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Austin Cline

Matthew vs. Luke: Disentangling the Gospel Contradictions

By December 16, 2013

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December is a time of the year when many people think about the nativity stories about Jesus -- but do they think very closely and carefully? If they do, they will notice that only two of the four gospels say anything about the nativity (odd, if it's really important) and those two accounts are very different. The popular nativity scenes most people think of are a blend of the two gospel stories.

In the December 2004 / January 2005 issue of Free Inquiry, Tom Flynn describes some of the basic differences:

The popular image of shepherds and wise men side by side before the cradle? Matthew says wise men. Luke says shepherds. Neither says both. The star in the East? Only in Matthew. "Hark, the herald angels sing" ... but only in Luke. Matthew never heard of them.

But then, only Matthew heard of Herod's slaughter of the innocents ... That's right, the indiscriminate killing of every male baby in Judea -- with one significant exception -- did not merit Luke's attention. On the other hand, no Roman historian chronicles this atrocity either, not even Flavius Josephus. Josephus reviled Herod and took care to lay at his feet every crime for which even a shred of evidence existed. Had Herod really slaughtered those innocents, it is almost unimaginable that Josephus would have failed to chronicle it.

Matthew says Joseph and Mary lived in Bethlehem, moving to Nazareth after their flight into Egypt ... But Luke says Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth all along; Jesus was born in Bethlehem only because Joseph and Mary had traveled there to enroll in the census... Roman records mention no such census; in fact, Roman history records no census in which each man was required to return to the city where his ancestral line originated. That's not how the Romans did things.

It's not possible for both accounts of the nativity to be right. At least some important details of one or the other must be incorrect -- and if such important details are mistaken, the rest of that account must be treated skeptically as well. More serious, however, is the fact that so few people even recognize these problems. They combine elements of both stories into a single narrative as if they were all fully compatible. No one pays serious attention to just one account or the other. There's something very wrong when defenders of Christmas fail to take their own stories very seriously.

Comments
November 12, 2006 at 2:08 am
(1) Compos Mentis says:

In recounting the conflicts in the Nativity stories of the Gospels, you observe: “More serious, however, is the fact that so few people even recognize these problems.”

A plot of the church, no doubt…! Why, right in the front of my Sunday missal, the same one used by millions of Catholics every week and bearing an official imprimatur, is *hidden* this commentary: “A wealth of symbolism is used in the prayers and Bible readings of this [Christmas] season to shed some light on this tremendous fact: that God wants to share our human condition… We have no evidence of Christmas earlier than approximately 330 AD, and it appears to have been determined not primarily by our Lord’s birth date, which is unknown, but rather by the pagan festivals of the winter solstice, when worshippers of the Sun celebrated the return of light after the shortest day. At Christmas, Christians celebrate the dawn of God’s light shining upon human beings…”

So you see, your sophomoric *bombshell* hardly deconstructs the faith of those familiar with even the most rudimentary Scripture scholarship.

November 12, 2006 at 7:19 am
(2) Austin Cline says:

Why, right in the front of my Sunday missal, the same one used by millions of Catholics every week and bearing an official imprimatur

Is a quote which says nothing about the internal contradictions or the contradictions between the text and known history. So, you see, your “*bombshell*” hardly rebuts what I said.

November 14, 2006 at 12:22 pm
(3) Compos Mentis says:

You completely miss the point. In brief: The claim that differences in the Gospel accounts automatically disprove all of the events therein is an unsophisticated but common fallacy amongst atheists and agnostics.

To use an illustration to which everyone, whatever their *faith* or lack of, can relate: Interview three witnesses to an auto accident, and you will likely get three different versions of how it happened. Does that mean the accident didn’t ever happen? Of course not; the differences are attributable to perception.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “In order to discover the sacred authors’ intentions, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking, and narrating then current.” This means, as is commonly accepted of historians like Josephus, Tactitus, Herodotus, etc., that they *did* history as the ancients did, and that differences can be attributed to symbolic purposes without losing the spiritual and moral truth of the overriding narrative.

The whole point of the Gospel stories is, again, that God wanted to share the human condition. That meta-reality is not somehow rendered entirely moot by a handful of textual conflicts. Were these texts not making moral claims upon humanity, the objections would doubtless be few. But when people are called to act against their nature–to reject greed, narcissism, immorality, and a host of other nasty human inclinations–the desire to repudiate rather than change is understandable.

November 14, 2006 at 12:39 pm
(4) Austin Cline says:

I find it curious that you don’t really address what I wrote. You posted a comment purporting to rebut something I said and I pointed out that your comment – and quote – did nothing of the sort. In response, you… bring up an entirely different issue, as if you’re trying to direct people’s attention away from your error. You accuse me of offering a “sophomoric *bombshell*” and, when it turns out you’re wrong, you act like nothing happened.

The claim that differences in the Gospel accounts automatically disprove all of the events therein is an unsophisticated but common fallacy amongst atheists and agnostics.

Where do I make this claim?

Interview three witnesses to an auto accident, and you will likely get three different versions of how it happened. Does that mean the accident didn’t ever happen?

If we don’t have any independent evidence of the accident, these divergent stories are a legitimate reason to question the claim that an accident did happen.

The whole point of the Gospel stories is, again, that God wanted to share the human condition.

It’s difficult to claim to have reliable knowledge about what the purpose of a text is without the text itself being reliable in what it says.

That meta-reality is not somehow rendered entirely moot by a handful of textual conflicts.

What is the basis of this “meta-reality” if we don’t assume the accuracy of the reality-claims in the text itself?

November 14, 2006 at 3:40 pm
(5) Compos Mentis says:

>>>>

Let me try one last time, because I don’t know why, even if you disagree with it, you fail to see that what I wrote is indeed a relevant reply to your argument–i.e., that, if there are contradictions in the Gospel texts, their veracity can/should/must be doubted.

In response I pointed out twice that Biblical language can often be symbolic; if it is symbolic, then it follows that different Gospel writers might present certain details differently. (However, the differences in these details do not extend to the fundamentals; i.e., you won’t find one Gospel writer claiming that Jesus said it’s OK to kill your enemies while another one reports that he advises to turn the other cheek.)

This then leads to the question of what is the basis for belief if, as you say, “we don’t assume the accuracy of the reality-claims in the text itself.” The problem here is a confusion of genres; there are those who would tell us that if something contains even the slightest elements of myth, it automatically contains no truth, or is somehow equivalent to a falsehood. I by no means regard the Biblical stories as purely mythological, but if they are not “history” in our modern sense, that doesn’t mean they do not still contain universal human truths. That was my basic point, which I hope is now clearer.

November 14, 2006 at 4:25 pm
(6) Austin Cline says:

if there are contradictions in the Gospel texts, their veracity can/should/must be doubted.

I wish you would be accurate in describing my position. Earlier you described it as that “differences in the Gospel accounts automatically disprove all of the events,” and when asked where I say this you don’t respond. You offer no citations and you don’t withdraw the assertion.

So let’s be clear: gospel contradictions, both internal and with the historical record, are a reason to call all of their empirical claims into question. If we have no independent verification of those claims, then we have no good basis upon which we can build rational belief.

No amount of descriptions about “symbolic” language has any bearing on this.

In response I pointed out twice that Biblical language can often be symbolic; if it is symbolic, then it follows that different Gospel writers might present certain details differently.

Unless there are independent reasons for saying that one reference in one gospel is symbolic while another reference to the same thing in a second gospel is not, then this is just a Special Pleading fallacy.

(However, the differences in these details do not extend to the fundamentals; i.e., you won’t find one Gospel writer claiming that Jesus said it’s OK to kill your enemies while another one reports that he advises to turn the other cheek.)

Why not say that this is symbolic as well? You need to show that “symbolic” isn’t a rationalization to avoid things you don’t like.

This then leads to the question of what is the basis for belief if, as you say, “we don’t assume the accuracy of the reality-claims in the text itself.” The problem here is a confusion of genres;

You are the one who tried to draw an analogy with a different genre, thus the confusion is yours.

there are those who would tell us that if something contains even the slightest elements of myth, it automatically contains no truth, or is somehow equivalent to a falsehood.

Really? Please cite references to these people. I don’t think they exist.

I by no means regard the Biblical stories as purely mythological, but if they are not “history” in our modern sense, that doesn’t mean they do not still contain universal human truths.

Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. They aren’t the subject of this short piece and thus their possible presence has no bearing on what I wrote. My point was only about the empirical claims about empirical reality. Whether they are “universal human truths” expressed in “symbolic language” is irrelevant to this.

June 28, 2007 at 6:07 am
(7) Oz says:

I would also like to point out the first census of Judea took place 10 years after Herod’s death

December 17, 2007 at 3:59 pm
(8) Simon says:

Compos mentis: (if you’re still here)

Do you believe that the contradictions in the Koran in no way detract from the claim that it is the word of god?

Witnesses to auto accidents to my knowledge tend not to claim that their testimony is the “word of god”.

Why did it take the Catholic Church almost 2,000 years to notice the symbolism and different genres?

And to return to the original article, it reminded me of my (then) six year old daughter’s prize winning Christmas card design she did at school. It was a hilarious mix of Santa Claus, Christmas trees with presents underneath, flashing lights, a Manger with the holy family, wise men, Shepherds, angels…

December 17, 2007 at 5:50 pm
(9) randomguy says:

hey did you guys all hear about what happened in oakville?

December 17, 2007 at 7:30 pm
(10) BG says:

You talk about agnostic and atheist ideas and have advertisements that are christian. All sites have to put up with that holiday no matter what. The USA was built on the christians killing all who would not convert no by good values. Thanks-giving is where the Indians gave the christians a way to live, grow, and survive and than killed all the Indians and their families. That is the good christian value and it continues with all the hate. The mulims want to kill like the christians and become respect or feared like the christians. I have no respect for such groups. If you feel like claiming I am wrong than do your homework first. christianity breeds hate to all who do not convert. If the religion is so great than why would would you encourage so much hate and killing so many innocent people in the name of your leader? In no way is that protecting any community. It makes me sick. We should all be looking for ways to get along and helping everyone and not just the ones that believe as you do. Force feeding your religion is wrong in so many ways. If you have a good religion you do not need such behavior. When you know you belong to a religion that breeds hate you go to your death with that hate over hour soul. If there is a higher being who’s side do you really think that being will take?

December 17, 2007 at 9:19 pm
(11) marc says:

If contradictions exist in the bible then the bible is not inerrant and therefore not the word of god. End of story. Period.

Now if god exists in the manner that the Christians claim, then why has god only chosen to speak to people in the distant past in a way that could never be verified by humans as they advanced scientifically and moved further away from “biblical” times? To expect all humans of all future generations on earth to believe in someone else’s revelation is outrageous and illogical. If that was the case, then how would humans know who was telling the truth and who is lying. For instance, anyone heard of Mormonism? So the bottom line is that if god(s) exist it/there presence should be made clear to ALL humans on earth in no uncertain terms. Not a “sign,” but a voice that was loud and clear and that EVERYONE heard all at once. And all religious people know very well that is not about to happen. So it’s easy for them to continue on and on about their faith, knowing full well that it will never be resolved. And if that voice did speak up and didn’t reveal Chrisitianity as the truth, do you know what the Christians would say? It’s a trick, it’s the devil trying to trick us. Just like I’ve read they do about dinosaur bones. Pathetic.

December 17, 2007 at 11:43 pm
(12) randomguy says:

not it should be noted that ti was white people who killed all those native americans. white people who decided to call the crusades. white people who decided to enslave the africans (even tho christianity was there before them). White people took fireworks and invented guns. white people who decided to kill untold amount of jewish in gas chambers. white people who committed atrocities to the polish and romanians who looked for them for help.

oh wait but its the Christians fault right? even tho there are non-white christians in the world.

December 18, 2007 at 2:36 am
(13) Simon says:

Randomguy:

Are you really claiming that whiteness and not idealogy was the cause of all this horror?

December 18, 2007 at 2:50 pm
(14) randomguy says:

what idealogy required that fireworks be turned into guns? if it was the ideologies that caused the enslavement of blacks why did not the early chrisitans who were once jews go and enslave the blacks? if it was ideology why did the early christians (isrealites) not burn and kill the other jews? maybe its because the old white christians were wrong in their beliefs and adopted the religion in order to further their goals. as can be seen throughout out history that many people have used christianity as a crutch to further their own beliefs. the medici family and their greed and gluttony. constantine adopted christianity as the religion of the land in order to gain favour.

and the comments that i posted was something one of my white friends said. both christians and white people do not back-up these people who committed the horrendous acts. however if we will blame christians for it it would be logical to also blame white people no? and another thing a lot of north americans do not note is that a majority of the world does not actually like white people. i was having a conversation with one of my muslim friends and he was explaining to me why the middle-easterns do not like america and the rest of the western world. they automatically say “christians” however it is because they associate white people with christianity. even if they white people are not christian. to their minds they believe that the white people to blame and they do not consider the ideologies. and as we know it christianity is not exclusive to white people.

you can easily throw around figures stating how many christians do this horrible act or how many other christians commit this other horrible act. however it can easily be turned around and said how many white people do this or how many white people do that. there are a lot of good christians who (both white and non-white) do good in this world. and there are a lot of white people i know who are not christian who do a lot of good in this world. however, it seems that all every1 does on this forum is pick out the acts by “chrisitans” (who some argue are not true christians) and equate it to the rest of christianity. and that is not only ignorant but discriminatory. and i am not saying every1 here does it however it does happen. and just as it is wrong for christians to rave about those godless-atheist who grow up serial killers. it is also wrong for atheist to go on about those baby murdering christians.

December 18, 2007 at 3:04 pm
(15) Austin Cline says:

however if we will blame christians for it it would be logical to also blame white people no?

I haven’t seen anyone blaming “Christians,” except for those Christians responsible. People do, however, hold Christianity at least partially responsible for some horrendous acts because of the degree to which people rely upon Christianity to explain, justify, or promote those acts.

Insofar as white people explain, justify, or promote horrendous acts with a White Nationalist ideology, it would be fair to hold that ideology responsible for those acts as well.

it seems that all every1 does on this forum is pick out the acts by “chrisitans” (who some argue are not true christians) and equate it to the rest of christianity.

What do you mean by “the rest of Christianity”? I can’t make sense of this accusation, or most of your accusations, so can’t really respond to them.

December 18, 2007 at 4:07 pm
(16) tracieh says:

>The claim that differences in the Gospel accounts automatically disprove all of the events therein is an unsophisticated but common fallacy amongst atheists and agnostics.

Sorry to chime in late, but I HAVE to comment on this. I spent decades going to church–and it was my CHURCH who taught me that the Bible contains no errors because it’s god’s word–so any apparent contradiction has to be people not understanding it properly.

Additionally, I have argued with a great many theists who present the SAME stance. AND you can find it online. There are myriad literalists who refuse to accept there are contradictions in the Bible–and it is THEY who put forward that this internal consistency is actually PROOF the book is written by god through men.

So, it is not an atheist or agnostic assumption. It’s an atheist/agnostic RESPONSE to a theistic claim regarding the Bible that is QUITE COMMON.

December 18, 2007 at 4:14 pm
(17) tracieh says:

>In response I pointed out twice that Biblical language can often be symbolic; if it is symbolic, then it follows that different Gospel writers might present certain details differently.

Let’s try these verses out as just an example:

Matthew 27:5: So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

Acts 1:18: (With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

To call these statements “symbolic” has to be a joke? They are pretty straightforward and totally contradictory accounts of (1) what Judas did with the money, and (2) how he died.

Did Judas “symbolically” throw down the money–or “symbolically” purchase a field with it?

Trying to shake off _errors_ in the content as “symbolic” is weak. There’s nothing symbolic about either of these passages. And they are NOT in agreement. In fact they are in stark disagreement about a statement of fact (not synmbol).

December 18, 2007 at 4:38 pm
(18) randomguy says:

it seems that all every1 does on this forum is pick out the acts by “chrisitans” (who some argue are not true christians) and equate it to the rest of christianity.

What do you mean by “the rest of Christianity”? I can’t make sense of this accusation, or most of your accusations, so can’t really respond to them.

i shouldn’t say that every1 does it. however, many people assume it is ALL christianity’s fault that SOME christians decided to be violent,angry, and hurtful towards others.

People do, however, hold Christianity at least partially responsible for some horrendous acts because of the degree to which people rely upon Christianity to explain, justify, or promote those acts

i am a christian and i should not be held responsible for the actions of others who i believe misinterpreted and/or used the bible to further their own beliefs (partially or fully).

my friend (white) also said that if there had been no white people then all the world’s problems would have not occurred. and i do not agree with that statement because i won’t blame the actions of some white people to the rest of the race. i do not hold you (austin) partially responsible for the acts of the viking slave trade just because you have the same skin color as them. So why should i be partially responsible for the acts of the north american slave trade because we both label ourselves christians.

December 18, 2007 at 4:50 pm
(19) Austin Cline says:

many people assume it is ALL christianity’s fault that SOME christians decided to be violent,angry, and hurtful towards others.

I don’t understand what you mean by “all Christianity.”

i am a christian and i should not be held responsible for the actions of others who i believe misinterpreted and/or used the bible to further their own beliefs (partially or fully).

By calling yourself a Christian, you make yourself complicit in what other Christians do. You are not directly responsible for their actions, but you are complicit. In September 11: Religious Perspectives on the Causes and Consequences, edited by Ian Markham and Ibrahim Abu-Rabi’, Kelton Cobb writes:

Every religion has its heresies, and heresies must be marked and remembered as out of bounds. Heresies are always children of the religion from whence they come — rogue children, but genetic heirs nonetheless. Heresies are usually borrowed elements of their parent religions, but elements that are broken off and isolated from counter elements that moderated them.

Better than charging these radical Islamists with not being true Muslims would be to ask questions like: What components of this faith lend themselves to these distortions? What counter elements that might keep them in check are being neglected? What dangerous traps lie hidden in its scriptures? What responsibility do the bearers of a religious tradition have for the distortion in its transmission?

The Islam of these terrorists does not do justice to the magnificent, civilized, and peace-loving past of Islam, but it has to be recognized as a “real strand” of Islam. Every religion is like a rope, woven from many strands. Christianity is a weave of the teachings of Jesus, the theology of Paul, the neoplatonism of Augustine, Constantine’s conversion, the “Little Flowers” of St. Francis, the iconography of the Copts, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the piety of the Puritans, the Ku Klux Klan, the Civil Rights movement, Jerry Falwell, and archbishop Romero.

I don’t like several of these strands, but when I study them I discover that they contain fibers I recognize in my own faith. Inside the racism of the Ku Klux Klan one can find firm beliefs surrounding Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal, divine election, God’s sovereignty over all reality, hatred for the devil, absolute faith in the resurrection of Christ, the importance of purity and righteousness, and the lordship of Jesus Christ. The Klan did not come out of thin air; it is a development within Christianity which I abhor, but in calling myself a Christian I am complicit and have to answer for it.

Cobb, by the way, is a Professor of Theology and Ethics at Hartford Seminary. He’s not an atheist.

So why should i be partially responsible for the acts of the north american slave trade because we both label ourselves christians.

No one has said that you, personally, are responsible. You are ignoring what I wrote before. I’ll quote myself in the hopes that you’ll notice this time: “I haven’t seen anyone blaming “Christians,” except for those Christians responsible. People do, however, hold Christianity at least partially responsible for some horrendous acts because of the degree to which people rely upon Christianity to explain, justify, or promote those acts.”

Complicity is not the same as responsibility, by the way. Complicity in something means that one is involved with it, usually with respect to something immoral or illegal. When you call yourself a Christian, you cannot simply lay claim to all the good parts while denying any involvement with the bad parts. When you call yourself a Christian, you assume a degree of complicity for the whole package, good and bad.

December 18, 2007 at 5:16 pm
(20) randomguy says:

When i claim myself as Christian i only claim the Christianity i believe is true. I do not claim a part or an involvement in the actions of those who misinterpret the bible for their own prosperity or beliefs.

December 18, 2007 at 5:58 pm
(21) Austin Cline says:

When i claim myself as Christian i only claim the Christianity i believe is true.

You are welcome to say that, but it doesn’t change the fact that you can disown whatever parts of Christianity you don’t happen to agree with. When you claim Christianity, you are part of something that has both good and evil, positive and negative aspects. All of it make up what Christianity is and you can no more disown the inconvenient bits than you can pretend that the (hypothetical) uncle in jail isn’t really a blood relative.

I do not claim a part or an involvement in the actions of those who misinterpret the bible for their own prosperity or beliefs.

Yeah, well, many of them would claim that you misinterpret the Bible and they are just as credible as you. What’s ironic is that you would disown them for picking and choosing for the sake of what they find most convenient when you are doing the exact same thing. I may personally like what you pick over what you would leave behind, but that wouldn’t change the fact that your methodology is the same as those you want to distance yourself from.

That’s a major problem with every great religion which few adherents are willing to admit to. There are so many traditions, writings, and beliefs that it’s quite easy to find whatever you’re looking for. Everyone claims that the parts they pick are the only “true” bits while what they are ignoring isn’t. None are correct. Great religions are tremendous tapestries of belief, each thread woven together in complex patterns. You can only pretend to take out particular threads that attract your eye; in reality, it’s all bound inextricably together. Little to nothing can be pulled out without damaging the whole.

That’s why laying claim to the tapestry of Christianity means laying claim to all of it, the good threads and the bad. You can’t pull out the good threads for yourself without eliminating what Chritianity is — you’ll be left with tatters and rags of no value or interest.

Unfortunately, most Christians’ understanding of their own religion — it’s history, traditions, and cultures — is far too superficial to grasp this. I find it interesting that you don’t even try to rebut what Kelton Cobb writes. You don’t make even the slightest attempt to engage his arguments and ideas. You just repeat the same things over and over again as if no one had said anything new. Weren’t you just saying elsewhere about how there are “plenty of christians that are interested and very much open to hearing your critiques so that they can have an intelligent discourse” with atheists? Well, why don’t I see any attempt at an intelligent engagement with Cobb’s ideas? If you can’t engage the critical perspective of a Christian, you can’t very well claim to be interested in doing so with the far more critical perspective of atheists.

December 18, 2007 at 10:44 pm
(22) Carter says:

A comment on the discrepancies between Matthew & Luke record of the birth of Christ i.e. Luke not mentioning the wisemen and flight to Egypt. I know that this won’t be satisfactory to many if any, but Luke’s lack of mentioning is not really an issue, the question is how to resolve his saying they went back to Nazareth after the dedication. A possible explanation is that they did, but then returned to Bethlehem at which time the events of Matthew took place. Why return? Perhaps because they understood from their study of the Hebrew Scriptures that he was to be from Bethlehem… so they returned only to have to flee to Egypt. Speculation sure. Possible yes. I’ll also assume that Luke had access to Matthew’s account (he did write after him) and did not see any “contradiction”. His telling of the events did not necessitate the two stories.

December 18, 2007 at 10:51 pm
(23) Carter says:

Austin has been very good at concisely defining what/who an atheist is, but I haven’t read anyone concisely defining what/who a Christian is. Would someone on this forum be willing to try?

December 18, 2007 at 10:55 pm
(24) randomguy says:

On the contrary i cannot pick and choose what parts of christianity i follow. I follow the christianity as it is set out in the bible. there are verses that state that the selling of human lives is against the will of god. however, the white christian decided to ignore that verse when they set out to enslave the african people. and if the bible had promoted the slavery of black people why did not the early jewish christians not take on to them slaves? why did it suddenly become appropriate for chrisitans to take salves when the white people adopted the religion? and for a person who always bemoans the fact that christians keep defining atheism to atheist why do seem to want to define christianity for christians?

December 18, 2007 at 11:01 pm
(25) randomguy says:

and how can you be sure that i did not have an intelligent conversation about Cobb’s ideas. i actually went and took that idea to a few seminary students and we discussed it. just because i did not write something to you does not automatically mean that no discourse occurred.

December 19, 2007 at 3:39 am
(26) Simon says:

Randomguy:

I am amazed how you managed to read post 19, discuss its contents with a few seminary students, then come back and respond all in 26 minutes. I am of course assuming you read it just as it was posted. You may be even more prodigious than I am imagining!

Please tell us about this conversation. Even if you were speaking very quickly it can’t have been very long. I believe the whole point of a forum is to discuss ideas, not keep them to one’s self.

On another note, you need to learn to distinguish between “Christianity” and “Christians”. These words are not interchangeable. To say that Christianity is partially responsible for something in no way implies that each and every Christian is personally responsible. However, Christians need to come to terms with Christian history and not just brush it aside by saying that all the bad stuff had nothing to do Christianity, they weren’t real Christians.

To take an example: if you are as familiar with the Bible as you imply, you will know there are ample instances of god ordering his people to enslave other nations. There are rules on slavery as well. Jesus is silent on the matter and St. Paul gives advice on the correct treatment of slaves.

The defence of slavery in the American south was partially based on these Bible passages. How can you claim this had nothing to do with Christianity?

Another: there are anti-Semitic passages in the gospels. The early Church Fathers were often rabidly anti-Semitic. Almost 2,000 years of specifically Christian anti-Semitism was not the only cause of the Holocaust but it certainly played a part.

Were the writers of the Gospels and the Church Fathers not real Christians?

December 19, 2007 at 6:09 am
(27) Austin Cline says:

On the contrary i cannot pick and choose what parts of christianity i follow.

Yes, you do, because there is more to Christianity than what is in the Bible.

I follow the christianity as it is set out in the bible. there are verses that state that the selling of human lives is against the will of god.

Please cite the verses that condemn slavery, then explain how they override the verses that accept slavery as legitimate.

and if the bible had promoted the slavery of black people why did not the early jewish christians not take on to them slaves?

Christians did believe that the Bible taught the inferiority of black people. Since you are ignorant of how white Christians justified slavery on the basis of the Bible, you are certainly in no position to declare their position wrong.

why did it suddenly become appropriate for chrisitans to take salves when the white people adopted the religion?

Suddenly? Christianity never completely rejected slavery. Paul even accepted it as legitiamte.

and for a person who always bemoans the fact that christians keep defining atheism to atheist why do seem to want to define christianity for christians?

I don’t define Christianity for Christians; I’m simply pointing out that you cannot narrow the definition and exclude everything you dislike.

I notice that you still refuse to engage Cobb’s ideas. I don’t blame you because I realize you can’t, but trying would reveal this and thus reveal that he’s right.

and how can you be sure that i did not have an intelligent conversation about Cobb’s ideas.

Because you refuse to engage his ideas here and now. If you are unwilling and unable to have an intelligent discourse about critical ideas with the people who are actually doing the criticizing, then you are necessarily avoiding critical, intelligent discourse.

i actually went and took that idea to a few seminary students and we discussed it.

So, you are interested in “intelligent discourse,” just not with anyone here. If you find something interesting, you’ll turn you back on the people who present you with the ideas and who are likely to be most critical in favor of finding unidentified “seminary students” to have “discourse” about those ideas. But still, we are supposed to believe that you really are interested in “intelligent discourse” with atheists, otherwise you wouldn’t be here picking up ideas for conversations with others?

That’s a pretty twisted and convoluted excuse. Somehow, I just don’t find it credible. For someone allegedly interested in “intelligent discourse” and here for that purpose, you’ve done a good job at avoiding any while here.

December 19, 2007 at 11:18 am
(28) Carter says:

I think Cobb has great insight. Evil is a distortion of good, and Christianity has indeed picked up distortions along the way. Yet I don’t agree with his final conclusion. The Apostle Paul, in Acts 20 speaking to the leaders in the church of Ephesus said, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”

People will distort truth either purposely or ignorantly, but that doesn’t negate the truth nor does it make the truth giver or truth believer complicit in the error or the wrong behavior or beliefs which spring from the truth that may have been twisted by others.
Along that same line, to me many of the atheist and agnostics who write in this forum seem to be kind, gracious, generous and peace loving people, but it is also true that there are atheists and agnostics who, because they believe that there is no God and are not answerable in the next life to him, believe they are therefore free to live as they please. This belief which springs from their atheism leads them to be less than kind, gracious, generous, and peace loving, but it does not make the forum writers complicit in the behavior nor are they answerable for the sins of their fellow atheists.

However, it would be nice for atheists to admit that they see how a belief that there is no God and that there is no ultimate eternal accountability and justice could led people to such wrongful behavior.

December 19, 2007 at 11:24 am
(29) randomguy says:

Yes, you do, because there is more to Christianity than what is in the Bible.

yet again you try to define christianity to christians.
Revelations 22:18-19
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.

frankly that states that one cannot divert from the passages from the bible.

Christians did believe that the Bible taught the inferiority of black people. Since you are ignorant of how white Christians justified slavery on the basis of the Bible, you are certainly in no position to declare their position wrong.Suddenly? Christianity never completely rejected slavery. Paul even accepted it as legitiamte.

have you ever actually read a commentary by a christian scholar on the book of philemon? then you might actually understand that paul never promoted slavery.

I don’t define Christianity for Christians; I’m simply pointing out that you cannot narrow the definition and exclude everything you dislike.

i am narrowing down the definitions based on many years of study done many people concerning the bible.

Because you refuse to engage his ideas here and now. If you are unwilling and unable to have an intelligent discourse about critical ideas with the people who are actually doing the criticizing, then you are necessarily avoiding critical, intelligent discourse.

i went and discussed it with the so called seminary students because i was going to church on that day to begin with. and Simon i did that between my last post and my return which left many hours to do it in. and Austin i decided to talk to them because it concerned us as Christians. and the only reason i didn’t post their ideas is because i do not want to misinterpret what they said. and there were a lot of differing views agree and disagree. and austin you keep berating me me why i won’t have intelligent discourse with you however you will not even answer the questions i ask you.

I don’t define Christianity for Christians….Yes, you do, because there is more to Christianity than what is in the Bible.

i also love the fact that you keep stating you are not defining Christianity. however, you will also say there is more to Christianity then the bible. shouldn’t you leave that up to the christians to decide.

December 19, 2007 at 12:01 pm
(30) Carter says:

Tracieh, is correct in what she says:
“There are myriad literalists who refuse to accept there are contradictions in the Bible–and it is THEY who put forward that this internal consistency is actually PROOF (some of us would rather use the word ‘evidence’)that the book is written by god through men.

“Trying to shake off _errors_ in the content as “symbolic” is weak.” – That may be true, but there are times in which the Scripture writers do indeed use symbolic language and it is important to understand when that is the case.

In response to the apparent “contradictions” she noted about Judas, one plausible explanation has to do with the use of language and what the writers chose to include in the telling of the story.

The money used to purchase the field was his. He got it by betraying Jesus and since the field was bought with his money it can be said that he bought it. Kind of like when we say ‘Nero rebuilt Rome after it burned.’ He didn’t nail a single board or lay a single stone. He ordered it rebuilt, raised the taxes, and paid the workers.

How did Judas die? He hung himself. After hanging there for some days his body swelled from the gases, the rope or limb on which his was hanging broke, the body fell and exploded…his intestines spilling out.

These are possible and I think plausible explanations of the seeming contradictions without hiding behind symbolic language.

December 19, 2007 at 12:41 pm
(31) Fei says:

Problems, randomguy. Christianity IS more than what is in the Bible. By this, we mean that it includes all of the various traditions and interpretations developed throughout history that all Christians follow today. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never known or heard of anybody who adopted Christianity in a vacuum (i.e. he/she was totally isolated from society, never heard of Christianity, found a Bible, and started believing). I would even think that such an occurence would be pretty much impossible, especially since the Bible is such an ambiguous and convoluted mess that developing a coherent and comprehensive interpretation on one’s own can’t be done (particularly in light of all of the contradictions that have been discussed).

And although you were clever to cite the passage from Revelations, this does nothing to dispel the fact that you are picking and choosing aspects of your religion, just like every Christian who as ever lived. For example, you don’t stone to death (or demand such punishment) anyone who has committed any of the many “abominations” that are specified in the Bible, do you? Not stoning people to death for those offenses is going against the Word of God as well as straying from the text itself.

Furthermore, how can you claim to follow just what is said in the Bible when exactly what constitutes the Bible is in disagreement? Catholics and Protestants have different specifications for their canons, and almost no one accepts the Gnostic Gospels nowadays. And the original canons were decided by vote. That’s truly picking and choosing; I don’t know how you can deny it. (There are also a number of Christians who don’t accept Revelations, since it’s the only book that predicts things rather than describe history.)

December 19, 2007 at 1:00 pm
(32) Fei says:

Oh, and Carter, the problem with your argument is that you commit the fallacy of begging the question. How are we supposed to know what was intended as symbolic language and what wasn’t? You certainly have your own opinions and interpretations, but the vast majority of Christians from all over the spectrum would disagree with you on the specifics.

And your example/analogy doesn’t work either. It’s a weak apologetic. Nero rebuilt Rome because he was directly responsible for overseeing the effort. He could’ve just as easily decided to leave Rome in shambles (and I wouldn’t put it past him, given how crazy he was). Money is created by the government and banks (very basic macroeconomic principle), so would you ever say that the government bought whatever it is that you have? Did the government buy your house? Of course, you might say something like, my new job bought me this shiny new car, but my point is that you have to be very careful when trying to sort out language. Judas received money for his betrayal, and then he returned it, so it was like he was never given money for the betrayal at all. Therefore, to say that his betrayal bought the field would not be correct.

Also, I’d like to dispute an earlier assertion of yours. Very few or no atheists do as they please because they don’t think that they accountable for their actions. Atheists are at least still accountable to society, if not to friends and family. There may be hypothetical atheists who are totally isolated from society that indeed do as they please, but they wouldn’t be here and they wouldn’t be bothering anyone anyway. Furthermore, there may be atheists in parts of the world who have not been exposed to any religious ideas and do as they please, but their behavior would certainly not be out of a “belief that there is no God.” It would be from a lack of belief, which is just what atheism is anyway.

December 19, 2007 at 3:00 pm
(33) Carter says:

Fei, Some of the Bible is obviously symbolic and some is not. Will everyone agree at all times on what is and what is not? of course not.

All analogies breakdown somewhere, but I think the explanation of the “contradiction” is still plausible. The religious leaders considered the money they paid Judas to betray Jesus as blood money and as such couldn’t be put into the temple treasury so they used it to buy a field to turn into a cemetery.

When I said atheists can live as they please I meant they do not feel that they must obey what God tells them to do or to refrain from doing what He says refrain from doing. The Apostle Paul said, “knowing the terror of the Lord I persuade men.” One of the things which motivated him to live as he did was the belief in a God to whom He must answer when he died. Since atheists lack such a belief they then feel that they can disregard all that people say He has said. They are then free only to please themselves or others without any concern for eternity.

December 19, 2007 at 3:39 pm
(34) Simon says:

Randomguy:

Austin quoted Kelton Cobb in post 19.
You responded 26 minutes later.
Austin posted 42 minutes after that where he mentioned, amongst other things, that you had made no attempt to respond to the quote he had provided.

How can you throw a wobbly over this (post 25) and then say in post 29 that the discusion took place hours later, i.e. hours after Austin’s post. Not very fair – or honest. And you still refuse to share with us the details of the alleged discussion. Are we to conclude that after discussing the Cobb quote with several seminary students, with differing points of view, you came away with nothing? That doesn’t sound like intellectual engagement to me.

Also, given your track record, I don’t think you should complain too loudly about questions that have not been answered.

And finally, “There is more to Christianity than what is in the Bible” is a statement of fact, not a definition. There is no way to arrive at Christian dogma, of whatever flavour, purely by reference to the Bible.

December 19, 2007 at 4:33 pm
(35) tracieh says:

>The money used to purchase the field was his. He got it by betraying Jesus and since the field was bought with his money it can be said that he bought it.

Did he buy a field with it or throw it back to the priests, though? You don’t address how it is he “bought” a field with money he didn’t accept.

>How did Judas die? He hung himself. After hanging there for some days his body swelled from the gases, the rope or limb on which his was hanging broke, the body fell and exploded…his intestines spilling out.

Ha! I was told this as a Xian. It isn’t true. And it isn’t even close to plausible. When I was in Sunday school, I was told it was common practice in the provinces of Rome thereabouts that hanging suicides dropped and exploded or dropped off high cliffs. Then later, I saw someone trying to make the same ridiculous argument saying it was common in India. Here’s the problem:

There is no culture where it is common practice to let dead human bodies simply hang around or lie around until they rot open. Most especially in ROME, the civilization that was credited for the best sanitation of the time. They would let bodies sit exposed rotting? That would be common? Get real!

So, then I thought, would Jews allow their own family members hang and rot like that? Wouldn’t that be taboo or shameful? But not if suicides were denied burial rites. So, I looked up the Hebrew tradition to see if there was some taboo on handling or disposing of a suicide victim. Guess what? There’s not. They will do burial rites for a suicide. There are some restrictions, but nothing even close to “we won’t bury that person.”

So, there is no more reason to believe that the Romans or the Jews would have left a body to rot and explode.

ALSO, how many people have you ever heard of who go out and buy a bit of expensive property so they can kill themselves on it?

Really—this is what you call plausible? Why would anyone accept such a wild tale, except to deny the obvious: The stories are based on heresay that two different writers came across from different people when they went looking for the Jesus story.

Occam’s Razor.

December 19, 2007 at 4:43 pm
(36) tracieh says:

Sorry I just read this:

>The religious leaders considered the money they paid Judas to betray Jesus as blood money and as such couldn’t be put into the temple treasury so they used it to buy a field to turn into a cemetery.

Except that you just made it all up. There’s nothing in the passage saying the priests bought the field. You’re saying it. And there’s nothing in the passage saying the field was to be used as a cemetary. It’s not even implied. You’re just making sh*t up because you HAVE to make it work.

Can anyone just make crap up and say that’s what the Bible meant–regardless of what the Bible said?

I guess if you can’t face the fact of a factual contradiction in the text, you have no other choice. But it’s either sad or funny, I’m not sure which.

December 19, 2007 at 5:20 pm
(37) Austin Cline says:

People will distort truth either purposely or ignorantly, but that doesn’t negate the truth nor does it make the truth giver or truth believer complicit in the error or the wrong behavior or beliefs which spring from the truth that may have been twisted by others.

Except that the “twisting” you speak of has become an integral part of what Christianity is.

it would be nice for atheists to admit that they see how a belief that there is no God and that there is no ultimate eternal accountability and justice could led people to such wrongful behavior.

Sorry, but I don’t.

December 19, 2007 at 5:22 pm
(38) Austin Cline says:

yet again you try to define christianity to christians.

I’m making an observation about the reality of worldwide Christianity.

frankly that states that one cannot divert from the passages from the bible.

Give me all your money.

have you ever actually read a commentary by a christian scholar on the book of philemon? then you might actually understand that paul never promoted slavery.

Have you actually read what I wrote? If you do then you might actually understand that I didn’t say that Paul promoted slavery.

i went and discussed it with the so called seminary students because i was going to church on that day to begin with.

If you say so, but your credibility is about nonexistent here.

however, you will also say there is more to Christianity then the bible. shouldn’t you leave that up to the christians to decide.

Christians have decided, and I’m simply noting that their actions are what say that there is more to Christanity than what is in the Bible.

December 19, 2007 at 5:27 pm
(39) Carter says:

Tracieh, no, I didn’t make the story up.
From Matthews Gospel chapter 27 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. 8That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

The Jewish law taught that “cursed is a man who is hanged on a tree”.

Concerning the other issue you raised — It is possible that he was left there because he was cursed. It is also possible that no one saw him hanging there but discovered his body later. I didn’t say his body rotted. The bacteria in the GI tract can cause the belly to bloat after only a few days. The betrayal and subsequent hanging was at the time of the Passover — the great religious celebration week so it is not to difficult to see why the body might not be discovered for a few days…

December 19, 2007 at 5:38 pm
(40) John says:

Carter,

“…it is also true that there are atheists and agnostics who, because they believe that there is no God and are not answerable in the next life to him, believe they are therefore free to live as they please…”

First of all, an agnostic is someone who believes that the existence of God is unknowable. Therefore, by definition, an agnostic does not “believe there is no god.”

I know New Age practicioners who believe in a god, but don’t believe the god is involved in any rewards or punishmnets for behaviors. Atheist Buddhists believe there are supernatural rewards and punishments but that these rewards and punishments don’t involve any gods. So, the question of whether or not gods exist and the question of whether or not there are supernatural rewards and punishments are not conjoined.

The atheists I know believe that laws are not god given, but are constructs of men and that they will be enforced by men, not by gods. On the other hand, if Christians truly believe God will punish “sinners” with eternal damnation, why do they have police departments and legal systems? Why bother handing out punishment to law breakers when eternal damnation by God is bound to be much worst than anything any men can hand out?

Finally, there is no “Holy Book of Atheism” which purports to teach atheists how to live. It is possible there are atheists who have created a philosophy of life that says they can do what ever they want because there is no God to punish them, but it is also possible that there are theists who who have created a philosophy that there is a god but they can do whatever they want and god will not punish them because they are the special chosen followers of this god. Christianity, on the other hand, is a specific branch of theism that has a mythology that can be examined and critiqued.

December 19, 2007 at 10:14 pm
(41) Carter says:

John, One of the reasons why we should have police departments and legal systems is found in the New Testament book of Romans where Paul speaks about government.

Romans 13 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

Christians disagree how to apply this teaching in specific situations but broadly it teaches that God has given humankind government as his representative on earth to restrain evil and to promote the public good. Even though there is a final punishment of evil, it needs to be restrained in life for the good of non-law breakers.

Yes, theists and atheists often create personal philosophies and world-views which give them permission to do what they want to do irregardless of what others, including God, may think.

December 20, 2007 at 12:14 am
(42) John says:

Carter,

“…theists and atheists often create personal philosophies and world-views…”

Yes, but Christian theists also have a shared Christian group mythology.

“…irregardless (sic) of what others, including God, may think.”

Well, of course the thinking of God is not involved, since there is no God.

December 20, 2007 at 12:17 am
(43) John says:

I should also add that Christians have a shared religious heritage, as well as a mythology.

December 20, 2007 at 8:36 am
(44) Carter says:

John, you are indeed correct — we Christians, despite our many differences, share a common heritage and a core of beliefs which are universal — spanning both time and culture.

December 20, 2007 at 9:43 am
(45) tracieh says:

Thanks for pointing out the verse in Matt.

Concerning: “The Jewish law taught that “cursed is a man who is hanged on a tree”.

Concerning the other issue you raised — It is possible that he was left there because he was cursed.”

No, it’s not. Because even though the Hebrews have issues with suicide there is not a shred of evidence that they won’t bury a suicide–and everything I found, ancient, modern, traditional or legal, indicates they WOULD bury a suicide.

Also, you have the issue of Romans being OK leaving rotting bodies around.

And, again, you’re just assuming stuff that isn’t in the book. It says Judas fell headlong in a field he bought and burst open. Period. You’re straining to make it fit together with a story that says someone else bought the field and Judas went away and hanged himself. Ironically, you also seem to think that he, but some coincidence hanged himself in the very same field the priests decided to buy–or he decided to buy? I don’t know which, because unless I go with “Carter” and not the Bible, it’s simply too muddy to make sense. Not unlike the Gospel stories. Anyone reading them side by side can’t miss the problems.

And also, there are forgeries called out in the Bible, substantial ones such as John 7:53-8:11. With people through the ages simply amending the books (in order to make work better for doctrinal purposes?)–I’m amazed some of these contradictions and problems still exist.

I recall that Xians often use the fact that Elohim is sometimes treated as plural and sometimes treated singularly is evidence it’s singular (why not evidence it’s plural?)…rather than evidence that someone tried to fix the text to make the early pantheon a monotheistic statement. Seriously, the Hebrews were monotheistic grammar confused people–or used to be polytheists, moved toward monotheism, and simply adjusted the writings moving forward, and didn’t get them all in the process.

It’s either _hard_ or _easy_. Adjusting ancient texts and hearsay of a legendary story being contradictory in nature are common and there are myriad examples.

“A god did it” is not only complicated, unproven, and just a far-fetched assertion–but there’s no reason for it. The reason “the Bible is perfect,” doesn’t fly why Carter has to fill in the blanks for the Bible to make sense.

Maybe the Romans didn’t see the body. Maybe the Jews disregarded their own laws and traditions and just left it to unsanitarily rot. Maybe “he”–referring to Judas–really meant the priests…maybe, maybe, maybe.

Maybe it’s contradicting because different people told different stories that they heard differently to different writers. Something that happens so often it’s mundane.

The funny thing is that all this is moot as “things that do not exist cannot be the cause of other things.” So, the mere suggestion a god is responsible for the Bible is simply an academic exercise until someone decides to actually support the claim “god exists” in the same way we would support the claim “germs exist.”

When god manifests so much as a germ, we’ll really, then, have something to discuss. Until that time, no Xian can say there is a god or what a god would/wouldn’t do–without simply making it up.

December 25, 2007 at 10:05 am
(46) OldChurchGuy says:

It’s not possible for both accounts of the nativity to be right. At least some important details of one or the other must be incorrect — and if such important details are mistaken, the rest of that account must be treated more skeptically as well.

If the accounts in Matthew and Luke were intended as historical recordings, the above statement is correct. But it is my understanding that the writers of Matthew and Luke (whoever they were) wrote to specific audiences (Jews for Matthew and Greek-speaking gentiles for Luke).

Similar to political writers of today, I believe the authors of Matthew and Luke put a “spin” on their accounts that would best appeal to their intended audiences. Just as Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken may both report on a given event, it is highly unlikely their interpretations will be alike.

The bigger concern for the writers of Matthew and Luke was to present a message of the belief that God was among us as the person known as Jesus the Christ.

Was this Jesus of Nazareth the Christ? I believe so, but I cannot prove it. I can’t even prove that God exists. But all theism is based on faith, isn’t it? Theism is essentially subjective at it’s core and can never be proven.

Regarding the reference to Kelton Cobb, I think Cobb is right.

Enough preaching. Girding my loins for an anticipated battle from fellow theists who read this for my heretical views I remain

Sincerely,

OldChurchGuy

December 25, 2007 at 12:53 pm
(47) Austin Cline says:

If the accounts in Matthew and Luke were intended as historical recordings, the above statement is correct.

That is true. Matthew and Luke are theological document intended to convey theological ideas to specific audiences who were part of specific cultural, historical, and religious circumstances. They are not historical documents intended to convey specific empirical truths regardless of the cultural circumstances of the audience.

And that’s why the empirical claims in the documents must be treated skeptically.

Similar to political writers of today, I believe the authors of Matthew and Luke put a “spin” on their accounts that would best appeal to their intended audiences.

Indeed. So, they accounts should be treated skeptically, just as readers several centuries in the future should read Franken and Limbaugh skeptically. Hopefully, no one tries to form a religion around the claims of Franken or Limbaugh!

December 30, 2007 at 10:23 pm
(48) Steve says:

But like church guy noted Matthew and Luke was to present a message of the belief that God was among us as the person known as Jesus the Christ. Also we can not without a doubt prove that God exists. But really lawyers can’t completely prove without a doubt that someone did or did not commit a crime. But we send people to prison or let them go anyway.

December 31, 2007 at 7:26 am
(49) Austin Cline says:

Also we can not without a doubt prove that God exists. But really lawyers can’t completely prove without a doubt that someone did or did not commit a crime. But we send people to prison or let them go anyway.

The standard of proof for sending someone to prison is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and claims for the existence of gods fall far, far short of that.

January 11, 2008 at 2:23 pm
(50) DamnRight says:

I may be simple, but, I lost faith in the bible as “the word of god” because it was obviously not inerrant…

… without the bible as its foundation, christianity simply disintegrates…

December 23, 2008 at 7:22 pm
(51) David says:

Other than the four gospels and Jesepheus, there is no proof that Jesus really existed. He wrote nothing and there is no way to corroborate his historical existence. Yet his existence is the very foundation of one of the world’s great religions. Suppose he was just a wise man like Socrates or Confucius?

December 30, 2008 at 10:48 pm
(52) Edward says:

Josephus’ small insertions have been discredited by most reputable bible scholars.

January 4, 2009 at 8:25 am
(53) God Isn't says:

If, as many christians say, the stories in their bible were “inspired” by a god, or “revealed” to the writers by a god, there would be no contradictions. All “witness testimony” would agree. In fact, these stories are a mixture of many religions and philosophies, passed on orally (think of the game “telephone”), and those who chose which writings to include in the christian bible never expected the laity to read the book. Which might explain why they included some porn (Song of Solomon) — so the church “fathers” would have something to keep their hands busy when they weren’t praying.

By the way, Nazareth did not exist at the time that Jesus supposedly lived, nor is there any evidence for a historical Jesus.

Nazareth: The Town that Theology Built
http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/nazareth.html

Did a historical Jesus exist?
http://www.nobeliefs.com/exist.htm

December 22, 2009 at 12:45 pm
(54) tracieh says:

>Josephus’ small insertions have been discredited by most reputable bible scholars.

Just to add that even if the references are/were iron-clad, they don’t indicate any claim that Josephus is reporting any personal interaction with Jesus. He’s simply asserting he’s heard-tell of some guy and some group (Jesus and Christians). Most people today believe there is a human being at the core of the Jesus stories…somewhere. And nobody denies Christians exist. So, Joe’s testimony is really unhelpful even if it’s authentic. He isn’t saying anything anyone would deny–that some people said some guy was running around preaching/doing magic. Yea, I know some people said that. I just don’t accept those claims would be any more compelling than similar claims today of magical religious phenomena or events. People today talk about ghosts, alien abduction, lochness having a sea monster living in it, great apes roaming North American woods. I mean, if wacked-out claims were sufficient to equal justification for believing anything I’m told–even if it defies what I know to be reality (which is what “miracles” would be), then I’d believe all sorts of nutty things.

None of the gospel authors (all are anonymous) claim to be recording what they’ve seen. They are simply penning a tale. Where they got it, is anybody’s guess. Luke claims he talked to people who claimed to be eyewitnesses…anybody know how he verified they really were–because I have no clue, and he doesn’t explain his process for that in his text.

December 22, 2009 at 12:59 pm
(55) tracieh says:

>Similar to political writers of today, I believe the authors of Matthew and Luke put a “spin” on their accounts that would best appeal to their intended audiences.

I call shenanigans on this one. When I was a Christian, I was taught this, and believed it. But when I read the resurrection tales side-by-side, I realized this wasn’t just a case of one guy’s perspective versus another. Just as one example (and there are countless ones):

From Luke 24:

1On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7′The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8Then they remembered his words.
9When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.

From Mark 16:

1When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6″Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ”
8Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

How do I reconcile that it’s one guy’s “spin” that the women ran and told everybody, and another guy’s “spin” that they were scared and told nobody?

And that’s in addition to all the other discrepancies that appear in these few verses alone.

And if this isn’t crazy enough, let’s add Matthew 28 and see how “in line” that story falls!

Matthew 28:

1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

The fact that Christians can read these tales and not see any problems between them should shock anyone. If this is in the Bible that “has no contradictions”–what the heck would constitute a contradiction?

December 23, 2009 at 12:59 am
(56) Joel says:

I hate to say this but your argument is out-dated. I really think atheists need to step it up and find out where Christian apologists are arguing from and where they’ve rebutted atheistic argumentation. I would recomment you check out apologetics315.blogspot.com There is a lot of information on there with up-to-date Christian argumentation that you could tackle! You could also check out my site at http://www.rationallychristian.blogspot.com

Thank you and good luck on your website,

Joel

December 23, 2009 at 6:26 am
(57) Austin Cline says:

I hate to say this but your argument is out-dated.

Feel free to show how.

I really think atheists need to step it up and find out where Christian apologists are arguing from and where they’ve rebutted atheistic argumentation.

Like?

I would recomment you check out apologetics315.blogspot.com There is a lot of information on there with up-to-date Christian argumentation that you could tackle! You could also check out my site at http://www.rationallychristian.blogspot.com

Advertising your sites without offering anything substantive is spam. Further posts of yours that amount to no more than this will just be deleted.

December 23, 2009 at 7:05 am
(58) tracieh says:

I remember when I was a Christian being in church and hearing people tell others “this is what we believe” and asking in Bible studies, “What do we believe about this?”

It never occurred to them (nor to me for a long time) that what they were asking was no different than “Tell me, again, what do I believe about this?”

Apologists are in the business of manufacturing justifications for people so they can pretend these are the “reasons” they came to their beliefs. In reality belief was drilled into their heads as children, and later they were handed these patchwork apologetics and told “here is why YOU believe this.”

This is why, when you argue with a Christian, you can get them to a corner where they simply say, “Well, it boils down to faith.” This is the point you reach when you’ve gone to all the trouble to get them to finally admit all their apologetics have failed to justify their beliefs–failed to provide both rational reasons and valid, unambiguous evidence. And what you find is that all their “reasons” weren’t reasons for their belief at all. With all the “reasons” stripped away–they still believe.

Apologetics are a red herring. They’re like the overturned trash can the robber tosses toward you in the alley to get you off the chase. Just so much trash thrown in your way, and provided as a pretense of “why” they believe what they do; in actuality, their beliefs aren’t reliant on these apologetic “reasons.” And every atheist who has heard “I just have faith,” knows that first hand.

December 23, 2009 at 7:21 am
(59) tracieh says:

Just fyi, Austin, free advertising. I didn’t even give a link, just mentioned I was hanging out at your blog, and Joel replied to my blog post at AETV with the same add. Again, just sad to me that Christians need a site where someone explains to them why they believe things. But that’s how they think. I lived among them, and I speak from an informed position.

As an atheist, this mode of justification of a belief is disturbing. Now I realize that evidence should drive conclusions–not the other way around. A person who draws a conclusion, then runs to find evidence to bolster what they want to believe is really doing himself/herself a disservice. It’s just unbelievable to me that people like Joel don’t see the problem with what they’re doing. If you didn’t have decent reasons to believe to begin with–what are you doing?

“Rational Christianity” would be a Christianity where the person recognizes the content is metaphorical–like the Greek and Roman gods. Recognizes the borrowed content from Ugarit history and myth. Where they understand textual criticism. One of my favorite Erhman stories is where he talks about the long paper he submitted to reconcile contradictory passages in the NT. He goes to great lengths to make all the necessary twists and turns to torture the passages into working together. He’s so proud of his research and argumentation; but when he gets his paper back, it is marked with only one sentence from his professor: “Or maybe Mark was just wrong?” (paraphrasing)

He was so used to forcing the texts to work–because of his fundy background–that it never even occurred to him to consider the texts might not be perfect. But his studies in the NT manuscripts (including reading them in ancient languages) and theology taught him that trying to reconcile the texts means adopting a preconceived mindset that they must reconcile. This leads to all sorts of tortured explanations that are far more easily explained by “it isn’t inerrant.” If a god wanted the text to not appear contradictory–that wouldn’t have been difficult. I can’t imagine god would expect people to all become Biblical scholars in order to understand how these contradictions can be forced to resolve? Isn’t this supposed to be god’s word to mankind? But mankind can’t read it without some elite subset telling them what it really means? Sounds to me like that group of apologists gets to dictate what god intends. How very nice for them…? If only the people following them and hanging on their every explanation (adopting those ideas as “their own”–as though that’s even possible)–would see that they’re actually following people who claim to speak for god. Even if they believe a god exists–swallowing apologetic arguments is not accepting god, it’s following a person or a group of people who are telling you what god _meant_ to say–but didn’t let you in on.

December 23, 2009 at 7:37 am
(60) tracieh says:

And not to take this off track, but just to say I just stopped in at RationallyChristian to see what it offers. The first article is about abortion and begins with this: “When answering questions regarding the continued legality and moral justification of abortion, one must first understand what the unborn are. What does it mean to abort a fetus? You may be surprised to learn that the science is conclusive and the answer is unanimous – human life begins at the moment of fertilization.”

It addresses an irrelevancy and tries to pretend it even has bearing on the question. It appears the blog poster doesn’t even understand the basis for the dilemma in the abortion debate–which has nothing to do with “is the fetus a human life?” I have argued abortion many times and never once asserted the fetus wasn’t human and alive. It simply has no bearing on the conflict of rights the act presents.

But to bring it back on track, the blog start with an irrelevancy, a pretense, a red herring. Let’s all argue about whether it’s human and life…and in the end, we lose hours debating over this, when the answer has little to no bearing on the actual question. This is the apologist’s best friend–misdirect and waste your time on an “issue” that has no bearing on the core problem.

In my own blog post, I even noted that Christians offered apologetic explanations for the passages, but I asked the readers to read the passages and consider them on their own FIRST, before running to see that apologists offer. That is because I think it’s much easier to see the twists, turns and torture of reason you’re asked to make if you already have your own opinion of a thing based on your own reading of the material. And still Joel made the same assertion at AEblog–that atheists weren’t keeping up with the latest trends in apologetics (like at AETV we aren’t hit with at least 25 ideas about god per day from different modern theists?). So, if Joel had actually READ my post, he would have seen my acknowledgment that theists do posit different explanations for these contradictions; but like most theists and apologists, he just knee jerked at “contradiction” and that was all he was able to absorb. The blinders went up, and nothing else got through. He’s an excellent example of how apologetics stops a thinking mind.

December 23, 2009 at 2:35 pm
(61) Christ Follower says:

Tracieh Why do you say the authors of the 4 Gospels are anonymous. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. As for as all the debate on Christianity. Christianity is the preachings and teachings of Jesus Christ. Anyone who believes or acts in any other way is not a chrtistian or part of christianity. It does not matter if someone claims to be a christian. Saying I’m a christian makes me no more a christian than saying I’m a millionaire makes me a millionaire. The lack of money and assets can not stop me from saying I’m a millionaire, but the lack of money and assets will most certainly stop me from being one. The same goes for Chritianity. The lack of knowledge of who Jesus really is and what He stands for will not stop someone from claiming to be a chrstian, but it will most certainly stop them from being one. To be a christian is to follow the examples Jesus set forth when He walked on earth. That’s what it means to be a Follower of Christ. Yet how can we follow the examples if we don’t know what they are. Now any one in the past or present that kills (even in war) and judges others or condemn those who have different beliefs have not read Jesus’ sermon on the mount and are not christians.
38″You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[g] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
43″You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Now that is the way Jesus told us to live. God gave us all free will to believe the way we want. I choose to believe in God and Christ Jesus, but I will not condemn tose who do not. I will love them the way they are. God Bless

December 23, 2009 at 3:14 pm
(62) tracieh says:

>Tracieh Why do you say the authors of the 4 Gospels are anonymous. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

That’s odd. I don’t see that in the text of the books anywhere. And in fact, if you have an annotated Bible, you will have an explanation about why the church ended up using them as the traditionally named authors–but nothing conclusive to establish them as authors. Are the translators misinformed as well? Perhaps you need to write and correct them, too?

>As for as all the debate on Christianity. Christianity is the preachings and teachings of Jesus Christ.

Who consistently and heavily preached in support of Old Testament Law.

>Anyone who believes or acts in any other way is not a chrtistian or part of christianity. It does not matter if someone claims to be a christian. Saying I’m a christian makes me no more a christian than saying I’m a millionaire makes me a millionaire.

The problem here is that there is no general consensus among Christians as to what constitutes Christianity or what the Bible says or means–or even if the Bible is the Christian authority. So, after the Christians get that agreed upon, we’ll have some basis for asserting what constitutes a True Christian ™. Unless you have some unique qualification for interpreting scripture above and beyond all other Christians, I’m not sure you’ll be helpful in that endeavor.

>To be a christian is to follow the examples Jesus set forth when He walked on earth. That’s what it means to be a Follower of Christ. Yet how can we follow the examples if we don’t know what they are.

That’s a great question. And since we can only establish Jesus lived as a possibility/probability—figuring out what he “set forth when he walked on the earth” should be quite a task. First we have the dilemma of how to demonstrate a person 2,000 years back actually existed. I’ll grant it’s probable. But for us to make too much of this guy’s life, we’d have to do better than “likely” lived.

>Now any one in the past or present that kills (even in war) and judges others or condemn those who have different beliefs have not read Jesus’ sermon on the mount and are not christians.

According to you, but not to them. And they read the same Bible you did. With some variation allowed for translation differences.

>38″You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[g] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Yes, this from the guy who drove people out of the temple using handmade whips he fashioned himself. Not very “Christian” of him?

>40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Yes, much brilliant advice, like “take no thought for tomorrow” and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor. I’ve never met any Christians who stuck to that part of Jesus’ teachings, in fact. Maybe Catholic priests/nuns?

>Love for Enemies
43″You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Don’t forget this same Jesus also preached The Law and the Prophets. Have you read “The Law”? Do you agree with Jesus that it is a good and moral social code that Hebrews should keep to, even as Christians? Jesus instructed Hebrews to keep it. And Paul instructed that Hebrew Christians should keep it and continue to raise their kids in it. Have you _read_ this Law? The slave regulations? The rape regulations? The child disciplinary regulations? The penalties it assigns? Jesus was four-square in support of it. Does any of his endorsement of those brutal laws count? Or just the couple verses that give you a personal warm-fuzzy?

>Now that is the way Jesus told us to live. God gave us all free will to believe the way we want. I choose to believe in God and Christ Jesus, but I will not condemn tose who do not. I will love them the way they are. God Bless

The first order would be to demonstrate that a god exists, though. We can agree, I suspect that things that do not exist cannot be the cause of other things. So, anything you assert god is or has done must first be preceded by justification that a god even should be considered as existent.

After that, claims about god can be examined for validity–because we’ll have a god to compare them to. But without a god to compare to your claims, you’ve just got unsupported claims.

Can you demonstrate anything you’ve just said is the result of an existent god? Or are you just sayin’…?

December 23, 2009 at 3:36 pm
(63) Christ Follower says:

Where did we come from? Science even tells us that we REPRODUCE. In order to reproduce, something had to be produced in the first place. If not by God, then who or what produced us?

December 23, 2009 at 9:50 pm
(64) Christ Follower says:

I had to leave earlier so I did not have time to fully respond to your comments. I was not trying to be sarcastic with my response on who wrote the gospels, but the KJV tells us “The Gospel According to Matthew”–”According to Mark” and so on. As for as translations go, many of todays modern translations are merely mans translation of the KJV.
The KJV was one of the original translations from the Greek and Hebrew Language to English. There are alot of corrections that need to be made for some of the new translations compared to what is original in the KJV.

Who consistently and heavily preached in support of Old Testament Law.

Matthew 5:17-18 17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Once Jesus died and was resurected the law was fufilled. So we no longer live according to Old Testament Law, but we live according to New Testament Grace.

Unless you have some unique qualification for interpreting scripture above and beyond all other Christians, I’m not sure you’ll be helpful in that endeavor.

Luke 24 :45 45Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,

I have no more unique qualification than anyone else who asks for understanding. Jesus said ” Ye have not Because Ye ask not.

I’ll grant it’s probable. But for us to make too much of this guy’s life, we’d have to do better than “likely” lived.

How do we know that George Washington lived and was President of these United States. No one today was alive to see him. We believe alot of different things about history according to our Faith. The word fath is not only for beliefs in God. It is believing in something not seen. It’s just harder to believe in something that requires surrending to a Higher Being. We want to have control of our on life.

I’ve never met any Christians who stuck to that part of Jesus’ teachings, in fact. Maybe Catholic priests/nuns?

I’m sorry you have never met any like that. I agree they are far and few between. But that does not mean they do not exist. I’ve never met Tom Hanks. It is not justifiable to jugde all who beilive in Christ and His teachings because of the ones you have met.

Does any of his endorsement of those brutal laws count? Or just the couple verses that give you a personal warm-fuzzy?

Again He came to fufill the law so there for we no longer are bound to live by it.

The first order would be to demonstrate that a god exists

This needs no demonstration from me.

Romans 1 :19-21 19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

He has already proven He exist. Although no other theory has proven that He doesn’t.

God bless

December 24, 2009 at 5:03 am
(65) The Sojourner says:

The reason we know George Washington existed is because there are witnesses and documents from his actual life that exist. People that were alive during his time were EYEWITNESSES to his reality. The Constitution was written during his time. The signatures were real on the document. We have actual contemporary evidence he did exist. No one made up stories thirty or forty years after his supposed “death”.

We know his military history, his presidential history and any factual corroboration that is actually PROOF of his existence. They even have portraits and sculptures of him made during his lifetime.

Show me one CONTEMPORARY sketch, painting, sculpture of Christ. Find one contemporary reference anywhere in factual historic references. If he’s so important, why is that? THERE IS NO FACTUAL OR HISTORIC BASIS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS! I repeat, NONE! The Bible doesn’t count as a source. As Austin has often said, and I wholeheartedly concur “prove it!”

And by the way, this argument is but a straw man. It is totally irrelevant to this subject. What has George Washington got to do with the price of apples?

December 24, 2009 at 7:41 am
(66) Liz says:

Christ Follower: I don’t think your comment addressed much of Tracieh’s comment. In fact, I’m not sure you understood it!

I suggest doing a little study on how your Bible was assembled. It sounds like you are mistaking it for truth and history. I do think there are some historical elements in it, but mainly it’s a nice piece of literature. Quoting it here will not really convince people.

By the way, in your context, this sentence makes no sense to me: “It’s just harder to believe in something that requires surrending to a Higher Being. We want to have control of our on life.” So you’re saying people choose not to believe in your Christian god because it’s a cop-out? Then, you need to do a little more research on how people have become atheist/agnostic. This sounds like something out of Sunday school, to make you feel good about yourself for being a Christian. It does not intersect with my reality. For me, it’s harder to believe in something that cannot be shown to exist and for which I need pure faith – just believe because some authority told you too. My skeptical meter goes off.

And you’re way off base with “It is not justifiable to jugde all who beilive in Christ and His teachings because of the ones you have met.” I don’t see anywhere in Tracieh’s response where she was judging “all Christians”… btw, if you poke around into various articles on this site, you will discover how many atheists began their lives in some religion. So many of us grew up in various Christian, Jewish and other communities, so I guess we have seen many religious people in our lives.

Too bad, in you long-winded message, you really didn’t respond to TracieH…

December 24, 2009 at 7:48 am
(67) tracieh says:

The KJV was translated from inferior texts. Even when the undertaking was happening, they knew and tried to obtain better copies, but were unable. The intros to those books “Gospel according to Matthew,” etc. are ADDED. They’re not part of the content that was translated, the church tacked that on as part of their traditions. Your ignorance of the history of your own Bible hints at why you believe some of the things you do.

So, you assert that “heaven and earth passed”? I must have missed that. Can you tell me how it occurred? You’re claiming that Jesus’s death and resurrection = heaven and earth passing, which is when Jesus asserted the law’s power would end. How do you figure that?

Additionally, you are asserting that Paul didn’t understand what Jesus meant, as Paul expressed his agreement that the Hebrew Christian converts should not only keep the law themselves, but also raise their kids in it. The law never ended. The reason you’re not in it today is that you’re not a descendent of Jews. If you were, then Paul says you’d still be held to the law. Please read Acts (esp. chs. 15 and 21)

RE: Christians who have sold all they have and given all the money to the poor. I agree they’re few and far between. But since you’re on a computer, I assume you’re not one…?

>He has already proven He exist. Although no other theory has proven that He doesn’t.

How do you differentiate things that exist from things that do not. God does not manifest any more than gremlins. Do you also believe they exist?

You actually used a circular argument. You quoted the Bible to demonstrate god exists. Do you not see the ridiculousness of your “reasoning”?

Let me demonstrate what you just did: Gremlins exist. I know this because they break things. My microwave broke last night, and that demonstrates gremlins exist.

But if gremlins don’t exist, then they aren’t what broke your microwave.

Your reply: But the microwave is broken–so there must be gremlins.

When a person asserts the Bible is from god, and I ask how they know there is a god, and they say, “Well, see, it says so in the Bible.” That’s simply stupid.

Is that the best you have in the way of “evidence” that your god exists? If so, I have broken microwave that demonstrates gremlins are roaming in my house.

December 24, 2009 at 2:08 pm
(68) Christ follower says:

Jesus never told all Christians to sell all they had, he was speaking to a specifc wealthy man and only showing the wealty man that his possesions meant more to him than following Jesus. We were never told to give up everything we have, but we should be willing to.

You don’t know anything about me, but you say I’m not a Christian because I have a computer. That’s jugdemental.

The scripture that I used to prove God exist is telling us we know He exist because we exist.
I was in no way saying that ole Goerge did not exist. You must have missed my point even though your comment proved my point.

“History Books”

The Bilble is a history book that tells us how the world began, but no one says that the books that tell us about Georg Washington are full of lies and he never existed. Have you seen the actual Constitution. If so, great. The vast majority have not.( including me ) Yet I believe it exist. I’m told there are actual documents that prove Jesus’ life was a reality. I beleive that to even tho I have not seen them.

But in the end:

11 It is written:
” ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.’ ”

I pray that it will happen for you all before it’s to late.

God bless

December 24, 2009 at 4:29 pm
(69) Leon says:

Last month I attended a debate at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX between Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and Kevin Cauley, instructor at the Southwest School of Bible Studies in Austin. The subject of the debate “Can we be good without God?” is not particularly pertinent to this blog post, but what is of interest here is that toward the end of the discussion Cauley mentioned in response to one of Barker’s questions that he does not consider Calvinists and Lutherans to be Christians.

Cauley’s statement raises the question what do we mean when we refer to people as Christians? Obviously the definition varies and depends on our individual perspective. To me a Christian is a person who adheres to a monotheistic religion that is based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the New Testament. There are apparently two distinct groups of people who fall within this broad definition.

The first group believes that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. To those literalists the numerous inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible present a major problem. For example, Matthew 2:11 specifically refers to the fact that Joseph and Mary lived in a house in Bethlehem when Jesus was born. In the account of the Gospel of Luke, Joseph and his pregnant wife traveled from their home in Nazareth about 90 miles south to his ancestral home in Bethlehem to register in the census. Having found no place to spend the night in the inn, Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable and placed the newborn in a manger. In the big scheme of things these differences don’t seem to matter much, but the fact that they cannot be reconciled clearly demonstrates that the Bible is not without error.

The second group believes that the Bible is largely symbolic and that only specific sections should be taken literally. The question here is which sections should be taken literally? There is no guidance in the Bible, so it depends on individual interpretation.

Requiring that illiterate people travel to their ancestral home in an era when mass communication and transportation were nonexistent is clearly absurd. So, the census requirement is obviously made up by the author of Luke to place the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem consistent with Old Testament prophecy (Micah 5:2). Non-fundamentalist Christians therefore take this part of the Christmas story with a grain of salt.

But how can they do that and at the same time accept without question the veracity of even more outrageous stories such as the virgin birth and the resurrection? Christians who admit that parts of the Scriptures are metaphorical find themselves on a slippery slope and have a hard time rebutting the skeptic’s claim that the entire collection of stories in the Bible is a myth.

We don’t know who the authors of the Gospels are, but we do know that the first Gospel was written at least 30 years after Jesus death. It is very likely that none of the authors personally knew Jesus (assuming the Biblical Jesus actually existed), nor were they eyewitnesses to the events that they described. Many of these events are miracles and there is no evidence that any of them actually occurred. The numerous contradictions and inconsistencies do not give us much confidence that the Gospels are factual. The logical conclusion is that these are outrageous stories were largely made up.

December 24, 2009 at 6:44 pm
(70) The Sojourner says:

Christfollower:

You are fantastic at setting up strawmen, I will grant you that. I did not miss your point at all. You are confusing known verifiable historic fact (George Washington) with mythology. Passed down from unknown to unknown imaginings about something, totally UNVERIFIABLE.

In a way you remind me if the “birthers”, who insist Obama is a Kenyan by birth, and a Muslim, as well, in spite of all VERIFIABLE evidence to the contrary. You, too, are the other side of the “birther” coin. With no real, evidence, no actual historical context, only “the book”, you are insisting on someone’s existence. Not because of fact but because “it says so, in that same book”.

Additionally, you seem to have missed, or intentionally ignored, my point. as I said, find ONE SOURCE of contemporary evidence proving Jesus was an actual, existing person. We have many sources to prove the existence of Washington. We also have many sources of historical EVIDENCE that Caesar, Cleopatra, Augustus, Mark Anthony, Caligula, Nero, Herod etc. were actual living humans, in their times. NOTHING at all, exists of your Christ, during any of his supposed, lifetime. Explain that!

This remarkable entity, comes to earth, sired by God, no less, performs “miracles”, and is resurrected from the dead. Yet, somehow, NO ONE HAS NOTED HIS EXISTENCE AT ANY TIME IN ANY HISTORICAL RECORDING DURING HIS IMPLIED LIFETIME. It would be as if we totally ignored Lincoln or JFK’s assassination and presidency, or totally omitted any references to 9/11, WW II, even our own Civil War!

Are you understanding my drift yet? I cannot use “Lord of the Rings” as historical proof that Hobbits and Middle Earth actually exist. All the faith in the world does not make it so!

December 24, 2009 at 7:19 pm
(71) Tony says:

My simple explanation of the apparent differences in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels: Matthew speaks about Herod The Great, Luke speaks about Herod Archelaus, son of Herod. Herod The Great rules Galilee during Jesus birth, Herod Archelaus is ruler in the time of crucifixion of Jesus. This is my explanation of the inconsistencies.

December 25, 2009 at 12:23 am
(72) Leon says:

Tony,

Herod the Great died in 4 BCE. Since, according to Matthew, he had every male child in the vicinity of Bethlehem 2 years and under killed Jesus must have been born between 6 and 4 BCE. Joseph, Mary and Jesus must have fled to Egypt no later than 4 BCE. They returned to Nazareth in Galilee after Herod the Great had died and when his son Herod Archaleus was ruling over Judea. Herod Archaleus’ rule ended in 6 CE, that is long before Jesus was crucified.

Luke states that the census which caused Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem was ordered when Quirinius was governer of Syria. Quirinius governed Syria from 6 to 12 CE.

So, there is a discrepancy of at least 10 years between Matthew and Luke in terms of the year that Jesus was born. Do you have an “easy explanation” for that?

December 25, 2009 at 2:13 pm
(73) southwestforests says:

Okay, I’m going to refer to things Leon wrote but I don’t want to be seen as picking on Leon, because I don’t think I am in the end.

Leon in #69, “For example, Matthew 2:11 specifically refers to the fact that Joseph and Mary lived in a house in Bethlehem when Jesus was born.”

Not in the 2 translations I have – it reads from one “And on going to the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother, and the fell down and worshiped Him. Then opening their treasure bags they presented Him with gifts – gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
the other translation differs in starting with “On coming to the house . . .”

The verse says nothing about where Jesus was born or how long this happened after he was born, so it can not be used to support any claim for or any claim against.
The only things it can support are that some high mucky-muck guys mentioned in verses above visited him and his mother in somebody’s house Bethlehem and gave expensive gifts. Period.

Now, the verses before that say outright that he was born in Bethlehem. But there is no connection given to his birth location and that house. No evidence is given against the house, nor is any evidence for.
We can not know.

And now for things I wonder –>

Leon in #69, “It is very likely that none of the authors personally knew Jesus”

Could be. John 21:24 says “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.” And that is taken as evidence that John, “The disciple whom Jesus loved” is indeed author of that book.

But, in the previous 9 verses the author is relating an encounter between Jesus and Peter. So, who then is the “This disciple” and the “his” who is referred to? The author? Peter?
Current English practice has pronouns in one sentence referring to persons mentioned in previous sentences: Jesus and Peter are the people named and Jesus would probably not be a disciple of himself, so that pretty much leaves Peter.
Same practice true then in that language?
I dunno. Maybe there people who do.

Or, was it custom at the time for an author to suddenly refer to himself in the third person in the midst of an account about other people?

Was whoever wrote John working from papers he was in possession of which Peter had written?
I dunno. Maybe there people who do.

December 25, 2009 at 6:18 pm
(74) Tony says:

Leon,

Actually, I’ve made a mistake. Today, I check the information about Herod The Great and Herod Archelaus, and it turned out that after Archelaus there is a third Herod, which is Herod Antipas, who is brother of Archelaus. He rules Galilee during the crucifixion. And this, as it seems, explains all the confusion in names and times.

December 25, 2009 at 10:03 pm
(75) Leon says:

In response to post #73, in fact John 21:24 implies the exact opposite. The “We” in the last sentence refers to a group of people, which includes the author of the Gospel of John. The verse states that this group knows that “his” testimony (i.e. the testimony of a person who is not part of the group and therefore not the author of John) is true.

As far as the house in Bethlehem is concerned, the point is that in Matthew there is no mention of Joseph and Mary living in Nazareth. Matthew states that they lived in a house in Bethlehem and this is why Jesus was born there. The more important discrepancy between Matthew and Luke, as I pointed out in post #72, is that there is a difference of a least 10 years in Jesus’ birth date.

If you belong to the second group, i.e. Christians who think that the Bible is largely symbolic, these irreconcilable differences don’t matter much. But if you belong to the first group, I don’t know how you can with a straight face still claim that the Bible is without error.

December 27, 2009 at 11:34 am
(76) Dave Y says:

What nonsense, the inconsistency of the gospels were left there by the romans so the UNRETARDED would understand it was mythology!!
the concept yopu fools don’t seem to get is that YOUR ancestors were RETARDED by todays standards, thats why they believed, they were to stupid to ask inteligent questions, just as most of you christian bible thumpers are!!

If you took the right to vote away from those that have less than a fifth grade reading level, the religious right would suddenly cease to exist, because there would none of their constituents left to vote for them!
the retarded lead the retarded, not humanity!!

December 28, 2009 at 9:22 am
(77) tracieh says:

Christ Follower:

Just because Jesus had a conversation with an individual about salvation does not mean that one man’s salvation is different than another. Are you claiming that each person has different requirements for what they need to do in order to be saved?

The man asked a question that is applicable to everyone, not just him. He asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life.” That’s the question every Christian asks–is it not? Are the requirements different for each person?

What did Jesus say was required to inherit eternal life?

>’Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.

The man said he had kept the Law, and Jesus then added, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Go, sell it all, give the proceeds to the poor, and you’ll get the heavenly reward. Surely this man couldn’t do it–but I don’t see anywhere in the text where Jesus says that this instruction ONLY applied to this one man. If god says X must be done to be saved, and one guy won’t do it–surely that is a sorry guy. I can’t see how that means the requirement is only upon him.

The man was sad because he was unwilling to comply, and knew he could not do this. Are you different than this man? When have _you_ done what he could not?

Here’s the irony: What if the statement here was actually that if a particular type of worldly person will not demonstrate his commitment to god by giving up all worldly possessions to follow Jesus—and that is a disqualifier for heavenly reward? Do you qualify under this criteria? Have you done what this other man could not? Jesus, in this story, said the way to know is to demonstrate. Have you? How are you different than this sad man in the story if you are still holding to your possessions? You are this “wealthy man” in this story. Regardless of your possessions, you have not demonstrated your willingness to part with whatever you have—whether much or little. You are no different than the man in the tale.

>You don’t know anything about me, but you say I’m not a Christian because I have a computer. That’s jugdemental.

It’s not judgmental because I used your own criteria—but even if it were, what’s your point? I make judgments and I don’t have a problem with doing so. In this case, I simply used your own criteria to see if you qualify as a true Christian, according to you: Do you follow Jesus’ requirements and teachings? As it turns out, you don’t.

>The scripture that I used to prove God exist is telling us we know He exist because we exist.

Gremlins exist because broken microwaves exist—is that not stupid?

I see that the rest of your reply was not to me. So, I’ve answered you for my part here.

And still, you have failed to offer any rational reason or conclusive demonstration that any god exists. I’m not hopeful it’s forthcoming.

January 1, 2010 at 3:12 am
(78) Zack says:

How do we know that George Washington lived and was President of these United States. — Christ Follower on December 23, 2009 at 9:50 pm

For one thing, we have the testimony of his adversaries, such as the British, who would have no reason to invent a fictional character and then pretend that this fictional character kicked their ass in a war.

For another thing, nothing Washington is said to have done violates the known laws of physics. If his admirers claimed that he defeated the British by shooting laser beams from his eyes, I would ask his admirers some hard questions.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. I hope.

Jesus, by contrast, appears to be almost entirely unknown outside the pages of the New Testament. This is in spite of actions that a reasonable person might expect to draw considerable public attention, such as raising the dead and flying into the sky.

March 3, 2012 at 9:34 pm
(79) mrme says:

People wonder where all the proof is for Jesus being alive. If he was so amazing and did so much stuff they assume that there should be some proof other than the accounts of his meager followers. They never really think to turn their assumption over and realize the simple answer of why there wouldn’t be any. Jesus simply wasn’t a big deal. He was a common carpenter who died with common thieves. In the grand scale of Rome he was a nothing. Why would contemporary historians pay attention to one back water provincial guy who may have done some healing and then was killed as a common criminal.

Christians need to stop trying to rationalize and argue and reason away Jesus. Just stick to sharing your faith in a loving way and don’t try to use it to offend people. Why even try to stir up resentment by arguing on a website like this? Athiests don’t need Christ so why try to force him on them? Everyone will discover soon enough who was right and who was wrong.

December 22, 2012 at 5:58 pm
(80) James says:

Quirinius, governor of Syria, conducted the Roman census in the years 7 and 8 CE when Judea was annexed to Syria, making Jesus 7 or 8 years old when he, Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem to register.
About the star in the east: The magi, astrologers to kings, must have come from nearby kingdoms–Syria, Persia and Mesopotamia. Or they could all have come from one ot two of those kingdoms. If the magi followed a star in the east, they never would have arrived in Bethlehem. They would have traveled east and away from Bethlehem until later in the night when the star moved to the south. Following it, they would have headed toward the Arabian peninsula. Only just before dawn, when the star was setting in the west would they have been headed toward Bethlehem. Arriving in Jerusalem, they asked Herod for directions to Bethlehem that they might worship the King of the Jews. According to the story, Herod then ordered the killing of all children under two years old. This would indicate that the magi took close to two years to reach Bethlehem. Where was Jesus then? Still in Bethlehem, in Nazareth as John says, or in Egypt?
Sinnce none of the Evangelists wa with Jesus, their gospels consist of storytelling over periods of several generations. They had no idea that they were writing parts of a book to be called the Bible, because the Bible was compiled in 397 CE.

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