Jan 9, 2011

09 Did the Apostle John write John

For a variety of reasons, the Apostle John may not have been the author of the Gospel of John. John's Gospel is the work of a trained mind who wrote good Greek. But the New Testament Book of Acts states that John was unlearned or uneducated

Acts 4:13 The members of the Council were amazed to see how bold Peter and John were and to learn that they were ordinary men of no education. They realized then that they had been companions of Jesus.

One could always argue that a ghost writer helped the Apostle to compose the Gospel of John. Or that the Apostle schooled himself in Greek as he grew older. 

He may have been personally schooled in the doctrine Jesus taught, but that doesn’t answer where he learned to write good Greek.

Another curiosity about the disciple John is found in the Gospel of Mark. John, along with two other disciples, was a privileged witness when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from death

Mark 5:37 Then he did not let anyone else go on with him except Peter and James and his brother John. ... 39 He went in and said to them, "Why all this confusion? Why are you crying? The child is not dead--she is only sleeping!" 40 They started making fun of him, so he put them all out, took the child's father and mother and his three disciples, and went into the room where the child was lying.

But the story was left out of the Gospel of John although the disciple John was supposed to have been there when it happened.

The Gospel of Mark informs us that John was an eyewitness to the transfiguration of Jesus, too, when Jesus met with Moses and Elias on a mountain

Mark 9:2 Six days later Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain, where they were alone. As they looked on, a change came over Jesus, 3 and his clothes became shining white--whiter than anyone in the world could wash them.

But strangely, the Gospel of John fails to mention the miracle even though the disciple John was supposed to have been there. 

The Gospel of John fails to give an account of the ascension of Jesus, too--it was a central event. John and other followers of Jesus were supposed to have been witnesses to Jesus' levitation to heaven. But only Luke reports it and he wasn't an eye-witness to it

Luke 24:33 The two followers of Jesus got up at once and went back to Jerusalem, where they found the eleven disciples gathered together with the others. ... 51 As Jesus was blessing them, he departed from them and was taken up into heaven.

To repeat, the Gospel of John leaves out the telling of the event. 

It even appears that John was co-authored. That is, some mysterious person penned the ending, which it says: 

John 21:24 He is the disciple who spoke of these things, the one who also wrote them down; and we know that what he said is true.

The text doesn’t give “the disciple” a name. It just says it’s “he.” So it’s a mystery who “he” was supposed to be.  

Further, it's ambiguous who the “we” were supposed to be, where the text reads “we know that what he said is true.” I ask how the “we” group knew what he said was true.  

Recap: The author of the Gospel of John remains a mystery.

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42 Did the Gospels come from eyewitnesses

Jan 8, 2011

08 Why was there a Christian movement after Jesus

Believer asks: Well, if the resurrection was a hoax, why would there be a Christian movement after Jesus’ death?

Skeptic replies: For about the same reason that, if the Olympian gods were hoaxed, why would the Greek and Romans worship them for centuries? The ancient Greeks and Romans and the later Christians have that in common. I can only hazard a guess about their reason: it’s a big bad world at times and philosophy alone may afford little comfort.

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Jan 7, 2011

07 Was the resurrection hoaxed

Believer asks: What did the Gospel writers hope to gain with a hoax if the resurrection and ascension of Jesus was merely an invention of theirs? 

Skeptic says: Christians say that the resurrection of Jesus really happened because of the facts presented in the Bible. But I side with the evidence that the Gospels weren't written by eye-witnesses. Futher, the followers of Jesus "witnessed" his resurrection with their eye of faith. Those who knew him less rumored about a bodily resurrection. The idea of a resurrection gave them hope and the Gospel writers repeated the rumors or made up stories of their own. 

The New Testament letter 1 John opens with "that which we have seen and touched.” But it’s unclear whether the opening line means the Resurrection. Scholars speculate it was written by John the disciple or John somebody else between AD 90 and AD 110. The Gospels, too, run afoul of the question of authorship and composition date. Despite that, Christians hold that the Gospels report just the facts, period.  

I say that the resurrection of Jesus is as unsubstantial as the ghost of Julius Caesar whom an "eye-witness" peasant met on a side road. The pre-Christian story goes that on the eve of a battle, the ghost predicted a victory for the Roman general Octavius. The peasant delivered the good news to the general, who, a practical man, concluded that the peasant had dreamed up the ghost of Caesar. 

Now when the Gospel account says Jesus came back, the matter of eye-witness and invention plays a part. Thus the Resurrection might well have started as a rumor and was embellished. Or it may very well have been inspirational and not literal. Its principle aim: raise the people's hopes in going heaven.

Jan 6, 2011

06 Would Apostles have knowingly died for a lie

Believer asks: Would the Apostles have died for what they knew was a lie?

Skeptic says: Not likely. Not for what they knew was a lie. But they may have died for what they believed was the truth.

By the way, the New Testament reports the demise of just a couple-three Apostles. In those days Jewish or Roman authorities might execute anyone who had joined an illegal cult. So some Christians were victims. Other Christians joined them in the following centuries, too. For example, Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, claimed that an angel had told him the original way of Christianity. In 1844 an Illinois mob killed him because he practiced a new theology. He had believed or imagined it was true.

For another instance, in 1553 the Christian theologian John Calvin and local authorities executed the heretical Michael Servetus in  Geneva. Servetus made the mistake of stopping in the city, so they apprehended him. He was martyred for his convictions, for what he believed or imagined was a true theology.

Further, the Greek philosopher Socrates drew the death penalty in 399 BC when a court ruled that he had badly influenced a band of youth; the band had hatched a plot to overthrow the government. Socrates' friends wanted to help him break jail. But he told them nom saying his daemon guide (which we might call a guardian angel) hadn't told him to escape. He believed that the daemon's silence was the sign that he had reached the end of his life. The supernatural guide had always been his adviser and urged him to do the right thing. He accepted his execution with his convictions intact.

Thus the Apostles weren't the only ones who had ever died in the name of a sacred belief. I say it makes little sense to get attached to a religion such as Christianity just because others have died for it.

Recap: The New Testament Apostles, Joseph Smith, Servetus, and Socrates believed in a supernatural ideal. It isn't likely they died for what they had known was a lie. But I say it’s unlikely that all of their religious beliefs were true. In general it's a matter of opinion which belief was true or false.

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Jan 5, 2011

05 Who became the first to wage war on Christmas

Ever hear today's Christians decry the “war on Christmas”? Well, church history shows that it was the church itself that originally waged “war on Christmas.” 
Historically, Protestants took dead aim at the celebration. But over time the family get-together holiday was so popular that the churches became friendly with the Christmas holiday.

Prior to the offical holiday, 19th century schools remained open, and Congress met in session through the Christmas season.

Not just Presbyterians but also Baptists, Quakers, Methodists and Congregationalists were set against Christmas until late that century. 

In fact disapproval in colonial New England extended to making the holiday illegal with celebration punishable by a fine. Boston Puritan Samuel Sewall once wrote on Christmas Day, 1685, “Some somehow observe the day, but are vexed, I believe, that the body of people profane it, and blessed be God no authority yet compels them to keep it.”

Today Christians such as the United Church of God reject the holiday because there's no biblical sanction for December 25, no scriptural basis for celebrating December 25. But whether to do away with Christmas altogether, it’s a hard sell with children.

Jan 4, 2011

04 Did Jesus teach that the rich were sunk

Jesus preached that it was very unlikely for a rich man to get to heaven

Matthew 19:23 Jesus then said to his disciples, “I assure you: it will be very hard for rich people to enter the Kingdom of heaven. 24 I repeat: it is much harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.”

But the Bible says Solomon the wise king was rich (Old Testament) ...

Abraham the father of the Hebrew nations was rich (Genesis 24:35-36) ...

Job, who was God’s favorite righteous man, was rich (Old Testament) ...

And also Joseph of Arimathea, the man who contributed his tomb to Jesus’ burial, was rich (Matthew 27:57).

Recap: So it ain't so hard for a rich man to get to heaven after all.

Jan 3, 2011

03 Did Jesus twist a law

In a public place Jesus declared himself “the light of the world.” Then Jewish teachers scoffed, saying he proved nothing with the claim. Then it was Jesus’ turn. He evoked the Jewish law that called for two eye-witnesses to determine a fact. He said he was one witness and the other one was God

John 8:17 “It is written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. 18 I am one who bears witness of myself, and the Father that sent me bears witness of me.”

The rule comes from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, which says that the court demands two (or more) eye‑witnesses if a person is accused of a crime. Well, what crime? At the time, Jesus wasn't accused of one.

And what's more, the eye-witnesses should step forward to testify. But God, the other witness, didn’t appear and speak in behalf of Jesus. 

Deuteronomy calls for two witnesses, to convict a person 

Deuteronomy 19:15 One witness is not enough to convict someone of a crime; at least two witnesses are necessary to prove that someone is guilty.

And calls for the same in a case of accusing somebody of a sin against God

Deuteronomy 17:2 Suppose you hear that in one of your towns some men or women have sinned against the LORD and broken his covenant. ... 6 However, they may be put to death only if two or more witnesses testify against them; they are not to be put to death if there is only one witness. 7 The witnesses are to throw the first stones, and then the rest of the people are to stone them; in this way you will get rid of this evil.

Recap: Jesus wasn’t accused of a crime or sin at the time. So two witnesses weren't needed. Apart from that, to claim God above and himself as the testimony of two?  Uh ... right.

Jan 2, 2011

02 Did a global Flood occur in third millennium BC

Believer says: Noah’s Flood was a universal deluge.

But skeptic says: Well, the geological evidence doesn't point to a world flood like the one in the Bible. In fact civilizations went on as usual through the time of the alleged Flood. 

Bible tradition says the year of the flood was sometime between 2200 BC and 2900 BC. But the thing is, a universal cataclysm didn't happen then. The Egyptian as well as the Chinese civilization went on as usual. Their writings and artifacts bear witness to the fact that they carried on with business. 

Some theists claim there are deletions in Genesis 11:10-32--that is to say, deliberate ones--for the sake of brevity. The Genesis chapter contains the years of every generation from the Flood to Abraham. Theists insert artificial generations into the chapter to make the Flood older by several thousand years. 

Recap: Genesis chapter 11 recounts the generations from the great Flood to Abraham, the father of the Hebrews. Abraham lived about 300 years after the Flood, thus about 1850 BC. Theists want the Flood date to be older, though, so they pad Genesis with artificial generations. Meanwhile, modern geology hasn't discovered any evidence for a global flood. Period.

Jan 1, 2011

01 So was there really a Jesus

Critics wonder who the real historical Jesus was. I could guess who he was, assuming he was a real person.

1) A sage believing God talked with him.

2) A spiritual leader (a messiah) on a mission to encourage his people about the hereafter.

3) A man who had no super-powers. No walking on water. Couldn't feed an audience of thousands with just five loaves of bread.

4) May well have been a faith healer to a lesser degree. But didn't ever raise the dead.

5) His followers saw him rise from the grave, yes, but saw it with their eye of faith. Those who knew him less spread rumors that he had bodily walked out of the tomb and appeared to his friends. Other fantastic stories and rumors, too, were collected and put in the Gospels.

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