Why Does only Luke Claim that Jesus was Tried By Herod? Answer: He Borrowed this Detail from Paul’s Trial!

Related image
Apostle Paul on Trial by Nikolai Bodarevsky (Paul stands before Festus, Herod Agrippa, and his wife Bernice)

Luke’s account of the trial before Pilate is twice the length of Mark’s.  Luke too [as did Matthew] has drawn basic subject matter from Mark; yet just as he reshaped in a major way the Marcan material he used in the Sanhedrin interrogation, here too Luke has reorganized drastically.  …There are three major points in which Luke differs from Mark:

  1.  The detailed presentation of charges.
  2.  Pilate’s sending Jesus to Herod for investigation, only to have Herod find him innocent.
  3.  The three statements by Pilate that he finds nothing guilty in Jesus.

The first two points have been strongly influenced by patterns in the trial of Paul before Roman officials described in Acts [also authored by “Luke”].  In particular when Paul is arrested in Jerusalem and the Jewish authorities plot to kill him (Acts 23-25), Paul is made to stand before a Roman procurator (Felix) as detailed charges are brought against him by the chief priests and elders.

Yet the Roman procurator (now Festus), seeking help because he finds Paul not to be guilty, invites an Herodian king [Herod Agrippa II] to investigate Paul; and that king finds him innocent.  Within Luke-Acts the influence most likely came from Paul’s trial to Jesus’ trial, rather than vice versa.

Luke, reshaping the trial of Jesus from the model of the trial of Paul, has supplied a paradigm to be imitated by Christians who are dragged before Roman judges.  If the Lucan Jesus exhibits a confident tranquility that forces even the Roman governor to recognize his innocence, Christians must be able to do likewise.

–mainstream New Testament scholar, Raymond Brown, in The Death of the Messiah (1994), pp. 756, 759


Gary:  So “Luke” was not simply putting Mark’s material in careful order, as conservative Christians claim.  No.  He (and Matthew) were inventing new material and adding it to Mark’s (…invented material???).


Why Didn’t Josephus Mention Jesus’ Resurrection Appearance to Five Hundred People?

Image result for image of jesus appearance to five hundred

Lee Strobel, evangelical Christian apologist:

Where would this encounter [of the resurrected Jesus] with five hundred people have taken place?

Gary Habermas, evangelical Christian theologian:

The Galilean hillside.  …Matthew does say Jesus appeared on a hillside; maybe more than just the eleven disciples were there.


Wouldn’t it be likely that the historian Josephus would have mentioned something of that magnitude?


No.  I don’t think that is necessarily true.  Josephus was writing sixty years afterward.  How long do local stories circulate before they start to die out?  So either Joseph didn’t know about it, which is possible, or he chose not to mention it, which would make sense because we know that Josephus was not a follower of Jesus.  You can’t expect Josephus to start building the case for him.

The Case for Christ, p. 253

Gary:  Good grief!

Earlier in the book Strobel quoted another evangelical expert who said that oral stories in Antiquity remained intact for five hundred years, therefore we can trust the Gospels who even liberals will agree were written within 40-70 years of the alleged events.

Now another evangelical expert tells us that stories in Antiquity started dying out around sixty years after the event in question, and this is probably why Josephus doesn’t mention that five hundred people in first century Galilee claimed that a dead corpse appeared to them in a superhero-like body at one time and place!

Which is it, Christians?


The Shameful Christian Rationalizations for their Doctrine of Hell and Eternal Damnation

Image result for image of dante's hell

Lee Strobel, evangelical Christian apologist, quoting agnostic Charles Templeton:

How could a loving heavenly Father create an endless Hell, and over centuries, consign million of people to it because they do not or cannot or will not accept certain religious beliefs?

Donald Carson, PhD, evangelical Christian theologian:

Hell is not a place where people are consigned because they were pretty good blokes but just didn’t believe the right stuff.  They’re consigned there, first and foremost, because they defy their Maker and want to be at the center of the universe.  …Hell is filled with people who, for all eternity, still want to be at the center of the universe and who persist in their God-defying rebellion.  What is God to do?  If he says it doesn’t matter to him, God is no longer a God to be admired.  He’s either amoral or positively creepy.  For him to act in any other way in the face of such blatant defiance would be to reduce God himself.

If you allow a whole lot of sinners to live somewhere in  a confined place where they aren’t doing damage to anyone but themselves, what do you get but hell?  There is a sense in which they are doing it to themselves, and it’s what they want because they still don’t repent.

…On the Last Day, justice will be done for all to see.  And no one will be able to complain by saying, “That isn’t fair.”

The Case for Christ, p. 180

Gary:  These statements are deeply disturbing on several levels.

First, evangelical Christians believe that Hell is a place of suffering.  Neither Strobel nor Carson mention that small detail.  All evangelicals by definition believe in a literal place called Hell.  More conservative evangelicals believe that sinners will roast in eternal hell fire. Moderates won’t go so far as to say that the fire in Hell is literal but will still emphasize that the suffering in Hell is “unspeakable”.  The more progressive among them believe that the suffering will be psychological:  profound sadness and despair due to their separation from God.  In the theology of these Christians, Hell is not a picnic or party.  It is a horrible place of suffering of some fashion that never, ever ends.

Punishment that never ends is immoral.  Period.  At least Hitler let his victims eventually die.  The God of evangelical Christians does not allow even that small measure of mercy.

Second, neither man addresses the issue of those people who sincerely believe in God…but made the mistake of choosing a god other than Jesus Christ!  Although this branch of Christianity might allow for different intensities of suffering in Hell, they would still teach that devout theists of other Faiths will suffer right along side the evil atheists in Hell for all eternity.  So devout Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and Mormons will suffer eternal damnation not because they refused to worship and obey their Maker, but because they confused a false Maker with the true (Christian) Maker.  How moral is that?  Well, I assure you that evangelical Christians will tell you that it is moral.

But let’s try something.  Let’s take Dr. Carson’s statement above and make some word substitutions:

The Muslim Hell is not a place where Christians and other infidels are consigned because they were pretty good blokes but just didn’t believe the right stuff.  They’re consigned there, first and foremost, because they defy the true Maker, the true God, Allah.   …Hell is filled with Christians who, for all eternity, still want to worship Jesus, persisting in their Allah-defying rebellion.  What is Allah to do?  If he says it doesn’t matter to him, Allah is no longer a God to be admired.  He’s either amoral or positively creepy.  For Allah to act in any other way in the face of such blatant defiance would be to reduce Allah himself.

…On the Day of Judgment, justice will be done for all to see.  And no Christian or other infidel consigned to eternal damnation in the Muslim Hell will be able to complain by saying, “That isn’t fair.”

I would bet that most Christians would find such a statement immoral and extremely offensive, but yet they are shocked when they see our disgusted reaction to this exact claim coming from their mouths regarding their deity.

Pathetic.  It is a sick and immoral belief.




Was Jesus Crazy?

Image result for image of person in straight jacket

Lee Strobel, Christian apologist:

Even the earliest material about Jesus showed he was claiming to be God incarnate.  That naturally raises the issue of whether Jesus was crazy when he made those assertions.  In search of an expert’s assessment of Jesus’ mental state, I [met with] one of the country’s leading authorities on psychological issues, Gary Collins, PhD.

Gary:  Who is Gary Collins, PhD, according to Lee Strobel?

-former professor of psychology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

-editor of Christian Counseling Today

-contributing Editor of The Journal of Psychology and Theology

-author of Christian Counseling, A Comprehensive Guide

-president of the American Association of Christian Counselors

Gary:  Sounds like a very non-biased source to me!


Quotes by Gary Collins, PhD, in The Case for Christ, chapter 8:

Look at Jesus:  He never demonstrated inappropriate emotions.

Jesus wasn’t paranoid.

All in all, I don’t see any signs that Jesus was suffering from any known mental illness.  He was much healthier than anyone else I know.

Many Jews accused Jesus of being ‘demon-possessed and raving mad’ but that’s hardly a diagnosis by a trained mental health professional.

[Responding to the charge that Jesus may have used hypnosis to do his “miracles]: When Jesus multiplied the bread and fish, there were five thousand witnesses.  How could he have hypnotized them all?

I accept that demons exist.  When you see God working, sometimes those forces [demons] are more active, and that’s what probably was going on in the time of Jesus.  I haven’t personally ever seen clear evidence of the demonic but my friends in clinical work have said that sometimes they have seen this.

Many psychologists are beginning to recognize that maybe there are more things in heaven and earth [like demonic activity] than our philosophies can account for.

Gary:  I will bet that Dr. Collins still believes that epilepsy is (sometimes at least) caused by demon possession.  Wow.  Scary.  This is why all  supernaturalism needs to be debunked!



Why Did Josephus Say So Much More About John the Baptist than He did Jesus?

Image result for image of josephus
Flavius Josephus


Michael Martin, philosopher, skeptic of the historical Jesus:

If Jesus did exist, one would have expected Josephus…to have said much more about him…It is unexpected that Jesus mentioned him…in passing while mentioning other messianic figures and John the Baptist in greater detail.

Edwin Yamauchi, scholar of Mediterranean studies, Christian:

I’d answer by saying this:  Josephus was interested in political matters and the struggle against Rome, so for him John the Baptist was more important because he seemed to pose a greater political threat than did Jesus.

From The Case for Christ, pp. 86-87


Gary:  Wow.  Rome saw John the Baptist as a greater political threat than Jesus?  That’s odd.  I don’t remember any mention of John the Baptist riding into Jerusalem greeted as the King of Israel (and therefore a usurper to the dominion of Caesar) by great throngs of cheering Jews:

The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
    the King of Israel!”

…The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!”  —Gospel of John

I don’t remember John the Baptist being accused of destroying the Temple; an act that would have unleashed massive unrest in Palestine:

“We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’”  —Gospel of Mark

I don’t remember John the Baptist stirring up so much controversy that the highest Jewish authorities in the country were willing to threaten the Roman governor with treason against Caesar if he did not kill him as they demanded:

So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.”  The Jews answered him…“If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

–the Gospel of John

Dear Readers:  Isn’t it much more probable that the reason Josephus said so little about Jesus (and Philo said absolutely nothing about him) is that Jesus was not the big deal that the anonymous Gospel authors made him out to be?  Maybe in Josephus’ mind, Jesus was just another alleged miracle worker and messiah pretender.  He was not a big deal.  And that is why Josephus wrote one brief paragraph about him.

Image result for image of josephus



The Conservative Christian Explanation of the Formation of the New Testament Canon

Image result for image of bruce metzger
Bruce Metzger, New Testament scholar

Lee Strobel, evangelical Christian author and apologist:

How did the early church leaders determine which books would be considered authoritative and included in the New Testament and which would be discarded?

Bruce Metzger, Christian New Testament scholar:

Basically, the early church had three criteria.  First the books must have apostolic authority—that is they must have been written by apostles themselves, who were eyewitness to what they wrote about, or by followers of apostles.  So in the case of Mark and Luke, while they weren’t among the twelve disciples, early tradition has it that Mark was a helper of Peter, and Luke was an associate of Paul.

Secondly, there was the criterion of conformity to what was called the rule of faith.  That is, was the document congruent with the basic Christian tradition that the church recognized as normative”

And third, there was the criterion of whether a document had had continuous acceptance and usage by the church at large. 

What the synods and councils did in the fifth century was to ratify what already had been accepted by high and low Christians alike.  …These documents didn’t derive their authority from being selected, each one was authoritative before anyone gathered them together.

The Case for Christ, p. 70, 72-73

Image result for image of the council of chalcedon
The Council of Chalcedon

Gary:  Their entire belief system depends upon apostolic authorship!  Yet, even mainstream Christian scholars like NT Wright and Raymond Brown question/doubt the traditional, apostolic authorship of the Gospels.  That is pretty shaky ground upon which to build your entire worldview!

Conservative Christian Scholar Claims Oral Stories in Antiquity Remained Free of Legend for the First Five Hundred Years

Image result for image of craig blomberg

From The Case for Christ by former atheist and investigative reporter turned evangelical Christian apologist, Lee Strobel, pp. 34-35, 37:

Craig Blomberg, conservative NT scholar:

The two earliest biographies of Alexander the Great were written by Arrian and Plutarch more than four hundred years after Alexander’s death in 323 BC, yet historians consider them to be generally trustworthy.  Yes, legendary material about Alexander did develop over time, but it was only in the centuries after these two writers.

In other words, the first five hundred years kept Alexander’s story pretty much intact; legendary material started to emerge over the next five hundred years.  So whether the gospels were written sixty years or thirty years after the life of Jesus, the amount of time is negligible by comparison.  It’s almost a non-issue.  …Historically speaking, especially compared to Alexander the Great, that’s like a news flash.

…[the Early Creed quoted in First Corinthians 15] can be dated to within two years of that very event [the resurrection].  Now you’re not comparing thirty to sixty years with the five hundred years that’s generally acceptable for other data—you’re talking about two!


Lee Strobel:

Indeed that was impressive, closing the gaps between the events of Jesus’ life and the writing of the gospels to the point where it is negligible by historical standards.

(emphasis:  Gary’s)


Gary:  Good grief.

Where in the world did Blomberg get the idea that we can trust historical data that is within five hundred years of its alleged date of occurrence???  How does he know that zero legend crept into the stories about Alexander the Great for the first five hundred years after his death?  How can he use this unproven claim regarding Alexander the Great as a standard for the time it took for legends to develop in all stories from Antiquity?  I say he pulled this out of thin air.  What a preposterous statement.

Legends can start within hours.  Just look what happened with the recent Las Vegas shooting.  Within hours, there were multiple conspiracy theories.  The idea that somehow oral stories, rumors, and gossip in Antiquity were completely different than these phenomena today is unprovable.  The claim that oral stories in Antiquity stayed intact for five hundred years is a joke.  It is simply conservative Christian wishful thinking!