Sunday, November 04, 2007

A question from a Christian reader.

One Christian reader writes:

“Hey NGZ i dont know if this is the right place to ask this question or if there is another thread i should post it on, but i was reading one of the articles you put up about the validity of the gospels and had a quick question. If the roman uprising was in 70A.D. wouldnt it have been mentioned in the gospels since it would have fufilled what jesus said when he said "not one stone will be left standing"
“Also, shouldnt there be one thing that could totally discredit the gospels and be unrefuttable? But everytime I hear an argument against the gospels there is always some fact that comes up that can argue against it. Anyways just wondering about the first question.”
Let me try to answer you question -- though I suspect that no answer will satisfy you if it contradicts your conclusion. In Luke 21, Matthew 24 and Mark 13 Jesus is quoted as allegedly saying that no stone will be left standing of the Temple. You then ask why doesn’t the N.T., if it were written after 70AD mention the destruction of the Temple since that would prove Jesus was correct.

Your assumption is that the quote in question is from before 70 AD. In fact it may well be that this verse was added in to do precisely what you suggest could be done.

The oldest surviving manuscript of Luke is from around 200, 130 years after the temple was destroyed. Most scholars, outside fundy circles, believe Luke was based on two other accounts: the gospel of Mark and an unknown source. And most say it was written after the destruction of the Temple.

Matthew is also widely believed to be based on the gospel of Mark and the unknown source. Most scholars believe it was written after 70 AD up to around 100 AD. And most assume Mark was written after 70 AD. It would have been relatively easy for Mark to be written after the temple was destroyed and for the prediction to be added at that time. Predicting something after it happens is easy.

The other two gospels are widely assumed to have copied sections from Mark. No gospel manuscript that is clearly dated to prior to 70 AD with the “prophecy” exists.

If I wanted to fake a manuscript predicting the moon landing in 1969 I would write something as if it were from some years earlier, say 1940. What I would not do is then add a verse saying “As actually happened in 1969” as that would clearly indicate the account was written afterwards. The consensus of most scholars is that nothing written prior to attack on Jerusalem exists.

The Journal of Biblical Studies makes the the point that Matthew and Luke “must have been written after Titus’ siege of Jerusalem because they allude to it.”

In addition there is another problem for biblical literalists. Jesus says of the Temple that “not one stone” will be left standing. The photo that is attached is of the famous Western wall of the temple in question still standing. This photo alone, a small portion of the Temple shows hundreds of stones standing on top of each other.

Your second question is why isn’t there just one thing that discredits the gospels. There are dozens of items that discredit a literalistm interpretation of the Bible.

But the issue is that fundamentalists reject immediately all evidence that doesn’t correspond with their conclusion. They judge evidence based on whether it fits the thesis instead of judging the thesis as to whether it fits the evidence. Here are a few examples.

The New Testament says Jesus was dead and buried for three days and three nights. It also says he died on Good Friday afternoon and rose from the dead on Sunday morning. No clock, western or Jewish, ancient or modern, allows you to get three days and three nights out of that time period.

The four gospels do not have the same account of the resurrection. One gospel says one woman discovered the resurrection, another says two, another mentions three while another is indeterminate. One says this happened after sunrise while another says it was still dark.

There is a lack of clarity as to who told the woman or women about the resurrection. In some stories it is one individual telling them in others it is two. In some cases the man/men who are either angels or Jesus, or Jesus and an angel, are inside the tomb when they tell them. In other accounts he/they is/are outside the tomb. Four accounts with many conflicting details.

If the death of Jesus was a messy affair his birth was as well. The gospels mention the slaughter of the innocents, Herod allegedly killing all the new-borns. Yet not one single historical account seems aware of this. Only Matthew mentions this genocide while the three other gospels ignore it. Matthew says Herod slew all the “children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under...” That covers a wide territory and no one found it worth mentioning anywhere except in one gospel. Such an atrocity would be chronicled.

Two gospels say Jesus was born when Herod was king. Luke says that at that time a census was taken “when Quirinius was governing Syria.” So you have Herod ruling on section and Quirinius in Syria. Yet these two never ruled at the same time. Herod the Great died 10 years before Quirinius became governor of Syria.

Josephus gives an account of the period. He says Herod died and was replaced by Archelaus. But Caesar replaced Archelaus with Quirinius. There was a ten year gap between Herod and Quirinius yet the gospel account has them ruling together. It also says the census was taking when Herod was alive which was not the case. But even the census account has mistakes. It says that the parents of Jesus had to return home to be counted and that each person was required to do so. In fact during Roman census taking no one was ever required to return home to be counted. The gospels have that wrong.

Matthew recounts that the parents of Jesus lived in Bethlehem and moved to Nazareth. Luke has it the other way around, they lived in Nazareth and moved to Bethlehem. Luke also says after Jesus was born they “returned into Galilee” while elsewhere the New Testament says they fled to Egypt. Mark never thought to mention the virgin birth nor did Paul.

Two gospels assert Jesus is descended from David but use the birth line of Joseph as proof yet Jesus was not a blood relation to Joseph if he was virgin born.

The gospel of John never mentions Satan, demons or devils. It never mentions the Sermon on the Mount (which the others seem to find very important0, is the only one to report that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and says that only Mary Magdalene witnessed the resurrection -- something the others dispute.

Now if an account like this were given, outside of the claims of religion, most Christians would believe it erroneous, not exactly trustworthy -- perhaps false. They would not spend hours trying to concoct arguments that let them have it both ways. They say “that’s a problem” for the text. They would acknowledge somebody goofed or that the account is unreliable. But they refuse to treat the Bible with the same standards that they apply to any other book.

In essence there are many issues that the Bible contains that call it into question in regards to being the word of some deity. But Christians tend to ignore them or concoct inventive, but strained justifications, as to why it doesn’t actually mean what it says. If worse comes to worse they merely accuse someone of not having the “right” interpretation which always means their own interpretation.


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