Argument from Holy Scripture
Divine inspiration is often claimed for features of religious texts, constituting evidence of God’s existence or the truth of a religious doctrine. In addition to the articles below, see also related Debates, Reviews, and Links. To purchase related reading, go to the Secular Web Book Store.
Bible Codes [ Index ]
A collection of articles debunking the claims of Michael Drosnin’s The Bible Code.
Resurrection [ Index ]
Selected articles and reviews relating to the Resurrection myth.
Index of Bible Verses (Off Site) [ Index ]
by Tom Gould, provides a book-by-book index of the Bible with links to the relevant verses discussed by McKinsey’s Biblical Errancy, below.
The Holy Qur’an [ Index ]
Mormon Scripture [ Index ]
Scientology [ Index ]
Unlike historical writing, the New Testament Gospels read like ancient prose novelistic literature. Outside of Luke, the Gospel authors say nothing about any textual sources for Jesus that they consulted, and even Luke does not name, explain, or discuss the relevance of any historical sources. In fact, Luke only mimics historical prose for a few brief lines before merely venerating Jesus in the stories that he relates. None of the Gospel authors explain how they came to learn of the alleged events that they relate (though John claims an unnamed eyewitness disciple of Jesus that he probably invented). Instead, the Gospels narrate “events” from an all-knowing perspective that places them within a literary genre unlike that of actual historical works from antiquity. In this essay Matthew Wade Ferguson discusses ten important ways in which the Gospels fall short of the research, independent corroboration, methodology, and critical investigation typical of the historical writing of their time.
“Concerning the pericope 1 Cor 15:3-11, A.M. Hunter says, “Of all the survivals of pre-Pauline Christianity in the Pauline corpus this is unquestionably the most precious. It is our pearl of great price.” His sentiment is widely shared, not least by those who see the passage as crucial for Christian apologetics, but also by those who at least feel that here we have a window, opened a crack, into the earliest days of Christian belief. In the present article I will be arguing that this pericope presents us instead with a piece of later, post-Pauline Christianity. Whether it thus loses some of its pearly sheen will lie in the eye of the beholder . . .”
Almost all evangelical Christians . . .believe that the Bible contains special features which constitute evidence of its divine inspiration. This would be a use of the Bible to prove God’s existence within natural theology rather than within revealed theology, since the book’s features are supposed to be evident even to (open-minded) skeptics. . . . [This] reasoning can be construed as an argument both for God’s existence and for the truth of the gospel message from the alleged special features of the Bible. We may refer to it as “the Argument from the Bible”. Although almost all evangelical Christians agree with it at least to some extent, it is an argument that is for the most part ignored by professional philosophers of religion. One explanation for such neglect is that the argument can be easily refuted.
Ted Drange develops two arguments for the nonexistence of the God of evangelical Christianity, an all-powerful and loving being greatly concerned about the fate of human beings and desiring a personal relationship with them. According to his argument from confusion (AC), widespread confusion between Christians over matters of ultimate importance entails that the God of evangelical Christianity probably does not exist. In particular, the rampant diversification of Christian sects on such matters entails that, even if any one of those sects is correct, large numbers of Christians must hold false beliefs about issues of ultimate importance–contrary to what one would predict if the God of evangelical Christianity existed. The argument from biblical defects (ABD) contends that if the God of evangelical Christianity existed, then the Bible would probably be perfectly clear and authoritative and without marks of solely human authorship; but since the Bible does not meet either of these criteria, the God of evangelical Christianity probably does not exist.
Zaitzeff exposes the flawed methodology of Biblical harmonizers like Gleason Archer.
In this essay, Ball seeks to challenge the mind-set that the Bible is the infallible and internally consistent revealed Word of God. In doing so, Ball examines biblical incongruity within the specific areas of the goodness of God, the requirements for salvation, vowing, and the relationship among fear, love, and punishment.
Biblical Errancy by Dennis McKinsey (Off Site) [ Index ]
An excellent resource containing electronic versions of the 186 issues of Dennis McKinsey’s Biblical Errancy. The material presented here was later collected into McKinsey’s infamous The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy.
A critical response to Craig’s historical arguments for the Resurrection.
The former evangelist draws parallels between a “supernatural savior who was born of a virgin, healed the sick, raised the dead, changed water into wine, walked on water, rose from the grave and ascended bodily into the sky,” and other fictitious characters.
One of the most striking things about the debate over Jesus, his life, and his works is the narrow confines of the debate. If we look at contemporaneous China, we find reports of miracles and wonders among the ancient Daoist alchemists that rivals those said to have been performed by Jesus.
“Paul said, ‘God is not the author of confusion,’ (I Corinthians 14:33), yet never has a book produced more confusion than the bible! There are hundreds of denominations and sects, all using the ‘inspired Scriptures’ to prove their conflicting doctrines.”
The author of the Johannine text, Still explains, did not have a Semitic-language background, and “shows language and vocabulary paralleled in pagan usage of the first century A.D.” Still explores the implications of this, as well as contextual differences “between the Gospel of John as king-maker who turns Jesus into a sacrificial soter man-god, Philo’s Logos, and a Creator (of the universe), versus the synoptic tradition of Jesus as eschatological Messiah and messenger who heralds the kingdom of God.”
Montgomery asserts that Christianity’s claims survive examination using the legal tests for evidence. He does this only by misstating and twisting the rules of evidence and the facts.
These three essays are part of a three-year spirited discussion between Glenn Miller of the Christian Thinktank and James Still. In this first essay, Still agrees provisionally with Miller’s critique of the “bias fallacy,” and suggests that skeptics who dismiss the entire New Testament as a “pious fraud” misunderstand the purpose and historical origins of the NT texts.
Still takes the opportunity to explain and further develop areas of his first essay, in response to Miller’s comments. “At issue,” Still says, “is whether or not the NT texts are ‘reliable’ in the sense of accurately representing the words and deeds of an historical Jesus of Nazareth. While most theologians (even conservatives, Still suggests) answer with a disappointed “no,” Still finds Miller’s inerrancy position to be a “rare exception to biblical scholarship.
Though the discussion between Miller and Still has “finally narrowed” to a point where they can begin to engage each other in a meaningful way, Still finds that they continue to be separated by an enormous gulf–Miller’s approach to the Bible from a “proof-text” methodology which assumes that the Bible is the authentic source of all truth.
It is indisputable that Luke dates the birth of Jesus to 6 A.D. It is also indisputable that Matthew dates the birth of Jesus before 4 B.C., perhaps around 6 B.C. This is an irreconcilable contradiction.
“The question, ‘Did Jesus Christ Really Live?’ goes to the very root of the conflict between reason and faith; and upon its determination depends, to some degree, the decision as to whether religion or humanity shall rule the world.”
Professor G.A. Wells continues the debate about the origins of Jesus and the development of Christianity. Drawing on the writings of recent theologians and historians and alluding to his latest book, The Jesus Myth, he throws light on the early history of Christianity.
Wells replies to Holding’s attacks, showing how Holding has misunderstood his position. Wells also defends his position on the early Pagan and Jewish references to Jesus.
Professor Wells replies to Reverend Neals’ attacks on his position.
Dr. Berggren argues that, since the revealed Word of God contains errors and ambiguities uncharacteristic of an infallible God, then we ought to conclude that such a being does not exist.
Eusebius, the first Christian historian, openly defends telling lies to support Christianity.
According to Orthodox Judaism, nothing has value unless it is for the sake of God. Could such a belief perpetuate a religious worldview in which a people who see themselves as being “chosen” by God slip into an ethnocentric myth that is both closed-minded and dangerous? Speaking as an Israeli citizen and former Orthodox Jew, the author critiques the genealogical saga from Abraham to the Babylonian Captivity while shedding much light on our contemporary world.
“In John we find the culmination of Greek philosophy that has created the Jesus that we are the most familiar with today. A fully-formed Hellenized Jesus has emerged to become an equal with God. The Gospel of John . . . is complex and mystical. It’s purpose is to propagandize the message that Jesus is God Himself, creator of the universe, and so powerful that ‘whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ .. .”
As a rebuttal to Glen Miller’s apologetic piece that appears on the Christian Thinktank website, Tim Simmons delves deeply into the biblical story of Jehu and the killings at Jezreel to show that indeed there is a contradiction to be found between 2nd Kings 10:30 and Hoseah 1:4.
Historical Evidence and the Empty Tomb Story: A Reply to William Lane Craig (2001) by Jeffery Jay Lowder
Lowder provides a point-by-point rebuttal to Craig’s case for the empty tomb. Along the way, Lowder defends a naturalistic explanation of the empty tomb. He concludes that historians should be agnostic about the empty tomb story.
Oser summarizes alleged references to Jesus and to early Christianity, with special emphasis on the writings of Josephus and on pagan writers.
Lowder assesses the debate over the historicity of the resurrection between two Evangelical apologists (William Lane Craig and Josh McDowell) and two skeptics (Michael Martin and Dan Barker).
Lowder responds to a recent attack on Biblical infallibility by William Edelen, arguing that every one of Edelen’s objections are fallacious.
Lowder argues that there is nothing intrinsically improbable about the mere existence of a man named Jesus; the New Testament alone should constitute prima facie evidence for the historicity of Jesus.
Another advanced analysis of the Institution Narrative (or the “Lord’s Supper”) in Luke. Did Paul receive the Eucharist from James and the disciples in Jerusalem? Or did he look to a pagan world replete with savior-sacrifice rituals for his motif? The author suggests that there is a third option . . .
Essay originally delivered as a lecture in a two-day debate with a Fundamentalist minister. Fields runs the Bank of Wisdom.
Is the Bible God’s Word or Man’s Invention? (2000) (Off Site) [ Index ] by Curt van den Heuvel
Commentary and criticism, responses to Christian apologetics, and Biblical errancy. Site by ex-Baptist turned atheist.
Demonstrates from sources that in the time of Jesus the Jews had the full practice of their own laws, and that these laws required that Jesus be taken down Friday, that he be placed in a temporary tomb for the Sabbath, and that he be buried Saturday night in a special graveyard reserved for criminals. Therefore, Jesus could not have been in the tomb of Joseph Sunday morning. Also, a “third day” motif in Jewish law and exegesis is examined that may relate to early Christian resurrection belief.
Was the burial of Jesus a temporary one, because of time constraints? (2002) (Off Site) by Glenn Miller
Miller rebuts the hypothesis that Jesus’ body was only temporarily stored in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb.
The Jury Is In: The Ruling on McDowell’s ‘Evidence’ [ Index ] edited by Jeffery Jay Lowder
A comprehensive rebuttal to Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict, which many Christians mysteriously hail as a masterpiece of Christian apologetics. McDowell refuses to link to this critique.
Carrier argues that when we examine the background of the time and place in which the gospels were written, we discover that “these were times replete with kooks and quacks of all varieties, from sincere lunatics to ingenious frauds, and there was no end to the fools and loons who would follow and praise them.”
For two millennia in Christendom every generation has been the last generation. Just in time, Edward Babinski is here to explain the delay.
Summarizes Steve Mason’s argument that Luke drew material from the works of Josephus.
Musonius Rufus was a 1st century Stoic philosopher, greatly admired by the pagan Romans and Greeks as one of the two best men in history (the other being Socrates). His story and philosophy do not get much attention because so little has survived of his teachings, and this essay attempts to correct that balance by giving him the notice he is due. I have often remarked how this man’s wisdom and values were more humane and progressive than those put into the mouth of Jesus, and though he is not without flaw, he is a better man, and this should cause us to question how Jesus can be at all divine, if this mere mortal was his better.
In her critique of Richard Carrier’s “On Musonius Rufus: A Brief Essay,” Amy Sayers’ misunderstands several of Carrier’s actual points, such as those concerning the ambiguity of passages attributed to Jesus or the brutish nature of his parables. In this rebuttal, Richard Carrier clarifies his earlier comments, explaining various instances where Sayers misses the point of his original arguments that Musonius Rufus was a better person than the biblical Jesus.
Several authors have advanced a particular inscription as early evidence of the empty tomb story in the Gospels. Upon close examination, however, it provides no evidence for Christianity or its claim of an empty tomb: it contains no new or unusual laws regarding grave robbing, the decree itself is not unique, it has no references or direct links to Christianity of any kind, it’s date is most likely pre-Christian, its origin is not likely to be Nazareth, and its contents are not explainable even as a muddled imperial reaction to the theft of Jesus’ body.
The author asserts that “when one examines this issue closely, one will find a tremendous volume of literature that demonstrates, logically and intelligently, time and again that Jesus Christ is a mythological character along the same lines as the Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Sumerian, Phoenician, Indian or other godmen, who are all presently accepted as myths rather than historical figures.”
Still confronts the irreconcilable contradictory biblical accounts of Jesus’ arrest and trial as they relate to each other and Jewish practice of the day.
“A very simple flaw in the prophecy-fulfillment argument is that foreseeing the future doesn’t necessarily prove divine guidance. Psychics have existed in every generation, and some of them have demonstrated amazing abilities to predict future events. Their ‘powers,’ although mystifying to those who witness them, are not usually considered divine in origin. If, then, Old Testament prophets did on occasions foresee the future. . . , perhaps they were merely the Nostradamuses and Edgar Cayces of their day. Why would it necessarily follow that they were divinely inspired? Even the Bible recognizes the possibility that uninspired prophets can sometimes accurately predict the future . . .”
In this essay, the author reacts to Josh McDowell’s Chapter 4 entitled “Reliability of the Bible” in his book Evidence That Demands a Verdict. He first distinguishes between Pauline faith and McDowell’s insistence that the Bible reveals historically true propositions, which the author calls the “reliability doctrine.” McDowell’s reliability doctrine is then examined from three perspectives: biblical criticism, archaeology, and philosophy. The author concludes that the gospel narratives are not to be understood as factually true propositions of history, but rather they communicate the theological meaning of faith in Christ.
Reply to Price’s Rebuttal of “The Fabulous Prophecies of the Messiah” (1996) (Off Site) by Farrell Till
Till responds to Dr. James Price’s rebuttal of Jim Lippard’s article, “The Fabulous Prophecies of the Messiah,” wherein Lippard attempts to discredit the claims that certain Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Till criticizes Price’s rebuttal for its “bald, unsupported assertions.”
The entirety of Farrell Till’s series of replies to Robert Turkel, the apologist of Tekton Apologetics Ministries also known as James Patrick Holding.
Revealing Daniel (1998) (Off Site) by Curt van den Heuvel
“While an interesting book in its own right, the book of Daniel is not a record of the future. It is, in fact, a testament to the time that inspired it, the terrible persecutions of the Jews under Antiochus in the late second century BCE. To cast it as a prophecy of days to come, divorced of its historical context, is to miss its real meaning.”
The Riddle of the Four Faces: Solving an Ancient Mystery (2000) by Darek Barefoot
It seems problematic that there are four (and only four) gospels in the NT canon. Barefoot seeks to provide a more objective reason for thinking that Ezekiel’s mysterious “four faces”–the man, lion, ox, and eagle–play a hand in the selection of the canonical four gospels in the early history of the Church.
In this greatly expanded version of his contribution to The Antipodean Philosopher, Raymond D. Bradley uses H. L. Mencken’s classic “Memorial Service” as a jumping off point to explain why he is an atheist, and not an “agnostic,” about the existence of any members of the category “gods.” Since which gods happen to predominate in the society into which one was born depends upon accidents of birth, how can anyone justifiably have confidence that any of the gods on Mencken’s list actually exist? Turning to our own Western monotheistic tradition, Bradley goes on critique the intellectual and moral defense that believers have mounted for the biblical God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with particular emphasis on “intelligent design” and “fine-tuning” arguments and how the pastorate feign ignorance about what their own biblical scholarship has uncovered about the all-too-human origins of their “revealed” sacred texts.
Your search for the historical Jesus begins here! The author introduces the current scholarly quest to find the historical Jesus buried beneath the layers of post-Easter legends later attributed to him.
Borchandt critiques Josh McDowell’s “legal-historical proof” methodology to render the verdict that Christine doctrine is based on fact. The popular apologist, Borchandt concludes, fails to silence the skeptic “beyond reasonable doubt.”
An advanced analysis for the serious reader concerning the famous story of the pagan woman whose clever retort against Jesus wins the day.
A preliminary essay outlining important facts about Thallus (or Thallos), a pagan chronologer of unknown date who is occasionally mentioned in the works of Christian apologists, modern and ancient, as a 1st century pagan witness to the gospel tradition of a “darkness” at the death of Christ. Concludes that he either is not such a witness, or else wrote in the 2nd century.
“In response to remarks by Douglas Wilson in a debate with Ted Drange, I have composed two examples of how Christians don’t understand the importance of scholarship in truly understanding the New Testament, centering around 1 Timothy. The first concerns the abuse of ancient Greek. The second concerns ignorance of the usefulness of textual criticism.”
This essay explores the story of Jesus as a virgin-born savior god by looking at other such figures in the history of the Near East.
Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection Story 6th ed. (2006) [ Index ]
There are many reasons that I am not a Christian. I am an atheist for reasons more fundamental than anything to do with particular religions, but the arguments in favor of the Christian creed as opposed to any other are ubiquitous and always center around the historical claim that Jesus was raised from the dead. As an historian with a good knowledge of Greek, I am now very qualified to make a professional judgement in the matter. This essay explains why I find the Resurrection to be an unconvincing argument for becoming Christian.
Julie’s River Run: On Comparing the Rubicon to the Resurrection (2005) by Robert Turkel (Off Site)
Turkel discusses an analogy used by some apologists to compare the resurrection of Jesus to the crossing of the Rubicon by Caesar as well as skeptical critiques of that analogy, including Carrier’s critique. Turkel contends that "the evidence for the Resurrection is as good as, or better than, that for Caesar crossing the Rubicon."
Against Carrier’s argument in the Main Argument of Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection Story, James Holding claims (in “Julie’s River Run: On Comparing the Rubicon to the Resurrection“) that we have as much evidence that Jesus rose from his grave as we have that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon. There are numerous errors in Holding’s argument. Carrier’s rebuttal responds briefly to the most important issues. In the end, Carrier’s claim remains unchallenged: we have more evidence that Caesar crossed the Rubicon than we have that Jesus rose from the grave. Therefore, the claim that this resurrection is “as well attested” as the Rubicon crossing is still false.
The traditional authors of the canonical Gospels—Matthew the tax collector, Mark the attendant of Peter, Luke the attendant of Paul, and John the son of Zebedee—are not held to be the Gospels’ actual authors by the majority of mainstream New Testament scholars. Christian apologists nevertheless produce a lot of material advocating the view that the Gospels are the eyewitness testimonies of either Jesus’ disciples or their attendants. Much of the general public is unfamiliar with the mainstream scholarly view that the Gospels are anonymous works, written in a different language than that of Jesus, in distant lands, after a substantial gap of time, by unknown persons compiling, redacting, and inventing various traditions in order to provide a faith narrative of Christianity’s central figure, Jesus Christ. While Matthew Wade Ferguson has previously discussed why scholars do not consider the Gospels to be historical documents, in this essay he explores a number of internal and external reasons why scholars doubt the traditional authorial attributions of the Gospels.