And, second, it is a well established fact that when a person has an ax to grind, the handling of the data will invariably be biased so that whatever denies the legitimacy of the ax grinder's agenda will simply be mocked or ignored. No one can intelligently investigate the truth claims of the Bible when they already have a hyper-tendency to deny its contents before the investigation occurs. The antagonism will blind them.
With this in mind, we shall continue our evaluation of the objector's objections. His comments are in plain text; mine in bold.
A. WHEN--BEFORE OR DURING PASSOVER?
In Matthew, Mark and Luke the last supper takes place on the first day of the Passover (Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12, Luke 22:7). In John's gospel it takes place a day earlier and Jesus is crucified on the first day of the Passover (John 19:14).This observation is accurate as far as it goes. But there are several issues involved that our objector doesn't point out. The first issue is the intense fragmentation of Judaism in Israel during the time of Jesus' death. There were three major parties who were always at each other's throats about what was going to be enforced as law: the Herodians, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees. Of these three, the Sadducees and the Pharisees were the most popularly powerful and they were at odds with each other over who would decide the timing of the feast days. There is plenty of material available for a careful evaluation of the significance of this reality in regard to the timing of the Passover, and it is not an unknown fact that the Pharisees may well have set the time so that the time for the meal fell on Thursday, while the Sadducees set the time so that it fell on Friday.
The second issue is the rivalry between Galilee and Judea. There is evidence in the records of the Gospels that the Galileans reckoned a day from sunrise to sunrise and the Judeans reckoned it from sunset to sunset. If this claim is taken into account, the Passover would have been reckoned, by the Galileans, as beginning on Friday morning so that the lamb would have been slain on Thursday afternoon, and the meal would have been eaten that night, but the Judeans would have reckoned it to begin at sundown on Friday evening so that they would sacrifice the lamb on Friday afternoon and eat it that evening.
The third issue is that John wrote his record after Matthew, Mark, and Luke had already circulated their accounts. It is inconceivable to me that John was ignorant of those accounts because the entire issue of determining what was Scripture was already into its process as shown by Peter's statement about Paul's writings being Scripture in 2 Peter 3:16. This would mean that John already knew what Matthew, Mark, and Luke had written; he knew which perspective they had taken; he knew facts about the cultural milieu that were fundamental and unproblematical to everyone who had his background; and he knew what he could write without fear that someone within his milieu would misunderstand what he said. This would not, however, mean that some antagonistic anti-christ, who did not have this cultural milieu as a part of his understanding, would not misunderstand some 2,000 years later. There is enough data about this so-called contradiction floating about that anyone who becomes adamantly dogmatic that it proves the Scriptures are in contradiction is simply showing his ignorance.
B. THE LORD'S SUPPER - INSTITUTED BY JESUS OR PAUL?
In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus institutes the Lord's Supper during the Passover meal (in John's gospel the Lord's Supper is not instituted - Jesus was dead by the time of the Passover meal).This latter statement, contained in parentheses, is an unwarranted conclusion. John's gospel does not deny that Jesus ate a Passover meal with His disciples, nor does it deny that Jesus instituted the observance of His Supper. Since those were well-known facts by the time John wrote (some thirty years after Matthew, Mark and Luke had circulated their records), and since John was more interested in telling us what Jesus said and did during that evening, he simply did not plow over old ground. Jesus was, indeed, dead by the time of the Judean Passover meal, but that does not mean that He did not observe the Galilean Passover meal with His disciples. If someone wants to know why Jesus would observe a Passover meal based upon a Galilean tradition and then die as the Passover Lamb of God according to the Judean tradition, there is a plausible reason. Theologically, Jesus was closer to the camp of the Pharisees who held the Word of God in high esteem, so, since He had to follow someone's tradition, He would most likely have followed the one that was closest to the truth. On the other hand, the Sadduccees held the reins of official Israel's policies. Since the official standard for the Passover was dominated by these Sadduccees, Jesus' death at the time of the sacrifice of the official Passover lambs would have made Him a fulfillment of the type-meaning regarding the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.
In 1 Corinthians 11:23 the apostle Paul writes, "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread..." Here Paul claims that he got the instructions for the Lord's Supper directly from Jesus (evidently from one of his many revelations). Paul writes these words about twenty years after Jesus' death, and had the church already been celebrating the Lord's Supper he certainly would have been aware of it and would have had no need to receive it from the Lord.Reader beware here. The fact that Paul wrote to the Corinthians years after the events, and the fact that the Church had been celebrating the Lord's Supper for all of those years in no way indicates that Paul's words are the brazen lie our objector attempts to make them. Paul is not claiming that he just recently got this information from the Lord. A careful reading of Galatians will show that Paul claimed he got his teaching from the Lord in the same year of the crucifixion, or early in the next year. That he appeals to that reality "about twenty years" later in no way compromises his claim.
Some apologists try to play games with the text to make it seem like Paul actually received the instructions from the other apostles, but one thing Paul stresses is that what he teaches he receives from no man (Galatians 1:11-12). The Lord's supper was not invented by Paul, but was borrowed by him from Mithraism, the mystery religion that existed long before Christianity and was Christianity's chief competitor up until the time of Constantine.Note the dogmatic, unsubstantiated claim that Paul borrowed the Lord's Supper from Mithraism. Even if our objector's historical facts about Mithraism are all true (and this is not a given -- our objector has already shown a pronounced inability to read historical material and understand it), his conclusions do not necessarily follow. For something to be an object of faith, it must necessarily follow; it cannot just be a plausible possibility.
In Mithraism, the central figure is the mythical Mithras, who died for the sins of mankind and was resurrected. Believers in Mithras were rewarded with eternal life. Part of the Mithraic communion liturgy included the words, "He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made one with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation." The early Church Fathers Justin Martyr and Tertullian tried to say that Mithraism copied the Lord's Supper from Christianity, but they were forced to say that demons had copied it since only demons could copy an event in advance of its happening!Our objector reveals his/her bias at this point: demons don't exist! In point of fact, Alexander Hislop, in his book The Two Babylons, showed years ago that ancient Babel practiced mystery religions that included the dogma of a virgin conception and the birth of a god/man savior. He went on to trace the residue of that dogma in many of the ancient religions of mankind. This in no way compromises Jesus' claims. That Jesus would use something already in use by another religion in no way compromises its legitimacy. It only reveals that our objector scoffs at Paul's clear statement to Timothy that men would give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons. Our objector's derision regarding demons in no way disestablishes their reality or their abilities; it only establishes his disbelief -- a disbelief that is founded upon nothing. It hangs out in the midst of the air upon the foundations of scoffing emptiness.
They could not say that the followers of Mithras had copied it - it was a known fact that Mithraism had included the ritual a long time before Christ was born.
Where did Mithraism come from? The ancient historian Plutarch mentioned Mithraism in connection with the pirates of Cilicia in Asia Minor encountering the Roman general Pompey in 67 BC. More recently, in 1989 Mithraic scholar David Ulansey wrote a book, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, in which he convincingly shows that Mithraism originated in the city of Tarsus in Cilicia. That this is also the home town of the apostle Paul cannot be a coincidence. Paul admits that he did not know Jesus during Jesus' lifetime. He also says that his gospel was not taught to him by any man (Galatians 1:11-12). All of Paul's theology is based on his own revelations, or visions. Like dreams, visions or hallucinations do not come from nowhere, but reveal what is already in a person's subconscious. It is very likely that the source of most of Paul's visions, and therefore most of his theology, is to be found in Mithraism. That we find Jesus at the Last Supper saying more or less the same thing Paul said to the Corinthians many years later is another example of the church modifying the gospels to incorporate the theology of Paul, which eventually won out over the theology of Jesus' original disciples.Reader of mine, did you notice how our objector moved from professed facts to his final assumption? After noting some claims about Mithraic Mysteries, he concludes "...it is very likely that the source of most of Paul's visions, and therefore most of his theology, is to be found in Mithraism." Then, from this unproven "very likely" assumption, he then goes on to his prior claim that "...the church [modified] the gospels to incorporate the theology of Paul."
Let's looks at the facts. There is absolutely no evidence in the entire field of textual criticism that the gospels were ever modified to the degree that our objector claims. So, any claim that they were is just that: a claim that hangs in space without a shred of evidence. It is just a bias that our objector has found handy to press his case. And that's all it is.
Second, any church that is into modifying its textual base would hardly allow the appearance of contradiction that exists in the mind of our latter day pseudo-scholar. Any church that has no more integrity than to manipulate its foundations, would hardly stop that process so that it leaves the kind of mess our objector thinks he sees.
Third, our objector wants to have his cake and eat it too. He takes what Paul says at face value when he wants to posit one point; then he rejects what Paul says when he wants to make a different point. The fact is that our objector does not believe in even the possibility of divine revelation because he says that Paul's information about how he came to possess his gospel is all a lie and that it resided in his subconscious as a consequence of his being raised in Cilicia. How does our objector know Paul was raised in Cilicia? Because Paul said so. How does our objector know that Paul was lying about where his doctrine came from? Because our objector says so! No evidence; no proof; nothing to base anything on except an aggressive anti-christ mindset that blinds him from seeing any possibilities but the ones so cherished in his own feeble brain.
And, finally, our objector himself claims by all of the above that the gospels were harmonized with Paul's theology, and in so doing destroys his own arguments by acknowledging that there is no real contradiction between the Gospels and Paul. If he denies this, the entire argument goes down the drain, and if he admits this, the entire argument goes down the drain. Either the devious church modified the gospels to accommodate Paul's theology -- in which case there is no contradiction so that all of this entire project about contradictions is a lot of hot air -- or it did not. If it did not, then the record stands with certain appearances of contradiction that are only superficial because the reader is too ignorant to put it all together. But if it did not, our objector's entire thesis is destroyed.
C. JUDAS ISCARIOT
It is very unclear in the gospels just what Judas Iscariot's betrayal consisted of, probably because there was absolutely no need for a betrayal. Jesus could have been arrested any number of times without the general populace knowing about it.Note the admission that "...Jesus could have been arrested any number of times..." That may be true, but its truth opens the door for any number of particular ways of arresting Him and the Bible claims to be a record of the particular way that it was done. This is a non-argument.
It would have been simple to keep tabs on his whereabouts. The religious authorities did not need a betrayal - only the gospel writers needed a betrayal, so that a few more "prophecies" could be fulfilled. The whole episode is pure fiction - and, as might be expected, it is riddled with contradictions.Again, note the pontification: "the whole episode is pure fiction..." Believe it if you want, but realize that your faith rests upon only the arrogance of a person who has already proved to be somewhat less than omniscient. There is no substance here, just pure dogmatism.
1. The prophecyMatthew says that Judas' payment and death were prophesied by Jeremiah, and then he quotes Zechariah 11:12-13 as proof!Here, again, our objector reveals his ignorance of meaning-types.
2. Thirty pieces of silvera. According to Matthew 26:15, the chief priests "weighed out thirty pieces of silver" to give to Judas. There are two things wrong with this: a. There were no "pieces of silver" used as currency in Jesus' time - they had gone out of circulation about 300 years before.There were no pieces of silver used as currency in Jesus' time! What is this claim based upon? Our less than omniscient scholar now knows the kinds of coins used in Israel in A.D. 33. You want to know how? He has a living relative who lived back then and that ancient one told him. Of course, he is over 2000 years old, but anyone who would believe the claim that there were no pieces of silver wouldn't stumble over the claim to a living eye witness, would he?b. In Jesus' time, minted coins were used--currency was not "weighed out." By using phrases that made sense in Zechariah's time but not in Jesus' time Matthew once again gives away the fact that he creates events in his gospel to match "prophecies" he finds in the Old Testament.Reader, believe this if you want, but realize where it comes from. It is an invention that arises out of nothing. Our objector knows next to nothing about whether the currency accepted at the Temple was weighed or not [shaving coins in order to pass them off as legitimate currency while simultaneously acquiring more of their substance in order to make more currency is not a new invention -- weighing them would eliminate this type of theft], and, since he has already told us that pieces of silver were no longer used, we are supposed to believe that the minted coins he admits to had no silver content. Believe it on what basis?
3. Who bought the Field of Blood?a. In Matthew 27:7 the chief priests buy the field.b. In Acts 1:18 Judas buys the field.This is a contradiction? Obviously our objector knows next to nothing about language -- except how to use it to scoff and ridicule (but that is not an outstanding skill since most of us are adept at that). Luke does not claim that Judas bought the field as the negotiator and purchaser; he only claims that Judas' betrayal resulted in the purchase of The Field of Blood. That he attributes it to Judas is nothing more or less than what we do with language everyday when we attribute someone's actions to causing a given result. If a mechanic works on the brakes of my car and inadvertently cuts the brake hose so that the fluid leaks out, he can easily be said to have "wrecked my car" even though it was my son that was driving when the wreck occurred. Only the linguistically challenged are so super-literal with every word that they cannot understand meaning; this is a characteristic of a young child, not someone you really want to trust.
4. How did Judas die?a. In Matthew 27:5 Judas hangs himself.b. In Acts 1:18 he bursts open and his insides spill out.c. According to the apostle Paul, neither of the above is true. Paul says Jesus appeared to "the twelve" after his resurrection. Mark 14:20 makes it clear that Judas was one of the twelve. In Matthew 19:28, Jesus tells the twelve disciples, including Judas, that when Jesus rules from his throne, they will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.I have an idea that if you hanged yourself by tying a rope to a rather high branch of a tree and then tied the other end to your neck and stepped out into the empty space beneath the limb, you would be pretty much hanged. Then, if you hung there for several hours during the hot part of the day, you would swell up like a balloon from the gases within. Then, if the rope gave way, or someone cut it, when your body fell to the ground while it was stretched to its limits by internal gases, it wouldn't be a big thing for the skin that holds your guts in to pop like an over stressed piece of fabric. Then your insides would spill out. The very fact that my scenario is entirely possible makes our objector's dogmatism suspect.
As for Paul's comments about the twelve, remember what our objector said a few pages back? This is twenty years later, remember? When Paul says that Jesus appeared to the twelve, it is not without possibility that he had the twelve in mind who were the twelve after Acts 1. Just because Judas was of the original group called the twelve does not mean that the group known as the twelve never accepted the change that took place when Judas was replaced. If Jesus appeared to Matthias either before or after he became numbered with the other eleven, Paul's statement that He appeared to the twelve is both accurate and trustworthy and is not in contradiction with the Judas material.
And, if you care to read it, Matthew 19:28 clearly qualifies who will sit on the twelve thrones: they who followed Jesus. Now if we can get beyond our objector's hyper-childish-literalism, we can easily see that Judas was not qualified because he never followed Jesus; he merely temporarily followed a man whom he thought was his ticket to the big time. Once he found out what Jesus was in reality, he revealed by his betrayal that he was never a follower except in the hyper-childish-literal way...a way which He Who judges the heart would never accept.
5. How did the Field of Blood get its name?a. Matthew says because it was purchased with blood money (Matthew 27:6-8).b. Acts says because of the bloody mess caused by Judas' bursting open (Acts 1:18-19).The only bloody mess here is our objector's tortured lack of reasoning. For anyone who gives it a thought, it is not hard to see Luke, as a physician, seeing a bit of poetic justice in Judas' bowels spilling out after the skin of his stomach area burst open. In the Bible, the bowels are the center of a person's tender feelings of compassion and mercy (not literally, of course, but by way of metaphor -- a way of using language of which our objector apparently knows nothing). Since Judas' willingness to betray Jesus was a display of the absence of compassion and mercy, there was some poetic justice in the fact that he spilled his guts after swelling up like a bloated toad. Likewise, that the field of blood was called such because of two different, but related, reasons (blood money graphically illustrated by spilled bowels) in no way contradicts anything. Our objector apparently does not recognize the difference between contradiction and greater explanation.
Reader of mine, understand something: my life isn't going to be improved one whit if you believe what I write; nor is my life going to be destroyed if you believe this objector. In other words, what you do with what is here is only going to affect your life, not mine. I don't have an ax to grind with you, I just hate for people to be taken down the road to delusion by thoughtlessness, so I thought I would throw up a few roadblocks just in case someone wanted to do a bit of thinking before he allowed the bitterness of this antichrist to spill over into his own way of thinking.