Our Operators are Waiting to Hear from You!

ApostlesHi! You’ve reached the Salvation Hotline. Calls may be recorded for training purposes. All offers are validated by our six day guarantee.* Please listen carefully to your options:

Press 1 for Matthew. With one of our less popular offers (but don’t let that put you off!) Matthew is waiting to explain our buy-one-get-one-free offer! Keep the Jewish law and be saved, plus, forgive others and be forgiven yourself!

Press 2 for John who will tell you how you can get your very own get-out-of-Hell just by believing! Eternal life awaits!

Press 3 for Luke. Luke wants to let you know you how you can be saved simply by asking for forgiveness. Note: this offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other.

Press 4 for Luke’s bargain Family Ticket! Only one family member need sign up and the rest go free!

Press 5 for Paul and to hear about a unique special offer! ‘God’s grace’ can save you without you making any real effort on your part! Not to be missed.

Press 6 for Paul’s great alternative offer: get saved for free! No need to do anything! (Offer good for Jews only. Terms and conditions apply.)

Press 7 for a special operator who passes himself off as Paul but isn’t. And he has a great offer for our female callers! He’ll tell you about how, just by having babies, you can be saved! It really doesn’t get any better than this, ladies! Get saved just by doing what comes naturally!

Press 8 for a very special guy of ours who wants to stay anonymous! But he will show you how you can escape death by buying into Jesus’ cosmic defeat of evil!

Press 9 for James who will tell you how you need to do good if you want to be saved. So, okay, Paul doesn’t think so, but we want to make sure you hear all our offers!

Please note: these offers are mutually incompatible so you might just want to hang up now and forget all about them.

*Our guarantee isn’t worth the paper it’s written on but for legal reasons, here it is anyway:
Press 1: Matthew 5.17-19 & 6.14.
Press 2: John 5.24.
Press 3: Acts 2.36-38.
Press 4: Acts 16.30-31.
Press 5: Romans 10.5; Ephesians 2.8.
Press 6: Romans 11.26-27.
Press 7: 1 Timothy 2.15.
Press 8: Hebrews 2.14-15.
Press 9: James 2.14-17, 24

Idiotic Stuff Jesus Said 7: You Must Be Born Again

Born Again

Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again (or ‘from above’).’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit (John 3.3-5).

While John’s gospel isn’t the only source of Christian nuttiness, it’s certainly a mine of golden nuggets. This is mainly because it was made up so long after Jesus lived, by people who had, in all probability, never met him but who belonged to a sect led by someone who claimed he had.

Imagine, in a world without technology, photography and literacy, writing an account from memory (or from other people’s memories) of events that had occurred sixty years earlier. It would be like attempting to create today the history of a charismatic, back-water nobody who lived in the early 1950s – but without any reliable written records, pictures or sound recordings. How much faith would you have in such an account? How far would you trust, at such a distance, the account’s supposedly verbatim dialogue, especially when it conflicts on nearly all crucial points with the few other stories that circulate from the period? Of course you wouldn’t. And yet this is precisely what we have in ‘John’s gospel’, where we find the famous exhortation to be ‘born again’.

Let’s be clear at the outset; Jesus did not say ‘you must be born again.’ The point of the story is that he meant something else (equally ludicrous, but different nonetheless). Despite this, today’s Christians still insist he did say it and that to be truly saved you must indeed be ‘born again’.

But, as Bart Ehrman explains in Jesus, Interrupted (p 155), the misunderstanding central to this exchange, between ‘born again’ and ‘born from above’ occurs only in Greek. As Aramaic speakers, Jesus and Nicodemus would not, if they knew any, have resorted to Greek for this one conversation, just so this very confusion could be created.

The word in question is the Greek word anothen, which can mean both ‘again’ and ‘from above’, and it is this double meaning that prompts Nicodemus to ask if he is expected to crawl back into his mother’s womb so he can be born ‘again’. The contrivance allows Jesus to make a show of correcting him and to make his real point; ‘No, Nic, you dumbkoff. Not ‘born again’, but ‘born from above’. What do they teach you at synagogue school these days?’

So in a conversation he never had, depending as it does on a misunderstanding of the Greek he didn’t speak, ‘born again’ is not what Jesus means: his point, as the writers of John’s gospel make clear (in the Greek Jesus didn’t speak, but they did) is that one has to be ‘born from above’.

And why do people have to be ‘born from above’? Because that’s where the story’s creators believed heaven to be – above them, in the sky. Jesus himself would have believed this too, even though he didn’t utter a single one of the words attributed to him in this fabricated conversation.

Why_Christians_Don't_Cover_for_KindleThis post is adapted from my (five-star rated!) book Why Christians Don’t Do What Jesus Tells Them To …And What They Believe Instead, available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

 

Idiotic Stuff Jesus Said 6: The ‘I Am’ sayings

CampLet’s be clear from the outset here; Jesus never actually made any of the seven ‘I am’ claims put into his mouth in John’s gospel. You know the ones: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’, ‘I am the True Vine’, ‘the Good Shepherd’, ‘the Light of the World’ and so on. So it is a little unfair to lump them with all the idiotic things it’s more likely Jesus did say (see previous posts.)

How do we know he didn’t say them? Lots of reasons. Firstly, they’re not in the other three gospels all of which were written earlier than John’s, and are therefore closer to the time Jesus lived (though the earliest, Mark’s gospel, was probably put together thirty to forty years after Jesus lived.) If Jesus had really made all those grand ‘I am’ claims, wouldn’t the other gospel writers have recorded them too? Yet none of them mentions even one.

Secondly, in the synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – Jesus has a different message from the one given to him in John’s gospel. The earlier gospels have Jesus talk about himself only very rarely. Instead, he goes on at length about the coming of the Kingdom of God (or Heaven) and how y’all better get ready for it ’cause it’s a-coming soon. Was he wrong about that one! On the odd occasion he does refer to himself in the synoptic gospels, he often does it in a sort of coded way, calling himself ‘the son of man’. He hardly ever uses ‘I’, let alone makes grandiose claims about himself.

Thirdly, all three of the synoptic gospels rely on earlier sources, now lost to us, and none of those has Jesus make ‘I am’ statements either. How do we know? Because, again, they’re not there in any of the three accounts – Matthew, Mark or Luke – that are built up from them. Significantly, one of these sources is an early record of Jesus’ sayings; that’s a ‘sayings gospel’ that doesn’t relate any ‘I am’ sayings.

Fourthly, John’s gospel is late – at least sixty years after JC’s death and also after Paul’s supernatural Christianity had gained a foothold among the gullible. The Jesus of John’s gospel is a reworked version, more in-line with the ‘Christ’ that Paul preached and much less like the Jewish peasant who had lived and preached the Kingdom of God. Despite what Christians claim, John’s gospel is not another eye-witness report (none of the gospels is) that differs only in minor details from the other three accounts. It is total reworking of the story, with its central figure transformed into a sort of divine Superman, and the idea of the coming Kingdom relegated to a single mention. This change of agenda renders the fourth gospel utterly unreliable as an historical record of anything the earthly Jesus might have said.

Fifthly, Christians claim John’s gospel differs from the others because in it Jesus reveals special, secret truths about himself to ‘the disciple whom he loved’, traditionally the John whom the gospel is named after. But again, the problem with this explanation is that the synoptic gospels don’t mention Jesus favouring one particular disciple over the others (unless it’s Simon Peter). In these, John, a loud, brash fisherman, plays only a minor role. Why don’t the synoptics refer to the special, more intimate relationship that John’s gospel refers to? Largely because there wasn’t one – not until the fourth gospel came to be written and ‘John’, who led the community that produced it, wanted to bump up his part.

So, idiotic as it would have been for an itinerant Jewish preacher and ‘prophet’, whose mission ended in failure, to make these claims about himself, Jesus never did. He didn’t say he was ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’. Or ‘the Vine’. Or ‘the Good Shepherd’. These are claims made for him long after he lived, by people who were persuaded by a snake-oil salesman that a God-man had mystically ‘saved’ them. They ‘re-imagined’ Jesus, sayings and all, to fit their idea of what he must have been like – and John’s gospel was born.

Its Jesus, if he was being honest, should really have said, ‘I Am… nothing but Pure Invention.’