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 . . .”
In Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God, Paul Copan attempts a bold apologetic of the Judeo-Christian God’s moral status. The so-called new atheists see the biblical God as a promotor of genocide, slavery, murder, rape, and other immoral acts. But the only serious objections to the biblical God’s moral status are passages in which immoral acts are clearly done because of God’s will, or are explicitly approved of by God. Even with this caveat, however, the Bible clearly prescribes immoral behavior that Copan cannot explain away in this fashion. Premarital sex is explicit grounds for divorce or execution of a wife, but not of a husband; rape warrants punishment when a married woman is raped, but not when an unmarried one is violated; the fathers of female victims of rape can refuse marriage to their rapist, but not the victims themselves; peoples who simply do not accept the dominant theology of Israel should be executed in war, making exception for the traumatized adolescent girls of conquered nations, whom Israelite soldiers can “spare” for themselves; and so on. In order to maintain his belief that Yahweh is morally perfect, Copan must explain away any Old Testament evidence of God’s moral culpability in light of the more loving and inclusive New Testament passages. But this does not provide an objective examination of the biblical God’s moral status, and thus will only appeal to Christians who are worried the about possibility that their God might be a moral monster.
The Death of Judas (n.d.) (Off Site) by Steven Elliott
This page brings together in one place most or all of the problems concerning the biblical account of the death of Judas.
This article is a secular-minded elucidation of the first chapter of the book of Genesis based on the original Hebrew text, with translation and commentary.
An advanced analysis of the Institution Narrative 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.
In this article John MacDonald examines the possible lie by Jesus in John 7:8-10. The article begins by providing an analysis of the context of lying and deception in the ancient world. Given this background, it moves on to examine (mainly) the insights of Tyler Smith, Adele Reinhartz, Dennis MacDonald, and Hugo Méndez/Candida Moss about the Fourth Gospel and deception. Here John MacDonald explores the thesis that John’s Jesus does in fact lie, and that this lie is meant to be understood by the inner-circle reader. Jesus lying to his brothers is the method by which he is able to go up and preach to the crowd; the lie leads to belief or makes belief possible.
The most obvious solution to the Synoptic Problem (order of priority among the New Testament Gospels) has been rejected by most scholars since the 19th century largely because of embarrassments it was causing for the church and/or their own theologies. However, if theological commitment is abandoned and the evangelists are considered to have been human beings with human emotions, rather than pipelines from God, it is seen that numerous editorial oddities associated with the traditionally attested order (Matthew-Mark-Luke) are easily explainable and make good psychological sense. They indicate that the gospel writers were engaged in a behind-the-scenes tit-for-tat battle brought on by the strong anti-gentile slant of the Gospel of Matthew in its Hebraic form.
Up to the present day, a large number of the followers of Abrahamic religions have insisted that the accounts of creation found in the book of Genesis are a literal historical account of past events. Do they have any basis in actual history? Are they original to the Hebrew people? If not, what or who inspired them? In this thorough examination of the history and mythology of the cultures surrounding ancient Israel, Jason Gibson compares the oldest creation myths of Mesopotamia with those found in Genesis to demonstrate a clear connection between ancient Hebrew beliefs and the Sumerian myths that predated them.
Carrier summarizes the debate over whether Isaiah in 7:14 meant ‘virgin’ in what is taken by Christians to be a prophecy of the messiah’s birth. He concludes that whatever the case Isaiah probably did not mean a virgin would conceive in any supernatural sense.
If bibliolaters would just once in their lives put aside all of their pet theories and take an objective look at the Bible, they would begin to see that the men who wrote the Old Testament were just ordinary religious zealots who thought that they and their people had been specifically chosen of God. The fanaticism with which they believed this led them to proclaim absurdly ethnocentric prophecies that history has proven wrong, much to the embarrassment of Bible fundamentalists who desperately want to believe that the Bible is the verbally inspired, inerrant word of God. They have no substantive proof on their side. All the proof declares very definitively to anyone who really wants to know the truth that the Bible is a veritable maze of nonsense and contradictions.
Christianity has elevated John’s Revelation into a “sacred text” by including it in the New Testament canon. This has afforded divine legitimation to the cruelties contained within it, frequently cultivating a callous indifference towards (and often an outright enthusiasm for) the sufferings of “out-group” members everywhere whilst lumbering us with a tyrannical warrior god–a powerful “record keeper” desirous of unceasing worship.
Well written in an artistic but critical style, Günther Bornkamm’s Paul attempts to outline Paul’s life and work before finally turning to his theology and gospel. While drawing on the work of several New Testament scholars, Bornkamm largely relies on his own interpretation of the Pauline epistles, Acts, and the interplay between them, leaving the reader to evaluate his arguments primarily on their own merits. Against source-critical methods, Bornkamm occasionally uses the texts he has judged as inauthentic as reliable sources of information without recourse to any clear criteria, and dismisses uncomfortable passages attributed to Paul as inauthentic without offering any supportive arguments. This ad hoc pick-and-choose methodology leaves his presumptions open to criticism where the texts are silent or in conflict. But otherwise Paul is a great book, generally utilizing critical evaluation of the sources to unravel Paul’s ingenious and enigmatic character.
As skeptics see it, recent theistic arguments are pretty much old hat. Their basic modus operandi has always been the same: represent some aspect of the universe as requiring an explanation that no naturalistic hypothesis can provide, and then propose God as the only possible or most satisfactory solution. Skeptics retort that either no explanation is required, naturalistic accounts suffice, or God provides no uniquely satisfactory explanation. The details may change, but the pattern remains the same. The theistic pattern is exemplified in the work of Dallas Willard, particularly his three-stage argument for the existence of God. Willard argues that God is needed because the natural universe is not enough. In this response, Keith Parsons provides the standard retort: naturalism suffices to answer all legitimate questions, and the appeal to God is either useless or obscurantist.
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.
As do fundamentalist Christians with the empty tomb, Orthodox Jews base their faith on the alleged historical fact of the revelation at Mount Sinai, and some sects of Christianity ultimately presume the historicity of that event as well. This essay rebuts one argument for the historicity of a public revelation put forward by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi and Rabbi Dr. Dovid Gottlieb.
The author discusses the famous story of the pagan woman whose clever retort against Jesus wins the day.
In this explanation of why he is not a Christian, Keith Parsons discusses the role that Christianity has played in perpetuating suffering throughout human history, the bizarre doctrine of inflicting eternal punishment on persons for having the wrong beliefs, the composition, inconsistencies, and absurdities of the New Testament Gospels, William Lane Craig’s flawed case for the resurrection of Jesus, the role of legendary development and hallucinations in early Christianity, and C.S. Lewis’ weak justifications for the Christian prohibition on premarital sex.
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.
This is a compilation of biblical quotes which drove Kuphaldt away from belief in the Bible as the “Word of God.” Included are examples of biblical racism, wishful thinking, subjugation of women, contradictions, failed prophecies and other biblical problems. In the end, Kuphaldt concludes that “God” was only an imaginary friend.