Mar 10, 2011

29 Why I say God isn't omnipotent

Believer says: The God of the Bible is omnipotent.

But skeptic says: That’s a mere knowledge claim. What the Bible actually says is that the biblical God is almighty, and it connotes either "all-powerful” or "most powerful.” 

Some Bible editions have the word "omnipotent” in the book of Revelation. But because the Greek word there is "almighty,” other editions have that word. 

For example, the KJV uses the word "omnipotent.” So does the Amplified Bible although it includes a parenthetical note:

Revelation 19:6 [N]ow the Lord our God the Omnipotent (the All-Ruler) reigns!

While the book of Jeremiah states as follows

Jeremiah 32:17 "There is nothing too hard for you [God].”

The question is how the prophet, a mere mortal, can know it.

Although it says that nothing is too hard for God, God rested on day seven of creation

Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done.

Thus the all-powerful rested even though Isaiah 40:28 says "The Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.” But Genesis reports that the creator rested after six days of creation. 

Recap: There are biblical statements such as God rested, God repented, and God forgot. Defenders say they are meant to be understood from a human standpoint. That is, the Bible explains things in terms we can understand. It’s an apologist's prerogative to say that. But it sounds like rationalization. Of course, there’s always the question how the apologist knows that he speaks for the facts. Considering everything, it's questionable whether the Bible describes an omnipotent being.

Related post:

Mar 9, 2011

28 Did Jewish literature tell the life of Jesus

Believer says: The Jewish Talmud, compiled between AD 70 and AD 200, tells about Jesus as follows:

On the eve of the Passover Yeshu [Jesus] was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.”

But skeptic says: Yes, but that Yeshu couldn’t have been Jesus of the New Testament; because the Jewish Talmud connects up the sorcerer in question to the time of Alexander Jannaeus, the ruler of Palestine 104 BC to 79 BC. That Yashu story is set in about 90 BC! 

Another Jewish document, Toledoth Yeshu, contains a biography of a Jesus quite similar to the Gospel Jesus. It includes unflattering details, such as Yeshu was a fake. But the catch is, the composition of Toledoth Yeshu dates to the sixth century AD. And sets the sorcerer Yeshu in 90 BC again!
Recap: It's better not to get serious with associating Jesus with the Talmudic story of Yeshu. The Talmud doesn’t include any historical evidence for the Jesus of the Gospels.

Mar 8, 2011

27 Was 666 an historical person

Believer says: 666 will be an end-time sign.

But skeptic says: Some say that end-time has come and gone! They say that in Revelation 13, the one whose number was 666 was Emperor Nero of AD 60s. 

The name and title in Greek, Neron Caesar, when re-written in Hebrew letters, makes a total numerical value of 666. 

Even the final “n” can be left out for a total of 616. And few manuscripts known to the second century Christian Irenaeus--a Christian intellectual--read 616. But Irenaeus believed in an Antichrist that was still to come, so he rejected the idea that the number could stand for Nero.

Nero committed suicide in AD 68. But, although it may sound rather strange, the church feared his eventual return! In his Sacred History (or Chronicle), the Christian writer Sulpicius Severus (c. AD 403) expresses the dread of some church intellectuals:

ii. 28: “Nero, the basest of all men, and even of monsters, was well worthy of being the first persecutor. I know not whether he may be the last, since it is a current opinion of many that he is yet to come as Antichrist.”

Revelation teaches that Satan’s assistant, the beast whose mark is 666, will recover from a moral blow and return from death. So there was the fear of Nero coming back.

A few manuscripts show even more numerical variations for Revelation 13:18! 

Recap: There's strong chance the Antichrist was Emperor Nero, so the man whose mark was 666 came and went a long time ago.

Mar 7, 2011

26 Did Proverb 30 say Jesus was God’s son

Believer says: In the Old Testament, Proverb 30 makes it clear that Jesus is God’s son 

Proverb 30:2 Why, I am the most stupid of men, and have not even human intelligence; 3 neither have I learned wisdom, nor have I the knowledge of the Holy One. 4 Who has gone up to heaven and come down again--who has cupped the wind in his hands? Who has bound up the waters in a cloak--who has marked out all the ends of the earth? What is his name, what is his son’s name, if you know it?

But skeptic says: Well, Bible editions show various translations. Christians may see the segment of Proverb 30 to be about Jesus--that is where it says, “What is his name--and his son's name?”

But it could ask for the name of anyone that God favors. That’s because the Old Testament calls favored people God’s “sons.” 

The way I see it, the passage asked whether a human could do what God could do and to please identify the person who could. It said to tell us his name and his children's names. In fact it reads like that in other Bible editions

New Living Translation
Proverb 30:4 Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down? Who holds the wind in his fists? Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak? Who has created the whole wide world? What is his name--and his son's name? Tell me if you know!

Good News Bible
Have any ever mastered heavenly knowledge? Have any ever caught the wind in their hands? Or wrapped up water in a piece of cloth? Or fixed the boundaries of the earth? Who are they, if you know? Who are their children?

Septuagint (first Greek translation)
Who has gone up to heaven, and come down? Who has gathered the winds in his bosom? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has dominion of all the ends of the earth? What is his name? Or what is the name of his children?

Recap: The proverb asked who possessed power like God, but asked about nobody in particular. 

Mar 6, 2011

25 What's the cosmos’ source of creation

Believer asks: What is the cosmos’ origin or source of creation?

Skeptic replies: There’s no secular answer to the question today. 

Meanwhile the Bible Answer Man--a Christian radio host--has said there were three logical possibilities for the beginning of the universe. This is what he said:

1. It’s a personal illusion. He rejected it.

2. It came from nothing. There was no intelligent Creator. He rejected it, too.

3. Genesis was right about creationism. He accept it.

He said there weren’t any other possibilities. But I suggest the following ones:

4. The cosmos came from a prior unknown one. The question doesn’t ask how a prior one came. But the fast answer is a prior one perhaps existed forever.

5. Nobody can know the answer.

6. The source of the cosmos was other gods.

7. Advanced beings with advanced technology made the cosmos.

Recap: The cosmos’ origin: well, just one possibility is evidential. It's the one that “Nobody can know the answer (today).”

Related post:
14 What created God

Mar 5, 2011

24 So, was December 25 really Jesus' birthday

December 25--the traditional day for the birth of Jesus. 

But, to thank for it, we have some pretty wild assuptions from the early third century. The calculations of Hippolytus of Rome (a Christian) satisfied him that March 25, AD 29, was the date of the crucifixion. You might wonder what it has to do with the birth of Jesus. Well, Hippolytus believed that crucifixion day was in synchrony with the day when Mary conceived Jesus--so, by that token, March 25 was conception day too!  

The idea of perfect synchrony didn’t end there, either. Hippolytus fixed the nativity nine months after Mary conceived Jesus--and not a day more or less! So he arrived at the day December 25. Just like that.

His calculations drew on a 16-year cycle of the moon--he started from his day and went backwards with it and got March 25. Crucifixion day. But the real fact is that there's no such thing as a 16-year lunar cycle--it's really 19 years long! The 16-year cycle was bad astronomy--bogus.  

Not knowing any better, the church in Rome embraced his March 25. (Somebody had proposed it before, actually--but the idea fell by the wayside.)  

In the meantime, other churches disagreed--preferring March 25 to be the day of the nativity itself (Christmas Day). 

Not only that, but Christians applied holy synchrony to other things in the Bible. For these early Christians, creation began on March 25. And so did the fall of Adam and Eve! 

Hippolytus said that Jesus lived exactly thirty years and was born in 1 BC. Biblicists today, though, say 6 BC was a more likely date. 

Recap: Hippolytus fouled up thanks to the faulty astronomical data he had to work with. His date for Jesus’ birthday, December 25, grew popular a century later, anyway--and competed with an official Roman sun festival.

Related post:

23 Was the god-man Osiris born December 25

Mar 4, 2011

23 Was the god-man Osiris born December 25

Non-theists might claim that the ancient god Osiris of Egypt was born on December 25, the same day Jesus was. 

But I say Nuh-uh, the god-man Osiris wasn't born on December 25. The myth says he was born during the last five days of the year. But the Egyptian year ended in summer. Osiris was born then and not in December. 

The first day of the Egyptian calendar year, 1 Thoth, fell on August 29 or 30 in the Julian Calendar in 22 BC. And in our modern calendar, it's June 21.

Censorinus, a Roman of the third century AD, writes that New Year’s Day in Egypt fell on July 20, in the Julian Calendar 139 AD. So the first day of the Egyptian year was in summer even until then. 

December 25 became a Christian tradition even though it wasn't in the New Testament. It's winter solstice time, midwinter. Early Christian intellectual writers said it was fit to celebrate their savior’s birth when the sun took its beginning every year.

Recap: It's true that Egypt may have changed its calendar to start in winter, but the change came in the Christian era. The original time of the birth of Osiris was in the summer.

Related post:

Mar 2, 2011

22 Did Jesus call himself God in John 8?

Believer says: Jesus declares he is God in the Gospel of John 8.

But skeptic says: Christians may say that Jesus says so in John, which text reads as follows ...

57 Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”

What's the difference? Well, Yahweh calls himself "I Am” in Exodus 3:14. "I Am" is God's name! So "before Abraham was God (I Am)."  

Of course, it only stands to reason that God existed before Abraham (the man who was the father of the Hebrew nation about 1600 BC).  

Thus Jesus says God--I Am--was before Abraham was. 

Further, I infer that Jesus claims that God tells him things, too. God told him that Abraham prophesied, saw Jesus' day coming ... 

56 Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” 

John 8 needn’t be saying that Jesus calls himself God, knowing

By the way, Christians may state that Exodus 3 says “I will be” in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, not “I am”--as if to say that Christ did not denote God's name in John 8. Yes, "I will be" is okay, too. But Jesus and his disciples often quoted lines from the Greek language version of the Old Testament, and it says “I am” in Exodus 3. Thus I say that “I am” is as legitimate as "I will be” is. They're exchangeable, that's all. So what's the sense in pressing the argument about whether "I am" or "I will be" is God's name. They really both are.

Recap: It merely looks as if Jesus declared himself to be God in the Gospel of John. Mainly, it's thanks to the insertion of the English comma.

Related post:
21 Was Jesus the "mighty God” in Isaiah 9?

21 Was Jesus the “mighty God” in Isaiah 9?

Believer says: It's inescapable that Jesus is God in Isaiah 9.

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

But skeptic says:  Actually it’s escapable. That the Messiah Jesus was none other than Mighty God is just one way to take it. Isaiah 9 was likely a seventh- or eighth-century BC Jerusalem coronation hymn, Biblicists say. Any Jerusalem king was a messiah, an anointed leader, and so the hymn celebrated peace and protection to come when the new wise king ascended the throne. Well, at least the hymn expected those things. lt hoped that the God-fearing king would bring a final end to war and to other things that threatened the kingdom.

The words "mighty God” could say God was represented in the person of the king and in fact other translations say “the might of God,” “God's might,” and divine hero. Everybody had their hopes riding on the king, but it wasn't a prediction of Jesus.   

For what it's worth to bring up the Septuagint, the first Old Testament translation into Greek, it called the king "messenger" and not "mighty God"

9:6 And his name shall be called, messenger of the great council.

Believer says, also: Verse 7 says that the man to sit on the throne of David will do so forever. That person will have to be Jesus.

But skeptic says: Again it's one way to read it. But another explanation is that when the king set up justice, his subjects hoped that his fair and just rule would continue from ruler to ruler 

Isaiah 9:7 He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

So the king himself wouldn't continue to be a monarch forever, since a new king would replace him eventually.

Recap: Isaiah 9 was a coronation hymn to a new king and the passage expressed the hope that he would establish nonstop peace. Or it predicted Jesus to come. Let the readers decide.

Related post:
22 Did Jesus call himself God in John 8?

Mar 1, 2011

20 Fairy tale magician parts water like Moses

Remember the biblical story of Moses parting the sea?

Supposedly this biblical parting of waters happened between 1450 BC and 1250 BC. A refresher ...

Exodus Moses held out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind. It blew all night and turned the sea into dry land. The water was divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on both sides.

But Moes wasn't the only one who parted a body of water. An Egyptian fairy tale from about 1500 BC tells the story of a magician parting the waters of a lake. The tale is preserved on the Westcar Papyrus, which is housed in the Berlin Museum.

The similarity between Moses and the magician may be a mere coincidence. Then again, the Hebrews may have borrowed elements from the Egyptian tale. It goes as follows:

The Green Jewel

King Khufu sat to hear tales regarding the wonders of other days and the doings of magicians. So the Prince Khafra stood before him and related an ancient story.

One day, King Sneferu was disconsolate and weary, wandering about the palace with desire to be cheered, nor was there aught to take the gloom from his mind. He caused his chief scribe, Djadja-em-ankh, to be brought before him, and said: "I would fain have entertainment, but cannot find any in this place.”

The scribe said: "Your Majesty should go boating on the lake, and let the rowers be the prettiest girls in your harem. It will delight your heart to see them splashing the water where the birds dive and to gaze upon the green shores and the flowers and trees. I myself will go with you.”

The king consented, and twenty virgins who were fair to behold went into the boat, and they rowed with oars of ebony which were decorated with gold. His Majesty took pleasure in the outing, and the gloom passed from his heart as the boat went hither and thither, and the girls sang together with sweet voices.

It chanced, as they were turning round, an oar handle brushed against the hair of the girl who was steering, and shook from it a green jewel, which fell into the water. She lifted up her oar and stopped singing, and the others grew silent and ceased rowing. Said Sneferu: "Do not pause; let us go on still farther.”

The girls said: "She who steers has lifted her oar.”

Said Sneferu to her: "Why have you lifted your oar?” 

Alas, I have lost my green jewel,” she said. “It has fallen into the lake.” 

Sneferu said: "I will give you another; let us go on.” 

The girl pouted and made answer: "I would rather have my own green jewel again than any other.” 

His Majesty said to the chief scribe: "I am given great enjoyment by this novelty; indeed my mind is much refreshed as the girls row me up and down the lake. Now one of them has lost her green jewel, which has dropped into the water, and she wants it back again and will not have another to replace it.”

The chief scribe at once muttered a spell. Then by reason of his magic words the waters of the lake were divided like a lane. He went down and found the green jewel which the girl had lost, and came back with it to her. When he did that, he again uttered words of power, and the waters came together as they were before.

The king was well pleased, and when he had full enjoyment with the rowing upon the lake he returned to the palace. He gave gifts to the chief scribe, and everyone wondered at the marvel which he had accomplished.

Such was Khafra’s tale of the green jewel, and King Khufu commanded that offerings should be laid in the tombs of Sneferu and his chief scribe, who was a great magician.


Recap: A part of the fairy tale is like the story of Moses making a lane in the sea. The people walked down into the lane and through to the other side, then Moses made the water come together again. The Egyptian magician did it, too. Did the story of Moses get the idea from the fairy tale?