REPLY #57c TO|
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 third 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.
Because he *did* teach and preach and gained a significant
following. Anybody else who did likewise would also have been referred to
in those terms. Those terms are no indication of divinity.
(R) (Here you are
referring to how Jesus could be a lunatic and gain a following while being
called a teacher by rabbis). Yes that is true. But how was Jesus able to gain such a large
following if He spoke nonsense? Yes, some leaders today speak nonsense and
have a large following.
(MB) One word -- charisma. Most people who are prone to follow those leaders
just substitute that charisma for the emptiness in their own lives.
(R) But most of these are dictators or weirdoes who claim to be God with
absolutely no evidence.
(MB) Nobody who has ever claimed to be God (or anything close to God) has ever
had any evidence with which to support their claims. Stories written by their
followers are *not* evidential support for those claims.
(R) The difference with Jesus was that He supported His claims with the
(MB) Or, so go the stories written by his followers. These stories are no proof
of their own validity.
(R) Why were the Jews so concerned with Him and His teaching if they realized He
was a lunatic? It was because He attracted such a large following when He spoke
about the kingdom of God. The Jews were jealous at His popularity.
(MB) Why would the Jews be jealous of this? Jesus was promoting the very same
God of the Jews and the Jews were awaiting the arrival of the Messiah. It was
when Jesus proved not to be the Messiah they wanted that they turned on him. To
this day, the Jews are still awaiting the real Messiah.
(R) Any religious uprisings where a person claims to be God, and that person
later dies, the uprising also dies out. An example of this can be seen with the
Branch Dividian in Waco, Texas. I don't see any other people converting and
believing in David Koresh as the Messiah, do you? Because he is dead and he
managed to take people with him.
(MB) The Branch Davidians are still around. They just don't have their
charismatic and vocal leader any longer. Given the fate of David Koresh and the
others, I doubt we'll see much activism from them for a while. But, who knows?
Give them 30-40 years and they, too, might be able to invent stories about their
leader and revitalize their faith.
(R) Why didn't Christianity die out with the death of Jesus? Because He was
raised from the dead!
(MB) No, it's because he didn't take all (or most) of his followers with him.
Why didn't Buddhism die out with the death of Buddha? He wasn't raised from the
(R) His followers realized this and were willing to die for it.
(MB) Or, they invented it and were willing to die for
(R) Gamaliel summed it up best when he said in Acts 5:35-39:
"Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these
men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four
hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were
dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean
appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He
too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the
present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if
their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is
from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find
yourselves fighting against God."
(MB) The problem here is a classic anachronism. The revolt by Theudas (as
reported by Josephus) took place in 45 or 46 CE. But, the author of Acts is
speaking of a speech by Gamaliel that couldn't have been made later than 36 CE
(some scholars place it as early as 29 CE). This is understandable if one knows
that Acts wasn't written until at least three decades after the death of Jesus.
It is analogous to the famous Shakespearean anachronism in Julius Caesar where
Caesar refers to a clock striking the hour. Striking clocks weren't invented
until some fourteen centuries after the death of Caesar (still two centuries
prior to the life of Shakespeare).
(R) And we know that something did come of it!
(MB) Indeed, for whatever that's worth. All sorts of religions, both older and
younger than Christianity, have evolved in similar ways.
How does any charismatic figure gain a large following? Does
anybody who gains the ears of others qualify as being "divine"? Remember,
also, that the Jews were under the occupation of the Romans during Jesus'
life and were waiting for the arrival of a new leader who would free them.
Therefore, they would be even more susceptible to persuasion by any new
(R) The same arguments above about Jesus, his following, and his
teaching apply here also. Gaining ears does not qualify Him as divine.
His birth, life, miracles, death, and resurrection do!
(MB) I'll need to see how you respond to the previous discussion before taking
this argument any further. For now, I'll just say that the stories about Jesus'
birth and life also result in numerous contradictions and doubts.
(R) Yes, the Jews were under Roman occupation, and yes, they were waiting for a
political Messiah. However, I would hardly describe Jesus as a political
Messiah, or His actions that which a political Messiah would take. Jesus played
the role of a suffering servant, not as a political Messiah.
(MB) That's right -- and that didn't exactly appeal to the Jews. If anything,
Jesus was little more than a disappointment to a people who had waited centuries
for the Messiah's arrival.
(R) Repeatedly He
refrained from succumbing to the temptation of becoming the political
Messiah everybody wanted and instead suffering on the cross. As discussed
above, there were other leaders of the day who gained following, not just
Jesus. The difference with Him was that He provided evidence for His
claims. His miracles and teaching attracted people to Him. It was not
just because the people were "susceptible".
(MB) Jesus merely had a more loyal following than other contemporary prophets.
Needless to say, we hear little of any other side of the story from the point of
view of those forgotten individuals. Would the story of Jesus have emerged and
grown if not for the zealotry of Paul?
I *have* read the Bible and, as a result, have not arrived at
(R) (You are referring to Jesus not being a lunatic.) I am glad to hear you have read the Bible. Many Christians
today can't make that claim.
(MB) Unfortunately, that's correct. Those who say they do read it normally only
read selected verses from Bible study guides and rarely go any further in their
research. Fewer still ever make the effort to compare Biblical stories with the
accounts of history or even with other versions of the same story elsewhere in
(R) You said you had an open mind and were open for answers. But did you read
the Bible with an open mind?
(MB) Of course. That's why I can understand what it
(R) More importantly, did you read it with an open heart?
(MB) I read it (and everything else) with an objective heart. That means that I
have no preconceptions and place no limits on what I will or won't accept. I am
prepared to accept the truth no matter what that truth might be or what previous
beliefs I might have to abandon or modify.
(R) Matthew 7:7-8 says "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he
who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." If you truly
want to know if God exists, seek after Him and He will reveal Himself to
(MB) In other words, I can come to believe in God if I decide to believe in him
first. Why isn't the idea of God so compelling that there is no room for any
(R) I would like to challenge you to read the Bible again, this time with an
open heart, and ask God sincerely to reveal Himself to you if He exists. If you
do this, I think you will find answers to all your questions.
(MB) Again, you are asking me to believe before I can believe. Why would I ask
God to "reveal himself" if I don't believe that he exists? If God is
all-powerful, he could unmistakeably reveal himself to me whether I asked him to
do so or not. If he is all-knowing, then he knows that I would believe in him
if he revealed himself. In the meantime, I will go where the evidence leads
Did he? There is no evidence outside the Bible of any such
(R) How can miracles be possible? The basis for believing in the
miraculous goes back to the biblical conception of God. The very first
verse of the Bible decides the issue. "In the beginning God created the
heavens and the earth"(Genesis 1:1). If you can believe the very first
verse in the Bible, then the rest is no problem.
(MB) How does this "decide the issue" unless one has already presupposed the
truth of the Bible? In addition, if this account is true, we must accept all of
the other nonsensical baggage that comes along with it. Do you really believe
that the Earth was created before the Sun, and stars? Do you really believe
that plant life appeared on Earth prior to the creation of the Sun? How could
there be "night and day" or "evening and morning" before there was a Sun? And,
what about the second creation tale beginning at Genesis 2:4? Was Man created
before or after the other animals? Were male and female humans created together
or in separate episodes? Some may call these tales "miraculous". I'd say that
"bogus" is a better description.
(R) If in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, then a virgin
birth, walking on water, feeding 5,000 people with a few loaves and fish, and
the other biblical miracles become not only possible but expected. If there is
a God, then certainly miracles are possible.
(MB) Agreed. But, if the universe came into being by its own devices instead of
having been created by God, then none of the rest follows. There's much more
evidence to support that scenario than to support the notion that "God did
(R) In fact, the very nature of the question: "How can miracles be possible"
presupposes there is a God, for a miracle is an act of God. In the end, your
belief of miracles comes down to your belief in God.
(MB) Agreed. However, not everything that is dubbed a "miracle" actually
qualifies as such. Strictly speaking, a true "miracle" could only be something
that violates the physical laws of the universe.
Also, the Old Testament of the Bible contains no prophecies that
can be shown to apply to Jesus. How can you fulfill prophecies that do not
exist? Now, there are instances related in the Gospels where Jesus is
claimed to have done something "in fulfillment of prophecy". However,
since Jesus was well-versed in Scripture, he certainly could have
selectively done particular things in order to claim retroactively that the
Old Testament had foreseen them. This technique is not unknown among
modern-day "prophets", either.
(R) (You are referring to Jesus displaying
miracles and fulfilling prophecy). We know God exists because of fulfilled prophecy in the Bible. This brings
up an interesting question: How can you say that no prophecies in the Old
Testament can be shown to apply to Jesus? There are over three hundred of
prophecies that apply directly to Jesus! Prophecies which were written hundreds
of years before Jesus. I will only name a few.
(MB) There are, indeed, a few hundred so-called "prophecies" that are claimed to
refer to Jesus, but not a single one of them specifically mentions Jesus by
name, nor unambiguously mentions something that could only apply to him. Let's
look at the examples you bring up and analyze them...
(R) Since you also say that Jesus did particular things on purpose in order to
fulfill prophecy, I will only look at prophecies Jesus could not have
arranged. Explain this to me: How did Jesus arrange His birth in
Bethlehem, a fulfillment of Micah 5:2?
(MB) Simple, he didn't and Micah doesn't say that he will. Micah refers to
"Bethlehem Ephratah" -- a Hebrew usage that means a person's name (specifically,
Bethlehem, the son of Ephratah [see 1 Chronicles 4:4]) and not a place.
Furthermore, the verse says that the person in question is to be ruler in
Israel. This clearly did not happen. Jesus was never a ruler and his
influence was in Judea and not in Israel. The two were separate
(R) How did He arrange being in the same lineage as Abraham, Isaac, and
(MB) He didn't. To be strict about it, the Messiah had to be of the House of
David. By tradition, *all* Jews are of the lineage descending from Abraham
through Isaac. It was Davidic descent that was a prerequisite for anyone to
make a legitimate claim to be the Messiah. Nobody would have considered Jesus
(or anybody else) to be the Messiah no matter how many miracles they might have
performed or what they may have taught or claimed unless he had Davidic
heritage. However, since untold thousands of other Jews are also direct
descendants of David, it is hardly a fulfilled Messianic prophecy that one
particular individual is among them.
(R) How did He arrange being born of the tribe of Judah, a fulfillment of
Genesis 49:10 and Micah 5:2?
(MB) See above...
(R) How did He arrange being crucified, a direct fulfillment of Psalm 22:16 and
Zechariah 12:10 which were written before crucifixion was even
(MB) The author of Psalm 22 is using present tense verbs and is referring to
events contemporaneous with himself. He is speaking about himself and is not
prophesying about Jesus (or anybody else).
Zechariah says, "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they
shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son". The biggest problem
here is that those who mourned for Jesus did not pierce him and those who
pierced him did not mourn and certainly didn't treat him as an only son since
Jesus was not a Roman. In reality, Zechariah is saying that God will make Judah
and Jerusalem so strong in the future that they will destroy any and all
enemies, but still will have compassion for those whom they have defeated.
Neither "prophecy" says anything about crucifixion.
(R) How did Jesus arrange being crucified with thieves, a fulfillment of Isaiah
53:12? How did He fulfill being buried in a rich man's tomb, a fulfillment of
(MB) He didn't. Actually, Christians have this "prophecy" interpreted
backwards along with ignoring the standards of Roman law. Isaiah 53:9 actually
reads, "He made his grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death". Yet,
Jesus is supposed to have died with the wicked and been entombed with the rich
-- precisely the opposite. Additionally, under Roman law, theft was not an
offense punishable by crucifixion or death by any other method.
Where does Isaiah 53:12 say anything about being crucified with
(R) How did He arrange His garments being cast for lots, a fulfillment of Psalms
22:18? How did He arrange to have a spear thrust in His side, a fulfillment of
(MB) He didn't. I've already addressed these two "prophecies". In addition,
since the Gospel writers were intent on showing how the events surrounding Jesus
"fulfilled Old Testament prophecy", it is rather likely that their stories were
tailored to some degree to attempt to ensure such fulfillments. This technique
is not lost upon others who also claim to be fulfillments of this or that
imagined ancient prophecy.
(R) How did He arrange His bones not being broken especially when this was
common in crucifixion, a fulfillment of Psalm 34:20?
(MB) He didn't. The breaking of a condemned man's bones (usually his legs) was
called "crucifragium". This was a separate form of punishment and the Romans
never combined it with crucifixion.
(R) I could go on and on for days! No prophecy concerning Jesus? I don't think
(MB) I guess you'll have to continue, since the ones currently presented have
all failed the test. So will all others.
If God is omnipotent, why couldn't he just wave his hand
and eliminate all of the sins of mankind? Instead, the life and death of
Jesus resulted in the deaths and persecutions of untold millions of
believers and non-believers over the following two millennia. Did God
really do mankind a favor?
(R) This is a commonly asked question. Why does a good God allow evil
to exist? The answer is found in Genesis. God originally created mankind
sinless and He wanted to have personal relationships with them.
(MB) Where does Genesis say that God created Man for that purpose? Was God
lonely? Was he in dire need of somebody to praise him? Why would an omnipotent
being need such companionship? No creation could give such a being anything he
didn't already have!
(R) Adam and Eve, however, decided to do it on their own and thus sin entered
(MB) They didn't do anything on their own. It took the persuasion of Eve by the
serpent (who is neither called "Satan" or "the devil" nor referred to as a
"snake") to cause the eating of the fruit (which is not called an "apple").
But, this brings up several other questions. How could a perfect God could
create humans that were even capable of sin if God didn't want them to sin? Why
did he create the serpent and permit the temptation? Why was the tree easily
accessible if it was forbidden? Why did God place the blame on his creations
when they couldn't have done anything without his forbearance? Finally, why
does God blame the entirety of blameless humans for all time for the actions of
two individuals (that were actually God's fault to begin with)?
(R) So why doesn't God just wave His hand and eliminate sin? Well, eventually
He will. But for now, He gives us a choice.
(MB) So, what's the wait all about? If sin is truly an abomination before God,
it makes no sense for him to permit its continued existence.
(R) If God eliminated sin, we would all be robots with no other choice but to
worship Him. God doesn't want robots, He wants genuine love from His
(MB) That's not what he says in the Old Testament. He wants the complete and
undivided attention and worship of his people and also dictates the methods that
are to be used and the laws that are to be followed under penalty of death and
eternal damnation. Nowhere does God give us any free choice in the matter.
Kinda like Army regulations...*grin*
(R) God gives us a choice on whether we want to follow the world and the devil,
or follow Him.
(MB) "Follow me or suffer for eternity". That's a rather tortured connotation
of a "choice", isn't it?
(R) So why did Jesus die on the cross for us? God is a Holy and just God who
demands justice to be done. The penalty of sin is death by a shedding of
(MB) Actually, the Bible says that shedding of blood is required for remission
of sins. That's part of the rationale behind animal sacrifices.
Furthermore, what sort of "justice" system permits others to die in place of
those who actually committed the offense? What sort of "justice" is it when
children are killed for the sins of their parents?
(R) We all deserve to die for our sins.
(MB) Why? If we were created with the ability to sin, why should we suffer for
the creator's mistakes?
(R) Jesus came and died on the cross for our sins so we wouldn't have
(MB) Yet, we still all die, don't we? What has changed? And, how does the
death of Jesus do anything for those who don't worship God or have never heard
(R) In the Old Testament, the Jews would have to make sacrifices to cover their
sins. Ultimately, Jesus death on the cross was an ultimate sign of
(MB) If Jesus supposedly went willingly to the cross for us, why does he pray "O
my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me" (Matthew 26:39) and
wail "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46) while on the
(R) "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his
(MB) Which is, of course, the Biblical justification for Christian martyrdom and
the ultimate answer to your questions about why Jesus' followers would die for
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