The Great Commission and How It Doesn’t Apply to You

The Great Commission and How It Doesn’t Apply to You February 2, 2015

great commission jesusChristianity continues to change with the times—it has 42,000 denominations and counting—and I nurture the hope that it will adapt to become more civilized, at least in the West. Maybe a strain could simply be cultural Christianity, a philosophy or way of life with no supernatural baggage. Millions of practicing “Christians” don’t actually believe, and they deserve to keep the good things of Christianity while discarding the unsupportable claims.

One thing holding Christianity back is the Great Commission. This was the final charge of Jesus to his disciples before he returned to heaven. “Go and make disciples of all nations,” he tells them in Matthew 28:19. Sounds like Christians are obliged to actively get out there and spread the meme. But that stands in the way of Christianity becoming a healthy worldview instead of the dogmatic busybody that conservative politics has made it in America.

But are Christians’ hands really tied? Consider who Jesus was talking to. He wasn’t talking to today’s lay Christian; he was addressing the disciples. You flatter yourself to imagine that you’re one of the Twelve, and the charge of the Great Commission was placed on your fragile shoulders.

Nevertheless, most Christians still hear that, yes indeedy, Jesus was addressing them. Let’s pursue this and see if it holds up.

The lesser commission in Matthew

There are several variations of this assignment of Jesus. An earlier commission in the same gospel also charges the disciples to hit the road, but this time Jesus gave them superpowers. They had “authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness” (Matt. 10:1). If the commission comes with power to help carry it out but Christians today don’t have those powers, then they probably weren’t given the commission either.

And even more superpowers

In another gospel, Jesus sends the disciples on their way with a power you’d think would be reserved for God himself: “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (John 20:23).

We see something similar in Matthew. Jesus said to the disciples, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18). Binding means to forbid and loosing means to permit, both by an indisputable authority.

The disciples weren’t ordinary chowderheads like you and me. They obviously had superpowers not available to the rank and file. I wonder then how Christians can imagine they share the disciples’ assignment.

Four reasons to ignore the Great Commission

Many Christians are uncomfortable with the idea that they make baby Jesus cry by not witnessing to strangers. I’d like to empower them by showing why this isn’t their fight.

1. Jesus wasn’t talking to you. The Great Commission was given to the apostles. Don’t flatter yourselves—you’re not Matthew or Peter or John.

2. Apologists acknowledge the difference. Some apologists capitalize on this and use it to their advantage.

Here’s the problem they face. The book of Acts shows Paul healing a lame man, Ananias curing blindness, and Peter raising the dead. “Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.”

What about the incredible power of prayer? In Matthew, Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” In Mark, Jesus says, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” In John, Jesus says, “He who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do.”

Trouble is, it doesn’t work that way for Christians today, and everyone knows it. Many apologists will avoid the problem by saying that these remarkable claims were relevant only to the disciples. That works, but then the Great Commission logically falls into the same category.

3. The Bible makes a nutty demand? Then rationalize away the demand! Christians easily dismiss aspects of the Bible that don’t translate well into modern Western society—God’s support for slavery, polygamy, genocide, human sacrifice, and so on. God’s position is clear, but loftier principles override the Bible, and Christians (correctly) take the sensible approach where there are conflicts. If pushing your beliefs on others also doesn’t seem right, maybe that’s because it isn’t.

And what’s the point of evangelization anyway? Fundamentalists will tell you that it’s the Holy Spirit that does the work, not your evangelization, “so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). Surely the omnipotent Holy Spirit has the capability to save souls and isn’t constrained by what people do or don’t do.

4. It’s not everyone’s job to evangelize. Paul says that we have different gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4–11). You may simply not be an evangelist. And don’t take on the teaching role lightly: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).  

There’s no need for the Great Commission

Christians have been told that it’s their duty to save people. Just imagine if your neighbor went to hell simply because you were too lazy to convince him that he was worthless scum who needed what your church was selling.

Paul makes clear that this fear is unfounded. Comparing the symmetry of Adam’s sin with Jesus’s sacrifice, Paul said, “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). The price has been paid—you’re good. (Thanks to Greg G. for this insight.)

We see a similar attitude in the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. The King gives eternal life to those who lived honorable lives. Evangelism and mandatory beliefs aren’t necessary.

Christians, discard the great baggage of the Great Commission. There’s work enough to just live your life as a good Christian. If someone asks, you can give the “reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).

If instead you want to follow the lead of Jesus, he spoke at length about helping the disadvantaged. That’s a charge that makes a lot more sense.

Take from the church the miraculous, the supernatural,
the incomprehensible, the unreasonable,
the impossible, the unknowable, the absurd,
and nothing but a vacuum remains.
— Robert G. Ingersoll

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  • ZenDruid

    First Buddha wanted to be spread to all nations, then Jesus, then Mohammed, then Joe Smith and Mary Baker Eddy and L R Hubbard, and now, the FSM, IPU, and of course Spongebob Squarepants and Hello Kitty.

    And through all this, the Dude abides.

    • TheNuszAbides

      “another Caucasian, Gary.”

    • Sophia Sadek

      Some people say that there is a woman to blame, but I know it is the Dude’s damn fault.

      • Pofarmer

        Oh, no. Heresy of Jimmy Buffet will not be allowed.

      • IDogITrust

        Wait– where’d this tattoo come from?

  • This is bad news for Catholics, as their clergy claim they can forgive sins. On the other hand, it makes clear many times that you can only be saved by believing in Jesus and asking for forgiveness. If people don’t know this, how can they be? The idea that countless multitudes are sent to hell by ignorance doesn’t sit well, but the opposite undercuts Christianity entirely, as seen in this joke:
    A missionary visited an Inuit tribe in Alaska, learning their language and telling them of the Gospel. After he had done so, one of their elders asked: “You tell us we can only be saved in this way. If we had not known about this, would we still be damned?” “Well no,” replied the missionary, “not if you didn’t know.” “Then why did you tell us?”

    • Pofarmer

      More than that. The clergy are claimed to trace directly to the apostles and have all the powers the disciples had, including the power to heal. Considering that these powers are obviously imaginary, I am going to consider the disciples maginary as well. It’s really interesting that people can sit in the pews, watching the same stuff not happen for years, and still believe it wholeheartedly.

  • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

    Thank you for raising this issue. While I’m glad you did, I see some quibbles:

    Millions of practicing “Christians” don’t actually believe, and they
    deserve to keep the good things of Christianity while discarding the
    unsupportable claims.

    I cannot really agree on this, unless they completely avoid imposing their ideas on other people. In order to meet that criteria they must never force, nor in any way pressure their children into attending a church. This, of course, would never happen for as long as the nature of childhood involves pressure on children to emulate their parents, therefore the only working alternative for the non-believers who hang out with believers is to raise no children. I think instead those who are already non-believers can and should find replacement activities to regain that old sense of community, even if they need to gather in groups and sing old hippie songs together :-S

    On the modern-day irrelevance of the Great Commission, such an idea is unfortunately anathema to the Christian mindset, or it is most certainly a problem in the North America. The fundy position on the bible is that it is the final, infallible, and eternally relevant “Word of God” :-/ You were discussing an issue for non-believing “cultural Christians”, but if this is of them exclusively, then it shouldn’t matter what they think of the Great Commission now. Therefore, why raise that if it isn’t directed at those who do believe? If it is, and they do believe, then how do you talk them down from the slippery-slope argument, when it comes to deciding that any part of their bible is irrelevant? There are of course believers who are not fundies, and even some among those who evangelize, but this would be asking them to accept that parts of their bibllical directives can expire! Somehow, I think this would be different than acceptance that some of the stories are just parables for teaching. different for them. Oh, great FSM, Bobby Henderson’s book could have irrelevancies too – it may even be completely irrelevant : – 0

    I really like how you point out that no proselytizers have the superpowers of the disciples, but unfortunately all too many of them carry the delusion that they are that powerful through Jesus. I’m sure you’ve seen as much alleged ‘faith healing’ as anybody.

    1. Jesus wasn’t talking to you. The Great Commission was given to the apostles. Don’t flatter yourselves—you’re not Matthew or Peter or John.

    The trouble with this is that there isn’t a single word in the bible which was addressed directly to any modern-day people, and a large percentage of it was addressed to a well-defined group or groups which never would have included Christian believers, because they weren’t following Yahweh at the time. This is why professional proselytizers must sell the doctrine that their god wants all of us, no matter how far down the line and no matter how far removed we are from the culture of the original addressees to accept every word of it as a message to all “who hath ears to hear” it throughout all time. Uuuuugh!!!

    What do you think of the above concerns? Are they really a problem, and if not then why?

    • The “good things of Christianity” that I was referring to are community, good works, and so on.

      My hope is that Christians who sense the tension between what makes sense (leaving people alone) and what their pastor tells them (they need to hear the good news) will have ammunition to reject the pastor.

      I agree that the Bible was addressed very squarely at 1st c. people who needed to prepare for the imminent End. But if modern Christian leaders insist on taking bits of the Bible to argue that their flock has an obligation, I’m trying to us the same Bible to make a stronger argument for the reverse.

      • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

        They are ideas which we understand, but can we really get American Christians to accept them? Do you see hope for cutting through the current doctrines and mental loops which have been keeping them where they are?

        • I’d love to find a silver bullet, but I see none. I think that the atheist community can provide an alternative for seeking Christians. The pendulum is moving in our direction, and perhaps we can help let a little more air out of the balloon.

      • adam

        The Problem as I see it, is that as long as they cling to the OT and Revelations they are still guiding this world to self-destruction.
        And providing ‘moral’ support for all those cling the vengeful murderous War God of the OT.

      • evodevo

        On top of that, if you take JESUS at his word (and not his pseudo-apostle Paul), he was totally UNinterested in any but the “lost sheep of the House of Israel” – non-Jews need not apply…..so all this was addressed ONLY to the 1st century AD Jewish population. Hmmm…

  • Pofarmer

    It’s amazing the way Christianity keeps morphing. My son and one of his friends from class were talking about a student last night who’s family had discovered the “True meaning” of christmas. They no longer decorated, did a tree or gave presents. And these are Catholics, taking, IMHO an old puritan position. The irony is wonderful.

  • Mister Two

    “The Bible makes a nutty demand? Then rationalize away the demand!”

    Every time a snake-handling Christian dies, a friend posts a link to the article on Facebook and comments “when you worship the Devil, he makes you do strange things.”

    He rejects the promise that Christians will be able to be bitten by snakes and not die. These people are, in a sense, better Christians than he is, because they believe that promise and he rejects it. He attributes their faith to devil worship.

    • TheNuszAbides

      He attributes their faith to devil worship.

      not just because they’re handling Serpents?

    • wtfwjtd

      What’s really goofy, when you read the passage in Mark that snake handling is based on, it doesn’t talk about handling poisonous snakes, it just says that the true believer can handle snakes and drink poison without being hurt at all. Either way, it’s another embarrassing passage for Christians, as it demonstrates clearly that Christianity is self-refuting.

      • Pofarmer

        Handling Garter snakes isn’t quite as impressive as handling say, Cotton Mouths. I mean, “My God is an Awesome God, right?”

        • wtfwjtd

          I’m thinking maybe this got morphed into handling venomous snakes by the story of Paul in Acts, when he was messing with firewood and a snake bit him and he suffered “no ill effects.” That’s pretty bad-ass, wouldn’t you agree?
          You said above that your faith melted away when you realized “god’s plan” was completely contradictory with “intercessory prayer”. I think for me, it was a few claims like the above that finally pushed me over the edge. Christianity is careful not to make unfalsifiable claims, but the few that it has made in the past are pretty much deal-breakers. When you see the self-refuting nature of it, coming from its own book, you can’t take it seriously anymore. And like Greg G has pointed out, once you see it, you just can’t un-see it.

        • Pofarmer

          The other part of it is, you have to actively engage in rationalizations of why what religion says should happen doesn’t happen. Are believers more successful than non believers? Healthier? Etc. Etc. You can bet if there was some category where religious people were obviously superior, they would point it out, and it would be really hard to ignore. I mean, shouldn’t Catholic hospitals have better treatment metrics than secular institutions? And yet they don’t. The evidence is everywhere, you actually have to work to ignore it.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, that’s another astute observation. If prayer really worked we would expect people in religious states to be much healthier, far more successful, have lower crime rates, and so on. The stats don’t lie; they show, quite simply, that the religious are no different than the non-religious, which is exactly what you would expect in a world with no god.

        • Pofarmer

          Not only if prayer really worked, but if the promised of being a Christian were actualized. It would be a very different world than the one we inhabit. Why should there have been a 1000 year stagnation of the human condition if the promises of christianity were real. All we would need is faith, right?

        • wtfwjtd

          “Why should there have been a 1000 year stagnation of the human condition if the promises of Christianity were real?”

          That’s kind of another thing that got my goat. Here you have Jesus, who is supposed to be god on earth, Creator of the Universe, and he is running around telling people that demons are the cause of disease and illness?No wonder we had a period of 1,000-year stagnation, when the supposed founder of the movement has no more of a clue than the most ignorant rabble of society. God-on-earth my ass! Plus, they suppress anyone and anything that disagrees with their primitive and ignorant superstitions. Yeah, it takes a lot more than faith to sustain this bullshit for sure.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, and if you look at Jesus supposed teachings, there’s nothing there that is even particularly enlightened for the time period. Standard fare. Just some saying about boiling water would have helped, maybe some knowledge if natural antisceptics. When you look at the beliefs of the time periods, and places involved, it’s pretty easy to see that the religious beliefs and customs combined into christianity were a combination of the place and time. When it became the belief of the Roman Empire, it could then be spread woth maximum force. If Christian beliefs were so obvious, why were so many people killed by the early Church for having distinct or different beliefs? What’s really galling is that people in 2014 take these ancient stories as literal happenings by a literal son of a literal god, in a literal place and time.

        • Susan

          he is running around telling people that demons are the cause of disease and illness.

          A pretty mundane claim. Who didn’t believe that disease and illness had supernatural causes, then? Just a story, but a story about a person making a mundane claim and one that was terribly wrong. Not very godlike.

          God-on-earth my ass!

          I know, right?

        • wtfwjtd

          Exactly Susan, I totally agree, the Jesus of the gospels was clearly a (very ordinary) man of his time.

        • TheNuszAbides
        • And yet the reverse is true. Mississippi, Alabama, and the other states on the Godly list have the worst social metrics in the country–health, education, income, etc.

        • Kodie

          That’s the “real” America, not like these elitist atheist coastal cities, with their Obamacare, birth control-vending machines, anti-creationist indoctrination, and 2-income households where the mothers would rather be strangers to their children than bother to raise them/play one-room schoolhouse with 10+ kids.

        • Neko

          Actually, people who pray are healthier.

          http://www{.}huffingtonpost{.}com/richard-schiffman/why-people-who-pray-are-heathier_b_1197313.html

        • Pofarmer

          That is true, but it doesn’t have to be Christian prayer. It can be buddhist meditation, atheist meditation, whatever. It’s non-denominational and religion non-specific.

        • Neko

          I didn’t say it had to be Christian prayer. Any meditative practice will do.

          Other features of religious ritual may likewise have benefits. Otherwise, why the Sunday Assembly?

        • Pofarmer

          But you do admit, it’s not tied to belief.

        • Neko

          Well, I wouldn’t know. The article mentions that in one study the effects were enhanced by praying to God instead of not-God. But that’s just one study.

        • adam

          re: praying to God:

        • Pofarmer

          “The article mentions that in one study the effects were enhanced by praying to God instead of not-God.”

          Well of course. Wouldn’t expect any different.

        • Kodie

          One of the things about attending regular services at some house of worship is the rather generic networking atmosphere it provides among neighbors of all ages and family statuses. One of the things people miss about church is this kind of meeting people you wouldn’t otherwise meet if you joined some club over a specific interest. Often, say, moms of young kids have this in common with other moms and set up play dates, but at church, you also have the opportunity to speak with potential babysitters – you’re not going to meet the empty-nester or the responsible teen when you pick up your kids at school or take them to the playground, and it’s going to be tougher to strike up that conversation if you do. It’s just one type of example. If you join a specific group of adults, they might not want to listen to you talk about your kids (or you might not want to listen to them!) and it’s all about that activity. Finding other common interests or reasons to meet outside of that club is hit or miss, so it’s a good place to do something interesting with people you like, but you’re not going to find it as easy to tap them for overlapping interests or trade skills outside of it.

        • Neko

          I take it you’re referring to the draw of the Sunday Assembly, and that was a good explanation!

        • Kodie

          Well I was talking in general about your rituals having benefits. Socializing has benefits! We’re a social animal, and even when we don’t feel comfortable socializing, just the event of seeing another face has psychological benefits, aside from talking or sharing an activity or cooperating that obviously has benefits. People want a place where families and neighbors of any age can meet in general, not about a specific interest*. Even Christians know prayer has no expected benefit, despite what the bible promises. But they still think they are talking to god. You don’t have to talk to god or meet with others about god to get psychological benefits in addition to the cooperation that occurs when you meet generically as neighbors and get to know what skills everyone has that might come in handy to you.

          *You have to have some ostensible reason to gather, so religion is one, and lacking a religion but missing this social aspect in general is another. Not everyone needs that to get what they need socially, but it provides a unique type of meeting, ironically, since it is actually more of an excuse to meet rather than a reason to meet (such as to take a class or join a club).

        • Neko

          That’s all so. Also church is not like anything else; it’s not work, it’s not television, it’s not the grocery store. It’s its own alter-reality.

        • Kodie

          There’s a lot of nodding, I assume. I didn’t go to church, I’ve been but I think the thing about church is like going to a movie, where it was kind of impressive, and you come away thinking you liked the movie, and dying to talk to others who also just came out of the movie. You talk with your friends, blah blah wasn’t that good, OH! and when she went _____! Yeah but how about when almost at the ending when _____? Have you ever had post-movie hype? Later on, you might see it again, and just realize how sucky it was. Maybe some movies take a second viewing, maybe it’s just not the same on your tv at home without the atmosphere and snacks. Maybe you’re much older now, and you see some nostalgic title on your tv guide channel, so you become appalled at how tragic your taste in movies was when you were young. When you go to church, I assume it is a lot like going to the movies where you will be able to absorb a fascinating story, after which, you will get to talk with your friends about what a compelling sermon it was. And if you’re Catholic, there are also snacks.

        • Neko

          Well, if you ever decide to go to church, go to a black church with gospel singers. That’s the best!

        • Kodie

          Many years ago, I thought why not do that? I didn’t exactly know how people even decided which church to go to, but why all churches weren’t like that. If I was going to feel the spirit, I wanted it to make me get up and sing. It’s kind of funny now to think about it but a lot of what we’re talking about what kinds of community opportunities one gets at church, it is a lot about learned behaviors and how different congregations react to whatever they feel and interpret as “spirit” is just doing what everyone else at that church does.

        • Neko

          I don’t have very much experience in this area, but I’d say “the spirit” is pretty unpredictable.

        • TheNuszAbides

          some other churches do communion, usu. using grape juice (and also usu. passing around trays full of thimble-sized glasses rather than the priest wiping the chalice after every sip)

        • adam
        • adam

          And actually not all of them:

          A housewife in New Chapel Hill, Texas who saw herself as a religious sister to Andrea Yates, the housewife who drowned her five children in 2001, Laney began to see “signs.” Her 14-month-old son, Aaron, was playing with a spear. That was the first signal from God that she was to
          do something to her children.

          She resisted, not certain that she understood. But the signs continued.

          The case was broadcast on Court TV, and covered by newspapers, television talk shows nationwide and by Internet Web sites.

          When Aaron presented Laney with a rock that day, she later reported that she believed she was supposed to pay attention. This was a symbol. Later that same day, he squeezed a frog. Then she understood. She was to kill
          her children, either by stoning them, strangling them or stabbing them. God had shown her three ways.

          Again she told God no, but again she felt pressured to comply. “Each time it was getting worse and worse,” she later said, “the way it had to be done.” In other words, the
          more she resisted, the worse the death would be for her children. She decided that rocks would be preferable to strangulation, so she found some in preparation.

          Laney knew she had to “step out in faith.” She had to trust God, and she believed that God would use her brutal deed to do something great. He had done such things in the
          Bible. Then when Laney woke up before midnight on May 9, she knew that the time was at hand. She had already hidden a rock in Aaron’s room, so she went there first.

          Lifting the rock, she hit Aaron hard on the skull. He began to cry, alerting her husband, Keith. He asked what was
          wrong and Laney kept her back to him to prevent him from seeing what she was doing. She assured Keith that everything was okay. But it wasn’t okay. Aaron was still breathing, so she put a pillow over his face until she heard him gurgle. She silently told God that He would have to
          finish the job.

          Next Laney went after her other two sons. She took Luke, six, outside first in his underwear and smashed his skull by hitting him repeatedly with a large rock. Then she dragged him by the feet into the shadows so that Joshua, eight, would not see him. She left the stone, the size of a dinner plate, lying on top of him.

          Joshua was next and Laney repeated to him what she had done with Luke, placing them together in a dark area of the yard.

          Afterward, she called 911 to report, “I killed my boys.”

          http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/women/women_killers2/9.html

        • Neko

          So, she’s not insane, just a Christian.

        • adam

          God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”

          Sadly, how does one tell?

        • Neko

          I’m going to go out on a limb and guess this woman is stark raving mad.

        • adam

          Or like Abraham TRUE to her ‘faith’…

          Personally I will go out on the same limb and guess that anyone who believes that the bible gods are real are just as mad.

          What would YOU do if God told you to kill your child?

        • TheNuszAbides

          makes me want to get a solid survey of Jesuits who put stock in Ockham’s Razor…

        • Kodie

          I don’t know how it’s only stark-raving mad to think you see signs to kill your child but not when you see signs to tell you whether to move to a new city or marry someone. How can Christians tell that they’re not also stark-raving mad just because they’re not doing violent and socially unacceptable things?

        • Neko

          I’d say such fancies become a concern only when they’re potentially harmful. Do many Christians claim to see signs? Is it some evangelical thing?

        • Kodie

          I would have to say yes it is popular for a lot of people besides fundamentalist Christians to think god puts signs out for them to decide what to do. Yes I would have heard it quite commonly, that if something is on someone’s mind, they may either ask for a sign, and receive any vague coincidence as that sign, or they may see these coincidences everywhere… that latter is somewhat like a phenomenon about love and the radio – every song on the radio is about you when you start and right after you’ve ended a relationship. But, like, say you’re not sure about taking a job that will bring you to Chicago, then you will be tuned in every time Chicago comes up in conversation or someone on some reality show is from Chicago, or your local sports team will lose a game to Chicago, and take that as a sign you’re supposed to go. That’s not crazy as killing your kids, or just not as violent? When your life turns to shit in Chicago, will you think that you misread the signs or believe you failed at your destiny? Or will your life be pretty good either way, but having moved to Chicago, you’re convinced the signs were right, and convinced of signs generally.

          Seriously, a lot of people are like this, not just Christians, but Christians think they can tell whether or not someone has actually heard from god or not. They always know this is something god would say or what god would not say. Plenty of abused women have probably married guys that beat them because they had signs that they should, maybe eventually got out of these abusive relationships, and still believe that they went through it all to learn something, so the signs are never wrong.

        • Neko

          Wow! Who knew. I’d say that’s speculation about the abused women, though, unless they belong to one of those cults like Quiverfull.

        • Kodie

          I only listen to a lot of people I know believe they were meant to be with the person they’re with or were with. On one hand, everyone can see these red flags, and many people even have caring friends warning them, but the heart wants what the heart wants. Lots of broken and divorced couples always look back in hindsight too. Not everyone is abused or abusive, but plenty of people never belonged together. I think almost everyone recognizes that it’s scary to bond together with someone, that no matter what doubts they have, they look for signs from the universe that give them confidence to go all in. You know it can all go to shit, right? Everyone wants to gamble to win. I don’t think I’m explaining this right.

        • Neko

          That’s OK, I don’t mind your stream-of-consciousness.

          You’re right, it’s hard to make good decisions. For some of us, anyway.

        • adam

        • Kodie

          So Christians can tell the difference between someone else who has had a genuine sign from god and someone who is a few planks short of a treehouse (or worse – possessed by demons for sure!)

        • adam

          ??

        • Neko

          Yeah, I’m aware of the ghastly exceptions to the rule.

        • adam

          The ‘Power of Prayer’

        • Greg G.

          Cool insight! I had never made the connection between that verse in the long ending of Mark and Paul’s snake bite.

        • wtfwjtd

          I figure there’s got to be a connection there somewhere Greg, not only for modern times but for the original writers of these tales. I guess it could be coincidence, but…I doubt it. I wonder how common snake-handling was in connection with religion in ancient times?

        • MR

          Did someone call for a Minoan Snake Goddess?

        • wtfwjtd

          …and now that you mention it, doesn’t Shiva also handle cobras and the like?

        • MR
        • MR

          Of course, these are going way past Paul, even pre-Old Testament, but it shows that snake worship goes way back.

          Here is a teaser for an interesting article:

          All across the Middle East, snakes were associated with the worship of goddesses, usually the “Queen of Heaven” under her various names, such as Inanna (Sumerian) and Ishtar (Semitic). The “Queen of Heaven” could have many powers, including love, sex, the fertility of life, healing miracles, and control over life and death. These goddesses were also shown nude sometimes, in association with a fruit tree and snakes.

          It doesn’t take much imagination to see that the story of Adam and Eve could be an attack on goddess worship. To an ancient Israelite, the story had nothing to do with “original sin,” and the snake was not “Satan.” The story was traditionally interpreted to explain how death and the hardships of life came into the original paradise. So the story also could be seen as showing that, when the first man obeyed the chief goddess–a naked woman with a snake and a magic fruit tree–the chief god cursed him.

      • Even stranger for me is the fact that there are people who have actually tested this claim: the snake handlers. And they know that it doesn’t work! They know for a fact that God doesn’t protect people from being bitten.

        They’ll just blame themselves somehow–not pious enough, not trusting enough, whatever.

        Golly–how can I get a piece of that? I want to feel worthless, too!

        • TheNuszAbides

          wait, you mean they even invented being alone in an uncaring universe? (with convenient embellishments, of course)

      • curtcameron

        “What’s really goofy, when you read the passage in Mark that snake handling is based on, it doesn’t talk about handling poisonous snakes, it just says that the true believer can handle snakes and drink poison without being hurt at all.”

        Even goofier is that the ending of Mark, the part that talks about snake handling and poison drinking, was not in the originals, and was added sometime later. This is well known. The old RSV Bible that I have lying around notes this clearly, it’s not just a liberal Bible scholar thing.

        • wtfwjtd

          Oh yes, most scholars agree that the long ending of Mark is spurious. The problem for the apologist though, due to Markan Priority, if they throw away the long ending as spurious, then the resurrection account falls apart with it. So, they’re either stuck with a falsifiable statement, or they have to jettison the “witnesses” of the resurrection as well as the Great Commission(TM). Just one of the many contradictions of Christianity I suppose.

        • Neko

          Paul who predates Mark lists witnesses in 1 Cor 15. Of course none of them are women.

        • wtfwjtd

          Well, yes, but Jesus “appeared to” “more than 500 of the brothers” in the same way that he had “appeared to” Paul–he uses the same root verb. Paul “saw” Jesus as a vision, and he says these guys did the same. Stranger still, if Paul actually knew of a physical resurrection, why didn’t he list any actual witnesses? Seems simple–he didn’t know of any.

        • Neko

          Yeah, but Paul believed in physical resurrection. If Jesus was the “first fruits” of the general resurrection then presumably Paul believed that Jesus had been physically resurrected. It seems Paul hadn’t heard the “empty tomb” stories; it’s a question if Jesus (if you think he existed) was buried or left on the cross.

        • wtfwjtd

          Clearly Paul believed in physical resurrection. Or did he? He compares the body to a seed, and says that “flesh and blood” cannot “inherit the kingdom of god”. As for Jesus, Paul never puts him in any time or place. Was he crucified and raised before the foundation of the world? Or maybe at a later age? And, where exactly? Paul’s Jesus seems to be much more a celestial being than actual man, and certainly not an actual man in his time.

        • Neko

          On the other hand, in Philippians he says:

          But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself.

          Christianity is bodily.

          Was he crucified and raised before the foundation of the world?

          Is this one of Doherty’s theories? What’s the argument?

        • wtfwjtd

          But Paul also makes a clear distinction between a “natural” body and a “spiritual” body. See 1 Cor 15:35-55. Paul states flatly in 1 Cor 15:47 that “The first man(Adam) was of the dust of the earth, the second man, from heaven.”

          There are several scholars who discuss the time and place of Paul’s crucified and raised Jesus, I believe Doherty may also be of this mind set. The argument is rather simple–Paul never says anything to date when he actually thought Jesus lived and was crucified, ever. Paul believed he was discovering long-hidden mysteries in scriptures, and they were just then being revealed to him (and others) in the “last days”.
          In 1 Cor 1: 7, Paul says that we “eagerly await for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” He always talks about Jesus this way–expecting him to appear for the first time. He never uses language like “return”, or “second coming” ; that kind of language has been read back into his letters post-gospel.

        • Neko

          Right, Paul thought Jesus was an angel or some kind of divinity who was “from heaven,” but who was raised from the dead. Angels don’t get raised from the dead.

          To be continued!

        • wtfwjtd

          Definitely, Paul taught that Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised after 3 days. In fact, this is almost the entire “gospel” of Jesus, according to Paul. Bob has a post that covers this subject pretty good:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/12/what-did-paul-know-about-jesus-not-much/

          In short, Paul seemed to know shockingly little about Jesus.

        • Pofarmer

          I suggest you read that passage again. It supports wtfwjtd’s assertion.

        • Pofarmer

          How could Paul have not heard the empty tomb stories? He went to Jerusalem and met with Cephas and James for two weeks? Didn’t come up? Wasn’t important? Why wasn’t the site of the crucifixion or ressurection venerated? Paul never talks about. Why, when Paul goes back to Jerusalem in Acts, does he go to the temple, where he gets in an altercation with the “Jews from Asia”. Wouldn’t Christians have much holier ground to venerate and occupy?

        • Greg G.

          Let’s jump from the Great Commission to the Great Omission.A week or so ago, I cited an argument that Luke used a version of Mark that had a page or two missing where Luke is following Mark very closely until after the Feeding of the 5000 in Mark 6. Jesus says good-bye to the disciples to go pray but then has them asking a question from Chapter 8. Luke 9:18 jumps from Mark 6:46 to Mark 8:27 in mid-sentence. It is theorized that the (former-)owner of that copy of Mark pulled out the page that contained Jesus calling a Gentile woman a dog in Mark 7:28-29.

          John 6 follows Mark very closely from the Feeding of the 5000 to the Walking on Water to the visit to Gennaserat but John 6:30 has the crowd at Gennesaret asking a question the Pharisees ask in Mark 8:11-12. Perhaps John’s copy of Mark also had the Syro-Phoenician episode removed, too.

          So, if Christians were in the habit of removing pages from Mark with objectionable passages, perhaps the original ending was also objectionable. A scribe may have figured out that Mark was more marketable if he stopped copying at Mark 16:8. Perhaps the scribe was working from Secret Mark, leaving out portions that were even more objectionable than the Syro-Phoenician woman passage. Just a thought that popped into my head.

        • But Secret Mark is widely discredited, no?

          Small quibble, but is it likelier that the Johanine author’s copy of Mark missed the exact same page or that John was working from Luke (every single copy of which would have the same content). It just seems like an odd coincidence.

          Or would there have been a lot of copies of one-page-less-Mark because that happened to be a popular variant?

        • Greg G.

          Luke doesn’t have the walking on water or Gennassaret so John was not copying Luke on that part. John also jumps to an earlier spot in Mark 8. John’s copy may have had larger writing so there was less text on the missing section.

          The original Mark may have been longer.That’s what I was suggesting by Secret Mark. Michael Turton thinks the ending is missing a part of the chiasmus.

          I think it is more likely that each had the section intentionally removed because there is a possible offensive pericope in the missing section. If it was the first or last page, it might be a common accident. The ending of Mark might have been lost that way. But since we have two gospels following Mark 6 and jumping from different spots to a different conversation in Mark 8 in mid-sentence, shifts the probability toward intentionality. If people had a habit of discarding offensive pages, perhaps the ending was offensive.

        • By “Secret Mark,” I assumed you meant the Secret Gospel of Mark, thought to be a modern forgery.

          Interesting idea about the chiasmus, though. That would be a clue.

        • wtfwjtd

          After looking over a few links above, and a discussion with MR, it seems clear now that snake worship was quite common in the Mid-east, and this seems to be (yet another) addition to make Christianity a jack-of-all-trades religion that contains something for everyone. That seems to be what is happening in the creative editing that you are referring to; later authors trying to re-work the story to make it more palatable for their intended audience.

  • busterggi

    “If instead you want to follow the lead of Jesus, he spoke at length about helping the disadvantaged. That’s a charge that makes a lot more sense.”
    Yes, that makes sense but its too much like work.

    • wtfwjtd

      Yep, prayer is much easier.

      • Sophia Sadek

        Followed by going around bragging about all that prayer to make one seem soooo very pious and righteous.

        • wtfwjtd

          Christians are fond of their public prayers, aren’t they? This is yet another point on which they completely ignore Jesus’ teaching. According to him, public prayer is for losers. This is one teaching that I can actually get on board with.

        • Sophia Sadek

          I have a theory that people would do what Jesus asked his disciples to do if they had never been indoctrinated into a religious tradition. The only reason people pray in public is that it is a custom that goes way back. It is a habit that is not hard to break if you never get sucked into it in the first place.

  • RichardSRussell

    Christianity should be spread over all croplands.

    • Brian K

      I get it.

    • Otto

      It does help with the harvest.

    • Sophia Sadek

      Then we will get noxious weeds rather than edible plants. Cow stuff is better than horse hooey.

  • wtfwjtd

    “…that stands in the way of Christianity becoming a healthy worldview instead of the dogmatic busybody that conservative politics has made it in America.”
    A perfect description of modern Christianity in the US these days.

    Here’s another great reason to ignore the “Great Commission”(TM): Christians tell us of God’s plan for our lives. Mega pastor Rick Warren assures us that God had every minute detail of our lives planned out long before we were even born! If this is the case, why burden yourself with the nonsense of trying to convince people that they need Jesus? You may think you can change their minds, but…there’s “God’s plan”, barreling down the tracks like a freight train.He’s already determined whether or not someone will be saved, it’s in the plan, so why bother trying to convince them one way or the other? It’s obviously a waste of time.
    This, of course, also shows why prayer is an utter, complete waste of time, a position consistent even with the Christian’s worldview…but that’s a topic for another day. Great post.

    • Pofarmer

      That’s just a GPS guided bomb at the heart of Christian Dogma right there.

    • Otto

      In the end nothing we do matters because it was all planned ahead of time.

      …and atheists are the nihilists…!!!?

      Calvinism is fun.

      • Pofarmer

        Even non Calvinists believe that God has a plan, things happen in God’s time, we may not understand God’s intentions, etc, etc, etc. Hear it all the time. But even then, God is omniscient, knows our wants and desires, knows our hearts, knows what is best for us, so what good does it do to pray? Do we know better than God? Would we dare ask him to change his plan? Mental masturbation is what it is.

        • Otto

          Yep…never made sense to me. This is one of those things most Christians I know just don’t put much thought into… ‘Go along to get along’. It drove me nuts until I finally tossed the whole thing in the garbage where it belongs.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, that, and the idea of “The Fall.” You have to take it as a literal telling, which it obviously ain’t, because if you take it as allegory, the entire theology just unravels. Many folks may say that they take it as allegory, but they don’t realize the slippery slope they just stepped out onto.

        • Otto

          Exactly…I was one of those people until I actually took the time to realize the implications. I didn’t so much slip off…more like I gleefully jumped. It was pure relief, the world made sense again.

        • Pofarmer

          Yep, the most freeing experience of my life. Once I realized that one thing, then it’s like my faith just dissolved. The rest of it is just noise. I think the next big step for me was reading Eric Hoffers( yes I’m going to shamelessly plug it again) “The True Believers” because it explained so many of the mechanisms that believers use to get and hold on to their beliefs. And it’s delicious that it works just as well for March on Wallstreet as it does for the Teaparty crowd. It has left me as kind of an odd duck though. A generally conservative atheist.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i’m wondering if Bob Altemeyer was at all influenced/inspired by Hoffer’s work.

          http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

        • Pofarmer

          Dunno, but I think Hoffer would notice the same basic structure in an organized effort like “March in Wallstreet” as well. I had a talk with a guy the other day who is pretty conservative, as am I generally, and we kind of had to agree that if the economy and oil prices and unemployment were under a republican administration they would be sung from the rooftops. As it is now, you barely hear a peep.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i just haven’t noticed it ever altering the fate of the common folk whether things such as economy, oil prices and unemployment get ‘sung from the rooftops’ or not. are we talking about mainstream media and/or two-party shenanigans?

        • Pofarmer

          Oh, things like unemployment, trade policy, tax policy, certainly can impact the welfare of the common folk. It’s how things are spun thats interesting, though.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i know the applications of those things ripple-affect us–i’m just dubious as to how much the hypothetical rooftop-singing actually influences the activities of what i’ve seen as a hopelessly rotten-through-“both-halves” system for quite some time now. i recognize, for example, that some kind of plastic ‘left’ of the U.S. was all over the occasional sidewalk during Bush’s portion of the Iraq travesty and then conspicuously too busy to turn out in the same (or any) numbers during Obama’s, but I honestly didn’t notice the sidewalking having any effect on policy during or after. do we know how many of them were more comfortable writing letters to “their guy” because they had a touching opinion as to whether he was any more likely to read and attend to them than his predecessor? or if you’re just saying that the rank-and-file self-identifying liberals are more hypocritical than the rank-and-file self-identifying conservatives, regardless of whether the PTB listen to anyone on streets or rooftops, i don’t claim to know where the motes in neighbors’ eyes -fest ends (plus i wonder how long Bob suffers not-obviously-religion-flavored politics as topic drift)…
          on another hand, did you recognize any Occupiers as having conservative leanings? or did you see the Tea Party as their counterpart? or…

          however, if this was intended to walk me through a parallel or some other reflection of the original discussion, then i apologize for being up too late at this, ‘cos i’m lost in the weeds now. 🙂

        • Pofarmer

          O.k. Before we get waaaayyyyyyyy off in the weeds. All I was saying is that groups Like the Tea Party and March on Wall Street. Think Progress and Free Republic, all have many of the same ingredients to create a cohesive group.

        • TheNuszAbides

          okay, i definitely missed the thrust 🙂
          agreed wholeheartedly. though i’m probably substantially prejudiced in favor of a variety of ‘fringe elements’ anyway.

        • TheNuszAbides

          mind you, i don’t let this pessimism stop me from occasionally enjoying a quality diatribe against the state of things.

        • Scott_In_OH

          the world made sense again.

          It’s hard to describe just how overwhelming that sense of mental relief is, isn’t it?

  • Sophia Sadek

    What mystifies me is how Christians think that worshipping a teacher is better than paying attention to what he had to say.

    • Pofarmer

      Go back to Paul. Worship of the individual is all they had.

      • Sophia Sadek

        Paul was never a student of Jesus. For him, Jesus was just a substitute for Yahweh.

        • wtfwjtd

          It seems quite clear to me, the Jesus of Paul is not the same Jesus of the gospels.

        • Pofarmer

          Paul is the earliest writing of the Jesus cult that we have, besides maybe something like the Didache, which also supports the celestial Jesus. For all the world it looks like the whole thing started out as just another celestial deity cult, which the Gospel Authors, and others, took and wrote stories about, or euhumerized.

        • Neko

          OK, you may not remember that we’ve been around the block on the historical Jesus in the past, and I certainly don’t want to repeat. But since you’re spreading the good news of Richard Carrier, I wonder if you know how he explains all the contortions the evangelists go through to get Jesus born in Bethlehem when it seems he was from Nazareth. If you’re writing theological propaganda like the gospels, why would you introduce this extra hometown?

        • Pofarmer

          “He shall be called a Nazarene.” ? The Gospel writers were working from OT prophecies, making it up as the went along. Read some Randal Helms “The Gospel Fictions.” Lays most of it out.

        • Neko

          Yeah, I thought that one was contested, because the Hebrew word means “branch” or something. I’m guessing the argument is that the translator/s of the Septuagint might have started this chain of association, but I don’t know.

        • Pofarmer

          Could be, but remember, we don’t have the entirety if the documents these guys could have been working from, either.

        • Neko

          Right. I haven’t been willing to shell out for Carrier’s book and thought maybe you had it and could look it up. : )

        • Pofarmer

          “On the historicity of Jesus?” Yeah, I haven’t been willing to shell out $50 or more either, plus then read 750 pages that I’m sure is pretty dense.

        • Neko

          Well, the paperback is “only” $31.50. Actually, it’s gone up. I had hoped Carrier’s editor would give him some tough love but sure enough the book is XXL. Perhaps some enterprising mythicist will do a comic-book version.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i’ve still got the warm-up on my list, but at least it’s already at the library…

          http://seattle.bibliocommons.com/item/show/2801844030_proving_history

        • Greg G.

          Paul said Jesus was a descendant of David but he doesn’t say much about Jesus that can’t be found in the OT and that factoid comes from the OT. A couple of decades later, Mark used a term that was interpreted as Jesus being from Nazareth but seems that Mark’s Jesus was from Capernaum. A few decades later, Matthew says Jesus was born in Bethlehem from OT scripture but tries to reconcile Jesus being from Nazareth, then pulls some verse that isn’t clearly recognized to have Jesus moved to Capernaum.

          The authors were trying to reconcile contingent ideas and writing apologetics to do it. They don’t appear to have any knowledge of a first century Jesus so that substitute OT verses to come up with deeds Jesus would have done had he existed.

        • Neko

          Of course Paul said Jesus was a descendant of David; Paul believed Jesus was the Messiah, and the Messiah was to be a descendant of David.

          A couple of decades later, Mark used a term that was interpreted as Jesus being from Nazareth but seems that Mark’s Jesus was from Capernaum.

          I believe amateur Rene Salm (among others?) floats this theory, which has been skewered by actual NT scholars.

          They don’t appear to have any knowledge of a first century Jesus so that substitute OT verses to come up with deeds Jesus would have done had he existed.

          The gospels unanimously situate Jesus’s life in the reign of Pontius Pilate. Of course determining their sources is a rather conspicuous preoccupation of NT studies. It’s true, we can never know whether the words the evangelists attribute to Jesus are approximations of what he actually said, or whether they’re supplied by legend or even introduced by the evangelists themselves, which would have been acceptable practice at the time.

          However, I don’t want to derail the thread (as is my wont).

          I think Bob Seidensticker’s argument, though clever, is a dead-ender. Mythicist whipping boy Bart Ehrman has probably done more than any atheist to weaken the shackles of Biblical literalism. The best antidote to fundamentalism is education on the history of the New Testament. But…how to do so on a mass scale is anyone’s guess.

        • Greg G.

          Of course Paul said Jesus was a descendant of David; Paul believed Jesus was the Messiah, and the Messiah was to be a descendant of David.

          Paul only knows this from the OT. Everything Paul says about Jesus can be found in the OT. Here is a link to one post where I list every claim about Jesus made by Paul and at least one place in the OT where he could have got the information:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/12/what-did-paul-know-about-jesus-not-much/#comment-1714262064

          It is not just Paul, either, the same is true for all the early epistles.

          Mark 1:14 says Jesus was preaching in Galilee and Mark 1:28 says he gained fame. Mark 2:1-2 says he was home when he returned to Capernaum and people gathered there until there was no room for them, as if they knew he was from Capernaum. In Mark 9:33, after the Transfiguration, they returned to Capernaum and went to the house. Whose house?

          Matthew 4:13-16 says Jesus moved to Capernaum to fulfill a prophecy, possibly Isaiah 9:1-2, which mentions Galilee, land of the Gentiles, but Nazareth would have fulfilled that as a prophecy, being in Galilee. Matthew 2:23 says Jesus’ family moved to Nazareth when they returned from Egypt to fulfill a prophecy that “He shall be called a Nazarene. “Perhaps Matthew was thinking of Judges 13:5 that said Samson would be a “nazirite”, which is described in Numbers 6:1-21 as a person consecrated to God and has nothing to do with a location.

          Luke 4:14-16 has Jesus travel and preach in Galilee, then returning to Nazareth. Luke 4:23 has the people asking Jesus to do what he did in Capernaum but Luke never has him go there before going to Nazareth.

          In Mark 3:19b-21, Jesus goes home and his family heard about what he was doing and came to seize him. If Jesus had moved from Nazareth to Capernaum, it would have taken at least two days for his family to get there but the story seems to move much faster as if the family lived nearby.

          Mark 1:9 is the first place “Nazareth” is mentioned but the synoptic parallels, Matthew 3:13 and Luke 3:21, don’t have that word. That raises the question of an interpolation.

          Matthew only uses “Nazareth” once in a parallel passage with Mark using a different word but Luke does not use it there. (Mark 14:67-70; Matthew 26:69-71; Luke 22:56-59) Luke agrees with Mark twice (Mark 1:24 ; Luke 4:34 & Mark 10:47; Luke 18:37). Neither parallels Mark 16:6, the only other place Nazareth is mentioned by Mark.

          The gospels unanimously situate Jesus’s life in the reign of Pontius Pilate. Of course determining their sources is a rather conspicuous preoccupation of NT studies.

          I have taken an interest in the sources used by the gospel authors. Pilate governed Judea for a large part of the eraly first century. He commissioned at least one building with his name on the cornerstone. The other gospel authors follow Mark’s lead about Pilate.

          It’s true, we can never know whether the words the evangelists attribute to Jesus are approximations of what he actually said, or whether they’re supplied by legend or even introduced by the evangelists themselves, which would have been acceptable practice at the time.

          I agree. It was also not unheard of to make up fictional characters written as if they existed at some time in the past. It is still done today.

          Matthew seems to have used the Epistle of James to model Jesus’ sayings. See The Sermon on the Mount Site: James and the Sermon on the Mount. by Robert I. Kirby. Mark seems to have done a similar thing with the deeds of Jesus: New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash references the work of several scholars compiled by Robert M. Price which doesn’t leave much room for oral traditions.

          Matthew appears to have used Jewish Wars while Luke seems to have used Jewish Wars, Antiquities of the Jews, and Life of Josephus.

          CORRECTION: That should have been “Matthew appears to have used Antiquities of the Jews“.

          Mythicist whipping boy Bart Ehrman has probably done more than any atheist to weaken the shackles of Biblical literalism. The best antidote to fundamentalism is education on the history of the New Testament. But…how to do so on a mass scale is anyone’s guess.

          I think the New Testament is better understood as literature. We can study the history of the New Testament without taking the history in the New Testament seriously.

        • Neko

          As I mentioned before, I certainly don’t want to get down in the weeds over the historical Jesus. Just a few general remarks:

          Paul only knows [that the Messiah was to come from the City of David] from the OT.

          Where else would such knowledge come from, if not the Hebrew scriptures? Paul is working within a theological tradition (as well as classical philosophy), so naturally he situates his belief that Jesus is the Messiah within that tradition.

          As for all the jumbling of prooftexts from the various gospels, it’s hardly the way to proceed, especially since it’s generally conceded that Matthew and Luke copied from Mark . Maurice Casey succinctly notes:

          [Rene] Salm’s attempt to support [his idea that Nazareth may not have even existed] by the obvious fact that Mark treats Capernaum as Jesus’ home during his ministry is quite wrong, and his citation of of Mark 6.3 in support of his notion that Jesus’ family resided in Capernaum makes nonsense of Mark 6.1-6. Hence Jesus returns to him ‘home town’ (patris), and his reception by the inhabitants, who know his family and him as a carpenter, is not consistent with this place being the centre of his ministry.

          You wrote:

          The other gospel authors follow Mark’s lead about Pilate.

          Are you saying you think the authors of John used Mark as a source?

          I think the New Testament is better understood as literature. We can study the history of the New Testament without taking the history in the New Testament seriously.

          I disagree. Why should we not take any history seriously, especially history concerned with as momentous an event as the origin of Christianity?

          But again, no need to get bogged down off-topic!

        • wtfwjtd

          I think that Greg is trying to make the point that we have no real history of the origins of Christianity, as far as the New Testament is concerned. All we have are a collection of stories, called the gospels, that borrow historical characters and interweave them into its tales. This is a common story-telling technique, and has been an effective one for eons. The New Testament is no more reliable as history than is, say, the Odessey.
          For real history regarding the origins of Christianity, we need to look elsewhere. I’ve said it before, and I still feel this way–the New Testament, especially the gospels, reads like an infomercial for Christianity. No doubt, there are a few grains of truth here and there, and seeing as how it tells us it was written so that “we may believe”, it’s hardly a reliable or trustworthy source of unbiased information.

        • Neko

          Hi, thanks for your reply.

          Pretty sure I know what Greg’s point is.

          The New Testament is supposed to be a goldmine by the standards of antiquity, and a lot of scholarship over the last hundred plus years has been devoted to parsing out what might be historically reliable information. The pros are a bit more confident in that project than you are. And no one, except maybe fundamentalists, would claim that the NT is unbiased or reliable!

          I don’t know where else one would look for “real” history; the non-Christian references to the Jesus movement have of course been exhaustively scrutinized. The consensus holds that Jesus existed. However, I would like to read Carrier for a counterargument (since I couldn’t get through the tendentious Doherty), though his methodology has come under some pretty heavy criticism.

        • I haven’t read much on the Christ Myth theory, though I’ve been quite impressed with Carrier’s work on the general question of the historicity of the gospel accounts. I’ve seen plenty of whining about Carrier’s Christ-Myth conclusions but nothing about his methodology. What have you heard?

        • Neko

          Well, this one by Ian at Irreducible Complexity (the name is ironic; Ian’s an atheist and a scientist with a degree in theology):

          https://irrco{.}wordpress{.}com/2012/09/08/a-mathematical-review-of-proving-history-by-richard-carrier/

          Ian is sympathetic to Carrier’s conclusions but found Carrier’s use of Bayes’ Theorem “disingenuous.”

          I read something more recently written by a mythicist sympathizer who concluded that Carrier was loading the dice. I’ll have to root around for it but will post the link here if I find it.

        • Thanks. I’ll take a look.

          Here’s that link in a clickable form:

          https://irrco.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/a-mathematical-review-of-proving-history-by-richard-carrier/

        • Neko

          I finally found it! I don’t know who this guy is, but he’s a participant in a forum of high-powered enthusiasts who have been debating mythicism for years, and the article is excellent:

          http://ronnblom.net/is-jesus-a-rank-raglan-hero/

          In fairness, Neil Godfrey of vridar insists Carrier’s use of the Rank-Raglan scale has been misinterpreted, etc., etc., so perhaps my characterization of “loading the dice” is overwrought. However, I’m not going down that rabbit hole.

        • Pofarmer

          Thing is,mthe Rank/Raglan stuff probably isn’t even the fifth most persuasive argument for mythicism. Thing is, there’s nothing in the Gospels that requires a historical person. Ues, Ceasar Augustus had mythical accounts attached to things he DID. The Jesus story is entirely a mythical account. It’s not like “a guy did this and had supernatural help”. It’s “here’s all the supernatural stuff this guy did”.

        • Neko

          The “Rank/Raglan stuff” is not the argument. The RR score is plugged into the Bayes’ Theorem formula to determine probability. Carrier’s whole pitch is that his methodology is superior to the set of criteria New Testament scholars employ. If his methodology is flawed or corrupted, as has been alleged, he fails to make his case.

          Thing is, there’s nothing in the Gospels that requires a historical person.

          Well, that’s the debate, isn’t it. Though there’s next to no debate in the academy. Mere assertion (“The Jesus story is entirely a mythical account”) has no persuasive power whatsoever.

        • wtfwjtd

          For me, the real value of Christ Myth has been to show just how fragile the evidence for the very existence of Jesus really is. Certainly, current consensus is that he did, in fact, exist. But when pressed for what we know about the real, historical person, we get virtually nothing. Christ Myth certainly seems plausible, but then again, behind most legends there’s often an actual person hidden in there somewhere. I think the gospel account of a god-man who’s intent was to start a new world religion is actually the least plausible explanation. Just my opinion, of course, and I offer it as such. I don’t engage too much in the existence question too much, as apologists like to equate accepting existence with truth of the gospel stories in their entirety.This, of course, is ludicrous, there’s too much other low-hanging fruit to mess much with this argument. I enjoy reading those who study this stuff in depth though, and like I said before I think they have made some valuable contributions to the overall discussion.

        • Neko

          Jesus almost certainly did not intend to start a new religion. He may have sought to prepare his followers for what he expected would be the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God, an eschatological vision consistent with Jewish messianic expectations of the time. The rest is Catholic legend. I think NT scholars are well aware of the scarcity of certain kinds of evidence. But it’s always interesting to take a different perspective on a well-established narrative, and mythicists have certainly done that, though it’s been done before: in the nineteenth century. But–a lot of data has been unearthed since then (Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hammadi, Pilate Stone, etc.).

          apologists like to equate accepting existence with truth of the gospel stories in their entirety

          Do they really? Of course that’s ludicrous (I wrote this before noticing that you wrote exactly the same thing, but will let it stand).

        • Pofarmer

          I don’t see where the Nag Hamad library, Pilate Stone, or Dead Sea Scrolls really change anything. Also, doesn’t Josephus write about Pilate, and Herod? If the Gospel authors were using contemporary works as sources, then that leaves Josephus as a source, and it’s certainly not impossible that Mark is early second century.

        • Neko

          I was actually granting a mythicist argument that 20th-century discoveries should encourage a reconsideration of mythicism. Are you kidding me? These discoveries were huge. Before the Pilate stone surfaced there was scant archaeological evidence of Pilate’s tenure as prefect in Judaea. Dead Sea Scrolls “didn’t really change anything”? Wow, that’s some serious hand waving right there. For starters, the DSS provided evidence of an ascetic Jewish apocalyptic cult contemporary with Jesus.

          Who dates Mark early 2nd century?

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, we didn’t have archaelogical evidence of Pilate, but we did have other textual evidence that pretty much confirmed his existence. Yes, the Dead Sea Scrolls let us see into the thinking if an apocalyptic Jewish Cult. Paul probably got his ideas from one of these cults, maybe even the Essenes, who knows? My point is, none of these discoveries make the historical carpenter/preacher more likely. Robert M. Price, among others, thinks Mark is early to mid secind century. This is kind of supported by thefact that none of the Gospels are quoted until sometime in the early second century. Also, about a century after events like the fall of Jerusalem, would he about right for all kinds of myths to develope about it, and Mark seems to be shot through as an allegory for the fall of Jerusalem. Check out Robert G. Price on this.

        • Neko

          You wrote:

          Paul probably got his ideas from one of these cults, maybe even the Essenes, who knows?

          Huh? Paul got most of his ideas from his own Jewish tradition, the Hebrew scriptures, and some Hellenistic influences. I think Robert Eisenman speculates that the Essenes knew of Paul and vilified him.

          Robert Price is an outlier. He doesn’t represent the consensus; far from it. Most of the debates surrounding Mark (that I’ve observed) concern how early, not how late, the gospel was written.

        • Pofarmer

          “Most of the debates surrounding Mark (that I’ve observed) concern how early, not how late, the gospel was written.”

          Of course they do, because the earlier you can push the dating back, the more you can make it seem “Genuine” and rescue the idea of not only eyewitness testimony but of some genuine knowledge of Jesus, the man. Problem is, we are pretty sure that Mark was written in Rome. We are also pretty sure that Christianity would have been a tiny sect before the fall of the temple in 70 A.D. Hell, Josephus never mentions it, and he mentions all kinds of errata. So, whats the chance that you have a member of this tiny swct writing a Greek composition in Rome less than 20 years after the supposed crucifixion? I’d say pretty small, which is why it is also pretty unlikely that Peter was ever the “Bishop of Rome” besides there being no onter evidence for it. It’s unlikely that the Christian cult got much outside Jerusalem and Palestine before Paul, so it’s unlikely it would have had much of a presence in far away Rome before Paul even started writing. This Christian cult and the Gospel of John, especially, also follows the theology of Philo of Alesandria, yet he never mentions it. What’s more likely, that he totally missed what was going on, or that these later authors borrowed from his ideas, as well as Greek, as well as Jewish? Paul preaches a celestial Jesus that is going to come down to Earth with an army of Angels and kick some ass. The later Gospel Authors then place this figure on Earth, have the locals miss it as a Justification for why Jerusalem was destroyed, and then say Jesus is going to COME BACK to Earth and kick some ass. So, an awful lot of scholars think Mark and the other Gospel authors must have definately been post 70 A.D.

        • Neko

          You wrote:

          Of course they do, because the earlier you can push the dating back, the more you can make it seem “Genuine” and rescue the idea of not only eyewitness testimony but of some genuine knowledge of Jesus, the man.

          Wow, you must think all NT scholars lack integrity and don’t know WTF they’re talking about. Why don’t you read actual experts on this matter? Here’s a start:

          https://ntmark.wordpress.com/category/date/

          The money quote:

          Most scholars thus date Mark between 65-75 CE with the divide over whether it dates before or after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.

          You wrote:

          Problem is, we are pretty sure that Mark was written in Rome.

          No, “we’re” not. It may have been written in Palestine. The Jesus cult had multiple variations and cannot simply be characterized as a Johannine cult, and the Roman Christian community existed before Paul ever arrived. I’m having a hard time following your argument, which contains a number of dubious propositions, to the conclusion that “an awful lot of scholars think Mark and the other Gospel authors must have definitely been post 70 AD.”

          Again,

          Most scholars thus date Mark between 65-75 CE with the divide over whether it dates before or after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.

        • Pofarmer

          A question though. How many of these scholars are also believers that a priori believe in the historical Jesus? I think Bart Ehrman puts it in the high 90 percents.

        • Neko

          What difference would that make to dating Mark? The consensus that Jesus existed is across the board: Christian, atheist, Jew, Muslim, etc. Some of the most vociferous defenders of the historical Jesus are atheist/agnostic, such as R. Joseph Hoffmann, who in the past entertained quasi-mythicist theories, and the late Maurice Casey, who I quoted above/below.

          Whether Jesus existed or not can’t be determined definitively; it’s a probabilities game, which is why the debate, such as it is, is over methodology. I don’t know how well received Carrier’s book has been, but considering that even sympathetic parties are dubious about his confidence in Bayes’ Theorem as a “scientific” approach to history, my guess is that it arrived not with a bang but with a whimper. Still…it’s too early to tell what the impact might be.

        • Pofarmer

          The point is, it’s always been assumed that Jesus was historical. Crap, suggesting Jesus was mythological al could have gotten you killed up until the 18th century. But if you are Christian, thinking Jesus was the son of god, you are naturally going to want the strongest proof possible.

        • Neko

          The thing is, scholarship is a collegial enterprise where work gets vetted by peers, so scholarship that is unaccountably tendentious is either not going to survive the process or will be identified as apologetics. You’re right, of course, that the confessional element creates a conflict of interest.

        • Pofarmer

          I am afraid that knife cuts both ways though. The process tends to keep everything pushed to the center.

        • Neko

          That’s not what the actual scholars say. Scholars who manage to shift the consensus become famous. That is something scholars want to do. It’s just not that easy.

        • MNb

          That point has been invalid since a while.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles-Francois_Dupuis

          Totally not killed.

          “But if you are Christian, thinking Jesus was the son of god, you are naturally going to want the strongest proof possible”

          Yeah. On the other hand atheists like Richard Carrier obviously are the most objective scholars thinkable.
          Po, you sound like a creationist who says that the Multiverse was developed by atheists to disprove god, because it is a reaction to the Fine Tuning Argument. It’s silly.

        • One negative review from a secular source isn’t enough to judge Carrier.

        • Neko

          Obviously. But from what I’ve read on the blogs (and only intermittently), the people who have’ve been engaged with this issue for a long time are underwhelmed. The scholarly response in professional journals takes quite a bit longer to appear, hence “it’s too early to tell what the impact might be.”

        • Pofarmer

          I think Carrier will keep pushing the issue until there are some scholarly replies.

        • Neko

          It isn’t like The New York Times Book Review; scholarly reviews take a much longer time to come out. Carrier can huff and puff all he wants, but unless the book gets assigned for review, it won’t get reviewed. I guess I’d be surprised if it didn’t, but I don’t know how that process works.

        • Pofarmer

          Now look, are we going to go by the scholarly consensus or not? As far as I’m aware, the scholarly consensus leans to Mark being written after 70 A.D. Outside of Palestine, probably in Rome. I am aware of folks like McDowell who try to push it earlier, and Robert M. Price who think it’s much later.

        • Neko

          Again:

          Most scholars thus date Mark between 65-75 CE with the divide over whether it dates before or after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.

          I just pulled this from one very credible source, “Euangelion Karta Markon,” but it’s everywhere because it’s the consensus.

          You realize the reason Mark was thought to have been written in Rome is because of the legend that Peter dictated it to him? But you’re right that the gospel was probably written outside of Palestine (my bad); a probable location is Syria.

        • Pofarmer

          Thank you.

        • Greg G.

          One argument for the Rome idea is that Mark explains many of the Aramaicisms but not the Latinisms as if he expected his readers to get the Latin but not the Aramaic.

        • Neko

          Ah! Again, Michael Kok helpfully summarizes the debate:

          https://ntmark.wordpress.com/category/provenance/

          I guess there are scholars who argue for a Palestinian origin, but above/below I was misremembering an argument for Syria.

        • Greg G.

          Thank you for the link. That is a good summary. I saw that some argue that some things are explained by the Latinisms in one of the points, so that goes beyond what I recalled.

          I notice a hat tip to “Ron Price”. I wonder if that is “R. G. Price” or yet another R. Price to confuse us. I knew of R. G. Price but when I began to read the article (linked to previously) for the first time, I was under the impression that I was reading R. M. Price. Much of it agreed with R. M. Price but there was so much that was the opposite of RMP’s position but sounded like RGP’s so that I had to scroll up to check the name again.

        • Neko

          Ha! I have no idea. By the way, Michael Kok is coming out with a book, The Gospel on the Margins: The Reception of Mark in the Second Century.

          https://books.google.ca/books?id=5-YcBgAAQBAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s

          I read a review of his of someone else’s book (wish I had the link!), and he’s a delightful writer.

        • Greg G.

          How a Fictional Jesus Gave Rise to Christianity, by R. G. Price (not the more famous Robert M. Price)

          I think this is who Pofarmer is referring to. This Price takes most of the Epistles as early as it makes the gospels easier to explain. I agree with his reasoning on that point.

        • Neko

          Ah! Thank you. You’re right that I assumed he meant Robert M. Price.

          By the way, I’ve been reading over your long post, but it will take some time for me to digest all that interesting information. I’ve encountered Bernard Muller’s quite good commentary in the past and have visited his site before; it’s a little rough on the eyes!

        • Greg G.

          I think the gospels are as fictional as Gone With the Wind . Both have some tidbits of actual history and some real names but the main story is made up. At best, there’s a lesson to be learned from how the story changes from one author to the next.

          I think the epistles give the best evidence for the origins of Christianity as long as you don’t read the gospels back into the epistles. The epistles agree with the gospels that Jesus was descended from David, born of a woman, and crucified but do not support that Jesus was a teacher, a preacher, did miracles, was from Galilee or had Disciples.

        • wtfwjtd

          I dunno Greg, I’m thinking the gospels are more like the Carol Burnett Show’s “Went With the Wind” (a parody of “Gone With the Wind.”) 🙂

          Yes, I agree, the epistles give us some clues about certain aspects of early Christianity. The interesting thing is, unless I am mistaken there isn’t any real mention of a historical Jesus in there anywhere. How could this be? When it comes to supporting Christ Myth, in my book Paul is the star witness in support of it. You’d think if anyone would have known anything about the supposed goings-on reported in the gospels in Palestine in the early first century, it would be him. And yet we get virtually nothing.

        • Greg G.

          I saw a comment somewhere that it’s the opposite of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Jesus is just the clothes with nobody in them.

        • Greg G.

          Of course Paul got the descendant of David from the Hebrew scripture. My point is that everything Paul and the other early epistle writers know about Jesus comes from the OT.

          Casey’s refutation doesn’t address Jesus’s family coming immediately when they thought he was crazy. It would have taken two or three days for them to get the message and to travel to Capernaum.

          I do think John used Mark and maybe Matthew, too. John 6 follows Mark 6:30 on. The Feeding of the 5000 follows Mark point by point except he mentions the number earlier. Then comes the walking on water and the trip to Gennasaret. Mark invented the Feeding of the 5000 story exaggerating the 1 Kings story of Elijah feeding 100 people with a little food by combining it with one of Telemauchus going to a feast in The Odyssey. Telemauchus went to two great feasts which explains why there is the Feeding of the 4000. One of the feasts had 4500 people so Mark apparently round up once and down once. So John had to have got the story from Mark and cannot be an independent witness.

          Nearly every passage in the Gospels can be traced to the literature if the day, most of which are deeds and sayings of people and fictional characters not named Jesus. Luke might seem like a good historian when compared to Josephus but Luke tips her hand in many places that she was using Josephus as a source. If the gospels are literature, they should not be treated as history.

        • Neko

          Huh? Casey’s point is that Jesus’s family come for him in his home town, Nazareth. Mark 6:1 “He went away from there and came to his own country…”

          That’s interesting about John. Yeah, Mark got that feeding of the crowd story from Elijah; not sure he needed to incorporate the Odyssey while he was at it. More likely just ratcheted up the number fed to show that Jesus was superior to Elijah. John was written by multiple authors, so perhaps one of them used Mark.

          That’s cool you think Luke is a “she.” Do you think that because the gospel is so sympathetic to women, or do you have another reason? : )

          I was under the impression that Luke is not taken that seriously as an historian, though Acts is often relied upon.

          Nearly every passage in the Gospels can be traced to the literature if the day, most of which are deeds and sayings of people and fictional characters not named Jesus.

          Yeah, there’s a lot of midrash and so on, but you must be aware an entire profession is dedicated to identifying gospel sources, and I’ve never read that “nearly every passage can be traced to the literature of the day.” Is this Randel Helms’s case? I might have to read that book!

        • Helms in Who Wrote the Gospels? argues that the author of Luke was female.

        • Greg G.

          Mark 2:1 establishes that Jesus’ home was in Capernaum. When he returned there in Mark 3:19-21, his family came to restrain him after hearing from multiple people. Nazareth would have been about 30 miles, a whole day’s walk. How many people would walk that far to tell his family? Unless the event happened early in the day, it would take 3 days for the message to reach them and to get to Capernaum. How many family members would be able to drop what they were doing to make such a trip? For the story to make sense, his whole family had to be in Capernaum.

          The Feeding of the Thousands stories have a lot in common with The Odyssey with the dialogue, that Jesus walked to one and sailed to one just like Telemauchus. Then there’s the similarities between Legion and Polyphemus, the Cyclops. It’s as obvious as John Goodman’s eyepatch in O Brother! Where Art Thou? that the character represents the Cyclops. It was not uncommon for Greek writers to model stories on Homer. They learned to write imitating him.

          Randell Helms wrote a profile of each Gospel author in Who Wrote the Gospels? He gave some pretty convincing evidence that she was a well-to-do Gentile widow who had lost a child. Recently I came across another argument that Luke was a woman with just as much evidence as Helms with very little overlap. That was pretty good confirmation. I’m using my phone in bed and my notes are on the computer downstairs otherwise I would give the link.

          We’ve had several names, probably the same person citing how good Luke was as a historian with many theologian scholars quoted in support.

          Yes, there are many scholars pointing out relationships between older writings and the New Testament but nobody wants to combine them side by side. That’s what I’ve been doing. Plus they want to date the Gospel of Thomas late to say it is derivative of the gospels. But it seems unlikely that whoever compiled it would be able to focus on the verses we don’t have plausible sources for. I gave a link to RD Price where he has combined several studies but most of Mark 4 is unaccounted for which is all Thomas parallels and dialogue about them. The same goes for the other three gospels. The website with the Luke was a lady argument has one that is supposed to show Matthew wrote a parable and Thomas abbreviated it. He shows that the story in Matthew is full of typical Matthean phrases but the GHOST parallel has none of them. It seems more likely that Matthew dressed up the Logion with his favorite style than that Thomas would have recognized and removed every one of them leaving the core of the story.

        • Neko

          OK, lets’ review Casey’s point:

          Rene] Salm’s attempt to support [his idea that Nazareth may not have even existed] by the obvious fact that Mark treats Capernaum as Jesus’ home during his ministry is quite wrong, and his citation of of Mark 6.3 in support of his notion that Jesus’ family resided in Capernaum makes nonsense of Mark 6.1-6. Hence Jesus returns to him ‘home town’ (patris), and his reception by the inhabitants, who know his family and him as a carpenter, is not consistent with this place being the centre of his ministry.

          The syntax may not be clear. Casey argues that Capernaum was the base town for Jesus’s ministry, and Nazareth was his home town, that is, where his family lived. Even if this wasn’t the case (which it clearly is), do you really expect the gospel to “make sense”? This is a narrative where Jesus’s powers bring a dead girl to life, cure another by remote control and reroute an army of demons into pigs before they sail over a cliff. “Sense” isn’t exactly the operative principle here.

          The Feeding of the Thousands stories have a lot in common with The Odyssey with the dialogue, that Jesus walked to one and sailed to one just like Telemauchus. Then there’s the similarities between Legion and Polyphemus, the Cyclops.

          It’s probably sheer ignorance on my part, but this sounds like parallelomania. However, I’d be interested in looking at it further. It seems to me “legion” refers to the Roman occupiers, and the story is meant to suggest that faith in Jesus will deliver the subjected Israelites from corruption and bondage. Remember Mark is thought to have been written around the time of the Siege of Jerusalem. But it’s certainly possible Mark cribbed motifs from classical myth.

          He gave some pretty convincing evidence that she was a well-to-do Gentile widow who had lost a child.

          That’s funny, I’ve often wondered if maybe that wasn’t “Mary Magdalene’s” story, but this is based on Luke’s contention that MM supported Jesus “out of her own substance,” which is probably suspect information. Anyway, I’d love to see that link at your convenience.

          We’ve had several names, probably the same person citing how good Luke was as a historian with many theologian scholars quoted in support.

          Yeah, I think that’s the conventional wisdom but not the scholarly consensus, at least among scholars who aren’t thinly-veiled apologists.

          Dating for Gospel of Thomas is a raging controversy. I don’t keep track of it, but my impression is the issue is far from settled (like practically everything else having to do with Jesus). Mark Goodacre (of course) thinks Thomas was familiar with the synoptics, but I don’t think that’s the prevailing view. Not sure, though.

        • Greg G.

          It is not clear that from Mark alone that he was saying Jesus was from Nazareth unless you read the later gospels back into it. Mark apparently used a strange word that early Christians understood as “of Nazareth” but even Matthew’s understanding and reconciliation has Jesus moving to Capernaum to fulfill a prophecy about being from Galilee, as if Matthew didn’t know that Nazareth is in Galilee.

          John 6:1 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.
          Mark 6:32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.
          Matthew 14:13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.

          John 6:2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.
          Mark 6:33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.
          Mark 6:34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
          Matthew 14:14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

          John 6:3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.
          Mark 6:35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late;
          Matthew 14:15a When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late;

          John 6:4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.

          John 6:5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”
          Mark 6:37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?”
          Mark 6:38a And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.”
          Matthew 14:15b send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”
          Matthew 14:16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

          John 6:6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.

          John 6:7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”

          John 6:8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,
          John 6:9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”
          Mark 6:38b When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”
          Matthew 14:17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”

          John 6:10a Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place;
          Mark 6:39 Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass.
          Matthew 14:19a Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.

          John 6:10a
          Mark 6:39; Matthew 14:19a

          Sit on the grass

          John 6:10b so they sat down, about five thousand in all.
          Mark 6:40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.
          Mark 6:44 Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
          Matthew 14:21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

          John 6:10b
          Mark 6:40; Mark 6:44; Matthew 14:21

          All 5000

          John 6:11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.
          Mark 6:41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all.
          Matthew 14:19b Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.

          John 6:12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.”
          John 6:13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.
          Mark 6:42 And all ate and were filled;
          Mark 6:43 and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.
          Matthew 14:20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.

          Mark 6:44 Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
          Matthew 14:21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

          John follows the action in Mark step-by-step while adding his own comments. Matthew follows Mark, too. I bolded the only place where John changes Mark’s order and that is simply mentioning the number of people there. Then comes the Walking on Water story, which is a trick Hermes did in Homer’s The Iliad. Then they go to Gennasaret. It would be unlikely that they could have gotten the three separate stories from folklore about Jesus and put them all together in the same place and in the same order. But if they did, we wouldn’t expect the detail to be put in the same order in each story, too. Another place to look is Mark 14 and John 18 where Jesus is on trial and both use the literary technique of intercalating the two narratives to show simultaneity. Mark is better at it where Jesus is slapped around and ordered “Prophesy!” while his earlier prophecy is being fulfilled.

          Review of The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark by Richard Carrier covers a lot of “Mark used Homer” idea and it was written before Carrier was a mythicist. I wanted to check it out and started to read The Odyssey part about the Cyclops and saw that his name was “Polyphemus”. Now I knew from fifth-grade geometry that “poly-” meant “many” and the Mark story had “for we are many” so I looked up “Polyphemus” and saw that it means “famous” but literally means “many talk about”, “poly- = many” and “-phemus” means speech, as in “blasphemy”. Then I went to Mark 5:9 at blueletterbible . com and saw that Mark had used “polys” for “many” and happened to notice that the word for “said” was “lego” and the word for “Legion” was “Legio” and that in the Testus Receptus the words were side-by-side. Mark used the Latin “Legio” to suggest “many soldiers” and but it next to “lego” so his readers wouldn’t miss the similarity of the word for “saying” to clue in that the demonaic represented Polyphemus. Mark seems to have folded Isaiah 65:4, and maybe Psalm 107:10, into the story for the setting and the pigs, which also hints at the episode where Odysseus’ men were turned into pigs by a witch.

          Here’s my list from Randel Helms and Bernard Muller, plus my own contribution about the patch not matching:

          Angelic Annunciation of Jesus’ conception made to Mary (Luke 1:31) rather than Joseph (Matthew 1:20)
          Luke uses Greek word for “women” [γυνή gynē] 11 times, Matthew 6 times, Mark twice, John none.
            Matthew 11:11
            Matthew 14:21
            Matthew 15:38
            Matthew 24:41
            Matthew 27:55
            Matthew 28:5

            Mark 15:40
            Mark 15:41

            Luke 1:28
            Luke 1:42
            Luke 7:28
            Luke 8:2
            Luke 17:35
            Luke 23:27
            Luke 23:49
            Luke 23:55
            Luke 24:10
            Luke 24:22
            Luke 24:24

            Acts 1:14
            Acts 5:14
            Acts 8:3
            Acts 8:12
            Acts 9:2
            Acts 13:50
            Acts 16:13
            Acts 17:4
            Acts 17:12
            Acts 22:4
          Luke uses Greek word for “womb” [γαστήρ gastēr] 8 times, Matthew and John once, Mark none.
            Matthew 19:12

            Luke 1:15
            Luke 1:31
            Luke 1:41
            Luke 1:42
            Luke 1:44
            Luke 2:21
            Luke 2:23
            Luke 11:27

            John 3:4

            Acts 3:2
            Acts 14:8
          Only Luke interested in Mary’s “inner life” (Luke 2:18; Luke 2:34; Luke 2:51).
          Only Luke gives us the famous lines rejoicing in pregnancy; “My soul doth magnify the Lord” (Luke 1:46); “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1:42).
          Only biblical author to mention fetal quickening and to describe it as evoking visitation of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41).
          Only Evangelist to imply that Jesus’ female intimates outnumbered his male (Luke 8:2).
          Only Evangelist to imply that Jesus and the Twelve were financed by women (Luke 8:3).
          First to call Jesus “Lord” is a woman in Luke (Luke 1:43).
          First person resurrected after Jesus is a woman (Acts 9:40).
          First European Christian is a woman – Lydia of Thyatira (Acts 16:14-15).
          Only New Testament author to insist that though women were the first to believe and preach the resurrection faith, male disciples refused to believe (Luke 24:10-11).
          Only New Testament author to stress both “men and women” shall prophesy (Acts 2:18).
          Only Evangelist to cite a “prophetess, Anna” (Luke 2:36).
          Only biblical author interested in female osteoporosis (Luke 13:10-13).
          Only Evangelist to praise women who “spoke up” to men (Luke 1:60) and dubiously questioned an angel (Luke 1:34).
          Luke gives us the largest cast of female characters in the New Testament.
            Elizabeth (Luke 1:5)
            Mary (Luke 1:27)
            Anna (Luke 2:36)
            the widow of Zarephath (Luke 4:26)
            the widow of Nain (Luke 7:12)
            Joanna (Luke 8:3)
            Susanna (Luke 8:3)
            Mary Magdalene (Luke 24:10)
            the “sinner” with the bottle of myrrh (Luke 7:37)
            Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38)
            the woman who lost a coin (Luke 15:8)
            the widow who importuned the unjust judge (Luke 18:3)
            the Queen of Sheba (Luke 11:31)
            Mary the mother of James (Luke 24:10)
            John Mark’s mother (Acts 12:12)
            Sapphira (Acts 5:1)
            Rhoda (Acts 12:13)
            Lydia (Acts 16:14)
            Tabitha (Acts 9:36)
            Damaris (Acts 17:34)
            Priscilla (Acts 18:2)
            Philip’s four daughters (Acts 21:9)
            Paul’s sister (Acts 23:16)
            Drusilla (Acts 24:24)
            Bernice (Acts 25:13)
          Luke alters Mark so that remarried divorced women do not commit adultery (Luke 16:18 vs Mark 10:12).
          Luke shows concern about hair being lost, perhaps from 1 Corinthians 11:6b, “but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved,” (Luke 21:16-18 vs Mark 13:13).
          Luke is the only gospel author to note “the piece from the new will not match the old” when repairing clothing. (Luke 5:36)
          Luke teaches that there are more important things in life than housework (Luke 10:39-42).
          Luke expresses feminine sensuality (Luke 7:44b-47a).
          Jesus does not interact much with his family but, in Luke, he honors his mother (Luke 11:27).
          Jesus resurrects a man out of compassion for his mother (Luke 7:12-15).
          The angel at the tomb reminds the women, “Remember how he told you…” (Luke 24:6-11)
          Luke mentions “prominent women”, sometimes before the men.
            Acts 13:50
            Acts 17:4
            Acts 17:12

          My Google-fu is failing me ATM but the page is at this site: http://historical-jesus.info/

          My wife is bugging me to go for a walk and I need the exercise. I’ll try later.

        • Neko

          TL; dr!

          Enjoy the day!

        • Greg G.

          Sorry, I was working from Notepad and had your text in that window. I was rushing out and did a quick copy & paste which took your text. I deleted that part and left my reply.

        • Neko

          No problem, I will be going through it. Thanks!

        • Greg G.

          Here is my response to the last couple of points:

          This is pretty much the same page by the same author but at a different location for some of the Luke as a woman argument:

          http://historical-jesus.info/39.html

          A post by Greediguts at:

          http://www.internationalskeptics.com/forums/showthread.php?t=120440&page=19

          lists most of Randel Helms’ list. I filled in the other points Helms makes in the list I posted previously.

          The Gospel of Thomas is dated mostly from 50 to 130 AD. It seems to have been in a state of flux. One of the Oxyrhynchus fragments in Greek has a saying that corresponds to Saying 29 and another to Saying 31 but the one in between corresponds to Saying 77. Perhaps someone noticed that Saying 30 in their copy was short a few words and added the complete saying to the copy. Perhaps Saying 76 was complete and there was room to squeeze in the correct form of Saying 30, which we now call Saying 77. That would raise a conundrum. Is the Coptic version “The” Gospel of Thomas or was the first edition “The” real one? Is the Gospel of John from the Textus Receptus “The” real Gospel of John or is one without the “Woman Caught in Adultery” “The” real one?

        • Greg G.

          I amended the post you responded to here. I typed that Matthew used The Jewish Wars where I meant Antiquities of the Jews.

          Matthew 1:18-25
          Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 2.9.3
          Pregnant Wife and a Dream

          Matthew 2:1-16
          Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 2.9.2
          Slaughter of the Innocents

          Matthew 2:1-2
          Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 17.2.4
          Wise men / Foreknowledge

          Matthew 2:16
          Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 17.2.4
          Herod Provoked to Mass Murder by Fear

          Matthew 2:19-21
          Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 2.9.4
          Joseph Has Another Dream

          Matthew 2:22
          Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 17.11.4
          Archelaus Replaced Herod

          Matthew 26:57
          Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.2.2
          Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.4.3
          Caiaphas Appointed by Pilate’s Predecessor and Removed by His Successor.

        • Neko

          I am aware of this theory but don’t know much about it and since you’ve provided so many helpful indexes have bookmarked this page. Thanks!

        • marsilius

          Paul’s original writings actually support a (seemingly more spiritual) “Christ cult,” and *not* the already existing Jesus cult. But the somewhat later (and non-canonical) *Didache*, for the far greater part, does support the more this-worldly Jesus cult, rather than supporting any more “celestial” cult like that of the spiritual-Christ oriented Paul (I have to wonder whether any seeming exception to this tendency in the *Didache* is just a later interpolation). The Gospels show some support for both cults in varying degrees, but I would judge that overall they support Paul’s more spiritually oriented, and far more atonement-oriented, Christ cult much more than they support the more Judaic-oriented, and more righteous-living oriented, Jesus cult.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, if you hold your mouth just right, the Didache can go either way.

        • marsilius

          If so, then I suppose this might go some distance toward explaining the “glossolalia” phenomenon.

        • Pofarmer

          Lol.

    • Makes the teachings of the Buddha sound more reasonable. That’s exactly what he warned about.

  • Scott_In_OH

    I really don’t think the “he wasn’t talking to you” critique has legs, Bob. The Christian response has long been that the Twelve transferred the Commission to their followers, who transferred it to their followers, etc. Catholics, of course, claim the papal line goes back to Peter, and while Protestants don’t believe in the papal line, they do believe the message and the Commission have been handed down from one generation of believers to the next.

    • Kodie

      Then the pyramid scheme is clear. God/Jesus never just touches people from out of the ether, he needs a human to communicate to other humans or else they will never find out. If the great commission didn’t apply to everyone, then the religion would go out of business. And just think about this as applied in other recent threads – the more followers they can have, the more common their thinking, and the easier it would be to convince them what political agenda they should follow. As it is now, they feel persecuted, which just means they are agitated by the spoilers to their plans for domination. “Domination” sounds like such a strong word but it is what it is – they want to live in a society where they don’t have to battle to let coaches lead teams in prayer and can put up crosses wherever they feel like, and whatever they do to keep gay people from getting too comfortable, they’d like it a lot if everyone were straight or at least too frightened what will happen to be open about it.

      As I’ve heard it put, they have to be the “hands and feet” of god, their special purpose is leading every stray person back to Jesus where they belong, feeding the vulnerable soup and scripture, saving souls all over the place. Regarding usage of the word “hate” that came up lately, of course these pawns are not meant to recognize what they do is not completely loving – if it were not so, they probably wouldn’t feel the need to impose. “Love” as far as I can tell is not what one typically means by the word; when Jesus says love thy neighbor, it means to very desperately swoop down and save them from the disaster of ending up in hell, by any means necessary, which often means cruelty is permitted if it stands a chance of changing them from someone who accepts who they are to someone who is ashamed to face god and struggles to change who they are.

      Clearly, these people have been bestowed with the ego to think that if they don’t do something about these sinners, no one will, and they will end up in hell, and it will all be their own fault for being too busy and ignoring them. Nothing could be more important than altruistically saving someone from hell, and feel “god” moving through them as they do. Like it’s not even so much a commission as puppetry – god needs them to save sinners, so they are empowered to do so. When they’re here, very few of them have conversations. Many want to make us feel like rejects, warn us that it will be too late when we die, they are all about creating fear. I was just reading an old comment I wrote that someone recently upvoted, where the Christian likened “the great commission” (I suppose) to a warning that the ship we’re all on is sinking. They are devoted to saving all of us and providing the lifeboat so we don’t sink on this ship – and they all think they are so thoughtful and loving to do so. They all seem to think it’s necessary that they in particular attempt to get through to us who dwell on an atheist blog. But many also know when they are “casting pearls among swine,” i.e. gloating on the quality of the message, for starters. They have seriously been as instructed that they need to save us as when to cut their losses and hit a new mark. It’s a marketing scheme. Dwelling on someone who isn’t going to buy just takes time from the next potential customer.

      The bible should probably be essential reading for those obtaining a degree in marketing.

      • MR

        “Domination” sounds like such a strong word but it is what it is – they want to live in a society where they don’t have to battle to let coaches lead teams in prayer and can put up crosses wherever they feel like, and whatever they do to keep gay people from getting too comfortable, they’d like it a lot if everyone were straight or at least too frightened what will happen to be open about it.

        Dominionism is actually a movement that I was hearing about for a while that is exactly what you describe. I have no doubt that it is still seething out there.

        • Kodie

          Well, like “hate” I don’t think that domination or dominionism is what motivates each and every Christian, but it’s at heart what they seem to want – except when they can spin it to their beloved persecution complex, which lets them know they are fighting the good fight. Religion just has it coming and going. They don’t all seem to see the connection between having the world the way they want it as is pleasing to god, and effecting a theocracy. If they could just convince everyone to get saved, it would be easy, but they seem just as satisfied if they get everyone to go along with them even if we don’t agree. They know god is working through them when they save souls, and they know god is working through them when everyone is giving them the shove-off. They really had their bases covered with Christianity as a marketing scheme and a political movement. Every side is the sunny side. Keep fighting the good fight.

      • Scott_In_OH

        God/Jesus never just touches people from out of the ether, he needs a human to communicate to other humans or else they will never find out.

        It’s not the focus of your comment, but this, for me, has become a damning critique of belief in God. His actions are ALWAYS “carried out” by humans. In other words, there is NO observable difference between a world in which people do stuff and a world in which God does stuff, since he always does stuff “through” people.

        • Kodie

          And often illiterate ones. I ask them sometimes if god is real (and omniscient, right?), why did he send a dummy like you to talk about him? They miss things, can’t read for comprehension – to me, that’s the test. If you can’t read carefully enough to understand why something is a bad argument after it’s been explained to you, then your analysis of that fat book of apologetics is likely to be full of mistakes as well. If I can’t trust your ability to read a book, then I’m not going to be convinced there’s an afterlife that I have to worry about.

        • wtfwjtd

          ” In other words, there is NO observable difference between a world in which people do stuff and a world in which God does stuff, since he always does stuff “through” people.”

          And with a god limited in such a way, it means he is only capable of doing what ordinary people are capable of doing. This don’t even qualify as supernatural; so what’s the point of invoking a god at all?

        • Scott_In_OH

          Amen.

        • TheNuszAbides

          so what’s the point of invoking a god at all?

          Artificial Awe!

      • wtfwjtd

        “The bible should probably be essential reading for those obtaining a degree in marketing.”

        So true! I’ve always said, preachers make good insurance salesmen, one can hardly tell the difference between the two.

        • Greg G.

          Also for grifting. Remember the scam Abraham and his 65 year old wife, Sara, who would flirt with kings until he tried to seduce her, then Abraham would say she was not only his sister but his wife, too, and threaten them Holy vengeance. He got two kings with that and his son, Isaac, pulled it off with one of them. You’d think that king would’ve learned to not fall for it again 40 years later.

        • wtfwjtd

          I guess there’s nothing like impressing the locals by telling them you’ve married your sister! Ha! I remember this story being told in church countless times growing up, and I never heard a single “ew!” from the faithful.
          Kings can be pretty gullible I guess, or maybe he’d went senile, or something. I mean hell, that is a pretty good little racket, and we know why Abraham was so wealthy.

        • Kim Miller

          Said by someone who doesn’t know the Bible. Good for you/ You have an opinion, or shall I say, asshole?

        • Kodie

          You sound like the perfect Christian, asshole.

        • Greg G.

          Are you saying that Abraham and Sarah didn’t do that twice according to the Bible? As a matter of fact, the Bible also says Isaac repeated one of those scams. You should read the Bible for comprehension before commenting on other’s knowledge.

        • Greg G.

          Hi Kim,

          Have you read Genesis 12:10-20 yet? It is where Abram and Sarai go to Egypt and tell the Pharaoh that they are brother and sister. When the Pharaoh gets too friendly with Sarai, God causes problems so the Pharaoh pays Abram to go away. It’s like God was complicit in the grift.

          Then read Genesis 20 where Abraham does the same thing with Abimelek, the king of Gerar. Note that in Genesis 21:22, the commander of the king’s forces is Phicol. That is the same grift.

          Then read Genesis 26:1-11 where Isaac and Rebekah pull the same grift on King Abimelek of Gerar. Note the name of the commander of his forces in Genesis 26:26.

          Which is harder to believe, that Abimelek held the kingship for forty years or so, or that he fell for the same grift 40 years later to the son of the couple who ripped him off earlier?

          Maybe none of it is true, don’t you think?

        • MR

          Themes repeated, repeated themes. Moses myth copies Horus’; the Flood copies Gilgamesh/Atrahasis; Sodom carries the same plot as the Flood, sub-plot of the Levite and his concubine copies sub-plot in Sodom; ten commands copy Hammurabi; the Virgin copies Isis…. Where, oh where, is the orginality!!?

        • Greg G.

          I have never investigated the connections between these three tales nor dug out my Friedman books, but my initial assumption would be that the Isaac-Abimelek story would have been derived from the Abram-Pharaoh tale. The Abraham-Abimelek story is the rewritten version of the Isaac-Abimelek tale from those who came up with the un-redacted version of the Isaac sacrifice where Abraham comes down from the mountain alone.

        • Sara must’ve been pretty hot to be taken as a wife at age 90.

        • Greg G.

          Abimelek must have had Viagra if he was so horny to chase a 90 year old and then chase her daughter-in-law forty years later.

      • Kim Miller

        You’re ignorant. Being gay is an ABOMINATION. Animals aren’t gay, it’s not natural. You are extremely mislead. Hope you come to know the REAL TRUTH. I can’t even waste another minute typing to you. I don;t see any other religions or satanists helping the poor.
        I hope you know who Jesus is personally, I do. Good luck. You’re going to need it in the years and months ahead.

        • Kodie

          I don’t know if you mean to sound like a paranoid judgmental maniac, but you do.

    • I realize that that’s been the Christian response/tradition. My point is that when you look for backing from the Bible, you don’t find it.

      • Scott_In_OH

        Sure, but that’s because it happened after the Bible!

      • Kim Miller

        You are not looking in the right places then in the Bible. Ask for the Holy Spirit to reside in you as you read. Nothing will be shown to you if you don’t do that first!

        • Kodie

          Nothing will be shown to you unless you’re gullible and suggestible.

        • That sounds like magic. How do you distinguish hocus-pocus magic from Christian protocol?

    • Kim Miller

      Smartest comment I have read on here so far.
      The man that wrote this is mislead, BADLY.
      That’s what I said. The 12 are now DEAD! It is up to their followers…..US to finish the work. This entire article is nonsense and quite frankly I can not go on to read another blasphemous comment. God bless you Brother, You have eyes to see and ears to hear.

  • Greg G.

    Aren’t large-print Bibles sacrilegious? If the power to heal is part of their religious heritage and they are supposed to be able to heal the blind, they should be able to make sure nobody in the congregation needs glasses to read the Bible in fine print. Nobody who wears glasses, holds writing at arm’s length, or squints to read can be a True Believer™.

    • wtfwjtd

      I think Tim Minchin would agree with you:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8HT6Ux8FM

      “omnipotent opthamologist” lol…

      • Greg G.

        I hadn’t heard that Minchin song. I agree with him. If there was a particular denomination where every member had 20-15 uncorrected vision or better, I’d be inclined to investigate it. A healer can keep trying until they get it right. I’ve always wonder how that one guy knew that people looked like trees if he had never seen either.

    • Kim Miller

      So bc I wear glasses I am not a true believer?
      You’re mislead.
      I’ve never heard anything so stupid.

      • Greg G.

        You may think you are a “True Believer” because you have been convinced of that, but if you were really a true believer, you wouldn’t need glasses. You could survive snakebites and you could eat arsenic in copious amounts. That’s what the Bible says. If you believed it, you wouldn’t have to make excuses for it or explain away the fact that you go to an optometrist instead of a faith healer.

  • MNb

    A muslima with a great commission, one that I totally approve of:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/03/29/egyptian-female-cartoonist-pokes-fun-at-fundamentalists/

    This one is simply brilliant:

    http://www.frontaalnaakt.nl/archives/eladl-16.html#comment-493365

    Google Eladl cartoons and you’ll find many, many more. One favourite of mine is

    http://www.sampsoniaway.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/13.jpg

  • Kim Miller

    Who ever wrote this article is a jerk.
    WE ARE ALL DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST!!!!!!!!
    So now that the 12 are DEAD, who the heck do you think is to continue the GREAT COMMISSION?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
    US CHRISTIANS ARE TO CONTINUE MAKING DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS, YOU BLASPHEMOUS IGNORAMUS!!!!!!
    YOU SPEAK NOTHING BUT LIES!!! Telling us that we “FLATTER” ourselves?!
    Funny how you couldn’t even name the 4 gospels in order.
    MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE and JOHN!!!! Plus the knowing the others…….Thomas, Andrew, Bartholomew etc.

    Don’t anyone DARE read this and think you are not a part of fulfilling Jesus’ request!!!!
    All REAL Christians, KNOW that what you wrote in this article is bullsh*t!!!
    I pray and hope that you come to know the truth about what the Great Commission is really about.
    SHAME ON YOU FOR SPREADING YOUR DEMONIZED DOCTRINE THAT JESUS WAS ONLY TALKING TO HIS 12!!!!
    You are EXTREMELY MISLEAD MY FRIEND!!!
    The Bible was written to EVERYONE who believes in Christ.
    You speak BLASPHEMY and you WILL be punished for spreading it around the internet!
    SHAME ON YOU!!

    • MNb

      “WE ARE ALL DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST!!!!!!!!”
      No, not me.

      “So now that the 12 are DEAD, who the heck do you think is to continue the GREAT COMMISSION?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?”
      Perhaps you, but not me.

      “US CHRISTIANS ARE TO CONTINUE MAKING DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS, YOU BLASPHEMOUS IGNORAMUS!!!!!!”
      Good for you. But irrelevant to BobS’ article.

      “Don’t anyone DARE read this and think you are not a part of fulfilling Jesus’ request!!!!”
      I do dear reading this and thinking I’m not a part of that nonsense. I even dare to write it down explicitely: I’m not part of fulfilling Jesus’ request.
      Now what?

      “All REAL Christians, KNOW that what you wrote in this article is bullsh*t!!!”
      I am not a christian, let alone a real one.

      “I pray”
      Have fun.

      “and hope that you come to know the truth about what the Great Commission is really about.”
      Perhaps telling us unbelievers would work better than praying though. Thus far you have done a terrible job. OK, so you disagree with BobS’ analysis. I don’t think it very strong either, but I just don’t care enough to point it out exactly. I think exegesis pretty silly.
      Apparently you do care. Now if you made the effort to show where exactly BobS’ went wrong that would be helpful – more helpful than the mental masturbation you call praying.

      “The Bible was written to EVERYONE who believes in Christ.”
      Hence not to me. I don’t believe in Christ.

      “You speak BLASPHEMY”
      As there is no god this is impossible.

      “and you WILL be punished for spreading it around the internet!”
      By a god that doesn’t exist or by you? Please tell me more.

    • Greg G.

      WE ARE ALL DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST!!!!!!!!
      So now that the 12 are DEAD, who the heck do you think is to continue the GREAT COMMISSION?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

      Nobody is supposed to carry out the Great Commission. It’s just a story.

      Funny how you couldn’t even name the 4 gospels in order.
      MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE and JOHN!!!! Plus the knowing the others…….Thomas, Andrew, Bartholomew etc.

      Funny that you couldn’t name the twelve disciples. But then that would require some assumptions because Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts don’t agree on the names of the disciples.

    • What’s the point in your spreading the Word anyway? The Holy Spirit is the guy who makes the conversions (“so that none shall boast”). Let him get on with it then.

      The article is bullshit? An empty claim like that won’t do–what would Jesus say? Back up your claim with evidence. Identify the errors and make clear what the truth is.

    • Kim, I for one am *not* a disciple of your imaginary friend.

      As for blasphemy, I see no functional difference between the works of your pretend god’s sock puppet the Holy Spook and the works of its other sock puppet Satan.

      May you know the truth — That you are wasting your life on a fiction, and that there is no eternal life awaiting you when you close your eyes for the final time.

  • Renae Bolden

    Bob, how do you answer Matthew 24:14? “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Who are THOSE preachers, Bob? The first 12 are not here. They discipled others… We are those, Bob… Yes, the Holy Spirit does the work… but we are to go, brother. We are to “occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13)… We are to Acts 1:8, “You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” … Bob… the 12 did not make it to the ends of the earth… SO, who do you think did? Every generation of Christians occupy every corner of this earth… We are the occupiers… we are the disciples… until Christ comes again… Bob, don’t be a deceiver… someone who leads people astray… that is certainly not a good shepherd. SO, are you and agnostic, like Robert G. Ingersoll (you quoted him)? Are you an atheist? Ask God for wisdom, Bob, if you are a Christian. He promises to give it… in the meantime… don’t be writing any more articles like this one.

    • Michael Neville

      The first part of your screed isn’t bad. You’re trying to make a case that Bob is wrong and that’s fine.

      The second part of your rant is preaching, which is not appreciated. Most of us, including Bob, are ex-Christians. We’ve heard it before and we’ve rejected it for various reasons.

      don’t be writing any more articles like this one.

      This is Bob’s blog. He can write anything he wants. You’re a guest at this blog. It’s impolite to give orders to your host, especially when all of us, including you, know those orders won’t be heeded.

    • I’m an atheist and an agnostic.

      To your challenge: to some extent, I see your point. Matt. 24:14 is talking about a post-disciple world. Still, I’m not sure if we can conclude that this means that lay Christians will be the tip of the spear. Is this the parousia who’s preaching the gospel? It is during the End Times, after all.

      And I don’t see how this defeats my argument. At best, this would be a parallel, contradictory argument that could be made using different verses than the ones I cited.

  • Tyler Aman

    Bob, there are probably Christians who will side with you on this matter…satan is the father of lies and he does everything he can to convolute the truth. Just because you, or other “Christians” for that matter, do not see “superpowers” does not negate the fact there’s a lot of supernatural activity taking place today. Unbelief for many Christians is a huge hindrance. I’m absolutely not trying to be offensive. What I’m saying is we can’t use our experiences to redefine doctrine. Our supernatural experiences (normal / real Christianity) come from the finished work of Christ, the renewing of our minds and walking in the Spirit (many of your scriptural references are for those walking in the Spirit…not those “Christians” who are carnal minded (enmity with God) and walking in the flesh (one can believe enough to get into heaven, but lack belief that hinders their works – Jesus disciples were unable to heal a boy because of their unbelief). The same power that raised Christ from the dead is alive and in those of us who believe – the Holy Spirit is amazing! And believers who know the Father, know what Christ did for them, and know who lives in them continually manifest his love today in all sorts of signs and wonders. I pray God will put someone in your life that will reveal to you his incredible and perfect love. The Father loves you, me, and everyone in the world equally because that is his nature – He loves you, because he loves you, because he loves you…God is love. Have an amazing day!

    • Just because you, or other “Christians” for that matter, do not see “superpowers” does not negate the fact there’s a lot of supernatural activity taking place today.

      There is no evidence of this; therefore, I’m not entitled to believe it.

      we can’t use our experiences to redefine doctrine

      And what I’m saying is that if you look for biblical support for the doctrine but don’t find it, you should question that doctrine.

      Jesus disciples were unable to heal a boy because of their unbelief

      Yeah, and Peter fell into the water because his faith in magic was weak. What I want is a demonstration of what Jesus promised: that his disciples would be able to do what he did and much more. Where are these miracles? That science doesn’t recognize them means that the evidence doesn’t justify my belief.

      I pray God will put someone in your life that will reveal to you his incredible and perfect love.

      Why would God respond to your prayers? Can’t he figure out the right thing without your telling him?

      • Tyler Aman

        Why would God respond to my prayers? He has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation. He wants us to share the message and love of Christ with others through our words, our actions, our prayers. He is absolutely sovereign, but he wants us to become that image of love for the world to see. We have free will to exercise our obedience (just as Hebrews 5:8 says Jesus learned obedience) – and our obedience to the Father is a reflection of our love for him…if he forced our obedience, that element would be tarnished. I don’t think science will ever be able to explain miracles. How does science explain a crippled person dragging their wheel chair out of the church, the blind seeing, the broken and addicted radically changed overnight, the hopeless reconciled and given hope, cancer tumors melting away under the hands of the believer, appendages growing back, the deaf hearing…the list goes on. The Holy Spirit is definitely at work in those who believe and step out in faith. My hope is that we continue to grow in relationship with the Father and that we live in the truth that perfect love casts out fear…and so we do that…we fear not because Jesus loves us and he is Lord, and we step out in faith over and over again to demonstrate what Jesus promised – and the “greater works” will follow (the greater works are following 🙂 Thanks for the dialogue, Bob.

        • MNb

          “Why would God respond to my prayers?”
          So you christians can’t agree on this one either. Why would any atheist pay attention to what a random christian like you believes before there is some kind of christian consensus? And I’m not even talking about jews, muslims and hindus.
          You nicely show why I prefer to use the expression “your god” when having a dialogue with a believer. Your god is not Ken Ham’s god, pope JP-2’s god (both do answer prayers), let alone the god of jews, muslims or hindus.

        • Why would God respond to my prayers?

          Because in about 6 places in the New Testament, Jesus promises that he will. Or are you agreeing with me?

          if he forced our obedience

          No one asks for that. What I want is for God to make his existence obvious.

          I don’t think science will ever be able to explain miracles.

          There are no miracles and we just convince ourselves through wishful thinking and coincidences that they do.

          Did I get it right?

          How does science explain the a crippled person dragging their wheel chair out of the church, the blind seeing, the broken and addicted radically changed overnight, the hopeless reconciled and given hope , cancer tumors melting away under the hands of the believer, appendages growing back, the deaf hearing…the list goes on.

          All evidenceless anecdotes. How do you explain that science recognizes none of this? That hospitals never use faith healing? That Benny Hinn never does his thing in hospitals but only in front of an emotionally charged crowd where lack of faith is a sin?

  • John Thompson

    Bob, aka Chowderhead…

    First off, note that in the great commission itself Jesus says the apostles are to be, “teaching them [the disciples the apostles make] to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

    I would ask the opponent of this if one of the things Jesus commanded the apostles was the Great Commission (as it is called) yes, He just did, so why would the apostles only pass that down to a select group and not to all the disciples they made?

    Also is the promise “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” from Jesus only to the disciples? Well yes, He spoke it to them but it is also a promise for us as there is no need for Jesus to be with them (Only the Apostles) till the end of the age if they were to die within a normal lifetime.
    Seems to me like your working for the other side Bob. Are you double agent? a wolf in sheep clothing?
    Hmmm, It appears as if this may be the case.

    • note that in the great commission itself Jesus says the apostles are to be, “teaching them [the disciples the apostles make] to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

      So the disciples of Jesus should teach their own disciples. And … ? Keep in mind that the End® was right around the corner–“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” and all that.

      Also is the promise “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” from Jesus only to the disciples?

      You mean the end of the age that was just a few years off?

      Seems to me like your working for the other side Bob.

      You’re like Vizzini (the “Inconceivable!” guy) in Princess Bride. You’re thinking far ahead of me. I have no idea what you’re alluding to.

    • MNb

      BobS doesn’t need sheep clothing. It’s right there in the motto of his blog: “Clear thinking about Christianity.”

  • John Thompson

    The very last words of our Lord while here on earth.. The very last command… An emphasis about what all believers are to do after he leaves, and you want to say (Hissss) But did he REALLY say that? (Hissss) Knowing what we know now about the Garden and how Satan tempted Eve, How he brought doubt about Gods word We should have a keen sense of awareness for this kind of tomfoolery.

    • But did he REALLY say that?

      Not the point.

      Remember the title of this post: “The Great Commission and how it doesn’t apply to you.” He might well have said what the Bible says he said. But does it apply to you, John? I argue no. If you disagree, respond to the points in the post.

      As for Satan in the garden, read it again and you’ll see that it was actually a serpent. Yes, I realize that Christians like to imagine that the serpent was Satan in disguise, but y’know it doesn’t actually say that.

      Christians also like to imagine the Trinity in Genesis (“The man has now become like one of us“), but it doesn’t say that, either.

      You need to learn to see what the Bible actually says rather than what apologists would like to imagine it says.

    • Greg G.

      how Satan tempted Eve

      If the serpent was really Satan, why did God punish serpents? If God is that easy to fool, Satan could blaspheme the Holy Ghost wearing a John Thompson mask and you would be sent to hell.

      • Pofarmer

        The serpent was the one telling the truth.

        • Susan

          The serpent was the one telling the truth.

          Agreed.

          In the same way that Pandora was the one who opened the box and the mouse was the one that removed the thorn from the lion’s paw.

      • Dys

        That poor serpent…retconned in Revelation to be the embodiment of evil just for a trick.

    • Susan

      Knowing what we know now about the Garden and how Satan tempted Eve

      What do we know now about it?

    • MNb

      “We should have a keen sense of awareness for this kind of tomfoolery.”
      Unfortunately you don’t seem to have it as “Satan tempted Eve is exactly that – tomfoolery.

    • Dys

      Knowing what we know now about the Garden and how Satan tempted Eve

      That it’s a myth in the tradition of the trickster?

  • Brian MrDIY

    Jesus never said those words as at the end of the Gospels regards the great commission. And its easy to prove using the Bible itself.

    The disciples empowered by the holy spirit, whom also brought to remembrance all that Jesus taught them NEVER went to the gentiles. They spread the message to Jews and those people of Jewish origin. They regarded the gentiles as unclean. If Jesus really commanded them to take the message to all people, would they not have obeyed?

    A number of years after Jesus ascended, Peter is called in a dream to go and see Cornelius. .. a gentile. This is the first time a disciple is instructed to do such. Peter is beyond surprised. It not like he suddenly remembers that Jesus, before ascending, instruted them to go to gentiles. This is completely forein to him!! … God has now declared gentiles as been clean (through reference the unclean beasts in a net) . Later, Paul goes to speak to the disciples regards his success with the gentiles. A meeting is held with certain disciples in how to handle this brand new problem of with the gentiles. How do they fit in?

    So it very clear to see that Jesus could never have commanded the commission as the disciples clearly avoided gentiles for years. They had the spirit. The Spirit would have corrected them if they disobeyed. Further, it the Good news the disciples were spreading was to avoid going to hell and they were to love their neibour, would it not be on hearts to reveal the good news to everybody and save them from a horrible afterlife. Did they not give a hoot about Gentile going to hell? Were they racist to the core and only cared about Jews? Or just maybe,
    the entire message was not about heaven and hell and all, but about the coming destruction on earth towards Jerusalem marking the end of the age.

    Sorry, but Christianity has got a lot of fundamental issues wrong. There are over 40 000 denominations to prove that. And if you believe the Bible as we have it is 100% God inspired word, your sourly mistaken. My argument above is enough the bring the Bible into disrepute. People/scribes have altered and added in words that were never spoken.

  • ChaplainJK

    There are more wholes in your post than a block of swiss cheese. It is always fun to watch someone who does not know Scripture, cherry pick verses. Eisegesis much? I think even that word would be giving you more credit than is owed for this literal garbage. LOL

    • Doesn’t help much if you just do a drive-by, tell us that the post is crap, but don’t make clear the problems.

      Y’know, it’s almost like you haven’t actually found any problems but are just claiming that it’s weak without evidence. Prove me wrong and show us the many “wholes” in this post.

  • John Hodges

    Matthew 28:
    18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

    Another response to the Great Commission is to note that Christians who quote it typically stop at 28:19. INSIST that they finish quoting the rest of the sentence, “teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” Because modern Christians don’t, and don’t even pretend to try. See
    http://atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/the-ethics-of-jesus

  • Jason

    This is a shameful handling of Scripture by an open infidel. Sad.

    • Which helps me not at all.

      Are there problems here? Then show us.

  • Charlotte Ashenden

    Hi! I’m puzzled here. Of course the Great Commission applies to all followers of Jesus. ‘These signs shall follow them that believe…’ Matt 16:17-20. I believe – therefore it aplies to me! I’m not yet Catholic although I’d like to be. Yet, as a Christian, I and tons of friends regularly see healing miracles. Several friends have seen blind eyes open, deaf ears hear when they’ve prayed for others. It’s completely normal for us to command arthritis or other serious long term pain etc off both believers and non-believers “in Jesus’ name” and see it go from a high proportion of them. We’re very aware it’s not remotely us!! It’s Jesus love and power flowing through us as we understand the authority of his name and what he’s accomplished for us on the cross. If you look up (on YouTube) Christian street healing, or Todd White, there’s a ton of stuff. Why? Jesus performed miracles to show His love or draw people to believe in God …miracles circumnavigate the intellect. If it wasnt God’s will for any believer to be doing this, would we be able to do it? God bless you!

    • Greg G.

      Todd White is a leg puller. That’s one of his favorite parlor tricks, I mean, “miracles”.

      Before you go signing up for a new religion, find out how many of those “miracles” are medically documented. Insist upon it. Did the person ever really have what they say they had and whether they are really cured.

      Check out Darren Brown videos on YouTube, too. He does the same kind of stuff and explains how he does it.

      A friend told me that a friend of his prayed for her multiple sclerosis to be healed and it went away. I was impressed and had no answer until about a year later when I read that multiple sclerosis often has remission periods.

      I have found that Christian claims of miracle healings are very underwhelming.

      • Charlotte Ashenden

        Hi Greg and thank you for this. I totally understand how this seems to you, friend. 🙂 But i can reassure you Todd White has a genuine fear of the Lord and would never risk his eternal soul by spending his life deceiving others. And certainly I agree Derren Brown’s work is a combination of illusion and psychic suggestion. Maybe some occult too. It’s very separate from God’s passion to bless and heal His children and those He wants as His children (Jn 1:12). All I can tell you is that I and my friends aren’t leg-pullers. Genuine lasting healing happens every hour around the world in Jesus’ name, by everyday Christians. I’ve experienced it with my own pain/illnesses many times. If you learn more about it (there are scriptural principles that increase the effectiveness of healing prayer hugely – eg, not to ask God to heal but to command it – as Jesus and the disciples did – with the faith that comes from understanding it was already done for us at the Cross by our dear Lord 🙂 ), you’ll see it yourself, friend. Trust me, you’d be so excited and happy! There’s a great Catholic lay community in the UK called Cor et Lumen Christi who go on international miracle missions and give healing teaching weekends. I’m not sure where you live but they’re def worth checking out if you ever felt you could be interested.

        Please don’t be offended if you reply and I don’t! I’m concurrently looking after my elderly mother and running my business solo. It’s busy and very tiring so I often get behind!

        God bless you Greg.

        • Greg G.

          And certainly I agree Derren Brown’s work is a combination of illusion and psychic suggestion. Maybe some occult too.

          There is no actual occult. White is also using illusion and psychological suggestion but psychic suggestion is another imaginary thing.

          Genuine lasting healing happens every hour around the world in Jesus’ name, by everyday Christians. I’ve experienced it with my own pain/illnesses many times.

          Genuine lasting healing would be something you experience once. If your pain keeps coming back and it alleviated by the adrenaline rush of a healing show, it is the adrenaline that makes the pain go away.

          I see that you haven’t offered any medical documentation. You don’t even claim to have seen any.

          Millions of people visit Lourdes every year. Many leave crutches but nobody leaves prosthetic legs. The Catholic Church has investigated thousands of claims of healings due to their Lourdes visit. Essentially, they make sure the person was diagnosed before the visit and deemed to be cured after their visit with insufficient documentation that they had other medical treatment for their condition, but they can’t distinguish a miracle from natural remission rates, yet they call those miracles. There have been more people killed in accidents traveling to and from Lourdes than have received these so-called miracles.

    • Thanks for the comment and the cheerful attitude.

      Of course the Great Commission applies to all followers of Jesus.

      You’re not responding to the points made in the post.

      as a Christian, I and tons of friends regularly see healing miracles. Several friends have seen blind eyes open, deaf ears hear when they’ve prayed for others. It’s completely normal for us to command arthritis or other serious long term pain etc off both believers and non-believers “in Jesus’ name” and see it go from a high proportion of them.

      Anecdotes don’t do much to make your point. What you need to do is document this well enough that you could make a case to a doctor. When doctors in large numbers are saying that there is no naturalistic explanation for your claims, then I’ll take notice.

      Jesus performed miracles to show His love or draw people to believe in God …miracles circumnavigate the intellect.

      An average doctor in a year does far more good for humanity in this department than Jesus ever did.

      • Charlotte Ashenden

        Hello Bob! All I can tell you is what I and other Christians are experiencing, and how that lines up with the words of Jesus that I quoted – a scripture which cannot be taken any other way. I invite you – come over and visit us, and see for yourself, friend. You have my email address.

        Have a blessed week and many thanks for your prompt response.

        • And all I can tell you is that “I’m seeing miracles” is an easy claim to make. It’s an anecdote. There are anecdotes of miracles from Hinduism, for example–should I believe them? And if I should be skeptical, you’ll see why I must be skeptical of your claims.

          I invite you – come over and visit us, and see for yourself

          A virtual visit? Or are you in the Seattle area?

    • Greg G.

      Here is a hard core Christian admonishing those who do the leg lengthening and arm lengthening tricks. He challenges them to lengthen a finger.
      https://youtu.be/LC64kFp31lY

      Here is Derren Brown demonstrating the leg lengthening ruse and showing how it is done.
      https://youtu.be/cpz_9_KalFY

  • Nathan

    Christainity isn’t supposed to be aacepted by the world. We’re not supposed to be Lukewarm. You truly want to see the message of the gospel to stop being preached and is talking about Jesus. We are the salt of this earth and if we become the bland less salt that wants the world to accept us and be friends with it, we are on our way to eternal damnation. Repent and delete this apostasy.

    • I’m not lukewarm–I really don’t like Christianity.

      As for sharing the Great Commission, Jesus was talking to the disciples, not you.