Early on Chrisitianity was a small movement. You would expect similarities in the oral traditions being passed around and used in different groups. What is interesting is all the areas that they disagree,mon something a important as where their saviour was born. Only two talk about it, and they differ signifigantly in the details surrounding the event.

        • Greg G.

          •Ignatius, Letter to Polycarp
          (~107): “In all circumstances be ‘wise as a serpent,’ and perpetually ‘harmless as a dove.’” Cf. Matt. 10:16

          You, however, be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. –Gospel of Thomas Saying 39b

          •Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians
          (~108): “Blessed are the poor and those persecuted for
          righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” Cf. Luke 6:20

          Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven.” –Gospel of Thomas Saying 54

          Thomas has about 14 sayings that appear to come from Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and the Epistle of James but nothing from other epistles. That’s an indication that those letters may have been in circulation before the rest of the collection of Pauline literature had been accumulated and that Thomas was collected before the others were gathered.

          Many scholars date Thomas to around the time of Mark. I think Mark probably used Thomas as a source, especially in chapter 3 and 4.

        • MNb

          “they could be well towards the end”
          It’s safe to assume that they were written after the First Jewish-Roman War had ended. That was a major event in the split of (religious) judaism and early christianity. Jona Lendering is busy writing a book about it; I’m looking forward to it.
          In addition: it is also clear that the authors were at least vaguely familiar with non-jewish myths. The infanticide by Herodes plays exactly the same role as the Pharaoh trying to kill baby Moses and baby Paris of Troje – the same for Oedipus – brought to a wood to get killed by predators. The narrow escape from death must make clear that the author is going to write about someone of great importance. In modern terminology: it’s meant to catch the attention of the reader, like the prologue of a movie before it presents its headers.

        • Greg G.

          “Matthew & Luke’s accounts contradict one another;”

          “Mark puts Jesus’ hometown as Capernaum;”
          Yes, Mark 2:1 and Mark 9:35

          “There was NO census (historical inaccuracy);”
          No. Josephus reports it and Luke relies heavily on Josephus. The idea that anyone had to return to some ancestor’s home is the absurd part.

          “Bethlehem refers to a clan, not a place;”
          Both. If the ancestor came from there, his seed would come from there.

          “Micah’s context is about an Assyrian, not Jesus;”
          Someone else mentioned that. Micah was probably talking about the Messiah. The early Christians had no information about Jesus so they took out of context verses from scripture, Greek literature, and other writings of the day and applied it to Jesus.

          “The ‘Two Donkey” problem in Matthew;”

          “Ezekiel 37 ‘looks’ like prophecy, but is not.”
          No, it’s was meant to be a prophecy but some humans got tired of waiting for it to come true and tried to make it true. It still hasn’t come true.

        • Like we often see on this blog – it’s great that you have opinions, but do you have any evidence that would convince me that what you say is valid?

        • Greg G.

          I don’t know what you would accept as evidence. Many Christians only accept evidence if it confirms their belief no matter how sketchy and reject conflicting evidence no matter how strong.

          I was fundamentalist Christian from a church with a Bob Jones U preacher. They pretty much rulled out that the “salad bar Christians” were wrong, as well as all other religions. When I began to realize that the fundy position was crazy, I didn’t turn to other religions though it took a while to transition from agnostic to atheist.

          Years later, I took an interest in history and was drawn to the Roman era where much of the existing literature revolved around Jerusalem, thanks to the preservation practices of the church. That led me to reading the Bible as a reference to understand the era better. I began to read Ehrman and a few other scholars.

          I became fascinated with Mark and its history, his sources and those who used his story as a source.

          There is no evidence about Jesus apart from the textual evidence. The extrabiblical evidence for Jesus is a generation or two too late to attest to an early first century Jesus so it can only support that there were people no earlier than the late first century who believed there had been a Jesus in a city that had been destroyed and they don’t seem to have had anything but exaggerated textual evidence.

          If the Gospel Jesus existed, we should expect to have records of him and his fame from his lifetime. If we reject the miracle-performing Jesus as exaggerations of the miracles of Moses, Elijah, and Elisha and say he was just a teacher or a preacher who got himself crucified, which accounts for no contemporary evidence, where is the support for this Jesus in the early epistles? If his early followers thought he was a friend who was resurrected, why do they never refer to any anecdotes or quotes? Why does Paul only know things about him that he could get from the scriptures? Why does Paul not think the other early Christians had some advantage on him from knowing a historical Jesus?

          The Jews had been expecting a Messiah to take back the throne for centuries. Paul is still waiting for this to occur but thinks there was a Jesus who existed in the distant past, like the mythic Greek heroes, who was the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53 and sees other verses like that. The fact that these long hidden mysteries are being revealed to him and the other early Christians is a sign that the Messiah’s coming is imminent.

          The Gospel of Thomas group may have created an imaginary Jesus to relay their teachings. Mark seems to have written his gospel as an explanation for the destruction of Jerusalem, perhaps as performance art rather than actual history.

          The late first century Christians had some epistles, Mark, Thomas, and a tradition of reading scripture as being about the Messiah. Modern Christianity added a few more gospels, a few more epistles, and some misunderstandings of the early church fathers.

        • I think you have accepted lesser, weaker ‘evidence’ in place of what is greater, stronger evidence. Case in point – treating the Gospel of Thomas as if it were an actual gospel.

          Your account of how Christianity emerged as a religion is tortured, grounded not on evidence but speculations about evidence, and asks me to consider outlandish schemes and scenarios that are less reasonable than the gospels.

        • Greg G.

          I treat the Gospel of Thomas as a collection of sayings. Hippolytus and Origen referred to it as a gospel in the third century. Your argument is with them.

          You have no evidence for a first century Jesus. Paul writings tell us where he got the idea of a Suffering Servant and it’s not from any human source. Nearly every passage of Mark can be shown to be from the literature of the day rather than from history. The other gospels rely on Mark.

          Scholars think Gospel Jesus wasn’t real except the Minimal Hypothesis, which isn’t supported by the epistles. Even some of the plausible scenarios in Mark are implausible.

          For example, Mark 2:23-27 has Pharisees challenging Jesus and his disciples popping up in a grain field about doing something or other on the sabbath. It’s not clear exactly what, but would Pharisees not have anything better to do on a sabbath than monitor grain fields? Then Jesus refers the Pharisees to 1 Samuel 21 about David going into the house of God on the sabbath and sharing the bread with his companions. If you read the back story, you see Jesus got everything wrong. David was running from a paranoid Saul with no companions. He spoke to Ahimelech where there was a sword behind an ephod, which would not be in the tabernacle and verse 6 says the bread David got had been removed from the tabernacle, which would have occurred on the sabbath, but it doesn’t say David came on that day. Even if what Jesus said was true, the Pharisees would have pointed out that the whole village was slaughtered because of the incident so it was not OK that David ate the bread.

          We don’t believe in Santa Claus because he is improbable, we have no positive evidence for him, and we have accounts that show how he was invented. Same with Jesus.

          The gospels are not reasonable.

        • Hippolytus and Origen did not decide the canon, and you know that. My argument is with lesser, weaker evidence against greater, stronger evidence.

          I agree that the gospels are not reasonable. They demand that we acknowledge God and follow Him, especially when its is hard.

          What is unreasonable is the painfully contorted journey you present on how the gospels were invented. It is more reasonable to accept them as they are than attempt to recreate them as something else.

          Greg, it seems that you have been taken in by ‘scholars’ selling what is essentially a new brand of snake oil, and now try to defend your choice at all costs.

        • Greg G.

          The Gospel of Thomas was not available to scholars for centuries, except for a few scraps, until 1945.

          Could you be specific in your criticisms?

        • The Gospel of Thomas has become the darling of those who favor the Gnostic view. Since Gnosticism was a heresy that was countered in the first century, it is clear why the church did not accept it as canonical.

          What is lost when modern scholars use bits from the apocrypha as scripture is the winnowing process that took place from the first through the eighth centuries.

          That is why I ask whether it is reasonable to discard 2000 years of accumulated data to accept ‘new’ positions.

        • Greg G.

          AIUI, the Gnostics didn’t think there was an earthly Jesus but that it took certain knowledge to get to heaven after you died. I don’t think it is really all that clear what they actually believed. They presented the teachings that one would have to know as if Jesus was the teacher. That makes a better bridge from no Jesus to belief that there was a Jesus than if Gnosticism came into being so soon after a real person had existed.

          Is Mark scripture? Look at Mark 2:23-27 and compare that to the story of 1 Samuel 21. Mark has Abiathar as the high priest but it was his father who was the high priest. Matthew and Luke do not have the bit about Abiathar. Many think they caught Mark’s error and corrected it. I think that it may have been an interpolated margin note incorporated after Matthew and Luke copied the story from Mark. There are so many discrepancies between Jesus’ account in Mark and the 1 Samuel account that Matthew and Luke both would have caught one error while overlooking all the others. I mentioned several of them in a response to MNb a short time ago. If you can’t find it, I’ll go over them again.

          So if Mark has errors like that, why distinguish between scripture and apocrypha?

          The late first century Christians discarded the early first century Christian theology. If they were wrong, why maintain it? Why follow a religion that has been wrong for 1900 years? Why not go back to the original Christian theology? One reason would be that it was wrong, too.

          The major world religions are many centuries old. They have conflicting theologies. They cannot all be correct. It just shows that humans have a tendency to be wrong about religion. Look at the 42,000 different Christian denominations and nearly all claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit. None of them actually believe what the first century Christians believe or the second century Christians or the third century Christians. Origen was one of the leading church father in the early third century but he was declared a heretic three centuries later.

          If you accept 2000 years of accumulated data, why start rejecting it now?

        • AIUI,
          the Gnostics didn’t think there was an earthly Jesus but that it took certain
          knowledge to get to heaven after you died.

          There were Gnostics before Christianity, but of course a Christian version evolved as well. There were many flavors, I hear (like Christianity today, I guess).

          BTW, Gnosticism does a nice job of bypassing the Problem of Evil (Marcionite teaching, as well). The creator of this world was not the father of Jesus (he’s not named).

          So the bizarre problem within conventional Christianity of having to explain how our loving creator also created so much misery is nicely avoided.

        • Pofarmer

          Whatever you were, you gotta be a Catholic now. You certainly argue like one.

          “That is why I ask whether it is reasonable to discard 2000 years of accumulated data to accept ‘new’ positions.”

          Have you ever heard that the Victors write the history? Well, the Victors decided the Cannon in the 4th century or so. This is no indication how popular, important, ancient, or well attested, a particular piece of apocrypha might be. You are so attached to this very narrow world view, that you lose sight of what Christianity originally was, and let yourself be subdued by authoritarianism.

        • MNb

          “It is more reasonable to accept them as they”
          This is special pleading regarding the Gospels. It’s well known that authors during Antiquity mixed fact with fiction. Every single important person from Antiquity has myths attached to him: Socrates, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Constantine the Great etc. etc. What’s more, there are patterns to be recognized in these myths. You want us to accept a priori that Jesus is the big exception? Don’t think so.
          It’s ironical that your clinging to a purely historical explanation of the Gospels prevents you from defusing a common argument for an ahistorical Jesus. The simple fact that the Gospels are full of myths can’t be an argument for a mythical Jesus. That’s just as much special pleading.

        • Still figuring it out, MNb.

          Man, this board can be a wild ride.

        • I agree that the gospels are not reasonable. They demand that we acknowledge God and follow Him, especially when its is hard.

          It’s surprising that God makes tough demands? What’s the big deal? My gym trainer does the same thing.

          Accepting Christianity’s bizarre supernatural claims is unprecedentedly difficult when we have myriad examples of supernatural claims that we reject as nonsense.

          What is unreasonable is the painfully contorted journey you present on how the gospels were invented. It is more reasonable to accept them as they are than attempt to recreate them as something else.

          Greg’s sketch of a natural explanation of why the gospels say what they say is more crazy than accepting their supernatural claims at face value?

        • The Gospel of Thomas is an actual gospel. It’s just not a canonical gospel.

          asks me to consider outlandish schemes and scenarios that are less reasonable than the gospels.

          The Christian story is perhaps the most outlandish claim possible. It’s hard to imagine natural claims that are less likely.

          The atheist proposition is to accept plausible natural explanations where they exist. What’s outlandish? (Ignore if your conversation with Greg already covered that.)

        • Kodie

          Story about Joan and Kyle: We asked Joan how she met Kyle and she said they met at the library; more accurately, that’s where she first noticed him and had their first encounter, when he picked up a book she had dropped. Kyle has another story. He said he remembers a time when he was about 10 years old and saw Joan, then, also 10, at the park with her mother. He didn’t remember her when they later met at the library, but eventually he was introduced to Joan’s mother and she hadn’t changed that much in 9 years, that he recognized her as the same woman from the park, and the girl with her then must have been Joan.

          Kyle hadn’t made an impression on Joan when she was 10, that day at the park, mostly because her and her mother had lived in California at the time and moved to Pennsylvania, where Kyle grew up, when she was almost 14. Kyle likes to believe that he and Joan were meant to meet. When he brings Joan to the park where he believes he first saw her, it doesn’t ring any bells for Joan. She had lived about 30 miles from Kyle during her teens and had no reason to travel to the park near Kyle’s home. Not that she remembers anyway. They didn’t go to the same school, and were not edging toward each other for 5 years before they met, at the library, at the college where they both attended, as so happens, back in California.


          There are a lot of plausible scenarios here, despite the difference in accounts.

          – Joan may have forgotten that her grandmother died when she was 10 and they went to Pennsylvania after all, and that, coincidentally, Kyle saw her at the cemetery, not the park in his neighborhood where he often hung out. Conflation, but he had seen Joan and her mother before.

          – Kyle saw someone once that looked a lot like Joan’s mother, but it wasn’t her.

          – Outside of the account, Joan and Kyle may have crossed paths before at an interscholastic sporting event, and neither recalled this happening.

          – Kyle invented the earlier encounter to prove destiny, but Kyle bloomed early, so to speak, and noticed a lot of girls at the park, a fact that was omitted when he retold the story to Joan, and was so infatuated with Joan now, that he insisted and made himself believe so much that Joan must have been one of them, despite her living thousands of miles away.

          – Joan is embarrassed that Kyle believes in fate, but she was at the park as he remembers, and doesn’t remember at all, but “about 10 years old” was really “about 13”. She doesn’t want to say she was there and unimpressed, anxious to get back to California, and resents the move to Pennsylvania later that year. Plus, the woman Kyle had seen her with was not her mother but her paternal aunt.

          – Kyle has been stalking Joan. He hadn’t seen Joan at the park at the age of 10 like he said; he saw her at a birthday party when they were in high school, and he found out from a chain of friends where she went to school, what her college plans were, and met her in the library because he rarely let her out of his sight. He’s a pathological liar and seeks to convince Joan they were meant to be together by making an elaborate story.

          – The story is fiction since I made it up. There is no Joan, there is no Kyle, they never met, at the cemetery, at the park, at the party, at the game, or at the library.

          None of these plausible scenarios involves magical levitation, or magnetism between Joan and Kyle that fated them to meet and form a romantic relationship. Even if there were a real Joan and a real Kyle and they did meet eventually at the college library, the circumstances were not magical, even if they had been in the same park one day almost a decade earlier. We may never know whose account is correct, but we know it was never magic. Magic is always the least reasonable scenario.

        • Kodie

          Realistic but unproven hypotheses vs. supernatural unproven fantasy…. I don’t know what to believe! Maybe none of them is correct, but only a fool believes the supernatural account is the most plausible.

        • Lynn

          I didn’t say the prophecy was ABOUT an Assyrian. I said the prophecy was in RELATION TO the Assyrians. As in, the “one” Micah talks about would “be their peace” when the Assyrians invaded Israel. Was Jesus around when the Assyrians invaded Israel? No. The complete text of Micah 5:5: And this One shall be peace.
          When the Assyrian comes into our land,
          And when he treads in our palaces,
          Then we will raise against him
          Seven shepherds and eight princely men.

        • Thank you for pointing this out. From Wikipedia:

          ‘Seven Jewish brothers, their mother and their teacher are known in Christianity as the Holy Maccabean Martyrs or Holy Maccabees, although they are not said to be of the Maccabee family. They are so named from the description of their martyrdom in 2 and 4 Maccabees.’

          The Hasmonean Empire established by the Maccabees prepared the ground for the Incarnation of our Lord culturally, spiritually and physically. Herod was Hasmonean.

          Prophecy is often not in chronological order, which explains why the sequence is the way it is:

          Judgment on Israel’s Enemies (with the bit about the Assyrian.)

          I suggest this with the caveat that there would have to be much more research done to figure out exactly who the ‘Seven shepherds and eight princely men’ were in Maccabean history to say this is a fulfilled prophecy, or even close to being that.

          Thank you for the post – I had forgotten about this until you reminded me of it.

        • I hear the Romans were pretty efficient about tax collection. A tax census wants to know what you’ve got, how much tax they can take, and where to find you when it’s April 15.

          What sense would it’ve made to have Joseph of Nazareth chat with the tax guy in the town of some distant ancestor? Maybe Joseph has acres of vineyards; maybe his only possession was the donkey. How’s the tax guy gonna know?

        • Lynn

          You left off the end of verse 5:

          When the Assyrian comes into our land,
          And when he treads in our palaces,
          Then we will raise against him
          Seven shepherds and eight princely men.

        • Thank you.

    • Greg G.

      Rather than being prophecies, those are retrodictions. The Jews who were waiting for the Messiah would have taken Micah as coming from the line of David but the late first century Christians tried to make about Jesus being born there. Matthew and Luke invented contradictory stories to have Jesus being born in Bethlehem and being from Nazareth, too. Mark has Jesus’ home in Capernaum, though.

      Matthew’s use of Zechariah 9:9 shows how the early Christians misread the scriptures by putting Jesus on two donkeys. I picture a Captain Morgan stance astride two donkeys of different sizes for his entrance.

      Ezekiel 37 looks like a fulfilled prophecy if you consider the Allies of WWII to be the Lord and don’t count that most Jews have not gone to Israel.

      • I picture a Captain Morgan stance astride two donkeys

        A guy who’s not only divine but also an acrobat?

        What’s not to like?!

  • texcee

    A prophecy that I am led to proclaim: “And, lo! Even as the sun riseth in the east, in the new day, I shall rise from my bed, adorn myself with raiment, and journey unto the place of my labor. And in due time I shall be rewarded with sheckels of gold and silver so that I may pay my debts and provide sustenance unto my children. And even as this prophecy is fulfilled, I shall again labor until I am well advanced in old age, because Caesar demandeth unending tribute as well. So be it, in the name of the Lord!”

    • GubbaBumpkin

      I shall be rewarded with sheckels of gold and silver*

      Or fiat money, as the case may be.

      • texcee

        How do you say “automatic deposit” in Bible-speak?

        • Ron

          “…and it shall be added unto you.”

    • Dear lord! I’m a believer!

  • Y. A. Warren

    It is my current hypothesis that the “prophets” were simply keen observers and/or historians of nature. The best predictor of the future is keen observation of the past.

    • Greg G.

      What prophets? The OT prophets said David’s seed would always be on the throne. Then the Babylonians came and they’ve been wrong for 2500 years. Then they thought the throne would be restored. We’re still waiting. In the first century, some got tired of waiting and invented a character to fulfill those prophecies retrodictively.

      • Y. A. Warren

        It is easy to be a prophet when nobody tracks what you say from generation to generation. The problem is that people wrote down what the “prophets” supposedly said and have made a business out of scaring people ever since. This is politics as played by people who want absolute power.

        I am not interested in disproving what the OT taught so much as I’m interested in focusing people away from fear and onto personal power. I believe we do this with persuasion, not ridicule.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, people wrote down the prophecies and held on to them tightly because they really, really wanted them to come true. They haven’t come true, though people still cling to them.

        • Y. A. Warren

          If you make a general enough prophecy, it is actually a prediction of future events based on past experience. If the Japanese had been Christian when the atom bomb was dropped, many of them would have probably though that Revelations had come true. I would think this would also have held true when Pompeii was destroyed.

        • Greg G.

          If you make a specific prophecies that have a 90% chance of occurring, you’ll be right 9 times out of 10. If you make enough predictions that are unlikely to occur, there’s a chance that one or more will happen. It’s just playing the odds. Calling them prophecies is just word play. If you make a strange prophecy that has no actual meaning, some people will interpret it to fit their situation. It’s just psychology. If you stand in front of a crowd and say “I feel that someone here is worried about a family member. The family member’s name starts with an M or a J”, someone will respond about their mother Mary or their brother Mike. That’s just a psychic’s trick.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I agree.

  • MNb

    As I agree with Radical R that Disqus is screwing the discussion I’d like to thank Pofarmer for his link here.

  • Marie Alexander

    Wasn’t that the whole plot of Derren Brown’s “The System”?

  • Greg G.


    What happened to radicalrevelation? Our discussion turned amicable and he said he would dig into the things I presented and post something the next day but that was four days ago.

    I did the chiasmus experiment with the Gospel of Thomas. I just used the Incipit and 114 sayings, reversing the last half with no complement for Saying 57. I didn’t go through them all but the were several with strong affinities at the top and bottom of the list. Most did not have an obvious connection. I thought I saved the results to a file but it was a blank file when I went to look at it again. The screw up discouraged me.

    • Yes, RR did seem to be interested in sharing ideas. Good for him/her. Hope to see a return.

      Maybe that was Fate telling you that you’re on the wrong trail. (But why would Fate respond so aggressively? Perhaps that means that you’re getting a little too close to the truth!)