Jesus: True Prophet or False Prophet? – Part 3

Jesus: True Prophet or False Prophet? – Part 3 June 27, 2015

I am arguing that it is not possible for Christian apologists to make a solid rational case for the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead (GRJ).  My argument is based on the controversial claim that Jesus was a false prophet (JFP):

1. Jesus claimed to be a prophet.

2. Jesus was not a prophet.

3. IF a person P claimed to be a prophet but was not a prophet, THEN person P was a false prophet.

Therefore:

4. Jesus was a false prophet.

5. IF a person P was a false prophet, THEN it is not the case that God raised person P from the dead.

Therefore:

6. It is NOT the case that God raised Jesus from the dead.

In the previous post, I showed that if we grant, for the sake of argument, the assumption that the gospels provide historically reliable accounts of the life of Jesus, then they provide a lot of evidence that premise (1) is true.  If the gospels are reliable, then it is very probable that (1) is true.

But Christians believe that Jesus was a prophet, and they are also inclined to believe (1) to be true, so (1) is not controversial.  The controversial premise, the main point of disagreement between Christians and me is premise (2).  If I can show that (2) is true or that it is very probable that (2) is true, then that will get me very close to showing that Jesus was a false prophet, and that it is NOT the case that God raised Jesus from the dead (GRJ).  In other words, whether a good case for the resurrection can be made depends on whether premise (2) is true or very probable (on the assumption that the gospels are reliable).

Three key reasons in support of (2) are as follows (there are other good reasons as well, but these are ones I will focus in on):

7.  Jesus promoted obedience to Jehovah.

8.  Jesus promoted worship of Jehovah.

9.  Jesus promoted prayer to Jehovah.

These reasons are relevant as evidence for (2) because Jehovah is a false god:

(JFG)  Jehovah is a false god.

In other words, either Jehovah does not exist, or else Jehovah exists but is NOT God.

From these assumptions, one may draw the following conclusions:

10. Jesus promoted obedience to a false god.

11. Jesus promoted worship of a false god.

12. Jesus promoted prayer to a false god.

 

So, some key arguments for premise (2) are as follows:

 

Obedience Argument

10. Jesus promoted obedience to a false god.

13. IF a person P promoted obedience to a false god, THEN person P was not a prophet.

Therefore:

2.  Jesus was not a prophet.

 

Worship Argument

11. Jesus promoted worship of a false god.

14. IF a person P promoted worship of a false god, THEN person P was not a prophet.

Therefore:

2.  Jesus was not a prophet.

 

Prayer Argument

12. Jesus promoted prayer to a false god.

15. IF a person P promoted prayer to a false god, THEN person P was not a prophet.

Therefore:

2.  Jesus was not a prophet.

In my view, anyone who is familiar with the Bible will agree that given the assumption that the gospels provide historically reliable accounts of the life of Jesus, it is very probable that (7) is true, and very probable that (8) is true, and very probable that (9) is true.  Based on the gospel accounts, Jesus promoted obedience to, worship of, and prayer to Jehovah.

However, many Christians are ignorant about the Bible, and so may not be aware that the gospels clearly imply that (7), (8), and (9) are true.  Furthermore, some Christians who are familiar with the Bible are inclined to deny clear and obvious facts about the contents and implications of the Bible.  Therefore, although the gospels clearly support premises (7), (8), and (9), I am going to go ahead and lay out the evidence supporting these premises, in order to silence Christians who are ignorant about the contents of the Bible as well as Christians who are inclined to deny obvious facts about the contents of the Bible.

After I lay out the case for (7), (8), and (9), I will get into making the case for the more controversial claim that Jehovah is a false god (JFG).

The evidence of the gospels concerning (7), (8), and (9) must be understood in terms of a couple of general assumptions:

(JDJ)  Jesus was a devout Jew.

(JGJ)  Jehovah is the god of devout Jews.

The term “Jew” is somewhat unclear and ambiguous, because it can refer either to a person’s  ancestry, or ethnicity, or religion.  So, I am going to define what I mean by the term “devout Jew” at least in relation to the above two general assumptions:

A person P was a devout Jew IF AND ONLY IF person P generally and consistently tried to properly obey, worship, and pray to the god of the Israelites in accordance with the religious traditions of the Israelites.

Thus the question at issue becomes: Did Jesus generally and consitently try to properly obey, worship, and pray to the god of the Israelites in accordance with the religious traditions of the Israelites?  Another key question, with an obvious answer is: Was Jehovah the god of the Israelites?  If Jehovah was the god of the Israelites, then (JDJ) implies that Jesus generally and consistently tried to properly obey, worship, and pray to Jehovah in accordance with the religious traditions of the Israelites.

If (JDJ) and (JGJ) are both true, then the case for (7), (8), and (9) will be easy to make, based on the assumption that the gospels provide historically reliable accounts of the life of Jesus.

Was Jesus a devout Jew?

PBS Frontline has a website called “From Jesus to Christ”, and that site includes some scholarly commentary on this question.

Shaye C0hen (Samuel Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies Brown University) does a nice job of summarizing the evidence:

Was Jesus a Jew? Of course, Jesus was a Jew. He was born of a Jewish mother, in Galilee, a Jewish part of the world. All of his friends, associates, colleagues, disciples, all of them were Jews. He regularly worshipped in Jewish communal worship, what we call synagogues. He preached from Jewish text, from the Bible. He celebrated the Jewish festivals. He went on pilgrimage to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem where he was under the authority of priests…. He lived, was born, lived, died, taught as a Jew. This is obvious to any casual reader of the gospel text. What’s striking is not so much that he was a Jew but that the gospels make no pretense that he wasn’t. The gospels have no sense yet that Jesus was anything other than a Jew.

(from webpage titled He was born, lived, and died as a Jew,  viewed 6/27/15)

Let’s consider each of the claims put forward by professor Cohen on this question:

A. He was born of a Jewish mother….

B. He was born…in Galilee, a Jewish part of the world.

C. All of his friends, associates, colleagues, disciples, all of them were Jews.

D. He regularly worshipped in Jewish communal worship, what we call synagogues.

E. He preached from Jewish text, from the Bible.

F. He celebrated the Jewish festivals.

G. He went on pilgrimage to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem where he was under the authority of priests…

There are more reasons than these supporting the claim that Jesus was a devout Jew, but this will be a good start.

 

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