I can’t believe that … (4) God’s word would be so violent

The Bible has sometimes been known as the “Good Book”. But really the Bible should come with a health warning. Because for all the stories of love and compassion, there are also stories featuring truly horrific behaviour. Particularly in the Old Testament (the first part of the Bible) you will find stories about murder, violence, mutilation, adultery, incest and gang rape. The worst of humanity is on display. So it is reasonable to ask in what sense is this a “good” book?

The truth is that this idea of the Bible as the “Good Book” misleads people into thinking it is just going to be a collection of spiritual sayings or moral tales. But this isn’t the case at all. “Bible” means library or collection of books, and that’s what the Bible is, it is a collection of books, each with its own style and own topic. The Bible contains books of history, of poetry, of songs, of prophecies, of visions, of stories and even some letters. And given all these different types of books, we should not be surprised to find certain things. So if someone is writing history, they will write about the stuff that actually happened not just the pleasant stuff. And if someone is describing the reaction of their people to times of trial and hardship they are not going to sugar coat it, even if their reaction doesn’t seem very Christian. Since the Bible isn’t just words straight from the mouth of God, but is words written down by men that are drawn together to form God’s book, then we shouldn’t expect the Bible to read like a heavenly voice. We should expect the Bible to sound, in places at least, very human. And humans can be pretty rubbish, at times.

A page from the Wenzel Bible From the caption:...

A page from the Wenzel Bible From the caption: Printed by the Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig. From the Manuscript (c. 1400) in the Imperial Library at Vienna. —- The passage is described there as being from the Book of Moses, ch. IV., v.4–15 (=Exodus 4:4-15). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Bible certainly isn’t a book of moral fables, where each story has a clear moral lesson. Many of the stories have no moral commentary at all. Those stories that are particularly troubling, with violent and evil deeds, do not come with a command “you should behave like this”. If they did then we should be really worried. But the Bible isn’t like that. When the Bible does contain moral direction it makes plain that acts like murder and rape are absolutely wrong. So we shouldn’t try and read moral lessons from bits of the Bible that aren’t intended for moral teaching.

But these violent and unpleasant passages have a point. Take for example Judges 19-21. It is story that includes betrayal, abuse, gang rape, mutilation of corpses and pointless warfare. This is one of the most unpleasant stories that you could read. But its not there to be pleasant. It is there to provide an answer to a historical, that is, how did the tribe of Benjamin become so small. And that might not seem like a terribly important historical question – and in the grand scheme of God’s message to mankind, it isn’t – but it is one of those details from which the sweep of biblical history is composed. That’s probably the best way to regard these stories. They are there as background detail, they are not big picture stuff.

Yet this isn’t the whole answer. Because some of this violence comes direct from God. God judging people. God condemning people. God requiring death for evil men. And that can be difficult to swallow. That seems harsh, that seems cruel, that seems unforgiving – very different from the character of God as often presented. So what’s going on? Why does God kill people?

Now I don’t support the death penalty when implemented by human governments. Why? Because human justice can make mistakes. Human judges might condemn an innocent person, but they can’t take back the death penalty. In addition, the death penalty admits no second chances – no chance of repentance and a clean slate. Yet these problems are problems for God. If God is all knowing then he cannot make mistakes, he cannot condemn an innocent person, if God says someone is guilty then that person is guilty. And God also knows the heart of men, he knows if they are likely to repent or whether they are beyond reaching. So, it seems to me, the only appropriate person to administer the death penalty is God.

God is justified in putting people to death if he knows they deserve it. And it doesn’t matter whether God puts people to death individually or in a group, because he is able to ensure that only those who deserve to die will die. Take the example of God’s destruction of Sodom (you’ll find the story in Genesis 18). Abraham asks God if he would destroy Sodom if there were fifty righteous people in Sodom? And God says no, he would spare all those wicked people so that he wouldn’t kill any righteous people. What about forty-five? Or forty? Or thirty? Or twenty? Or ten? Abraham keeps asking and in every case God says that he would not destroy the city if there were righteous people in it. In the event God sends angels to rescue the only four righteous people in Sodom (and let’s face it, some of them weren’t particularly righteous). So when God destroys Sodom, we can be sure that the only people who died were those who deserved to die. And if that is the way God works then these violent passages of the Bible turn out to be demonstrations of God’s justice.

Now that doesn’t answer every problem. Some passages of the Bible are still confusing. But these ideas give the broad principles for providing an answer.

+

Preceding articles in this series:

I Can’t Believe That (1) … God would send anyone to hell

I Can’t Believe That … (2) God would allow children to suffer

I can’t believe that … (3) miracles can happen

++

Additional reading:

  1. Never making mistakes because never doing anything
  2. We are ourselves responsible

+++

+++

  • The Battle Among Us (signsofthetimes.org.au)
    Those in power are not immune to such degeneration. Politicians lie and cheat, while rich businessmen move their money into overseas tax havens to avoid paying their dues to the country that protects them.
    +

    Society floats in a moral vacuum. We might have an amoral, “feral” culture that ignores decency and morality. But just as evil are the cultured rich and powerful who also ignore laws.

    Society today is at war. The battle-front is not in Israel, Palestine or Ukraine. It is here in our midst: it is our own inability to distinguish between right and wrong.

    Under the cloak of freedom and tolerance, we have abandoned morality grounded in Judeo-Christian ethics, replacing it with a concept of moral relativism. 

  • Does God Let His Kids Lie About Him? A Thought (or Two) on the Enns/Bell Interview (derekzrishmawy.com)

    The Israelites lived at a rough time, the Iron Age, when nations fought tooth and nail over land and resources and the gods fought right along side of them, leading the charge

    The nations that won had the mightier gods, and victory (slaughter, pillaging) gave gods honor. Losing meant your god was either a wimp or he was mad at your people for some reason and wanted to teach them a lesson in obedience. 

    The Israelites were part of this ancient Iron Age world of warring, land acquisition, and destroying the enemy. They fit right in, and to expect their God-talk to be on a totally different page is to start off on the wrong foot.
    +
    For God to deliver commands to us about not falsely representing him and taking his name in vain, through narratives that falsely represent him and take his name in vain? What kind of confusing father is that? A little exaggeration here and there is one thing, but to fundamentally miss a key component like that is kind of a big deal. I mean, especially when God seems particularly picky about the “no false images” thing (Ex. 32-33).

  • What has convinced many believers to not believe? … the bible did. (skeptical-science.com)
    EA Hanks, a writer based in Los Angeles, has written a very personal article in the Guardian that takes us on her journey from Fundamentalist born again Christian to atheist. In it we find two rather common answers to some truly fascinating questions. Why do people convert and become “born again”?
  • Unfortunately this happens to me all the time (thei535project.wordpress.com)
    Using your standard of morality that states that things that do no emotional or physical harm are good, is raping someone who is in a coma morally wrong?If it does no harm yet it’s still morally wrong then it’s morally wrong by a standard other than your own. This means that your standard is illogical.If you maintain that your standard is logical, then you cannot assert that raping a person in a coma is wrong.
  • The Abrahamic dilemma (jeremystyron.com)
    Doesn’t a believer’s response to what I will call the Abrahamic dilemma really cut to the core of a person’s faith? If, for instance, a believer says he would, in fact, sacrifice his child, or otherwise commit some violent act against another human being, for God, this indicts him as a hideous person, at least based on our set of moral principles. If a Christian says he would not raise the knife and sacrifice his child for God, then the person is not a true believer.
  • PZ Myers Has This Problem With My Post About the Terrorist Who Lost His Head (patheos.com)

    Indiscriminate cruelty and slaughter has long been a way of life for these types. I guess I’m supposed to be sad when it becomes a way of death for them too, but for once I’ll nod along in agreement with Jesus, who is said to have stated the inevitability of violence begetting violence pretty succinctly: “He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword.”

    Mohammed Fares was another Islamist boil on the ass of humanity. It’s an unpleasant procedure, but boils need to be lanced. Or beheaded — same thing.

  • If ISIS Is Not Islamic, then the Inquisition Was Not Catholic (newrepublic.com)
    As ISIS slaughters its way though Syria and Iraq, it became inevitable that we’d hear from apologists who claim that ISIS is not in fact “true Islam,” and that its depredations are due to something other than religious motivation.
    +
    Reply:Not true or True Catholicism and True Islam
  • Is there such a thing as “Biblical” marriage? (lotharlorraine.wordpress.com)
    Rachel Ford recently published an article on the website of the “Friendly” Atheist arguing that the Bible is a morally consistent evil book presenting marriage coherently as a man possessing several wifes as objects to be used and maltreated.
  • What is a “true” religion? (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
    As ISIS slaughters its way though Syria and Iraq, it became inevitable that we’d hear from the apologists who claim that ISIS is not in fact “true Islam,” and that its depredations are due to something other than religious motivation. Those motivations, say the apologists, are political (usually Western colonialism that engendered resentment),…

 

Advertisements

I can’t believe that … (3) miracles can happen

English: Icon of the Resurrection

Icon of the Resurrection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So Christianity is full of miracles. The gospels say that Jesus performed many miracles, like healing people of their diseases and walking on water. Christians today believe that God can work miracles in response to their prayers. And, of course, the central event in Christianity – the resurrection of Jesus – is a miracle. So if miracles can’t happen then Christianity is in trouble.

But why think that miracles can’t happen? After all, if there is a God then surely miracles are the sort of thing you’d expect him to be able to do. (What sort of god would he be, if he couldn’t perform miracles?) And yet many people, even those who believe in God, struggle with the idea that miracles can happen.

One worry that people can have about miracles is the vague sense that this is too mythological, too supernatural, for rational, scientific, modern people to believe in. Turning water into wine might seem like magic trick, or else hocus-pocus, and we’re smart enough to know that magicians deal in illusions, not realities. But this kind of objection is rather vague and its not immediately clear what the problem is. Of course, if someone comes to you and says “I can make a rabbit appear in my hat”, you have every right to suspect that the rabbit is just hidden away somewhere and isn’t going to appear from nothing. But that doesn’t mean miracles are impossible, it just means we’re rightly suspicious of those trading in illusions. And there is a danger that simply dismissing miracles as myth or magic: we’re simply engaged in snobbery not proper rational enquiry.

Perhaps a more sophisticated objection is that miracles break the laws of nature. From our repeated experience, and from scientific investigation, we know that the universe behaves in ordered and regular ways. The sun rises every day, things fall down (not up), and dead people don’t come back to life. These are laws of nature – exceptions do not occur, else they wouldn’t be laws.

And that is all well and good but it suggests that the laws of nature have priority over everything else – that the laws of nature were before everything and overrule everything. Now even for the atheist, this is not the case. Because if you believe that the universe came into being from nothing, then it is not the laws of nature that were before everything else but nothing – if this were true, the laws of nature would be as arbitrary as the rest of existence. So the atheist has no particular reason for suspecting that the laws of nature will continue to operate, except that they have so far. But for the believer, the laws of nature do not have priority either. Because if there is a God, who created the universe, then he is responsible for the laws of nature. Now he is God such a sloppy creator that he made rules and laws that even he couldn’t change? Is it credible to think that God could create gravity and yet be unable to change it when necessary? If that idea just seems too silly to be true, then the objection to miracles evaporates.

+

Preceding articles: I Can’t Believe That (1) … God would send anyone to hell

I Can’t Believe That … (2) God would allow children to suffer

++

Additional reading:

  1. A fact of History or just a fancy Story
  2. Days of Nisan, Pesach, Pasach, Pascha and Easter
  3. Why think that (2) … Jesus claimed to be something special
  4. Why think that (3) … Jesus rose from the dead
  5. Miracles of revelation and of providence 1 Golden Thread and Revelation
  6. This is an amazing thing
  7. A Meaningful Thanksgivukkah
  8. Blinkered minds
  9. Sometimes we pray and pray and it seems like nothing happens.
  10. Materialism, would be life, and aspirations
  11. Bible and Science: Scientific Facts and Theories

+++

  • Can We Prove Jesus’ Historical Miracles? (humblesmith.wordpress.com)
    the atheists assumes the high ground and asks Christians to prove the creation of the universe, but the atheist has no more ability to explain the beginning of the universe than the Christian. The atheist accuses the Christian of something he is guilty of himself, namely belief without empirical evidence. The atheist berates the Christian for something which he has no better answer. In fact, the atheist answer would seem to ultimately assume that the effect of the universe resulted without a cause, an absurdity.
  • Is Religion Pseudoscience? (psychologytoday.com)
    A pseudoscience is a set of beliefs or practices that pretends at being science—that puts forth evidence and arguments which it says are scientifically sound, but in fact are not. Pseudoscientists argue in support of new fundamental forces (e.g., Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic resonance) and even entities (e.g., ancient aliens). The TV show Ghost Hunters is a prime example; they even have instruments—like voice recorders, EM meters, laser thermometers (and deluxe carrying cases)—which seem scientific, but of course do nothing to detect ghosts. But all pseudosciences have one thing in common: The arguments and reasoning they put forth violate basic rules of scientific reasoning.
  • Villagers worship ‘miracle’ calf in India born with third eye (w/ video) (vancouverdesi.com)
    People are flocking to a small village in southern India to worship a “miracle” calf believedto bean incarnation of a Hindu god, according to Britain’s Daily Mail.The baby cow was born in the village ofKolathur in TamilNadu with a third eye in the middle of its head, much like the Hindu deity Shiva.“This is a miracle calf, so we are worshipping and praying to it like a god,” the animal’s owner, Rajesh, said. “We believe if we worship this calf it will give good luck for us and the people around us.”
  • No Miracles = No Christian Hope (derekzrishmawy.com)
    Whether it be Gnostic mysticism, or German Liberal Rationalism, throughout Christian history there have been numerous attempts to separate the effects, or “inner truth” Christianity from it’s concrete grounding in the narrative of God’s interaction with Israel and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. In other words, we want the value of “loving your enemies” and “forgiveness” without grounding it in the Cross where the Godman concretely loved his enemies and forgave them with his own blood. We want the sense of gratitude and joy on a sunny day without grounding it in the Creator God who gives  it to us and currently sustains all things in things in being.
  • Countering the Straw Man of “Spockian” Atheism (patheos.com)
    In a piece at NPR entitled “Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk,” University of California, Berkeley philosophy professor Alva Noë posted his thoughts on what he calls a “Spockian” worldview. He rejects this “Spock-ism” (a reference to the character on Star Trek) and its

    idea that science is logical, purely rational, that it is detached and value-free, and that it is, for all these reasons, morally superior.

  • True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism Reviewed (wmbriggs.com)
    How rational is it to believe any of the following:

    • Science can explain everything, even itself;
    • The reason anything exists is because of the laws of gravity, quantum fields, and so forth;
    • Jesus of Nazareth was an invention and not a real person;
    • Evolution is why we are so rational;
    • Even though God does not exist you can tell the difference between good and evil;
    • People are only Christians because they were born into it;
    • Miracles are impossible and reports of them are the result of lies, superstition, confusion, and reporting errors;
    • The Gospels on which Christianity relies were written hundreds of years after the fact and are mostly reinventions of other pagan traditions?

    Each of these propositions is not only false but easily proven to be so, as even the most minimal exertions show. Yet believing any, and many more like them, are touted by “New Atheists” as marks of superior intelligence, as enlightened thinking, even as commonsense reasonableness. To these infinitely self-assured folks, disbelief is a synonym of rational. It’s just a guess, but perhaps this irrational belief is why it is so hard to persuade New Atheists of their errors?

  • From Atheism to Christianity: a Personal Journey (po11ycheck.wordpress.com)
    Do you find it difficult to believe in God or accept the claims of Christianity? I did, when I was an atheist, but I changed my mind, and my reasons for doing so may be of interest to you in your own personal journey and attempts to make sense of life.
    +
    The presence within us of an objective moral law ‘written on our hearts’ points instead to the existence of an eternal Goodness and Intelligence which created us and our universe, enables us to think, and is the eternal source of our best and deepest values. In other words, Lewis argues, atheism cuts its own throat philosophically, because it discredits all human reasoning, including the arguments for atheism. “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.” (Mere Christianity). Only by acknowledging that there is a God, he concludes, can we hope to make sense of human existence, the world we inhabit, and, paradoxically, the problem of evil.
  • Clearing Up the Shenanigans: Tom Gilson and True Reason (arizonaatheist.blogspot.com)
    Am I arguing that “miracles happen too often?” Yes, but Gilson misses my point. It had nothing to do with science, it had everything to do with god. Gilson argued in True Reason that god wants his creationsto be “responsible moral agents;” and god also wants his creations to learn from experience. All of these things would not be possible if we lived in a world “of constant supernatural intervention” because “if there isto much chaos (“noise”) in a transmission, the message (signal) can’t get throughto be clearly understood.” (130)I argued that, at least according tonumerous Christians around the world, their god intervenes in the affairs of the worldon a daily basis and I provided one, among other examples, of a Christian friend who thanked god for coming across a set of chairs in someone’s yard.I also argued that far from being opposed to constant supernatural intervention the entire basis of Christianity is built upon supernatural intervention, including god coming down in human form as Jesus to the creation of the world out of absolutely nothing, which are in fact acts of the supernatural, unlike what Gilson stated in his reply (“it’s more than slightly difficult to see how God violated natural law by creating natural law (as creation ex nihilo indicates).”). Gilson’s argument makes no logical sense. Christians argue all the time that “something cannot come from nothing” but for Christians apparently it’s OK. And I suppose a man rising from the dead or a god-man coming down from heaven isn’t a supernatural event? Gilson says nothing about these core beliefs of Christianity.
  • What has convinced many believers to not believe? … the bible did. (skeptical-science.com)
    The embrace of a specific belief has rather a lot of do with your geographical location, and nothing at all to do with what is and is not actually true. It is those around you that draw you in.
    +
    Derren Brown, the illusionist, did a series on Channel 4 in the UK called Fear and Faith. During this at one point he gave somebody a camera to record a video diary and told her that for the next two weeks they would be manipulating events in her life so that she could learn life lessons, and that she was to record those lessons on her video diary. Darren Brown is well-known for doing the hidden camera thing and so this idea, once planted, was embraced as factual. One week later she had a video crammed full of the lessons she had learned during the events that they had staged. The reveal was that they had done nothing at all except give her the idea and a camera – everything that happened was her reading meaning into random events. – This is exactly the same psychology at play in the “born again” experience where Jesus is with you and helps you out each day.

I Can’t Believe That … (2) God would allow children to suffer

How could a loving God allow an innocent child to suffer? Surely he cares enough to prevent the suffering (if he didn’t care, he wouldn’t be very loving). And surely is able to prevent to suffering (if he couldn’t, he wouldn’t be very powerful). And yet we know that in this imperfect world children suffer. So does that mean there is no God? Or could God have good reasons to allow such suffering?

The Suffering (video game)

The Suffering (video game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we talk about the reasons for suffering there is a real danger that anything we say will sound glib or even insensitive to those who have been bereaved. The mother who has lost a beloved child doesn’t want reasons, she wants her child back. Trying to intellectualise the problem will be cold comfort for such grief. Trying to explain away the suffering would be heartless. Because what possible reason could you give that would make the death of a child acceptable? What explanation would justify so great a loss? And that is the first thing to recognise. When we seek to understand the existence of suffering we are not seeking to give a reason for individual acts of suffering. Some acts of suffering, when considered in isolation, have no reason. They are not caused by God, they are not for some eventual gain, they are, essentially, meaningless. We do not live in a world where everything has a purpose, where everything happens for a reason. The Bible says God has subjected the world to “futility” (Rom 8:20), that is, God has purposefully made this world imperfect and subject to imperfection. God does not cause suffering, but has made the world where suffering occurs. The question is, why would he do that?

Step back and consider: what is the cause of so much of the evil in the world? Answer: human beings. Whether it is cold-blooded murder or just casual neglect, so much suffering and pain is caused by humans making bad choices. Sometimes people will choose to do something truly wicked, more often people just choose to do what is easy, but it is those choices that produces the suffering. God could have created a world without such suffering because he could have created a world without people or only with people whose minds he controls. That would have prevented a lot of suffering. There would be no murders, if God didn’t allow people the freedom to choose. But God has allowed people the freedom to choose. Because a world in which people have free will is better than a world without it. Imagine a world without free will. Sure, there would be no evil but there would also be no good. Without free will there could be no love and there could be no relationships. There could be no acts of kindness, no moments of generosity, and no real charity. The world would just be filled with choice-less robots, neither good nor bad, just behaving as instructed. A world with free will is better, and world where people freely choose to do good is best, but if people are truly free then that means they have the option to cause evil.

But this isn’t the whole answer. Murderers may choose to murder, but waves don’t choose to drown people, rocks don’t choose to crush people and viruses don’t choose to infect people. A lot of the suffering in the world is caused by natural processes, by the laws of nature operating as they always do, the victims just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Why does God allow such suffering? Well, imagine the alternative. Imagine that rocks would always fall down to the ground EXCEPT when a child was underneath. That might seem like a wonderful idea, but think of all the exceptions and kinks in the laws of nature that would be needed to make children invulnerable. Bullets would turn to jelly when fired at children, fire would become cool when a child was close by, man-eating tigers would become lovable kittens. Suddenly the ordered and regular world that we’re used to has become chaotic and difficult to predict. No longer could humans depend on things behaving like they always have and so could no longer make even reasonable guesses about the outcome of their actions. Without the laws of nature, without the regularity of nature, human free will cannot operate because without that regularity you cannot make informed choices.

Okay, you say, I understand that free will is a good thing and I understand that the laws of nature are necessary, but even so couldn’t have God made the world better? Couldn’t there be less dangers? Or couldn’t we be less vulnerable? Why not make humans impervious to harm so that we can carry on whatever the world throws at us? Of

+

Preceding article: I Can’t Believe That (1) … God would send anyone to hell

++

Additional reading:

  1. About suffering
  2. Foreword to suffering
  3. Choices to make in suffering
  4. Crucifixion for suffering
  5. God’s instruction about joy and suffering
  6. God’s promises to us in our suffering
  7. Importuning for suffering hearts
  8. Seems no future in suffering
  9. Suffering through the apparent silence of God
  10. Suffering continues
  11. Suffering leading to joy
  12. Surprised by joy
  13. Surprised by time in joys & sufferings
  14. Miracles in our time of suffering
  15. Offer in our suffering
  16. Temptation and its conquest
  17. Words from God about suffering
  18. Mission son of God perceived as failure
  19. Patient waiting
  20. Moving mountains
  21. Why Think There Is a God? (3): Why Is It Wrong?
  22. Attributes to God
  23. Disappointed with God
  24. God’s measure not our measure
  25. Full authority belongs to God
  26. God Helper and Deliverer
  27. God is Positive
  28. God’s design in the creation of the world
  29. God’s hope and our hope
  30. God His reward
  31. God’s promises
  32. God’s salvation
  33. Incomplete without the mind of God
  34. Is God hiding His Face when He is seemingly silent
  35. Jesus his answers about God’s silence
  36. Based confidence
  37. Chrystalised harmonious thinking
  38. Our way of life
  39. Life with God
  40. Nuturing a close relationship with God
  41. Concerning gospelfaith
  42. Epitome of the one faith
  43. My faith
  44. Hope
  45. Working of the hope
  46. Looking for blessed hope
  47. Hope for the future
  48. Expiatory sacrifice
  49. Content with the no answer
  50. Free will and predestination
  51. Meaning of life
  52. Death and after
  53. God’s Comfort
  54. A world in denial
  55. Fear and protection
  56. Because men choose to go their own way
  57. It is a free will choice
  58. Free will and predestination
  59. Let you not be defined by the effect of your wrong choice
  60. The Existence of Evil

+++

  • Why does God allow evil? (pastormikesays.wordpress.com)
    The Bible describes God as holy (Isaiah 6:3), righteous (Psalm 7:11), just (Deuteronomy 32:4), and sovereign (Daniel 4:17-25). These attributes tell us the following about God: (1) God is capable of preventing evil, and (2) God desires to rid the universe of evil. So, if both of these are true, why does God allow evil? If God has the power to prevent evil and desires to prevent evil, why does He still allow evil? Perhaps a practical way to look at this question would be to consider some alternative ways people might have God run the world:
  • God’s Gift & Our Response: Mercy & Worship (jamespaulgaard.wordpress.com)
    God gives us many good and wonderful gifts that we need. But a gift does not give its intended benefit if the one receiving the gift does not open the gift and use it. You could be given the greatest gift in the world, but if the gift sits in the corner unopened, that gift will have no benefit in your life. So through this series, we want to encourage you to reflect on the many gifts God has given you, and how you respond to those gifts. In today’s sermon we are thinking about God’s gift of mercy and our response of worship and the three points of the sermon
  • Why You Shouldn’t Teach Your Children That Hell is Real (patheos.com)
    If teaching heaven is bad, teaching hell is downright mental child abuse. There is no way around this one. You are telling a child that for bad deeds done, or not worshipping the right (or any god), you are going to burn in a lake of fire for eternity. Pure torture, unimaginable pain and it is forever.The myth of Hell needs to be destroyed faster than the myth of heaven by far. Children and countless adults fear any of their actions will result in them spending eternity in Hell. Why? It is such a childish and illogical idea. For starters, their almighty God created an evil angel, and instead of destroying him, gave him his own kingdom? And let’s not get started on the fact that if Satan is the one punishing the bad guys for their evil, doesn’t that make Satan the good guy? If Hell is for the most evil people in the world who listened to and or worshipped Satan, wouldn’t Satan be glad to have them? It simply doesn’t make sense and even Christians and other religious followers are deciding they don’t believe in Hell anymore. It seems that all the rest of their religion is true, but Hell sounds too mean, so that part is obviously just an allegory. So, just like the endless rape, murder, genocide and other atrocities of the Bible, let’s go ahead and cherry-pick Hell right out of it.
  • The Man or The Devil In The Mirror? [Part 1] (corbenstreet.wordpress.com)
    People must understand and know how to differentiate between the reason and the purpose of doing things. But because humans are always so good at taking things for granted, it is not surprising that whatever the reason and the purpose of using mirrors, it no longer means anything to everyone – anymore!
  • David Haines killing is ‘an act of absolute evil’, says Archbishop of Canterbury (christiantoday.com)
    The Archbishop of Canterbury is among the Christians expressing their sorrow over the killing of hostage David Haines at the hands of Islamic State militants.The 44-year-old aid worker’s beheading was shown in a video released on Saturday night.It has been strongly condemned by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has vowed that Britain will take “whatever steps are necessary” to keep the country safe and bring the killers to justice.Archbishop Justin Welby used his Twitter account to ask every church in the country to pray for Haines’s family, saying he had been “evilly killed in the place he was serving in love for its suffering people”.

    In comments to the BBC later on Sunday, the Archbishop described the aid worker’s murder as “an act of absolute evil, unqualified, without any light in it at all”.

    He said there was a sense that in places where militants have taken hold “the darkness is deepening”.

    “It’s being done in the name of faith, but we’ve heard already today faith leaders from Islam across the world condemning this,” he continued.

  • William Lane Craig vs Walter Sinnott-Armstrong: evil, suffering and God’s existence (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
    This is one the top 4 best debates that William Lane Craig has done in my opinion. (The other two are Craig-Millican debate and the first and second Craig-Dacey debates) This one doesn’t seem to get a lot of play on the Internet: there’s no video, transcript or anything. But it is a great debate, and on a problem we are all concerned about: the problem of evil and suffering. One other thing – Sinnott-Armstrong is also a very courteous, respectful and intelligent scholar and he is very good at defending his side. This is a very cordial and engaging debate, and because it was held in front of a church audience, it was targeted to laymen and not academics.

I Can’t Believe That (1) … God would send anyone to hell

Me neither. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to go to suffer everlasting torment, however bad they were in life, and I don’t like the idea of a god would want that either. The idea of unending pain is not only intolerably cruel but to pretend that in any sense someone could deserve that fate so unjust as to be positively wicked. Regardless of how bad someone behaved, regardless of how many crimes they committed, no-one could do enough evil to justify an infinite punishment. Even worse is the suggestion that anyone who misses out on salvation will end up with the same punishment; petty crook and genocidal dictator alike, they all must endure an eternity of pain and suffering. A god who behaved in this way could not be described as “merciful“, could not even be described as “just”. Such a god could only be described as wicked. But the God I believe in is both merciful and just, so I can’t believe that He would send anyone to hell.

There is another reason why I can’t believe it – the idea isn’t even biblical. Look at what Jesus says about hell:

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28)

Leave aside for a moment what Jesus meant by “soul” and “hell”, it is clear that Jesus did not think of hell as many Christians do. For Jesus, hell is not a place where the soul suffers eternal conscious torment. Instead hell is a place where the soul is killed, destroyed, finished, done.

Look at what Jesus promises to anyone who will accept it:

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them (John 3:36)

Jesus promises eternal life. The opposite of eternal life is not eternal conscious torment but eternal death. Jesus makes this clear in the words considered above. Whoever rejects the offer will “not see life”. They don’t go on living in torment and agony for all eternity. They just stay dead. That’s the fate of the wicked, that’s the fate of those who reject Jesus’ offer of life, they stay dead.

The question then is why do so many Christians believe in hell, given that is a horrible idea and not what Jesus taught? For some people, though they call themselves “Christian”, just use the doctrine of hell as a stick to beat their neighbours. There also probably some truth in the claim that the historic church used the threat of hell as a way of controlling its followers. But there are also many sincere and well-intentioned Christians who still believe in hell. This is because they are used to reading the Bible a certain way and have never been shown that it was written differently.

Many Christians believe that the soul is immortal, that it not only survives death but can never die. This is not what Jesus or the early Christians taught, but if you believe that the soul cannot die then you must believe it goes somewhere after death. You wouldn’t want to belief that wicked people end up in a good place (a lot of Christians believe they go to heaven when they die), so there must be a bad place for the bad people to go to. Once you’ve got this idea in your mind then you read the Bible to fit that idea. For example, whilst Jesus never talks about eternal conscious torment, he does talk about “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46). If you already believe that bad souls go to a bad place when they die, it is convenient to read “eternal punishment” as though it said “eternal conscious torment”. That’s not what Jesus said, but that’s what many Christians think.

English: Ge-Hinnom, c. 1900.

Ge-Hinnom or Valley of Hinnom, c. 1900. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It also does not help that Christians today have forgotten what Jesus meant when he used the word “hell”. When Jesus talks about hell he is usually using the word gehenna, which literally means “Valley of Hinnom“. This was a place in ancient Israel where the worshippers of the pagan god Molech would perform human sacrifices, including burning children (e.g. 2 Kings 23:10). This practice is condemned by God through the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32:35). Jeremiah uses the imagery of being burnt in the Valley of Hinnom to portray the fitting punishment for those who practiced such evil (Jeremiah 7:31-32). This is the background to the word gehenna in the New Testament where it represents the fate of the wicked. When Jesus talks about the ‘fire of hell‘ (Matthew 5:22) he is using the word gehenna, using this imagery for the destruction of death. The other word used by Jesus for hell is hades. Though in greek mythology hades was both the abode of the dead and the god of the dead, in the New Testament hades simply refers to the grave. In either case Jesus was not referring to a place of eternal conscious torment for the wicked, as many people now think about hell.

As you can see from this overview I do not think that Christians should believe in hell and as such I do not think that hell provides any obstacle to believing in God. Jesus does not teach that the wicked go to hell and I do not know of any other part of the bible that teaches this idea. Wherever people got the notion of hell from it was not from God and not part of his message to mankind. I can understand that you would not want to believe in a god that condemned people to hell, though your personal dislike would not determine whether or not such a god existed. But the notion of hell is inconsistent with everything we know about the God who does exist; inconsistent with his goodness and inconsistent with his message to mankind.

+

Additional reading:

  1. Another way looking at a language #3 Abraham
  2. Sheol, Sheool, Sjeool, Hades, Hell, Grave, Tomb, Sepulchre
  3. Grave, tomb, sepulchre – graf, begraafplaats, rustplaats, sepulcrum
  4. Darkness, light, burning fire, Truth and people in it
  5. Jesus three days in hell
  6. Hellfire
  7. A fact of History or just a fancy Story
  8. The soul
  9. Dying or not
  10. Is there an Immortal soul
  11. Immortality, eternality – onsterfelijkheid, eeuwigheid
  12. Set free from any form of mental torment or self-condemnation
  13. Creator and Blogger God 3 Lesson and solution
  14. Creator and Blogger God 7 A Blog of a Book 1 Believing the Blogger
  15. Fragments from the Book of Job #1: chapters 1-12
  16. Fragments from the Book of Job #4: chapters 27-31
  17. We are ourselves responsible
  18. Self inflicted misery #6 Paying by death
  19. Self inflicted misery #8 Pruning to strengthen us
  20. Bad things no punishment from God
  21. Being Religious and Spiritual 3 Philosophers, Avicennism and the spiritual
  22. Being Religious and Spiritual 6 Romantici, utopists and transcendentalists
  23. Being Religious and Spiritual 7 Transcendence to become one
  24. Atonement And Fellowship 4/8
  25. Edward Wightman
  26. Fear and protection
  27. Fear of God reason to return to Holy Scriptures
  28. Eternity depends upon this short time on earth
  29. A small company of Jesus’ footstep follower

+++

  • Biblical Hell (focusedandfree.com)
    Because of the symbolic nature of the language, some people question whether hell consists of actual fire. Such reasoning should bring no comfort to the lost. The reality is greater than the symbol. The Bible exhausts human language in describing heaven and hell. The former is more glorious, and the latter more terrible, than language can express.
    +
    In Christian tradition it is usually associated with the notion of eternal punishment, especially by fire. This idea appears in Isaiah. 66:24, but it is not clearly associated with a place. Jewish writings from the third century B.C. onward, speak of places of punishment by fire for evil spirits and the wicked dead (1 Enoch 18:11-16108:3-7152 Esdras 7:36-38). The book of Revelation describes a lake that burns with fire and brimstone in which the wicked will be eternally punished (Revelation 19:2020:14-1521:8).
  • Gehenna in the ‘Love Wins’ controversy (creationconcept.wordpress.com)
    One aspect of the great controversy about hell, and about Bell’s thesis, is the meaning of the word Gehenna in the New Testament. Most English translations contribute to the confusion by replacing the word Gehenna with hell, instead of leaving it untranslated, as it should be, since it is the name of a specific geographical place on earth.
  • Is Gehenna the same as the lake of fire? (creationconcept.wordpress.com)
    Arthur W. Pink compared Gehenna with the lake of fire in Revelation 20 in his article on Eternal Punishment. He thought these two things were identical. But Pink may have been mistaken about this, as he was about the doctrine of dispensationalism. He eventually realized dispensationalism was false, and wrote a series of articles against that theory, which he previously supported.In his discussion of Gehenna, Pink compared things said of it with the information that is provided about the lake of fire. His comparison is summarized
  • Is Literal Hellfire Torment A Bible Teaching? (debatepolitics.com)
    The teaching of literal hellfire torment is commonplace in Christendom and non-Christian religions. This teaching defames the Creator and portrays him as a sadist who tortures people in flames of fire for all eternity—as punishment for wrongdoing committed during the relatively brief human lifespan. The hellfire dogma was brought into Christianity by the Roman Catholics who copied it from pagan religions. (Pagans are those who do not worship the God of the Judeo-Christian Bible.)
    +
    The scriptures indicate that hell is nothing more than mankind’s common grave. Proof of this is provided by a verse of scripture in the Bible, which no hellfire-believing Christian can explain away. I’m referring to the scripture that says Jesus Christ–the epitome of a perfect, sinless, and obedient man–died and went to hell.
  • What and Where is Hell Anyway? (robertjrgraham.com)
    When most people think of hell, they think of Satan in that red suit with two horns and a pitchfork somewhere in the depths of the Earth where souls are tormented day and night on some kind of giant char broiler. Do something wrong in life and you’re condemned to an eternal damnation of flames. None of this could be further from the truth, and we should know better, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (II Corinthians 2:11).The English word hell comes from the Anglo-Saxon hel, or in the genitive case helle, which means a “hidden place”, from the Anglo-Saxon word helan, meaning “to hide”.
    +
    Whether it’s the word sheol in the Old Testament, or gehenna or hades in the New Testament, they all mean either the grave or the state of death.
  • Is Hell eternal or do those who do not choose Christ just cease to exist? (askthepastors.wordpress.com)
    There are four words used in the Bible for the place of the dead, Sheol, the Hebrew term for the grave and also for the place of departed spirits, Hades, the Greek version of Sheol, the Abyss (used for the place of the dead in Romans 10:7, but usually reserved for place of judgment for demons, Luke 8:31; Rev. 9:1,2, 20:1) and Gehenna, the term taken from the Valley of Hinnom just south of Jerusalem where trash was perpetually burned. This last word refers specifically to the final place of torment, most properly translated “hell” (Matthew 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9, etc.)
  • Comments on Walter Balfour’s interpretation of Gehenna (creationconcept.wordpress.com)
    In their disputes about the meaning of Gehenna, both men overlooked the significance of Gehenna as a topographical feature in the land of promise, and one of the valleys which Isaiah said will be filled, as John the Baptist proclaimed. [Luke 3:5]From Gehenna, one views Jerusalem as an outsider; the teachings of Jesus encourage us to get into the kingdom of God, and obtain life.
    +The sayings of Jesus about Gehenna also apply to the present age. Gehenna is a judgment. [Mat. 5:22, 23:33] Jesus referred to it as something we should avoid at any cost, even if it means loss of our right eye, or our right hand, or our right foot. [Mat. 5:29, 30] Jesus said God is able to destroy “both soul and body” in Gehenna, and that we should fear him. [Mat. 10:28, Luke 12:5] This suggests that the warnings about Gehenna apply to our present lives; being cast into it represents the spiritual condition, of being outside the holy city.Being cast into Gehenna contrasts with entering into life. [Mat. 18:9] Scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites are called “children of Gehenna.” [Mat. 23:15] Balfour correctly pointed out “no Gentile is ever threatened with Gehenna punishment,” as that threat applies especially to those in Jerusalem. One must be in the holy city, in order to be cast out of it. While the threat of “the damnation of Gehenna” applies only to Jews, the heirs of salvation, who are “in Christ,” are called Jews, and “the circumcision,” in a spiritual sense; Jesus used the threat of Gehenna figuratively and metaphorically to warn the saints who dwell in the heavenly Jerusalem.
  • Is Punishment Eternal? (pilgrimpassing.com)
    Thus, sheol and hades were the same place and must have been occupied by the redeemed since the Messiah was there while His body lay in the grave. That the lost were also there, but in a separate area, is clear from Christ’s statement that when the rich man died, “in hades he lift up his eyes, being in torment….” That in his torment he could see Lazarus and Abraham in comfort (Luke 16:19-31) further indicates that the redeemed were also in hades yet distinct from the damned. That part of hades, which Christ referred to as “Abraham’s bosom,” must have been the “paradise” in which Jesus promised to meet the believing thief on the cross that very day (Luke 23:43).
    +
    If God is so loving why doesn’t He universally forgive everyone? Love is only part of God’s character. He is also infinitely and perfectly just. How can God forgive someone who admits no guilt? How can He forgive those who insist that there is nothing for which He needs to forgive them? And would it not be the utmost folly to do so? If in His mercy and grace God simply passed over human rebellion, would that not be condoning evil and even encouraging it? Would that not in itself undermine God’s control of His universe?
  • Walter Balfour’s discussion of Gehenna
  • Hope in Gehenna?
  • John Calvin on Gehenna
  • Gehenna applies to the church, not the world
  • Gehenna in the ‘Love Wins’ controversy
  • To Hell with Hell
  • Philosophy – What Is Hell?
  • Jason Erb critically analyzes biblical doctrines on Truth Hertz with Charles Giuliani, January 1, 2013
  • Lost Soul in Hell
  • The Amazing Race of God
  • God versus Satan
  • A Full Documentary About the Signs of Apocalypse
  • Reality of Hell…
  • To Hell with HellIs Punishment Eternal?
  • There Is No Hell, Look It Up

Why think that (5) … the Bible is the word of God

Imagine there was a man who went around claiming that he had a special message from God and that part of this man’s message was that he would be killed and come back to life. And then imagine that this man did indeed come back to life. Surely that is the sort of person you’d want to pay attention to. We have seen that there is good historical evidence that Jesus is that sort of person – that he claimed to have a special message from God and that he died and came back to life. So we would want to pay attention to what Jesus said about the Bible.

Now for the purposes of this essay we are using the gospels as historical sources, not yet as scripture (otherwise our argument would be circular). But this does not prevent us drawing some conclusions about Jesus’ view of the Bible. For instance, as a first century Jew it would expect Jesus to believe that the Old Testament was inspired by God (just as Jews do today). And the gospels corroborate this. For example, when Jesus says “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44), he is referring to the three sections into which the Jews divided their scriptures. It is also clear that Jesus regarded the Old Testament books as messages from God. For example, he refers to the Psalms being written by the Holy Spirit (Mark 12:36).

Titlepage of the New Testament section of a Ge...

Titlepage of the New Testament section of a German Luther Bible, printed in 1769. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But what about the New Testament? None of the books of the New Testament were written during Jesus’ lifetime on the Earth. Most written between twenty and forty years after his crucifixion. This being said, there are indications that Jesus expected there to be these books. We know that Jesus was a teacher, that he appointed disciples and that after his resurrection it was these disciples that started telling everyone about Jesus. The gospels say that Jesus selected the disciples for this role; for example, “you are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48). And those who wrote the NT recognised that they were specially selected as witnesses (e.g. 1 Pet 1:12; Heb 2:3-4). In effect, Jesus says “there are going be witnesses” and the NT writers claim to be those witnesses.

So Jesus accepted the Old Testament as scripture, and it seems likely that the New Testament was written to fulfil Jesus’ instructions. Therefore the testimony of Jesus is gives us good reason for thinking the Bible is a special book and should encourage us to look for further evidence.

How could you know if a message was from God or not? How about if that message was itself miraculous? How about if that message contained accurate predictions about the future? In fact, this is exactly the test the Bible provides for judging whether a messenger is from God or not:

When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously (Deut 18:22)

As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet (Jer 28:9)

Obviously not all predictions are going to be as convincing as others. There seem to be three criteria: (1) that prediction is made before the event it predicts (otherwise its not a prediction), (2) that predicted event can be verified with reasonable certainty (otherwise how would you know if the prediction was successful), and (3) that the predicted events is sufficiently unlikely to make the prediction significant (predicting rain in England is hardly surprising).

The Bible contains numerous prophecies. Some are short term prophecies so aren’t easy to verify historically, but there are plenty of long term prophecies to look at it. Here we’ll just look at one group of prophesies to make the point. These are the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus, which accurately predict many of the events of Jesus’ life. These include being a descendant of King David (2 Sam 7:12-13), being born in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2), being betrayed by a friend (Ps 41:9), being valued at thirty pieces of silver (Zech 11:13), having no bones broken in his execution (Ex 12:46), having hands and feet pierced (Ps 22:16; Zech 12:10), having his clothing divided by lot (Ps 22:18), being buried in the grave of a rich man (Isa 53:9) and being raised from the dead (Ps 16:9-11). What is interesting about these prophecies is these predictions al converge on the person of Jesus.

There is one further prophecy worth mentioning. In Daniel 9:24-27 a prophecy is made about set period of time in the history of the Jewish people. It is described in terms of weeks but all scholars agree that these weeks are periods of seven years. The interpretation of the prophecy can be technical because of some unusual Hebrew words and the fact that Daniel was using 360 day years (as opposed to the 365 ¼ day years that we use). But in essence what the prophecy says is that from command to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem to the coming of the Messiah would be 69 “weeks”. And if you do that maths, the time between the Persian command that the wall of Jerusalem should be rebuilt to the time of Jesus is exactly the period specified by Daniel 9. Even if you wanted to quibble about the exact year of the command or the exact year of Jesus’ ministry, the timing is still so accurate that it cannot be ignored.

+

Preceding articles:

Why think that (1) … Jesus existed?

Why think that (2) … Jesus claimed to be something special

Why think that (3) … Jesus rose from the dead

Why think that (4) … God would reveal himself in words

++

Please find also to read:

  1. No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation
  2. The radiance of God’s glory and the counsellor
  3. The day Jesus died
  4. People Seeking for God 3 Laws and directions
  5. Only worship the Creator of all things

+++

  • 5 Reasons to Suspect Jesus Never Existed (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
    Most antiquities scholars think that the New Testament gospels are “mythologized history.”  In other words, they think that around the start of the first century a controversial Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Yosef gathered a following and his life and teachings provided the seed that grew into Christianity.At the same time, these scholars acknowledge that many Bible stories like the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and women at the tomb borrow and rework mythic themes that were common in the Ancient Near East, much the way that screenwriters base new movies on old familiar tropes or plot elements. In this view, a “historical Jesus” became mythologized.
  • From Reliable to Divine: The Fulfilled New Testament Prophecies of Jesus (escottspencer.wordpress.com)
    +
    The Case for the Reliability of the Old Testament (Free Bible Insert)

    The ancient scribes employed a trustworthy system of checks and balances as they copied the original texts, and the accuracy of transmission process was successfully tested with the discovery of the Isaiah text in the Dead Sea Scroll collection. The ancient Jewish believers and Church Fathers also embraced the Old Testament as the Word of God. In addition, archeological discoveries have since confirmed many of the Old Testament accounts, and these archaeological evidences are rich compared to other written claims about the ancient past. Finally, the Old Testament Scriptures contain fulfilled prophecies  (including amazing prophecies about the coming Messiah), establishing the Divine nature of the texts. Based on this evidence, the following summary can be created related to the case for the reliability of the Old Testament
    +

    During Jesus’ life, He made several predictions in the presence of the disciples. At the time of these prophetic statements, His followers were often more than skeptical and less than understanding. But as the years passed, followers of Jesus saw His words come true, and these fulfilled prophecies served to strengthen their faith:
    +
    While much of the New Testament prophecy points to a distant future, many of the claims of Jesus can be assessed now. Jesus’ accuracy is so compelling, many skeptics have altered their dating of the New Testament in response. Acknowledging the accuracy of the prophecy related to the Temple destruction, skeptics typically date Luke and Matthew after 70AD to account for the inclusion of this statement. In doing so, these skeptics recognize the power of Jesus’ prophetic ability. They would rather deny the evidence for early dating than accept Jesus’ accuracy. Critics and skeptics of the New Testament recognize the power accurate prophecy has to demonstrate the Divinity of the New Testament.

  • Jesus Preached Islām. Period. (thelionofallah.wordpress.com)
    The only religion in the whole world, that believes in Jesus [ʿĪsā] (Upon Whom Be Peace) and testifies to Christianity is Islām. Muslims believe, that Jesus (Upon Whom Be Peace) was one of the mightiest Messengers of Allāh; that he was born miraculously ― without any male intervention; that he gave life to the dead by Allāh’s permission, and that he healed the born blind and the lepers by Allāh’s permission. A person is not considered a Muslim, unless, he or she believes in Jesus (Upon Whom Be Peace). Muslims believe, that Allāh delivered the Gospel ― Injeel to Jesus (Upon Whom Be Peace), just as He did Torah ― Taurāt to Moses [Mūsā] (Upon Whom Be Peace), the Old Testament ― Zabūr to David [Dāwūd] (Upon Whom Be Peace) and The Mighty Qur’ān to Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).
  • The Holy Scriptures (ptl2010.com)
    During the years of Christ and His death and resurrection a great transition was made between the Old and New Covenants. The Holy Scriptures at that time were Old Testament records and were used as a basis for Israel’s faith. During the first century the Four Gospel’s and the New Testament Epistles were being written and were not published until the 3rd century and after. The Old Testament records (the Holy Scriptures) were Israel’s primary written words of God.
  • How do we know what books should be called Scripture? Broadcast (joelanddeannap.wordpress.com)
    Both the Old Testament and New Testament books were immediately recognized and treated as scripture, though we have no formal statement about the New Testament until the fourth century.
    +
    How did the early church judge which books were scripture and which were not?

    • The test of authority: Who penned the book?
    • The test of internal evidence: Does the book penned or authorized by a genuine prophet or apostle bear the internal evidence of being God breathed?
    • The test of God’s people: Did genuine believers from the penning of these books to the present recognize them as scripture?
  • We Have A More Sure Word Of Prophecy (nowtheendbegins.com)
    Oftentimes when we study end times bible prophecy, we tend to focus on the Old Testament prophets like Joel, Isaiah, Zechariah, and on our apostle Paul in the New Testament. But Peter has a treasure trove of scripture for us to consider as well.
  • What should we say… (thelivingmessage.com)
    The more frequently you read and study the Bible, more of it will get into your mind and you won’t have to memorize it. It will just be there waiting to be used. It will also give you a greater understanding of God and His ways to “search the scriptures” because in doing so, you will be learning about God more and more.
  • End Times Prophecy Headlines: August 28, 2014 (endtimesprophecyreport.wordpress.com)
  • Preface (whatshotn.wordpress.com)
    With one-fourth of the Bible prophetically future when it was written, the interpretation of prophecy is one of the most challenging areas of biblical study. Too often preconceptions have led interpreters to draw from the biblical text doctrines that were quite removed from what the text actually states. Because prophecy is scattered from the early chapters of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation and deals with so many different situations and subjects, interpreters of prophecy have too often abandoned any detailed interpretation and reached only general conclusions.

Why think that (4) … God would reveal himself in words

Have you ever wondered why God created the universe? What his purpose is? We’ve already explored some reasons for thinking that God cares about us but does that actually mean? What purpose did God have in creating us? And what part do we have in God’s plan? One big clue is our ability to form relationships, not only with other people but also, in principle, with God. So if God intended there to be creatures like us, capable of forming relationships with him, then it seems a fair bet that this was his purpose in creating us (or at least part of it).

But relationships don’t just happen. They require communication. Imagine trying to form a relationship with someone without any communication. How would you know what they like or dislike? How would you know which things make them happy and which things really get on their nerves? How would you get to know them and share things with them without some form of communication? And the same is true of a relationship with God. If God wants us to have a relationship with him then he needs to reveal information about himself. He needs to tell us what he is like and what his expectations are and what sort of relationship he is interested in. Without this information it is simply not going to happen.

So God needs to reveal information about himself. How’s he going to do it? One possibility would be to reveal himself directly to everyone. Now perhaps the sheer immensity of his glory prevents mortals perceiving God directly, perhaps mortal minds would simply go kaput if faced with the true reality of God. But there are other ways God could have revealed himself, say, sending an angel to visit everyone personally and explaining that God exists, explaining that God wants a relationship and performing whatever miracles that would be needed to convince each person. That, we must presume, is something God could do but it is obvious that he hasn’t.

Here’s the problem: if the existence of God is obvious then it would severely limit our free choice as to whether to enter into a relationship with him or not. If we were faced with an angel who proved to us irrefutably that there was a God of unlimited and unquestionable power it is likely that we would feel compelled by fear to serve God. And that won’t do. Because what God wants is a loving relationship, for people to choose freely whether to enter into that relationship or not. And therefore God needs to be subtle so that people have a real choice: to trust in God, if they choose, or to deny God and go their own way, if they prefer. So we would expect God to reveal himself to mankind, so they can form relationships with him, but we would not necessarily expect to reveal himself directly to each person individually.

So whilst we might reasonably expect God to reveal information about himself, we should not expect God to do this in a coercive way. More likely God would reveal himself through an intermediary – someone or something that could speak on God’s behalf without forcing people to enter into a relationship with God. One option would be a spokesperson – like a prophet or religious teacher – but their impact is going to be limited. They can only speak to a limited number of people at one time and once they died the message would be gone. A better alternative would be a written message. Something that could be copied multiple times and sent to different parts of the world, and something that would outlive any one individual. It could contain enough information to form the basis of a relationship but would not be intimating or imposing; it would only be influential over those who accepted it. In the ancient world (when there was no radio, television or internet) a written text is the only form of mass communication.

From the 1933 edition of the Bible in the Sout...

From the 1933 edition of the Bible in the Southern Min language (specifically in a Taiwanese dialect influenced by the Amoy (Xiamen) dialect of the time), written in the Latin script. The text itself is in the public domain. This photo is of a recent reprinted edition and is released into the public domain by A-giâu 09:19, 13 Feb 2005 (UTC). The pages shown are of the Book of Proverbs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are limitations to any piece of writing. In a world of many languages, any book would need to be translated and interpreted to make it accessible throughout the world. Any book, if it was to be accessible to its initial readers, would be written with the cultural assumptions of that society. As societies change over time, newer generations might find the cultural assumptions made the book to be unfamiliar or even peculiar. But none of these limitations would be insurmountable as long as readers we focused on the purpose of the book: to build a relationship with God.

The book I have been describing is, of course, the Bible. The point is that it is not unexpected that God should use a book like the Bible to reveal himself. The reasonable next question is whether there is any evidence that the Bible is a revelation from God.

+

Preceding articles:

Why think that (1) … Jesus existed?

Wy think that (2) … Jesus claimed to be something special

Why think that (3) … Jesus rose from the dead

++

Related articles:

  1. Science and God’s existence
  2. Did the Inspirator exist
  3. Does He exists?
  4. Morality, values and Developing right choices
  5. It is a free will choice
  6. Christianity is a love affair
  7. Without God no purpose, no goal, no hope
  8. Being Religious and Spiritual 4 Philosophical, religious and spiritual people
  9. Nuturing a close relationship with God
  10. Our relationship with God, Jesus and eachother
  11. A time for everything
  12. Life is too precious
  13. God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies
  14. Around pre-existence of Christ
  15. Preexistence in the Divine purpose and Trinity
  16. Jesus begotten Son of God #9 Two millennia ago conceived or begotten
  17. How is it that Christ pleased God so perfectly?
  18. The Song of The Lamb #2 Sevens
  19. Christ having glory
  20. Marriage of Jesus 10 Old and New Covenant
  21. Kingdom Visions of a Man, Throne and Great crowd
  22. He may found a kingdom and empire which shall be literally ‘universal’
  23. In the death of Christ, the son of God, is glorification
  24. A Living Faith #10: Our manner of Life #2
  25. Miracles of revelation and of providence 1 Golden Thread and Revelation
  26. Miracles of revelation and of providence 2 Providence
  27. Being Religious and Spiritual 4 Philosophical, religious and spiritual people
  28. Dignified role for the woman
  29. Many Books, yet One
  30. Fragments from the Book of Job #7 Epilogue
  31. Isaiah’s Book of the Messenger of Glad Tidings
  32. Bad things no punishment from God
  33. A Plan spoken of in long past times
  34. You God hold the future
  35. Trusting, Faith, Calling and Ascribing to Jehovah #9 Prayer #7 Reason to pray
  36. Festival of Freedom and persecutions
  37. Zionism comments and the place of Jerusalem in the world
  38. Bible Book of books
  39. The Word of God

+++

  • Your Purpose For Your Life Vs. GOD’s Purpose of Your Life (foodforthespiritualsoul.wordpress.com)
    If there is anything that I have learned about my own life is that whatever I may have thought was the path for my life, was not necessarily the path that God has meant for my life. In other’s words, God has been constantly teaching me about My Will vs. God’s Will. And this is a constant struggle of the flesh, in every way to understand. Not to mention, a true test of your surrendering to the Will of God, the Father of Creation. It requires for one to take paths, that are illogical to the human mind. It requires you to uphold God’s Words, to the point of where there will be moments where you may be “alone” in this world. I put “alone” in quotes because you see, when we truly have come to understand the Unconditional Love that Jesus Christ demonstrated on the Cross, at Calvary, we will truly feel within the deepest parts of our inner selves, the presence of the Omnipresent God.
  • The Theory of Gods Creation in His Own Image (lajbut.wordpress.com)
    God deliberately created mankind to rule the earth and to accomplish this purpose, He created mankind as His own image- He made man His co-regent/representative rules. The image of God therefore refers to our unique status as human beings rulers in Gods stead, according to His will. We are created as his image to function as He would , were he administrating his own affairs directly.
  • The Purpose of Life (thelifeofastrangercalledme.wordpress.com)
  • Reluctant Progressions. (aldavina.wordpress.com)
    Those that talk about our treatment of other people, the holiness of God and how we are to hold that to the highest reverence, but most importantly, the law in which all laws are firmly rooted upon- the law of love.
    +
    To trusting that God has our best interests in mind when He gave His final word. To the beauty of progression.
  • The Bible & You (924jeremiah.wordpress.com)
    The Holy Spirit is God Almighty—He’s not some collection of verses. The Holy Spirit wants to say plenty of original thoughts to you that you aren’t going to find spelled out verbatim in the Book.
    +
    We greatly value having access to the collection of historical documents which Christians call “the Living Word.” But we are not going to pretend that the Book is perfect, because that’s just deception. We are not going to teach you to put your faith in a Book because this is idolatry. God is extremely jealous for our devotion. He commands us to love Him with all that we are, to worship Him alone, and to put nothing else above Him. Many Christians are living in total violation of all these things. They are far more devoted to their own interpretations of the Bible than they are to the teachings of the Holy Spirit. They worship pastors, theologians, and other teachers who claim to be experts on Scripture. They shamelessly exalt the Bible above God by promoting it as some binding contract which He is incapable of breaking. All of these are things which you need to stay far away from if you are going to honor God with your life.
  • Today’s Sabbath Message / “The Holy Bible Versus The Holy Spirit” – Has the Bible Become Our god? (owprince.wordpress.com)
    The Apostles of Christ would refer to The Holy Scriptures (The Torah / Pentateuch) at times to confirm, affirm and proclaim the fulfillment of the promises of God in Christ Jesus our LORD and Savior.  Christ himself often proclaimed that the Holy Scriptures were fulfilled in Him and that The Holy Spirit would reveal all divinely hidden Knowledge and Truth.
  • What About Free Will? (Part 3) (mscottc.wordpress.com)
    According to libertarians, only if we are free to accept or reject God can we have a meaningful relationship with Him.  If our love for God is determined it must mean it is either mechanistically programmed or coerced against our will.  If either notion is true then love would be stripped of its value.  Greg Boyd says, “If love is the goal” of God’s creation of us then love “must be freely chosen. It cannot be coerced. Agents must possess the capacity and opportunity to reject love if they are to possess the genuine capacity and ability to engage in love.”
  • Praying the open view: partnering with God (anopenorthodoxy.wordpress.com)
    most Christians believe that whether God directly intervenes in our world depends at times on whether we petition God to do so. “We have not because we ask not” in the sense that “certain states of affairs that God can and wishes to bring about do not occur because we have chosen not to request that he intervene.” (italics mine) For open theists, how we understand this “because” is what sets an open worldview and its approach to prayer apart from other views. Sanders will emphasize the important of this “because” as well.
  • You are a unique Gospel that God wants to write: Life or lie message? (onedaringjew.wordpress.com)
    Obviously, being a Christian involves having a personal relationship with Jesus but there is content to that relationship. When you lose the Gospel you lose Christ.
  • Which is the True Religion of God? (wifeezat.wordpress.com)
    Each person is born in a circumstance which is not of his own choosing. The religion of his family or the ideology of the state is thrust upon him from the very beginning of his existence in this world. By the time he reaches his teens, he is usually fully brain-washed into believing that the beliefs of his particular society are the correct beliefs that everyone should have. However, when some people mature and are exposed to other belief-systems, they begin to question the validity of their own beliefs.

Why think that (3) … Jesus rose from the dead

The central event of the Christian faith is the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus stayed dead then his own predictions proved false – he was nothing more than a good man with some interesting teaching. But if Jesus rose from the dead then he is someone really special – someone worth believing. What’s more if Jesus rose from the dead then perhaps death isn’t the end – perhaps there is a way for others to overcome death too.

Jesus Resurrection 1778

Jesus Resurrection 1778 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now resurrection isn’t usual. This sort of things doesn’t just happen. Dead people do not come back to life again. So I know full well asking you to believe that Jesus rose from the dead is asking a lot – its asking you to believe in miracles. That’s a problem for some people – we’ll come back to that in Part Two. For now just consider two things: (1) if God created life then surely he is able recreate life, even after it has died, and (2) there is good reason why God might want to be resurrect Jesus, so as to prove that Jesus is God’s representative and to prove that there is life after death. So perhaps you’ll allow that this kind of miracle is a possibility. Now let’s look at the historical evidence. We can summarise the case in four points:

Firstly, Jesus died on the cross. This is not particularly controversial. It was accepted by non-Christians like Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian and the writers of the Talmud. It is, of course, also the unanimous testimony of Christian sources, like the gospels and the letters. Modern medical appraisals of crucifixion have concluded that Jesus could not have survived what he suffered and, in any case, the Romans had ways of ensuring their victims died.

14th century Byzantine Icon of the Descent from the Cross from the Church of Saint Marina in Kalopanagiotis, Cyprus. St. Joseph of Arimathea is the figure standing in the center, in blue-green robes holding the Body of Christ.

14th century Byzantine Icon of the Descent from the Cross from the Church of Saint Marina in Kalopanagiotis, Cyprus. St. Joseph of Arimathea is the figure standing in the center, in blue-green robes holding the Body of Christ.Secondly, Jesus was buried in a tomb. This is also not particularly controversial. The earliest Christian preachers described Jesus being laid in a tomb (Acts 13:28-29). The gospels record how Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus and laid it in his tomb (Mark 15:46; Matt 27:59-60; Luke 23:53; John 19:41-42). The early reverence of a tomb in Jerusalem (whether or not this is actually the tomb of Jesus) is another witness of the type of burial given to Jesus. And no ancient critic of Christianity – whether Jewish or pagan – ever suggested that Jesus was buried somewhere else.

Thirdly, three days later the tomb of Jesus was empty. This is important because for both Jews and pagans “resurrection” (anastasis) meant bodily resurrection – if Jesus was alive again, his tomb must be empty. Again this is a feature of the earliest Christian preaching (cf. Acts 2:29-32) and the gospel records (Mark 16:1-8; Matt 28:1-10; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10). But it is also a feature of the early Jewish accounts of Jesus – from the first century onwards they claimed that the disciple stole the body (Matt 28:11-15; Justin, Dialogue 108; Tertullian, De Spectaculis 30; Toledoth Yeshu 9-10). This story presupposes that they thought the tomb was empty (they would hardly tell such a story if Jesus was still in the tomb). The fact that Caesar issued a decree against moving bodies from sealed tombs and had it inscribed on a stone in Nazareth probably indicates that he too had heard the story that the tomb of Jesus was empty (this decree is known as The Nazareth Inscription).

Fourthly, the early Christians claimed to have seen the risen Jesus. When writing a letter to the church at Corinth in the mid-50s, Paul lists those who saw Jesus after his resurrection, including the twelve disciples and Jesus’ brother James. He even says there are over five hundred other witnesses, many of whom were still alive when he wrote (1 Cor 15:5-8). These claims are also a feature of the earliest Christian preaching (Acts 2:32, 3:15, 10:39-40), the gospels (John 20:11-18; Luke 24:34; Matt 28:15-17, etc.), other New Testament texts (e.g. 1 Pet 1:3; Rom 1:4; Phil 3:10; Heb 13:20; Rev 1:18) and other first century Christian texts (Didache 10:2; 1 Clement 24:1; Barnabas 5:7).

ANGELICO, Fra Resurrection of Christ and Women...

Angelico, Fra Resurrection of Christ and Women at the Tomb Fresco, 189 x 164 cm Convento di San Marco, Florence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This evidence is early, based upon eyewitness testimony and has a consistent core – that Jesus died, was buried and rose again. The resurrection of Jesus is, by far, the simplest explanation of the historical evidence.

What about the alternatives? Well, a number of alternative theories have been suggested to explain the evidence but none has managed to convince the majority of scholars. Those scholars who deny the resurrection generally tend to not give a verdict on the evidence. But, for completeness, let us consider briefly just one oft-repeated alternative. It goes something like this: the disciples stole the body and then pretended Jesus was alive again to promote their new religion. After all, the first century Jews claimed that the disciples stole the body.

However, this alternative theory just does not work for a number of reasons. Firstly, if this was a conspiracy then it was a huge conspiracy (over 500 witnesses). Secondly, the disciples had no motivation for the deception – when other Jewish cult leaders and “messiahs” had met gruesome ends their followers had just disbanded. The early disciples gained neither money, status or fame from their preaching. Thirdly, the disciples had everything to lose from such a deception. They were persecuted, imprisoned and executed by both Jewish and Roman authorities. Early witnesses, like Peter and Paul, met their deaths refusing to renounce their faith. Would you die for a lie?

The simple fact is that the historical evidence is clear and consistent. And if the event in question wasn’t so controversial then I don’t think anybody would doubt it. Unfortunately it is controversial. Because if the resurrection is false then Christianity is false. And if the resurrection is true then Christianity (or at least its core claims) are also true. So a lot hangs on this question. And at the end of the day you’re going to have to make up your own mind for yourself. But if you think that resurrection is possible and if, like me, you think the historical evidence is strong, then you have good reason for thinking that Jesus rose from the dead.

+

Note: Lucian of Samosata

 

Preceding articles:

Why think that (1) … Jesus existed?

Why think that (2) … Jesus claimed to be something special

++

Related articles:

  1. Seeing or not seeing and willingness to find God
  2. Glory of God appearing in our character
  3. On the Nature of Christ
  4. Certainty in a troubled world
  5. Let me keep to “first importance” things
  6. Nazarene Commentary Matthew 3:7-12 – Opposition and Two Baptisms
  7. Nazarene Commentary Matthew 3:13-17 – Jesus Declared God’s Son at His Baptism
  8. 14-15 Nisan and Easter
  9. 14 Nisan a day to remember #3 Before the Passover-feast
  10. Days of Nisan, Pesach, Pasach, Pascha and Easter
  11. A Living Faith #8 Change
  12. The day Jesus died
  13. Jesus begotten Son of God #11 Existence and Genesis Raising up
  14. Jesus is risen
  15. Risen With Him
  16. 3 Reasons the Resurrection Matters
  17. Seven full weeks or seven completed Sabbaths and ascension of Jesus
  18. Shabbat Pesach service reading 1/2
  19. Shabbat Pesach service reading 2/2
  20. Holidays, holy days and traditions
  21. Who Celebrates Easter as Religious Holiday
  22. Easter: Origins in a pagan Christ
  23. Eostre, Easter, White god, chocolate eggs, Easter bunnies and metaphorical resurrection
  24. How long to wait before bringing religiousness and spirituality in practice

+++

  • What criteria do historians use to get to the minimal facts about the historical Jesus? (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
    Have you ever heard Gary Habermas, Michael Licona or William Lane Craig defend the resurrection of Jesus as the best explanation for the “minimal facts” about Jesus? The lists of minimal facts that they use are typically agreed to by their opponents during the debates.
    +
    There are actually a few more reasons for believing in the empty tomb that he doesn’t go into in the debate, but you can find them in his written work. For example, in his essay on Gerd Ludemann’s “vision” hypothesis. That essay covers the reasons for all four of his minimal facts.
  • Rationality of The Resurrection of Jesus (withalliamgod.wordpress.com)
    Moving from historical data to the best explanation of that data Crossan and Ehrman robustly rejects resurrections hypothesis. Their rejection is not based on historical data, but on what best explain these data. It is not a historical based rejection but a philosophical one, the impossibility of miracles.
  • The Resurrection is Believable (burrissblog.wordpress.com)
    Opponents of Christianity and skeptical minds have always questioned the resurrection, just as they question many other teachings of Christianity. Such skeptics are more common in contemporary America, but they have always been around. What is surprising is that more and more Christians are stating their skepticism about the resurrection.
  • William Lane Craig’s case for the resurrection of Jesus (winteryknight.wordpress.com)

    Certain appearances have earmarks of historicity. For example, we have good evidence from the gospels that neither James nor any of Jesus’ younger brothers believed in him during his lifetime. There is no reason to think that the early church would generate fictitious stories concerning the unbelief of Jesus’ family had they been faithful followers all along. But it is indisputable that James and his brothers did become active Christian believers following Jesus’ death. James was considered an apostle and eventually rose to the position of leadership of the Jerusalem church. According to the first century Jewish historian Josephus, James was martyred for his faith in Christ in the late AD 60s. Now most of us have brothers. What would it take to convince you that your brother is the Lord, such that you would be ready to die for that belief? Can there be any doubt that this remarkable transformation in Jesus’ younger brother took place because, in Paul’s words, “then he appeared to James”?

    Even Gert Ludemann, the leading German critic of the resurrection, himself admits, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”
    +
    Gerd Ludemann is actually an atheist new Testament historian, and he has even debated Dr. Craig on the resurrection – not once, but twice. That’s the kind of evidence Dr. Craig uses in his case. Not just what your pastor will give you, but what atheists will give you. We need to learn to debate like that.

     

  • ‘Jesus Discovery:’ Jerusalem Archeology Reveals Birth Of Christianity (fourbluehills.com)
  • What are the arguments for the histority of the empty tomb? (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
    The concept of resurrection in use among the first converts to Christianity was a Jewish concept of resurrection. And that concept of resurrection is unequivocally in favor of a bodily resurrection. The body (soma) that went into the grave is the body (soma) that came out.
    +
    It’s significant that the belief in the resurrection started off in the city where the tomb was located. Anyone, such as the Romans or Jewish high priests, who wanted to nip the movement in the bud could easily have produced the body to end it all. They did not do so, because they could not do so, although they had every reason to do so.
    +
    The phrase “on the third day” probably points to the discovery of the empty tomb. Very briefly summarized, the point is that since no one actually witnessed the resurrection of Jesus, how did Christians come to date it “on the third day?” The most probable answer is that they did so because this was the day of the discovery of the empty tomb by Jesus’ women followers. Hence, the resurrection itself came to be dated on that day. Thus, in the old Christian formula quoted by Paul we have extremely early evidence for the existence of Jesus’ empty tomb.
    +
    Note how careful Craig is not to imply that the guard tradition is historical, because we can’t prove the guard as a “minimal fact”, since it doesn’t pass the standard historical criteria.
  • William Lane Craig debates James Crossley on the resurrection of Jesus (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
    The burial story supports the empty tomb

    • the site of Jesus’ grave was known
    • the disciples could not proclaim a resurrection if the body were still in it
    • the antagonists to the early Christians could have produced the body

    +
    Paul was hostile to the early church when he got his appearance
    +

    there is multiple independent attestation, then it cannot be a creative fiction invented in Mark alone
    regarding the women, even though Jesus respected the women, their testimony would not be convincing to others, so why invent a story where they are the witnesses
    the male disciples did not flee the scene, for example, Peter was there to deny Jesus three times

  • the angel is not authoritative, because the angel cannot be questioned, but the women can be questioned
    there was no response on the lack of embellishment
    there was no response to the earliest Jewish response implying that the tomb was empty
  • The Significance of the Resurrection (spyghana.com)
    The religious leaders would certainly have had enough reason for doing so. They had heard that Jesus had talked of resurrection, and were afraid of hanky-panky. So the argument runs, in order to forestall trickery, they took the precaution of confiscating the corpse. But when this is put into scrutiny, this conjecture also falls into pieces.Having placed the guards at the tomb, what would be their reason for moving the body of Jesus? If the authorities moved the body of Jesus, why didn’t they bring it when the apostles were boldly preaching about the resurrection in Jerusalem? The religious leaders did everything in their power to suppress the preaching on the resurrection. They even arrested Peter and John (Acts 4) and beat them, and threatened them in an effort to silence them.A few weeks of Jesus’ death, the disciples were boldly proclaiming the resurrection. The news spread rapidly. The new Christian movement threatened to undermine the stronghold of Judaism and disturb the peace of Jerusalem. The Jews feared conversion and the Romans detested riots. The authorities had before them one course of action. The Religious leaders could have produced the remains of the corpse of Jesus and published a statement of what they had done. They could have paraded the body of Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem, if indeed, they had it, and that would have smothered Christianity in its cradle. 
  • Guest Post – Jesus’ resurrection and the empty tomb (bennasmith.wordpress.com)
    Why would Matthew fabricate a Jewish cover-story and falsely suggest that it “has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day” (Matt 28:15 NIV)?  He wouldn’t.  Clearly his Jewish audience would have already heard the cover-story.  This is probably why Matthew seeks to rebut it.
    +
    It is wholly implausible that Jesus’ disciples stole his body.  They were broken and confused.  Their Messiah was dead and they had nothing to gain from stealing his body and then claiming he rose from the dead.  Indeed, they suffered greatly for this claim.No amount of cognitive dissonance could possibly motivate every disciple to claim their Messiah was alive when they knew he wasn’t.  We might at most expect them to find a new Messiah, but they didn’t.The second suspects are grave robbers hoping to make a profit.  However, the Gospels of Luke and John record that Jesus’ grave clothes remaining in the tomb. Why would any grave robbers leave the clothes behind?  Moving a body by itself would be incredibly messy.  Those looking for burial spices would almost certainly simply have carried off the wrapped body and removed the spices in a safe place. Even the clothes themselves could have been sold later on.Perhaps instead the robbers wanted body parts for magic practices.  This is unlikely since there is no evidence that stealing bodies for magical purposes was much of a problem in first-century Palestine.

     

  • John, when he reached the tomb, saw and believed (fggam.org)
    John in his first epistle testifies: What we have seen, heard, and touched we proclaim as the word of life which existed “from the beginning” (1 John 1:1-4). John bears witness to what has existed from all eternity.  This “Word of Life” is Jesus the Word incarnate, but also Jesus as the Word announced by the prophets and Jesus the Word now preached throughout the Christian church for all ages to come. One thing is certain, if Jesus had not risen from the dead and appeared to his disciples, we would never have heard of him.  Nothing else could have changed sad and despairing men and women into people radiant with joy and courage. The reality of the resurrection is the central fact of the Christian faith. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord gives us “eyes of faith” to know him and the power of his resurrection. The greatest joy we can have is to encounter the living Christ and to know him personally as our Savior and Lord.the witnesses were in Jerusalem, so they were in a position to knowif the story is made up, who cares what the male disciples did, just invent them on the scene anyway