Tag Archives: religion

Millennials, Religion, and Corporate Marketing

Millennials are traditionally thought of as those born between the years 1980 and 2000. The generation just before that, is known as Generation X and features those born between the years 1960 and 1980. Baby Boomers are said to be born between the years 1940 and the mid-1960’s. One of the hallmarks of the millennial generation is their tendency to be religiously unaffiliated (i.e. they tend to prefer no religion, or are agnostic about God altogether).

According to statistics from the Pew Forum, younger millennials in the US are 36% religiously unaffiliated, while those from Generation X are 23% religiously unaffiliated and of the Baby Boomers only 17% are religiously unaffiliated. Religion is often seen as an archaic relic of the past, that it tends to harm more than the benefit it provides. Yet, if we were to abstract this central form of reasoning, that the reason religion is to be ditched is because it harms more than it benefits, then what about the paradox of millennials being loyal to corporate brands that feature advertising which is considered ethical and ‘feel-good’ while at the same time rejecting traditional religious beliefs, often for the very same reasons.

The irony here is that while millennials may think corporations produce less harm than religious groups, we do need to keep in mind that corporations hold sway over our politics ,our wars and even our religions. One may say that religious wars are significantly worse than any war a corporation may have been involved in, but truthfully let us consider this claim in its entirety. The then US Vice President, Dick Cheney did find himself in controversy given that the company which he was the CEO of before becoming Vice President, (that is to say) Haliburton, profited greatly from the war itself. One Private Military Contractor (PMC) that financially benefited but which also was accused of multiple war crimes, Blackwater, also played a significant role in the Iraq war. Its successor under Erik Price, the founder of Blackwater, is also complicit in crimes against Chinese Muslims. Even the change of government in Libya was associated with corporate interests. Let’s also be sure to mention the fact that companies functioning in Latin America received permission and help to overthrow governments they disliked.

It is therefore still quite strange that the one group less susceptible to fake news (i.e. millennials), is the same group susceptible to corporate marketing which features ethical messaging. Consider that corporations only exist to make money, to make a profit, they don’t exist to generally make our lives better. Religions on the other hand do not exist solely to make money (though the Prosperity Gospel movement is an outlier), though that is not to say that most religions don’t feature money management as an aspect of their teaching in some way (for Muslims it’s Zakaat and Sadaqah, for Christians it’s tithing). The main point which still presents itself though, is that should millennials take a serious look at mainstream religion, they will in one way or the other come to see religions as distinct from corporations. Furthermore, they should see at some level that religion provides benefits that corporations cannot, and should they seriously consider the ways in which both benefit society, there can truly only be one clear winner: religion.

and Allah knows best.

Debate Review: What Was the True Faith of Jesus’s Disciples? – Br. Yahya Snow

I review a debate entitled “What Was The True Faith of Jesus’ Disciples?

The Debaters:

  • Br. Ijaz Ahmad of Calling Christians
  • Rev. Steven Martins of Nicene International Ministries Canada.

Note: I did the bulk of the review a while ago but never managed to finish it in the detail I would have liked but never got back to it through procrastination and other priorities I’ve quickly tidied up what I had and rolled it out.

“None of the Apostles could have written or sanctioned these stories about themselves” – Br. Ijaz Ahmad

Were the Gospel Accounts eye-witness reports

Steven Martins’ approach was to draw upon the New Testament in his attempt to present what he believes the disciples believed. Steven believes the Gospels are the historical eye-witness records of  the disciples. This was rejected outright by Ijaz Ahmad who pointed out the 4 Gospels were not contemporary to Jesus p and nor are the writers of these Gospels known so how can somebody take these works as eye-witness accounts? None of the authors of the documents which make up the NT were eye-witnesses. Paul himself indicates this of himself (and his writings are the earliest written amongst the NT writings). On top of this the authors of the 4 Gospels are anonymous (these names Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were later given to the anonymous authors). So weighing up all these points it’s sad to hear Steven insist these writings were eye-witness accounts. Perhaps this is what he was taught by his mentors and other Christian apologists but that does not make it true.

Also, just knowing these two basic facts would preclude one from claiming the authors were eye-witnesses – the Gospels are written by highly literate Greek speakers while the companions of Jesus were considered to be illiterate and Aramaic speakers (these people were lower class men). This suggestion they were unschooled is backed up by the writer of Acts as Ijaz cites:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. [Acts 4:13]

This may seem odd to us folk living in the 21st Century but the vast majority of the ancient world did not know how to read and write.

Ijaz Ahmad offers an analysis that many may have never come across – the alleged chains of transmission of the Gospel accounts. 4 out of the 6 lead to what Trinitarians would call heretical beliefs and the other two are anonymous – further highlighting the range of differing beliefs amongst early Christians. Ijaz states these chains of transmission indicate Peter, Matthew and John rejected a belief in the death of Jesus (which as Ijaz says, it sounds like they had an Islamic belief!).

Do the Gospels contain myths and legends

Ijaz argues there are erroneous stories in the Gospels. One of Steven Martins’ arguments against the claim the Gospels contains myth and legend is that there was not enough time between Jesus’ life and the recording of the Gospels for myth and legend to enter. He then concludes the Gospels are historical based on this.

Has Steven considered William Lane Craig’s unease at the biggest resurrection story in all of Christian literature – that of the resurrection of the many saints in Matthew. He finds it difficult to accept as a literal event, see here:

William Lane Craig Doubts Resurrection Story is Historical (‘The Resurrection of the Saints’) Matthew 27

Now, if Steven Martins believes this story literally then why does nobody else mention it? A story of many dead people coming out of their graves, is that not something that would get people writing according to Steven? Or does he think this is a myth that was added to the account?

However, a point that it is not unrelated to Steven’s theory, Ijaz Ahmad ran through early Christian history pointing out there were multiple competing Christian traditions which all differed from each other – there were even Gospels which differed from each other. So if at the time of Paul there were different Gospels (now lost) then how can Steven be so confident to believe there are no myths and legends in the four Gospels he has ended up with?

In addition the theology amongst various Christian groups in early Christianity was radically different to the Trinitarian theology the majority of modern-day Christians subscribe to.

There were Christian groups which believed in 2 gods, 12gods and 365 gods. Ijaz Ahmad mentions the Arian controversy as a case in point to demonstrate rival factions were competing with each other. This is a good example to highlight as Arianism is Non-Trinitarian and it drew upon the same scriptures as the Trinitarian faction/s as well as it being a good demonstration of how popularity and a sympathy with the ruling elite promoted one faction over another

Arianism taught that Jesus was created by God and was distinct from God. This belief had it’s scriptural basis in John 14:28

These varying theologies within early Christianity should be something Steven should look into further.

Ijaz taught Paul did not mention or use the four Gospels which modern-day Christians use today so even Paul did not sanction these Gospels. Is it possible Paul was unaware of these Gospels? Not that Paul is a criterion of right and wrong but is it possible Paul would have considered some of the writings in the four Gospels spurious?

Another point mentioned, by Steven I think, Paul abolished circumcision. The question is, who gave him authority to do so?

These are further points for Steven to consider.

Object of worship?

Steven Martins claims throughout the Gospels Jesus is the object of worship – paradoxically he mentions this in the same breath as his mentioning of Satan tempting Jesus p. Think about it, he effectively claimed Jesus was God and Jesus was tempted by Satan. Playing games with the belief of the hypostatic union is not going to get the Bible believing Trinitarian away from this problem. Ijaz Ahmad refers to original language of the scripture to show Steven that the word he uses does not denote the type of worship God receives.

‘Son of God’ title

Steven emphasises the ‘Son of God’ attribution given to Jesus in one of the Gospel narratives after Jesus performed a miracle (walked on water) but this just simply meant somebody who was chosen by God – as taught by Prof. Bart Erhman.

The Gospel of John

 

Rather predictably, Martins in his attempt to prove Jesus was divine, leans heavily on the Gospel of John. Almost as though the Gospel of Mark (the earliest Gospel) does not exist!

The irony is, Steven Martins tells Ijaz Ahmad to give priority to the earlier sources (Gospels) when Ijaz brought up the church history. Sadly, many Christians don’t do this with the Gospels and they lean disproportionately to the last Gospel – John’s Gospel.

Another Christian apologetics argument presented is that some doubted in the story where Jesus is said to have been worshipped. Martins claims the story must be true because it mentions ‘doubt’. I guess he’s utilizing the idea of a criterion of embarrassment argument here.

Martins rattles off the ‘he who has seen me has seen the Father’ argument in his attempt to prove Jesus was divine. Similarly Martins uses the Gospel teaching of  Jesus pre-existing before his birth and the ‘I am’ statements.

Martins states Jesus was omnipotent and omniscient as well as being capable of forgiving sins in order to prove his Trinitarian case. Martins also claims Jesus was called by the name of God, ‘my Lord my God’

Steven Martins would do well to look at where these things are written. Are they written in the Gospel of Mark, the earliest Gospel, or the latest one which is the most Christologically developed whose author is effectively described as a liar by Christian apologist Mike Licona (accused of changing stories to make theological points – thus he was forging stories to get his theology across).This anonymous author (later named John) is not the person Steven wants to be going to to get important aspects of theology or proof texts!

What Every Christian Should Know About The Gospel Of John

Peter
Gleeson Archer is cited by Martins to support the claim that the authorship of 2 Peter should not be corrected. Bart Ehrman teaches us that virtually all scholars (with the exception of conservative evangelicals) are unified that 2 Peter is not from Peter. The bombshell is that Prof.Ehrman does not believes 1 and 2 Peter are not written by Peter at all as hebelieves Peter was illiterate.

And would Ijaz’s citation of Acts not support the view that disciples were illiterate?

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. [Acts 4:13]

Miracles
Martins acknowledges other Prophets performed miracles but he tries to draw a distinction between the miracles performed by Jesus and the other Prophets. Martins intimates, erroneously, that these were done by Jesus independently while the miracles of the other Prophets were done by the authority of God. Has Steven got any proof of this? Does he even have a quotation attributed to Jesus to this effect?
There is something in the Gospel of John that militates against Steven’s claim:
but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” [10:32]
Steven Martins starts talking about the Quran
I’m not sure why he did this but he just presented dated and already refuted Christian missionary material.
Martins mentions the Quran 10:94 and 5:47. Martins claims the Bible was already in existence at the time of the Quran revealed. Martins just presents the standard intellectually dishonest and shallow Christian apologist material on this.
Ijaz touches on this here:

https://callingchristians.com/2013/02/14/does-quran-validate-bible/

Bassam Zawadi here:

http://www.call-to-monotheism.com/refuting_the_argument_regarding_the_qur_an_ordering_the_jews_and_christians_to_judge_by_their_scriptures

I think Steven Martins also used one of these missionary arguments too:

http://www.call-to-monotheism.com/does_the_quran_affirm_the_teachings_of_paul_

Steven Martins and IjazAhmad on Paul of Tarsus
Ijaz Ahmad focuses on the historicity of multiple traditions within early Christianity which were competing against each other contemporaneously. To support this claim, Ijaz cites Paul twice

Galatians 1:6

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel [ESV]

Romans 2:16

on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. [ESV]

Ijaz makes a point worthy of consideration, when Paul mentions ‘gospel’ he’s not referencing the 4 we see in the New Testament as he wrote his letters prior to those 4. Ijaz supports this conclusion through the absence of references from those 4 Gospels within Paul’s letters. So here, ‘my gospel’ is referring to ‘my teachings of Christ’.
Steven Martins offers his argument for Paul being truthful, yet if Steven thinks about it, the throwing yourself into hardship from comfort argument can be used with much greater force to show Prophet Muhammad (p) was truthful. Think about it, just read his life  – the Prophet risked his life and was rejected by his tribe. The argument Steven presents is better suited for Prophet Muhammad (p). If Steven is consistent and objective he would accept Prophet Muhammad (p).
When Reverend Steven Martins wrongly claimed Paul’s writing constituted 75% of the NT it suggested to me that Reverend Steven Martins WAS just eager to deliver a response to defend his already-held world view. Is Steven at home thinking about the points presented deeply and re-evaluating his beliefs, is he searching for the truth or is he simply searching for material to offer in defence of his already-held beliefs?
Ijaz argues Paul turned towards the Gentiles in his preaching because he was weak in his arguments and thus was rejected by the Jews, hence why he turned towards the Gentiles – whom Ijaz believes Paul considered to be an easier audience. Interestingly enough, the Gentiles came from pagan backgrounds where mythology was rampant, this fits in with why the stories about Jesus (p) would have presented him as a god-man, the pagans were accustomed to such stories.
This also ties in with the discussion Ijaz and Steven have on why Paul did not quote from the Gospels. The hardest hitting point as made by Ijaz: Paul was being rejected by the Jews yet he never quoted from the Gospels, why would he not quote something that he believes to be authority to people who were rejecting him?

Disingenuous claim by Christians about Bart Ehrman
I’ve heard this before from Christian apologists. Steven Martins makes the same appeal, claiming even Ehrman believed in the death of Jesus p. However, what Christian apologists always do, they never mention that Ehrman is not accepting miracles and thus is of course going to believe a man who was born over 2000 years ago has died. Thus Ehrman, as a historian, accepts the most popular early story about Jesus p and thus he believes he died. Christians really should stop making this point, it’s not like Ehrman believes in the resurrection belief despite the story of the resurrection is in the same account as the death by crucifixion story.
Controlled or Uncontrolled Texts
Ijaz Ahmad offers a good rebuttal to the James White-style attempt in trying to take a positive out of the lack of a controlled text within early Christianity. The Quran, which was controlled in it’s copying, was scribed in a more suitable environment for accuracy. Chunks were being added to the Gospels by dishonest scribes, so clearly the environment in which the scribes were operating in did not offer restrictions against such doctoring of texts.
If I recall correctly Steven mentioned Uthman. Many Christians are fed misinformation regarding Uthman’s burning of manuscripts. Here’s an expert to explain it:

Why did the Third Caliph Uthman Burn the Copies of Quran?

A really bad argument by Steven pounced on by Ijaz
Martins appeals to the fact that Herod, Pontius Pilate, the pool of Siloam are mentioned in the Gospel accounts as being testimony to the historicity of the Gospels. This is an odd argument – it’s absurdly odd.
To be honest, Steven opened himself up to ridicule when he continued with the argument that geographical locations being mentioned in the Gospels as being evidence for their authenticity. Ijaz hit back by pointing out that the same argument could be used on Harry Potter as it includes King’s Cross station (London). What I’d like to know is, from where did Steven get this line of argumentation? Was it an argument from a Christian apologetics school which he accepted blindly?  And would Steven be consistent enough to now claim Islam is true because in Islamic sources real people and real places are mentioned?

The Christian tradition in 7th century Arabia
I feel it’s misleading when Christian apologists bang on about how their canon was formed by this time and thus assume people in Arabia had the modern-day Bible in their possession in the 7th century as though they were Trinitarian Pauline Christians exactly as we find them in a Baptist church somewhere in Texas.

Christians really need to stop making this assumption and they need to stop basing arguments on this erroneous assumption that all Christians had the same books.
Ijaz Ahmad refutes the superficial (and intellectually dishonest) argument It’s obvious this is not the case. Ijaz mentions Christians and Jews converting to Islam during the time of Prophet Muhammad. I would recommend Reverend Steven Martins looks into the story of Salmam Al Farsi, who converted to Christianity, before the coming of Prophet Muhammad, from a Zoroastrian tradition.
Salman Al-Farsi, the son of a Zoroastrian priest, met a Christian monk inPersia and converted to Christianity at the hands of the monk. Salman Al-Farsi ran away to Syria and joined the monk’s Christian sect which was dying sect. Salman Al-Farsi learned, from his Christian sect, of a Prophet to come who was predicted by Jesus (p). He was told of three signs the Prophet would meet:

He shall appear in a land full of dates.

He will have a physical mark on his back.

This man will accept gifts but never accept charity.
From Syria, Salman Al-Farsi ended up in Yathrib after being enslaved. He wound up toiling away as a slave for decades. A time came when talk spread about Prophet Muhammad (p) emigrating to Medina. Salman Al-Farsi heard of this talk and came to Prophet Muhammad (p), he soon realised Prophet Muhammad (p) fulfilled all three signs and converted to Islam.
Salman’s story indicated how few real Christians were left at the time of Prophet Muhammad (p).

Another story illustrating this was that of the Emperor Heraclius, who received a letter from Prophet Muhammad (p). In the account, Heraclius mentions that there are Scriptures in which a Prophet is predicted to come after Jesus (p) and that Prophet Muhammad (p) fits the description.

Both stories indicate that there were Scriptures that the majority of Christians at the time did not have access.

http://thefactsaboutislam.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/christianity-before-islam-in-arabia.html

City of Village?

The difference between a village of a city – the village of Bethsaida. Ijaz Ahmad picks on the author of John for making an error of anachronism. Luke also calls it a city. Perhaps it was one of those loose Gospel scribes writing after it was changed to a city. Whatever the case may well be (the Gospel authors or the scribes), it’s an interesting point raised by Ijaz Ahmad to possibly further impugn the reliability of those texts.
Ijaz accuses the author of John of an anachronistic error regarding the city of Bethsaida and Ijaz spends some time relaying discrepancies concerning the Gospel accounts. I think he could have offered more examples to the audience of discrepancies but perhaps he wanted to focus on stories involving companions of Jesus rather than the standard show of contradictions between the Gospels such as what Barth Ehrman presents here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuvEmajcaiQ
If clear evidence is shown of discrepancies and changes within the Gospels then the question the truth-seeker may ask is, how can these texts be trusted to think they weren’t changed in other ways to the extent that the texts do not even represent the theology of Jesus?

Conclusion

What’s established from the debate, the Trinitarian narrative is not sound. The Gospels are not reliable. There were competing Gospels and traditions. Basing one’s beliefs entirely on the New Testament is effectively accepting conjecture.

Ijaz Ahmad

Clearly he, for such a young man, has a burgeoning apologetics CV. He and Zakir Hussain could well be the mainstay of Muslim debates with Christians for the next few decades.
It’s also nice to hear an accent other than a North American or British accent.
I think Ijaz rushed his positive case for the disciples being Muslims. Ijaz shows links between Jewish Christianity and Islam. His focus was heavily leaning on refuting Reverend Steven Martins and the Trinitarian narrative – this he achieved easily in clearly demonstrating the Trinitarian narrative is not sound.
Another point I would pick on here, Ijaz went for the more complex points which for an audience tuned in to apologetics may well have been suitable but I’d imagine the majority of the live audience and those viewers of the recorded debate are not too familiar with the bread and butter points regarding Gospel contradictions and textual criticism.

Ijaz possesses faith shattering information for the Christian, it would be wise to always ensure the audience is invited to Islam at the end of the debate. Most apologists and debaters don’t do this but surely we want them to come to the truth of Islam rather than not invite them to the truth after effectively destroying their faith.

Where does Ijaz go from here? Well, I’d imagine on his island the scope for engaging with seasoned apologists is quite limited so I’d personally like him to debate local pastors. People want to see apologists debate but let’s see Muslims go to churches to dialogue with pastors (who have flocks of people following them). I would also hope the pastors aren’t marred by some of the dishonest arguments Christian apologists are plagued with today so the discussion is easier – less rubbish to wade through before engaging the Christians productively.
Ijaz has charisma and seems like a nice guy too so these qualities could well endear him to Christians which can only be a good thing in witnessing the truth of Islamic monotheism to Christians

Steven Martins of Nicene International Ministries

For me, Steven was visibly struggling in this debate. This should be a sign to Steven that he’s not on the right side of the fence.

I think he’s a victim of bad information from those who has learned from. The person who gave him the argument he was making based on the mention of geographical locations should be banned from apologetics!

I really think Steven should not debate again. He’s better off just remove himself from Christian apologetics and begin a search for the truth. Think about some of the questions raised. Think about why Jesus p never mentioned a man called Paul or 4 books that he wanted people to believe were ‘Gospels’.

Research Islam with an open heart and mind.

From my experience with Christians, it appears many have been hooked by emotional preaching. It’s not that they have been convinced intellectually to accept the idea of the Trinity or the god-man concept.

Think deeper.

Reverend Steven Martins on the History of Mecca

Rebuking Rev. Steven Martins of Evangelium & Apologia Ministries – ‘Western Values’

Christian apologetics to Muslims, more women in Hell Hadith

Tackling Christian Apologetics on Polygamy (Polygyny) in the Bible and the Quran

More about the Paraclete

Prophecies of the Messiah – Reza Aslan

Christians having dreams and converting to Islam

Learn about Islam

Email: yahyasnow@yahoo.co.uk

Is an Afterlife Rationally Conceivable?

Viktor Frankl an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist says in his book, A Man’s Search for Meaning:

After a while I proceeded to another question, this time addressing myself to the whole group. The question was whether an ape which was being used to develop poliomyelitis serum, and for this reason punctured again and again, would ever be able to grasp the meaning of its suffering. Unanimously, the group replied that of course it would not; with its limited intelligence, it could not enter into the world of man, i.e., the only world in which the meaning of its suffering would be understandable.

Then I pushed forward with the following question: “And what about man? Are you sure that the human world is a terminal point in the evolution of the cosmos? Is it not conceivable that there is still another dimension, a world beyond man’s world; a world in which the question of an ultimate meaning of human suffering would find an answer?”

Is it not cynical for man to think that he is the pinnacle of intelligent life? That the human world is an end point, the boundary of existence? Surely, if an ape can experience the world around them with all their senses and still be veiled from higher reasoning, can we too not conceive that perhaps we are also veiled?

Or, perhaps it is that some wish for this boundary to exist willingly at the cost of their own bravado…..

cc-2014-mancoveringeyes

 

and Allah knows best.

Paul’s Stolen Name

 

It is common knowledge or should be common knowledge that Paul’s former name was Saul. Being a Jew, Paul had a Jewish name before his conversion. The day Saul changed his name to Paul is quite peculiar, if not outright absurd to say the least. In the 13th Chapter of Acts, many strange incidents occurred:

They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus,  who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said,  “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?

As it turns out Saul met the son of Jesus (Bar-Jesus) and Sergius Paulus. What happens next is quite unbelievable. After Saul meets Sergius Paulus, Saul’s name is then introduced in Acts as being Paul. Let’s break this down for some understanding:

  • Saul is a Jew who converts to Christianity after having a magical/ demonic experience on the road to Damascus.
  • After sometime, Saul and Barnabus travel to Cyprus to preach Saul’s new religion.
  • Saul meets a Roman General, a “Proconsul”, named Sergius Paulus or for short, “Paul” – verse  7.
  • Saul’s name then is for the first time in Acts, introduced as Paulus or for short, “Paul” – verse 9.

Strong’s Greek Lexicon, comments on the name of “Paul” by saying:

Paul or Paulus = “small or little”

  1. Paul was the most famous of the apostles and wrote a good part of the NT, the 14 Pauline epistles
  2. Paulus was a deputy or pro-consul of Cyprus and is said to be a prudent man, in the management of affairs, as a governor

According to famed Christian scholar and exegete, Adam Clarke, he says:

This is the first time the name Paul occurs, and the last time in which this apostle is called Saul, as his common or general name.

Another famed exegete, James Coffman of the Coffman Commentaries on the Bible, in his exposition of Acts 13:9, quotes J.W. Conybear’s analysis of the verse and makes the following comment:

Conybeare said, “We cannot believe it accidental that the words `who is also called Paul’ occur at this particular point.” He made the deduction that the conversion of Sergius Paulus brought the name Paul to the surface and precipitated the use of it.

Therefore, our conclusion has to be that Paul copied the name of Sergius Paulus, as the coincidences are too great and obvious, to simply be a name that Saul assumed for himself. As such, even Christian scholars such as J.W. Conybeare and John Gill (as quoted above) admit that Saul’s usage of the name Paul is due to his meeting with Roman General, Sergius Paulus. What are we supposed to understand from Paul’s stealing of another person’s name, especially of a man who had a Jewish magician/ sorcerer as his aide and teacher:

The fact of Bar-Jesus’ having been a Jew suggests that Sergius Paulus had made inquiry into the beliefs of the Jews and may therefore be presumed to have had some knowledge of the sacred Scriptures. As MacGreggor admitted, “there would be nothing extraordinary in a Roman official having a Jewish teacher in his house.” – Ibid.

This concession by Christian scholarship casts a shady aura upon Paul, sorry, Saul of Tarsus. For what reason he copied the person’s name, or began using it exclusively after meeting his namesake, is unknown, but most interesting indeed.

wa Allaahu ‘Alam.

 

  • Note: Originally published on Oct. 19th, 2012. 14:45. 
  • Fixed error referencing John Gill instead of James Burton Coffman.
  • Error noted by users flightjam and defendchrist.

More Issues with Vicarious Atonement

More Issues with Vicarious Atonement

Question Mark

Introduction

 

As a norm, Christianity has accepted that the only mode of salvation is through the alleged death and resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him). Obviously this is not in accord with the established biblical view of God’s plan of salvation; it has got theological, logical and practical issues with it and we are going to look at some of them herein.

 

The Appeal to “Justice”

 

To validate the concept of vicarious atonement (salvation through the alleged death and resurrection of Jesus (p)), Christians appeal to the God’s attribute of justice. They would argue that although God is merciful to forgive sins yet He is also just at the same time. Consequently God cannot – just-like-that – forgive sins. The debts, in other words, the consequence of the sins have to be borne. Just at this point of discussion where a non-Christian would almost inadvertently think that the consequence of the sins have to be borne by the sinner, Christians would, ironically, give an unjustified twist! They would assert that the consequence of the sins was borne by Jesus (peace be upon him) at the cross! And this in itself is an issue. The scrupulous Christian God who has to be “just”, should accept debts only from the debtor but this is certainly not the case? Not surprisingly the Jewish God was consistent with this notion:

 

“Parents are not to be put to death for crimes committed by their children, and children are not to be put to death for crimes committed by their parents; A PERSON IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH ONLY FOR A CRIME HE HIMSELF HAS COMMITTED.” (Deuteronomy 24:16)

 

And the Jewish patriarchs were committed to the same:

“When a person is accused of wronging another and is brought to your altar in this Temple to take an oath that he is innocent, O LORD, listen in heaven and judge your servants. PUNISH THE GUILTY ONE AS HE DESERVES, AND ACQUIT THE ONE WHO IS INNOCENT.” (1 Kings 8: 31-32)

 

Therefore, we find that the Jewish concept of sin, forgiveness and salvation would come close to human cognizance and acceptance as compared to its Christian counterpart.

Nevertheless, Christians explain that Jesus (peace be upon him) borne the consequence of the sins out of God’s attribute of mercy. God was so merciful that He gave His own “son” to be sacrificed. In other words, out of “mercy”, God paid the debts by Himself to Himself! It sounds absurd but unfortunately, this is how it works. The Christian God would have to be offered the spilling blood of a perfect innocent for the debts of filthy criminals. Ironically, the Jews were not informed of this blood-needy attitude of their God:

 

“I do not reprimand you because of your sacrifices and the burnt – offerings you always bring me. And yet I do not need bulls from your farms…Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goatsLet the giving of thanks be your sacrifice to God,” (Psalms 50:8-14)

 

Observe that God of Israel needed “thanks” – sincere thanks – and not sacrifices. Nevertheless, for some reasons the act of repentance – sincere repentance – was not enough for the Christian God to justify the fulfillment of His debts. Why couldn’t the currency of sincere repentance be accepted against the debts of sin? Especially when, earlier, presumably the same God was accepting repentance and mourning to wipe away the consequences of sins:

 

Be merciful to me, O God, BECAUSE of your constant loveBECAUSE of your GREAT MERCY wipe away my sins! Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sins. I have sinned against you – only against you – and done what you consider evil. So you are right in judging me; you are justified in condemning me. I have been evil from the day I was born; from the time I was conceived, I have been sinful. Sincerity and truth are what you require; fill my mind with your wisdom. Remove my sin and I will be clean; wash me; and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness; and though you have crushed me and broken me, I will be happy once again. Close your eyes to my sins and wipe out all my evil. Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach sinners your commands, and they will turn back to you. Spare my life, O God, and save me, and I will gladly proclaim your righteousness. Help me to speak, Lord, and I will praise you. YOU DO NOT WANT SACRIFICES, or I would offer them; you are not pleased with burnt-offerings. MY SACRIFICE IS A HUMBLE SPIRITO God; you will not reject a humble and repentant heart.” (Psalms 51:1-17)

 

To the plea of a sinner, God of Israel had the following model of reply:

 

“I am the high and holy God, who lives for ever. I live in a high and holy place, but I also live with people who are humble and REPENTANT, so that I can restore their confidence and hope. I gave my people life, and I will not continue to accuse them or be angry with them for ever. I was angry with them because of their sin and greed, and so I punished them and abandoned them. But they were stubborn and kept on going their own way. “I have seen how they acted, but I will heal them. I will lead them and help them, and I WILL COMFORT THOSE WHO MOURN. I offer peace to all, both near and far! I will heal my people. But evil men are like the restless sea, whose waves never stop rolling in, bringing filth and much. There is no safety for sinners,” says the LORD.” (Isaiah 57:15-21)

 

Unlike the Christian concept where it is of paramount importance to God that the consequences of sin be discharged, the Jewish God taught that merely turning to Him in repentance would be enough for wiping off of sins:

 

“The LORD will punish the Egyptians, but then he will heal them. They will turn to him, AND HE WILL HEAR THEIR PRAYERS AND HEAL THEM. (Isaiah 19:22)

“God saw what they did; he saw that they had given up their wicked behavior. SO HE CHANGED HIS MIND AND DID NOT PUNISH THEM AS HE HAD SAID HE WOULD.” (Jonah 3: 1-10)

 

Through prophet Isaiah, God of Israel expressed His modus operandi of sin, forgiveness and salvation. He declared that if a sinner would turn to Him in sincerity then He is too merciful to forgive “quickly”. In other words, He would not go to the ledger books searching for reconciliation of credits and debits:

 

Turn to the LORD and pray to him, now that he is near. Let the wicked leave their way of life and change their way of thinkingLet them turn to the LORD, our God; HE IS MERCIFUL AND QUICK TO FORGIVE. “My thoughts.” says the LORD, “are not like yours, and my ways are different from yours. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways and thoughts above yours.

“My word is like the snow and the rain that come down from the sky to water the earth. They make the crops grow and provide seed for sowing and food to eat. So also will be the word that I speak – it will not fail to do what I plan for it; it will do everything I send it to do. “You will leave Babylon with joy; you will be led out of the city in peace. The mountains and hills will burst into singing, and the trees will grow where now there are briars; myrtle-trees will come up in place of thorns. This will be a sign that will last for ever, A REMINDER OF WHAT I, THE LORD, HAVE DONE.” (Isaiah 55:6-13)

 

On the foregoing, recognized Christian Bible expositor John Gill provides a rather non-Christian insight:

 

In some things there may be a likeness between the thoughts of God and the thoughts of men, as to the nature of them: thoughts are natural and essential to them both; they are within them, are internal acts, and unknown to others, till made known; but then the thoughts of men are finite and limited, whereas the thoughts of the Lord are infinite and boundless; men’s thoughts have a beginning, but the Lord’s have none; though not so much the nature as the quality of them is here intended: the thoughts of men are evil, even the imagination of their thoughts, yea, every imagination is, and that always and only so; but the thoughts of God are holy, as appears from his purposes and covenant, and all his acts of grace, in redemption, calling, and preparing his people for glory: the thoughts of men, as to the object of them, are vain, and nothing worth; their thoughts and sentiments of things are very different from the Lord’s, as about sin, concerning Christ, the truths of the Gospel, the people of God, religion, holiness, and a future state, and in reference to the business of salvation; they think they can save themselves; that their own works of righteousness are sufficient to justify them; their privileges and profession such, that they shall be saved; their wisdom, riches, and honour, a security to them from damnation: however, that their sincere obedience, with repentance for what is amiss, will entitle them to happiness: but the thoughts of God are the reverse of all this; particularly with respect to pardoning mercy their thoughts are different; carnal men think of mercy, but not of justice, and of having pardoning mercy in an absolute way, and not through Christ, and without conversion and repentance; and so this is a reason why men’s thoughts are to be forsaken, because so very unlike to the Lord’s. OR ELSE THESE WORDS ARE TO BE CONSIDERED AS AN ARGUMENT, PROVING THAT GOD DOES ABUNDANTLY PARDON ALL RETURNING SINNERS; SINCE HE IS NOT LIKE MEN, BACKWARD TO FORGIVE, ESPECIALLY GREAT AND AGGRAVATED CRIMES, BUT IS READY, FREE, AND WILLING TO FORGIVE, EVEN THOSE OF THE MOST AGGRAVATED CIRCUMSTANCES.

 

Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord; the ways which God prescribes and directs men to walk in are different from theirs; his are holy, theirs unholy; his are plain, theirs crooked; his are ways of light, theirs ways of darkness; his are pleasant, theirs not so, at least in the issue; his lead to life, theirs to death; and therefore there is good reason why they should leave their evil ways, and walk in his. Moreover, the ways which he takes in the salvation of men are different from those which they, naturally pursue, AND ESPECIALLY IN THE PARDON OF SIN; HE PARDONS FREELY, FULLY, WITHOUT ANY RESERVE, OR PRIVATE GRUDGE, FORGETTING AS WELL AS FORGIVING.(John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, Isaiah 55:8)

 

Finally, the Jewish God unequivocally declared that He does not blot out sins for the sake of anybody else’s “sacrifice” but out of His own free will driven by His abounding mercy

 

“Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions FOR MINE OWN SAKE, and will not remember thy sins.” (Isa 43: 24-25, King James Version)

 

Bible commentator Adam Clarke concurs:

 

For mine own sake – In the pardon of sin God can draw NO REASON BUT from his own infinite goodness. (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, Isaiah 43:25)

 

These were only some instances from the Hebrew Bible, a fuller account can be read here. Nevertheless, the preceding does establish that (i) the attribute of “justice” do not preempt God from accepting sincere repentances for blotting out transgressions. (ii) We saw that the free-flowing, unconditional mercy of God does not need that a cultic sacrifice of an innocent be made to forgive sins.

Before we are done with the Christian appeal to “justice”, we would like to side track a bit to ponder that the Christian God looks to be a God of principles. He is ready to forgive but then His principle of justice comes in and He has to wait until the consequence of sin is paid in full. However, all of a sudden, the same God of principles would hardly have any scruples when He would purportedly breach all principles of monotheism to incarnate. For Paul, it is merely an issue of God condescending to human levels:

 

“And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had:

He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to b0ecome equal with God. Instead off this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like man and appeared in human likeness. He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death – his death on the cross. (Philippians 2:4-8)

 

There are more issues with the Christian version of atonement: Christ (peace be upon him) allegedly paid for the sins of the world. However, this was a onetime payment. Consider the following New Testament [1.] passage:

 

For how can those who abandon their faith be brought back to repent again? They were once in God’s light; they tasted heaven’s gift and received their share of the Holy Spirit; they knew from experience that God’s word is good, and they had felt the powers of the coming age. And then they abandoned their faith! It is impossible to bring them back to repent again, because they are again crucifying the Son of God and exposing him to public shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)

 

The same message is reiterated in even simpler words:

 

Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. For there is no longer any sacrifice that will take away sins if we purposely go on sinning after the truth has been made known to us. (Hebrews 10:25-26)

 

The preceding passage information is compatible with the Hebrew sacrifices: Once an animal was slaughtered, its sacrificial benefits were useful only for that particular year. For any subsequent year, a new sacrifice was to be made. Similarly, once the ultimate, costly sacrifice (c.f. 1 Peter 1: 18-19) was paid for the sins of humanity, there cannot remain any possibility of backsliding. People who have been manumitted cannot expect any room as far as any further sins are concerned. This explains why Christians baptized are often called as “born-again”. Thus, the alleged sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) can be used only once and if it is exhausted without proper use then there is no way out except for eternal damnation.

This, however, portrays an infinitely merciful God as a mere parochial accountant who would give a unit of mercy in return of commensurate unit of sacrifice; and that’s it – end of transaction. Any new transaction would need a new sacrifice, but since there is no other sacrifice left after Jesus (peace be upon him) therefore, there is no chance for salvation.

Furthermore, this also expects that man be perfect (c.f. Matthew 5:48); it assumes that man would not sin “after truth has been made known to” him; to say the least, it is impractical even to remotely assume that man would not sin. For example, Christian(s)assume that pre-Jesus (peace be upon him) mercies were rendered due to future – would-happen – crucifixion. However, we know that multiple Jewish communities including prophets committed sins as ghastly as worshipping idols; Solomon (peace be upon him) himself, for example; and yet they are all saved!!?? (c.f. 1 Kings 11)!

However, contrary to the problems emanating from the Christian philosophies, the God of Old Testament did not use to forgive sins based on the sacrifices which were made, ironically, for Him:

 

“I do not reprimand you because of your sacrifices and the burnt – offerings you always bring me. And yet I do not need bulls from your farms…Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goatsLet the giving of thanks be your sacrifice to God,” (Psalms 50:8-14)

 

In fact, Yahweh would forgive purely on the basis of His attribute of abundant mercy:

 

Be merciful to me, O God, BECAUSE of your constant loveBECAUSE of your GREAT MERCY wipe away my sins! Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sins. I have sinned against you – only against you – and done what you consider evil. So you are right in judging me; you are justified in condemning me. I have been evil from the day I was born; from the time I was conceived, I have been sinful. Sincerity and truth are what you require; fill my mind with your wisdom. Remove my sin and I will be clean; wash me; and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness; and though you have crushed me and broken me, I will be happy once again. Close your eyes to my sins and wipe out all my evil. Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach sinners your commands, and they will turn back to you. Spare my life, O God, and save me, and I will gladly proclaim your righteousness. Help me to speak, Lord, and I will praise you. YOU DO NOT WANT SACRIFICES, or I would offer them; you are not pleased with burnt-offerings. MY SACRIFICE IS A HUMBLE SPIRITO God; you will not reject a humble and repentant heart.” (Psalms 51:1-17)

 

Further, the Jewish God was not a onetime-forgiver; rather he would forgive the Jewish community over and over again under the leadership of different Hebrew prophets and patriarchs (Joel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Samuel, David, Isaiah). We documented it here.

The attribute of oft-forgiveness is in fact the part and parcel of the One True God:

 

Your Lord knoweth best what is in your hearts: If ye do deeds of righteousness, verily He is Most Forgiving to those who turn to Him again and again (in true penitence).(Qur’an 17:25, Yusuf Ali’s Quran Translation)

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

On one hand where the Christian concept of vicarious atonement is not supported by the Hebrew Bible; on the other hand, vicarious atonement also entails logical issues with it: Firstly, it is not just and logical enough to punish somebody else in place of the actual sinner and then reward the sinner for the miscarried judgment on the innocent!?

Secondly, it is not logical and practical enough to assume that man would not sin after accepting the alleged ultimate sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him). Even if it is allowed, and man owing to his nature backslides, then obviously there would remain no other way out for salvation as the ultimate sacrifice is exhausted.

Even though these are obvious issues with Christian philosophies of sin and salvation yet, ironically, the Hebrew Bible provides acceptable solutions: The God of Hebrews is just enough to punish only the transgressors and at the same time merciful enough to accept sincere repentances over and over again.

 

Footnotes:

[1.] Although the Book of Hebrews is anonymous, however, the “Eastern church” always accepted it to be penned by Paul himself:

 

“In the Eastern church, there was no problem of canonical acceptance because it was regarded as one of the “fourteen” epistles of Paul.” (The Open Bible, The Author of Hebrews, The Epistle to the Hebrews, p.1244)

 

 

Dr. James Tabor: Gospel of Mark’s Ending is “Patently Bogus” and “Patently False”

The “Strange” Ending of the Gospel of Mark and Why It Makes All the Difference

 

by James Tabor

 

And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing.

Most general Bible readers have the mistaken impression that Matthew, the opening book of the New Testament, must be our first and earliest Gospel, with Mark, Luke, and John following. The assumption is that this order of the gospels is a chronological one, when in fact it is a theological one. Scholars and historians are almost universally agreed that Mark is our earliest gospel–by several decades, and this insight turns out to have profound implications for our understanding of the “Jesus story” and how it was passed down to us in our New Testament gospel traditions.

The problem with the gospel of Mark for the final editors of the New Testament was that it was grossly deficient. First it is significantly shorter than the other gospels–with only 16 chapters compared to Matthew (28), Luke (24), and John (21). But more important is how Mark begins his gospel and how he ends it.

He has no account of the virgin birth of Jesus–or for that matter, any birth of Jesus at all. In fact, Joseph, husband of Mary is never named in Mark’s gospel at all–and Jesus his called a “son of Mary, see my previous post on this here. But even more significant is Mark’s strange ending. He has no appearances of Jesus following the visit of the women on Easter morning to the empty tomb!

Like the other three gospels Mark recounts the visit of Mary Magdalene and her companions to the tomb of Jesus early Sunday morning. Upon arriving they find the blocking stone at the entrance of the tomb removed and a young man–notice–not an angel–tells them:

“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing (Mark 16:6-8)

And there the gospel simply ends!

Mark gives no accounts of anyone seeing Jesus as Matthew, Luke, and John later report. In fact, according to Mark, any future epiphanies or “sightings” of Jesus will be in the north, in Galilee,not in Jerusalem.

This original ending of Mark was viewed by later Christians as so deficient that not only was Mark placed second in order in the New Testament, but various endings were added by editors and copyists in some manuscripts to try to remedy things. The longest concocted ending, which became Mark 16:9-19, became so treasured that it was included in the King James Version of the Bible, favored for the past 500 years by Protestants, as well as translations of the Latin Vulgate, used by Catholics. This meant that for countless millions of Christians it became sacred scripture–but it is patently bogus. You might check whatever Bible you use and see if the following verses are included–the chances are good they they will be, since the Church, by and large, found Mark’s original ending so lacking. Here is that forged ending of Mark:

Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover. So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.

Even though this ending is patently false, people loved it and to this day conservative Christians regularly denounce “liberal” scholars who point out this forgery, charing that they are trying to destroy “God’s word.”

The evidence is clear. This ending is not found in our earliest and most reliable Greek copies of Mark.[1] Clement of Alexandria and Origen (early 3rd century) show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them. The language and style of the Greek is clearly not Markan, and it is pretty evident that what the forger did was take sections of the endings of Matthew, Luke, and John (marked respectively in red, blue, and purple above) and simply create a “proper” ending.

Even though this longer ending became the preferred one, there are two other endings, one short and the second an expansion of the longer ending, that also show up in various manuscripts:

[I] But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after these things Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.

[II] This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits [or, does not allow what lies under the unclean spirits to understand the truth and power of God]. Therefore reveal your righteousness now’ – thus they spoke to Christ. And Christ replied to them, ‘The term of years of Satan’s power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who have sinned I was handed over to death, that they may return to the truth and sin no more, in order that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness that is in heaven.

I trust that the self-evident spuriousness of these additions is obvious to even the most pious readers. One might in fact hope that Christians who are zealous for the “inspired Word of God” would insist that all three of these bogus endings be recognized for what they are–forgeries.

So that said, what about the original ending of Mark? Its implications are rather astounding for Christian origins. I have dealt with this issue more generally in my post, “What Really Happened on Easter Morning,” that sets the stage for the following implications.

1. Since Mark is our earliest gospel, written according to most scholars around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE, or perhaps in the decade before, we have strong textual evidence that the first generation of Jesus followers were perfectly fine with a gospel account that recounted no appearances of Jesus. We have to assume that the author of Mark’s gospel did not consider his account deficient in the least and he was either passing on, or faithfull promoting, what he considered to be the authentic gospel. What most Christians do when they think about Easter is ignore Mark. Since Mark knows nothing of any appearances of Jesus as a resuscitated corpse in Jerusalem, walking about, eating, and showing his wounds, as recounted by Matthew, Luke, and John, those stories are simply allowed to “fill in” for his assumed deficiency. In other words, no one allows Mark to have a voice. What he lacks, ironically, serves to marginalize and mute him!

2. Alternatively, if we decide to listen to Mark, who is our first gospel witness, what we learn is rather amazing. In Mark, the last night of Jesus’ life, he had told his intimate followers following their meal, “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee” (Mark 14:28). What Mark believes is that Jesus has been “lifted up” or “raised up” to the right hand of God and that the disciples would “see” him in Galilee. Mark knows of no accounts of people encountering the revived corpse of Jesus, wounds and all, walking around Jerusalem. His tradition is that the disciples experienced their epiphanies of Jesus once they returned to Galilee after the eight day Passover festival and had returned to their fishing in despair. This is precisely what we find in the Gospel of Peter, where Peter says:

Now it was the final day of the Unleavened Bread; and many went out returning to their home since the feast was over. But we twelve disciples of the Lord were weeping and sorrowful; and each one, sorrowful because of what had come to pass, departed to his home. But I, Simon Peter, and my brother Andrew, having taken our nets, went off to the sea. And there was with us Levi of Alphaeus whom the Lord …

You can read more about this fascinating “lost” Gospel of Peter here, but this ending, where the text happens to break off, is most revealing. What we see here is precisely parallel to Mark. The disciples returned to their homes in Galilee in despair, resuming their occupations, and only then did they experience “sightings” of Jesus. Strangely, this tradition shows up in an appended ending to the gospel of John–chapter 21, where a group of disciples are back to their fishing, and Matthew knows the tradition of a strange encounter on a designated mountain in Galilee, where some of the eleven apostles even doubt what they are seeing (Matthew 28:16-17).

The faith that Mark reflects, namely that Jesus has been “raised up” or lifted up to heaven, is precisely parallel to that of Paul–who is the earliest witness to this understanding of Jesus’ resurrection. You can read my full exposition of Paul’s understanding “the heavenly glorified Christ,” whom he claims to encounter, here. And notably, he parallels his own visionary experience to that of Peter, James, and the rest of the apostles. What this means is that when Paul wrote, in the 50s CE, this was the resurrection faith of the early followers of Jesus! Since Matthew, Luke, and John come so much later, and clearly reflect the period after 70 CE when all of the first witnesses were dead–including Peter, Paul, and James the brother of Jesus, they are clearly 2nd generation traditions and should not be given priority.

Mark begins his account with the line “The Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Clearly for him, what he subsequently writes is that “Gospel,” not a deficient version thereof that needs to be supplemented or “fixed” with later alternative traditions about Jesus appearing in a resuscitated body Easter weekend in Jerusalem.

Finally, what we recently discovered in the Talpiot tomb under the condominium building, not 200 feet from the “Jesus family” tomb, offers a powerful testimony to this same kind of early Christian faith in Jesus’ resurrection. On one of the ossuaries, or bone boxes in this tomb, is a four line Greek inscription which I have translated as: I Wondrous Yehovah lift up–lift up! And this is next to a second ossuary representing the “sign of Jonah” with a large fish expelling the head of a human stick figure, recalling the story of Jonah. In that text Jonah sees himself as having passed into the gates of Sheol or death, from which he utters a prayer of salvation from the belly of the fish: “O Yehovah my God, you lifted up my life from the Pit!” (Jonah 2:6). It is a rare thing when our textual evidence seems to either reflect or correspond to the material evidence and I believe in the case of the two Talpiot tombs, and the early resurrection faith reflected in Paul and Mark, that is precisely what we have.[2] That this latest archaeological evidence corresponds so closely to Mark and Paul, our first witnesses to the earliest Christian understanding of Jesus’ resurrection, I find to be most striking.

  1. “The last twelve verses of the commonly received text of Mark are absent from the two oldest Greek manuscripts (א and B), 20 from the Old Latin codex Bobiensis, the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, about one hundred Armenian manuscripts, 21 and the two oldest Georgian manuscripts (written a.d. 897 and a.d. 913)” Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd edition []
  2. We offer a full exposition of these important discoveries in our recent book, The Jesus DiscoveryThe book is a complete discussion of both Talpiot tombs with full documentation, with full chapters on Mary Magdalene, Paul, the James ossuary, DNA tests, and much more. You can read my preliminary report on these latest “Jonah” related findings at the web site Bible & Interpretation, here, and a good account of the controversy here. During March and April, 2012 I also wrote a dozen or more posts on this blog responding to the academic discussions, see below under “Archives” and you can browse the posts by month. []

 

End of Dr. Tabor’s post.

Notes:

  • Emphasize wherever not matching with original, is ours.

 

                                                                     Post Script           

Question Mark

 

There is a lot of vital information that Dr. Tabor has pointed out. Notice the following:

 

  1.  “Later” Christians found Mark’s gospel to be deficient consequently it was placed second in the New Testament canonization of gospels along with suitable appendix. This undoubtedly indicates that (i) “earliest” Christians – the Markan community – did not consider the gospel to be “deficient” in need of any “fixation”. For them the evangelist – supposedly Mark – was providing the “Good News” of Jesus (p) (c.f. Mark 1:1). (ii) The process of canonization was very subjective. It was left to the theological experiences of later Christians, and not the texts themselves, to decide upon the canonization.

 

  1. Dr. Tabor provides two reasons for the “concocted” ending of the gospel to be “patently false” and “patently bogus”: (i) Earliest gospel – the gospel of Mark – which does not has the post-crucifixion appearance of Jesus (peace be upon him) will have precedence of antiquity on her counterpart gospels (Matthew, Luke, John) which do have post crucifixion sightings of Jesus (peace be upon him). So, the additional ending to the gospel is “forgery”. (ii) Hundreds of best and earliest manuscripts do not include the fabricated ending as attested by multiple “orthodox” fathers.

 

 

  1. Dr. Tabor’s choice of word for Jesus’ (peace be upon him) post-crucifixion appearance is very intriguing. Notice on multiple occasions he has used “resuscitated” body than resurrected body! This alludes that Jesus (peace be upon him) would have “appeared” to be dead in the wake of his crucifixion (compare Qur’an 4:157), when in reality he was only senseless and later his body was “resuscitated” to strength. This further implies that Jesus (peace be upon him) did not die and thus, probably, Dr. Tabor did not choose the word “resurrected”. Modern Muslim theologians like Dr. Shabbir Ally do endorse the theory of resuscitation in their exegesis of Qur’an 4:157.

 

Related Readings:

The Obvious Theological Biases Driving Gospel of Mark

Did Jesus (p) abolish Jewish Kosher?

Did Jesus (p) abolish Jewish Kosher?

Question Mark

Introduction

 

It is highly probable that the Christian next-door is into an all-inclusive dietary practice. S/he would not be scrupulous with the foods being consumed as Jew (or a Muslim) would be. It is almost considered lawful to consume food items which are prohibited in the Bible. Sadly enough, many Christians try to prove their position from the Bible itself! In fact some Bible versions have taken it for granted that Jesus (peace be upon him) allowed every food for them rescinding Mosaic Laws! One such incident happened at this very blog when a Christian used biblical passages to support his view.

Therefore, we have decided to take a close look into the matter if it is really permissible that a Christian consume any food that s/he like even those forbidden in the Bible. We would consider one of the most famous of the New Testament passage herein.

 

The Jesus (p) Yardstick

 

The Jews to this date scrupulously observe what is called as the “Kosher”. Kosher is basically the Jewish dietary law. The practice of Kosher does get its support from the Bible. Consider the following passage for instance:

 

Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon all four, or whatsoever hath more feet among all creeping things that creep upon the earth, them ye shall not eat; for they are an abomination. Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled thereby.  For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepeth upon the earth: To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten.  (Leviticus 11:42-47, King James Version)

 

Jesus (peace be upon him) for the known fact that he was a “Jew” must have observed the dietary Law. In fact, not just “dietary” Law, Jesus (peace be upon him) wanted to surpass every Pharisee and Scribe of his time by observing all the Laws of the Old Testament:

 

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20, King James Version)

 

 

Did Jesus (p) allow all kinds of food?

 

 

 

On the foregoing it is hard to assume that Jesus (peace be upon him) would have allowed dietary practices against God’s Laws! Then what did Jesus (peace be upon him) mean when he said,

 

 

There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. (Mark 7:15, King James Version)

 

 

Apparently it seems like Jesus (peace be upon him) allowed consumption of all foods irrespective of the Old Testament rulings on them. In fact the Good News Edition of the Bible has already construed Jesus’ (peace be upon him) statement as permission for every kind of food. In between verse 19 and 20, Good News Editions brackets the following declaration:

 

 

In saying this, Jesus declared that all foods are fit to be eaten

 

Nevertheless, a closer look into the passage reveals that Jesus (peace be upon him) never intended to allow all foods lawful for his disciples. It is vitally important to understand the setup and context which led to Jesus’ (peace be upon him) statement:

 

Chapter 7 begins with Pharisees and doctors of the Law in a dispute with Jesus (peace be upon him). For the Pharisees, Jesus’ (peace be upon him) disciples were not up to the mark as far as observing the rituals were concerned. The Pharisees were particularly upset with the disciples not ritually cleaning their hands before eating food:

 

 

Some Pharisees and teachers of the Law who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples were eating their food with hands which were ritually unclean – that is, they had not washed them in the way the Pharisees said people should” (Mark 7:1-2)

 

 

For the Pharisees it was important to wash hands ritually since they inherited it from their forefathers (c.f. Mark 7:3). However, Jesus (peace be upon him) had other views. For him the act (of cleaning hands) was mere show of hypocrisy devoid of any sincere God-consciousness:

 

 

Jesus answered them, “How right Isaiah was when he prophesied about you! You are hypocrites, just as he wrote: These people, says God, honor me with their words, but their heart is really far away from me….” (Mark 7:6)

 

 

Jesus (peace be upon him) also recognized that the ritual of washing hands before eating was a man-made innovation which was never part of God’s Laws:

 

 

It is no use for them to worship me, because they teach man-made rules as though they were God’s laws!’ “You put aside God’s command and obey the teachings of men”” (Mark 7:7-8)

 

 

It is not difficult to understand the perspectives of Pharisees and Jesus (peace be upon him). While the Pharisees would act as sticklers, ironically, not to God’s Laws but to mere mundane innovations, Jesus (peace be upon him), on the other hand, would not only denounce any innovation in God’s religion but he also would strive for spirituality and God-consciousness even in the rituals. It was under this context that Jesus said,

 

 

Listen to me, all of you, and understand. There is nothing that goes into a person from the outside which can make him ritually unclean. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that makes him unclean” (Mark 7: 14-15)

 

 

Consider the construction of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) statement in the first place: If Jesus’ (peace be upon him) intent would have been merely to allow all foods permissible for his disciples then he would not probably had started his statement with a strong exhortation to “listen” him carefully and “understand”. Obviously there was much more to be understood than what would apparently appear from his words. Through such a cautious expression, Jesus (peace be upon him) wanted his disciples to be careful to second part of his statement where he alarms his audience from the evils that “comes out of a person that makes him unclean”.

 

 

As obvious as it is, Jesus (peace be upon him) definitely shifted the focus from mere man-made formalities to higher acts of spirituality. For him, the need of the hour was not bickering over “rituals” and systems but inner uprightness. In fact, Jesus (peace be upon him) explicitly chided the Pharisees, in the same context, merely a few statements earlier, towards their moral degradation in the name of observing “rituals”:

 

 

And Jesus continued, “You have a clever way of rejecting God’s law in order to uphold your own teaching. For Moses commanded, ‘Respect your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever curses his father or his mother is to be put to death.’ But you teach that if a person has something he could use to help his father or mother, but says, ‘This is Corban’ (which means, it belongs to God), he is excused from helping his father or mother. In this way the teaching you pass on to others cancels out the word of God. And there are many other things like this that you do”” (Mark 7:9-13)

 

 

Understand that for Jesus (peace be upon him) the Pharisees were not qualified to be talking about ritual niceties when they had devised ways how they could be excused from helping their own aging parents! For Jesus (peace be upon him) the demand of ritual cleaning was as folly as the excuse of the “Corban”, let alone the fact that the ritual it was an innovation. In this context, therefore, when Jesus (peace be upon him) stated that nothing that goes in defiles a person, then Jesus (peace be upon him) was not really talking about permissibility of foods as he was concerned about refuting the snares of Pharisees.

 

We can further appreciate that (i) Jesus (peace be upon him) did not construct his statement more obviously as “nothing that a person eats”; rather he said “nothing that goes into a person”! This is more than just a hint that Jesus (peace be upon him) was not really concerned about food here. Furthermore, (ii) Jesus (peace be upon him) is comparing food (goes in) and actions (comes out), or at least talking about both of them simultaneously, when both are quite disparate! These should help us interpret Jesus (peace be upon him) correctly that he was not as much concerned and discussing food and its rulings as he was vexed with the inner corruption of the same Pharisees advocating their (man-made) rituals. This understanding is further corroborated by the fact that where Jesus (peace be upon him) devotes only a verse (v.19) for things going into a person, he devotes four verses (vv. 20-23) into explaining about the evils emanating out of men.

 

 

 

 

 

Being Consistent

 

 

We expect persisting Christians to argue that Jesus (peace be upon him) allowed all foods since it does not enter into the heart – where intentions for actions emanate – rather it goes straight into the stomach where it is digested and is done with:

 

 

You are no more intelligent than the others,” Jesus said to them. “Don’t you understand? Nothing that goes into a person from outside can really make him unclean, because it does not go into his heart but into his stomach and then goes on out of the body.”(Mark 7: 19)

 

 

Obviously the reasoning is very narrow and does not accommodate the context. Furthermore, such an argument is awfully inconsistent with the food offered to idols since, of surety, they also do not enter the heart but go to stomach and yet Christians are forbidden to eat them:

 

 

It is my opinion,” James went on, “that we should not trouble the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write a letter telling them not to eat any food that is ritually unclean because it has been offered to idols;” (Acts 15: 19-20)

 

Much like the Pharisees, James is also concerned with “ritual uncleanness”. If Jesus (peace be upon him) has declared that “nothing” going in defiles men then James should not be concerned about the food offered at idol altars especially when James and every other Christian believer knows that every eatable is in reality created by the living God and not dead idols. Consequently, Christians should consistently obey Jesus (peace be upon him) and eat the food offered to idols as, “because it does not go into his heart but into his stomach and then goes on out of the body.

 

 

Paul was also against eating food offered to idols:

 

Consider the people of Israel: those who eat what is offered in sacrifice share in the altar’s service to God. Do I imply, then, that an idol or the food offered to it really amounts to anything? No! What I am saying is that what is sacrificed on pagan altars is offered to demons, not to God. And I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink from the Lord’s cup and also from the cup of demons; you cannot eat at the Lord’s table and also at the table of demons. Or do we want to make the Lord jealous? Do we think that we are stronger than he? (1 Corinthians 10: 18-22)

 

 

 

If food is just-food without any scruples of God-consciousness since they merely have to enter stomach and not heart then why is Paul so concerned about food offered to idols! If, “Nothing that goes into a person from outside can really make him unclean” then why is it an issue whether the food is offered at the altar of God or “demon”? Similarly, how does one become a partner of demon when Jesus (peace be upon him) declared the “outside” food cannot really make him “unclean”?

 

On the same line of reasoning, if that “what comes out of a person that makes him unclean” (Mark 7:20) and the (Christian) believers have become pure in their association with Christ (peace be upon him) then how come anything constitute “the cup of demons”.

 

These queries are irreconcilable if we continue to misinterpret Jesus’ (peace be upon him) statement merely to satisfy our eating appetites.

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

 

Therefore, it seems that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) expression is more about moral sanctity of men than rulings on foods. In fact, we do not find any real reason why Jesus (peace be upon him) need to discuss food-rulings at all since (i) Jews were abreast of Mosaic commandments already and Jesus (peace be upon him) had initially upheld every facet of the Laws. And (ii) there is no hint that Jesus (peace be upon him) ever ate food which was condemned as defiling by the Laws. Add to it that Jesus (peace be upon him) considered the act of ritually washing hands as mere innovation. Consequently, a mere innovation could not possibly decide cleaning/defiling of men and thus Jesus (peace be upon him) could say that nothing going “in” without this man-made ritual cleansing could defile men as an expression to debunk innovations in the religion! Furthermore, if Jesus (peace be upon him) is (mis) understood for permitting “any” food then, consistently, even food offered to idols would become lawful! This obviously is a problem.

 

On the foregoing, if we are to be careful towards the text and sincere towards the speaker, especially when he himself is not around to explain the imports, then we would have to accept that Jesus (peace be upon him) did not really gave permission to the Christians to choose dietary at their free will.

 

 

Notes:

 

  • Unless otherwise mentioned, all biblical texts taken from the Good News Edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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