Where are the Eyewitness Accounts of Jesus?

October 31, 2010

Christians often argue that one reason we should believe in Jesus is because we have firsthand eyewitness accounts that testify of his divinity. They are speaking of the Gospels and Acts of course (Paul never claims to have met Jesus except in a dream). Yet the first Gospel in the Bible to be written (there are other Gospels that were not included in the Bible), the Gospel of Mark, wasn’t written until 65 – 80 years after the time that Jesus would have been crucified. Matthew wasn’t written for 80 – 100 years after, Luke & Acts – 80 to 130 years after, and John – 90 to 120 years after. These are hardly eyewitness accounts.

The lack of any eyewitness accounts of Jesus is a bigger problem than it may seem at first. It’s not just that there is one less reason to believe in Jesus. It’s that if the stories in the Gospels were true, there really should be eyewitness accounts – a lot of them.

Take Matthew’s story of Jesus’ birth for example (Mat 2:16)

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi

Outside of the Gospel of Matthew written 80 to 100 years after Jesus would have been crucified, there are no firsthand accounts of Herod’s order to kill every Jewish firstborn in the city. Wouldn’t such a massacre be noteworthy? Shouldn’t we expect at least a mention of it in some writings from that period? In fact, there is no mention of it anywhere else.

Take Matthew’s story of Jesus’ death for another example (Mat 27:45, 27:51-53):

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land … At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

Rocks spontaneously splitting, the temple curtain spontaneously tearing (that would be THE curtain that separates the rest of the temple from the Holy of Holies where the Arc of the Covenant was kept), and the dead coming back to life and walking around Jerusalem – how often to these sorts of things happen? How “normal” are these events? How many people should have seen at least one of these events?

How plausible is it that all of these events really occurred AND that there are no firsthand accounts of any of the events? Certainly the lack of any firsthand account is a good reason to doubt that the events really happened, but isn’t the Gospel of Matthew THE firsthand account? No, the Gospel of Matthew was an embellishment of the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Mark does not mention any of the events except for the tearing of the Temple curtain. Paul’s writings, the earliest writings in the New Testament, says nothing at all about any of these events.

Faith: Who Needs It?

October 23, 2010

Who needs faith? This isn’t merely a rhetorical question, it’s a question that deserves an answer. The most basic demand that God makes of us is that we have faith in Him; that we believe He exists. Any other faith about God depends on faith that God exists. If we are to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we must first believe that God exists.

A logical problem:

If we know that God makes this demand of us, then we already know that God exists and we can’t have faith – which is what God demands of us. Is there a demand that we believe in God? Yes. Who is making the demand? God. Because we know that God exists, we can’t also have faith that God exists.

We don’t have faith that the London exists. In fact we can’t have faith that London exists because we know it exists. Faith is incompatible with knowledge.

Another logical problem:

Why does anyone think that God requires us to have faith? Because the Bible says so. How do we know that what the Bible says is from God? Because the Bible says it’s from God. Why should we believe what the Bible says? Because the Bible says it’s from God. That begs the question: Why should we believe what the Bible says?

The problem of Theodicy

If God exists and He requires above all that we believe that He exists, then why would He place us in the situation in which we find ourselves; a situation in which we haven’t a shred of evidence that would lead us to believe that He exists? If God carefully obscures from us all evidence of His existence, then God is responsible for our lack of faith.

Who needs us to have blind faith?

The leaders of Christianity, both modern leaders as well as its ancient founders, demand above all that we have blind faith in God. Blind faith, faith without any evidence, is a fundamental requirement without which Christianity could not thrive. If Christian leaders had any knowledge of God’s existence, they wouldn’t need to “believe” that God existed, nor would they need their followers to “believe” that God exists. God’s existence would be a forgone conclusion.

Put this to the test!

Ask your Priest, Pastor, Elder, Minister this question: “do you know that God exists?” If his or her answer is:

  • Yes – then ask if he or she has faith that God exists, and discuss the incompatibility with knowledge and faith. Post any reasonable answers here.
  • No or I’m Not Sure – then ask why he or she believes that God exists. Post any reasonable answers here.

If God is Real…

August 18, 2010

William says:

If God is real,and He created you,and you believe this without a shadow of a doubt, then you would be like “us”. Tell me, how would you feel if were constantly told that you’re beliefs are but mere petty childish dreams. Would you appreciate it? I understand you lack of evidence to persuade you, but are you that alone that you can’t believe in this “God” I so aware serve? Is it that you have no evidence that you can’t believe or were you taught not to believe, or maybe even are you just not believe because you can? Evidence is but a small reaction to atheist. If you are an atheist then you made that choice not to believe,so stick to your disbelief…But if your ready to believe (I doubt you will be) then come to Him yourself. But, until then, it be wise of you to continue your disbelief. You say what you have to say, and we have to say what you do as well. This battle of He is/He isn’t will go on forever…So express yourself.
Thank You… WDC

Atheism by Faith?

May 27, 2008

Part 1: Spot the Equivocation

Fundamentalist Christians often charge that atheists can’t know that God does not exist (after all, we can’t prove the negative) so atheists have to take it on faith that there is no God, just as fundamentalists take it on faith that God exists. To an extent, fundamentalists use logic and evidence to support their religious claims, but if you look beneath the surface, if you ask “how do you know” often enough (but how do you know that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God?), you finally arrive at the answer: “you just have to have faith,” or other creative variants like “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.” The idea is to put atheism on equal footing with Christian fundamentalism; to show that atheism is no more evidence based than Christianity.

Have you spotted the fatal flaw yet? The flaw is that the fundamentalists equivocate the meaning of the word, “faith.” When applied to religion, fundamentalists mean blind faith – the willingness to accept and believe without evidence (and even in the face of strong evidence to the contrary). On the other hand, when they apply the word, “faith,” to conclusions based on evidence, they mean that if we don’t know for sure (i.e., if we don’t have proof), then we have to believe that our conclusions are true. However, considering the available evidence, and then accepting the most reasonable conclusion based on the evidence is far from blind faith – it is “reasoned belief.” When referring to the “blind faith” of Christianity, and the “reasoned belief” of skepticism, fundamentalists use the same term, “faith,” for both, even though the meaning of each is quite different. Once you make the distinction, the charge that atheism is no more evidence-based than Christianity, crumbles.

Part 2: The “Faith Game”

Just for fun, consider an aspect of faith from the fundamentalist Christian viewpoint. The author of Hebrews (let’s just call him “Paul” for now) says in Heb 11:1

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

According to Paul, faith is the evidence. Fundamentalists who accept Intelligent Design claim that we have to take evolution on faith since we have never seen animals evolve (never mind that we actually have seen animals and plants speciate, and we have ample evidence to consider evolution a fact). Therefore, they claim that evolution is “not seen” but that proponents of evolution (biologists) simply take it on faith. Then according to Paul (and fundamentalists by definition, take Paul’s words as absolutely true), the “faith” of the biologists is itself the evidence of evolution; the biologists’ faith is “the evidence of things not seen”. By their own reasoning, fundamentalists must admit that there is evidence for evolution.

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