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Christian Research Institute: Why Would First Century Jews Change Their Minds?

Christian Research Institute: Dear Gary,

Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and thank you for contacting the Christian Research Institute!

Do N.T. Wright and Raymond Brown really reject the eyewitness status of the Gospels? Sure, there may be questions on the traditional authorship? Does not even traditional authorship only place Matthew and John as eyewitnesses with Mark and Luke being followers close to the eyewitnesses? But I fear you still miss the basic thesis of Richard Bauckham and maybe need a second read? Why does Wright endorse Bauckham? See https://eerdword.com/blurb-of-the-week-n-t-wright-on-jesus-and-the-eyewitnesses/

Does not even Wright’s comments on 1 Corinthians15:1-11 indicates that Paul knew of eyewitnesses that could be called upon? Explain? See p. 325, The Resurrection of the Son of God.

Does Brown really think the Passion Narrative (PN) were devoid of any eyewitness source? Does he dismiss completely eyewitness reports shaping the PNs? What Brown presents is a bit more complex? May have to do a second reading of Brown?

Seeing illusions of Christ is dealt with in the article “Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: HALLUCINATION the Recent Revival of Theories” by Gary R. Habermas. Did you have a chance to read it? Thoughts? Strong points? What were the weak points?

What makes you think first century Jews would innovate their belief in the resurrection to come up with the Christian doctrine that Christ rises first then the Christian at the end of history? How do you suppose that because radical changes happen elsewhere never really explains why the disciples changed their minds? So, what if it does? Are you not just evading the question of why first century Jews would change their minds? Would they not be doing this on the risk of eternity? Modern Americans might flip religions like pancakes at the IHOP, but what makes first century Jews the same?

Still doubtful you are really thinking though the matter clearly.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always!

In Christ,

Warren N.
Research Consultant
Christian Research Institute

Gary: Good afternoon, Warren! I am enjoying our conversation.

“Do N.T. Wright and Raymond Brown really reject the eyewitness status of the Gospels?”

Yes, Raymond Brown rejects the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. NT Wright questions the traditional authorship of the Gospels. He states, “I have no idea who wrote the Gospels, nor does anyone else”. You can read their statements here:

To be clear, both scholars do believe that eyewitness accounts are present within the Gospels, but they believe that these eyewitness accounts have been extensively “reshaped” before finally being written down by the anonymous Evangelists decades later. So my question would be: Which parts are eyewitness statements and which parts are “reshaped” (embellishments)? How would we know?

“But I fear you still miss the basic thesis of Richard Bauckham and maybe need a second read? Why does Wright endorse Bauckham? “

NT Wright does write a note of praise in the preface of Bauckham’s book but no where does he say that he agrees with Bauckham’s position on the authorship of the Gospels. His praise is very “British”: A lot of flowery praise about the man but nothing specific about Bauckham’s research.

Yes, I realize that Christian apologists are very keen to knock down skeptic accusations that groups of people HALLUCINATED seeing Jesus. And I am in agreement with Christian apologists on this issue. Group hallucinations are impossible. However, many people have experienced group illusions, such as group sightings of the Virgin Mary. A group of devout Catholic Christians claim that the Virgin Mary along with some of the disciples appeared to them in Knock, Ireland in 1879. Did these devout Catholic Christians really see dead people or did they see a bright light or shadows? A crowd of thousands claim that Mary appeared to them again in Knock, Ireland in 2017. You can even watch her appearance on youtube.

All I see is a bright light…but maybe I’m too skeptical. What do you see? So, based on cumulative human experience, it is entirely possible that all the original group sightings of Jesus involved similar sightings of bright lights…and the more detailed stories of a individuals and groups seeing a walking, talking corpse are later “reshaping” (fictional theological/literary embellishments). As you can see in the youtube video, people get very emotionally worked up when they think they are experiencing a supernatural phenomenon. Emotions take over in these situations and often reason and rational thinking take a back seat. Bottom line, if illusions today can be interpreted by Christians as appearances of dead people, why should we doubt that similar illusions (bright lights, shadows) were the cause of alleged sightings of Jesus in the first century??

“What makes you think first century Jews would innovate their belief in the resurrection to come up with the Christian doctrine that Christ rises first then the Christian at the end of history?”

My answer: Cognitive dissonance. Jesus claimed he was the Jewish messiah. According to the Gospels, the disciples believed him and were expecting to rule with Jesus on thrones in the New Kingdom. I bet they made many grand plans about their wonderful life in the New Israel. When Jesus was suddenly and unexpectedly killed, the disciples had to seriously re-examine their beliefs. “Where in the Jewish Bible does it say that the messiah will be killed? According to Jewish Scriptures, the messiah will establish the New Israel, sit on the throne of David, and the entire world will bow before him. Jesus didn’t do that before he died! What does all this mean???” Then one of the disciples had a vision (night dream) or trance (day dream) of Jesus. It was so real that the disciple believed it to have really occurred. In the vision (vivid dream, hallucination) Jesus tells the disciple that he has gone to heaven but will soon return with an army of angels to conquer the Romans and establish the New Kingdom. That one disciple convinces others that his vision was real. Then other disciples begin to have vivid dreams, false sightings (cases of mistaken identity), illusions, and/or hallucinations of Jesus. Groups of disciples see a bright light and believe it to be an appearance of Jesus. “Was Jesus alive again? If so, why doesn’t he stick around? Hey! Maybe the resurrection has begun! Maybe Jesus is the “first fruits” of the resurrection of the righteous dead, and the remaining righteous dead will soon rise. The New Kingdom is nigh! Sell all your possessions and move to the city of David (Jerusalem) to fast and pray for Jesus’ soon return. He could return at any moment!”

Voila! A new “twist” to the Jewish concept of resurrection is born!

“Are you not just evading the question of why first century Jews would change their minds?”

You can go online and find You tube videos of a man who was once a Jewish rabbinical student. He then converted to Islam and became an imam. He now rants and rages against Zionism. That is a much more dramatic conversion than that of the disciples. The disciples of Jesus continued to worship in the Temple for decades after Jesus’ death, at least according to the author of Acts. The original disciples never fully left Judaism, this man did. Once again, the fact that a devout Jew converts to another belief system is not evidence that the new belief system is true!

I have a question for you, Warren: Do you perceive the presence of Jesus Christ within you?

Have a great day!

Gary

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End of post.

Christian Research Institute Responds to: Why I Can’t Believe in Jesus Christ

Christian Research Institute apologist: Dear Gary,

Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and thank you for contacting the Christian Research Institute! (See Gary’s questions for apologists, here.)

There is debate between experts on the eyewitness status of the gospel writings, but do the so-called experts who are skeptical of the eyewitness status of the gospel writings have a compelling argument? Have you ever looked into any expert who would contend for the eyewitness status of the gospel writings, like the research of Richard Bauckham in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony?

Have you studied biblical prophecies? Are the alternatives to the Christian interpretation of Old Testament messianic prophecies really convincing? See “Typological Fulfillment: The Key to Messianic Prophecy” by Hank Hanegraaff.

What is your explanation for why the disciples changed? Sure, many people have dramatic changes of opinion on matters, but we cannot dismiss them all as illegitimate? If a flat Earther rejected the flat Earth paradigm and testified to adopting a spherical Earth is the testimony invalid? There is more to the picture? Why were the disciples willing to have such a radical transformation in their views. They were Jews. They moved from strict monotheism to monotheistic Trinitarianism. They changed their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. They gave up requiring followers of Jesus the Messiah observe Jewish customs of circumcision, animal sacrifices, and dietary restrictions. None of them venerated the tomb of Jesus. They proclaimed the resurrection of Christ contrary to notions of the resurrection in Judaism (which occurred only at the end of history) and paganism (Romans and Greeks never expected anyone coming back in the flesh from the dead—not even Persephone did that). They did all this at the risk of being condemned to hell. Why would the first followers of Jesus have such a radical change?

Belief in the resurrection of Jesus traces back to the first century and arguments to the contrary are unpersuasive. See these articles “The FEAT that Demonstrates the FACT of Resurrection” by Hank Hanegraaff and “Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: HALLUCINATION the Recent Revival of Theories by Gary R. Habermas.

What is your explanation for the rapid growth and influence of Christianity? If there was ever a pagan Europe, most modern White evangelicals with European roots are really absent of any recollection of the ancestors who were pagans, such as the Druids, Celts, and the like. How is it that their families for generations can only identify as Christian? Even if they are simply nominal in their beliefs, how is that they only have Christianity as their point of reference for their religious beliefs? What made Europeans identify with Christianity?

Who are the Christians that base their beliefs on subjective feelings, i.e., the “still small voice”? Did even the Scriptures tell them to just believe because of a burning in the bosom? There may be evangelicals who say such, but what if they are simply theologically illiteracy? Theological illiteracy never disproves Christianity per se. Cannot Christianity still be true despite the theological illiteracy of professing Christians? Basing beliefs on subjective experiences might be well for aberrant sects and heretical groups, but where in the mainstream of Christianity was that ever taught? Proof?

Lots of questions, but what are your answers?

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always!

In Christ,

W. N.

Gary: Hi W.N.. Thanks so much for responding to my questions!

Yes, scholars who reject the eyewitness status of the Gospels do have compelling evidence. (See Raymond Brown’s, “The Death of the Messiah”, for an in-depth review of the evidence.) The fact that even many Bible scholars who believe in miracles and the bodily resurrection of Jesus, such as Raymond Brown and NT Wright, reject or at least question the traditional/eyewitness authorship of the Gospels is compelling evidence in and of itself that the evidence for the traditional/eyewitness authorship of these ancient texts is not “strong”. Disputed eyewitness testimony is not strong evidence.

Yes, I have read Richard Bauckham’s book, “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”. In the foreword to his book, he admits that his views represent a small minority of scholarship.

I believe it is important to read both Christian and skeptic sources on the claims of Christianity. How many books by skeptics have you read? Here is a link to all the books I have read on this subject:

Home

Have I studied the OT prophecies? Yes, I have. I have studied them from both sides. Again, please see my reading list above.

What is my explanation for why the disciples changed? I believe that they sincerely believed that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to them! What was the cause of this belief? We will never know for sure. You believe it was probably due to a literal appearance of Jesus. I believe it is much more probable that this belief arose from the early Christians experiencing illusions, cases of mistaken identity, delusions, vivid dreams, and even hallucinations. While it is true that groups of people cannot experience the same hallucination or delusion, groups of people can experience the same illusion and case of mistaken identity.

Why would devout Jews believe in the resurrection of one person? Answer: Every new sect and cult starts by taking an established teaching of the mother religion and giving it a new twist. Resurrection was an established belief in Judaism. The Jewish followers of Jesus simply gave it a new twist. What explains the radical change in the disciples? Radical change has occurred in the conversions of many people of many different religions. It is not necessary, therefore, for me to explain why one particular group of people in history changed their beliefs dramatically, only to know that such dramatic changes in belief do occur.

There is no “strong” evidence for your beliefs, W.N.. All the evidence is disputed. So why do you believe it? Is it due to your own research of these ancient texts? Are you a textual scholar of ancient Near East literature? If not, why should anyone trust your non-expert opinion? Why should educated, modern people believe in a once in history bodily resurrection if the experts are divided on the eyewitness status of the only texts which detail this alleged event?

I look forward to hearing from you!

Gary

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No, I Will Not Put My Faith in Jesus Christ. Here is Why:

Christian blogger and apologist: Hey Gary, Sorry for the late reply. Unfortunately, I have too much going on with work, other projects, and raising two girls [to debate the truth claims of Christianity with you]. If you’re ever interested in putting your faith in Jesus Christ and want help following Him or understanding the forgiveness He offers and hope for our broken world, I’d be happy to help you.

Gary: Let me get right to the point out of respect for your busy schedule.

Christianity rises or falls on the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. If this event did not happen, “your faith is in vain”, wouldn’t you agree? The big question then is: What is the evidence for this claim?

  1. Eyewitness testimony? Experts are divided on the eyewitness status of the Gospels. The eyewitness status of 2,000 year old stories in which people see and hear a walking, talking resurrected corpse is therefore disputed. Regardless of what you personally may believe about their historicity and reliability, disputed eyewitness testimony is not strong evidence.
  2. The changed character of the disciples? Dramatic conversions accompanied by dramatic changes in behavior occur in all religions, sects, and cults. A dramatic change in behavior and character is therefore not strong evidence of the veracity of any particular religion or belief system.
  3. The disciples would not die for a lie? I agree. Most people would not die for a lie. But many people have died for a mistaken belief. It is entirely possible that the disciples of Jesus experienced illusions, false sightings (cases of mistaken identity), or even delusions which convinced them that Jesus had appeared to them. If hundreds of people believe that Mary, the saints, and even Jesus appear to them today, why should we be surprised that a small group of first century peasants and fishermen believed similar appearances occurred to them? Alleged sightings of a dead person, even by groups of people, is not good evidence.
  4. The rapid growth of Christianity proves it is true? This is a logical fallacy. Just because a lot of people believe a story to be true does not make it true.
  5. Jesus fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies? Most Jewish Bible scholars and even a significant number of Christian Bible scholars question the existence of “Jesus prophecies” in the Jewish Bible. For example, even some evangelical apologists such as Josh and Sean McDowell now admit that the “virgin birth” prophecy in Isaiah 7 was not about Jesus. Disputed prophecies are not strong evidence.

So a brief review of the historical evidence does not support the conservative Christian claim that there is “strong” historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Disputed evidence is not strong evidence.

What other evidence is there for the bodily resurrection of Jesus?

Answered prayer? Even Christians must admit that answered prayer is very hit and miss. Not every person who prays for healing is cured. Not every person who prays for recovery from cancer or other terminal illnesses recovers. Statistically, answered prayer is no better than flipping a coin.

The testimony of the Holy Spirit? As a former evangelical, I can tell you that for most evangelical Christians, the perception of the presence of Jesus within them is the strongest evidence for them that Jesus rose from the dead, is alive and well, and is the ruler of the universe. But how reliable are feelings and subjective perceptions of an invisible, inaudible presence? Not very! Feelings and perceptions are notoriously unreliable! That “still, small voice” you believe to be Jesus may well be…you: your inner dialogue with yourself!

So if none of the evidence for this fantastical, never heard of before or since event is “strong” by any rational, objective definition of that word, why do you and millions of other Christians believe it? I would venture to bet the reason is this: It provides you with so much comfort and security! But is that sufficient reason to be teaching gullible adults on the internet and your own children that this ancient supernatural tale is an historical fact? Please check your conscience, my friend.

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Christianity is Nonsense: Jesus’ Mother Was Knocked Up By a Ghost?

If you have been following this blog recently, you know that I have been in a debate with a group of evangelicals on Psephizo blog regarding the historicity of the birth of Jesus narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. I have tried to present good, quality evidence to these conservative Christians which demonstrates that even Roman Catholic scholars, who very much believe in miracles and the supernatural, doubt the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels—putting in serious question the historical reliability of these ancient Christian texts.

They did not want to listen! They became furious.

If fact, they told each other to stop responding to my comments and the blog owner blocked me from making any further comments on the entire blog, although all my comments were on-topic.

Dear Readers: Conservative Christians do not really care about evidence. Let me repeat. Conservative Christians do not really care about evidence. These people want to believe their ancient supernatural tales because these beliefs provide them with comfort and security. Some of them may be very educated and intelligent, but when it comes to their cherished superstitions, they are incapable of being reasonable or of using good critical thinking skills.

If evidence does not work to counter this ancient, politically and socially influential cult, what will?

Answer: Ridicule.

The beliefs of this ancient cult are really, really, really stupid.

The mother of Jesus was knocked up by a ghost?? Come on! The massive, daily, human and animal suffering around the globe is due to the fact that our ancient ancestors ate some forbidden fruit?? Our creator sent himself to earth to die on a tree to appease the righteous anger of…himself…all for…ancestral forbidden fruit eating??

It is a stupid story. Just stupid.

When all is said and done, it doesn’t matter if eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels or didn’t. Because even if eyewitnesses did write these four ancient texts, modern, educated people should not be so gullible to believe that a first century brain-dead corpse came back to life and chatted up his former fishing buddies around a fish fry on the sea shore. These stories are religious propaganda. These stories were passed around for decades as religious propaganda among (mostly) uneducated, superstitious, peasants and fishermen.

They are silly, silly, silly.

Let’s stop debating Christians. Let’s simply snicker, giggle, and laugh when they try to convince us of the historicity of first century ghost impregnations, water walking, and corpse reanimations. Even if one thousand first century peasants claimed, at one time and place, to have seen a resurrected corpse, no rational person today should believe them. Why? Because it is a silly, irrational tall tale. We should no more believe the Christian tall tale of a virgin cavorting with the invisible Yahweh than we do the tall tales of Zeus and his sexual escapades with human females. Silly.

Modern, educated people should not believe this nonsense.

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End of post.

Why Do So Many Catholic Bible Scholars Doubt the Eyewitness Authorship of the Gospels?

Gary: Roman Catholic scholars may believe that some of the supernatural claims in the Gospels are non-historical, such as Matthew’s claim of dead saints shaken out of the graves, but so do some evangelicals (Michael Licona). That is not what I am saying. I am saying that the overwhelming majority of Roman Catholic scholars do not discount ALL supernatural claims in the Gospels simply because they involve the supernatural.

Ian Paul, theologian and blogger:

Hi Gary. A few things worth teasing out here.

1. Catholic scholarship has had a mixed relationship with ‘critical hermeneutics’ since the late 19th C.

2. Those who are anti-supernaturalist don’t believe the gospels were eye-witness accounts. That does not imply that all those who don’t believe the gospels are eye-witness accounts are anti-supernaturalist.

3. No gospel makes any claim about authorship. So whether Matthew wrote Matthew is not a judgement about the reliability of the gospel.

4. In fact, no-one who is attributed authorship actually wrote their gospel, since texts were written by scribes, not by the attributed authors. In the same way, Paul wrote none of his own letters; that is not how things were written in the first century.

5. I think the question of why a disciple would copy over from another gospel is interesting, but not decisive by any means.
a. There is a bigger question of why anyone would write another gospel when others were already written. It is clear that all were circulated to all; I am not aware of a convincing answer to this anywhere, other than that of Irenaeus.
b. I don’t think we need to believe that Matthew wrote Matthew in order to believe that the gospel is based on the eye-witness testimony, possibly of the apostle Matthew.
c. If Mark was indeed based on Peter’s testimony, the inclusion of Markan material in fact plays into the idea that all the gospels are eye-witness accounts.
d. How do we account for ‘M’, the material unique to Matthew? There is simply zero evidence of the long period of oral transmission which is foundational to form criticism.

So I think the question is more nuanced than the either/or I think you are implying.

And for all the gospels, if they are not connected with eye-witness accounts, how do we account for the remarkable onomastic (naming) and geographical details, as set out by [Richard] Bauckham?

Gary: Good morning, Ian.

“Those who are anti-supernaturalist don’t believe the gospels were eye-witness accounts. That does not imply that all those who don’t believe the gospels are eye-witness accounts are anti-supernaturalist.”

Very good. The question is then: Why do almost all liberal Protestant, moderate Protestant, and Roman Catholic scholars doubt the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels, when a sizable percentage of these scholars have no bias against the supernatural? Why is it that only very conservative Protestants and evangelicals hold to the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels? Is it possible that THEY are the ones with the bias? After all, these Christians have only Scripture as their final authority. They cannot appeal to a Magisterium. So to admit that the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitness would call into question the historical reliability of these ancient Christian texts. Such an admission would be devastating for conservative Christian apologetics!

You believe that even if the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses they are still historically reliable. But that is not the position of many Bible scholars, including Roman Catholic Bible scholars who do not have an anti-supernatural bias:

Roman Catholic scholar, Raymond Brown: “No gospel identifies its author. The common designations placed before the Gospels, e.g., “The Gospel according to Matthew” stem from the late 2d cent. and represent an educated estimate of the authorship by church scholars of that period who were putting together traditions and guesses pertinent to attribution. To this a caution must be added: The ancient concept of authorship was often less rigorous than our own, at times amounting to identifying only the authority behind a work (however distant) rather than the writer. …Among the four, John manifests the most detailed knowledge of Palestine.

Jesus did not write an account of his passion; nor did anyone who had been present write an eyewitness account. Available to us are four different accounts written some thirty to seventy years later in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, all of which were dependent on tradition that had come down from an intervening generation or generations. That intervening preGospel tradition was not preserved even if at times we may be able to detect the broad lines of its content. When we seek to reconstruct it or, even more adventurously, the actual situation of Jesus himself, we are speculating.

Source: The Death of the Messiah, pp. 4-5

Raymond Brown: I have already said that I do not think of the evangelists themselves as eyewitnesses of the passion; nor do I think that eyewitness memories of Jesus came down to the evangelists without considerable reshaping and development.

Source: The Death of the Messiah, p. 14

“Without considerable reshaping and development”= embellishments! Fiction! How can anyone claim that stories written by unknown authors in the first century CE, which most scholars believe contain considerable embellishments, are historically reliable? It is just not a rational argument, Ian. I suggest you consider the strong possibility that your position is based on bias.

Evangelical NT scholar Richard Bauckham may believe that the Gospels are historically accurate, but he admits in his master work, “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” that this is not the position of “almost all” of recent scholarship. Why is “almost all” of recent scholarship wrong, and he and his evangelical brethren, which by his own admission represent a small minority scholarly opinion, right??

“The argument of this book [Jesus and the Eyewitnesses]–that the texts of our Gospels are close to the eyewitness reports of the words and deeds of Jesus–runs counter to almost all recent scholarship. …the prevalent view is that a long period of oral transmission in the churches intervened between whatever the eyewitnesses said and the Jesus traditions as they reached the Evangelists [the authors of the Gospels]. No doubt the eyewitnesses started the process of oral tradition, but it passed through many retellings, reformulations, and expansions before the Evangelists themselves did their own editorial work on it.” p. 240 ” –Richard Bauckham

Gary: I again suggest that the reason evangelicals and conservative Protestants hold to the minority position on the authorship and historical reliability of the Gospels is not due to evidence, but due to their fear (bias) that in admitting that the Gospels contain significant embellishments (fiction) , the believability of their supernatural belief system becomes much, much less defendable.

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All Bible Scholars Are Biased…Except Those Who Agree With Me

Ian Paul, conservative Anglican theologian and blogger:

Gary, you have mentioned ‘scholarly consensus’ previously. But you need to realise that theology and biblical studies are not like physics or other hard sciences. A consensus doesn’t often exist, and even if there is a majority view, it means nothing in terms of any sense of objective truth. The discipline as it is practiced is much more like eg English Literature. Just because the consensus ‘view’ is post-structuralism, it does not mean that this is the only or right or even best way to read a text.

Many academic approaches to biblical studies are deeply embedded in philosophical presuppositions, which are not made explicit, not examined, and not challenged. The main one of this is a programmatic assumption of anti-supernaturalism. The result is that many ‘mainstream’ theories are completely circular. The position they end up in is not much more than a reflection of the assumptions made at the beginning. Or, as they say in computing, garbage in, garbage out.

Gary: It is certainly possible that there is an anti-supernatural bias among liberal Protestant scholars and certainly among atheist/agnostic scholars. And if these were the only scholars who favored the non-eyewitness authorship of the Gospels, I too would be suspicious of their position. But that is not the case. A very large number of Christian NT scholars who very much believe in the supernatural also doubt the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. Who is this group: Roman Catholic scholars! Here is a quote from the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the authorship of the Gospel of Matthew:

The questions of authorship, sources, and the time of composition of this gospel [Matthew] have received many answers, none of which can claim more than a greater or lesser degree of probability. The one now favored by the majority of scholars is the following.

The ancient tradition that the author was the disciple and apostle of Jesus named Matthew (see Mt 10:3) is untenable because the gospel is based, in large part, on the Gospel according to Mark (almost all the verses of that gospel have been utilized in this), and it is hardly likely that a companion of Jesus would have followed so extensively an account that came from one who admittedly never had such an association rather than rely on his own memories. The attribution of the gospel to the disciple Matthew may have been due to his having been responsible for some of the traditions found in it, but that is far from certain.–

When I have pointed out this fact to other conservative Christian apologists, their response has been “Roman Catholic scholars are biased against the supernatural”.

Preposterous!

The idea that Roman Catholic bishops and Roman Catholic scholars have a bias against the supernatural is outrageous. Where is the evidence for this preposterous claim?

So claiming that the majority scholarly position on the authorship of the Gospels is due to a bias is not accurate. One must explain why such a large percentage of scholars who do believe in the supernatural still doubt the eyewitness authorship of these ancient Christian texts.

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Did the Apostles Believe in the Trinity?

If we today have such difficulty understanding the concept of the Trinity, that brings up an interesting question: Did the earliest Christians understand it? Did the apostles understand “three in one” while Jesus was alive? I doubt it. So when did the early Christians first understand the concept of three persons yet one God? If the apostles understood the Trinity at some point after the (alleged) resurrection of Jesus, and they or their close associates were the authors of the Synoptics as conservative Christians claim, it is odd that an explicit expression of the Trinity is nowhere to be found in those three gospels. Explicit statements that Jesus is God do occur in the Gospel of John, but again, no clear expression of the Trinity. The shocking fact is, the only explicit expression of three persons in one god in the entire New Testament occurs in the Johannine Comma in First John, a known scribal alteration (fraud) of the original text:

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. –First John 5: 7-8

Did the early Church not understand the doctrine of the Trinity until sometime in the second or even third century??

What I find even more odd is this: If the resurrected Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples, teaching them “all things”, wouldn’t you think he would have clearly and in detail explained the concept of the Trinity to his monotheistic Jewish followers? One would assume he did. But if he did, why did no one write this down?? If the men who wrote the Gospels of Matthew, John, and maybe even Mark were present with Jesus after the resurrection learning “all things” for 40 days, why didn’t they write down Jesus’ own statements on this core Christian doctrine?? Very, very odd.

Would it be reasonable to assume that if an unbiased observer looked at this evidence, he or she might conclude that the idea that Jesus was part of a triune deity did not exist in the beginning of the Christian movement? That this concept evolved over several centuries? That is was not an original apostolic teaching?

But maybe I am just overly skeptical…

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Evidence of Bias in Conservative Christian Bible Scholarship

Gary: A significant percentage of scholars believe that the Book of Daniel was not written by a Judean prince held captive in Babylon or Persia, as Jews and Christians have long believed, but by someone living in Jerusalem during the second century BCE.

Christian blogger: There have been excellent Old Testament scholars in modern times who believed the exile Daniel wrote the book of Daniel in the 6th c. BCE. Edward Earle Ellis was one. He was research prof. at SW Baptist Seminary Fort Worth. Besides, for those people who are true Christians and therefore believe the New Testament gospels are historically trustworthy, as I do, Jesus made it perfectly clear that he believed this, that Daniel wrote the book of Daniel. As for my qualifications, my works speak for themselves.

Gary: Bingo! Evidence of bias: “for those people who are true Christians and therefore believe the New Testament gospels are historically trustworthy, as I do, Jesus made it perfectly clear that he believed this, that Daniel wrote the book of Daniel.” In other words, since Jesus says in the Gospels that a sixth century Judean prince wrote the Book of Daniel his statement trumps historical evidence which indicates that the Book of Daniel was written in the second century BCE. That is demonstration of a bias. No matter what evidence the experts provide that demonstrates you are wrong, you will refuse to accept it because it challenges your bias that the exile Daniel had to have written this book because Jesus said so.

And if I provide you with evidence that the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses but by non-eyewitnesses one or more generations removed from the alleged events they describe, therefore calling into question the historical reliability of the Gospels, you would then appeal to Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, such as that in Daniel, as your proof that the majority expert opinion is wrong on the authorship of the Gospels.

Your entire belief system rests on assumptions, circular arguments and biases, Kermit! Admit it: You believe what you believe because of your emotional attachment to your beliefs, not because the evidence supports it.

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Why Experts Believe the Book of Daniel is a Fraud

The language of the book [of Daniel]—part of which is Aramaic (2:4–7:28)—probably indicates a date of composition later than the Babylonian Exile (6th century BC). Numerous inaccuracies connected with the exilic period (no deportation occurred in 605 BC; Darius was a successor of Cyrus, not a predecessor; etc.) tend to confirm this judgment. Because its religious ideas do not belong to the 6th century BC, numerous scholars date Daniel in the first half of the 2nd century BC and relate the visions to the persecution of the Jews under Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164/163 BC).

–Encyclopedia Britannica

Gary: I find it interesting that a significant percentage of scholars believe that the Book of Daniel was not written by a Judean prince held captive in Babylon or Persia, as Jews and Christians have long believed, but by someone living in Jerusalem during the second century BCE. I wonder if Jesus knew the Book of Daniel was written by a fraud.

Pro golfer, Christian blogger and author, Kermit Zarley: More likely you’re the fraud, Gary. Modern scholars became persuaded by the Neoplatonic skeptical scholar Porphyry of the 3rd c. CE by his book Against the Christians in which he argues that Daniel was written in Maccabean era of the 2nd c. BCE mostly because he claimed that Daniel 11 was history after the fact about the 2nd-3rd c. wars between the Ptolemies and Seleucids, with Antiochus Epiphanes as the lead character to the end of the chapter. But I show in my next book that is all rubbish and that Daniel was indeed a 6th c. BCE doc. produced by the Judean Daniel, as some distinguished OT scholars still claim in recent times.

Gary: The majority of experts say you are wrong, Kermit. I’m sure you have spent a lot of time studying the subject, but you are not an expert. Trust majority expert opinion, folks. That is what is wrong with our culture today. Everyone thinks he or she is an expert on all issues.

Zarley: No, there have been excellent Old Testament scholars in modern times who believed the exile Daniel wrote the book of Daniel in the 6th c. BCE. Edward Earle Ellis was one. He was research prof. at SW Baptist Seminary Fort Worth. Besides, for those people who are true Christians and therefore believe the New Testament gospels are historically trustworthy, as I do, Jesus made it perfectly clear that he believed this, that Daniel wrote the book of Daniel. As for my qualifications, my works speak for themselves.

Gary: Imagine if historians found the following document:

“In the seventeen hundredth, seventy seventh year of our Lord, whilst traveling from Boston to Philadelphia, I did come upon a large company of the enemy. I therefore made haste by another route. I was eventually compelled to pass a number of days in the north of New Jersey, hanging out until the troops had moved on.”

Should we believe that the author of this document lived in the late eighteenth century? No! Why? Because he uses language that no one in the late eighteenth century used. He uses language that someone in the late twentieth, early twenty-first century would use—“hanging out”. This is how experts are able to date texts. The Book of Daniel uses language that was not used until several centuries after the Babylonian Captivity. There is no bias. There is EVIDENCE.

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Why Is Matthew’s Birth Narrative of Jesus So Similar to The Story of Moses?

Some scholars believe Matthew’s birth narrative was written (invented) for the purpose of making Jesus out to be Israel’s new Moses and to fulfill important Jewish prophecy.

–For Matthew, the history of Israel is recapitulated in Jesus. Jesus is Israel. Israel is the template for Jesus. For example, it is difficult to know the story of baby Moses in any detail and miss how Matthew uses it as the pattern for the story of baby Jesus in chapter 2. Note these rather remarkable parallels Matthew fully expects us to see.

1) Matt 2.13-14: Herod desires to slay Jesus so Joseph takes Mary and baby Jesus away

Ex 2.15: Pharaoh desires to slay Moses, so Moses goes away

2) Matt 2.16: Herod commands all male boys of Bethlehem, 2 and under, murdered

Ex 1.22: Pharaoh commands all male Israelite boys to be murdered

3) Matt 2.19: Herod dies

Ex 2.23: Pharaoh dies

4) Matt 2.19-20: The Angel of the Lord appears to Joseph, ‘go back for those seeking Jesus’s life are dead’

Ex 4.19: The Lord speaks to Moses, ‘go back for those seeking your life are dead’

5) Matt 2.21: Joseph took Jesus and Mary back to Israel

Ex 4.20: Moses took his wife and children and returned to Egypt

Source: https://wineskins.org/2020/12/10/jesus-a-baby-like-moses-matthews-jewish-nativity/

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