Questioning the Credibility of the New Testament.

confused-man1

Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William Jackson

 

When I was a Christian, I made certain assumptions about the New Testament.  Firstly, that it’s books were written by the Apostles as the events happened.  Secondly, that the 27 books were accepted by the Christian Community after they were penned. Understandably, if anyone in church gave the actual history, other questions would have arised and the book’s credibility would have been challenged.  Of course, this would have led to compromising the integrity of Christian theology.  So, to quote Christianity, “For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man” (2 Corinthians 8:21), thus said, let’s put all the cards on the table and allow the truth to speak.

For starters, the four gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not written by their namesake 1. Point and case is, Justin Martyr, a second century Christian apologist, who quoted verses from each of the gospels.  He, however, never referred to any the gospels by their given names. Instead, he referred to them as the ‘Memoires of the Apostles’ 2 . The reason for this is that the original gospels were not named.  So why were they give the names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?  Well, around the second century, the church felt the need to give them Apostle authority.  What better way of endorsing a gospel then giving it an Apostle’s name. Obviously, Luke was not an Apostle, but Luke being Paul’s traveling companion gave instant credibility to the book of Luke by using his name.

Additionally, the probability that the gospels were written by either the Apostles or another firsthand observer of the event is highly unlikely.  For starters, they were not written in Aramaic, the language of the Apostles. They were written in Greek.  Some might say the lost originals were written in Aramaic.  There are a couple of problems with this; firstly, any word play in the gospels is uniquely Greek, secondly the authors made mistakes in the Jewish culture of that day 3 .  Adding to all this, is that the accounts are written in the third person versus  being first hand accounts. Clearly, if they were written by their namesake, they would have been written in the first person.

Compounding the situation was that there were more than 27 Christian books.  Actually, sources say there were from 79 4 to over 200 1 Christian writings and over 50 gospels (see listing below).  So why are these books not part of the New Testament?  It is simple, many of these books contradicted one another.  Likewise, with early Christianity, there was much end fighting between different theologies.  This caused the church to accept only certain books which supported their theology  This was known as canonization.  However, this would not take place until 393 CE or over three centuries after Christianity was born. Giving Christianity 300 years to form before committing to a written doctrine challenges it’s purity from its original foundation.  Likewise, this gives cause for concern about the authenticity of the New Testament books.

Conclusion:

To validate the New Testament, we use the Tanakh (Old Testament).  I am pretty sure that’s why Christianity glues it to the first half of their bible.  In His written word, God does give authorizations for added books beyond His Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).  This is found in Deuteronomy 18:15 – 22.  Here, God says that he will provide Prophets , and He did.  This is where we have the books of the Prophets, which combined with the Torah, helps to make up the Tanakh (or Christian Old Testament). If you study these 8 verses you will find one needs to be a proven Prophet and an Israelite for the authority to write God’s written Word.   God also warns in these passages about wrongful teachings.  So, at the end of the day, if somebody insists that the the New Testament books were written by Apostles and friends of Apostles.  You need to remind them that these were not Prophets, making their credibility void.

 

References:

  1. Crabtree, Vexen. “Who Wrote the Four Gospels of the New Testament? An Introduction to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.” Www.humanreligions.info. N.p., 2015. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.
  2. Ehrman, Bart D., Forged: Writing in the Name of God–why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are Paperback, 6 Mar 2012
  3. Stait, L. Paul, Ph.D. “Is It True That Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John Were Named Centuries after Publication, and Were Not Actually Penned by Those Named?” Quora. N.p., 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.
  4. Carpenter, Chris – Director of Internet Programming, “The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities.” CBN.com (beta). N.p., 11 Nov. 2016. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

List of all Gospels:(Waite, Charles B. History of the Christian religion, to the year two hundred. Chicago: C.V. Waite & Co., 1884. Print. )

The Canonized Gospels:

  1. Gospel of Mark
  2. Gospel of Matthew
  3. Gospel of Luke
  4. Gospel of John

Gnostic gospels:

  1. Gospel of Thomas
  2. Gospel of Marcion
  3. Gospel of Basilides
  4. Gospel of Truth (Valentinian)
  5. Gospel of the Four Heavenly Realms
  6. Gospel of Mary
  7. Gospel of Judas
  8. Greek Gospel of the Egyptians
  9. Gospel of Philip
  10. A Syriac language
  11. Gospel of Perfection
  12. The Gospel of the Lots of Mary

Jewish-Christian gospels

  1. Gospel of the Hebrews
  2. Gospel of the Nazarenes
  3. Gospel of the Ebionites
  4. Gospel of the Twelve

Infancy gospels

  1. Armenian Infancy Gospel

  2. Protoevangelium of James
  3. Libellus de Nativitate Sanctae Mariae (Gospel of the Nativity of Mary)
  4. Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew
  5. History of Joseph the Carpenter
  6. Infancy Gospel of Thomas
  7. Latin Infancy Gospel
  8. Syriac Infancy Gospel

Other gospels

  1. Gospel of the Lots of Mary

  2. Gospel of Peter

Fragmentary preserved gospels

  1. Gospel of Eve

  2. Gospel of Mani
  3. Gospel of the Saviour
  4. Coptic Gospel of the Twelve

Reconstructed gospels

  1. Secret Gospel of Mark
  2. Gospel of Matthias

Lost gospels

  1. Gospel of Cerinthus
  2. Gospel of Apelles
  3. Gospel of Valentinus[5]
  4. Gospel of the Encratites[6]
  5. Gospel of Andrew
  6. Gospel of Barnabas
  7. Gospel of Bartholomew – mentioned by only two 5th-century sources which list it as apocryphal.[8]
  8. Gospel of Hesychius
  9. Gospel of Lucius
  10. Gospel of Merinthus
  11. Gospel of the Adversary of the Law and the Prophets [12]
  12. Memoirs of the Apostles

Fragments of possibly unknown or lost (or existing) gospels

  1. Papyrus Egerton 2
  2. Fayyum Fragment
  3. Oxyrhynchus Papyri
  4. Gospel of Jesus’ Wife
  5. Papyrus Berolinensis
  6. Papyrus Cairensis
  7. Papyrus Merton 51
  8. Strasbourg Fragment
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Why Did Christianity Make Rome Look So Good?

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William Jackson

History tell us that Rome ruled over Israel with an iron fist during the time of Jesus.  Yet, when we read the New Testament, although Roman cruelty is professed, we also see the Roman softer side. For example, we have the faithful Roman Officer in Matthew 8:10 and the hesitation of Emperor Pilate in cosigning Jesus’ demise.  Understandably, this duality of Rome seems questionable, it being both cruel and compassionate. Often when historical accounts clash there is a third answer lurking just below the surface.  Come, let us use historical facts and the New Testament to determine Rome’s underlying motive.

Ecce_homo_by_Antonio_Ciseri_(1)

Roman Authority:  Pontius Pilate was the Roman Governor that will always be known throughout history as giving  Jesus’ death sentence. As sources from that period, we have two credible Jewish writers; Philo of Alexandria and Titus Flavius Josephus 1.  Both report that Pilate kept the Jewish populace on the fringe of insurrections because of his insensitivity to Jewish customs. For starters, Philo describes that Pilate intentionally had graven images displayed in Jerusalem to antagonize the Jews.  Josephus also records how Pilate spent Temple monies to build an aqueduct.  In doing this, he anticipated a protest.  Pilate, eager for a fight, had assassins placed in the protesting crowd that ended up killing antagonists after the first sign of Jewish dissension. As Philo so accurately says about Pilate, he possessed a  “vindictiveness and furious temper”, and was “naturally inflexible, a blend of self-will and relentlessness”.  Yet, when we read from the gospels; Matthew (Matthew 27), Mark (Mark 15), Luke (Luke 23) and John (John 18-19), we see this cruel decisive Roman Ruler portrayed as uncertain and passive.  Here, Jesus’ executioner, who has never had a problem with killing a Jew and starting a rebellion before, now is painted as a bureaucratic victim to the Jewish will – “really?”.  To further validate this point, Christianity gives the brunt of the blame to the Jew (1 Thessalonians 2:14-15, Acts 7:52).  Allegations against the Jews like this are confounding, especially since it was the Romans who not only killed Jesus, but also tortured him. Another interesting twist is how, at the end of the gospels, it is Romans that vindicate Jesus by stating “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54) and “Certainly this man was innocent!” (Luke 23:47).  Talk about wagging the dog.

Yes, as Christians, we were taught that Pilate’s hesitation was because he was in awe, secretly knowing this was the Messiah.  Ok, let us pretend that is correct.  Here we have a Roman ruler looking for every excuse in the book to antagonise the Jews and their establishment.  So, why wouldn’t he let this self proclaimed “King of the Jews” live?  What better way to come up against the Jewish hierarchy?  I mean really, Pilate was already employing every excuse to vex the Jewish people possible.  Yet, we are to believe that this evil Pilate caves in and all of a sudden decides to become conflicted, loyal to the wishes of a people he loathes?

RH-JesusAndCenturian

And what about the other Roman officials?  If we can believe the historical writers of the day about Pontius Pilate, we can also assume that his officers would not have been friendly with the locals, to say the least.  We could also assume that the Jewish people didn’t have a lot of love for their oppressors.  Nonetheless, Jesus makes boastful claims about Roman Officers and officials such as “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! (Matthew 8:10) and “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” (Luke 7:9). Wow, so these pagans have been elevated over God chosen people (Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 7:6-8, 14:2), talk about an awesome PR campaign.

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Taxes: Roman Taxes imposed on the average Israelite during the beginning of the first century common era (CE) would have only been about 1 % of a worker’s income 2. This certainly makes most of us Americans, who are paying over 30% in taxes 3, a little jealous. Notwithstanding, this 1% tax situation, wasn’t the real issue.  It was the additional taxes, for example, there was a customs taxes, import and export taxes, toll bridges, crop taxes, sales tax, property taxes, and special taxes when there was a war, building project or campaign to finance.  18th century America went to war with England over less.  Compounding the problem was the tax collectors, who being native Israelites, made their money by adding to the taxes they collected.  This is why the New Testament has so much to say against the tax collector(Matthew 9:11, Luke 7:34, 15:1, 18:11).  It is, however,  interesting that the resentment is only aimed at these Israelites and not Rome.

On top of these exorbitant taxes was a moral issue, many Jews felt paying taxes to the Roman Empire was a sin.  Yet, we have Jesus making the statement;

 “Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” (Matthew 22:21).

This certainly pacified Christians of that day giving them a theology to be subservient and pay taxes to an occupational force.  Yes, the Tanakh (Old Testament) does support being responsible to the laws of the land (Proverbs 21:1 Daniel 2:21, 4:17), but this was taxation “without” representation. As we have seen with the Torah, we do have a moral responsibility to come up against the establishment when things are unjust (Genesis 21:22–34, 31:1-18, Exodus 1:1:15-21) .

So, why the positive spin towards Rome? Simply said, it is very possible Rome had a lot to gain from Christianity and capitalized from it.  Consulting the history books, shortly after the supposed New Testament was penned, Rome would crush Israel in the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73 CE).  As brutal as this was to Israel, there would be two more consecutive Jewish Roman Wars (115-117 CE and 132-136 CE).  Consequently, paralleling these Roman Wars against Jewish Israel was the Roman persecution of the Christians.  There were centuries where Rome tried to eliminate both Judaism and Christianity. However, about three centuries after Christianity was formed, things would turn around.  The Roman Emperor Constantine became one of Christianity’s greatest supporters, and in 313 CE Constantine enacted legislation to protect this new religion. Over 60 years after that, Christianity would bcome the religion of Rome 4.  Conversely, at the same time, Constantine passed restrictions towards Judaism.

So, how did the gospels ended up favoring Rome, when it would take about 300 years for Rome to favor the gospels?  Well, the Christian New Testament, as we know it, didn’t come into being until 393 CE 5 (about 3 decades after Christianity became the religion of Rome).  Before the process of accepting these 27 books that would become the New Testament, there were over 100 books and over 50 gospels 6 that Christians followed.  These 150 plus books presented a problem.  Many of them contradicted each other and challenged the new Roman Christian theology. So, after this collection of Christian books was pared down, only 27 remained.  Likewise, from the over 50 gospels only four were chosen.  These four books, not surprisingly, endorsed Christianity’s new homeland – Rome.

Conclusion:

As Karl Marx so eloquently states it, “Religion is the opium of the people”. Constantine lived this maxim, well before Mr. Marx coined it.  One of the things that may have inspired Constantine, could have been the vigor of the Christian martyr. As we know, many early Christians easily exchanged their lives, so as to not swear allegiance to the Roman Emperor. This martyrdom, which might have seemed foolish, surely gave testimony of a convicted people.  Rome might have tried to harness this passion.  Another possibility is that Christianity may have been such a strong movement that Rome got caught up in the inertia.  Either way, Rome appeared to have colored the early Christian writings to make them appear to support the Empire (Taxes and Authority), while ostracizing Judaism.

References:

      1. Wylen, Stephen M., The Jews in the Time of Jesus: An Introduction, Paulist Press (1995), ISBN 0-8091-3610-4, Pp 190-192.
      2. Kasten, Patricia. “When Taxes Came Due in Jesus’ Time.” The Compass. N.p., 15 Apr. 2016. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.
      3. Feroldi, Brian. “How Much Does the Average American Pay in Taxes?” The Motley Fool. The Motley Fool, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.
      4. “Rome Becomes Christian, Western Empire Ends.” Timeline of Early Christianity–The Lost Gospel of Judas–National Geographic. National Geographic, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2017
      5. McDonald & Sanders’ The Canon Debate, Appendix D-2, note 19, 1 Dec. 2001.
      6. Waite, Charles B. History of the Christian religion, to the year two hundred. Chicago: C.V. Waite & Co., 1884. Print.

“Five Responses to Christianity”

Arguing

Center for Tanakh Based  Studies

By: William J Jackson

Many of us have studied ourselves out of Christianity.  As past members of the Christian community, we realize the responsibility they have to return us to the fold. In these encounters, I find the best technique to defusing these interventions is a willingness to listen, but with a stipulation that it will be a two-way conversation with the Tanakh (Old Testament) being the deciding factor.  Most Christians will shrink before this challenge, however, if any truly want an open conversation, here are five important bullet points:

  1. God, alone,  is our Savior.
    1 – Isaiah 43:11, 45:21, Hosea 3:4                                                                                                        Is43
  1. Jesus admits he is not God.
    2 – Mark 10:18, 16:19, John 14:1, 28, Luke 22:4                          24607
  2. No one can intercede on our behalf before God (not even Jesus).
    3 – Exodus 32:30-33, Deuteronomy 24:16, Jeremiah 31:29-30, 2 Chronicles 25:4 and 2 Kings 14:5-6                 Righteousness in Salvation4. The plan of salvation was already written in the Tanakh (Old Testament).
    4 – Malachi 3:16, 4:2, Psalm 50:23, 62:1-7, 70:5

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  1. A sacrifice is not required for salvation, repentance is.
    5 – 1 Samuel 15: 22, Hosea 6:6, Psalm 51:17 (V19 in Tanakh), Proverbs 21:3                                                                                untitled

At the end of the day, it really is all about what God and His written word say’s.

References:

  1. Jackson, William J. “Who is really the Savior?” Center for Tanakh Based Studies, 01 Mar. 2015,  Web. 09 Mar. 2017
  1.   Jackson, William J. “Are Jesus and G-d One?” Center for Tanakh Based Studies, 04 Mar. 2015,  Web. 09 Mar. 2017
  2.   Jackson, William J. “Why Repenting of Sins is Done Through YHVH, Only ” Center for Tanakh Based Studies, 18 June 2015,  Web. 09 Mar. 2017
  3.   Jackson, William J. “Jesus States Salvation is through God’s Word, Not Resurrection” Center for Tanakh Based Studies, 04 Oct. 2016,  Web. 09 Mar. 2017
  4.    Jackson, William J. “Christian Discrepancies With God’s Word: #5 Sin Sacrifice” Center for Tanakh Based Studies, 20 Sep. 2016,  Web. 09 Mar. 2017