Why can’t ex-Christian atheists stop talking about God?

Well, my pledge to never again read the posts of atheist bloggers lasted just one week.

But I can’t help it!

The discussion is just too fascinating!  I mean, how many times can I debate “Free Will” with an Arminian evangelical Christian and get excited about it?  The subjects these ex-Christian atheists discuss are really thought-provoking!

Many of these ex-Christian atheists (and some of my Christian readers) seem to believe that the reason I can’t stay away from these ex-Christian/atheist blogs is because I have seen the “truth” and I am in the beginning stages of “deconversion” from Christianity.  I don’t think so.  But I would point this out to my ex-Christian, atheist friends:  For people who don’t believe in God…they sure spend a lot of time talking about Him!

On that subject…my ex-Christian, atheist friend, DagoodS, has an intriguing new post on his blog,  Thoughts from a Sandwich.  It is a review of a book by another skeptic of the Resurrection who believes that the explanation behind why Jesus’ disciples came to believe they had seen Jesus resurrected was a condition called cognitive dissonance.  Here is a quote from DagoodS’s post:

“Komarnitsky argues Jesus’ followers, firmly convinced he was the Messiah, found it impossible to believe their hopes were dashed by his death. They began to rationalize Jesus was raised to heaven and would shortly return to complete the Messianic mission. They utilized cognitive dissonance to explain away the apparent inconsistency. Peter then had a vision he interpreted as a visitation of Jesus, and others did as well. (Komarnitsky accurately points out the “group-think” of heightened spiritual cohesiveness we see today in Pentecostal gatherings.) Komarnitsky concludes, “As the years and decades passed, the above experiences, beliefs and traditions gave birth to legends like Jesus’ burial in a rock-hewn tomb, that tomb being discovered empty three days later, his corporeal post-mortem appearances to individuals and groups described in the Gospels, and his appearance to over five hundred people mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.” Pg. 140.”

Gary:  So, what Is Cognitive Dissonance?

From an internet dictionary:  People tend to seek consistency in their beliefs and perceptions. So what happens when one of our beliefs conflicts with another previously held belief? The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance.

Gary:  My comment to this statement is this:  Why would any Jew believe the disciples’ story that a pacifist, dead, Galilean peasant, executed as a common criminal, was the Jewish Messiah?  There had never been a tradition of a suffering/dying Messiah in Judaism!  Every Jew prior to and during that time believed that the Messiah would be a great warrior who would liberate the Jewish people from their enemies, re-establish the Kingdom of Israel, sit on David’s throne, and would rule the entire world from Jerusalem.   Jesus fulfilled none of these prophecies.  And, Jesus was not the first Messiah “pretender” nor was he the last.  Other much more “Jewish” messiahs, who convinced many more Jews of their claim to be the Messiah, came and went without creating any long lasting legacy or following.  Every time a messiah pretender died, Jews abandoned him immediately, as every Jew knew that the Messiah would not and could not die! 

From the Jewish website, Judaism 101

“…another Jew born about a century later came far closer to fulfilling the messianic ideal than Jesus did. His name was Shimeon ben Kosiba, known as Bar Kokhba (son of a star), and he was a charismatic, brilliant, but brutal warlord. Rabbi Akiba, one of the greatest scholars in Jewish history, believed that Bar Kokhba was the mashiach. Bar Kokhba fought a war against the Roman Empire, catching the Tenth Legion by surprise and retaking Jerusalem. He resumed sacrifices at the site of the Temple and made plans to rebuild the Temple. He established a provisional government and began to issue coins in its name. This is what the Jewish people were looking for in a mashiach; Jesus clearly does not fit into this mold. Ultimately, however, the Roman Empire crushed his revolt and killed Bar Kokhba. After his death, all acknowledged that he was not the mashiach.”

So according to the Jews, whenever a messiah pretender has died…his movement immediately died.  Even when a really, really good messiah pretender died, like Bar Kokhba,…his movement immediately died.

Do we see evidence of the “Kokhbians“, the followers of Bar Kokhba, in our history books?  Nope.  His movement died out when he died.  He had just defeated the Roman army!  He recaptured Jerusalem!  He restarted animal sacrifices on the temple mount!  He was drawing up plans to rebuild the temple!  Bar Kokhba was everything the Messiah was supposed to be.  The Jewish people were ecstatic.  Their great conquering warrior, the Son of David, the Messiah, had finally come!  If there were ever a messiah pretender that a large segment of Judaism was going to follow, be absolutely crushed by his death, and then experience an extreme case of cognitive dissonance due to their shattered dreams of deliverance, it would have been Bar Kokhba. 

But it didn’t happen!

So why of all the Jewish “messiah pretenders” did the teachings of a pacifist Galilean peasant spread to the far corners of the earth, first among devout Jews…while the movements of all the other pretenders died out immediately upon the “messiah’s” death??  What are the chances of that?  A million to one?

Another quote from DagoodS’ post:

“To demonstrate cognitive dissonance in action, Komarnitsky goes through numerous examples whereby groups believed the end of the world would occur on a specific date, and when the end failed to materialize, would rationalize away the reason, often finding a new date.

Komarnitsky details the Lubavitch Hassidic Jews who maintained the belief Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson was the long-awaited Messiah, even after Rebbe Schneerson suffered two strokes, was rendered comatose and then died. Many Lubatvichers believe he will be resurrected and return as the Messiah.”

Ok…I’m wrong…Jews in Jesus time did believe in a suffering/dead/resurrected Messiah concept…

NOT

From this Jewish source:  MyJewishLearning.com

“…there is absolutely no precedent for Jews to continue to consider a person the messiah after his death. Before 1993, no Jew, other than a Jew for Jesus, affirmed that a specific individual who had initiated a messianic mission and then died in an unredeemed world was actually the messiah.”

Gary:  So the belief that Rabbi Schneerson was the Messiah and that he will come back from the dead, is a new concept in Judaism:  There has only been ONE other dead “messiah” in all of Jewish history that has convinced Jews that he will come back from the dead and fulfill all the OT messianic prophesies:  Who?  Answer:  Jesus of Nazareth!  The most unlikely and most unbelievable (to Jews) of all the “messiah pretenders”!

Why????

The Jewish article referenced in the beginning of this post ends saying this:

“Throughout Jewish history, there have been many people who have claimed to be the mashiach (messiah), or whose followers have claimed that they were the mashiach: Shimeon Bar Kokhba, Shabbatai Tzvi, Jesus, and many others too numerous to name. Leo Rosten reports some very entertaining accounts under the entry for meshiekh in The New Joys of Yiddish. But all of these people died without fulfilling the mission of the mashiach; therefore, none of them were the mashiach. The mashiach and the Olam Ha-Ba lie in the future, not in the past.”

Gary:  So what was it that caused so many devout Jews to believe, and to continue to believe, that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah?  I believe it was that many of them really did see…a walking, talking corpse!

49 thoughts on “Why can’t ex-Christian atheists stop talking about God?

  1. “For people who don't believe in God…they sure spend a lot of time talking about Him!”

    That's why I don't buy it that they don't believe He exists.

    In an interview several years ago, Madalyn Murray O'Hair was asked why she wanted to teach the Bible at a University. “Aren't you an atheist?” She said, “Oh, I believe God exists. I just don't want Him telling me what to do.”

    Her adult son became a Christian.

    “William J. Murray III (born November 1946) is an American author, Baptist minister, and social conservative lobbyist who currently serves as the chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., active on issues related to aiding Christians in Islamic and Communist countries. . .

    Learning of his conversion, his mother commented: “One could call this a postnatal abortion on the part of a mother, I guess; I repudiate him entirely and completely for now and all times.”

    Madalyn, Robin and William's brother Jon Garth Murray were later kidnapped and murdered by former American Atheists employee David Roland Waters.”

    Abby

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  2. A lot of ex-christians had horrific experiences with Christianity. Its hardt to get over, so they talk about it. The damage done to them was on the neuro-level. That's why they talk about it over and over again, to try to exercise that which cause so much torment in their lives.

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  3. Dear Bro. Gary and Abby: Great comments Abby. Truly Bro. Gary the reason why the Atheists continue to engage in such conversations is because they cannot stamp out the evidence of General revelation in creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-31) nor in the conscience (Romans 2:15).

    One of my favorite ironies of history is about the atheist Voltaire who said that within 100 years his writings would put an end to Christianity. When he died, his house ended up becoming a printing press for Bibles in roughly the same period of time!

    Your remarks about Jesus' resurrection as being the only explanation as to why Jesus' followers endured and why Christianity took off like it did are spot on. The whole “cognitive dissonance” argument does not stand up in comparison to the evidence.

    The Gospel writers record how much doubt, skepticism and external circumstances mitigated against the possibility of believing in Jesus' resurrection. There were what we could call many “defeaters” present. The idea of Jesus' resurrection from the dead was defeasible, meaning it had every opportunity to be proven wrong or a myth.

    Yet the other theories and lies propounded by Jesus' enemies (stolen body for example) could not compete with the sudden esclation of reports coming from a group of formerly skeptical, mourning disciples – He is alive! These traits (defesibility, presence oof defeaters) further substantiate the reality of the resurrection as a space/time event.

    Now the question is: what will unbelievers to with such information. They may affirm the reality of Christ's post-resurrection appearances, and yet the unbelieving, bound human will continues to persist in refusing to affirm the meaning and implications. May Sovereign Grace prevail and may these folks believe, repent and be saved.

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  4. I agree with you that many ex-fundamentalist Christians may feel that way, but I don't get the sense that DagoodS ever felt that way.

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  5. Gary,

    We know there were varying Hebrew beliefs regarding what was scripture, the resurrection, the priesthood, and the Messiah in the First Century. We do not know what all the sects believed, and can barely scrape the slimmest sliver of history to determine what some sects held.

    (This remains true today. Think of the various religious beliefs we would never know, except through some particular newsworthy [unfortunately often tragic] event. The David Koresh, People’s Temple, Heaven’s Gate, Raelians, etc. But for our news media, future historians would never know their existence. Let alone their particular specific doctrines.)

    What sect was Peter? What sect was Paul? Even Paul’s self-reference to Pharisee only gives us a general limitation, not specific beliefs. What sect was James?

    Dr. Carrier has written a fairly extensive argument First Century documents (including a Dead Sea Scroll manuscript) address a belief in a dying and resurrected Messiah within Judaism, based upon Daniel 9 and Isaiah 53. Not coincidentally, passages Christians use to claim prophetic foretelling of Jesus’ Messianic status.

    Giving us a chicken/egg/rooster question. Which came first? Christianity relying upon a Jewish sect’s holding the Messiah would die and come back? Jewish responding to a Christian claim the Messiah would die and come back? Or a novel idea wherein Peter become convinced by a vision Jesus would come back? Or…to be fair…an actual resurrected Jesus?

    Additionally, one should read the fourth book of Ezra, Assumption of Enoch, and the Assumption of Moses to understand the first century’s fascination with persons travelling to and from heaven. (See also the Revelation of John.)

    Before we start declaring with certitude as to what First Century Hebrews “would” and “would not” believe, we must study the documents of the time, recognizing our own limited ability to determine history.

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  6. In my humble view, it is still a waste of time to debate an ex-Christian atheist, because many will not believe and simply want to taunt believers and engage in debate. You cannot win them over with logic either. Remember….when Jesus sent out His disciples from city to city He said very clearly that they were not to linger where the word was rejected….that they were to wipe the very dust of their sandals from their door steps and go to the next house. I believe these instructions from Our Lord apply to the ussue here.

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  7. I think we should look at the evidence…and not grasp at straws.

    As an orthodox Christian, I am willing to concede that Isaiah 53 may not be talking about the Messiah, as the Jews say. Jews believe that this passage is talking about the suffering of the nation of Israel. Jews believe the same is true for all the other Christian “suffering messiah” passages in the Psalms and elsewhere. To Jews, these passages have nothing to do with the coming Messiah.

    I believe that Christians may be reading into these passages what they WANT them to say to reinforce their desired belief system. I don't like that. Let's let the evidence stand on its own.

    When presented with the evidence that the Bible is NOT inerrant, that there are numerous errors in historical events and other insignificant details scattered throughout both Testaments, fundamentalist Christians will grasp at any straw to explain how the blatant error is not an error. Who bought the Potter's Field, Judas or the Pharisees? It can't be both. Yet some Christians say that since it was Judas' money that bought the field, even though the Pharisees did the actual buying, that it is correct to say that “Judas bought the Potter's Field”!

    Baloney!

    So what really happened? Answer: One of the Gospel writers or one of their scribes made an error. Period. An error that does NOT change the important facts of Jesus' betrayal, death, and resurrection.

    So I am willing to accept evidence. You, my friend, seem to be willing to grasp at any straw that maintains your belief that God does not exist and that Jesus did not come back from the dead.

    There was no “suffering/dead/resurrected” messiah in all of Jewish history until the early 1990's! None! No Jew living for the first 1,990 years of the “common era” would have believed that an executed criminal was their Messiah, UNLESS, something dramatic happened to prove them wrong.

    You want to believe that a couple of ignorant, illiterate, Galilean peasants had some wild dreams one night and thought they saw a walking, talking corpse. You want to say that then these uneducated peasants were able to convince hundreds if not thousands of Jews that this dead, peasant criminal was their great Deliverer, the Messiah.

    Sorry, but that is a real stretch of the imagination. The JEWS say you are wrong about their Messiah. You are trying to use cooked up Christian “evidence” to prove the Jews wrong about their own history.

    You are grasping at straws, my friend. Accept the simple facts: No first century Jew would have believed that Jesus of Nazareth was their Messiah without earth-shattering evidence…such as seeing, touching, and talking to a walking/talking, nail-pierced, sword-pierced CORPSE!

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  8. Gary, “I think we should look at the evidence…and not grasp at straws.”

    I quite agree. Which is why I gave you a link to evidence. Whether you choose to look at it or address it is up to you.

    Gary, “You are trying to use cooked up Christian ‘evidence’ to prove the Jews wrong about their own history.”

    I am? News to me. I’ve read Josephus and Philo. I’ve read much of the Hebrew apocrypha of the time. I read the Talmud citations given by Carrier. I do not see how I am using “Christian evidence” to prove the Jews wrong about their history. Far from it—I am looking at the evidence provided by Jews about their own history.

    Clearly my presence is upsetting to you, so I will leave you to your ruminations.

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  9. “I am willing to concede that Isaiah 53 may not be talking about the Messiah, as the Jews say.”

    There are some Jews who say that it is about the Messiah. A teacher of mine once read a Jewish commentary — from a Jewish Bible — on Isaiah 53. The commentator conceded that the Isaiah 53 was about a Messiah. The next time I see him, I'm going to ask for a copy of that.

    These articles reference that idea as well:

    http://www.jewsforjesus.org/answers/prophecy/jewish-messianic-interpretations-of-isaiah-53

    http://www.jewsforjesus.org/files/pdf/issues/issues-13-06.pdf

    And, yes, it is still all about the Resurrection. Mary was going to hug Jesus when she saw Him outside the Tomb. I don't believe you could hug someone who is not real.

    “Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” John 20:15-17

    And she went and told them who she saw.

    Abby

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  10. mahlon,

    I battled within myself, fighting to keep quiet over an extremely insignificant point as compared to my frustration over the promulgation of urban legends.

    Sigh.

    My frustration won. Sorry.

    Voltaire was a deist, not an atheist. I cannot find a direct attribution regarding his claim Christianity would end by his writing within 100 years. And none of his houses were ever used by a bible society for warehousing or printing religious material of any sort.

    I know…extremely nit-picky to bring up. But the only way to end these urban legends from spreading is to point them out. Thanks for understanding

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  11. Wait, wait, wait, my friend! I ENJOY my conversations with you! Don't take my sometimes forceful language for annoyance…it just means you really have me worked up…and thinking! I like that!

    Your comments are always welcome and appreciated, Dagood.

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  12. So now that everyone knows how much I appreciate Dagood's comments, and that I very much enjoy having him participate in our discussions due to his extensive research on this topic, and his thought-provoking challenges to my views, let's address his source who claims that some first century Jews DID believe in a suffering/dead/resurrected Messiah.

    Let's see what Bart Ehrman has to say about Dr. Carrier, Dagood's source:

    From “Did Jesus Exist”, by Bart D. Ehrman, the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, a renowned and respected New Testament scholar. pages 167-170.

    “But still aren't there ANY passages (in Scripture) that refer to a suffering messiah? Some mythicists realize that this is a problem because if someone wanted to make up a messiah—as they claim Christians made up Jesus—they would never have made one up who suffered since that is what precisely no one expected. One mythicist who addresses the problem is Richard Carrier (Dagood's source), whom I mentioned in an earlier context as one of the two mythicists in the world (that I know of) with a graduate degree in a relevant subject, in his case, a Ph.D. in classics from Columbia. He is one smart fellow. But I'm afraid he falls down on this one. Even smart people make mistakes.

    In his recent book, “Not the impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn't Need a Miracle to Succeed”, Carrier states that “this idea of a suffering, executed god, would resonate especially with those Jews and their sympathizers who EXPECTED a humiliated messiah.” This statement is problematic on all counts. For one thing, the earliest Christians from, say, the early 30's CE—as we will see later—did not talk about or think of Jesus as God. Second, we know of no Jews who thought, even in their wildest dreams, that God could be executed. And third, of particular relevance to my argument here, there were none who expected a humiliated messiah.

    cont'd

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  13. cont'd from above

    Carrier tries to establish his point about the humiliated messiah first by quoting Isaiah 53. But as I've shown, Isaiah is not speaking about the future messiah, and he was never interpreted by any Jews prior to the first century as referring to the messiah.

    Carrier's argument becomes more interesting when he appeals to a passage in chapter 9 of the book of Daniel. This is one of those postdated prophecies so common to the final six chapters of Daniel. By POSTDATED I mean this: the book of Daniel claims to be written by a Hebrew man, Daniel, in the Babylonian exile, around 550 BCE. In actual fact, as critical scholars have long known (Carrier agrees with this), it was written closer to 160 BCE. When the character Daniel in the book “predicts” what is going to happen, the real author, pretending to be Daniel, simply indicates what already did happen. And so it sounds as if the sixth-century prophet knows the future because what he predicted in fact came to pass.

    Daniel 9 is a complicated passage that “predicts” in precise detail what will happen to the people of Jerusalem over the course of “seventy weeks” that have been “decreed for your people and your holy city; to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity.” The weeks are interpreted within the text itself to mean seventy “weeks of years”—that is, one week represents seven years. According to verse 25 there will be seven such weeks of years separating the order to rebuild destroyed Jerusalem and the appearance of “an anointed prince”. Verse 26 then indicates that sixty-weeks of years later an “anointed one” shall be “cut off and shall have nothing.” Carrier argues strenuously that this shows that the author of Daniel expected that the messiah (the “anointed one”) had to be killed (“cut off”).

    cont'd

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  14. “simply want to taunt believers and engage in debate”

    John,
    I also believe their agenda is to evangelize away from Christ — to deconversion. Now, who would want to do that?

    And, thanks for your comments to Frank S. on the Veith blog yesterday. You were exactly right — to him.

    Abby

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  15. cont'd from above

    It is an interesting interpretation but highly idiosyncratic. You won't find it in commentaries on Daniel written by critical Hebrew Bible scholars (those who are not fundamentalists or conservative evangelicals), and for some good reasons. To begin with, the anointed prince of verse 26 is obviously not the same as the anointed one mentioned in verse 25. Are they both princes, that is, traditional messianic figures? It is important to recall that the term anointed one was sometimes used as a technical term to refer to the future ruler of Israel. But it was not always used that way. Sometimes it simply referred to a king (Solomon) or a high priest or anyone who went through an anointing ceremony. That is, it was not only a technical term but also a common term. It is striking in this passage that the figure in verse 26 is not called a prince or “the” anointed one—that is, the messiah.

    And so, in one of the definitive commentaries written on Daniel, by Louis Hartman, a leading scholar of the Hebrew Bible (Carrier does not claim to be one; I don't know offhand if he knows Hebrew and Aramaic, the languages in which the book was written), we read verse 25:

    “Although in the pre-exilic period (the period in Israel before the Babylonian exile of 586 BCE—four hundred or more years before Daniel was written) the Hebrew term MASIAH, the “anointed one”, was used almost exclusively of kings, at least in the postexilic period (after the people returned to the land years later) the high priest received a solemn anointing with the sacred oil on entering his office…It seems much more likely, therefore, that the “anointed leader” of 9:25 refers to the high priest, Joshua ben Josadak.”

    In other words, 9:25 not only is NOT talking about a future messiah, it is talking about a figure from the history of Israel whom we already know about: the priest Joshua described elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible (see, for example, Zechariah 6:11), verse 26 is referring to someone who lived centuries later, but it too is not referring to a future messiah. As Hartman has argued—along with the many, many other Hebrew Bible scholars—the reference to “an” (not “the”) anointed one in 9:26 “almost certainly” refers to another figure known from Jewish history, the high priest Onias III, who was deposed from being the high priest and murdered in 171 BCE, several years before the famous Maccabean revolt broke out, an event recounted in 2 Maccabees 4:1-38.

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  16. copied from above

    The two who are called “anointed” are not future messiahs. They are both high priests who, in that role, were anointed. And they both lived in the past. Most important of all, this passage was never, so far as we know, interpreted messianically by Jews prior to the advent of Christianity. In other words, there were no Jews in the early 30's who would have resonated with the idea of a suffering messiah based on Daniel 9:26. No one thought that this is what the passage was talking about.

    What then are we left with? We do not have a shred of evidence to suggest that any Jews prior to the birth of Christianity anticipated that there would be a future messiah who would be killed for sins—or killed at all—let alone one who would be unceremoniously destroyed by the enemies of the Jews, tortured and crucified in full public view. This was the opposite of what Jews thought the messiah would be. Then where did the idea of a crucified messiah come from? It was not made up out of thin air. It came from people who believed Jesus was the messiah but who know full well that he had been crucified.

    That no Jew would make up such an idea is made crystal clear by Paul himself in one of this letters. When writing to the Corinthians Paul makes the intriguing and compelling statement that the fact that Christians proclaimed a messiah who had been crucified was the single greatest “stumbling block” for Jews (I Corinthians 1:23) and a completely ridiculous claim to Gentiles (same verse). That is to say, Jews didn't buy it. And why not? Because for Jews this very claim—the heart of Christians' affirmation of their faith—was absurd, offensive, and potentially blasphemous.

    Yet this is what a very small group of Jews, sometime before the year 32, were saying about Jesus. Not that he was God. And not that he was the great king ruling now in Jerusalem. He was the crucified messiah. It is almost impossible to explain this claim—coming at this place, at this time, among this people—if there had not in fact been a Jesus who was crucified.

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  17. Gary's summary: to be clear, I do not agree with Ehrman's claims that the early Christians did not believe Jesus was God. I believe that they did. But in his attempt to silence the (mostly) poorly educated mythicists regarding the very existence of Jesus of Nazareth, I believe that Ehrman had done orthodox/traditional Christians a HUGE favor: He has shown that there is “not one shred of evidence” that any Jew, prior to the advent of Christianity, believed in a suffering/dead/resurrected messiah! There is no evidence, Dagood.

    Therefore, what would make even a few hundred Jews believe that Jesus of Nazareth, who fit NONE of the prophesied criteria for the Messiah (in the opinion of Jews) actually WAS the messiah?? As I said, if anyone was going to have cognitive dissonance over a dead messiah, it would have been the followers of the great warrior Bar Kokhba…and not meek and lowly Jesus of Nazareth, who was publically executed in full view of all Jerusalem as a condemned criminal, proving to every Jew on earth that he was NOT the Jewish Messiah…unless….he did something really spectacular to convince them otherwise. So what evidence would have been sufficient to convince devout Jews that a dead criminal was their long-awaited Liberator? Answer: a walking, talking corpse!

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  18. It is either that or it is nothing.

    Spoken by Paul, whom Bart Ehrman validates:

    “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

    But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

    Why are we in danger every hour? I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 1 Corinthians 15

    Abby

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  19. More from Bart Ehrman, “Did Jesus Exist?”, page 173

    “Before the Christian movement, there were no Jews who thought the messiah was going to suffer. Quite the contrary. The crucified Jesus was not invented, therefore, to provide some kind of mythical fulfillment of Jewish expectation. The single greatest obstacle Christians had when trying to convert Jews, was precisely their claim that Jesus had been executed. They would not have made that part up. They had to deal with it and devise a special, previously unheard of theology to account for it. And so what they invented was not a person named Jesus but rather the idea of a suffering messiah.

    That invention has become so much a part of the standard lingo that Christians today assume it was all part of the original plan of God as mapped out in the Old Testament. But in fact the idea of a suffering messiah cannot be found there. It had to be created. And the reason it had to be created is that Jesus—the one Christians considered to the messiah—was known by everyone everywhere to have been crucified. He couldn't be killed if he didn't live.”

    Again, Ehrman is making this argument to prove that Jesus really did exist; that Jesus of Nazareth is not a myth. However, I believe that Ehrman's argument can also be used to support the Christian contention that Jesus of Nazareth arose from the dead.

    If no Jew was expecting an executed/dead messiah, then what Jew would expect an executed/dead…then…alive-again, ascended-into- heaven messiah?

    The tale of Jesus has just gone from completely unbelievable to any Jew, to completely impossible to ANY human being!

    Why would ANY Jew believe the story of Jesus the Messiah…unless he/she saw, or knew and trusted, somebody who saw,…a walking, talking corpse!

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  20. Hi KC,

    I do moderate my comments, but only because I don't want spam on my blog. I post all comments…unless someone becomes really insulting and obnoxious. So comment as much as you like.

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  21. Dear DagoodS: I understand. I researched the Voltaire story and stand corrected.
    My apologies.

    I'm glad you read the intertestamental literature, being that such literature does indeed show us what the Jewish people were thinking at the time. I guess what I'm not following in your comments (please tell me if I missed something) is the idea that we cannot discern what the Jews thought, nor know, for example, what the sects were at the time. Your references to the intertestamental literature (4 Ezra, Assumption of Moses, 1 Enoch, et al) clearly demonstrates we have such literature, and can access what the Jewish people believed.

    Even though the majority report among the Jews of Jesus' day was the expectation of a conquering, Davidic Messiah, certainly the idea of Isaiah 53 being classed as a messianic prophecy would not had been regarded as unheard of.

    For example, 1 Enoch, written 150b.c-150 A.D, makes passing reference to “The Righteous One” and “Son of Man” in its messianic ruminations. Those references are referring back to Isaiah 53:10 “The Righteous One” and Daniel 7 “Son of Man”. I only bring up that reference to show that it was not outside the Jewish mind to regard Isaiah 53 as Messianic.

    Also, I don't think with the prophetic fulfillments of Jesus and the attendant Intertestamental expectations that we are dealing with a chicken/egg scenario. Clearly the language in which the New Testament writers wrote was in the cultural mileu of 1st century, 2nd Temple Judiasm, with the greater background of Graeco/Roman language and culture.

    The apocryphal and pseudapigraphic literature are not the causes of the New Testament thought forms, but rather the back ground that can only serve to help us know what the Jewish people were thinking.

    Obviously we have ample references to Isaiah 53 being taken as Messianic and being fulfilled by Jesus (Acts 8 with Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch and Peter in 1 Peter 2:24 for example). The connections made between Isaiah 53 and a suffering messiah are not, in my estimation, unheard of in 1st century thought.

    There are undoubtedly the cultural and language allusions to consider in the New Testament in comparison to that other literature. After all, the Bible is a collection of literary books, that can be studied as literature.

    However the idea of Jesus' resurrection from the dead and the Gospel message itself is unparalleled. Furthermore, seeing how He fulfillled 109 Old Testament prophecies points to the fact that the New Testament is not just a collection of human books, but a divinely inspired ones.

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  22. A story has long circulated about the famed infidel Voltaire, who claimed he’d make the Bible nothing more than a museum piece within a hundred years. It is said that a hundred years after his death, his house was being used by the Geneva Bible Society (or another in some accounts) for printing and storage. The two Bible societies that are variously mentioned both deny the story and say that the story was invented in America. One journal makes a pretty good case against it, with several authoritative citations (see http://www.nzarh.org.nz/journal/2004v77n1aut.pdf page 14). According to the report on the anecdote,

    . . . the closest affirmation of this version of the story is that the British and Foreign Bible Society depot in Paris stands on a site once occupied by a prison for those convicted of minor offences (embezzlement, debt, etc.) in which, according to the choice of sources, Voltaire may or may not have been confined. No other residence of his has been an office of any Bible Society.

    The available evidence suggests that the entire story probably arose from a misunderstanding of the 1849 Annual Report of the American Bible Society (ABS). In the appendix of that report we find an account of a speech given by William Snodgrass, an officer of ABS:

    The committee had been able to redeem their pledge by sending $10,000 to France, the country of Voltaire, who predicted that in the nineteenth century the Bible would be known only as a relic of antiquity. He [Snodgrass] could say, while on this topic, that the Hotel Gibbon (so-called from that celebrated infidel) has now become the very depository of the Bible Society, and the individual who superintends the building is an agent for the sale and receipt of the books. The very ground this illustrious scoffer often paced, has now become the scene of the operation and success of an institution established for the diffusion of the very book against which his efforts were directed.

    An inattentive reader of the above paragraph could easily have mistaken it to mean that the Bible Society had acquired a property formerly owned by Voltaire. The building referred to by Snodgrass was in fact a hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, named after a completely different skeptic, the historian Edward Gibbon (1737-1794). It seems reasonable to conclude that someone misread this 19th century document and began the Voltaire myth that continues to be “commonly reported until this day.”

    That’s the closest thing to the truth of the story. Since atheists like to cite this as Christians trying to pass a story to prove their point, let’s make sure we have our facts straight, lest we “defend the truth with a broken sword.”

    —Luke Griffin, Jacksonville, Alabama

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  23. Pastor Mahlon your continued insistence that first century Jews believed in a suffering/dead messiah is undermining my argument with my atheist friends! 🙂

    Please provide evidence that first century Jews would have been aware of such a concept. Jews themselves say that there is no such evidence. Bart Ehrman, a NT scholar with a degree from Princeton, says there is no evidence. Ehrman has just discredited Dagood's source, Mr. Carrier, as I have shown above. So what do you and Dagood know that I, the Jewish people, and Bart Ehrman do not??

    I'm not arguing that Isaiah 53 is NOT messianic, what I am arguing is that no first century Jew would have considered Isaiah 53 messianic.

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  24. Gary,

    I noticed you nor Pastor Mahlon responded to my comment in your April Post of , “Why didn't Jesus meet the Jews' expectations of the Messiah?”

    You seem to like to quote Bart Ehrman , but was silent about a scholar who worldwide was arguably held in higher esteem, Geza Vermes.

    My comment was as KenB, April 30, 2014 at 5:30 PM
    Geza Vermes would also be a great scholar to look at on this subject. In a review of his book, “Jesus , the Jew” , it is written, “With an impressive analysis and a firm command of the sources, Vermes convincingly demonstrates that Jesus, as known to history through the Synoptic Gospels, fits comfortably in the mold of a Jewish charismatic of the 1st Century. In the remainder of his book, encompassing the second of his two-part examination of Jesus the Jew, Vermes plies through the titles given to Jesus in the New Testament, looking at each one in the context of Jewish beliefs and language of the period to understand its true meaning. He traces the development of each title from its earliest usage, as reflected in the Synoptic Gospels, through the doctrinal evolution of Christianity and the final redaction of Christian Scripture. Sure enough, Vermes manages to reasonably connect every title—with the exception of Messiah, which Vermes dismisses as out of place in the Synoptists and likely a later addition—to Jesus’ early depiction as a Hasid, a pious, charismatic miracle-worker.”

    Would either of you care to comment this time ?

    Like

  25. I am not going to read all the comments so if someone mentioned it, I guess it is repeating. Issues Etc. has an interview with Bart Ehrman and some further comments on the interview. I think there are 3 sessions with him but I only listened to the recent one which is April, 2014.

    Like

  26. Gary,

    Your site is too difficult for me to participate. Not only do you moderate every reply, I have to decipher a bunch of junk writing that I can't read in order to prove I am not a robot. By the time I go through these gymnastics, I've already lost my train of thought !

    You are still welcome to come over to my blog where you don't have to do either.

    Like

  27. It sounds interesting. I will check him out.

    So does he believe that Jesus, and his Jewish disciples, never considered him the Jewish Messiah? Is he saying that the idea of Jesus being the Messiah was an invention of Gentile Christians many years later? In other words, no Jew in the first century believed in Jesus as Messiah? They only thought of him as a miracle-worker??

    Why would the Romans put to death a pious-miracle worker? Is healing people a crime in the Roman Empire? Why would the Jewish religious authorities want a pious miracle worker dead? Was healing the sick and lame a sin in first century Judaism?

    It is considered established fact by all reputable scholars of Antiquity that:

    1. Jesus of Nazareth was born and died in the early first century.
    2. The Jewish authorities requested that the Romans execute him.
    3. The Romans crucified him.

    That's a lot of fuss over a “pious miracle worker”.

    I think I'll go with the “legend” that he threatened the powers that be. He threatened them because he claimed to be the messiah. Jews did not want to have a slaughter of innocent Jews for this “pretender”, as had happened in the past, and the Romans were more than happy to assist in getting rid of a threat to their power…”King of the Jews” would get you killed, healing a few lepers, would not.

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  28. Again, I'm not sure, KC, if you are inferring that Jews today do not believe that any first century Jews converted to Christianity, that this is a Gentile myth, but if that is what you are saying here is what one Jewish author says:

    In my book, I also deal with the historical backdrop. In the first century, there was a perception of Christian Jews as essentially deserters. When Jerusalem was under siege by Roman forces, the Jews looked around and discovered that the Christian Jews had fled across the Jordan to safe ground.

    Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/2005/03/Why-Jews-Dont-Accept-Jesus.aspx?p=1#S5Gp36EfhGLC1XtI.99

    If this author reflects the views of most Jews, the idea that some Jews did convert to follow Jesus as their Messiah, not just as a miracle worker, seems in agreement with the Christian assertion that the earliest Christians, not only in Palestine, but in most of the early churches throughout the Mediterranean, were Jews.

    Like

  29. Gary, I can't hardly speak for Vermes. I would suggest if you are serious about this stuff to read what wiki has to say about Vermes then read his book , “Jesus the Jew”.

    Like

  30. Dear Bro. Gary: I'm certainly not at all trying to undermine any effort on your part, please know that. Furthermore if I'm ever proven wrong, I will be more than glad to concede on a point, being that the way of humility and teachability is more Christ-like and a straight line to the truth than “being right”.

    With that said, even though I respect the credentials of Bart Ehrman and recognize the sharp mind of Dagoods as an attorney, nonetheless having a PhD. from Princeton does not make one anymore immune from being wrong than anyone else.

    Certainly Ehrman can claim all he wants to that there is no evidence whatsoever of Jewish interpretation never having viewed Isaiah 53 pertainiing to a Messianic fulfillment by an individual. However that is a sweeping statement, one of which won't stand up under closer scrutiny.

    I think we are discussing here two issues, not just one. First, is Isaiah 53 only interpreted by Jewish interpreters as referring to the nation of Israel? Second, do Jewish interpreters, if they do see an individual Messianic interpretation of Isaiah 53 acknowledge it to be Jesus?

    In the mane I am almost certain that no Jewish interpreter would had assigned Isaiah 53 as having been fulfilled by Jesus. They never viewed Him as their Messiah and they are still looking for Messiah to come. The New Testament bears that out due to their temporary state of spiritual blindness. (Romans 11) I don't think that particular point is at issue in this discussion.

    What is at issue is whether Jewish interpreters, past and present, ever saw an indidivual Messianic figure being referred to in the Servant songs of Isaiah 53. Yes, they did interpret the text nationally – however contra to Ehrman and others, that was not the only game in town.

    I plan on researching this subject further, however I will point you to three resources that I feel give substantial evidence of Jewish interpreters allowing Isaiah 53 to refer to an indidivual Messiah enduring sufferings of some form on behalf of the people before conquering His foes in victory.

    First, the Jewish online encyclopedia, a primary source that contains all materials from the world of Jewish scholarship. There is an article specific to our discussion at this link on that site: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13444-servant-of-god

    Second, the book “The Fifty-third chapter of Isaiah according too the Jewish Interpreters”. This resource contains numerous quotes from Rabbinic authorities, Targums and Jewish Commentaries on Isaiah 53. Ironically this resource can be found at the online resource site based at Princeton Seminary (Ehrman's alma mater!). You can read the entire document at https://archive.org/details/fiftythirdchapte02neub

    Thirdly, a book, written by a medical doctor, Dr. Mark Eastman entitled: “The Search for Messiah”. Joy Publishing. 1996. This book contains sections on the Biiblical prophecies regarding Christ, and includes an extensive appendix with qutations from the Targums, Talmud and Dead Sea Scrolls on Isaiah 53. The author also cites the second resource I mentioned above. I have used this resource for years and have found it to be quite reliable.

    There is enough information to demonstrate Isaiah 53 as having been viewed as Messianic. From what I can glean, the “conquering king” motif would had been the majority report of the first century. However, the “suffering messiah” motif would also had been included in the wider Jewish worldview, even if it would had been as not as popular (for nationalistic and other reasons).

    It is up to you if you want to post this comment.

    Like

  31. Mahlon,

    Thanks for understanding about the Voltaire urban legend.

    To clarify, we can only glimpse at what various Jewish sects believed, due to the paucity of evidence. First and foremost, it MUST be pointed out there were numerous sects without diverse and entrenched belief systems. We cannot generalize into statements like, “the Jews believed” as there wasn’t a monolithic belief amongst all the first Century Jews.

    Second, the sects we have some information only highlight few variances—not a complete theological dissertation upon their entire doctrine corpus. (Luckily we have the Talmud, beginning to be compiled in the Second Century. Unluckily this is post-Second Temple period. We can extrapolate to similar beliefs prior to the Second Century, but must qualify it with the clarification we are looking at later documents.)

    Think of it—the Sadducees were the ruling party for the Second Temple period, yet we have a few paragraphs from Josephus and few sentences in the New Testament regarding their doctrines. The Pharisees were the most popular and again, only little information about them. Josephus and Philo talk about the Essenes, the New Testament not at all.

    We have names of some groups—Herodians—and little more information. 100 years ago we didn’t even know the Qumran community existed (let alone what doctrines it held)! To paint with such a broad brush as to what Jews did or did not believe is dangerous.

    Additionally, Judaism existed in a polytheistic culture with its own influence of theistic, philosophical and cultural beliefs. Resulting in Hellenized Jews, and God-fearers crossing the divide between Judaism and other theistic systems. There were other cultural stories—Hercules, Iliad, Grecian novellas, etc.—impacting the beliefs of the time.

    And finally, we have evidence there was at least discussion regarding a suffering and possibly dying Messianic figure.

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  32. Gary,

    I am aware of Dr. Ehrman’s conclusions; however, I see little actual demonstration of argument and evidence. For example, what is Dr. Eherman’s position regarding the language of b.Sanhedrin 93b, b. Sukkah 52a-b, and 11Q13?

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  33. Do you agree that Ehrman discredited Carrier? If so, what other evidence do you have that some first century Jews believed in a suffering/dead messiah?

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  34. Well, if these sources are credible, then we are back to “square one”: Jesus fit the bill of the minority view of the Messiah. It was not an inconceivable idea that a first century Jew would believe this concept. My atheist friends are left with no more evidence for the Resurrection than when we started this discussion.

    How sad.

    I think there are several of them who WANT to believe, they are just looking for good evidence to justify believing. Now we are back to asking them to believe Saul of Tarsus' testimony. That isn't enough for them.

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  35. Dear Bro. Gary and Dagoods: Thank you for your charitability. Bro. Gary, I think your one remark is very illuminating to this overall discussion: “I think there are several of them who WANT to believe, they are just looking for good evidence to justify believing.”

    Bringing up the idea of “justification for belief” was an excellent point on your part. From what i understand, the idea of justification in epistemology deals with what level of certainty must I have in knowing what I know to be true?

    For the attorney, the highest standard for accepting “how I know that I know the truth” (i.e justification) is the legal golden standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt”, and not 100% absolute certainty. When that legal golden standard of justification is reached in a court case, the law deems such evidence as unassailable.

    Likewise in the sciences, to achieve a high level of probability (not 100% certainty) in “knowing that I know the truth” (again “justification”) is deemed more than reasonable in the sciences. If someone in the sciences claims 100% absolute certainty of a certain fact, then it is assumed that a search has been made throughout the observable universe – which of course no one can do. A scientific hypothesis that claims 100% certainty is actually viewed with suspicion, since such a hypothesis cannot be falsified.

    Justification in matters of history is deemed acceptable when I find a given belief to be present in two or more divergent sources. Historical scholars (such as N.T Wright) call this the principle of similarity/dissimilarity.

    To expect absolute certainty or a near infinite amount of resources and information before accepting something as true, or before saying “I now know that I know something to be true” is an unreasonable standard – whether in science, the legal profession or history.

    Good gravy, how many lines of evidence are needed before we take what the Gospels present about Jesus? According to Dr. Gary Habermas of Liberty University we have nearly a dozen lines of evidence from Graeco Roman and Jewish literature. To have even two or three lines is acceptable in classical studies. We have far more lines of evidences than two or three in regards to the Gospels.

    Dr. William Lane Craig says this in an article he wrote on the principle of justification in establishing truth claims: “The fundamental problem with scepticism is that it presupposes that in order to know p, you must know that you know p. But if I can know some truth without knowing how it is that I know it, then the nerve of scepticism is severed. The sceptic actually is making a very radical claim, for which he cannot provide any justification without pulling the rug from beneath his own feet.”
    Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/does-knowledge-require-certainty#ixzz31EcaQ3FR

    If anything, the end of Isaiah 53 gives us the trajectory of the Suffering Servant Motif in Isaiah's prophecies – namely that this Suffering servant was going to live again!
    How much evidence do the skeptics say we need to have? Before today, the prior remarks in this discussion suggested that there was no evidence for a suffering Messiah motif in the first century, and that if any could be provided, then the possibility of believing the Biblical account might be entertained.

    Yet in producing some evidence, it seems more is required. Being that many skeptics state that 100% certainty that “I know that I know” is the goal, then how can any historical, scientific, legal or for that matter, theological investigation proceed? Again I think that is an unrealistic and an unfair standard. Lets see where the evidence takes us and act accordingly. Only Sovereign Grace can persuade our otherwise relunctant human will that what the Bible says is worth believing and living.

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  36. Just to be clear, Dagood, Bruce, Ruth and others of my atheist friends DO believe in the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. And Dagood seems to believe that Isaiah fifty-three IS speaking about a suffering Messiah.

    What they are not convinced of is the supernatural event of a Resurrection. I thought I had something with Ehrman's statement that there is “not one shred of evidence that any first century Jew, prior to Christianity, would have believed in a suffering messiah”. If Ehrman is wrong, then my argument that the conversion of first century Jews to Christianity is good evidence for the Resurrection, goes down the toilet.

    Once again we are left with the testimony of Saul of Tarsus and the accounts in the Gospels. That evidence is going to have to be enough. It is for me, but not for them.

    There are some of my atheist friends who I think are happy to be ex-believers: they feel liberated, especially the ex-fundamentalists. But in others, especially Dagood, and maybe Ruth, I detect “resignation”: Someone gave them evidence that destroyed the foundation of their belief system—the inerrant Bible—and they are diligently searching every rock and cranny for any evidence to re-justify their faith….but time after time they come up empty.

    I thought I had found “it” for them. But if they don't believe Ehrman on this, it was all false hope. I wish Ehrman himself would prove to them he is right on this one.

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  37. Dear Bro. Gary: I wouldn't go so far in saying your argument goes down the toilet if Ehrman is wrong. At the time of Jesus' resurrection, the disciples were so distraught and fearful that they were not connecting the dots regarding the Divine prophecies and Jesus' on predictions about His death and resurrection. Only when He appeared to them did those connections get made.

    For the reason of the disciples' state of mind in the time between the crucifixion and resurrection, I think Ehrman's remarks are not necessary in your ultimate argument of establishing the reality of the resurrection being proven by the dramatic change in the disciples and ultimately first century Jews to Christianity.

    Only the most thorough going naturalistic and materialistic worldview of the universe will dismiss the resurrection out of hand – simply because in that system: “dead men don't rise.” The burden of proof lies on the skeptic in offering an explanation as to why the disciples and the Christian movement arose in the manner that it did.

    To me it is impossible to affirm 1). the reality of Jesus in history 2). the reality of His crucifixion and to 3). Affirm the sudden emergence of Christianity without including the resurrection.

    Either you will have to deny #1 (as Robert Price and the Mythicists do), or #2 (as Muslims do, denying that it was Jesus who was crucified). If the skeptic insists on dismissing the resurrection as a literal event in space/time history, then to be consistent within the naturalistic worldview, one of the first two premises will have to be dismissed.

    The historical milieu of Graeco Roman culture and the varieties of Judaism, combined with the next to impossible odds of the Christian movement surviving beyond the crucifixion were not good soil for a splintered movement to become the dominant tour de force that did indeed become Christianity.

    There had to be a trigger event that set the chain of events that produced the apostolic resolve, the church, the martyrdoms and the wide spread movement of Christianity. Anyone doubting the time/space historical resurrection of Jesus is up against the impossible task of explaining all the we see unfold in the first three centuries.

    Bro. Gary, I think your argument is much stronger than what your are giving credit. Stick with it. The ball of burden is in the court of the atheist, the skeptic and unbeliever.

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  38. • “During Holy Week the Orthodox Church reads many prophecies from the Old Testament. In particular on Good Friday a text is read from Isaiah (Is 52:13-53:12) which relates to God's servant who will undergo nothing but suffering. And yet it will be through this suffering that this righteous and Suffering Servant of God will accomplish God's saving mission. The Eastern Orthodox tradition claims that this prophecy was fulfilled by the person of Jesus Christ who suffered unto death as the “Suffering Servant” of God in order to bestow life to the entire world.”

    http://www.greekorthodox.org.au/general/resources/publications/articledetails.php?page=187&article_id=30

    Abby

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  39. “Our Rabbis of blessed memory with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the King Messiah, and we shall ourselves also adhere to the same view.

    That “one voice” is the traditional view that Isaiah 53 speaks of Messiah, the suffering servant who would die as the ultimate atonement, bearing the sins of Israel and others.

    1. Jonathan ben Uzziel’s Targums, on this passage dating from the 1st century C.E., begins Isaiah 52:13 by immediately identifying the suffering servant as the Messiah saying,

    “Behold my servant Messiah shall prosper.”

    http://www.hopeinmessiah.org/what-rabbis-have-said-about-isaiah-53/#_ftn2

    Abby

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  40. Gary, I am not good at trying to “prove” God. I guess, because I've always had faith and love for Him ever since I can remember. From the first moment I saw and heard of HIm. (I can still visualize the very day it happened. I was 5 years old.) I've never fallen away. I was educated very well in my church from the beginning and I consider that my greatest blessing in life.

    This is not to say that I couldn't have fallen away. Sometimes I wonder why I didn't. My home was black and white (or gray). My mom was good and a Christian. It meant everything to her. My dad was bad — and very bad. All of my siblings fell away from the church, though do still testify that they believe in Christ.

    I remember as a child praying so hard for God to help all of us. But it seemed like He was silent. No help/rescue came (seemingly) when it was needed. There were many times I wondered if He was there. If it was true. Finally, I decided that, yes I did believe in Him, and maybe it was up to me to help myself as best as I could. I could never explain all the dynamics of this. I know that I continued to live through the good and bad, and I still loved God and just wanted to be near Him all the time. Did He remove from me all the bad? No. I am not kidding when I say, at least half of my life through my childhood years was hell on earth.

    I persevered with God because I knew that He is good. I knew that He loved me. Even though I had a hard time “seeing” it. And that evil is not His doing. He hates it worse than we do.

    Eventually things started to happen that I could recognize as definite gifts from God. There is no other way I could have gotten these things. I knew that in my wildest dreams I could never have been able to procure these things by any of my efforts. I wouldn't have even known how to do it. God, indeed, gave me miracles. And I believe that with all my heart. I didn't expect them. Or even want them. (I wouldn't have known what to want!) That is why I consider them so amazing.

    Of course this did not remove all trials from my life. I expect trials more than I expect blessings.

    I'm not explaining myself very well. I'm just trying to say that I don't know how to offer proofs of God to people. I have never needed that. But I know some people have learned enough “evidence” that was satisfying to them so that they could believe.

    Craig Parton is an attorney. At one time he was not a Christian. And someone confronted him with the Law. He has told how he had to be “argued” into the kingdom. But he pursued the person who condemned him and wanted to know more. I will be seeing him at a conference in June when I am in St. Louis. I'll see what he says. Maybe I can share something from him that is more worthwhile. His work now is still as an attorney, and in Christian apologetics.

    God bless you as you seek to help others who have turned their backs on God. I have a hard time with them from my perspective. I can't handle so much the ridicule of God. And so I am not able to be much help — if any. Christ and His Word has been my rock. I know that doesn't relate to a lot of people. But I am sorry for their unbelief, as I am with all those around me who are fallen.

    Peace,
    Abby

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  41. I tried to believe but I can't reconcile evolution with Christianity. I also don't believe in a global flood, animal boinking in front of striped poles and having striped offspring, walking on water, yada. Also, Jesus promised to return within his own generation. Its just too hard to believe.

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  42. I'm wondering if you've given yourself a chance to really learn Christian teachings from a good source? And if you've honestly given it a fair shot? Which would involve some time. Like taking a college course. A good pastor could help you if you are truly willing.

    Abby

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  43. I agree with you that it is all ridiculous nonsense…unless Jesus of Nazareth really was resurrected from the dead, proving that he is God as he claimed.

    I believe that he was resurrected, therefore that he was God, and that is why I am a Christian.

    Give me proof that the Resurrection was a hoax or legend…and I will deconvert in a heartbeat…but with a very broken heart.

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