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REPLY #57b TO
"RELIGION"



Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the second of a four-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.

Actually, there's a fourth. I can understand that the stories written about Jesus may well have been a prime example of historical revisionism. Since the Gospels were written decades after the death of Jesus by the people who never saw or knew him directly, it is very possible that many of the things attributed to Jesus were either invented or embellished. C.S. Lewis' logical error was in presupposing the, divinity of Jesus when he popularized the "liar, lunatic, or Lord" argument.
(R) Your arguments in the above statement are inaccurate and false. Which Bible were you reading?
(MB) The same one you and most other Christians read. The difference being that I read what it says and not what I want it to say. As to any "inaccuracy" of my statements about it, read on....


(R) Yes, the Gospels were written decades after the death of Jesus, but only thirty to forty years.
(MB) The earliest Gospel, Mark, was written about 70 CE. The latest, John, was written between 90-100 CE.


(R) Also, two of the Gospels, Matthew and John, were written by Matthew and John who were His apostles.
(MB) If we agree with that claim, it is obvious that both men were very old at the time they wrote their respective Gospels. Considering how many young adults can't accurately remember important details in their lives that happened just last week, it strains credibility to think that old men could accurately recount events three to seven decades past.


(R) The Gospel of Mark was written by Mark who was a very close friend of Peter, who was one of the disciples.
(MB) So, the best that can be said for Mark is that his Gospel is composed of second-hand information. Yet, it is the Gospel which provided the source material for Matthew and Luke. That makes those Gospels, at best, third-hand information. Given the numerous conflicts between these three Gospels, the deleterious effects of time and retelling are quite evident.


(R) The Gospel of Luke was written by Luke who was a historian and close friend of Paul the apostle who was a great missionary in the early Church and wrote allot of the New Testament. Where did you get the idea these people never knew or saw Jesus directly?
(MB) You've just admitted that neither Luke nor Mark were contemporaries of Jesus. Matthew is the most likely contemporary of Jesus, while any claim for the author of John as a disciple is still an open question given the date of authorship of his Gospel and the vast differences between it and the other three.


(R) Could these things have been embellished? No.
(MB) Absolutely, they could have been embellished! No story survives the retelling with 100% accuracy. Most likely, the point(s) being made encourage embellishment. Consider what we all do when retelling good jokes or other stories from our own lives. Why should the Gospel writers be immune from this -- especially given the decades of time between the events and the writing of the books relating them?


(R) The Gospel of Mark was written between the years of 45-60 A.D. Scholars think the others were written between 67-70 A.D. This leaves a 30-40 year gap at the most between the death of Jesus and the writings of the Gospels.
(MB) Which "scholars" are these? This time scale is off by fully two decades (as previously detailed). Even at that, the problem of the decades-long gap still remains.


(R) How could myths be invented or embellished?
(MB) That's what the word "myth" implies!


(R) The matter-of-fact style of reporting in the Gospels contrasts sharply with the fantasies that abound in myths.
(MB) The Gospel writers were writing about men and not about fantastic creatures and/or places. Fairy tales don't inspire people to believe in the same way as tales which are presented as fact. Also, the style of reporting does not make a mythical tale real nor does it make a real tale mythical.


(R) And accounts of the resurrection appear immediately in the early church, without the lengthy interim required for evolution of detailed mythology.
(MB) How long would it take to invent such a story? Any reasonably clever writer could concoct such a tale in a single day. With no hard evidence either to prove or disprove the account, the story might likely be accepted as read by a population already predisposed to believe it.


(R) Paul's triumphant statement that most of the more than five hundred people who saw Jesus at the time and place were still alive, and therefore could be asked, looks unbelievably audacious if the whole story came by way of mythological development(1 Cor. 15:6).
(MB) Sure, it does. Once again, we have only Paul's say-so on this as there is no independent verification. In addition, there are some problems with Paul's account. None of the Gospels say that Peter was the first person to have seen the resurrected Jesus, that Jesus appeared to Peter before the other disciples or verify that 500 people had seen the resurrected Jesus at any time. Nor are these claims reported in any other source. Embellishment by Paul, perhaps?


(R) Second, what motive did the disciples have to lie in the first place? They spent three years with Jesus who taught them to strive to live a life of absolute purity, contrary to lying which they would of done.
(MB) Remember Jesus' teachings that no harm could come to those who believed on him? Also, remember that he said that the current generation would not pass before he returned. Now, if I was a disciple, that would have motivated me rather strongly to do whatever I felt necessary in order to spread the message.


(R) The early Christian church, and 11 of the 12 apostles, suffered horrible persecution including stoning, crucifixion, beheaded, burned at the stake, and cooked alive in large metal pans. All this because of a belief that Jesus rose from the dead. However, the Romans always gave a way out. All a person had to do was renounce his faith in Jesus and he would be spared. This option was certainly offered to the disciples as well.
(MB) The Romans couldn't have cared less about whether or not a few Jews believed that Jesus was the Son of God since they didn't worship the Jewish God. They would, however, have taken notice of any group who might be inciting insurrection or revolt against the Emperor.


(R) If just one of them would recant the story, the religion would have folded immediately and Christianity would have never started.
(MB) This is true. That, however, would have shown that the disciples never really believed all that strongly in the first place. If one values his earthly life more than eternity in heaven with God, then that God must not be a very compelling figure.


(R) For the disciple to give up their worldly possessions and whatever status and security they had attained, and to willingly die for a story they knew was false, defies the natural human drive for personal survival as well as logic. What did they gain by lying? Worldly wealth? A life of pleasure? Special honor? No. None of these. Instead they were poor men who were despised and rejected by most. Even in the Gospels the disciples describe themselves as unfaithful, unintelligent, common men. They were not seeking glory for themselves buy glory for God. The disciples did not lie.
(MB) Zealots for any cause consider martyrdom to be the highest expression of devotion and feel that their death will become an inspiration to others. Don't we revere those who died for the cause? Certainly, those men knew that they wouldn't be remembered for anything else.


(R) The question still remains: What are YOU going to do with Jesus?
(MB) The same thing I'm going to do with *any* well-known literary or historical figure -- fold him into the sum total of my knowledge along with all the rest.


Since he never claimed to be God, that's not true, either.
(R) The argument for Jesus claiming to be God was proven above.
(MB) The argument was stated, but remains far from being proven.


When he is brought before Jerusalem's high priest and does not deny that he is the Messiah, Jesus is charged with "blasphemy", which, under Jewish law, was punishable by stoning. However, Jesus was crucified by the Romans. Why? Because he was accused of treachery toward Rome for(supposedly) claiming to be the King of the Jews. Romans wouldn't have cared if Jesus had merely claimed to be God since they did not worship the Jewish God.
(R) Jesus was charged for blasphemy, which, under Jewish law is punishable by stoning, and yes Jesus was crucified by the Romans. If you want to get technical about it, though, it was our sin that crucified Jesus and our sin that caused Jesus to go to the cross.
(MB) What "technicality" is this? No mention of "our sin" is made in any of the Gospel accounts as reasons for Jesus being tried, convicted, and executed. Again, the Romans couldn't have cared less about the Jewish concept of redemption of sins -- much less put somebody to death for it or to fulfill some Hebrew Scripture that they also didn't believe in.


(R) However, the Romans had to crucify Jesus because the Jews had lost their ability to exercise capital punishment. If the Jews wanted to throw Him in jail, they could have done that on their own. For capital punishment, the Jews had to take Him to the Romans.
(MB) This is true. It is interesting to note that the later Gospels present the Romans in a better light than do the earlier Gospels and place more of the blame upon the Jews. Of course, that matches the historical record of Christians trying to assimilate themselves into Rome.


(R) He was NOT crucified for treachery against the Roman government.
(MB) Oh? Then what *did* the Romans crucify him for? It wasn't for any offense under Jewish law!


(R) If you read the Biblical account, Pontius Pilate himself found nothing on the basis for crucifying Jesus and in fact urged the people to let Him go(John 19:5-6). Jesus was taken to Pilate by the Jews because he claimed to be God.
(MB) Again, this is the tale told by the latest and most Roman-friendly Gospel. Even in the earliest Gospel, Jesus did not claim to be God. In Mark 14:61-64, Jesus concurs when the high priest asks him if he is "the Christ, the Son of the Blessed". In other words, Jesus says not that he is God, but that he is the Son of God -- which was not something for which blasphemy could be charged under Jewish law. At worst, Jesus was foolish, but he was not blasphemous.


Why not? Any number of zealots (religious and non-religious alike) have viewed martyrdom as the ultimate act of devotion to the cause.
(R) (You were referring to my statement about Jesus not dying for a lie). This argument does not make sense. It is necessary to differentiate between a lie YOU make up and one that you have COME to believe in.
(MB) Why? A lie is a lie is a lie. Certainly, people often make up things about themselves or others that they tell so often that they come to believe them as being truth. When the cause is so important, it might not even matter if it is based upon a lie -- known or unknown.


(R) Other zealots have died for a cause that they believe in. It is a cause that they DID NOT make up. They have come to believe in it through faith.
(MB) Most just believe in the cause without ever knowing why or knowing what the original inspiration was all about. Basically, they just do as they're told and don't question -- much as most religious believers still do.


(R) Jesus, on the other hand, was killed for something He DID come up with. No sane person is willing to die for a lie they made up. This defies all logic as was discussed above earlier. People are willing to die, however, for something they believe is genuinely true. With Jesus, if He was lying, He would not believe it true and thus not be willing to die.
(MB) Unless, of course, the middle option in the "liar, lunatic, or Lord" argument is the reality of the situation. Most zealots have more than their share of lunacy.
    BTW, if Jesus, as you said, was killed for something he DID come up with, that means he invented his purpose and message during his life and was neither born to it nor sent from God with it. I could agree with that.



Why not? If Jesus really *was* God, would any human-imposed punishment have had any real effect on him? This brings up an interesting question. What was it that died on the cross? If it was just a man, there could have been no effect on the sins of Mankind. But, how could it have been a divine being? By definition, God can *not* die!
(R) A fine sounding argument, until you look deeper. Again this misunderstanding comes from lack of knowledge at what the Bible teaches.
(MB) This argument (as do most others) comes from reading what the Bible says. How else does one rightly interpret it?


(R) As discussed earlier, the Bible teaches the doctrine of the Trinity.
(MB) As refuted earlier, the Bible neither teaches it nor even *mentions* it.


(R) It is hard to understand, and indeed I don't even want to understand it.
(MB) Why not? Ignorance is not bliss -- despite the old maxim.


(R) For who wants to worship a God they can understand?
(MB) Those of us with functioning minds??


(R) Then everyone would be their own god, a false teaching of the New Age movement.
(MB) Oh? How does that work? Understanding something or someone does not equate you with the thing or person that is understood.


(R) But anyhow, the Bible teaches that there is one God who has revealed Himself in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This was discussed above.
(MB) Oh? Where does it teach that? Where does it speak of the "Trinity"?


(R) God took on the form of a human being, Jesus. God is not normally limited by time and space, however, when He took on the form of Jesus, He was. He was God in human form.
(MB) If we are to believe that, we must accept that God is now two separate entities -- one infinite and one finite. It is impossible for both to be two versions of the same entity and be considered to be equal. The concept of a Trinity inevitably leads to contradiction and paradox.
    In addition, this scenario flies in the face of the aforementioned verse from Genesis where God says that he will not abide in human flesh.



(R) Yes, a human-imposed punishment would have an effect on Him. How could it not? He was physically beaten and crucified leaving scars He will have an eternity.
(MB) The Gospel reports of the beating and scourging of Jesus do not square with the known principles of Roman justice. Despite the Gospel story, no punishment was ever inflicted upon an accused criminal before he was convicted. Roman courts were models of decorum and justice.


(R) What was it that died on the cross? Again, the Trinity comes into focus. Jesus was both 100% God and 100% man. He was 100% God limited by 100% human form.
(MB) Since those qualities are mutually-exclusive, no argument purporting their simultaneous existence can make sense. The doctrine of the Trinity does not bring anything into focus. Rather, it makes things more blurry and confused.


(R) He lived a sinless life and thus made a perfect sacrifice for our sins.
(MB) This depends on how one chooses to interpret "sacrifice". Certainly, he was not a perfect sacrifice according to Jewish law. Such sacrifices must have been free from blemish (Jesus was beaten and injured), they can only be offered by the high priest at the temple (Jesus was killed by Romans on a hill), and they must be burned (Jesus was crucified). If he was God, he couldn't die. If he was man, he couldn't redeem anybody of any sins. Either way, the death of Jesus could not have accomplished anything in the way that Christians would like to believe.


(R) He overcame temptation and died on the cross. His Spirit departed and then returned when He was raised from the dead.
(MB) So, he didn't really "die", did he? If nothing was truly sacrificed, how can man be redeemed of his sins?


(R) He is ruler of heaven and will one day return to rule earth.
(MB) If he is infinite, how can he not already be here?


(R) My God reigns!
(MB) Why your God and not the God of any other religion?



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