A Theological/Bible Related Commentary

         We now turn to yet another  difficulty Christian apologists must be forced to contend with. And one which is not quite so readily apparent.

        In John 20:1, we learn that Mary Magdalene, traveling alone, made her way to Jesus tomb, “while it was still dark” on the first day of the week (i.e., “Sunday”), only to find it empty. But we also learn from Matthew 28:1 that Mary Magdalene, in the company of the “other Mary,” returned to the tomb, at daybreak; making it Magdalene’s third visit there. It is then when the pair is said to have encountered a lone angel sitting atop Jesus’ burial stone.

          Since Mary Magdalene’s earlier visit in John’s gospel took place “while it was still dark,” and her third visit takes place at the crack of dawn, it means Jesus would had to have arisen on Saturday, and not Sunday—this, despite John 20:1 stating it was “early on the first day of the week” when Mary first made her way to the tomb.

          The Greek text of Matthew 28:1 actually reads: τῇ  ἐπιφωσκούσῃ εἰς μίαν σαββάτων. Literally, “It being dawn toward   [the] first [day] of [the]* week.” (Emphasis mine.)

           We must remember that the Magdalene had traveled back to Jerusalem to tell Peter and the Beloved Disciple that Jesus’ tomb was empty, then returned with them both in tow to search for Jesus’ body. The time needed for such back-and-forth tripsin addition to her tomb activities, plus  the time needed to gather “the other Mary” and then return to the tomb for a third time at daybreak, simply does not permit a Sunday resurrection. There is simply too much traveling back and forth and other activities between Mary’s first visit in John 20:1 and this third visit at the crack of dawn in Matthew 28:1 for Jesus to have arisen on Sunday proper.

            Fact is, the claims of a Sunday resurrection actually rest on nothing more than Church doctrine and dogma. There’s no empirical evidence whatsoever to positively demonstrate that Jesus actually arose on Sunday rather than Saturday. There were no eyewitnesses to the event. And nothing in the gospel records can actually certify a Sunday rising. That being the case, we should honestly rule the Resurrection a Saturday  event rather than a Sunday one (assuming, for the sake of argument, that there even was  a “resurrection”). The latter being more of a matter of Church tradition rather than a matter of fact. And so, until proven otherwise, the Saturday resurrection stands. There is simply no irrefutable proof indicating otherwise.

Evangelists Caught Altering Text

           Previously we wondered why both Matthew and Luke changed Mark’s “After three days” to “On the third day” in their respective gospels. A vital clue, perhaps, is to be found in the text of I Corinthians 15:3-4. where the “apostle” Paul declares :

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

          The question is: What  specific verses of “scripture” is Paul actually referring to? His claim has confounded bible scholars for centuries due to the fact there are no Old Testament passages specifically stating any such thing. Nonetheless, Paul may have had in mind Hosea 6:2-3. where we read:

He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him. Let us acknowledge the Lord;
    let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
    he will appear
  (NIV)

          Knowing the propensity of the gospel writers to try and tie Jesus to Old Testament “prophecy” in as many ways as possible, Hosea 6:2-3 may have been just too  irresistible for Matthew and Luke to pass up and not try and conform it to the death of Jesus in some fashion.

          Best bet is that Hosea 6:2-3 was seen by both Luke and Matthew as yet another “fulfilled prophecy” regarding Jesus that could be extracted from the Old Testament, and so they decided to alter the text of Mark accordingly. Veritable proof of the likeliness that this did indeed occur lies in the fact that not only have both Jerome and Martin Luther believed Hosea 6:2-3 to be Old Testament prophecy at work, but so too many modern  day evangelical Christian writers! A survey of Bible commentaries reveals that list to be rather extensive. We provide a very brief listing of some of those commentators here. So there can be little doubt that both Matthew and Luke deliberately altered Mark’s wording in order to see in the death of Jesus, the fulfillment of  Old Testament prophecy―this, despite the fact that Hosea 6:2-3 is clearly referencing the nation of Israel and not a lone individual.

The “On the Third Day” Tradition

         Earlier, we mentioned that nowhere in the gospels does Jesus arise on the “fourth” or “fifth” day; a fact that Christian apologists claim “proves” Mark 8:31 must be interpreted as meaning ON the third day. And today, the “third day” tradition is practically carved in stone. But that is NOT what the text of Mark 8:31 maintains. Mark clearly  indicates Jesus would arise three days AFTER his death:

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and AFTER three days rise again. (NIV; emphasis mine)

        This is also the case in Mark 9:31, 10:34, Matthew 12:40, and 27:63. The Christian cannot simply choose to ignore verses of Scripture that do not “square” with their religious world-view. That’s being dishonest with the texts, and consequently, not dealing with the “truth” in a forthright manner. A hallmark of the Christian religion is that its members are to always tell the truth, not flee from it.

 Conclusion

         We have seen that there is no “legitimate” way Christian apologists can reconcile the contradiction between between Mark 8:31 and Matthew 16:21 and their corresponding parallel passages. So as it stands, not only do the two passages remain in a state of  irrefutable contradiction, but Mark 8:31 also puts on the lips of Jesus a “prophecy” which has proven to be patently false. And, in turn, proves Luke 1:37 ‘s declaration, “No word from God will ever  fail,” to be untrue as well. There is simply no escaping this fact.

          We’ve also reached the conclusion that Jesus did not arise on Easter Sunday, but during the evening of Saturday instead―assuming that there even was a “resurrection.” The preponderance of evidence for Saturday is just to strong to deny; and the ramifications of which are yet to be fully determined.

          Church tradition will, of course, invariably hold sway more often than not. The faithful will continue to believe what they want  to believe. The Christian apologists will hold firm to tradition. But that doesn’t make their beliefs “true,” nor tradition right. Neither faith nor tradition prove anything  true. Only the truth does that.

End of Part IV – The Conclusion

Part I Here     Part II Here     Part III Here

* http://biblehub.com/text/matthew/28-1.htm See also the NASB and Berean Literal Bible.

A Theological/Bible Related Commentary

Part III – The Rebuttal Begins

        In Part I of this article, we addressed the fact that the website Apologetic Press rigorously defends the bizarre idea that “On the third day,” and After three days” both denote one and the same day. (And is not the only apologetic source to do so either.**) The Apologetic Press’ Eric Lyons writes:

“…as awkward as it may sound to an American living in the 21st century, a person in ancient times could legitimately speak of something occurring “on the third day,” “after three days,” or after “three days and three nights,” yet still be referring to the same exact day”*

      The two-step process taken in pursuing this line of defense was to first stress that time-keeping in ancient times was not nearly as precise as it is in the 21st century; and second, to emphasize the fact that we moderns are not familiar enough with the Jewish idioms of Jesus’ day to recognize no real problem exists. Eric Lyons states:

“The idiomatic expressions that Jesus and the Bible writers employed to denote how long Jesus would remain in the grave does not mean that He literally was buried for 72 hours. If we interpret the account of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection in light of the cultural setting of the first century, and not according to the present-day (mis)understanding of skeptics, we find no errors in any of the expressions that Jesus and the gospel writers used.”*

    Eric lists six examples of biblical time-keeping verses which he feels are similarly ‘contradictory” to those undergoing our scrutiny, but which upon close inspection, prove to provide no real problem for the skeptic either. The most pertinent one related to our examination is reproduced below:

  • In 1 Samuel 30:12,13, the phrases “three days and three nights” and “three days” are used interchangeably.

     What is imperative to keep in mind, however, is that in I Samuel 30:12,13, the Egyptian is recounting the events of his ordeal on the fourth day of the week―not the third. Below is the text as to what actually transpired:

“They found an Egyptian in a field [on the fourth day of his suffering] and brought him to David. They gave him water to drink and food to eat— part of a cake of pressed figs and two cakes of raisins. He ate and was revived, for he had not eaten any food or drunk any water for three days And three nights.  David asked him, “Who do you belong to? Where do you come from?” He said, “I am an Egyptian, the slave of an Amalekite. My master abandoned me when I became ill three days ago. ” (I Samuel 30:12-13-NIV; emphasis mine)

       So there is no question that in this  particular instance, both “three days AND three nights” and “three days” are, indeed, perfectly interchangeable seeing as the Egyptian is recounting his ordeal on the fourth day. The text of Matthew 12:39b-40, however, is an entirely different matter altogether. Here are the actual words of Jesus himself:

“An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days AND three nights, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (NIV; emphasis mine)

       There is simply no valid reason whatever to doubt that Jesus was being as precise as possible in detailing his prophecy. Taking Jesus at his word then, it means the resurrection would had to have occurred on the “Monday” following Good Friday, and not Sunday. But before we explore this point any further, let us first examine the ramifications of trying to insist that “On the third day” and “After three days” both refer to the same exact day, and that any “perceived” disagreement is simply due to a modern “misunderstanding” of 1st-century Jewish Idiom.

A Conversation Between Two Apostles

        Envision the following scene: Jesus’ apostles, Peter and James, have  just met at a well on a very hot Sunday afternoon in the village of Nazareth:

Peter:     Did you hear? Timothy is getting married!

James:   Why, that’s wonderful  news!! When’s the wedding?

Peter:     Well, let’s see, Bartholomew told me it was to be on the third day of this week, so that  would make it Tuesday afternoon.

James:   Well I’ll make sure then, that I have my mule and I ready to arrive as early as I can after [those] three days, on Wednesday, so that I don’t miss any  part of the wedding ceremony.

So much for the skeptic’s “misunderstanding” 1st-century “Jewish idiom” argument.

End of Part III

   * https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=756

**  http://www.defendingyourfaith.org/Contradictions.htm

Part 1  Here          Part II  Here     Part IV Here

Next Time: Part IV: The Rebuttal Continues

Resurrection 6

A Theological/Bible Related Commentary

Part II

     In Part I of this article, we focused on the Christian apologetic argument that “On the third day” and “After three days” are, in reality, one and the same “day.” This is a claim that is rigorously defended on the Christian website Apologetic Press.*  So now we will turn our attention to another angle Christian apologists have used to reconcile the apparent contradiction between “On” the third day, versus three days later. And that is to simply deny that there isn’t any  gospel evidence for a “fourth” day resurrection of Jesus at all!

     The Christian apologist, Andreas Köstenberger, whose work can be found at the website, Biblical Foundations** reports:

Regarding the Gospel evidence, we can observe at least two things. First, the Gospels uniformly attest to the fact that Jesus was crucified and subsequently rose “on the third day” (e.g., Luke 24:7; see also Luke 24:21 where the two disciples on the road to Emmaus tell Jesus that this is “now the third day since these things happened”; this later became part of the gospel message, as we can see in passages such as 1 Cor 15:4 and later still in the Apostles’ Creed). The Gospels nowhere say Jesus was crucified and rose “on the fourth day” or “on the fifth day”; it’s always on the third day.

     Technically speaking, this is true. No New Testament writer ever asserts that Jesus arose on the “fourth” or “fifth” day. But this is point we will be exploring more fully later in this article.

     A third method Christian apologists use to reduce the “On” the third day,” versus the “three days later” statements of Jesus to insignificance, is to either avoid any mention of the issue at all, or bypass “after three days” without drawing any attention to the passage whatsoever.

     Finally, we turn to our last example. And that is to plead that Mark was not actually marking the days from the day of Jesus’ death, but rather from the day he was apprehended and tried before the Sanhedrin. In other words, on the Thursday preceding  Good Friday! Bible commentator Matthew Poole states it this way:

“With the doctrine of his suffering, he joins also the doctrine of his resurrection the third day: so saith Matthew. Mark saith, after three days, [μετὰ] meta, which seemeth to be a difference between the two evangelists, and also a difficulty, when it is certain that our Saviour did not lie three entire days in the grave. But either Mark reckons the time from his first being betrayed and apprehended, so it was after three days; and Matthew speaketh only of the time which he lay in the grave, that was but part of three days; or else it was the fault of our translators to translate [μετὰ] meta, “ after,”  because indeed it often so signifies, whereas it sometimes signifies in, which had better fitted this text.“*** (emphasis mine)

     And so we conclude the Christian apologist portion of this article. Now it’s on to view the evidence from a very different perspective.

End of Part II

*       https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=756

**     http://www.biblicalfoundations.org/raised-on-the-third-day/

***   http://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/8-31.htm

Part I – Here

Next Time:  My rebuttal: Part III – Here

 

Resurrection

A Theological/Bible Related Commentary

Part I

     The New Testament actually provides two  answers as to when Jesus was to arise from the dead.

     In the one instance, Jesus tells his disciples:

“They will kill him [i.e.,the Son of Man], and ON the third day he will be raised to life.” (Matthew 17:23; NIV; emphasis mine)

and in another, Jesus says this:

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and ON the third day be raised to life.” (Luke 9:22; NIV; emphasis mine)

     Thus, it seems pretty clear that since Jesus was crucified on (Good) Friday, his resurrection was to take place on the following Sunday, i.e. the “third day.”

     But elsewhere we read this:

“He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and AFTER three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31; NIV; emphasis mine)

     The passage above is paralleled as well in Mark 9:31; 10:34; and Matthew 27:63.

     Now, interestingly enough, scholars fully recognize that Mark was the first written gospel, and that both Luke and Matthew used  Mark’s gospel as an exemplar as each was composing their  own version of events. So it seems rather odd that Luke and Matthew would both chose to alter the text of Mark to read “on the third day,” instead of keeping intact Mark’s original “after three days.” Why do such a thing remains quite the mystery; a mystery we will attempt to solve later in this article.

      Short of midway in Matthew’s gospel, we also find Jesus declaring :

“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days AND three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40; NIV; emphasis mine)

    Thus, even Matthew’s gospel points to a fourth day! That leaves us with two clearly conflicting indications as to when Jesus was to arise from the dead. The question now becomes:  How have Christian apologists managed to ” resolve” this thorny issue?

The Christian Apologists Respond

      The most accepted explanation put forth by Christian apologists, when they’re brave enough to even tackle the issue at all, is that “On the third day,” and “After three days’ are to be actually understood to mean one and the same  day!

      Christian apologist, Eric Lyons, at the popular website, Apologetic Press,* argues that both phrases are simply Jewish “idiomatic expressions” used on the part of Jesus to signify the very same day. Eric first cites Matthew 27:63:

“Sir,” they [i.e., the chief priests and the Pharisees] said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again,” (NIV; emphasis mine)

which certainly finds full agreement with the statements found in Mark’s gospel. But then he adds the next verse, where we read:

“So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” (Matthew 27:64 – NIV; emphasis mine)

     What Eric does next is remarkable. He argues that since the tomb was to be “made secure” for just three days, and not four, it must surely mean that ON the third day, and AFTER three days both mean one and the same day. He writes:

“The phrase “after three days” must have been equivalent to “the third day,” else surely the Pharisees would have asked for a guard of soldiers until the fourth day. Interesting, is it not, that modern skeptics charge Jesus with contradicting Himself, but not the hypercritical Pharisees of His own day.”*

     Eric attributes the skeptic’s “misunderstanding” of scripture to a lack of understanding ancient Jewish idiom and how “days” were actually reckoned at the time. He writes:

“While to the 21st-century reader these statements [“On the third day” versus “After three days”] may initially appear to contradict one another, in reality, they harmonize perfectly if one understands the different, and sometimes more liberal, methods ancients often used when reckoning time.

     Eric then concludes:

“The idiomatic expressions that Jesus and the Bible writers employed to denote how long Jesus would remain in the grave does not mean that He literally was buried for 72 hours. If we interpret the account of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection in light of the cultural setting of the first century, and not according to the present-day (mis)understanding of skeptics, we find no errors in any of the expressions that Jesus and the gospel writers used.”*

End of Part I

Next Time: More Christian apologetics. And later, My rebuttal.

*https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=756

On Prayer

August 30, 2013

 A Theological/Bible Related Commentary

Jesus_Prayer_Hands

 

Have you ever asked yourself why Christians feel the need to pray?

The faithful will tell you that they pray for a wide variety of reasons. They may pray to their God to praise Him for being so loving and wonderful, or merely to give “thanks” for the “blessings” He’s bestowed upon them. Some pray to confess their “sins” directly to God and thus make their remorse feel all that more sincere. Many pray to seek God’s Divine help or guidance in some matter. Many Christians even pray on the behalf of others. And many of the faithful pray to their God simply to “commune” with Him. Most Christians, however, pray in hope of receiving material goods of one form or another.

You may wonder how the faithful can come to praise God for being so loving and wonderful, or thank Him for “blessings” received when there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that God even exists. (This parallels, in a manner, Christians telling atheists that we “hate” God. Now how can anyone  be “mad” at or “hate” a God―or any other  imaginary creature for that matter―that we don’t even believe to be real? It is well-nigh impossible to do. Just try it sometime and see. Try truly  hating leprechauns, for example. Or try getting really, really angry at them. Can’t do it now, can you? But if you really can, well, you deserve genuine pity.

The brutal truth is that Christians are actually imagining  that they are communicating with deity. Equally brutal is the fact that they cannot possibly prove otherwise either.

Isn’t that  a mind-numbing realization we nonbelievers all have to accept!

On Group Prayer

Many non-Christians are troubled by the extent to which Christians will try and impose  Christian prayer on others. If it’s not in the public school classroom, it’s at graduation ceremonies, or during sporting activities and the like. And it is usually Christians using simple peer pressure to coerce others into participating even though genuine sincerity on the part of each participant may be entirely  lacking. Such group prayer ends up being nothing more than an “advertisement” for the Christian religion and a bold-faced attempt to indoctrinate non-Christians into the Christian faith.

Yet Jesus―purported to be none other than God in the flesh himself―absolutely opposed staged prayer and the like in his famed “Sermon on the Mount”:

““Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret  will reward you.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others” (Matthew 6:1, 6, and 5, in that order; NIV; emphasis mine)

As for what prayer truly  accomplishes―other than fulfill some psychological or emotional need on the part of the worshiper―Christians are at a loss to prove.

And has anyone ever defined what group prayer is supposed to achieve that individual, personal prayer does not?

God Anticipates Your Needs

But there’s more: Jesus goes on further in the Sermon on the Mount to declare that “Your Father knows what you need [even] before you ask him ,” prayer-wise! (Matthew 6:8; NIV)

Well, if an all-knowing God already  knows what you would feel the need to pray for beforehand, what is the need for prayer at all? If it is simply to make make-believe God “punch-happy” and pleased with the level of attention and begging He is receiving, what a hoot! Does it make imaginary God unhappy  to deny prayer requests too?

Havoc-Wreaking God and Misfortune

God gets the credit when things go well for the Christian; so much so that Christians feel themselves individually “blessed” by God in a positive way. But then why is not God given the blame when things go disastrously wrong by these very same worshipers―excepting natural disasters? God, instead, gets to remain utterly immune from reproach―regardless  of how horrific the disaster! Now that’s retarded in my view. It’s just plain goofy. Is it not?

Look at the number of Christians throughout man’s history that have actually been killed in church or during a religious service of one type or another; killed while praising, adoring, and thanking Almighty God in worship!!  Now what on earth did thankful prayer achieve for those  Christians?!

Francisco de Curico church

Where was Almighty God to “protect” not only His houses of worship, but too, those worshiping inside  them, from destruction?

* A recent event reported (here).

What a bizarre form of “gratitude” God Almighty chooses to display to the faithful!!

Was not going to worship and pray that deadly day utterly tragic, not only for the victims, but for their friends, family members, and fellow worshipers alike? Would not the act of protecting all worshipers from harm in places of worship provide a proof that God actually exists?

So what do the grieving survivors, friends, family members, and fellow worshipers do after church-related deaths? Why, they gather together and pray to make-believe God all the more  fervently! Now how bizarre is that!!  It was their own “loving” God calling the victims “home,” so we are told, by murdering them! So what is further prayer supposed to accomplish?

We all know of people of faith who have prayed to God to thank him  for the fact that their hellish existence isn’t even more  hellish. But where was God prior  to these individuals suffering such hellish conditions? How much praying and veneration is required before God does something, anything, to aid his suffering earthly “children”?

Concentration Camp Inmates

Your [Heavenly] Father knows what you need before you [even] ask him.”

(Jesus in Matthew 6:8)

starving_kids

starving-child-1

Child and Vulture

So what went wrong?

awful1

Starving children just not praying fervently enough these days?

A Theological/Bible Related Commentary

Part IV

     When last we left Mary Magdalene, she and “the other Mary” had returned to Jerusalem to inform Jesus’ immediate male disciples that they met the risen Jesus, and that he was to meet them in person in Galilee.

Angel at the Tomb

      In Matthew’s gospel, the two Mary’s first  encounter a lone angel, at dawn, sitting atop the entrance tomb stone who informs the pair that Jesus has risen from the dead. The angel then gets up off the stone and actually directs  the two to the empty tomb―perhaps even having to side-step the “dead-like” Roman guard unit lying incapacitated on the ground to do so (cf. Matthew 28:6). It is only now  that Mary Magdalene becomes aware that Jesus’ body is missing.

     What, then, are we to make of the fact that Mary Magdalene had already  encountered two angels inside the tomb AND  met the risen Jesus earlier―according to John, Chapter 20?

     It is vitally  important to realize that Matthew’s account patently  contradicts the Gospel of John as to how Mary Magdalene comes to discover the empty tomb.

     In John, chapter 20, Mary Magdalene sees that the entrance stone has been rolled back in the pre-dawn; discovers Jesus’ body is missing; then hurries back to Jerusalem to tell Peter and the Beloved Disciple of it. The three then rush to the tomb with the Beloved Disciple arriving first, but with Peter being the first to actually enter the tomb.

The-Empty-Tomb

     Notice that contrary to Matthew’s gospel there is no angel sitting atop the entrance stone outside the tomb, nor a Roman guard unit lying dazed and confused on the ground at any point thus far. Moreover, Mary Magdalene is certainly not “escorted to the empty tomb by an angel as in Matthew 28:6, now is she?

     Peter and the Beloved Disciple return to Jerusalem when Mary Magdalene, now standing just outside the tomb entrance, peers into the tomb. It is only now  that any angels appear on scene in John’s gospel. Two suddenly materialize inside  the tomb sitting on the slab where Jesus’ body once lay. Moments later, the risen Jesus appears and asks Mary why she is crying. He then asks who she is looking for. Notice that Jesus does not ask “them,” or who “they ” are looking for. John keeps it purely in the singular here. There is no mention whatever of any other follower of Jesus other than Mary Magdalene on scene. Since this is the case, I will argue that the very questionable “we” passage―used by Christian apologists to maintain that multiple  female disciples accompanied Mary to the tomb―in John 20:2,

“So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we  don’t know where they have put him!'” (emphasis mine),

is either an interpolation inserted by some early Christian attempting to portray at least some  semblance of harmonization with the other three gospels, or else Mary simply chose to use the first person plural for the first person singular in this instance.

     In any event, it is important to note that “we” does not fit the context of what preceded it in any way. And note too that the Oriental, the Syriac, Arabic, Persic, and Ethiopic versions of this text read, “I  know not where they have laid him” (emphasis mine), not “we.”

     As stated, John’s gospel reports that both angels and the risen Jesus ask Mary Magdalene who she  is looking for. In Matthew’s gospel, however, the angel seated on the entrance stone already  knows who Mary is looking for and says  so prior  to the two Mary’s discovering that Jesus’ body is missing (cf. Matthew 28:6). So too, the angel inside the tomb in Mark 16:6:

“And he [the angel] saith unto them [Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome], Be not affrighted: ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.” (KJV)

(Memo to Christian fundamentalists:   You can’t make a square peg fit this round hole. You simply can’t. There is no way to squirm out of these contradictory accounts and remain intellectually honest in doing so. Your “faith” does not make these contradictory “empty tomb” accounts all magically become literally “true.” And no amount of wishful thinking will do the trick either.)

The Two Mary's and Salome - Mark 16:1

The Two Mary’s and Salome – Mark 16:1

     Yet Christian apologists will argue that the four evangelists have recorded mere snippets of what actually took place at the empty tomb: each from their own, unique perspective; with one gospel author adding some bit of information another evangelist fails to reveal; with one gospel author choosing to cite just part of an angel’s remarks, while another cites them in full; with one evangelist focusing on just the “lead” angel, while another feels they both deserve the spotlight.

     But try as one might, it is still  impossible to mesh all four empty tomb accounts into one flaw-free whole. It’s just not possible.

     Christian commentators, therefore, have resorted to two alternative means of “resolving” the matter. The first is to cry that Christians are in a “no-win” situation because we skeptics would cry “foul” if the four gospel accounts actually agreed with each other; citing that we would charge the evangelists with fraudulently “conspiring” to compose a fault-free set of reports.

     But that is sheer poppycock and every atheist knows it. The New Testament has far  greater problems than finding certain accounts suspiciously made to agree with one another. Besides, this “tack” does nothing to explain away the patent contradictions involved, now does it?

     The second approach is to actually agree  that trying to mesh the four empty tomb accounts into one cohesive whole is hopeless! So this  body of Christians argue that the contradictions matter not one whit: that it is far more important that the four accounts agree in general, and that  is what makes the preposterous accounts of Jesus’ resurrection “true“!

So much for the historical “accuracy” of the gospel accounts!

So much for “God” directing “flawless” scripture.

And so much for bible “inerrancy” too.

THE END

Part I (here)     Part II (here)     Part III (here)

Next Time: I’ll tackle the topic of “Prayer”.

A Bible-Related Commentary

In a stark, straight-forward statement, the earliest gospel writer, Mark, declares:

crucified1 250 x 298

And it was the third hour when they crucified him.

Since scholars generally agree that the ancient Jews reckoned their daylight hours from dawn to sunset we can be reasonably sure that by “the third hour” Mark (15:25) meant three hours from dawn (= 6 a.m.), or roughly 9 o’ clock in the morning; thus providing us with a remarkably precise chronological record of the time of day Jesus underwent crucifixion.

However, when it comes to the bible, things are often not as dry and clear-cut as they initially seem. The time of Jesus’ crucifixion provides us with just such an example; for if we turn to John 19:14 we learn from that evangelist that Jesus was still undergoing his trial before Pontius Pilate at “about the sixth hour” (or “noon”). Obviously, something isn’t quite right here. What John’s statement does, is not only put into question the time of day the crucifixion took place, but now, even the day of the week it occurred on; and need I add, the accuracy of Scripture itself? 

Before we go on to explore these issues in greater depth, however, one more gospel element needs to be inserted into the passion narrative equation to round things out: Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 12:38-40 and his (alleged) stay in the heart of the earth for “three days and three nights”. It goes to the heart of why some Christians hold fast to the belief that Jesus’ crucifixion actually took place on Wednesday of Holy Week rather than on “Good Friday”.

 

The Wednesday Crucifixion Date

The origin of the belief that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday stems from a literal interpretation of a prophecy uttered by Jesus recorded in Matthew 12:38-40.

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days AND three nights in the heart of the earth. [RSV; emphasis mine]

The Wednesday crucifixion advocates take Jesus’ words “three days and three nights” to mean three literal 24-hour periods of time totaling 72 hours. Thus, working backwards from just before the crack of dawn and before Sunday proper*the last moments of Jesus’ three days and three nights, if you willwe find the first 24 hours ending up being just before dawn on Friday; the next 24 hour mark ending up just before dawn on Thursday (here 48 hours prior to Sunday); and the 72-hour mark occurring just before dawn on Wednesday. Incorporating Mark 15:25 leads to Jesus having undergone crucifixion at nine o’ clock Wednesday morning. Jesus’ prophecy thus comes out being extremely accurate and fulfilled in the minds of the faithful. And, in the end, does not Jesus’ actual words take precedence over what others had to say in regards to the resurrection?

But wait. What about John 19:14 and that report that Jesus was still on trial at about the “sixth” hour?

*Remember: According to John 20:1, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and discovered it empty “while it was still dark” So this means Jesus’ “resurrection” took place not on the third day, nor “after three days”: but on the SECOND day (i.e. “Saturday”**). According to the other evangelists, MM returned to the tomb at  dawn Sunday. For more on this subject see my “While It Was Still Dark . . . ” Parts II (here) and IV” (here).

 

The Roman-Time Argument

Perhaps the most popular and appealing explanation used by Christian apologists to account for the contradiction between Mark and John’s chronology concerning the time of the crucifixion is the “Roman-Time Argument”. This explanation argues that John used the Roman method of calculating time instead of the Jewish way. The Romans, say Christian apologists, reckoned their hours from midnight instead of the Jewish method of reckoning them from dawn.

Seems plausible at first blush, doesn’t it? Using this “Roman” method of determining time would lead to Jesus being on trial before Pilate at six o’ clock in the morning (“the sixth hour” working from midnight forward) rather than noon. By incorporating Mark 15:25 into the picture, we then have Jesus being crucified three hours later at nine a.m. The discrepancy between John and Mark is removed and the gospels stand harmonious.

But there are several fatal problems with this solution. First, there is no evidence whatever that the Romans counted their daytime hours any differently than did the Jews. In fact, the evidence points to the Romans having divided their “days” into two 12-hour periods: the daytime being divided into twelve individual hours ranging from dawn to sunset (and varying in length depending on the season of the year) while the night hours were divided into four 3-hour watches extending from sunset until just before dawn. The first hour of the Roman day was precisely the same as the Jewish one: from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. And the twelfth lasted from 5 p.m to 6 p.m.; the hours after sunset then began the aforementioned so-called watches rather than “hours” per se. So there is no difficulty in seeing the gospel writers refer to the “tenth hour” as a daylight (late afternoon) hour in the report of John 1:39, for example, yet refer to a nighttime hour as part of a “watch” or “watches” as in Mark 6:48 and Luke 12:38 respectively. And there is a further problems with the Roman-time explanation: Why would a native (Galilean?) Jew opt to employ a Roman method of calculating time that differed from the Jewish method and then fail to explain to his readers that he had done so? But perhaps even more problematic: Are we really to believe that the whole cast of characters would be assembled and that Pilate would conduct a public trial at dawn?

[See Jerome Carcopino’s Daily Life in Ancient Rome: The People and the City at the
Height of the Empire  for more on Roman time-keeping.]

 

The Bundled-Time Argument

There exists a variant of the Roman-time argument that has the ancient Jews bundling their hours into three-hour segments so that, say, nine a.m to the noon hour constituted one time segment, the noon hour to three p.m. a second, and three p.m. to six p.m. a third. Since time measurement was extremely loose in Jesus’ day–or so some Christian apologists would have us believe–certain events can be said to have occurred at either the beginning or towards the end of one of these three-hour time segments and still be held to be reasonably accurate as far as ancient time measurement was concerned. So say the apologists. Adding seeming credibility to this method of computing time is the argument that the ancients didn’t have pocket or wrist-band watches to keep pin-point precision when marking time.

This skeptic’s reply is to remind theists that the bible is supposed  to be the words of the most supreme force in the universe imparted divinely to the writers of Scripture. So one would expect rather precise time being recorded. But on a more practical level, the Jews in Jesus’ day utilized the sundial and perhaps the Roman Water Clockamong other methodsto keep tab of the hour. And an indication of this can be found in John’s gospel itself where the evangelist makes reference to the “tenth hour” in Chapter One, verse 39, and the “seventh hour” in Chapter Four, verse 52. Rather the opposite of what one would expect if the bundled-time theory had any validity. Then too, there are the recent discoveries of Jewish sundials amid the ruins of Qumran and even Herod’s temple itself. 

  Herodian Sundial - lge.

 Herodian sundial discovered amid Temple ruins; its base below

Herodian Sundial Base - lge

 

A Thursday Crucifixion?

In an attempt to harmonize John 19:14 with Mark 15:25, some Christian scholars have concluded that too many events are packed into a six a.m. to 9 a.m. “Good Friday” time-frame to be credible. So they maintain that Jesus was tried on Thursday and not executed until nine a.m. the following morning. Problem solved. Mark and John are in perfect agreement.

A rather obvious problem develops in accepting this chronology, however: John states plainly that it was the Preparation of the Passover, meaning it was “Thursday” of passover week alright. (More on this passage and its relevance in Part II.) But does the natural reading of the subsequent passages in John allow for an interval of some 21 hours between noon Thursday and Jesus’ crucifixion on Friday morning in keeping with Mark’s account? What could possibly account for John not informing his readers that nearly an entire day had elapsed before the crucifixion proper is a question Thursday crucifixion advocates trying to harmonize events with Mark’s gospel have failed utterly to explain.

The conclusion, next time in Part II of this commentary.

Part II (here)

Greywolf’s* Dictum: There can be no greater evil in all of existence than the Creator of evil. That would be the “God” Christians worship and adore and have absolutely no proof “He” even exists. End of Story. 

*Yours Truly

** For more on a “Saturday Resurrection” see  Here

A Philosophical/Theological Commentary

They are just eight terse, unassuming lines of text, yet his words stand among the most withering critiques regarding every-man’s conception of “God” that any mortal has conceived of to date.

epicurus_on god 309 x 207

The Greek philosopher, Epicurus (341-270 BCE), has here whittled two principal attributes said by theists to be possessed of Godomnipotence and moral perfectiondown to what amounts to self-negation of that God; a God theists have carefully formulated, nurtured and “sold” to mankind as genuinely real, but which reality, and here Epicurus, combine to render false.

The common conception of God is that “He” is perfect; in fact, perfection personified. More than a few God-believers even hold God to be goodness and love incarnate. So Epicurus’ biting and penetrating question: From whence cometh evil?

Given that evilthe ultimate imperfectionexists, and in a world claimed to be created perfect by a perfect Creator, theists are duty-bound to explain how and from where this greatest imperfection in the universe could have possibly originated. And do so without resorting to banal explanations such as “It’s a mystery” or “God works in mysterious ways”. Theists need to ask themselves: “Who or what could possibly be more evil than the Creator of “Evil?” and then take things to their logical conclusion.

(Students of the bible need only turn to Isaiah 45:7; John 3:1; and Colossians 1:16 to see who Scripture ascribes the creation of evil to. But we are looking beyond the bible here.)

This is not to say theists haven’t tried to account for the origin of evil. Many such efforts have been made. In fact, the accompanying video provides four such exegetical arguments; along with several corresponding counter rebuttals.

Notice: This video has been flagged as being unsuitable for minors. Viewer discretion is thus advised.

Point/Counterpoint

The four arguments employed by theists to account for the existence of evil in the video above are:

1) That God could not have created a world without evil; that ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ are the antithesis of one another; that the eradication of one would mean the eradication of the other.

First, a theist saying God, “could not” anything flies in the face of theist belief that God is omnipotent and thus endowed with the power to do whatever he so pleases. Even create a rock he can’t lift, according to more rabid believers!

But more to the point: If one were to somehow remove every single evil person living on planet earth, would it really follow that every single good person on the planet would somehow ‘disappear’ as well? As the video’s author and narrator* asks: If you made all the murderers not exist, would that correspondingly make all the Boy Scouts that help little old ladies cross the street not exist too?                         *cdk007

The argument is a failed one.

2) That the world with evil is better than without it because of the ‘good’ that arises out of overcoming evil.

The reasoning here is that evil somehow makes mankind “better’ for experiencing the depravity of evil. As the video’s narrator states the theist case: “Without danger, there is no heroism; without hardship, there is no charity; and without suffering, there is no salvation.” Therefore, evil is integral to the existence of good. But as the narrator stresses, this would mean that this world is better than heaven insofar as bible-believing, God-believers are concerned! He pointedly asks: Wouldn’t God, in effect, be punishing us by sending us to heaven if that were truly the case?

This argument too is a failed one.

3) That evil is simply the absence of God.

This follows the same line of reasoning that stresses dark is the absence of light. But darkness, in and of itself, is not inherently a “bad” thing. Evil is. In fact, there is no greater imperfection in all of existence except, as I’ve suggested, the Creator of evil—assuming such a creature were to exist.

A secondary feature of this argument, one brought out in the video, is that this argument precludes God from being omnipresent; that if there is a region of existence that is absent God, then God cannot truly be “everywhere”. Consequently, those employing this argument can no longer justifiably claim God to be omnipresent.

Once more, a failed argument.

At this point it would seem that the term “God” needs a bit of re-defining. And based on what is “real” instead of mere conjecture resting solely on speculation.

4) Man’s “Free-Will”.

This is perhaps the most popular theist explanation accounting for the existence of evil in the world. It conveys a spirit of ‘fair-play’. It has God giving man the freedom to do good, or else, have individuals prove themselves morally deficient by opting to do evil; both options being based entirely on one’s own personal “nature”.

This explanation, however, fails to account for the origin of evil.It argues that man is endowed with the free will to do good and option to do evil. But it points, too, to evil being already pre-existent. Moreover, this explanation presents theists with a second thorny question: Would not a being perfect in goodness and love instantly eradicate evil upon recognizing this greatest of imperfections for what it truly is: even if somehow created by mistake or accident?

Greywolf’s Dictum: There can be no greater evil in all of existence than the Creator of evil. (That would be “God.” Or is the bible wrong?)

Greywolf’s Dictum #2: If it happened, God wanted it to. If He didn’t, it would never have happened. That would include every ill to befall man. End of story. (Assuming that there is such a Creature, of course.)

End of Part I

[Part II will address the origin of ‘Evil’. Stay tuned!]

Part II: https://theatheistobserver.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/