Night Owl Mk. II

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Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the third of a four-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.

Because he *did* teach and preach and gained a significant following. Anybody else who did likewise would also have been referred to in those terms. Those terms are no indication of divinity.
(R) (Here you are referring to how Jesus could be a lunatic and gain a following while being called a teacher by rabbis). Yes that is true. But how was Jesus able to gain such a large following if He spoke nonsense? Yes, some leaders today speak nonsense and have a large following.
(MB) One word -- charisma. Most people who are prone to follow those leaders just substitute that charisma for the emptiness in their own lives.

(R) But most of these are dictators or weirdoes who claim to be God with absolutely no evidence.
(MB) Nobody who has ever claimed to be God (or anything close to God) has ever had any evidence with which to support their claims. Stories written by their followers are *not* evidential support for those claims.

(R) The difference with Jesus was that He supported His claims with the supernatural.
(MB) Or, so go the stories written by his followers. These stories are no proof of their own validity.

(R) Why were the Jews so concerned with Him and His teaching if they realized He was a lunatic? It was because He attracted such a large following when He spoke about the kingdom of God. The Jews were jealous at His popularity.
(MB) Why would the Jews be jealous of this? Jesus was promoting the very same God of the Jews and the Jews were awaiting the arrival of the Messiah. It was when Jesus proved not to be the Messiah they wanted that they turned on him. To this day, the Jews are still awaiting the real Messiah.

(R) Any religious uprisings where a person claims to be God, and that person later dies, the uprising also dies out. An example of this can be seen with the Branch Dividian in Waco, Texas. I don't see any other people converting and believing in David Koresh as the Messiah, do you? Because he is dead and he managed to take people with him.
(MB) The Branch Davidians are still around. They just don't have their charismatic and vocal leader any longer. Given the fate of David Koresh and the others, I doubt we'll see much activism from them for a while. But, who knows? Give them 30-40 years and they, too, might be able to invent stories about their leader and revitalize their faith.

(R) Why didn't Christianity die out with the death of Jesus? Because He was raised from the dead!
(MB) No, it's because he didn't take all (or most) of his followers with him. Why didn't Buddhism die out with the death of Buddha? He wasn't raised from the dead.

(R) His followers realized this and were willing to die for it.
(MB) Or, they invented it and were willing to die for it.

(R) Gamaliel summed it up best when he said in Acts 5:35-39:
    "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

(MB) The problem here is a classic anachronism. The revolt by Theudas (as reported by Josephus) took place in 45 or 46 CE. But, the author of Acts is speaking of a speech by Gamaliel that couldn't have been made later than 36 CE (some scholars place it as early as 29 CE). This is understandable if one knows that Acts wasn't written until at least three decades after the death of Jesus. It is analogous to the famous Shakespearean anachronism in Julius Caesar where Caesar refers to a clock striking the hour. Striking clocks weren't invented until some fourteen centuries after the death of Caesar (still two centuries prior to the life of Shakespeare).

(R) And we know that something did come of it!
(MB) Indeed, for whatever that's worth. All sorts of religions, both older and younger than Christianity, have evolved in similar ways.

How does any charismatic figure gain a large following? Does anybody who gains the ears of others qualify as being "divine"? Remember, also, that the Jews were under the occupation of the Romans during Jesus' life and were waiting for the arrival of a new leader who would free them. Therefore, they would be even more susceptible to persuasion by any new charismatic figure.
(R) The same arguments above about Jesus, his following, and his teaching apply here also. Gaining ears does not qualify Him as divine. His birth, life, miracles, death, and resurrection do!
(MB) I'll need to see how you respond to the previous discussion before taking this argument any further. For now, I'll just say that the stories about Jesus' birth and life also result in numerous contradictions and doubts.

(R) Yes, the Jews were under Roman occupation, and yes, they were waiting for a political Messiah. However, I would hardly describe Jesus as a political Messiah, or His actions that which a political Messiah would take. Jesus played the role of a suffering servant, not as a political Messiah.
(MB) That's right -- and that didn't exactly appeal to the Jews. If anything, Jesus was little more than a disappointment to a people who had waited centuries for the Messiah's arrival.

(R) Repeatedly He refrained from succumbing to the temptation of becoming the political Messiah everybody wanted and instead suffering on the cross. As discussed above, there were other leaders of the day who gained following, not just Jesus. The difference with Him was that He provided evidence for His claims. His miracles and teaching attracted people to Him. It was not just because the people were "susceptible".
(MB) Jesus merely had a more loyal following than other contemporary prophets. Needless to say, we hear little of any other side of the story from the point of view of those forgotten individuals. Would the story of Jesus have emerged and grown if not for the zealotry of Paul?

I *have* read the Bible and, as a result, have not arrived at that conclusion.
(R) (You are referring to Jesus not being a lunatic.) I am glad to hear you have read the Bible. Many Christians today can't make that claim.
(MB) Unfortunately, that's correct. Those who say they do read it normally only read selected verses from Bible study guides and rarely go any further in their research. Fewer still ever make the effort to compare Biblical stories with the accounts of history or even with other versions of the same story elsewhere in the Bible.

(R) You said you had an open mind and were open for answers. But did you read the Bible with an open mind?
(MB) Of course. That's why I can understand what it actually says.

(R) More importantly, did you read it with an open heart?
(MB) I read it (and everything else) with an objective heart. That means that I have no preconceptions and place no limits on what I will or won't accept. I am prepared to accept the truth no matter what that truth might be or what previous beliefs I might have to abandon or modify.

(R) Matthew 7:7-8 says "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." If you truly want to know if God exists, seek after Him and He will reveal Himself to you.
(MB) In other words, I can come to believe in God if I decide to believe in him first. Why isn't the idea of God so compelling that there is no room for any doubts?

(R) I would like to challenge you to read the Bible again, this time with an open heart, and ask God sincerely to reveal Himself to you if He exists. If you do this, I think you will find answers to all your questions.
(MB) Again, you are asking me to believe before I can believe. Why would I ask God to "reveal himself" if I don't believe that he exists? If God is all-powerful, he could unmistakeably reveal himself to me whether I asked him to do so or not. If he is all-knowing, then he knows that I would believe in him if he revealed himself. In the meantime, I will go where the evidence leads me.

Did he? There is no evidence outside the Bible of any such miracles.
(R) How can miracles be possible? The basis for believing in the miraculous goes back to the biblical conception of God. The very first verse of the Bible decides the issue. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"(Genesis 1:1). If you can believe the very first verse in the Bible, then the rest is no problem.
(MB) How does this "decide the issue" unless one has already presupposed the truth of the Bible? In addition, if this account is true, we must accept all of the other nonsensical baggage that comes along with it. Do you really believe that the Earth was created before the Sun, and stars? Do you really believe that plant life appeared on Earth prior to the creation of the Sun? How could there be "night and day" or "evening and morning" before there was a Sun? And, what about the second creation tale beginning at Genesis 2:4? Was Man created before or after the other animals? Were male and female humans created together or in separate episodes? Some may call these tales "miraculous". I'd say that "bogus" is a better description.

(R) If in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, then a virgin birth, walking on water, feeding 5,000 people with a few loaves and fish, and the other biblical miracles become not only possible but expected. If there is a God, then certainly miracles are possible.
(MB) Agreed. But, if the universe came into being by its own devices instead of having been created by God, then none of the rest follows. There's much more evidence to support that scenario than to support the notion that "God did it".

(R) In fact, the very nature of the question: "How can miracles be possible" presupposes there is a God, for a miracle is an act of God. In the end, your belief of miracles comes down to your belief in God.
(MB) Agreed. However, not everything that is dubbed a "miracle" actually qualifies as such. Strictly speaking, a true "miracle" could only be something that violates the physical laws of the universe.

Also, the Old Testament of the Bible contains no prophecies that can be shown to apply to Jesus. How can you fulfill prophecies that do not exist? Now, there are instances related in the Gospels where Jesus is claimed to have done something "in fulfillment of prophecy". However, since Jesus was well-versed in Scripture, he certainly could have selectively done particular things in order to claim retroactively that the Old Testament had foreseen them. This technique is not unknown among modern-day "prophets", either.
(R) (You are referring to Jesus displaying miracles and fulfilling prophecy). We know God exists because of fulfilled prophecy in the Bible. This brings up an interesting question: How can you say that no prophecies in the Old Testament can be shown to apply to Jesus? There are over three hundred of prophecies that apply directly to Jesus! Prophecies which were written hundreds of years before Jesus. I will only name a few.
(MB) There are, indeed, a few hundred so-called "prophecies" that are claimed to refer to Jesus, but not a single one of them specifically mentions Jesus by name, nor unambiguously mentions something that could only apply to him. Let's look at the examples you bring up and analyze them...

(R) Since you also say that Jesus did particular things on purpose in order to fulfill prophecy, I will only look at prophecies Jesus could not have arranged. Explain this to me: How did Jesus arrange His birth in Bethlehem, a fulfillment of Micah 5:2?
(MB) Simple, he didn't and Micah doesn't say that he will. Micah refers to "Bethlehem Ephratah" -- a Hebrew usage that means a person's name (specifically, Bethlehem, the son of Ephratah [see 1 Chronicles 4:4]) and not a place. Furthermore, the verse says that the person in question is to be ruler in Israel. This clearly did not happen. Jesus was never a ruler and his influence was in Judea and not in Israel. The two were separate nations.

(R) How did He arrange being in the same lineage as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
(MB) He didn't. To be strict about it, the Messiah had to be of the House of David. By tradition, *all* Jews are of the lineage descending from Abraham through Isaac. It was Davidic descent that was a prerequisite for anyone to make a legitimate claim to be the Messiah. Nobody would have considered Jesus (or anybody else) to be the Messiah no matter how many miracles they might have performed or what they may have taught or claimed unless he had Davidic heritage. However, since untold thousands of other Jews are also direct descendants of David, it is hardly a fulfilled Messianic prophecy that one particular individual is among them.

(R) How did He arrange being born of the tribe of Judah, a fulfillment of Genesis 49:10 and Micah 5:2?
(MB) See above...

(R) How did He arrange being crucified, a direct fulfillment of Psalm 22:16 and Zechariah 12:10 which were written before crucifixion was even invented?
(MB) The author of Psalm 22 is using present tense verbs and is referring to events contemporaneous with himself. He is speaking about himself and is not prophesying about Jesus (or anybody else).
    Zechariah says, "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son". The biggest problem here is that those who mourned for Jesus did not pierce him and those who pierced him did not mourn and certainly didn't treat him as an only son since Jesus was not a Roman. In reality, Zechariah is saying that God will make Judah and Jerusalem so strong in the future that they will destroy any and all enemies, but still will have compassion for those whom they have defeated.
    Neither "prophecy" says anything about crucifixion.

(R) How did Jesus arrange being crucified with thieves, a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12? How did He fulfill being buried in a rich man's tomb, a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:9?
(MB) He didn't. Actually, Christians have this "prophecy" interpreted backwards along with ignoring the standards of Roman law. Isaiah 53:9 actually reads, "He made his grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death". Yet, Jesus is supposed to have died with the wicked and been entombed with the rich -- precisely the opposite. Additionally, under Roman law, theft was not an offense punishable by crucifixion or death by any other method.
    Where does Isaiah 53:12 say anything about being crucified with thieves?

(R) How did He arrange His garments being cast for lots, a fulfillment of Psalms 22:18? How did He arrange to have a spear thrust in His side, a fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10?
(MB) He didn't. I've already addressed these two "prophecies". In addition, since the Gospel writers were intent on showing how the events surrounding Jesus "fulfilled Old Testament prophecy", it is rather likely that their stories were tailored to some degree to attempt to ensure such fulfillments. This technique is not lost upon others who also claim to be fulfillments of this or that imagined ancient prophecy.

(R) How did He arrange His bones not being broken especially when this was common in crucifixion, a fulfillment of Psalm 34:20?
(MB) He didn't. The breaking of a condemned man's bones (usually his legs) was called "crucifragium". This was a separate form of punishment and the Romans never combined it with crucifixion.

(R) I could go on and on for days! No prophecy concerning Jesus? I don't think so.
(MB) I guess you'll have to continue, since the ones currently presented have all failed the test. So will all others.

If God is omnipotent, why couldn't he just wave his hand and eliminate all of the sins of mankind? Instead, the life and death of Jesus resulted in the deaths and persecutions of untold millions of believers and non-believers over the following two millennia. Did God really do mankind a favor?
(R) This is a commonly asked question. Why does a good God allow evil to exist? The answer is found in Genesis. God originally created mankind sinless and He wanted to have personal relationships with them.
(MB) Where does Genesis say that God created Man for that purpose? Was God lonely? Was he in dire need of somebody to praise him? Why would an omnipotent being need such companionship? No creation could give such a being anything he didn't already have!

(R) Adam and Eve, however, decided to do it on their own and thus sin entered the world.
(MB) They didn't do anything on their own. It took the persuasion of Eve by the serpent (who is neither called "Satan" or "the devil" nor referred to as a "snake") to cause the eating of the fruit (which is not called an "apple"). But, this brings up several other questions. How could a perfect God could create humans that were even capable of sin if God didn't want them to sin? Why did he create the serpent and permit the temptation? Why was the tree easily accessible if it was forbidden? Why did God place the blame on his creations when they couldn't have done anything without his forbearance? Finally, why does God blame the entirety of blameless humans for all time for the actions of two individuals (that were actually God's fault to begin with)?

(R) So why doesn't God just wave His hand and eliminate sin? Well, eventually He will. But for now, He gives us a choice.
(MB) So, what's the wait all about? If sin is truly an abomination before God, it makes no sense for him to permit its continued existence.

(R) If God eliminated sin, we would all be robots with no other choice but to worship Him. God doesn't want robots, He wants genuine love from His creation.
(MB) That's not what he says in the Old Testament. He wants the complete and undivided attention and worship of his people and also dictates the methods that are to be used and the laws that are to be followed under penalty of death and eternal damnation. Nowhere does God give us any free choice in the matter. Kinda like Army regulations...*grin*

(R) God gives us a choice on whether we want to follow the world and the devil, or follow Him.
(MB) "Follow me or suffer for eternity". That's a rather tortured connotation of a "choice", isn't it?

(R) So why did Jesus die on the cross for us? God is a Holy and just God who demands justice to be done. The penalty of sin is death by a shedding of blood.
(MB) Actually, the Bible says that shedding of blood is required for remission of sins. That's part of the rationale behind animal sacrifices.
    Furthermore, what sort of "justice" system permits others to die in place of those who actually committed the offense? What sort of "justice" is it when children are killed for the sins of their parents?

(R) We all deserve to die for our sins.
(MB) Why? If we were created with the ability to sin, why should we suffer for the creator's mistakes?

(R) Jesus came and died on the cross for our sins so we wouldn't have to.
(MB) Yet, we still all die, don't we? What has changed? And, how does the death of Jesus do anything for those who don't worship God or have never heard of Jesus?

(R) In the Old Testament, the Jews would have to make sacrifices to cover their sins. Ultimately, Jesus death on the cross was an ultimate sign of love.
(MB) If Jesus supposedly went willingly to the cross for us, why does he pray "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me" (Matthew 26:39) and wail "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46) while on the cross?

(R) "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends"(John 15:13).
(MB) Which is, of course, the Biblical justification for Christian martyrdom and the ultimate answer to your questions about why Jesus' followers would die for the cause.

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