The Meaning Of Matthew’s Mistakes

So Matthew likes quite a lot of what he finds in Mark. Likes it so much he decides to lift over 90% of it into his own Jesus story. Of course he’ll tweak it a bit because, disappointingly, Mark hasn’t emphasised Jesus’ Jewishness enough. That definitely needs bumping up; it’s what his readers will expect. And Mark has missed a trick or two: he starts his story with Jesus’ baptism, when, as everyone knows, every godman needs a magical origin. Just look at Tammuz, Horus, Romulus and, according to some, the Jewish high priest Melchizedek. So Matthew sets about scouring the scriptures for a prophecy or fable, anything really, that hints that the Messiah would have a miraculous birth. And he comes across this in Isaiah (7.14):

Therefore, the Lord, of His own, shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin is with child, and she shall bear a son, and she shall call his name Immanuel.

It’s not really a prophecy about the Messiah as the context makes clear, but that’s okay. There’s enough of a hint that it could be about a future Messiah that it’ll do. So Matthew sets about creating a birth narrative for his godman based on this verse, yanked from its context. His godman is going to have a virgin birth too.

What Matthew doesn’t realise, however, is that he’s made a mistake. He’s picked up the verse in the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the scriptures. If he’d checked, or even been able to read the original Hebrew, he would have soon seen that the verse actually reads:

Therefore, the Lord, of His own, shall give you a sign; behold, the young woman is with child, and she shall bear a son, and she shall call his name Immanuel.

The Hebrew word for ‘young woman’ is alma and that is the word used in Isaiah 7.14. The word for virgin is betulah. It does not appear. The use of it in the Septuagint is a mistake, a mistake that Matthew is not aware of. So he misappropriates the mistranslated verse to create a miraculous birth for Jesus and the myth of his virgin birth is born.

But Matthew hasn’t finished scouring the scriptures for prophecies that appear to be about Jesus. This time he alights on Zechariah 9:9:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout Daughter Jerusalem! See your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Incredibly, this time Matthew has stumbled upon a prophecy about the Jewish Messiah! According to Zechariah, the Messiah-King’s victorious entry into Jerusalem will follow the defeat of his enemies and the establishment of universal peace. Matthew likes the sound of this. If he can shoehorn an episode into his story where Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, this will show his readers that Jesus really is the long-awaited Messiah-King. Never mind that the Jesus version bears little resemblance to the scenario predicted by Zechariah: Jesus is not an anointed king, he has not recently defeated his enemies nor has he just established universal peace. The only thing the original prophecy and Matthew’s version have in common is that the two principle figures, Zechariah’s Messiah-King and Jesus, ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Oh, no, wait. That’s wrong. According to Matthew Jesus approaches on two donkeys; a mother and her colt. He’s made another mistake. He doesn’t know that the use of ‘donkey’ and ‘colt’ in the prophecy refers to the same animal. He thinks there has to be two: a larger one and a smaller one. He is not familiar with the practice of parallelism, common in Jewish writing to emphasise a point by repeating it  but using alternative terminology. There aren’t two animals on which Jesus sits lop-sidedly, there’s one: a donkey, otherwise known as a colt which, to state the bleedin’ obvious, is also the foal of a donkey. Matthew misses all of this and places Jesus precariously on two mismatched animals.

What does this tell us? That Matthew is not describing an actual event. He has, rather, created a story based on a prophecy, designed to illustrate to his readers that Jesus is the Messiah-King prophesied by Zechariah. There is nothing historical about this story; it is an actualisation-in-fiction of a prophecy. A prophecy,  which, incidentally, still has not been fulfilled.

So Matthew is caught out at least twice. There are more examples in his gospel of his forcing an episode from the scriptures into his Jesus fable: other aspects of his birth narrative are clearly based on elements of Moses’ story; Judas’ thirty pieces of silver are based on a story from Zechariah 11, which has no relevance at all to the use he makes of it. There is also evidence that Matthew invented prophecy that he could then show Jesus ‘fulfilling’ (Matthew 2.23, for example.)

What all of this demonstrates is not that Jesus was foreshadowed in the Jewish scriptures, (foreshadowing being a technique beloved of some authors who use it to hint at future events in their fiction) but rather that many aspects of the Jesus story are literary re-imaginings of ‘prophecies’ and often unrelated episodes from the scriptures.

And if some, why not all?

112 thoughts on “The Meaning Of Matthew’s Mistakes

  1. You know of course, Neil, that you will NEVER convince the faithful with these FACTS. It’s so much easier to just take what the “teachers” tell you and run with it. Check it out for yourself in the Bible? Too much effort. Not enough time. Hard to understand. Besides, the “true facts” have been repeated though the centuries so they MUST be correct.

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    • I do know, Nan, but still I persist in doing it! I live in hope something I say on the blog will cause someone to question some small element of their superstition. It has happened, though with ‘terminal’ Christians, to use a phrase used on Bruce’s blog recently, I recognise it’s unlikely. (Hi Don!) Maybe it’s the Holy Sprite pushing me; I did decide a while back I’d write about matters other than Christianity, but here I am back at it.

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      • Oh I admire your tenacity, Neil! I just stick in my sarcasm now and again because the whole “belief” thing is SO totally full of holes (as you continue to point out) — and yet the “faithful” continue to wrap themselves in it as “protection” against their demise.

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  2. This tale – the triumphant entry into Jerusalem – is hilarious. Passover weekend, b’zillions thronging the city, Romans on high alert, possible Sicarii running around, Pilate just itching to let loose his soldiers.
    And here’s Jesus, the saviour of mankind and the new King of the Jews come to save the day. ”Hurrah!”
    That, boys and girls, is how the hero won the day, and afterwards we al went home for tea and buns.

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  3. Neil, Neil, Neil. Old stuff really. But your buds seem to eat it up. The problem with your scenario is that it is virtually all wonky. I’ll just suggest one idea for you all to think about.

    The gospel was communicated orally for at least forty years before Matthew wrote his Greek Gospel or Mark wrote Peter’s gospel. It was told in various ways, sometimes as the saying of Jesus – of which we have some examples. It was told in narrative form but probably not often since the narratives are quite long.

    It was preached far and wide from Spain and Britain on the west, central Asia and India on the east, and north Africa on the south – all before any of the Gospel writers wrote and much of this before Paul wrote. Thomas, for example, traveled to India and preached Jesus and founded churches there among the Jewish communities while Paul was still traveling around Asia Minor and before Paul ever wrote a word and long before any of the Gospel writers wrote a word.

    The gospel was well established as the foundational truth among many groups of Jewish Christians before Paul made a single convert in Asia. Antioch and Damascus are two examples.

    Many of these churches were founded by Apostles. So, there was not only a basic knowledge, a baseline, of the gospel and the gospel narrative to judge Mark and Matthew’s Gospel by but knowledge that came from many different sources.

    These many sources were the sources for Luke and Mark. They were also probably the source for Matthew. He and Peter, as well as all the Apostles, were telling about Jesus from their personal memories – which had become somewhat standardized by the time Mark and Matthew and Luke wrote. We might even say that Mark was the written “Q.” That standardized form accounts for the similarities in Mark and Matthew and to a lesser extent in Luke.

    So before you get lost in the details, get a handle on the big picture.

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      • I know it from the texts we have from the first century and from the history passed on from groups you probably have not considered, such as Coptic Christians in Egypt and Marthoma Christians in India and Syria Christians in Syria and Central Asia. (Ever heard of Edessa?) All of which is corroborated by Eusebius. There’s a big world out there, Nan.

        “Several of the most ancient Syriac writings such as The Doctrine of Addai,
        The Chronicle of Arbela and The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles record that
        Saint Thomas sent Thaddeus and Mari to preach to Abgar Ukkama (the Black), King of the Assyrians at Osrhoene. Eusebius, the Father of Church History,
        writing in 325 AD, states that he personally searched the state archives of the
        Assyrians in the capital city of Edessa and found official records of this apostolic
        visit which he translated from the Syriac originals and included in his
        monumental work The Ecclesiastical Historyhttp://www.aina.org/articles/missick.pdf#:~:text=The%20Mar%20Thoma%20Christians%20belong%20to%20the%20churches,Iran%2C%20Turkey%2C%20and%20Syria%20in%20the%20Middle%20East.

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      • I’m aware of such documents. But IMO, they are no more “authentic” than what finally ended up in that several thousand year old collection of stories. They were written by people who believed Paul’s stories about Yeshua so why wouldn’t they reinforce what he taught? Sorry, Don. But there simply is NO evidence that the “big picture” is any more real than Aesop’s fables.

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      • Most of the first century Syrian and Indian Christians had never heard of Paul. We in the West are myopic. We see everything as Pauline and Christianity as Western. The reality is that there were Christians in the East before Paul ever began to write. The truth is that there were more Christians in the East in the first several centuries than in the West. The Roman Empire was not the whole world.

        I confess I was near sighted as well until I lived in India and met some Marthoma Christians from Kerela and then did the research.

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      • But what made them “Christians,” Don? Aren’t “Christians” the ones who believe Yeshua was the Christ? Or are you one of those that believe Yeshua traveled far and wide to talk about Yahweh/God? (A difficult task with only sandals, I would think.)

        Further, from my studies, the name “Christian” originated with Paul. Since he wanted to appeal to the Gentiles by removing Yeshua’s “Jewishness,” he started using “Christo” instead of the Jewish term, mashiach). If these other people had never heard of Paul, how did they call themselves Christians?

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      • I am simply using a word that everyone today would recognize. Does it matter whether they called themselves Christians or just followers of Jesus?

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      • OK, let’s go with that. However, my actual point is how did these people know about Yeshua being the “Savior” if their beliefs were formed before Paul since HE was the one who promoted this idea? Again, are you one of those that believed Yeshua actually traveled to these countries?

        Based on biblical stories, SOME of the Jews saw Yeshua as the long-awaited MESSIAH (based on the Hebrew interpretation), but the idea of “salvation” *(and all that that entails) came from Paul.

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    • The major problems you have,Don, in trying to defend the gospels is a) their anonymity and b ) there is no evidence whatsover to support the claims they make.
      It’s even pushing it to try to label them historical fiction.

      I often wonder how otherwise seemingly intelligent Christians surmount these major obstacles.
      I suppose in the abscence of evidence all you can do is rely on faith.
      Fingers crossed and hope for the best,yes?

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      • There are not many books of the Bible that identify the author. Those that do do so because the author is important. In the case of the Gospels that author is not important; the person of Jesus is.

        No evidence? The critics of Jesus don’t agree. They spend quite a bit of time trying to shift the subject to why he should not be revered rather than that he did not exist. See Celsus and the Babylonian Talmud. And virtually every comment on Jesus later in history.

        I have spent a bit of time looking at the many other gospels written in the second and third centuries. One of the things that stands out to me is that Jesus was perhaps the most talked about or written about personage of the first century. That in itself is evidence for him and for his miracles and teaching.

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      • Jesus was perhaps the most talked about or written about personage of the first century

        Unfortunately, the same is true in this current century. It sure would be nice if the topic would just fade away into the netherworld … 🤞

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      • If the names of the authors of the gospels are not important then there this would suggest they had little faith ( pun intended) in their own accounts, which as it turns out are riddled with numerous errors including interpolation and fraud.

        There is no consensus among scholars about the character Jesus of Nazareth, and this includes Christian scholars.
        Aside from those scholars who think the character is a complete work of fiction, probably the only two things which seem to have all scholars nodding in agreement is that he was baptized by John the Baptist and he was crucified by Pilatem

        And that’s it.
        Now much to build a case on, now is it?

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      • I would add that he worked miracles. That is part of virtually every gospel account – the Gospel of Thomas excepted. It is the reason for his crucifixion according to the Babylonian Talmud.

        Then there are his words. Even among those who discount everything else, what he taught as far as the moral and ethical foundations for life and society have become the standard by which societies are measured. And they have been the thing that changed societies from the paganism and brutality of the Romans to societies that valuer kindness and generosity. That’s our society, btw. We are who we are in America and England in large part because of the influence of Jesus’ teaching.

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      • @Don
        Actually that is a load of adulterated bollocks .
        Only indoctrinated scholars credit miracles.
        As for his ethics and morals …. Again rubbish.
        Consider his actions towards the 200O strong herd of pigs as merely one example.
        Utterly disgusting and unethical.

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      • Ark: “Only indoctrinated scholars credit miracles.”

        The only thing you are saying is I don’t believe it. So what. Lots of people not only believe they are possible but have experienced miracles. However, that is beside the point. It us incontrovertible that Jesus was known both by his biographers and followers but by his detractors for his miracles.

        Ark: “Consider his actions towards the 200O strong herd of pigs”

        Really, Ark, this is the best you have? I do remind you that Jesus did not destroy the pigs, the demons did. (Of course, you don’t believe any of this.) But that too is beside the point. What Jesus lived and taught was humility, kindness, generosity, integrity, honesty, and self-sacrifice. For those of us in the West, we are the beneficiaries of Jesus’ teaching in the virtues we applaud and which drive the individuals we respect and the institutions that make the West known in the world for good. Think the Red Cross and medical and economic and social aid given to those less fortunate. Those are the result of his teachings.

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      • Bollocks!
        No non Christian scholar credits the character Jesus of Nazareth as performing miracles.
        Your assertion is therefore a blatent falsehood.

        As for the pig tale …
        I consider it illustrates perfectly the true nature of the character Jesus of Nazareth – self centred, arrogant and ego-driven.

        If he were Yahweh he could have simply destroyed the demons yet he chose to sacrifice 2000 pigs. That is a huge herd!, Thus, he not only performed an horrendous act of wanton cruelty but also very likely ruined the livelihood of goodness knows how many farmers and probably damned their their families to destitution and a life poverty. Maybe even death.

        The rest of your comment is simply apologetic drivel demonstrating how effective religious indoctrination is on the
        weak minded and credulous.

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      • Don: One of the things that stands out to me is that Jesus was perhaps the most talked about or written about personage of the first century.
        He wasn’t and you know it. There is nothing from the first century outside the documents that now make up the NT that so much as mentions him. These were not in wide circulation until much later and were initially esoteric documents written by a small mystery cult.
        There is so much wishful thinking in what you say, Don. You claim to have researched all of this but if so, what we have is a man who hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

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    • Don: Neil, Neil, Neil. Old stuff really.
      What? Isn’t it ‘old stuff’ you’re defending here? This is a complete irrelevance, Don.

      Don: The gospel was communicated orally for at least forty years before Matthew wrote his Greek Gospel.
      Yup, and what a massive gap that is to preserve everything verbatim. As Ehrman has shown oral traditions are prone to rapid and significant change. There is no evidence whatsoever that what Matthew eventually wrote bore any relation to the original story. And how could episodes such as the trial before Pilate be accurate representations of what actually happened? No-one was taking notes, not even the Romans.

      Don: Mark wrote Peter’s gospel.
      Speculation.

      Don: It was preached far and wide.
      No-one’s disputing this. It doesn’t mean that what was preached are the stories as we now have them.

      Don: Many of these churches were founded by Apostles.
      Evidence?

      Don: So, there was not only a basic knowledge… of… the gospel narrative to judge Mark and Matthew’s Gospel.
      Speculation. We don’t know this.

      Don: But knowledge that came from many different sources.
      Yes, many sources that had their own stories about what happened. We don’t however have access to these early sources, only to what the gospel writers made of them.

      Don: He and Peter, as well as all the Apostles, were telling about Jesus from their personal memories.
      Were they? How do you know? (Acts doesn’t count as evidence as it was written much, much later from a propagandist perspective.)

      Don: So before you get lost in the details, get a handle on the big picture.
      I’m not lost in any detail, Don, nor is your ‘big picture’, which glosses over all the fabrication, discrepancies, inconsistencies and contradictions, very persuasive. What you’re actually saying here is, ‘ignore all the problems, look at my interpretation of the whole thing and you’ll be converted to the wonders of Jesus.’ Not going to happen; been there, done that.

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      • Neil: As Ehrman has shown oral traditions are prone to rapid and significant change.

        Don: Ehrman has been shown to be wrong about that by many observations of oral cultures. Oral traditions may be iffy for us, but we have come to depend on the written word. In Oral cultures there is no written word. So, they by use have acquired the ability to remember accurately and strategies for making those memories reliable. Poetry is one of those strategies. That is how Homer’s Odessey was passed on without much variation for many centuries. But there are also other means of remembering such as chiastic structure, which we see in Mark.

        Neil: There is no evidence whatsoever that what Matthew eventually wrote bore any relation to the original story.

        Don: Neither is there evidence that it did not. The test is the first readers and their independent confirmation or rejection of the narrative. It is not us, living 2000 years distant from the events. Everything we have from the first and second centuries from people who were close enough to know says that Matthew was accurate.

        Add to that the logic of history (See Paul W. Barnett’s book) and the strong implication is that the narrative fits. (The logic of history is the reasonableness of accepting as historical fact things that fit the times and the background of those times.)

        Don: Mark wrote Peter’s gospel.

        Neil: Speculation.

        Don: No. It is taking the word of several men who would have known being either personally involved or close enough to have heard from those who had firsthand knowledge. It is also accepting the history recorded by the Coptic Christians, who count Mark as their founding father and first bishop. That is far better than the speculations of the New Biblical Scholars who are speaking 2000 years distant from the facts.

        Neil: Acts doesn’t count as it was written much much later.

        Don: How do you know? Being written later, as far as the finished product is concerned, is no reason to question ipso facto the facts recorded. Those should be measured against other data. And when we do that, Acts fits the logic of history. The people were real people. The places were real. The culture was accurately described. And most importantly like every true history there was an earlier background that was the stage for the events recorded and a continuing reality that followed. (You can read that in Josephus. Herod the Great was, for example, is described pretty much the same in the Gospels as in Josephus.) Just one example of continuing reality are the churches established by Paul. There is archaeological evidence for many of them.

        As opposed to that, what do you have as evidence?

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      • Well of course, Don: everyone is wrong but you. There’s no point in arguing with you. Bottom line is, you believe in god-men, resurrections, miracles, angels, spirits, demons, heaven, hell, everlasting life and a personal God because some men thousands of years ago believed in them and made up stuff about them. That’s fine, but you’re not going to convince anyone here that they’re real just because they appear in a magic book.

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      • I would like to convince you, but I don’t expect to. It is really more for my benefit that I engage here. It sharpens me by challenging me.

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  4. I thought you might like this quote in the Gospel of Thomas.

    Jesus said, “I stood in the middle of the world and appeared to them in the flesh. I found them all drunk; I didn’t find any of them thirsty. My soul ached for the children of humanity, because they were blind in their hearts and couldn’t see. They came into the world empty and plan on leaving the world empty. Meanwhile, they’re drunk. When they shake off their wine, then they’ll change.”

    Sounds like him, doesn’t it?

    Nan: “how did these people know about Yeshua being the “Savior” if their beliefs were formed before Paul since HE was the one who promoted this idea?”

    Or maybe not. In fact everything points to Yeshua being Savior – before Paul. The word Yeshua is actually translated in the Septuagint as savior. It is not a New Testament idea. Thomas was a Jew. He went to the Jewish communities of India with the good news of Yeshua h’mashia – meaning Yeshua (Savior) the Messiah. So the idea of salvation was not unique to Paul and actually predated Paul by many centuries.

    In the Acts of Thomas (an apocryphal book) written originally in Syriac and coming from probably Edessa there is a long quote from Isaiah 53 that indicates that the Syriac Christians saw salvation revealed in Isaiah. The Edessa Christians were not informed by Paul. They were informed by either Thomas or Thaddeus. Salavation was not a Pauline creation.

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    • And where does the HEBREW beliefs/view of the Mashiach fit into all this? After all, based on biblical history, THEY were the originators of the whole idea. And many of them did NOT (and many still don’t) accept Yeshua as their messiah. (BTW, Yeshua means “salvation” in Hebrew, not savior as in a person.)

      You write, Thomas was a Jew and that he (apparently) saw Yeshua as the Messiah. But the Jewish people did not view the Hebrew Messiah the same as the “Christian” Messiah that Paul devised … so where did he get this idea?

      The majority of believers rest their case on the bible. There are most definitely other writings (especially during the intertestamental period!) that have influenced certain modern-day beliefs, but to go outside the “established” writings to document your case/belief carries little weight to the majority of pew-warmers … and these are the people who are attempting to evangelize the atheists.

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      • Nan: “based on biblical history, [the Hebrews of the Old Testament] were the originators of the whole idea [of salvation]. And many of them did NOT (and many still don’t) accept Yeshua as their messiah.

        Don: The prophets of the Old Testament were pretty clear that not all of the Hebrews were truly God-followers, or true Israelites, at any time in the history of the Hebrews. It is no different today. There are Messianic Jews who are both Jews and followers of the Yeshua the Messiah and who look to Yeshua as the Savior. But there are a majority who do not. That was not a surprise to Jesus.

        Nan: the Jewish people did not view the Hebrew Messiah the same as the “Christian” Messiah that Paul devised … so where did he get this idea?

        Don: From Jesus and from the Old Testament. The message that Jesus preached was the kingdom of God along with the invitation to receive it or enter it. That was salvation. How was that done? By repenting of their failure and sin and following the Messiah. That is as much an Old Testament idea as you can get.

        “Come, all you who are thirsty,
        come to the waters;
        and you who have no money,
        come, buy and eat!
        Come, buy wine and milk
        without money and without cost.”
        Isaiah 55:1

        “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
        call on him while he is near.
        7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
        and the unrighteous their thoughts.
        Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
        and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”
        Isaiah 55:6,7

        There is more, of course. There is the sacrificial system of the Old Testament that was for Paul and for others, such as the writer of Hebrews, a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus. But even that is Old Testament.

        Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
        and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
        Isaiah 53:10

        Nan: to go outside the “established” writings to document your case/belief carries little weight to the majority of pew-warmers

        Don: That is because they have not been taught how much the writings of the New Testament are echoed in the non-canonical writings of the first several centuries after Christ. When they are taught, a light comes on: This is not a fable that we have come to believe. It was real life and these were real people who were interacting with the truth just as we are.

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      • OK, Don. I suppose this discussion has been good because it has helped YOU to validate and confirm your faith. But for me, nothing you have offered has any more weight than if you had simply said, “I believe Jesus is my savior because I believe the bible.”

        It’s been fun … 😈

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  5. Ark: No non Christian scholar credits the character Jesus of Nazareth as performing miracles.

    Don: A non-Christians scholar limits himself a priori to the natural – as you do. The point I was making was that Jesus was known by virtually everyone who wrote about him in the first and second centuries as a worker of miracles. That includes both Christians and those who opposed him. Hope that clears things up.

    Almost everyone in that period believed in God or gods and expected the gods to be able to perform miracles. Pretty much everyone today who is not an atheist believes that God is able to perform miracles. And that is a majority of the world.

    Ark: If he were Yahweh he could have simply destroyed the demons yet he chose to sacrifice 2000 pigs.

    Don: I am always amazed how quickly people who do not believe in God think they know better than God.

    I think it is likelky that he had a point to make that flies right by you.

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    • Don: Almost everyone in that period believed in God or gods and expected the gods to be able to perform miracles.
      Quite so. And this ‘belief’ gave rise to Christianity and other supernatural based faiths.

      And then we became educated and we put away such superstitious nonsense.

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      • Belief in God is perfectly rational. It is belief in materialism that is irrational. How do you do it? The question I posed to my students every year still stands: All this from nothing? By itself?

        It was a belief that was unbelievable for the ancients. It is a belief that is unbelievable today and is only getting more so as we add to our knowledge of the universe. Yet that is what you and every atheist must believe in some form. How do you do it? I cannot.

        I’ve read the apologies of scientists and philosophers. I find not one bit of real evidence that takes us back any further than the big bang when everything in the universe today was one thing. One small thing. Beyond that is speculation, and I would say mostly speculation by men and women trying to run away from God.

        Belief in God, on the other hand, is the far more reasonable explanation for the complexity and design and purpose we detect in the universe. And the explanation for which there is the most evidence. Surely you would not deny the evidence of complexity and design. Against that evidence you have only chance. But better chance, even when it is the most extremely improbable. Right? At least it gets rid of God.

        When we “become educated”, we replace faith in God with an even more improbable faith. I applaud that faith. It far exceeds mine. Even if it seems crazy.

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      • All this from nothing? By itself? Why not?

        Beyond that is speculation — At its core, it’s ALL speculation!

        Belief in God, on the other hand, is the far more reasonable explanation — Belief in an entity that no one can prove even exists is more reasonable?

        Don, you have made the decision to believe in fairy tales and that’s certainly your prerogative, but for those of us who have “grown up,” it’s impossible to revert back to fantasy.

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      • It is impossible – or very nearly so. That is not an argument for materialism or an argument against theism. It is a spiritual and psychological thing. It is very difficult to return to a previous belief.

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      • Ho ho. The old hackneyed ‘you have to have more faith than I have to be an atheist’ argument. Your poor students! By definition, atheism is the absence of faith. The probability that there is a God is extremely low, which is enough for me.
        We know the universe exists even if we don’t know how. Our not knowing does not equate to ‘therefore God’.

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      • Of course not. That would be crazy. But it is a huge misunderstanding about how someone becomes a true Christian believer to say that we believe because we don’t know how things came to be as they are otherwise.

        The path to faith is different for each of us. Some begin by trusting what they have been told by parents or teachers. Some by weighing the ideas intellectually. Some by engaging the existential questions about life. (That was me.) But all who are really Christians and not simply culturally Christian are so because of a personal encounter with God. That is evidence as much as any encounter with another person is.

        However, it does not end there. Many of us either came from a secular background or a quasi-atheistic background (which is what we are taught in school these days). So we have worldview baggage we have to deal with. (That was me.) As we work through that – often with the help of those who own pretty firmly a atheistic worldview – we learn that our faith is really pretty firmly based on evidence and logic. So to our personal encounters with God we add evidence and logic to arrive at a rational faith. That is far from believing because we don’t know.

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      • See? This is the primary hang-up … because of a personal encounter with God.

        People cannot have “personal encounters” with something that doesn’t exist — except by “faith.” And “faith” is a feeling/belief in something without proof or evidence. And to date, there is NO proof or evidence of any gods.

        It’s really all pretty simple.

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      • If one or a few Christians and earlier Jews reported personal encounters, your objection might carry some weight. But millions upon millions from the earliest records in the Bibler to the present reports of Muslims who have encountered Jerus report personal encounters. You might wave those off based on your worldview, which is actually just a philosophical position. They are certain of their encounters based on personal experience. I think you will have a difficult time convincing them otherwise.

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      • *sigh* I had a “personal experience.” And yes, it changed my thinking and just like you and thousands of others, I “believed” it was REAL. But after about 15 years of living that “personal experience,” I began to get peeks of reality. And fortunately for me, I examined them more closely. In fact, I looked at them VERY extensively.

        I don’t think I need to tell you the results of my examination.

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      • I really am not sure what you mean. I know of a lot of people who get caught up in the emotion of the moment, and they think of that as an encounter. It is not.

        For me, an encounter with the Lord is most of all listening to what he has to say to me. It is almost always a very quiet and intimate time. It sometimes is initiated by my pondering something in His word. Sometimes it is an insight that comes out of nowhere but has the feeling that it is not coming from me but from beyond me. Sometimes it is pure enjoyment of God in very personal and intimate worship. Sometimes it is the opening up of heaven in a way that allows me to see the eternal in the temporal.

        Almost always it is a solitary experience between me and the Lortd and not in a group. It is prayer, but it is not asking. It is listening.

        And it is compelling. I have a hard time understanding how anyone who has this experience and has it regularly could then turn away from God.

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      • Yes, this is it. This is the basis of your faith, Don, which is fine. However, it is emotional not rational; rationalisation always comes later.

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      • A personal encounter is personal. But it is not irrational. It is an interpersonal experience that is evidence of the other party. Just as I can say that you are real in as far as I can tell because of the interaction we are having on the internet I can say that God is real based on the interaction we have. “Emotional” is my reaction to you or to God. Emotion is not the source or the content of our interaction. But certainly, there is emotion in almost every interaction we have.

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      • That is just stupid, Neil. Nan said correctly that everyone believes something and we choose what we believe. That is as true for atheists as anyone. Atheism is not simply not believing in God; it is believing whatever it is that you do consider to be real. That is materialism. I am just saying that because of the lack of evidence and the reliance on improbable chance it takes more faith to believe that the material and physical is all there is than to believe that a mind is behind it all.

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    • Don: A non-Christians scholar limits himself a priori to the natural – as you do

      No evidence has ever been produced to demonstrate the veracity of miracles. If you would present some I am sure scientists will be only too happy to evaluate your claim. Until then ….

      ….virtually everyone who wrote about him in the first and second centuries as a worker of miracles

      Celsus didn’t. Who were all these people – preferably not believers – that claimed he was a miracle worker? Please list a few well-known names. Oh, and for the gods’ sake don’t cite Josephus unless you want me to laugh?

      Don: I am always amazed how quickly people who do not believe in God think they know better than God.

      You have yet to produce any evidence for your god. But I am at least heartened you acknowlege that your god is Yahweh.

      I think it is likelky that he had a point to make that flies right by you.

      A great many fictional tales have an underlying message. In this case the core message being there is no such thing as demons. A point which certainly flew right by you.

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      • Ark: No evidence has ever been produced to demonstrate the veracity of miracles.

        There has been plenty of medical evidence for miracles of healing. You could search YouTube for some examples. Otherwise, what would you accept as evidence for a miracle of protection – which I have experienced – or a miracle of provision – which I have also experienced?

        You might read the book Eternity in Their Hearts for several other miracles of direction.

        Ark: Who were all these people – preferably not believers – that claimed he was a miracle worker?

        DonFrom a baraita from TalBab Sanhedrin 43a
        I quote:
        “On the eve of Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practised sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy. Anyone who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of Passover.”

        “Sorcery” refers to the miracles he was reputed to have done.

        “Yesu” is short for Yeshua. I would guess that the reason for shortening the name was to eliminate the “ah” part that is a reference to God.

        “Apostacy” refers to his teaching which was contrary to the teaching of then Pharisees and men of the law.

        The eve of Passover and the manner of his death – by hanging – both are accurate to Jesus.

        Celsus
        Origen in Contra Celsum
        “He, indeed, manifested Himself among the Jews as the power of God, by the miracles which He performed, which Celsus suspected were accomplished by sorcery, but which by the Jews of that time were attributed I know not why, to Beelzebub…”
        http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/origen162.html Chapter IX

        Celsus did not believe in his miracles, but he acknowledged that he performed some kind of sorcery.

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      • Healing is not evidence of divine intervention – miracles.
        You are claiming miracles therefore you are the one obliged to demonstrate the veracity of that claim.

        Celsus claimed there was no divine power involved but black magic.
        So not miracles.

        You have referenced two sources, neither of which were contemporary and neither suggest divine power.
        You Implied considerably more.

        Try again …

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      • Ark: Healing is not evidence of divine intervention – miracles.

        Don: Be honest. Nothing would qualify as a miracle because there is no such thing as a miracle.

        You haven’t answered my question regarding what evidence you would accept for a miracle.

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      • @ Don.
        You have made a claim that miracles exist. By definition and in context miracles are brought about through supernatural / divine intervention.

        Therefore, if you could provide evidence of the divine – again, in context – Yahweh then I would likely consider the real possibility of miracles.

        Over to you, Don.

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      • Dodging and weaving, Ark. You turn the question around. Miracles are evidence of the divine – which I assume you are avoiding. So, I’ll ask again, what you would accept as evidence for a miracle. (Even if I were to satisfy the question of the existence of God, my guess is that this would not satiety you as to miracles. )

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      • You claim miracles exist. That is a bold claim, and people have made and continue to make such claims.
        To date none have planned out and I’m betting all have been shown to be natural phenomenon or claims involving charlatens.

        If I am to accept miracles can only exist if the divine exists, in this case, Yahweh.
        and you cannot provide evidence for Yahweh how is anyone supposed to accept your claim of a miracle?

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      • Now we are getting somewhere. I read into your reply that a “miracle” for you could not be anything that could be accounted for by natural phenomena. But that would not be a condition that limits biblical miracles. All healing could be considered spontaneous, a natural phenomenon even if unknown. The quieting of the storm could be considered a serendipitous natural event. Even raising the dead could be considered simply the reviving of a man who was unconscious. The multiplying of the loaves could be considered sharing among the people gathered. And so on.

        But all of those are described as signs or works of power (miracles) in the Bible. What makes them signs or works of power are their association with Jesus; he spoke and the storm was stilled, for example. Signs and works of power are not designed to WOW. They are designed to point to Jesus. And in every NT case they do. Even when performed by an Apostle.

        But how about today? I would consider something a sign or work of power something that is associated with Jesus usually by someone praying for it. These are intended by God to be a clear demonstration of his care for us or a sign that points to him. Other events may be unexpected and serve God’s purpose, but I consider them a providence when they are not preceded by prayer. Many events are claimed by people to be miracles that are not by this definition. They are coincidences.

        So, I would define a miracle as an unexpected event, either natural or an event that could not be natural, that is associated with and points to Jesus and is preceded by prayer.

        So now, refine your definition and tell me what you would consider a miracle.

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      • You may be right. a
        Perhaps we are getting somewhere.
        Just to clarify: So (Answered) prayer is the most likely yard stick of the divine/ miracles for you?
        Is this your position?

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      • Prayer is often answered by works of power or miracle, as you have it. Signs or works of power always point to Jesus. A person or country rescued whether by what we might otherwise see as natural means or by extraordinary events when it is the object of prayer and often concerted prayer is a miracle that points to God’s power and compassion.

        A person who is healed in answer to prayer to God through Jesus is a work of power and a sign of God’s care and compassion.

        We should not take that so far as to say that every prayer is answered as we ask. We do not command God. We do not do miracles. God does. But many, many prayers are answered in great and small ways, and those miracles attest to the God who answers.

        That is my definition, based as it is on the examples and teaching of the New Testament. You still haven’t explained how you would identify a miracle if one to happen.

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      • A person who is healed in answer to prayer to God through Jesus is a work of power and a sign of God’s care and compassion.

        And what is it a sign of when the “prayer to God through Jesus:” is NOT answered?

        You mention commanding “God.” I daresay people who pray are not “commanding” but are hoping (and praying) that “God” will move on their behalf. When s/he doesn’t, they manage to come up with a laundry list of reasons/excuses to let her/him off the hook.

        Further, there are literally untold “prayers” being uttered throughout the world at this very moment. How many do YOU think will be answered?

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      • Good point, Nan. Here’s how prayer is described in the NT,

        It is in Jesus’ name. That means it is by his authority and in respect to his power and according to his will and purpose.

        But most, even Christians, do not pray that way, except for an almost obligatory “in Jesus’ name” at the end. That makes prayer more of a hope than a confident asking.

        It is not wrong to pray that way, but it is more like firing a shotgun and hoping that one or two of the pellets hit the target. We can pray more effectively and confidently if we pray knowing what God would have us ask for. That is targeted praying. And that is the kind the Apostles prayed.

        But how do we know? We wait and listen. When we know what God desires to do, we can ask without reservations or excuses. And we can expect an answer. I often hear Christians say that “no” is an answer, but I doubt it. They have just stopped praying too soon.

        Now, there is one more component. It is “when.” God does answer on our time schedule. He may, but he might also delay the answer either because that fits his plan better or because he desires that we continue to ask and to seek his direction in what to ask for.

        I often have that experience; I begin with what I think is his will and as I pray over time God changes my praying to that which conforms perfectly to his will. Every praying Christian has found this to be their experience.

        Prayer is a conversation that is not concluded with my initial request; it includes my waiting and listening and allowing God to change my prayer.

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      • It all sounds good … and essentially is what I was told when I was a believer … but it’s really nothing more than a weak defense for unanswered prayers.

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      • Hardly. It is a weak defense of hasty praying. We really need to allow the Bible to determine what praying is and can be effective rather than our culture even our Christian culture. Jesus called repeated and mindless praying something the heathen do. We do not need to do so. If we are unsure of how to pray, praying sincerely and deeply the prayer Jesus taught us cannot go wrong.

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      • As an example of how this was tested on a practical level consider the Templeton Prayer Experiment.
        The details are readily available online.,
        In a nutshell.
        Templeton sponsored a prayer initiative where three groups of believers were asked to pray for hospital patients. The objective being to speed their recovery and / or directly heal cure them through divine intervention.

        The outcome of this initiative to demonstrate the efficacy of intercessory prayer was an abject failure.

        And in some cases where the patient was aware he /she was be prayed for, their recovery actually deteriorated!
        This was speculated to have been because of not living up to expectation!
        Disappointing Jesus?

        In short, not a single positive result was recorded.

        I suppose Yahweh could have been off on his holidays or watching the football?

        Or maybe there simply was no one there to hear prayers in the first place? And there never was ….
        It would be nice if John Templeton put his money to better use.
        I feel sure there are a lot of hungry people who would agree.

        I think this covers your question.
        If Yahweh wants to verify his miraculous his existence I doubt he would need any hints or guidance from me.

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      • This is the best you can do by way of evidence for Jesus the miracle worker?
        Let’s take a closer look at Celsus’s garbled account:
        1. Despite your special pleading, Yesu and Yeshua are not the same (in the same way Don and David are not the same.)
        2. There is no record, not even in the gospels, of a herald going out forty days before Jesus’ execution to look for those who supported him.
        3. Such an event would not, in any case, fit the biblical narrative; the gospels tell us Jesus was at the height of his popularity in the days and weeks before his death.
        3. Celsus refers to the manner of death as both hanging and stoning. Jesus wasn’t stoned; arguably he wasn’t ‘hanged’ either, not in the usual sense of the word. He was crucified.
        4. Jesus was not the only one to be crucified on the Eve of a Passover.
        5. Celsus doesn’t specify which Passover. You do know Passover occurs every year? Yet you jump to the conclusion that this must have been the Passover mentioned in the gospel accounts.
        6. Celsus’s account is from 150 years after the event; it isn’t going to be reliable at such a distance.
        7. If, despite these anomalies, you still want to offer Celsus as evidence of Jesus as miracle worker, his assertion that Jesus’ effects were achieved through sorcery or trickery really doesn’t support the claim. Quite the opposite.

        It’s a D- for your analysis of this passage, Don. It demonstrates how you find only what you want to find in the literature. As for Origen, he was at least 170 years after Jesus. Hardly contemporaneous. In any case, Ark asked you to supply evidence ‘preferably not (from) believers’, which Origen was.

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      • I referred to two different documents. Celsus was one. The other was the Babylonia Talmud.

        The Babylonian Talmud I quoted.

        1. Yeshu and Yeshua are actually more like Joshua and Josh. Wiki has this regarding Yeshu:

        Yeshu (Hebrew: יֵשׁוּ‎ Yēšū) is the name of an individual or individuals mentioned in rabbinic literature,[1] which historically has been assumed to be a reference to Jesus when used in the Talmud. The name Yeshu is also used in other sources before and after the completion of the Babylonian Talmud. It is also the modern Israeli spelling of Jesus.

        Yeshu is a shortened form of Yeshua. The final letter, an ayin, in the full name is dropped off. That was not uncommon as noted in wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeshu

        But it is not merely the similarity to Jesus’ name that is significant. If we put all the details together we come up with a description that does fit Jesus.

        “On the eve of Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practised sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy. Anyone who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of Passover.”

        1) Jeshu was hanged. That is the way crucifixion was described. It is not hanging by the neck as in modern usage.

        2) The herald was required by Jewish law and did not happen in the case of Jesus. But remember, this is a Jewish attempt to justify their execution of Yeshu. They would have wanted to make the trial look proper.

        3) Stoning was what was required in Jewish law. But he was not stoned. In the Old Testament hanging was the display of the body after death, but there is no indication that practice was followed in the time of Jesus.

        4) Sorcery is what the Jews in the Gospel accounts accused Jesus of. They believed in miracles, but they attributed what Jesus did to demons – so it was sorcery. Sorcery was not a trick.

        5) Apostacy is luring away from the orthodox Jewish belief. This is exactly what the Jews accused Jesus of doing when he claimed to be the Son of God.

        5) The eve of Passover is an unusual time for an execution. The Romans, of course, didn’t have a problem with it. But the Jews would have. Passover is a holy day and the eve of Passover is part of the holy festival that lasts a week. The Bible leaves us with the impression that the trial and execution were secret and hurried; the Jews were breaking their own law. That the Babylonian Talmud would include this detail suggests that it was a very specific individual in view and that it was a allusion to the Jesus story.

        If you read wiki you will find all of the objections you’ve brought and more. In my mind and others, however, the details fit too precisely what the Gospels describe as the trial and execution of Jesus. A coincidence with this many details coinciding would be surprising. It would also be surprising if the Jews did not react in some way to the narrative of Jesus. (They do in later literature.) The Jesus story was simply too damning too them to be shrugged off.

        Both the Babylonian Talmud and Celsus call the miracles that Jesus was reported to have done as sorcery not signs. (Signs is how the Bible describes them.) That is not a denial or diminishment of the miracles but an attributing of them to demonic powers. You read into this “tricks.” They did not mean that at all. Sorcery was BTW specifically forbidden in the law. It was witchcraft.

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  6. Ark: I think this covers your question.
    If Yahweh wants to verify his miraculous his existence I doubt he would need any hints or guidance from me.

    Don: What does that mean?

    The Templeton project was misguided. On the face of it, it puts God to the test for the sake of a project to discover the efficacy of prayer. Not out of concern for the individuals. Not after determining how God would have them pray. No wonder it was a failure.

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    • Misguided? You speak on behalf of Yahweh, now, do you?
      Sorry , Don but you are the one who is misguided and the one who is puttingYahweh in the dock.

      Aside from the obvious arrogance you are displaying I think the term you are employing here is the No True Scotsman fallacy.

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      • Long before there were Scotsmen there were prophets in Israel who were saying the same things: No true Israelite ….

        A fallacy is only a fallacy when it is fallacious.

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      • I would imagine they those who were part of the prayer experiment would have been vetted beforehand and were as sincere as any Christian.
        Not that this means much if you are anything to go by.
        Anyway, Jesus did say Whatever you shall ask in my name will be given / granted etc etc
        So based on evidence the claim made by the bible character Jesus of Nazareth is most certainly fallacious.

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      • If you are really serious about learning what prayer rather than just taking pot shots at it, I recommend Andrew Murray’s book With Christ in the School of Prayer. It is how I learned.

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      • Why would be remotely interested in a practice that is nothing but wishful thinking, an exercise in futility?
        Furthermore, if your god, Yahweh was real then praying to him would be to insult his intelligence or merely pander to his ego
        If you are ever seriously interested in dealing with reality then I highly recommend: How Christianity Made me Talk Like an Idiot by Seth Andrews.
        Or find the video version on YouTube.

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      • Would an insincere person be a valid candidate to be involved in intercessory prayer?
        Yahweh could ‘ see’ the person’s heart, surely?

        Of course all this is nonsense as Yahweh would not need anyone to pray for a miracle as he … sorry, He is omniescent.

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      • Which brings up the question: why pray? And you would certainly not be the first to ask.

        The answer is in our relationship with God. That relationship is best described as Father and child. (Remember “Our Father whom art in heaven?”) A father delights in the requests of his children. He knows what they need, and he might supply that without any asking, but he wishes for the interchange between his children and himself that gives him opportunity to teach what is good as well as satisfy the deep and good desires of his children. And I have to say that time of conversation is the richest time I have with the Lord. God would be simply a remote sugar daddy otherwise.

        But there is a second answer. We are designed and called to be partners with God in his management of the world. We are his agents. We find that in the commission he gave us in Genesis 2:15 and reiterated in Psalm 8.

        what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
        human beings that you care for them?
        5
        You have made them a little lower than the angels
        and crowned them with glory and honor.
        6
        You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
        you put everything under their feet:
        7
        all flocks and herds,
        and the animals of the wild,
        8
        the birds in the sky,
        and the fish in the sea,
        all that swim the paths of the seas.

        We have a responsibility to fulfill in caring for the creation. But we are not turned loose to figure it out on our own; we may and we must appeal to God for wisdom and direction. Thus prayer, conversation with God, is essential.

        Finally, prayer is warfare. We, both we and God, are in a spiritual battle with the forces of evil and Satan. And God invites us to engage in that battle as we pray. So I find myself praying these days for the failure of Russia’s evil war of destruction in Ukraine and that justice would be done for both the innocent and the guilty. We will see how that turns out. It turned out well in the Second World War as Christians prayed for the same things.

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      • That you would think I would bother reading this lengthy apologetic screed is beyond me.
        If you are prepared to write something intelligent and preferably succinct I will give it my full attention. But please, don’t ever expect me to even glance at such religious drivel.

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      • Do what you wish, Ark.

        I only present it to give you the biblical rationale that informs prayer. I’ve been listening as several of you have presented your critique of Christianity. What I have heard convinces me that the Christianity you knew and once took part in was heavily superstitious. It was not biblical. It sounded good, but when examined as you all have done it fails. And I say good riddance.

        I am only sorry that you did not push on to a rational faith when you had the chance. Failing that, cynicism is understandable. It is not apologetic drivel, however, when I present to you what the Bible says. It is the Truth. Take it or leave it.

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      • The bible is founded on supernatural nonsense.
        You are thoroughly indoctrinated and repeated requests for evidence have as always fallen on deaf ears.
        The point that always bafffles me is this:
        If what you claim holds any veracity at all , and Yahweh is taking care of business, why the Gehenna do you feel the need to defend your god at all?
        Why don’t you stay on your side of the fence and do your Christian thing in your own spot on your own?

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      • Ark why the Gehenna do you feel the need to defend your god at all?

        Don I find that in these latter years of my life God has called me to do what Paul describes himself as doing, defending (defending is the word apologia) and confirming the gospel. I am not in Paul’s league, of course. But we have the same objective. We are thoroughly convinced that God is real and that the gospel of Jesus is true. We therefore must speak.

        Ark repeated requests for evidence have as always fallen on deaf ears.

        Don Actually, the conversation about prophecy and prayer is a proof. Who can tell the future but God?

        But I have presented several others:

        1) The universe is evidence of God the Creator and Designer. The only alternative is blind chance, and chance, as Richard Dawkins has recently reminded us, that is blindingly improbable. Not only Dawkins, but many scientists agree that the universe as we know it and we in this place are blindingly improbable to the point of being impossible. Yet here we are. So, we are evidence for God.

        2) Jesus is evidence for God. I suppose that is why he is often the focus of attacks against God. If Jesus is who he said he is and as he is described to be in the Gospels, you have only two choices. Accept him and God as real or call it all a hoax.

        3) The coherence of the biblical narrative is evidence. That is really not possible apart from divine involvement not only in the writing of the various texts but in the guidance of history as it unfolds. (I say unfolds in the present continuing tense berceuse history is not complete yet.)

        4) The history and preservation of the Jews. They are a miracle. So if you are looking for a miracle, here’s one.

        5) Prophecy fulfilled is evidence. The Jews are a good example of prophecy fulfilled and being fulfilled. The land God promised them 4000 years ago is theirs again. And they are undergoing the resistance and antisemitic hatred that God predicted.

        6) Logic. All this from nothing by itself is far too unbelievable and lacks even a scrap of evidence. And that is the only alternative to God.

        So, what evidence have you got for what you believe?

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      • If your god,Yahweh, were real,why would he require the efforts of squishy humans to defend him?

        All you have done here is trot out worn tired old arguments favoured by indoctrinated pew warmers but each and every one refuted by scientists and others.
        Nothing on your list can be substantiated.

        My beliefs? Are you referring to what I believe is the best football team for example? Liverpool.
        The best rock guitarist: Jimi Hendrix.
        The best painters: Dali, Van Gogh,

        Or are you referring to something else?

        Beliefs are so often merely subjective opinions,and evidence has no genuine bearing , as you demonstrated with your 6 points.

        So please, be specific and I will answer as best as I can.

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      • Or are you referring to something else?

        Yeah. Let’s talk football. I don’t think we’re getting anywhere with this conversation. MAY AS WELL TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MEANINGLESS. RIGHT?

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      • Why not?
        You obviously have nothing of value to contribute regarding your indoctrinated religious beliefs.
        Who’s your favourite football team?

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      • Richt now the Chargers. (I know, American football!! But it’s the best I have.) I am attracted to the Chargers because their quarter back is a genuinely nice guy and was the standout quarterback for the University of Oregon Ducks a few years back.

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      • Have practically no understanding of American Gridiron, sorry.
        I was referring to soccer, obviously.

        I have seen a few portrayals in films, but this is as far as it goes.

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      • No. You seem to define faith as belief in something for which there is no evidence. I define faith as I think the Bible has it: trust in and commitment to something for which there is evidence.

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      • Without meaning to usurp Neil’s chat with you, and with his leave, this I find fascinating.

        If I may extend this point … and correct me if I’m wrong.
        Your faith primarily stands or falls on the resurrection of the bible character Jesus of Nazareth.
        What evidence can you present to demonstrate the veracity of this claim?

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      • I am not sure I would say that quite. I think there is adequate reason to believe the resurrection true, but my faith really began and stands or falls on my personal encounter with God. I think I described that for Nan. You could look back for that post. When I first began as a Christian, I am not sure I had any knowledge about the resurrection.

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      • my faith really began and stands or falls on my personal encounter with God

        Fair enough. First;: What evidence can you present to verify you had an encounter with the former Canaanite deity, Yahweh?
        Please be absolutely specific.

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      • You ask of me, Don, ‘shouldn’t you start with Mark?’ Erm… I did. I proposed that Mark’s story of the Passion is an actualisation-in-fiction of Isaiah 53. You must’ve missed that one in your haste to add another sermon to the comments. I then moved on to Matthew who employs this same technique to excess.

        We can see it in his desperate attempts to have Jesus born in Bethlehem, simply because Micah 5.2 predicts that a ‘ruler over Israel’ will come from there. (This, incidentally, is the only ‘prophecy’ that mentions Bethlehem; you disingenuously imply there are ‘prophets’, plural.)

        Does the term ‘ruler over Israel’ really describe Jesus, even when interpreted in your typically contrived and creative way? No, it does not. Nonetheless, Matthew took this ‘prophecy’ and created the story that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Luke embroiders it still further by adding the Roman census. In fact, we know that there was no such census; as RaPaR suggests, there is no mention of it anywhere in the Romans’ extensive records and in any case, forcing people to travel to their ancestral homes was not how the Romans conducted such censuses. It would’ve been chaotic.

        While Luke later embellished the story, it was Matthew who invented the Bethlehem connection, using the line from Micah 5.2 to make his hero comply with the completely unrelated prophecy of a ‘ruler over Israel.’

        This is how the Jesus’ story was constructed, Don. There are many, many examples in the synoptic gospels of this plundering of scripture to create fictitious episodes in Jesus’ life. I guess you’re too blinded by irrational faith to see it.

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      • The thing nearly every Christian overlooks is that when Micah made his prediction about a ‘ruler over Israel,’ he was NOT foreseeing the individual that Paul created. He was predicting the Mashiach that Yahweh has promised. BIG difference.

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      • Neil, I think you have your Gospels mixed up.

        Neil: Matthew took this ‘prophecy’ and created the whole census trip to Bethlehem story.

        Don: Wasn’t it Luke who wrote about the census? Matthew begins only with Jesus being born in Bethlehem: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea…”

        If we had only Matthew, we would think that Bethlehem was the home of Jospeh and Mary and that they chose to live in Nazareth because it was a remote location and away from the Herodian family.

        However, I’d suggest a little mental exercise. Luke says he researched the material he gathered to write his Gospel. So, make a list of three ways Luke may have gotten this information about the census and the travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Include your idea that Luke made it up. Here’s my suggestion:

        Your solution: Luke made up the story to place Jesus in Bethlehem. (Luke doesn’t mention the prophecy.)

        1) Luke picked up the story some sixty years later from Mary or from the memories of people who might have heard it from Mary. Their memories of a census might have been mixed up with the later census of Quirinius.(Luke adds “first” to distinguish this census from the one later, which he mentions in Acts and was mentioned by Josephus.)

        2) Luke was accurate. The information we have of that time is thin – there are no oficial records – and is silent as to a census that may have been taken in Judea.

        3) Luke 3:2 may be an intrerpolation or a parenthesis. The passage reads perfectly well without it. Grammatically it is not necessary; αὕτη which is the first word in the short sentence suggests a comma to identify the particular census. The information is not essential to the story. It is not even important in the larger story of Luke.

        I rather favor the third option. I don’t favor the interpolation theory. There is no indication of any variations in the manuscripts that would hint to a later insertion. That it is a comma or explanatory pause is more likely. Luke may actually be noting the common idea that the census had been associated with Quirinius, though according to Luke’s information Quirinius did not oversee Syria until 6 A.D. It was simply a census, perhaps one taken by Quintilius Varus, who was the governor of Syria in 6 B.C. while Herod was King.

        Your mixing up Matthew and Luke confuses the issue; there is no reason to think Luke knew of Matthew’s Gospel. He might have known of Mark. But Mark has no birth narrative. The bottom line, however, is that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Matthew associates that with the prophecy. Luke does not. Your idea that Luke just made it up is in my mind unlikely because of the agreement with Matthew on the basic facts of Jesus’ place of birth and both probably depending on an earlier birth narrative. Neither were firsthand witnesses, you know.

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      • I give up, Don. You obviously didn’t read what I wrote. I said Matthew used the Bethlehem ‘prophecy’ and that Luke later embroidered it in his gospel by adding the census. I referred to this census as a… census, not a tax event. I did not mention the census in relation to Matthew, only Luke. You misquote me to make your point. How like the gospel writers themselves!
        As usual, your defence is full of possiblys and might haves. We call this ‘speculation’ and ‘desperation’, certainly not evidence. Please read the comments you’re responding to in future.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nevertheless, it prodded me to dig into the into the puzzle of Luke 2:2. I appreciate that.

        “Speculation” it may be, but it is based on the analysis of the Greek text and is not the wild speculation of the critics which is based on nothing. And that is what amazes me in all this. You are willing to speculate based solely on your skepticism. (Which is what Richard Carrier does as well.) And then you – and he – call it “fact.” Now, I assume by your comments that you do not read Greek. That is all right. There are plenty of people who do, and their analysis is available to you on the internet. You’ll have to take their word for it, of course, and that may be the sticker. But the absence of any opposing analysis should be a clue that they are onto something.

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      • The argument that the gospels are literary creations and that their authors constructed parts of the Jesus story from bits of scripture is not confined to Carrier. It is the scholarly consensus. Either God did it, as you believe, or the illusion of the apparent fulfilment of ‘prophecy’, much of which isn’t prophecy at all, is achieved in this way. These are the only two options.

        Scholars who are not god-botherers themselves recognise that it was done by the second of these two means. Believers like yourself, on the other hand, begin with the assumption that God must have worked some magic to make it happen. Not surprisingly this is also the conclusion you reach. Restating your position repeatedly will not convince us that God was pulling the strings all along.

        By the way, no comments have been deleted here. As far as I know, I, as site administrator, am the only one who can delete discussions. I certainly haven’t done so.

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      • I would add that there is no indication of a taxation, which is how the KJV has it. This was a census or a numbering of the people and would not have been surprising when a new governor takes over, as Quintilius Varus did in 6 B.C. .

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      • You must think objective evidence is the only kind that matters. The truth is we all live primarily on subjective evidence. That can be mistaken or misinterpreted, of course, but so can objective evidence.

        I remember years ago as a kid when I first began to hunt deer, I interpreted the tracks (objective evidence) exactly backwards. So when I followed the tracks, I was actually going away from the deer rather than toward it.

        Science is an important source of objective evidence, but it is valuable only when it is interpreted correctly. Our own encounters with objective evidence are just as prone to misinterpretation. So how do you know what is really true?

        My policy is to go with the best I’ve got, to trust those who have earned my trust, and to measure other opinions by what I know and experience and have learned from trustworthy sources. That is why I am so skeptical of your apparent materialism – which you seem to want to avoid discussing. The evidence just seems to point in another direction.

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      • You must think objective evidence is the only kind that matters.

        Matters? No. But anything else is simply opinion. Favourite colour, food, music clothes, etc.

        So how do you know what is really true?

        First test: Does it comport with reality?

        I know and experience and have learned from trustworthy sources

        And yet this statement flies in the face of the evidence as you are a Christian and believe / trues the bible, which is inerrant, contains examples of fraud, interpolation and has demonstrable errors across multiple disciplines.

        your apparent materialism – which you seem to want to avoid discussing. The evidence just seems to point in another direction.

        Reluctant? If you are prepared to discuss in …. and please excuse the phrase … good faith, answer questions in a direct, straightforward and most important honest manner, no rhetoric, no waffle, or any claims or assertions which cannot be backed with verifiable evidence, no espousing biblical text in any attempt to qualify an unsupported statement then sure … I have no problem discussing with you. If Neil is okay of course? His blog after all, right?

        The evidence just seems to point in another direction.

        Towards what exactly?

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      • Ark: But anything else [other than objerctive evidence] is simply opinion. Favourite colour, food, music clothes, etc.

        Don: There are opinions, of course, but there are also interpretations of the objective evidence.

        Re: inerrancy. That is a theological construct. It is not declared in the scriptures. What the scriptues say is that they are true and powerful. That does not require that they be inerrant.

        Years ago in a college class on liguistics I learned an important lesson: words are symbols that point to an idea. The idea is the important thing. So, applying that to the scriptures, I came to see that it was not the words, which that are inerrant, but the idea or truth to which they point that is important. Words are important, but they are the maps. The idea is the territory.

        Re: Fraud. Don’t be too hasty. Even by our modern standards, fraud must be intentional decaption. But don’t measure by modern standards. Measure by the standards of the day in which the texts were written. When you do that, what seems to us to be fraud is really an accepted practice with no deception intended. It is the crediting of the originator of the message.

        I think we can try such a discussion.

        Don:The evidence just seems to point in another direction.

        ArkTowards what exactly?

        Don: Toward a controlling mind and purpose. Certainly not toward random chance.

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      • There are a number of examples of interpolation and pseudo epigraphia, not least the long ending of gMark, the Johannine Comma, the woman caught in adultery. round half if not more of the epistles.
        Acts is now regarded as little more than historical fiction .. the list goes on.

        A controlling mind?
        Purpose ?

        Please identify ….with evidence of course what these two things are

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      • Ark: the long ending of gMark

        Don: I don’t kmow why this continues to be an issue. (The real question is why th Mark ends where it does.) Virtually every modern translation identifies the long ending as well as the several short endings, to have been added later to conclude what was even to these early Christians to be an incomplete text. So, again, what is your issue with it?

        It does provide insight into what the early Christians saw as fulfillment of the promises and mission the Lord gave them.

        Ark: the Johannine comma…

        Don: This is much the same. Almost everyone agrees this was added to a manuscript some time later. It is not necessarily contrary to the theology of the NT, but it is not needed in the text either. I don’t understand what the big deal is.

        Ark: the woman caught in adultery

        Don: Virtually every modern translation identifies this passage as added later on the based on its absence in the earliest manuscripts. It does sound like Jesus, however, and may be one of the many accounts of his life that were part of the oral history and simply was not included by John. Again, you’ll have to explain why this is an issue for you. For me it is evidence that the memories of Jesus were not limited to what we read in the Gospels.

        Ark: pseudo epigraphia.

        Don: A false writing or attribution is only false, in the context to the literary standards of the time, if it is intentionally deceptive. It can be something a disciple of Peter or Paul wrote expressing the teaching of those Apostles and to which the writer signed their names. There is one book which I have some questions about and so did many of the Early Christians. That is Jude. But all of this is a matter of how the books were selected for the canon.

        BTW I have no problem with Acts, so you’ll have to be specific as to why you think it is fiction.

        Ark: A controlling mind? Purpose ?

        Don: Finally a question that is significant.

        Yes. A controlling mind. The universe did not have to make sense. In fact, if random chance had anything to do with it, it would not because by far the greater chance is for it to not make sense – and probably not exist long enough for life to develop. Chaos is the most likely result if there was no controlling mind. But it does make sense and to such a degree that we can examine it in depth and find order and sense on every level. Only a mind can do that.

        Purpose has to do with the end result. I wrote a blog on this subject in reply to Neil deGrasse Tyson. http://biblicalmusing.blogspot.com/2019/04/does-universe-have-purpose.html I’ll recommend that blog to you as my answer is complex.

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      • So, again, what is your issue with it?

        Modern scholarship – based on evidence -has deemed it a forgery. If you were not already aware of this then I’m sure you are able to do the research.

        You are not that obtuse to fail to understand the implications.

        but it is not needed in the text either. I don’t understand what the big deal is.

        It is regularly cited as the basis for the Trinity.
        That it is a forgery suggests any claims in this regard were obviously non-existent and thus this fabrication was needed to justify the false claim.
        Ergo no trinity, It is a fabricated doctrine.

        if it is intentionally deceptive.

        As pointed out with the two above examples.

        BTW I have no problem with Acts, so you’ll have to be specific as to why you think it is fiction.

        Serious? There really are way too many examples to cite here. Rather you look up a non Christian bible scholar.

        Don: Finally a question that is significant

        And fuck you and your condescension too!

        But it does make sense and to such a degree that we can examine it in depth and find order and sense on every level. Only a mind can do that.

        You really need to put your indoctrination aside for a period and study or listen to proper scholars, such as Carroll, Vilenkin, Krauss or Hawking and not the likes of indoctrinated Christians like Craig, or Lennox.

        Glanced at your article. I’ve told you before about any sort of apologetics. So no thanks. If you cannot write a reply in one paragraph without spewing out bible verses it really is not worth reading.

        Try again ….

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      • Ark:>/b> Modern scholarship – based on evidence -has deemed [the long ending of Mark] a forgery.

        Don: Hog wash. They think it does not belong to Mark, but almost no one does. My NIV Bible identifies it as a later addition. But a forgery implies that it was created to pass as part of Mark’s Gospel. There is no reason to think it was.

        Ark: [the Johannine comma] is regularly cited as the basis for the Trinity.

        Don:Not by any scholars I know of today. Maybe Roman Catholics. It was regularly pointed out by my professors in seminary to be a later addition and a simple look at the critical apparatus of a good Greek text demonstrates why. The Trinity is a doctrine that has far greater evidence than that provided by this passage.

        Ark: There really are way too many examples [of fabrication, etc.] to cite here.

        Don: I didn’t ask for all of them. I asked for just one you thought significant.

        Ark:Glanced at your article. I’ve told you before about any sort of apologetics. So no thanks.

        Don: You ask me to read a book. I only present a blog.

        But what do you think you are doing? What do you think we are doing? You are trying to defend a skeptical view of the Bible and of God. I am defending a biblical view of the Bible. THAT IS APOLOGETICS. But you may choose. I am not going to force feed you. If it is not important to you let it go.

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      • Re: the “trinity” (from my book research):

        –Scholars believe the original Hebrew language does not denote a “uni-plural” god and it is not until the Greek scriptures (New Testament) that the idea of the trinity develops.
        –The word “trinity” is not found in the bible.
        — It was not until the late second century, when Theophilus of Antioch wrote his Apology to Autolycus, that the word was actually used. And to him, “trinity” (Greek: trias) meant “God, his Word, and his Wisdom.”
        –It wasn’t until the early third century that Tertullian, a Latin theologian, wrote a treatise in which he definitively described the trinity as including the Father, Son, and Spirit.
        — Over the next several years, church fathers (Hippolytus of Rome, Origen, Novatian) began to include and expand on the theology. Finally, Gregory (c. 213-c.270), a bishop in Asia Minor, wrote a Declaration of Faith which treated the Trinity as standard theological vocabulary.

        Just a bit of history that you (and many others) might not be aware of.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Bollocks! Scholars today. Yes well, that leaves a nu.ber of preceding years dies it not?
        It is a fabrication passed off as holy scripture and accepted as such by millions of trusting indoctrinated Christians. A forgery.
        Certainly my old Kjv makes no mention of past shenanigans.
        There is no evidence to demonsteate the veracity of the Trinity. It is a wholly Church construct.
        Again, there have been a lot if scholars before the ones of ‘today’

        Which means a lot of Christians have been Indoctrinated to believe is as evidence. God breathed ( sic)

        Re Acts:Then consider it as historical fiction.

        I am heartened at least that you recognise you are using apologetics and not using evidence.

        When you know your religion and it’s scripture are based on unfounded claims, factual error across multiple disciplines, fraud,forgery, fabrication, to list sone of the problems why would you defend something that is not based on any verifiable evidence?

        Liked by 1 person

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