Weird title I know.
I am presently involved in (obsessed with?) an online debate with a Christian-turned-agnostic, who is quite prolific in his postings about all the reasons why we should turn away from Christianity and embrace the “cold, hard truth,” as he says.
It’s frankly taking me away from my Bible study time, but I figured it’s probably a good exercise for me to think through, again, why I believe. He claims we mostly believe because we were brought up that way, or because of some emotional or transcendent experience. I KNOW that’s not true for me, if anything some of the experiences of my early Christianity were a turn off. But I am still here, God won, and I thank Him for it.
I have been nonstop replying to his questions to me, and realized I am probably driving up his traffic? (What do I know about such things.) So I decided I might start refuting him here.
Here is my latest reply, it is the most “scholarly” I guess, which is what he wants, and I actually don’t blame him for that! Heck if we are going to go around claiming that a man who lived 2000 years ago is actually the one who made everything we see and know, we had better have good reason!
So here is a stop along the way of this new journey I am taking. First, his comment on a comment I made:
“Even many evangelical Bible scholars (Richard Bauckham and NT Wright) doubt or at least question that Matthew the Apostle wrote the Gospel of Matthew, primarily because it would be odd for an eyewitness to copy so much of another author’s work (the Gospel of Mark) who was not an eyewitness (allegedly, John Mark). It is estimated that the author of Matthew incorporated over 90% of the Gospel of Mark into his Gospel, often copying Mark word for word. Why would he do such a thing if he had witnessed these events himself? That doesn’t make sense.
But I’m sure you already know this.
Bottom line, the authorship of ALL the Gospels is disputed, that is a fact. Even most Roman Catholic Bible scholars—who believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and in miracles—reject the apostolic authorship of the Gospels.
Let’s look at the first Gospel written, the first Gospel to contain the alleged prophecy in which Jesus predicts the future destruction of the Temple. The overwhelming majority of scholars date the writing of the Gospel of Mark to sometime between 65-75 CE. That means that it is possible that the prophecy about the destruction of the Temple occurred before the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE. If this is the case, then it is certainly possible that Jesus did make this prophesy. But, it is also possible that this prophecy was simply a lucky guess, either by Jesus or by the author of Mark. The author of Mark, writing in 65-69 CE, knew that trouble was brewing between the Jews and the Romans as the Jewish-Roman Wars started at about that time, and predicting a Roman triumph, knew that the destruction of the Temple, the last place where Jewish authority had been allowed under Roman rule, would be the probable outcome of a failed Jewish revolt. If the Romans won the Jewish-Roman War, everyone knew the Temple was doomed.
So this “prophecy” has four possible explanations:
–Jesus did have fortune-telling powers
–Jesus made a lucky guess
–Jesus never said this, the author of Mark made a lucky guess and invented Jesus making a prophecy about the Temple before the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE.
–the author of Mark, writing after 70 CE and knowing all about the destruction of the Temple, invented the prophecy to make it look like Jesus had fortune-telling powers.
If we were talking about a prophesy from any another religion, I will bet that you would assume that the correct answer is 2, 3, or 4. So why do you assume the answer is 1 for your religion? The chances are very high, based on the evidence, that this prophecy was an invention of the author of Mark.
I suggest the answer is: You have a bias; you WANT the prophecy to be real. You are not using good critical thinking skills, my friend.“
I will answer to the best of my ability, of which unfortunately I do not claim is great. I am mostly self educated in Bible study. I am, however, very confident in my thinking skills.
I can turn your argument against you.
You want the prophesy to be a good guess, or written after the fact, or written by someone else, etc. etc. You have about as much proof for your opinion as I do of mine. I find 2, 3, and 4 possibilities not very compelling, in light of the willingness of the disciples of Jesus Christ, who ran away in terror when He was arrested, to subsequently boldly proclaim His gospel. The only logical explanation is their witness to the resurrection. What possible motivation could they all have to make up stories that would end them up on some ancient torture device?
John Mark was a close associate of Peter’s, I’m sure you know, and probably got much of his material from him. I wonder if anyone thought of the possibility that Mark also used written material from Matthew. It seems quite possible to me that Matthew wrote notes of Jesus’ sayings and doings.
“Bottom line, the authorship of ALL the Gospels is disputed, that is a fact.” Of course, the authorship of the entire Bible is disputed.
I do not give great credence to Roman Catholic scholars, sorry to say. They misinterpret scripture to fit their belief systems, eg their doctrine of purgatory and the perpetual virginity of Mary.
As far as what most experts think, yes we need to turn to the experts. We all know that probably countless times the experts all concurred on things that proved to be totally false. So I read what they say and why, and where they are coming from, and make up my own mind.
I was thinking about something you said.
“If Jesus did the many amazing feats that the Gospels claim he performed, why would Josephus write more about John the Baptist than he would Jesus?” [Politically expedient? He was self- serving, you must admit.] “And why was Philo completely silent about Jesus even though he wrote a substantial amount regarding Pilate” [He wrote on philosophy, not history; he was contemporaneous with Jesus, and living in Egypt he may simply not have heard of Him.]
“I think the answer is simple: Jesus was just not the big deal that the Gospels make him out to be.” Ok now my turn to ask a question. Please name another lowly peasant from any age, any country, around whose birth the entire world measures time by? I would say that’s a pretty big deal.