April 7th, 2012
08:32 PM ET
The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN)– Timothy Freke was flipping through an old academic book when he came across a religious image that some would call obscene.
It was a drawing of a third-century amulet depicting a naked man nailed to a cross. The man was born of a virgin, preached about being “born again” and had risen from the dead after crucifixion, Freke says.
But the name on the amulet wasn’t Jesus. It was a pseudonym for Osiris-Dionysus, a pagan god in ancient Mediterranean culture. Freke says the amulet was evidence of something that sounds like sacrilege – and some would say it is: that Jesus never existed. He was a myth created by first-century Jews who modeled him after other dying and resurrected pagan gods, says Freke, author of "The Jesus Mysteries: Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God?"
“If I said to you that there was no real Good Samaritan, I don’t think anyone would be outraged,” says Freke, one of a group of mythicists who say Jesus never existed. “It’s a teaching story. What we’re saying is that the Jesus story is an allegory. It’s a parable of the spiritual journey.”
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On Easter Sunday, millions of Christians worldwide mark the resurrection of Jesus. Though Christians clash over many issues, almost all agree that he existed.
But there is another view of Jesus that’s been emerging, one that strikes at the heart of the Easter story. A number of authors and scholars say Jesus never existed. Such assertions could have been ignored in an earlier age. But in the age of the Internet and self-publishing, these arguments have gained enough traction that some of the world’s leading New Testament scholars feel compelled to publicly take them on.
Most Jesus deniers are Internet kooks, says Bart D. Ehrman, a New Testament scholar who recently released a book devoted to the question called “Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth.”
Your comments on Jesus deniers
He says Freke and others who deny Jesus’ existence are conspiracy theorists trying to sell books.
“There are people out there who don’t think the Holocaust happened, there wasn’t a lone JFK assassin and Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.,” Ehrman says. “Among them are people who don’t think Jesus existed.”
Does it matter if Jesus existed?
Some Jesus mythicists say many New Testament scholars are intellectual snobs.
“I don’t think I’m some Internet kook or Holocaust denier,” says Robert Price, a former Baptist pastor who argues in “Deconstructing Jesus” that a historical Jesus probably didn’t exist.
“They say I’m a bitter ex-fundamentalist. It’s pathetic to see this character assassination. That’s what people resort to when they don’t have solid arguments.”
Ehrman, for example, is an agnostic who has written books that argue that virtually half of the New Testament is forged. Another defender of Jesus’ existence is John Dominic Crossan, a New Testament scholar who has been called a heretic because his books challenge some traditional Christian teachings.
But as to the existence of Jesus, Crossan says, he’s “certain.”
He says some Jesus deniers may be people who have a problem with Christianity.
“It’s a way of responding to something you don’t like,” Crossan says. “We can’t say that Obama doesn’t exist, but we can say that he’s not an American. If we’re talking about Obama in the future, there are people who might not only say he wasn’t American, but he didn’t even exist.”
Does it even matter if Jesus existed? Can’t people derive inspiration from his teachings whether he actually walked the Earth?
Crossan says Jesus’ existence matters in the same way that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s existence mattered.
If King never existed, people would say his ideas are lovely, but they could never work in the real world, Crossan says.
It’s the same with an historical Jesus, Crossan writes in his latest book, “The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus.”
“The power of Jesus’ historical life challenges his followers by proving at least one human being could cooperate fully with God. And if one, why not others? If some, why not all?”
The evidence against Jesus’ existence
Those who argue against Jesus’ existence make some of these points:
-The uncanny parallels between pagan stories in the ancient world and the stories of Jesus.
-No credible sources outside the Bible say Jesus existed.
-The Apostle Paul never referred to a historical Jesus.
Price, author of “Deconstructing Jesus,” says the first-century Western world was full of stories of a martyred hero who is called a son of God.
“There are ancient novels from that period where the hero is condemned to the cross and even crucified, but he escapes and survives it,” Price says. “That looks like Jesus.”
Those who argue for the existence of Jesus often cite two external biblical sources: the Jewish historian Josephus who wrote about Jesus at the end of the first century and the Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote about Jesus at the start of the second century.
But some scholars say Josephus’ passage was tampered with by later Christian authors. And Price says the two historians are not credible on Jesus.
“Josephus and Tacitus – they both thought Hercules was a true figure,” Price says. “Both of them spoke of Hercules as a figure that existed.”
Price concedes that there were plenty of mythical stories that were draped around historical figures like Caesar. But there’s plenty of secular documentation to show Caesar existed.
“Everything we read about Jesus in the gospels conforms to the mythic hero,” Price says. “There’s nothing left over that indicates that he was a real historical figure.”
Those who argue for the existence of Jesus cite another source: the testimony of the Apostle Paul and Jesus’ early disciples. Paul even writes in one New Testament passage about meeting James, the brother of Jesus.
These early disciples not only believed Jesus was real but were willing to die for him. People don’t die for myths, some biblical scholars say.
They will if the experience is powerful enough, says Richard Carrier, author of “Proving History.”
Carrier says it’s probable that Jesus never really existed and that early Christians experienced a mythic Jesus who came to them through visions and revelations.
Two of the most famous stories in the New Testament – the conversion of Paul and the stoning death of Stephen, one of the first Christian martyrs - show that people seized by religious visions are willing to die, Carrier says.
In both the Paul and Stephen stories, the writers say that they didn’t see an actual Jesus but a heavenly vision of Jesus, Carrier says.
People “can have powerful religious experiences that don’t correspond to reality,” Carrier says.
“The perfect model is Paul himself,” Carrier says. “He never met Jesus. Paul only had an encounter with this heavenly Jesus. Paul is completely converted by this religious experience, but no historical Jesus is needed for that to happen.”
As for the passage where Paul says he met James, Jesus’ brother, Carrier says:
“The problem with that is that all baptized Christians were considered brothers of the Lord.”
The evidence for Jesus’ existence
Some scholars who argue for the existence of Jesus says the New Testament mentions actual people and events that are substantiated by historical documents and archaeological discoveries.
Ehrman, author of “Did Jesus Exist?” scoffed at the notion that the ancient world was full of pagan stories about dying deities that rose again. Where’s the proof? he asks.
Ehrman devoted an entire section of his book to critiquing Freke, the mythicist and author of “The Jesus Mysteries: Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God?” who says there was an ancient Osiris-Dionysus figure who shares uncanny parallels to Jesus.
He says Freke can’t offer any proof that an ancient Osiris figure was born on December 25, was crucified and rose again. He says Freke is citing 20th- and 19th-century writers who tossed out the same theories.
Ehrman says that when you read ancient stories about mythological figures like Hercules and Osiris, “there’s nothing about them dying and rising again.”
“He doesn’t know much about ancient history,” Ehrman says of Freke. “He’s not a scholar. All he knows is what he’s read in other conspiracy books.”
Craig A. Evans, the author of “Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence,” says the notion that Paul gave his life for a mythical Jesus is absurd.
He says the New Testament clearly shows that Paul was an early enemy of the Christian church who sought to stamp out the burgeoning Jesus movement.
“Don’t you think if you were in Paul’s shoes, you would have quickly discovered that there was no Jesus?” Evans asks. “If there was no Jesus, then how did the movement start?”
Evans also dismissed the notion that early Christians blended or adopted pagan myths to create their own mythical Jesus. He says the first Christians were Jews who despised everything about pagan culture.
“For a lot of Jewish people, the pagan world was disgusting,” Evans says. “I can’t imagine [the Gospel writer] Matthew making up a story where he is drawing parallels between Jesus’ birth and pagan stories about Zeus having sex with some fair maiden.”
The words of Jesus also offer proof that he actually existed, Evans says. A vivid personality practically bursts from the pages of the New Testament: He speaks in riddles, talks about camels squeezing through the eye of a needle, weeps openly and even loses his temper.
Evans says he is a man who is undeniably Jewish, a genius who understands his culture but also transcends his tradition with gem-like parables.
“Who but Jesus could tell the Parable of the Good Samaritan?” Evans says. “Where does this bolt of lightning come from? You don’t get this out of an Egyptian myth.”
Those who argue against the existence of Jesus say they aren’t trying to destroy people’s faith.
“I don’t have any desire to upset people,” says Freke. “I do have a passion for the truth. … I don’t think rational people in the 20th century can go down a road just on blind faith.”
Yet Easter was never just about rationale.
The Easter stories about the resurrection are strange: Disciples don’t recognize Jesus as they meet him on the road; he tells someone not to touch him; he eats fish in another.
In the Gospel of Matthew, a resurrected Jesus suddenly appears to a group of disciples and gives them this cryptic message:
“Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
And what did they see: a person, a pagan myth or a savior?
Albert Schweitzer, a 20th-century theologian and missionary, suggested that there will never be one answer to that question. He said that looking for Jesus in history is like looking down a well: You see only your own reflection.
The “real” Jesus, Schweitzer says, will remain “a stranger and an enigma,” someone who is always ahead of us.
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About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
Mandarax. From my study I have seen that the scientist proposes a theory, then gathers the details conducts experiments and tests out if his ‘theory’ is sound. Until the idea is proved sound it remains a theory. I think true science is a very good process, it actually helps me in my belief I a creator.
I think what I just explained is what epistemology means.
You misrepresent true religion and a belief in a creator by assuming that we only have faith in the mystic un-provable things. Real ‘faith’ is based on realities, the things I see in creation prove beyond doubt in an intelligent designer with purpose, as a result of this study I put my faith in something I see.
You expect us “un-learned ones” (in your view)to accept your conclusions of ‘there is no god’. Why? Because you use big words, and you have studied things we don’t comprehend? As I said you are sounding more and more like the Clergy of most religion. “How dare we are questioned by the common people, we have been to university, what would you know? You don’t even know Latin!”
The Clergy were found in time to be false teachers. What of the scientists today? Are you prepared to stake your life on your teachings? As a Christian I am, just as many have in the past and are doing today, that’s how confident we are of our belief. Could you say the same I wonder?
But, Paul, your description simply demonstrates in greater detail that you don't understand the meaning of those words (theory, testing, proof). These aren't mystical meanings that are withheld from the common people like a Medieval priest, they are agreed upon knowledge that you are more than welcome to have access to. If you ever interact with scientists, they desperately wish people would learn more about science, as opposed to wanting to maintain some "priesthood" of scientific secrets.
@Paul "From my study I have seen that the scientist proposes a theory, then gathers the details conducts experiments and tests out if his ‘theory’ is sound. Until the idea is proved sound it remains a theory."
As for why your description is wrong: theories are not ideas to be tested – theories are never tested. Theories also are not more tentative than facts. Theories are bodies of knowledge that explain a whole range of facts. You are confusing theory with hypothesis testing, but even hypotheses can't be tested – only their implications can be tested. Theories are over-arching explanatory frameworks that explain the facts, observations, and results of hypothesis testing. Gravity is what causes an object to "fall" to the floor; the theory of gravity explains why that happens and predicts when and in what way that will happen in other situations. It is a result of generations of observations, it is more than a fact, and it will never become a "law." It explains laws.
I'm sorry if you think this is condescending, but that your description is simply not how science works, and your criticisms of scientific explanations as "just unproven theories" are misguided and misleading. Do not take my word for it as if I were some high priest – go out and learn about it! It's fascinating stuff.
Big Art, thank you for the clarification. Yes there are actually thousands of gods worshipped in all it’s various forms which you seem to agree. Just because you are born into a specific one of those does not in itself make it the true religion. Remember the enemy Satan wants us to be confused and offers a smorgasbord of religions. However we can put as it were a measuring line on religion to see how it measures up.
Jesus said by their ‘fruits’ or what they do actually determines true religion. First of all you have to decide which tool you will measure with. The Bible has been well recognise as the oldest book of a collective of 66 books in history. Dating back to Adam. This book also claims to be authored by the creator and goes into some detail about creation, although not a full explanation but enough for scientists to agree with the logical sequence of events, whenever the Bible touches on science it is always accurate . Also the Bible contains principles that are timeless in that no matter the generation, if applied they work. Well ahead of it’s time in hygiene and moral living. These things we would expect of a book from God.
If we can agree the Bible is our measuring stick of truth, then we can apply this to all religion and see who measures up from God’s point of view. We should be willing to adjust our thinking to measure up to Gods view as expressed in the Bible.
Try one simple principle, “Love your enemies” as expressed by Jesus. How many religions today actually apply this principle?
Why would you not want to believe and follow something that is truth and works, gives you freedom, get to know your creator and have a wonderful future.
The Bible (OT) is a book which includes *some* history of primitive Hebrew culture, and *some* good advice for practical, beneficial human behavior, but mostly it is a compilation of ancient Middle Eastern historical fiction, myth, legend, superst.ition and fantasy.
The NT is a collection of the writings of various 1st century evangelists who were promoting their new offshoot of the OT religion.
There is not a whit of verified evidence for any of the supernatural beings and events in that book.
A child needs a nightlight because it gives them a false sense of security, even though in reality it doesn't protect them from anything. Which, just happens to be a perfect analogy for the relationship between the fear of death and a person clinging to religion.
So here is the challenge for the non believers:
1) Form a group of 12 people (there seems to be enough of you on here)
2) Produce a controversial LIE that you are all happy to peddle (you may also use modern technology to achieve your aims)
3) Spread that lie in every person and place you come across
4) You may spread that LIE to all people especially to people who are hostile towards you and threaten you with death
5) Achieve over a million followers and get an entire Empire to conform to your LIE (you may include twitter and facebook friends)
6) Keep no historical records as only word of mouth is required (you may also use modern technology)
7) Achieve in changing the worlds calender from AD and BC to a new starting point
8) Produce a symbol of your conviction and ensure people openly worship whatever that LIE may be
There is a catch however (you must peddle this lie openly and honestly to people who will kill you, for example, maybe something like telling a Muslim that the Koran is not divinely inspired )
Proof of death is required!
If not one of you fails to recant your LIE
I'll join you and become a non believer!
sharon kirtley. God is not a theorem and cannot be empirically be proven?
Sorry Sharon but you are wrong. Try reading Hebrews 11:1 which is a definition of faith. It says,”the evident demonstration of realities” Greek e’leg-khos which also can be translated “convincing evidence”. All the ones of faith listed had convincing evidence given to them, so they put faith in God as to what the future held for them. For example Noah received a divine warning when God spoke to him and gave him the dimensions of the ark to be built, his faith was expressed by building the ark. Like James said, “Faith without works is dead.” James 2:17
So you see just saying, “I have faith” is not sufficient nor helpful when telling others about God or his son Jesus. People need to know why they have to put faith in him. For example read John 17:3; 2 Tim 3:16,17.
Mandarax. Evidence-based belief is the opposite of faith.
I disagree, as I see plenty of evidence for a creator with purpose and design. As a Christian I do study science because it helps me be in awe of my creator and what he has made.
You assume I know “little about science”, or a decent “science education”. Your sounding like some of the Clergy when referring to the common people, “what would they know?” scenario. You are closer to main stream religion than you think.
Paul, I didn't assume you know little about science. You demonstrated that you know little about science.
You clearly demonstrated that you know little about science by misunderstanding the meaning of the word theory in a scientific context, by misrepresenting the scientific understanding of the origins and development of life, and by claiming that accepting scientific conclusions is a matter of faith. You may indeed enjoy studying some of the results of science and interpreting them according to your religion, but you prove through your own words that you indeed know little about science as epistemology.
Big Art, To understand why Abraham question, you have to understand Gods purpose for mankind.
Simply put Adam (the first human) chose not to follow Gods purpose. He made that choice for all his children including you and me.
So God (Jehovah) made a promise that he would raise someone up to bring back what Adam lost for you and me, which was perfection and endless life in a paradise earth. Humans could align themselves with God and his obedient children or Adam and his disobedient children. Abraham chose to follow Jehovah, so Jehovah made a covenant or promised with Abraham that all nations could be blessed by means of his seed or children. In time he provided that nation that came from Abraham laws for their protection and preservation of true worship, others of course could join this nation and many thousands did. Jesus Christ Jehovah’s son was born in the family line and by means of him we can come into his family with life in view.
Jesus will undo everything Adam has done to his children, even resurrecting all those who have died to give them an opportunity of life in paradise on earth. That was God’s purpose in the beginning and has not changed. We all have the opportunity to get back what was lost to us. I think that is good news and worth talking about.
Satan of course has set up rival religions to confuse and distract people, even raising doubts as to whether there is a God or not. But that will not change his purpose.
I know "the party line" quite well . . . and you spout it as well any. But I asked those questions in response to your response (on previous page) to momoya:
"(You asked momoya): Faith is needed for religion?
Such a faith is based on realities, such as design indicates a designer. I put it to you, that more faith is need for non-belief in a God."
You seem to be saying that it's somewhat rational to believe in (a) God/Creator. I may be inclined to agree. But what I don't find rational is 1) With all the other gods out there, why is it rational for us to believe that the one of the culture we just happened to be born into is THE GOD; and 2) With all the other King-Savior-Deity myths out there, why is it rational for us to believe that the one that was adopted by the culture into which we just happened to be born is THE TRUE KING-SAVIOR-DEITY myth.
So, when I asked you about the rationality in believing in the Abraham story or the Jesus story, I was hoping that, rather than telling me "the party line," which, again, I know quite well, I was hoping you would share your thoughts on why it would be rational to believe in it.
"Peace 2 U!"
Momoya, yes I understand your reasoning and how you think over the years I have spoken to many like you, but that does not convince me.
For example I see a structure such as a pyramid, now I have never seen who made this and neither have you. But we automatically think, I wonder “who” made that? Why is that do you think? It is because when we see design we always think, who? We even do that with a simple things like a bit of stone that appears to have been shaped, we say, by whom?
Now for some reason, you may be able to explain. When it comes to the design of life, you say, “don’t know!”
You can’t tell me life does not have design. I have just been reading up on the Fibonacci sequence, which occurs repeatedly in nature. So “who” designed that, for it is design? I suppose you are going to say, “Don’t know”.
Another example, water. When it freezes it floats thus preserving life underneath, this is due to the design of the water molecule which would take a while to explain, this same design allows water to travel up huge trees to feed the leaves called capillary reaction. Now I think that is a pretty clever design and I say, “Who” and you say, “don’t know’.
Now if you could talk to the man who made the pyramid he could explain how he did it, or you could deny his existence and never know, except best guess.
The God of the Bible, Jehovah, claims to be the ‘who’, but unless you actually check it out your best guess will always be, “don’t know”.
BurghThing; Why did God rest on the seventh day? How come an all powerful needs to rest?
Good questions. However I think you misunderstand what he meant by resting. Jehovah had just explained to Moses about how he created the earth and everything on it including us, it is from this creative work in relation to the earth that he ‘rested’. Jesus said his father keeps working and so does he. John 5:17.
It is obvious the earth is only a small part of the universe and what Jehovah does in relation to it’s upkeep he does not say. But we do know according to what Jesus said that he keeps working and has no need of rest like us mortals. He has certainly been busy working out his purpose for our eternal future.
These are the funniest words I've read today. Talk about missing the point. "Ehrman says that when you read ancient stories about mythological figures like Hercules and Osiris, “there’s nothing about them dying and rising again.”
And even if We had sent down to you, [O Muhammad], a written scripture on a page and they touched it with their hands, the disbelievers would say, "This is not but obvious magic." 6:7
And they say, "Why was there not sent down to him an angel?" But if We had sent down an angel, the matter would have been decided; then they would not be reprieved. 6:8
And if We had made him an angel, We would have made him [appear as] a man, and We would have covered them with that in which they cover themselves. 6:9
And already were messengers ridiculed before you, but those who mocked them were enveloped by that which they used to ridicule. 6:10
Say, "Travel through the land; then observe how was the end of the deniers."
Say, "To whom belongs whatever is in the heavens and earth?" Say, "To Allah ." He has decreed upon Himself mercy. He will surely assemble you for the Day of Resurrection, about which there is no doubt. Those who will lose themselves [that Day] do not believe. 6:12
And to Him belongs that which reposes by night and by day, and He is the Hearing, the Knowing. 6:13
Say, "Is it other than Allah I should take as a protector, Creator of the heavens and the earth, while it is He who feeds and is not fed?" Say, [O Muhammad], "Indeed, I have been commanded to be the first [among you] who submit [to Allah ] and [was commanded], 'Do not ever be of the polytheists.' "
Say, "Indeed I fear, if I should disobey my Lord, the punishment of a tremendous Day." 6:15
He from whom it is averted that Day – [ Allah ] has granted him mercy. And that is the clear attainment. 6:16
This book will help sort it out–start your search: http://www.amazon.com/The-Search-Biblical-Jesus-Dewey/dp/1449734774/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334951586&sr=8-1
If you believe then he or any other god is real; if you don't believe in the literal truth then it is a myth and still full of wisdom. god is not a therum; he or she cannot be empirically proven. faith makes it real to those who believe. is that not what faith is for?
To respond to the point in the article that says that the argument that Jesus didnt exist refers to Pauls writings. Well why would Paul refer to Jesus as historical, he would have no reason to as they were alive at the same time. Also when the author say there is no evidence outside o fht eBible to the existence of Jesus, is factually wrong. there are over 25,000 writings that refer to Jesus as a person, where is ther are only 8 writings outside of Socrates that he existed, yet no one doubts his existence
Anybody can write anything these days and find a million people to believe it with the internet.
Except for the internet part, that was apparently true 2,000 years ago as well.
Don't really agree with this man from a scientific point of view. I can draw a picture of the President dressed as batman, that doesn't mean he didn't exist. Also the New Testament wasn't meant to be an exact portrayal of the days of jesus. It was midrashed, it was more an art form. Midrashing is done when the story is already known. The people the desciples preached too knew the story of Jesus by word of mouth or from first person experience.
At ground zero almost 3000 people died on september 11th.
If I read this in two thousand years, with no proof of 9-11 would I not think a nuclear explosion happened on 9-11?
Probably not as a nuke would kill much more people than that number–besides, I think in 2000 years they'll have much more written and visual/audio record than we do for 2000 years ago from this date..
Its absolutely stunning that westerners can pass time debating the existence of Jesus or Not?, what a waste of resources, time and money.Its like the mundane arguements of an atheist, something came out of nothing.The existence of the man that was "Yeshua ben Yoseph" if contested would mean, the philosophy behind the NT ,parables and teachings like the "Sermon on the mount" were forged by some other!.That would be highly improbable, owing to the amazing thought process put behind these sayings, demonstrating a high intelligence or lets say, spiritually evolved person.The only question here is, was he mere man?, did his followers idolise him as God?, the evidence is there within the bible, wherein Jesus never fulfills the prophecies of the Torah, unaccomplished writers tried to make a connect, however.Thereof the Torah would loose its credibility without the Hoax that Jesus is a fulfillment of it, and Jesus can also be left alone as the person he was, a great teacher,master and probably one who was trained in eastern arts of Buddhism and Hinduism, very evident from the connect and similiarities between the sayings of Jesus and the sayings of Krishna in the Bhagvath Geetha.Meanwhile, one can throw out Judaism, Islam and mainstream christianity for the fear, repression, ego and a stunted mental process it blesses its sanctimonious indoctrinated masses with.
Most atheists do not say that something came from nothing.. That's a strawman argument.. It's amazing to me how many god believers say stupid stuff about what atheists think, and it's always easy to tell when a god believer is talking out of his azz because if he had discussed the mischaracterization with an actual, live atheist, he wouldn't say stupid sh!t about atheism that doesn't make any sense.
"Nothing" does not exist.. There are no states of "nothingness.". Something ALWAYS comes from something–even if it seems like nothingness but is really a field of quantum fluctuations.
There is no proof of any of the gods so far thought up and described by humans.. If there is no evidence for unicorns, there's no reason to believe or disbelieve in them–the same for god.. If there is no reliable evidence for him, there's no sensible reason to disbelieve or believe.
Genesis 3:15, God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.”
Galations 4:4, 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
there is plenty of evidence. the problem is that your hypothesis is "God does not exist" so any evidence that shows up must conform to that worldview, so you immediately start looking for alternate explainations for everything, because that CAN'T be true.
One of the most compelling reasons for belief in deity is man's constant search for meaning throughout the centuries. why do we need meaning, or purpose? Apparently, it's built into us, but why? Evolution really has no compelling answer to this question. And this is only one reason among a plethora that suggest a creator.
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
I'm just wondering whether you do anything beside quoting scripture (and read Harry Potter to your kids). Let's test . . .
I've been trying to get some intelligent feedback on the Mythicists contention that the Jesus we read of in Paul and the other Epistles is a myth who was later "enfleshed" by the Gospel stories, as evidenced by the fact that Paul & Co. show no knowledge of his earthly ministry–no knowledge of his virgin birth, his miracles, his sermons, etc.
Any thoughts? (Besides I'm going to hell . . .)
"Peace 2 U!"
It seems to me that Rob's tactics here have evolved to their present form because he realizes that he has no logical arguments for his position of faith.. Knowing this fact, he now attempts to bypass logic and "inject" faith into those that are "ready to receive" it.. Since faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word he is attempting that mechanism..
It's admirable in its way, but funny, too.
For God so loved the world
Yes, this is key. "God so loved the world". So, how can a loving and just God banish his own creations for eternity, for the "sin" of being born into a portion of the world where the local religious traditions didn't align with the ones you follow?
I was trying to answer some of the questions by the quotes, but I appreciate you pointing that out. I suppose it would be helpful if added what I was trying to point out with each quote. I’ll try to do better.
Anyway, from a believers standpoint, the idea that Jesus was a fabrication by “Paul & Co” is preposterous. The problem of course is trying to explain that to a nonbeliever. From a nonbelievers position it is very easy to assume that Jesus is made up.
In the quote above Jesus is explaining to Nicodemus that he must be born of the spirit in order to become part of God’s spiritual kingdom. Nicodemus doesn’t understand. He asks Jesus how can a grown person be born a second time. He is thinking about it from a fleshly, physical, or human view. Jesus uses the analogy of the wind. You can’t see wind. You can see what it does, you can feel it on your skin, but you can’t see the wind itself. You can’t see the Holy Spirit, but you can see how people who are filled with it, behave, you can feel it in your body.
Without the spirit, through the use of human reasoning and understanding you can make the case that there was never even a person named Jesus who lived and did all the things written in the bible. The spirit is the whole point, with God’s Holy Spirit you can read and understand his holy written word. With the spirit you can know that Jesus is God’s Son. With the spirit you can know that he came to reconcile everyone who would believe to God.
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
If you are interested in obtaining this Spirit, let me know. It is so easy to get that, unfortunately, the simplicity of it becomes some folk’s downfall.
@Madtown. That is a straw man argument. The gospel was preached as far as India within the lifetime of the Apostles. Just because those cultures have historically rejected it, does not mean G-d is powerless or uncaring. I have seen families with drug-addicted children, who, no matter how much their families loved them, still made bad choices and lost their lives to drugs. People make the choice to reject the L-rd's salvation. You can't save someone who does want to be saved.
@Madtown. That is a straw man argument. The gospel was preached as far as India within the lifetime of the Apostles. Just because those cultures have historically rejected it, does not mean G-d is powerless or uncaring. I have seen families with drug-addicted children, who, no matter how much their families loved them, still made bad choices and lost their lives to drugs. People make the choice to reject the L-rd's salvation. You can't save someone who does not want to be saved.
@Madtown. That is a straw man argument.
Dan, no it is not. A culture cannot possibly reject something that they have never heard of or been exposed to. If I'm a primitive African tribesman, or a primitive Australian aboriginal tribesman, and I've never even heard of Jesus Christ or the bible, then I can never make a conscious decision to reject it. Each culture formulates it's own way of looking at religion, and develops it's own traditions. If there was truly only "1 way" to salvation, then wouldn't God allow all of his creations to be aware of it? Of course he would. The fact remains that there are human beings on this planet who have never heard of Jesus Christ, and they will die before doing so. You think they have no chance at eternal salvation, because they have not accepted him? They've never heard of him!
I'm interested in obtaining "the spirit.". How would I do that and what would be the evidence that I have achieved "the spirit?". In other words, what would I be able to do with "the spirit," that I cannot do now–verifying that I truly have "the spirit" and am not just deluding myself and only believing I have what I do not?
I would propose two things for you to consider. First, I believe the God I know is the only loving just God. Because of this if someone never heard of Jesus then that person would be no more guilty than an innocent child. Therefore, that is their ticket to heaven. Second, God is the only God. What if these God’s in different cultures are actually the same one? Since there is only one true and living God, could it be possible he is just known by different names in different cultures?
What if these God’s in different cultures are actually the same one? Since there is only one true and living God, could it be possible he is just known by different names in different cultures?
Bingo, that's what I'm saying. All cultures develop differently, obviously. Practices, traditions, religions, etc, all develop differently dependent on many factors. This is why the dogmatic details of religion are dangerous, they develop differently based on independent cultural forces, and they all assert that their way is the "right and only way"! Not true. I believe in God, 1 God, but in a far more spiritual and generic sense. I don't think there's any need for detailed traditions that draw distinctions between different flavors of religion. Just pray to God, in general. You then don't really even need the bible, because the bible is a collection of the ideas of one cross section of humanity, and has risen out of the influence of cultural forces that don't necessarily apply to all cross sections of humanity throughout the world. If it works for you, fine. But, realize that your way isn't required for others to believe that their own concept of God is satisfactorily met.
Robert Brown, "If you are interested in obtaining this Spirit, let me know. It is so easy to get that, unfortunately, the simplicity of it becomes some folk’s downfall."
I am resisting every temptation to select one of the age-old, pat prescriptions and respond to it... so, please tell us yours.
To obtain the Holy Spirit: Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died, was buried, and rose again. Realize that you have sinned and need forgiveness. Pray to the heavenly father and ask him to forgive you of your sin and that you accept the free gift of his son’s sacrifice for the payment of your sin debt. Trust him to do what he has promised and you will receive the Holy Spirit.
What you will be able to do with the spirit: Communicate with the Heavenly Father and spiritually discern the written word and what people say. One other benefit that you didn’t ask about, with the Holy Spirit, also called the Comforter, you will experience a peace that is beyond explanation.
You can read the response to momoya for the pat prescription. However, I have communicated with her before ,so I didn’t explain how you get to the point where you believe in Jesus. If your not to that point yet, let me know and I will try to help. Thanks.
Personally, I believe in the God of the Bible and his son Jesus. So, while I proposed the possibilities for how an all knowing and powerful God could extend his mercies to those who don’t know what I believe, I don’t advocate stopping there, for those who have the opportunity to go further. I don’t think the Good News of Jesus is in any way dangerous and will continue to advocate for him. I do believe he is the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to the father except by him. At the same time, I believe that God is able to do all things, so how he accomplishes drawing folks from other cultures to him, who haven’t had the opportunity to experience what I have, may not be known to me. I can accept that there are things we don’t know, trusting that he is able, merciful, and good.
@MAdtown, you are prtially correct in your argument that if tribes or people that have never been exposed to the teachings of Jesus, wouldnt know. That is why the Bible indicates that the return of Jesus cannot happen until Gods word has been brough to all tribes, or in modern language all peoples.
I don’t think the Good News of Jesus is in any way dangerous
And, I mean "dangerous" in the way of the human history of religious conflicts, or conflicts that had an element of religion behind their inspiration. Your "good news" is someone else's blasphemy, and vice versa, and that can be a big problem.
Yes, to be a believer, just BELIEVE. That's pretty much what I thought you'd say. I must be a prophet!
I was a firm Christian Theist for many years... then sort of a Deist... then, for lack of evidence for, nor any feedback from supernatural beings, I became a non-believer.
You are number 4 and may find the discussion Quick and I had over on the Belief blog morning speed read for April 19 of interest.
Yes, I saw the posts by @Quick. I was going to mention them, but I couldn't remember which article/blog they were on. I agree with him/her, and he/she said so many things that I would say if I were a better writer and debater.
I do wish you well.
There's much I could say about your post, which I thank you for, by the way . . . but let me just say this:
You said: "from a believers standpoint, the idea that Jesus was a fabrication by “Paul & Co” is preposterous. The problem of course is trying to explain that to a nonbeliever. From a nonbelievers position it is very easy to assume that Jesus is made up."
In a country that's over 80% (some surveys have said over 90%) Christian, I don't agree that it's "very easy to assume that Jesus is made up." As many people have a "sheep" mentality, I submit that in this society, it's very easy to assume that Jesus is Lord and Savior; just as in the Arab world it's easy to assume that Allah is God; just as in the Orient it's easy to assume that "Buddha is the Way." What's hard is to break out of the sheep mentality, to think for oneself, to "march to the beat of one's own drummer." Einstein knew this, which is why he said, "Small is the number that see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts." Jesus knew this as well. And, since you like quoting scriptures so much, I'll let him have the last word:
"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Matt. 7:13 & 14
"Peace 2 U!"
Thank you for the scripture and kind words.
I would have to agree with your critique of my post. Nonbeliever was probably a too general, if not inaccurate description to use for those who would easily assume Jesus is made up. Nonbelievers are individuals. A great many have been exposed to Christianity and some are neutral to it, some are slightly interested, some are whole heartedly opposed, and everywhere in between. So, those who would easily assume he was made up would probably better be defined as atheist, agnostic, or, as you pointed out, of another faith.
How dare people ask questions and examine evidence to try and learn more about human history!!! Next thing you know they'll be saying that there is evidence for something like evolution, or they'll try and claim the earth is older than 5000 years!!!
The problem is that many people are so unobjective about the life of Christ. There is no reason to believe that he wasn't a real man, yet people try very hard to make him a myth, while at the same time having no objection to the life of Mohammad, Buddha, etc., even though the historical evidence of their existence is just as scant as that of Jesus. The lack of balance and objectivity is appalling.
Dan, If you'll commit yourself to a few years of scholarly work on the subject, you will find that there is no reason to believe that Jesus was anything other than a myth.. Certainly there were a few thousand "prophets" claiming to be the messiah walking around Judea during the era in question, and certainly a few hundred or so of those were named "Jesus," but there's absolutely zero evidence to suggest that he actually existed and did what the contradicting gospels claim.. Oh, and back in those days every other person performed miracles–it was so common, in fact, that the bible itself references miracles being performed without god's blessing on the preacher or the message.
@Momoya: you could not be more factually incorrect in your statement. there are over 25,000 writings outside of the Bible that talk of Jesus existance. As to you r claim ther is no evidence that Jesus performed miracles, i would be happy to furnish evidence to refute you when I get home. But i find it odd that you say Jesus didnt perofrom miracles, then in the next breath say "Oh, and back in those days every other person performed miracles–it was so common". And no miracles were not performed without Gods blessing. Moses, Abraham, some of the disciples performed miracel, and there is referance to trickery used by eveil to confuse people, but dont confuse that with miracles. What I find odd is Atheists are so upset that some people choose to belive in God, it really bothers them, why cant you just let people have their Faith, and you have your lack of it and go on.
well, what we DO know as fact is:
– jesus was NOT white. even if he was, he'd have a serious tan.
– jesus was NOT born on december 25, chronological impossible per the events described in the bible.
– jesus did NOT author the KING JAMES version of the bible. King James himself was gay and advocated with hunts.
so now what?
We also know the nails had to go through the wrists, not the hands as depicted. We know his hair had to be short because there was such a problem with lice – not long and flowing as all paitings depict.
You act as if we don't understand that. Wow.
Why would I care if he is white or not, makes no difference to my Faith. Jesus birthdate is hard to calculate but is celebrated on Dec 25, it hard to calculate as the Julian calender and lunar cycle were used( ttp://www.hebrew4christians.com/Articles/Christmas/christmas.html ) and we know that he was born 4 bce king herod death and 6 bce because Cyrenius became governor of Syria. Luke2:2 And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. 2:3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 2:5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.