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How Would One Determine if Jesus of Nazareth is Still Alive and that He is the Creator/Ruler of the Universe?

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I have been involved in a very pleasant, polite, email conversation with a Christian blogger named, Peter, regarding the central truth claim of traditional Christianity—the bodily resurrection of Jesus.  He has agreed to transfer our conversation here to this blog.  My question to Peter is as stated in the title of this post:

Gary:  How would someone determine if Jesus of Nazareth is still alive and that he is the Creator/ruler of the universe?

Peter:  Are you familiar with how New Testament Christianity spread?  Can you please share with me your version of how Christianity spread to make sure that we are on the same page?

Gary:  According to the epistles of Paul, Paul and other Christians were sharing teachings concerning Jesus in multiple areas of the Roman Empire.  Paul’s writings are estimated to be from the mid to late 50’s of the first century CE.  The Book of Acts allegedly describes events occurring in the Christian community within a couple of weeks/months of Jesus’ death, but most scholars doubt that this book was written by an eyewitness or an associate of an eyewitness, therefore, the alleged events described in this book must be considered unverifiable hearsay, until and if better evidence becomes available demonstrating otherwise.

(Peter and I will respond to each other’s comments in the comment section below.  Readers are welcome to comment but please do not be offended if Peter only replies to my comments.)

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Dear Christian: How Do Your Subjective Personal Experiences Confirm the Presence of the Resurrected Jesus in your Heart?

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Skeptic:  The only way to know if your supposed religious experience is true is according to objective evidence evaluated dispassionately without any double standards, as an outsider.

Christian:  I would agree with that. But there is more to it than you imply. It is not about authenticating an abstract idea, like God exists.  It is that the objective evidence is made personal by the subjective experience. The first without the second is nothing more than fodder for debate. It can never be more than that. On the other hand, the second without the first makes the personal subjective experience questionable.  (I should note that even the disciples did not believe in Jesus on the basis of personal subjective experience alone. They had plenty of objective evidence.) But the two together provide more than adequate testimony for the reality to which both point.

Gary:  If we were talking about the experience of coming down with the flu, then your logic would be accurate. Medical experts say that the flu virus causes fever, body aches, and lethargy. If one day you come down with these symptoms, go to the ER and test positive for the flu, then your subjective experience has confirmed the objective evidence (scientific research) about the flu.  But saying that your experience of escaping death by sliding off a snowy road and and landing between two trees [this particular Christian’s “miracle” experience] has no relationship to the claim that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead and is currently living in your heart (soul). It only proves that rare, odd events happen to people. Please explain how you connect the two.

Image result for image say no to superstition

 

End of post.

Dear J. Warner Wallace: Please Present Confirmed Eyewitness Testimony for the Resurrection!

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J. Warner Wallace. Former crime detective, former self-described atheist, current Christian apologist and author.

If you are ever in a discussion with a conservative Christian apologist regarding the veracity of Christianity, he or she will frequently recommend a stack of Christian books for you to read.  Almost invariably, one of those books will be Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace.

Wallace is a former crime detective.  After converting to Christianity, he took up Christian apologetics, using his investigative skills to support Christianity’s central claim, the resurrection of Jesus.  Wallace believes that a thorough evaluation of the evidence would convince any court of law that Jesus of Nazareth truly did rise from the dead.

But there is one big problem:  Wallace’s “case” is built entirely on the assumption that the Gospels are eyewitness accounts, and therefore, the four accounts of Jesus resurrection in those books would be admissable in a court of law as primary source documents (eyewitness testimony).  However, Wallace either doesn’t know or ignores the fact that the majority of New Testament scholars do not believe or at least question that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses.  Wallace’s evidence would not be admissable in any court of law.  It is hearsay.

J. Warner Wallace’s case for Christianity fails.

 

 

 

End of post.

Did You Know: One of the Gospels Claims that the Sanctuary of the Temple Collapsed at the Moment of Jesus’ Death!

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Jesus put on Trial

At three o’clock on the next day, the fourth day of the week, they brought him [Jesus] into the courtyard of Caiaphas.   Annas and Caiaphas said to him, “Tell us, why did you carry off our law?  And why have you preached against the promises of Moses and the prophets?”  But Jesus made no answer.  Again a second time, when the multitude was also present, they said to him, “Why do you want to destroy in a single moment the sanctuary that Solomon constructed in forty-six years?”  Again Jesus made no answer to these things — for the sanctuary of the synagogue had been plundered by the robber.

When the evening of the fourth day had come to an end, the entire multitude began looking for the daughter of Caiaphas, to burn her at the stake because of the destruction of the law, since they would not be able to celebrate the Passover.  But she said to them, “Wait, children; let us destroy Jesus: then the law will be found and the holy feast can certainly be observed.  Annas and Caiaphas secretly gave Judas Iscariot a large sum of gold and told him, “Say what you told us before: ‘I know that the law was stolen by Jesus.’  Then the accusation will be leveled at him rather than this innocent young girl.”  Judas agreed with the plan and said to them, “We do not want the entire multitude to know that you instructed me to level this charge against Jesus.  But release Jesus and I will persuade the multitude that this is how it happened.” So they released Jesus by stealth.

Judas Betrays Judas

Judas came in to the sanctuary at dawn on the fifth day, and said to all the people, “What do you want to give me if I hand over to you the destroyer of the law and the plunderer of the prophets?”  The Jews said to him, “If you hand him over to us, we will give you thirty pieces of gold.”  But the people did not know that Judas was speaking about Jesus, for many of them held that he was the Son of God.  Judas took the thirty pieces of gold.[1]

He went out at ten o’clock in the morning, and at eleven he found Jesus walking on the street.  When it was nearly evening, Judas told the Jews, “Give me a contingent of soldiers with swords and clubs, and I will hand him over to you.”  And so they gave him servants in order to apprehend him. And while they were heading out, Judas said to them, “The one I kiss — arrest him![2]  For he is the one who plundered the law and the prophets.”   He then came up to Jesus and kissed him, saying, “Greetings, Rabbi.”  This was during the evening of the fifth day.  They arrested him and handed him over to Caiaphas and the chief priests, while Judas told them, “This is the one who plundered the law and the prophets.”  They then subjected Jesus to an unfair interrogation, asking him, “Why did you do these things?”  Yet he gave no answer.

But Nicodemus and I, Joseph, seeing the “seat of the pestilent” stood apart from them, not wanting to be perish “in the council of the impious.”[3]

Jesus and the Robbers are Crucified

They did many other terrible things to Jesus that night, and handed him over to the governor Pilate as the day of Preparation was dawning,[4] so that he might crucify him.   And all of them gathered together for this purpose.  After the trial was over, the governor Pilate ordered him to be nailed to the cross, along with two robbers.  And so they were nailed up together with Jesus, Gestas to his left and Demas to his right.

The one on his left began to cry out, saying to Jesus, “See how many evil deeds I have done on the earth!  If I had known that you were the king, I would have tried to kill you as well.  But why do you call yourself the son of God, when you cannot even help yourself in your time of need?  How can you help someone else who prays to you?  If you are the Christ, come down from the cross, that I might believe in you.[5]  But now I see you not as a human, but as a wild beast, destroyed along with me.  And he began to say many other things against Jesus, blaspheming and grinding his teeth against him.  For the robber was caught in the snare of the devil.

But the robber on his right, named Demas, when he saw Jesus’ divine grace, cried out, “I know you, Jesus Christ — you are the son of God!  But I see you worshiped as Christ by a myriad of myriads of angels.  Forgive my sins that I committed.  At my trial, do not allow the stars or moon to come against me when you are about to judge the entire earth, for I carried out my evil plans at night.  And the sun that has grown dark because of you, do not move it to speak the evil doings of my heart.  For I can offer you no gift for the forgiveness of my sins.  Death is already coming upon me for my sins.  But expiation belongs to you.  Save me from your fearful judgment, Master of all.  Do not give the enemy authority to devour me and to inherit my soul, like that of the one hanging to your left.  For I see how the devil rejoices, taking his soul, and his fleshly parts are disappearing.  Do not order me to depart to the portion allotted to the Jews, for I see Moses and the patriarchs in great weeping, while the devil rejoices over them.  And so, before my spirit departs, Master, command my sins to be wiped away and remember me, the sinner, in your kingdom, when upon the great throne of the Most High you shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel, for you have prepared a great punishment for your world, for your own sake.”[6]

When the robber had said these things, Jesus said to him, “Truly, truly I say to you, Demas, today you will be with me in paradise.[7]  But the sons of the kingdom, the children of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses will be cast into the outer darkness.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.[8]  But you alone will dwell in paradise until my second coming, when I am about to judge those who do not confess my name.”  And he said to the robber, “Go and speak to the Cherubim and the powers, to those who turn the flaming sword, who have been guarding paradise from the time that Adam, the first-formed, was in paradise and transgressed, and did not guard my commandments, whom I cast out from there.  None of those who lived before will see paradise until I come a second time to judge the living and the dead.  Then he wrote to them as follows: “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came down from the heights of heaven, who came forth from the womb of the invisible God without separating from him, who came down into the world so as to be made flesh and to be nailed to the cross, so that I might save Adam, the very one whom I made, to my archangelic powers, the gatekeepers of paradise, servants of my Father.  I wish and order that the one who was crucified with me should enter, that he should receive forgiveness of sins on my account, and that putting on an immortal body he should enter paradise and dwell there where no one at any time has been able to dwell.”

And behold, when these words were spoken, Jesus handed over his spirit, on the day of Preparation at three o’clock.  Darkness came over all the earth; and a large earthquake struck, causing the sanctuary to fall, along with the pinnacle of the Temple.[9]

The Gospel of Joseph of Arimathea

 

Gary:  (I never said the quote was from one of the canonical Gospels!)

Dear Reader: Do you see all the fascinating details to the Jesus story in this non-canonical gospel that you have never heard before?  Where did they come from?  Are they historical facts or the products of a vivid imagination?  Think about this:  How do we know that the authors of the canonical gospels, in particular the author of Mark, the first gospel written, did not do the very same thing???  They invented fascinating stories which had no basis in fact, but which made for a great storytelling, and, fulfilled their theological purpose:  to spread the Good News of salvation through belief in Jesus of Nazareth!  Yes, Jesus lived and Jesus died by crucifixion.  But isn’t it possible that all the other details of the Jesus Story that conservative Christians today believe are absolute historical facts (based on the stories found in the canonical Gospels) are no more real than the embellishments in this non-canonical tall tale???

Text above copied from Bart Erhman’s blog.

Is it Possible that the Gospel Authors Invented Stories to “Fulfill” OT Prophesies?

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Gary:  Is it possible that the authors of the Gospels invented stories about Jesus (a virgin birth, for instance), then tied these invented stories to OT prophecies, all for theological or literary purposes, never meaning for them to be understood as historical facts?

Christian Apologist:  Of course it’s possible. Many things are possible. It is also possible that you are an alien posting from Alpha Centari.   But again, you don’t even know what my arguments are, yet you set your whole little fleet to attack a position which you haven’t even scouted out yet. Bang! Bang! Whoops! You just blew up a log in the water 40 miles from where my ship is!

Gary:  Is it possible that the intricate pattern of fulfillment that you see [in the New Testament]  is a purposeful invention; not to deceive anyone, but to “further the Gospel”.”

Christian Apologist:  This is so childish.

Gary:  No one believes that the authors of the Gospels were writing history texts. They were writing works of religious evangelization, using an ancient Greco-Roman literary genre that allowed for embellishments of the facts. The Gospels are beautiful works of religious literature. They are not history texts. Let’s not hold them to a standard which the authors never intended to meet.

Christian Apologist:  This is just confused. They were writing bioi, or Greek biography, as scholars generally do admit now. Of course that’s not history. They make it exceedingly clear that they intend to tell the truth about Jesus’ life: have you never even read the preface to Luke, or the final chapters of John?   I demonstrate that dozens of traits within the gospels mark them strongly as historical texts. No doubt you’ll now attack those arguments, as well, without bothering to find out what they are, or what weight they may carry. All too typical.

 

End of post.

Did Peter the Fisherman Write the Epistles of First and Second Peter?

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Excerpt copied from New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman’s blog:

And so, is it possible that Peter wrote 1 and 2 Peter?  We have seen good reasons for him not writing 2 Peter, and some reason for thinking he didn’t write 1 Peter.  But it is highly probable that in fact he could not write at all.  I should point out that the book of 1 Peter is written by a highly educated, Greek-speaking Christian who is intimately familiar with the Jewish Scriptures in their Greek translation, the Septuagint.  This is not Peter.

It is theoretically possible, of course, that Peter decided to go to school after Jesus’ resurrection.  In this imaginative (not to say imaginary) scenario he learned his alphabet, learned how to sound out  syllables and then words, learned to read, and learned to write.  Then he took Greek classes and mastered Greek as a foreign language, and started memorizing large chunks of the Septuagint, before taking Greek composition classes and learning how to compose complicated and rhetorically effective sentences, and then, toward the end of his life, he wrote 1 Peter.

Gary:  What is the probability of this scenario?  Answer:  Very, very unlikely.

 

 

End of post.

The Creator God Came to Earth to Bring His Message of Salvation, but Never Traveled Any Further than the Length of a US County to Share It

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One of the most astonishing things that have yet fallen under our observation is the exceedingly small portion of the earth from which sprang the now flourishing plant of Christianity. The longest journey our Saviour ever performed was from here to Jerusalem – about one hundred to one hundred and twenty miles. The next longest was from here to Sidon – say about sixty or seventy miles. Instead of being wide apart – as American appreciation of distances would naturally suggest – the places made most particularly celebrated by the presence of Christ are nearly all right here in full view, and within cannon-shot of Capernaum.

Leaving out two or three three short journeys of the Saviour, he spent his life, preached his gospel, and performed his miracles within a compass no larger than an ordinary county in the United States. It is as much as I can do to comprehend this stupefying fact. 

Mark TwainThe Innocents Abroad

 

(Check out the size of the largest county in the United States, San Bernardino County, in California, here)