REPLY #68h 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 eighth of a nine-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.
The latest, John, was written between 90-100 CE.
(R) Close enough.
(MB) So, doesn't the ongoing problem of a lengthy gap
between event and story-telling still exist? If one claims that John was an
eyewitness, he would be upwards of 90 years old when he wrote his Gospel. Maybe
this is why his account is so much different from the others? More likely is
that his Gospel is not an eyewitness account at all.
If we agree with that claim, it is obvious that both men were very old at the
time they wrote their respective Gospels.
(R) Since I don't agree with your dating of Mark, this holds no
(MB) So, how is it that the same scholars who give dates you agree with for most
of the NT can be so "wrong" about Mark? Even if you don't agree with the dating
of Mark, my argument is still applicable to John, isn't it? Since John's Gospel
is so much different from the others, wouldn't it be reasonable to accept that
this may be due to the longer time span between its writing and the events it is
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) You are forgetting what John 14:26 says. The Holy Spirit will teach us and
remind us of everything Christ had said. Thus, if you believe in Holy Spirit,
your question is answered.
(MB) I'm not forgetting anything. You are, once again, assuming that something
is true just because it's written in the Bible. Until any evidence can be
produced to verify that the Holy Spirit actually exists, any claims made on its
behalf are little more than hot air. Also, your last sentence is equivalent to
saying that the Holy Spirit doesn't exist unless you believe in it. This is
clearly hogwash. Either it exists or it doesn't. Belief or non-belief in that
existence doesn't change that one bit.
(R) If you don't believe in the Holy Spirit, you have a much bigger problem to
think about then how the disciples recalled these things.
(MB) Oh? And, just what "much bigger problem" would that
So, the best that can be said for Mark is that his Gospel is composed of
(R) Actually, that is not true at all. There is no reason at all not to think
that Mark was a witness to most of these things.
(MB) Sure there is. Mark never says at any point that he was a witness to
anything. His Gospel reflects the teachings of Peter and is not an eyewitness
account. Therefore, it is second-half information, at best.
(R) Throughout the ministry of Jesus we know that He almost always had a crowd
(MB) So what about it? That doesn't mean that Mark was one among them. And,
what about the various incidents that are reported for which there were no
witnesses at all (such as the temptation of Christ)?
(R) Plus, there were others (such as Matthias in the book of Acts) that we know
of who were present during the whole ministry of Jesus and were not mentioned in
(MB) Again, so what about it? What anybody else may have done or seen has no
bearing upon whether or not Mark himself was an eyewitness.
Yet, it is the Gospel which provided the source material for Matthew and
(R) This is only one of many theories that try to explain the similarities in
(MB) It's the only one that has any basis in fact. What other theories would
you propose as alternative explanations?
That makes those Gospels, at best, third-hand information.
(R) How do you figure this?
(MB) Simple. If Mark was second-hand, then any Gospel which derives from it
must be third-hand.
(R) Matthew was an apostle of Jesus for cryin' out loud!
(MB) Was he? There is considerable doubt about that
claim. For example, in the Encyclopedia Biblica, we find the following in
reference to the authorship of Matthew:
The employment of various sources, the characteristic difference of the
quotations from the LXX (Septuagint) and the original (Hebrew), the
indefiniteness of the determinations of time and place, the incredibleness of
the contents, the introduction of later conditions, as also the artificial
arrangement, and so forth, have long since led to the conclusion that for the
authorship of the first Gospel the apostle Matthew must be given up.
(R) He was a witness to the whole ministry of Jesus and experienced first-hand
(MB) How could Matthew have first-hand experience of the incidents he reports
which happened before the disciples were chosen? How could he have first-hand
experience of those things that happened when he was not there to see
(R) Matthew had a much larger Gospel because He had more information being a
(MB) He has a larger Gospel since he drew not only on Mark but also on the Q
document as well as adding his own stuff (often wrong) about how various events
supposedly fulfilled OT "prophecies".
(R) Luke, on the other hand, was a historian gathering information from various
sources. Most, if not all, of his information I'm sure was second hand. As a
historian, however, we can trust the accuracy of his information. It was
written only a few decades after the death of Christ.
(MB) Why can we trust Luke's information? (BTW, now he's
a "historian". Earlier, you said he was a "physician".) If it can't be
verified by other sources, we have only Luke's say-so for what he writes. That
is true no matter how long after the death of Christ it was that he wrote his
Gospel. If Luke "gathered information from various sources", why is it that
none of them has ever been identified and none appears in any contemporary
secular history work?
(R) And yet I don't see you criticizing the history books of today which are
written centuries after the events and have passed through so many "hands" of
information it would be considered ridiculous to trust the information as
accurate given the standards you present.
(MB) History is not considered to be reliable unless there is some evidence with
which to crosscheck what it reports. There are no commonly accepted historical
accounts which derive from only one unverifiable source of information. Yet,
you wish us to accept the absolute historical accuracy of the
Given the numerous conflicts between these three Gospels, the deleterious
effects of time and retelling are quite evident.
(R) You have yet to present any evidence at all which show contradictions or
myths that have been fabricated.
(MB) There are none so blind as those who will not see. When it comes to the
blind faith of the Christian, that applies even more strongly. Let's see if you
can rescue your blind faith from all of the unsolved problems I've already
presented to you.
(R) It is interesting that over the years atheists have always been able to
conjure up negative evidence against the Bible and yet have never been able to
produce positive evidence to support their view.
(MB) This is clearly untrue. The volume of evidence that I've already presented
demonstrates this and I've only barely scratched the surface of modern
scholarship. What "positive evidence" would you demand or expect to
You've just admitted that neither Luke nor Mark were contemporaries of
(R) How exactly did I do this? Again, try to show some evidence.
(MB) Go back and read your own words. You said "The Gospel of Mark was written
by Mark who was a very close friend of Peter..." and "The Gospel of Luke was
written by Luke who was a historian and close friend of Paul...". Both of these
are true statements and both imply that they got their information second-hand
rather than being eyewitnesses.
Matthew is the most likely contemporary of Jesus,...
(R) Well that is rather obvious since Matthew was the disciple of
(MB) He is the "most likely" only since somebody named Matthew was a disciple.
That does not mean the the disciple and the Gospel writer were the same person.
It only means that they shared the same name.
...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) Early church tradition says John wrote it, and they are certainly in a
better position to judge then we are since they lived during the time. Also,
Irenaeus, who was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John, clearly
says John wrote it. The Rylands Fragment was a fragment of the Gospel
discovered in the Egyptian hinterland and dates around 135 AD. It would need
several previous decades for the writing, copying, and circulation of John to
reach that far.
(MB) I didn't question whether or not John wrote the Gospel which bears his
name. The question was over whether or not he was actually a disciple and that
is seriously in doubt given his Gospel's date of authorship and the vast
differences between it and the synoptics.
Are you sure you wish to hang your hat on what Bishop
Irenaeus has to say? He (as well as Bishop Papias) stated that Christ lived
into advanced old age (possibly as late as 117 CE) and, thus, considered the
Gospel accounts of the resurrection to be heresies.
Polycarp wasn't born until 69 CE and, therefore, was
rather unlikely to have become a disciple of John until at least 90 CE (which is
the earliest date accepted by most scholars for the authorship of the Gospel
which bears his name).
The Rylands Fragment appears to be genuine, but it does
nothing to dispute a dating of John to around 90 CE or later. Besides the fact
that there is no reason to accept that it would take over four decades to travel
to Egypt, there is also no reason to accept that it wasn't written somewhere
else and eventually carried to Egypt at some future time. You may be interested
in checking out the following web site for more information:
(MB) Oh? How is that clear? If the writer had been an
eyewitness, he would had to have been a Jew. Yet, all four Gospels refer to
Jews as a group in the third person -- as a non-Jew would do.
(R) The reason it is different is probably because John wanted a fresh look at
the life of Jesus. The synoptics had already been circulated and John wanted to
write something new.
(MB) What would that be necessary or even desirable? If John is reporting on
the life and times of Jesus, there is only one version to talk about. Either
the events surrounding Jesus happened or they did not. There is no "fresh look"
that results in a vastly different story that can hope to be considered to be
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.
(R) Yes, people do sometimes embellish stories. But you are forgetting that
there were four Gospel writers. They agree on everything on the life of Jesus
and there are absolutely no contradictions.
(MB) Since I've already demonstrated that there are many contradictions and that
they don't, in fact, agree on everything, your argument is false.
(R) Stories that are fabricated by different people certainly do not agree with
each other and are not embellished at exactly all the same points of the
(MB) And, that is exactly what we see when we read and compare the four Gospel
accounts. We see disagreement and contradiction. We also see that incidents
which they have in common tend to be reported at greater length and have more
problems in the later Gospels.
(R) Using this logic, I guess we could assume that the story of George
Washington was also a fable.
(MB) Some parts *are* (like the tales of the cherry tree and the throwing of a
dollar across the Potomac). They were invented by biographers to help portray
Washington in the manner they desired. The Gospel writers certainly sought to
portray Jesus in a positive manner, too, didn't they? In addition, few of the
stories which lionize Washington speak of his being one of the largest
slave-holders in Virginia. In a similar manner, it is reasonable to assume that
the Gospel writers would suppress or gloss over any uncomfortable incidents
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
(R) John 14:26. Enough said.
(MB) You've tried that before and it didn't work. It doesn't work now, either.
Continuing to repeat a mistake doesn't eventually make it right.
Which "scholars" are these?
(R) How about Bible scholars. i.e.--those who actually study the Bible for a
(MB) I was looking for some names rather than a bogus generality. If the
majority of Bible scholars agreed with what you are saying, I wouldn't be
arguing the point.
Even at that, the problem of the decades-long gap still remains.
(R) I have already discussed this above.
(MB) Not really. You just keep throwing out John 14:26 and hoping I'll buy into
it just because it's a Bible verse.
(R) Also, as I have said before, these Gospels were written when people who saw
Jesus were still living. They could have easily refuted the Gospels and condemn
the disciples as heretics.
(MB) Many of those people did so. Are you familiar with the Jewish Talmud, for
example? Needless to say, Christians aren't going to present any rebuttals in
their Bible and aren't going to hand out copies of the Talmud in their churches.
Nor were any of the 4th century councils going to vote any dissenting work into
the NT canon. Basically, what you're doing when you place absolute faith in the
Bible is to base your entire life on a one-sided story.
(R) You never have explained what motive the writers would have for doing this.
A life of poverty, beatings, imprisonment, and death? Gee, that sounds great.
Sign me up!
(MB) Sounds like you've already signed up.
That's what the word "myth" implies!
(R) I was referring to reasons why the writers would have
(MB) You gave one reason yourself when you suggested that John wanted a "fresh
look" at Jesus. I've already supplied other reasons.
The Gospel writers were writing about men and not about fantastic creatures
(R) This is all the more reason why their stories can be trusted and should be
(MB) Why? Just because stories are about men does not automatically make them
any more truthful than stories written about other things. Do you wish to claim
that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories about Sherlock Holmes can be trusted and
should be considered accurate? If not, why not? He wrote about men and not
about fantastic creatures and/or places.
(R) They also wrote about God just in case you missed that.
(MB) I thought the Gospel writers wrote about Jesus and God only had a bit part.
In any case, why does writing about God make any story trustworthy and
Fairy tales don't inspire people to believe in the same way as tales which are
presented as fact.
(R) Most of the time, the only difference between a fairy tale and tale is that
a tale IS presented as fact.
(MB) Thanks for agreeing with me. So, we can say that the Gospels are fairy
tales which are presented as being factual so that people will be more inspired
to believe in them.
Also, the style of reporting does not make a mythical tale real nor does it make
a real tale mythical.
(R) Agreed. But the style goes to show you that it is not like common writing
found in tales and myths and to call the Gospels tales would be to create a new
class of tales all together.
(MB) Oh? What's special about the style of writing in the
How long would it take to invent such a story? Any reasonably clever writer
could concoct such a tale in a single day.
(R) Probably. But this wasn't told by just one person but by hundreds who
actually saw and touched the resurrected body of Jesus. This would of had to
have been one of the greatest hoaxes in history with hundreds of people
collaborating stories so as to prevent any contradictions.
(MB) There weren't "hundreds of people" collaborating. There were twelve
disciples -- not all of whom went on to do any writing. It would only take a
small meeting or series of meetings for them to iron out their story and get the
(R) This would have taken much more time then a single day and besides, the
sightings were already being reported on Sunday. As already said many times,
what motives would they have to invent a story?
(MB) Remember that it's only the second- and third-hand Gospel accounts that are
telling us about the reported sightings. It's entirely possible that the
sightings stories were made up to add weight to the tale. Since only the
disciples are named and since it is they who are telling the story and since the
story is being told several decades after the fact, how could anybody else be
interviewed either to confirm or deny it?
Also, given the decades-long gap between the writing of the Gospels and the
event being reported, it's likely that the majority of potential eyewitnesses
would either be dead or would have forgotten whatever may or may not have
actually happened. Either way, they would be in no position to credibly dispute
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
(R) There was hard evidence to prove the account such as Jesus Himself, the
empty tomb, eyewitness testimony and of course the lack of a better
(MB) What "hard evidence" is this? And, don't go quoting Bible verses or
interpolations in Josephus again. I mean hard evidence that anybody of any
religious or non-religious persuasion could examine and be compelled to believe
in the Gospel accounts.
BTW, there is no such thing as a "better alternative" to an event that never
happened. If you believe otherwise, then you must accept the accounts of the
Greek gods as truth simply because there is "no better alternative" for
(R) You are right in saying there is no hard evidence to disprove the
(MB) It is impossible to prove that it didn't happen, but that is not necessary.
A basic tenet of logic and philosophy is that the burden of proof always rests
with the side making the positive existential claim -- and that is
(R) The population, however, was not predisposed to believe it. Most people,
including the disciples, did not even realize that Jesus had to rise from the
dead until after He showed Himself to them.
(MB) Uh-huh. They thought this even though Jesus told them that he would rise
after three days and three nights? They may well not have believed him, but
they had certainly been informed. On a side note, it's obvious that Jesus'
prediction is wrong. He was crucified in the late afternoon on Friday and had
already arisen prior to sunrise on Sunday. At best, he rose after only two
nights and one day had passed.
(R) If anything, they were predisposed to believe that Christ had died and that
the hope of Him fulfilling the role of the political Messiah had been
(MB) The Jews were the only ones who believed in a political Messiah. They
never equated the Messiah with the Son of God. To this day, they still don't
believe the spin on the events surrounding Jesus that has been promoted by
Sure, it does.
(R) I am glad you agree.
(MB) Methinks you've forgotten what I agreed to. Just to refresh your memory, I
agreed to your analysis that Paul's claim about 500 people seeing the
resurrected Jesus looks unbelievably audacious if the whole story came by way of
mythological development. Why shouldn't I agree with that assessment when I'm
firmly convinced that Paul's story *is* mythology?
Once again, we have only Paul's say-so on this as there is no independent
(R) Paul was not the only one to have professed the resurrected Jesus. The
Gospel writers and disciples also verified what Paul preached.
(MB) They echoed what he preached, but that does not constitute any sort of
verification either that it happened at all or that Paul's details were
accurate. That would be similar to saying that any claim that Bill Clinton is
innocent is verified simply because his staff members profess that he
(R) There is also no independent verification that George Washington ever
existed, yet he is taught in every school.
(MB) You're really grasping at straws with this one. If you truly believe that
there's no independent verification that George Washington ever existed, then
you must absolutely believe that about Jesus. If, on that basis, you conclude
that we should not be taught about George Washington in schools, then it follows
that Jesus should certainly not be taught, either.
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