After finding a man who claimed to know Jesus did not rise from the dead, we continued to have several conversations. The man knew his stuff, however failed to see there were many holes in his theory. Today, I’d like to address those issues along with other common topics often used to discredit Christianity.
Areas where we did NOT agree:
- Miracles. He did not believe Jesus did any miracles, but those were later added by “the church”.
- The spread of Christianity, he claimed it was a very small number.
- He did not believe the Gospels, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were written by apostles of Jesus.
I’m going to tackle points one and three together because they are related to each other. It’s important to remember the books of the Bible were all originally letters. Person A wrote a letter to Person B. Person B believed Person A to be a reliable person because they believed the letter to be true. How can I know this? Because Person B shared the letter with others. If the letter was not believed it would not have been copied again and again and again.
I’m going to be noting the timeline in the previous post quite often because it is important to remember WHEN and WHERE these letters were written. Mark is almost unanimously agreed on as the first Gospel to be written in 50-70AD (for full disclosure some believe it was Matthew, followed by Mark but within the same time frame). Jesus is believed to have been killed in 30-33AD. The point is, these letters were written within the lifetime of eyewitnesses and they were believed!!
There are people today who say the holocaust never happened. Unfortunately, we are getting close to having the last living survivors still with us, but we still have the children of survivors and the grandchildren of survivors who have been told first hand accounts of what their family members experienced. The same would have been true for the followers of Jesus. First eyewitnesses, then children of eyewitnesses and grandchildren all with real first hand testimonies. Just like now, we can shake our head at the crazies who deny the holocaust, the first century Christians could shake their head at untruthful claims about Jesus. If the miracles described in the gospels were not true, then the letters themselves wouldn’t have been believed.
Please remember, not everything written about Jesus was believed. Some of these include the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Marcion, Gospel of Truth (sure sounds good to me), Gospel of Mary, Secret Book of James, Infancy book of Thomas, Gospel of Philip, and Gospel of Peter. But wait, isn’t there a 1st and 2nd Peter in the Bible? Yes, there is! Which points out that some letters were believed while others were not. The early Christians weren’t stupid.
The spread of Christianity, he claimed it was a very small number.
The spread of Christianity surprised me to be something the man I spoke to had a very different opinion on. To say that Christianity was only in the hundreds rather than the thousands discredits multiple documentation of Christian persecution. First off, there is mass killings from Emperor Nero. Also, Paul claims he persecuted Christians before his conversion. The New Testament is a collection of letters where persecution is mentioned in 13 different letters. There has to be Christians for them to be martyred and persecuted.
Other evidence for the spread of Christianity is the location of the Christians in the letters. When I made the timeline I suggested to note where the church is located that the letter is addressing. There is James written to the 12 tribes scattered abroad, Galatians to Christians in Galatia, 1&2 Thessalonians to Christians in Thessalonica, 1 & 2 Corinthians to Christians in Corinth, Romans to Christians in Rome, Gospel of Matthew to Christian Jews in Antioch/Syria area, Ephesians to Christians in Ephesus, Colossians to Christians in Colossae, Philippians to Christians in Philippi, 1 Peter, written in Rome or Antioch to persecuted Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 1 & 2 Timothy (to Timothy in Ephesus) and Titus (in Crete islands) and Philemon (in Colossae).
The Christians were not in one neighborhood in Jerusalem. They were spread out, mostly because of persecution, but they shared Jesus with those around them.
Other Areas of Rebuttal
The most common critics of the Bible claim there are contradictions within the Gospels so they can’t be true. Some examples being: The genealogies in Luke and Matthew. The last words of Jesus. Which lady (ladies) went to the tomb first? There is a surprisingly long list if you look them up.
On face value it is troublesome. Which is correct? For most of these contradictions I use the same reasoning I did when it comes to passages added by the church (see part 3), do these areas really affect anything that is foundational for my faith? For me, it doesn’t. I’ve come to really love these contradictions because they completely discredit the next claim.
The “church” has fixed the Bible to make it say what they want it to say. Except… when they didn’t and left all the contradictions mentioned above. Oops!! Seriously, if the Bible has been “fixed” whoever did it, did a terrible job!!
You cannot tell me that for thousands of years, scribes didn’t notice that the genealogy in Luke didn’t match the one in Matthew. If they are fixing things and somehow that slipped through the cracks, then that’s really sad. I also mentioned in part 3 that if the church was changing things there would be a documented trail and lots of evidence to support these claims, but there is not.
It is also important to remember the location of the Christians. For the first two centuries there was no central “church” to control the text, but rather Christians spread out who would all be sharing copies of these letters with one another. This makes it impossible for “the church” to control the Biblical narrative.
While researching the timeline I found in 160-175 AD a leader in the early church named Tatian wrote Diatessaron which was an attempt to harmonize the four Gospels into one coherent passage. There, evidence, see the church changing the Bible. Except, it didn’t change the Bible. We still have the unharmonized Gospels today and records of Tatian’s attempt. Diatessaron came about 100 years after the Gospels were written, the church could have used Tatian’s version, but they didn’t because the Gospels were (and are) important, warts and all.
Believers, the accuracy of the Bible is extremely important, however I encourage you to relax your grip on the Bible. Does that mean I don’t believe the Bible is the inspired word of God? No, of course I do. However, finding out one verse is wrong, shouldn’t destroy your faith. That is what happened to Dr. Bart Ehrman. He went from seminary at a respected Christian institute to being cited as the number one critique of the Bible and Christianity.
Many of Dr. Ehrman’s claims are similar to the man I met online so I wanted to give some specific links to debates with him. The debates are about two hours each, so when you decide to watch them please make sure you have enough time to hear both sides completely. From what I have observed, Bart will take the evidence for a few verses and apply them to the whole. He takes manuscript A and compares it to B, which do not match and says we can’t know which is correct. When the truth is, yes A and B don’t match, however there are hundreds of documents that say the same as Text A, therefore we can know manuscript A is the correct answer and manuscript B is the error. He does the same thing to early Christians by finding a small sect or variant of Christianity and then claims all Christians in that time period believed the same. That’s not cool, not cool at all.
- What the early church considered Jesus to be – Bart Ehrman Michael Bird Debate 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtkeNuCwinc
- Preservation of early documents – Bart Ehrman and James White Debate — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moHInA9fAsI part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2Mp4v8VQwQ
- Historical Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection – Bart Herman and William Lane Craig — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MW5_nJYSKyk
- Christian vs Atheist on Jesus’ Resurrection – William Lane Craig vs Richard Carrier – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbrwcEC3i2o Dr. Craig’s views are the same as the debate with Dr. Ehrman, but Dr. Carrier brings up a very different argument.
This concludes my series on logical Christianity, if there is something you feel I missed please share that with me and I can edit it in or continue the discussion. During the course of my conversation with a stranger my faith grew, I hope that yours has as well. Until next time, God Bless!
As always, with love,
For the other Parts:
ONE – https://journeywithjewels.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/christian-faith-a-logical-point-of-view-part-1/
TWO – https://journeywithjewels.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/christian-faith-a-logical-point-of-view-part-2-establish-areas-of-agreement/
THREE – https://journeywithjewels.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/christian-faith-a-logical-point-of-view-part-3-establish-the-bible-as-a-credible-source/
FOUR – https://journeywithjewels.wordpress.com/2017/05/05/christian-faith-a-logical-point-of-view-part-4-establish-the-timeline-for-christianity/