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 fourth of a nine-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.

Then, consider that most Christians' ideas about what's written in the Bible are even foggier and more contradictory than the actual stories themselves.
(R) First, just because a person claims to be a Christian doesn't mean he is. In that case, 90% of Americans would be Christians!
(MB) Ah, yes, the old "real Christian" argument. OK, just how do you define "Christian" and how is that definition justified? What should we call those who don't qualify under your definition even though they are still believers? What percentage of Americans would be "Christians" according to your definition? Which denominations qualify and what's wrong with the others?

(R) Second, just because Christians make mistakes doesn't take away anything from the Bible.
(MB) Very true. The Bible makes its own mistakes and all of the problems would still be there even if there were no more "Christians".

(R) Remember, were not perfect, just forgiven! (That's pretty corny!)
(MB) Corny, indeed. In addition to being just plain silly.

"The cause" overrides any personal concerns.
(R) And what was this "cause"? To spread the Gospel? What did they gain from it? A life of poverty and ridicule? What reasons did they have to uphold it? Persecution, flogging, and death? As discussed before, dying for a lie defies all human reason and logic. The questions above have yet to be answered.
(MB) The answers are rather clear and don't even require a conclusion as to whether or not "the cause" is true or false. Why should a zealot fear death when martyrdom is considered to be the fast track to eternity in heaven? Why should he fear death when he knows that martyrs are remembered and revered long after their deaths? (Look and see how many martyrs have been elevated to sainthood by the Catholic Church, for example.)

We see that happening even today.
(R) People giving their lives for other religions today do so because they have come to believe in that particular religion with nothing to back up their beliefs.
(MB) There is no more to back up a belief in Christianity than there is to back up the belief in any other religion, so your argument is meaningless.

(R) The apostles are different. They actually saw what they were dying for (the resurrected Jesus)!
(MB) You wouldn't happen to be a devotee of Grant Jeffrey or Hugh Ross, would you? This "what did they die for" stuff sounds suspiciously like some of their works.

If the original apostles had preferred self-preservation to the message they were attempting to spread, that message would have quickly died away and been forgotten.
(R) Agreed.
(MB) So, then, the message *is* more important then the lives of those who spread it, eh? Why then be concerned with trivial matters like whether or not it is true?

Remember, also, that part of "the message" was to help free the Jews from the Roman occupation.
(R) The message wasn't meant to free the Jews from Roman occupation but to free them from sin.
(MB) I said that was a *part* of the message and not its entirety. Being free from the Romans would certainly have appealed even to those who didn't buy into the salvation from sin bit.

(R) Jesus Himself endorsed paying taxes (Matt. 17:24-27; 22:15-22).
(MB) Those are rather difficult interpretations to support. In Matthew 17, Jesus tells Peter that he will find a piece of money in the mouth of a fish and that he should give that as tribute "lest we should offend them". Hardly a ringing endorsement of paying taxes. In Matthew 22, we read the famous line about rendering unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's. However, when the Pharisees show Jesus a coin, Jesus says that it belongs to Caesar since Caesar's image is on it. I guess, by this logic, that all of our money belongs to dead Presidents? Again, hardly a ringing endorsement of paying taxes.

(R) Romans 13:1-7 explains that we need to obey the government, the only exception being when it goes against what God says (Acts 5:29), and this was written during the Roman occupation.
(MB) "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God." Somehow, I don't think that the Romans would have agreed with that sentiment since they didn't believe in Yahweh.     Acts 5:29 has Peter saying "We ought to obey God rather than men." But, this was not said to the Romans. It was said to the high priest in refutation of the command not to teach in Jesus' name.

Obviously, there was more involved than just spreading stories about Jesus.
(R) Obvious to who? Paul says "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."
(MB) So, Paul's chosen ignorance of anything other than what he wanted to believe or preach is to be used as an indication of what was happening in contemporary secular history?

This is secular history and is no verification of either the existence or the divinity of God and/or Jesus.
(R) Since God is divine by definition, that's not relevant.
(MB) Where is this definition and why is it proof of its own validity? Aren't you engaging in circular reasoning here?

(R) It is verification that the Bible can be trusted as a historical document and in fact it is considered that by many historians.
(MB) Any "historians" who would actually say such a thing would be laughed out of academia. It is a valuable reference for many things, but is not even close to being inerrant and cannot be accepted solely on its own say-so.

Which "scientists" were those? The pool of Bethesda was uncovered over 80 years ago, so any supposed objections must have been very old, indeed.
(R) Why does it matter how long ago it was?
(MB) Because you brought it up as if the objections were still in force today.

(R) The fact is, this was presented as another objection to the Bible that was once again proven wrong.
(MB) See below...

By the way, the description of it in the Bible doesn't match the reality of the archaeological evidence.
(R) Actually, it does. The reason it doesn't match it exactly is because Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans. The colonnades were torn down but would have been there originally.
(MB) That's not the problem. The archaeological evidence shows *two* pools in an open area. Colonnades are free-standing columns which are usually placed in the four corners of such an area and Bethesda's colonnades are still there. The account in John speaks of a single pool in an area with five covered porches. This is not what the archaelogical evidence shows.

This is not in accordance with the facts. Pontius Pilate was known from Roman records and from the histories of Josephus and Tacitus. As to the particulars of his supposed trial of Jesus...well, that's another issue entirely.
(R) So he was know from histories of Josephus? Well, if you would have bothered to read the whole thing you would have noticed that Josephus says "He was (the) Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, HAD CONDEMNED HIM TO THE CROSS, those who loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day..." (Antiquities, XVIII, III).
(MB) If you had bothered to do any real research rather than just quoting from standard apologetics, you would know that this entire passage (which is not the entire passage, by the way) has a great many problems and is, in fact, known to be an interpolation that does not appear in any early copies of Josephus and, in fact, does not appear *anywhere* until 320 CE in "The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius". Eusebius, by the way, wrote in "Praeparatio Evangelica":
    I have repeated whatever may rebound to the glory, and suppressed all that could tend to the disgrace, of our religion.

(R) SUPPOSED trial with Jesus? How do you argue with a historian who lived during the first century? Closing your eyes doesn't make the facts go away!
(MB) It should be obvious that I'm not arguing with Josephus, since the facts show that Josephus didn't say what you are attributing to him. Are you closing your eyes to *that* fact?

So, why does John have Jesus saying contradictory things about himself and why do his accounts not square with those in the other three Gospels? After all, Jesus can't claim to be one with the Father if he also says "my Father is greater than I".
(R) Jesus was one with the Father in NATURE, but distinct from Him in PERSON.
(MB) That is gibbering nonsense. If any two things share the same nature, that does not mean that they are not still two things. Being *alike* is not the same thing as being one and the same.

(R) The triune Godhead has one ESSENCE, but three distinct PERSONS.
(MB) First, it's going to be difficult to justify calling either God or the Holy Spirit "persons" in any sense of the word. Second, what's the difference (as you see it) between "nature" and "essence"?

(R) The Father is greater than the Son by OFFICE, but not by NATURE, since both are God (John 1:1; 8:58; 10:30).
(MB) This is paradoxical. If both are God and both are equal, then one cannot outrank the other since that implies that one is subservient to the other and, therefore, that they must be unequal.

(R) Just as an earthly father is equally human with, but holds a higher office than, his son, even so the Father and the Son in the Trinity are equal in ESSENCE, but different in FUNCTION.
(MB) The problem with your attempted argument is that nobody would seriously put forth a claim that an earthly father is the same as his son. You really can't even say that they are equally human unless they share the exact same set of genes -- which will be impossible given the nature of sexual reproduction (not to mention the inevitability of mutations). Therefore, by your analogy, it must also be impossible for God and Jesus to be considered to be the same.

(R) In like manner, we speak of the president of our country as being a greater man, not be virtue of his CHARACTER, but by virtue of his POSITION. Therefore, Jesus cannot ever be said to say that He considered Himself anything less than God by nature.
(MB) No sane person would claim that Jesus' own words do not indicate that he considered God to be greater than he. In fact, he says *exactly* that "My Father is greater than I". If you believe your own claims that Jesus speaks only the truth, you must also believe that statement. Also, why would Jesus need to pray to God if he is the same as God?

Such a claim is not proof that one actually has that ability, nor is it proof that the claimant has become co-equal with God.
(R) So you admit that Jesus DID make the claim that He is equal with God? This seems extremely contradictory to when you said Jesus never made that claim. How do YOU explain this contradiction? You've been trapped in your own words.
(MB) How? I said no such thing. We were (in Reply #57a) talking about Jesus claiming the ability to forgive sins. Please re-read my earlier statement (quoted above) and address what it says while remembering what we were talking about.

(R) It is true that claims don't mean anything. But proof, such as prophecy and His resurrection demonstrate His divine nature.
(MB) So far, the claimed prophecies have all been shown to be invalid and the resurrection story still contains numerous unfilled holes. It would seem that all that these things demonstrate is that the belief in them is more important to the believer than is any other concern.

It is important to note that those are not claims made by Jesus himself, but claims of those who are writing in support of Jesus' divinity. They do not automatically gain validity just because of the subject involved.
(R) Agreed. But you already admitted above that Jesus made the claim.
(MB) I agreed that Jesus claimed the ability to forgive sins and you agreed that claims don't mean anything. It should be rather obvious that second-hand claims are even less reliable.

The doubts arise *from* examining the evidence, not by refusing to look at it -- and the only evidence available is the contradictory accounts in the Gospels.
(R) The contradictory accounts in the Gospels? Where? If your going to make the claim, at least back it up with some Scripture.
(MB) I have done so on numerous occasions already and they all stand unrefuted. Want more? How about the story where Jesus is claimed to have driven out demons into a herd of swine which then all killed themselves by jumping off a cliff? The telling of this story produces more chronology contradictions between the Gospels. Matthew (8:28-32 and 10:1-4) says that Jesus destroyed the swine prior to appointing the twelve disciples. Mark (3:13-19 and 5:1-13) says that the disciples were appointed first. Matthew (8:28-32 and 11:11-14) has Jesus giving tribute to John the Baptist after the episode with the swine. Luke (7:24-28 and 8:26-33) says that the tribute came first. Which accounts are right and which are wrong? Finally, the swine story has to be a fabrication since the keeping of swine in Judea and Galilee was illegal during the time when Jesus was supposed to have lived. A similar difficulty applies to the story of Peter's denials and the cock crowing, since it was illegal to keep chickens inside the city of Jerusalem (as is the case in numerous modern cities today).

First, merely claiming to be the Son of God was not an offense against Jewish law, much less one that could have resulted in stoning.
(R) Again you admit that Jesus claimed to be God contradicting your previous statements to the opposite.
(MB) Try reading what I'm actually writing instead of what you want it to say. I said that Jesus claimed to be the *Son* of God. I didn't say that he claimed to be God himself.

(R) What do you mean this wasn't an offense punishable by stoning? Leviticus 24:14-16 clearly states that anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord should be stoned. Where did you get your information?
(MB) Straight from Jewish law. Claiming to be the Son of God is not a blasphemy against God because the Jews never believed that God actually *had* a son! Therefore, anybody who made such a claim would have been a fool and not a lawbreaker or a blasphemer. Claiming to be God himself would have been an entirely different matter.

Second, the Gospel stories contain several errors of historical fact concerning the procedures observed by the Sanhedrin and the dictates of Jewish law that combine to cast serious doubts about them -- perhaps the most critical being that it was illegal under the law to begin such a trial on the day before the Sabbath (which is when Matthew, Mark, and Luke say it took place).
(R) Many aspects of the trial of Jesus are interesting. According to Jewish law it was illegal to try a capital case after dark.
(MB) Matthew and Mark say that the trial began at sunset -- which would clearly have been illegal. Luke, however, says that it began "as soon as it was day". This account, while removing the illegality, would also be a contradiction of Matthew and Mark, would it not?

(R) It was also forbidden to try a case after the testimony of the initial witnesses was found to be conflicting.
(MB) Where does any Biblical account speak of conflicting testimony from witnesses? It's difficult to see how there could have been any contradictory witnesses since there was no defense of Jesus conducted and since Jesus apparently had no lawyer. Both of these would be violations of Jewish law.

(R) Yet, when we examine the witnesses who testified against Jesus, we see that even the Sanhedrin recognized that their testimony disagreed (Matthew 26:59-61).
(MB) That's not correct. Read the verses:
Matthew 26:59 -- Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;

Matthew 26:60 -- But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses,

Matthew 26:61 -- And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.
    It is painfully clear that the Sanhedrin is being depicted as deliberately trying to frame Jesus, but not having much success. The two witnesses they eventually found told the same story. So, where's this supposed disagreement of which you speak?

(R) However, this does not prove to be historically inaccurate. If this is what happened, then this is what happened.
(MB) True enough, but the evidence strongly suggests that this is not what happened. There are simply too many serious problems with the details of the proceedings to accept them as being historically accurate.

(R) The writers of the Gospels were certainly informed on the laws of the Sanhedrin.
(MB) Why do you make that assumption? Consider how many people in this country are almost totally ignorant about our how own legal system works. Since none of the Gospel writers were lawyers or high priests, why should we assume that they were experts in the details of the operation of the Sanhedrin?

(R) If this didn't happen, why would the writers knowingly contradict the Jewish law?
(MB) They likely didn't know that their accounts had any problems. Since none of them actually witnessed the trial and none were experts in how the Sanhedrin operated, it is not necessary for them to have knowingly fabricated their stories in order to account for the errors. They may well have considered the details to be inconsequential in the context of the larger story they were trying to push.

(R) It is because that is what DID happen.
(MB) It is more likely that it either didn't happen at all or that it didn't happen in anything remotely approaching the way that the Gospels record it.

(R) Why would the Sanhedrin knowingly break Jewish law?
(MB) They wouldn't. My last statement applies here, as well.

(R) When you look at the primary motive, which is murder, the breaking of the other laws don't seem so big.
(MB) If the Sanhedrin was intent on convicting somebody for a capital offense, they would hardly have considered the execution of the accused to be "murder". But, since the accusations against Jesus were not capital offenses, execution wouldn't have been a consideration at all. The final nail in your "murder" argument is that the Sanhedrin had ceased to have jurisdiction over capital offenses prior to the time of Jesus' trial, so they couldn't have executed him in the first place!

First, a "miracle" is nothing more than an event that an observer can't explain.
(R) Actually, a miracle is a supernatural event that cannot be explained by the known laws of science. I think it's in the dictionary.
(MB) Is there such a thing as a supernatural event that *can* be explained by the known laws of science?

If I could bring some of today's technological wonders back in time and demonstrate them for the same crowd that is said to have followed Jesus, I could also "perform miracles".
(R) You probably could fool them. But you wouldn't make them think you were a miracle man. At the most, they would probably think you were involved with witchcraft.
(MB) Why? If my charisma was compelling, if I gave credit to God for what I was performing and if my tricks were sufficiently wonderful, why should I expect to be accused of witchcraft?

(R) Lets look at the miracles Jesus performed.
(MB) Let's also remember that there is no evidence that any of these miracles actually happened. The fact that the Gospel writers relate stories of them is not proof of their validity.

(R) I think it is kind of hard to confuse a dead man with a live one. Would you agree?
(MB) Not entirely. People have "died" and have "returned to life" all throughout the history of Man. Even modern medical science gets it wrong on occasion. A good case in point is a good friend of mine who was seriously injured about a year ago as a result of his home being destroyed by a killer tornado. His wife was killed and, a few hours later, he was declared dead at a local hospital. He was a bowling teammate of mine and the word of his death swept through the bowling center that night and greatly saddened us all. In fact, the late shift league that evening was postponed out of respect for his memory. Yet, the next day, an excited series of phone calls went around to let us all know that he had revived and was recovering. He has since made a sensational recovery and we are bowling together once again. Now, if modern medical science can confuse a dead man with a live one, why should the simple people of 2000 years ago not be likely to have had much greater difficulties?

(R) When the people knew someone was dead, and then saw that person brought back to life, it truly was a miracle.
(MB) A "miracle" in the sense that the observers couldn't explain what had just happened even though it likely had an entirely natural explanation.

(R) I think it is kind of hard to confuse a blind person with a seeing one. Would you agree?
(MB) Not in all cases. After all, how can anybody else prove that Joe Blow is blind -- especially if they have no medical training or equipment? Only Joe knows for sure and he might have reason to lie about it. For example, it is not unknown for panhandlers to fake all sorts of afflictions in order to appeal to the sympathies of those who might then be sufficiently persuaded to part with some of their cash in order to "help" the poor guy.

(R) When the people saw a blind man instantaneously receive sight, it truly was a miracle.
(MB) Again, how does another person prove that the man was blind prior to having his sight "restored"?

(R) I think it is kind of hard to confuse a man with leprosy all over his body with a normal person. Would you agree?
(MB) Nope. What's lacking here is an understanding of the term "leprosy". What we call "leprosy" today is known to the medical community as Hansen's disease and involves the death of skin tissue (or "necrosis"). In Biblical times, "leprosy" was a generic term that was applied to any visible skin disorder, such as eczema, psoriasis, shingles, and so on (possibly even severe acne). Many of these are short-term afflictions and other go through cyclic periods of remission and flare-up.

(R) When the people saw Jesus heal those with skin diseases, it was a miracle.
(MB) Given the general level of hygiene of the common people in those days, a simple bath could likely have "cured" most of those cases of "leprosy".

(R) If you were to bring back gun powder to the 1st century, you could probably fool people into thinking you were special. But you wouldn't be able to bring back any kind of technology that would raise the dead, heal the blind, and cure those with leprosy.
(MB) If I had a defibrillating machine, I could "bring back to life" someone who had just "died" of a heart attack. Laser surgery can restore sight. All sorts of cures and treatments are available for the myriad skin disorders that exist. In short, modern medical technology can do many of the things that were claimed for Jesus. And, I can document the technology. Jesus' "miracles" are still nothing more than unverifiable stories.

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