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Feedback #4

Names and e-mail addresses have been witheld to protect the guilty. If you recognise your letter here, and wish to have your name and address displayed, feel free to contact me.

Received: 4/16/98

I read your web page regarding the discrepancies in the birth accounts of Jesus.

If such discrepancies exist is it possible that the Resurrection is also a myth? If it were true one would think Josephus would have recorded such an event. Is this so and do we have all Josephus' writings from that time?

We have all of Josephus' writing. One thing to bear in mind is that Josephus wrote his history about AD 70. He was a young child when Christ died, and never claimed to be an eyewitness. There are two references to Jesus in 'Antiquities'. One of them mentions Jesus in passing as the brother of James. It is not possible to determine of this is the same Jesus of the New Testament.

The other, longer passage, mentions the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. However, there is a problem. This passage appears in a very different form in some of the earlier manuscripts of Josephus' writings. Further, the earliest Christian writers (such as Origen) referred to the smaller quotation from Josephus (about being the brother of James) when trying to prove that Jesus was the Messiah, but never mentioned the longer passage. The consensus is that the longer passage is a later interpolation into the works of Josephus by a Christian writer.

As to the resurrection itself - the conflict of detail in the Gospels is a good clue that we are dealing with a mythological event. Add to this the fact that the earliest epistle of Paul (I Corinthians) which predates the gospels by about forty years, gives very different details about the Resurrection.

Received: 4/14/98

I think a good addition for your "Doomsday" list would be Hal Lindsey, author of the book, _The Late, Great, Planet Earth_. When I read this book when I was in high school (around 1975, I believe), Lindsey predicted that the Tribulations would start around 1980. Although Lindsey's book is not very popular now, it was very popular then. In fact, the students who recruited new members for the Cavalry Chapel at my school (yes, it was a public high school, but that's another story) used that book in their recruitment pitches. I don't know if that book is still in print, but I know from talking to friends who are evangelicals that he has revised that prediction at least once and maybe twice. In addition, I have seen him on television and I assume he is still predicting the end of the world.

My other suggestion is Dr Jack van Impe. He hosts this show on late-night TV (I can't remember the name because I was channel surfing) where he attempts to link current events to biblical prophecy. It is very entertaining show (although not in that way he intends). In addition, I believe he has a Web site you could provide a link to.

Thanks for your info. I seem to recall reading the Late Great Planet Earth many years ago, when I was still a Christian. I don't remember too much about it unfortunately. I'll have a look around and see if I can find a quote from one of his later books. The problem with Lindsey is that he tends to hedge his bets. In other words, he won't come right out and give a date. This leaves plenty of "wiggle room" when the prophecies fail.

I added Jack van Impe recently.

Received: 4/11/98

Your hope that you can explain away as fraudulent the Book of Mormon published by, and the Church founded by, J. Smith, through claiming he was a highly-intelligent, extraordinarily-educated, and wanting-to-do-evil kind of person is only that: a hope. He did not have the time, nor the education, nor the resources, nor the physical possibility, nor of having had available to him literary works he could inderstand; from which he could possibly have "created' the first 20 pages of the Book of Mormon. You know the impossibilities of his "creating" this book are entirely real, and you also know that to profess an un-biased interest in these subjects, while refusing any basis of science, (as in a scientist would not quote an unavailable work-in fact a work not even known to exist), as proof of your hypothesis, put you in a position in which you know you must be ashamed of yourself. J. Smith did indeed see what he claimed to see, and he was in fact exactly who he claimed to be. Of all the religions, only Mormonism puts itself into a posititon where it can almost definitely be proved through quantitative analysis. Your pretending to be a part of science, of objective analysis and of quantitive study; while really psychologically making a cop-out for your own life (a life which by definition of your works must be quite unsatisfying to you), do not change the reality of the Book of Mormon, the Mormon Priesthood Authority, the fact the Chuch is True and Living and the veracity of J. Smith as a true prophet chosen of God. It is an excuse for your own sins and weaknesses to claim to accept ancient prophets (who do not live or command in your own time) while eschewing as frauds modern prophets who would have effect on your life if you had the discipline to follow them. Even if you need psychologically to hate the LDS church, please have the class and self-respect to do something of value with your life. You are lost, but this is the best advice I can give you: find something of value/goodness and better yourself through advancing such a cause. And may God have mercy on your lost soul.

Your diatribe would be far more effective if you could actually produce any proof for any of your claims. All you have done is give me your opinion. While it may be important to you, it counts for exactly nothing in a reasoned debate. Please provide some objective proof for your assertions if you expect anyone to pay attention.

Received: 4/11/98

I read your article: Here are my comments:

a) The earliest gospel (Mark's) did not have any resurrection story at first. Very important. You should have stressed that.

b) According to Luke, all resurrection "flesh and bone" appearances took place in Jerusalem (actually in the gospel and acts, the disciples are ordered to stay in Jerusalem. In acts, up to Pentecost). That conflicts with Mark where they are told to meet Jesus in Galilee and when Jesus prophecies they would disowned him and dispersed (which I believe they did, likely for years). In Luke, disciples and Galileans followers stay grouped in Jerusalem up to at least Pentecost and after the ascension. Jesus appears to them all at the same time (That means that Paul's list is not followed, even in Luke, as you said per error).

c) That means that Jesus could not appear to the 11 on top a the mountain in Galilee as in Matthew, or by the lake, as in John.

d) In Luke, there are 11 disciples at the first apparition (12 minus Judas). In John, there are only 10 (minus Thomas and Judas).

e) You are right. The resurrection appearances are a piece of crap and I feel ashamed, as a human being, that many (Christians) believe in that garbage (and many other things).

f) I could say a lot more on the subject. Please check me out on http://www.concentric.net/~Mullerb/index.shtml. I got a site on the historical Jesus (including his followers and brothers never believed in him going to heaven or resurrected. With documented "evidence")

Received: 4/5/98

I am not writing to argue with your beliefs. You will find an extremely in-depth and intellectual web site concerning the Book of Mormon at http://www.athenet.net/~jlindsay/BMEvidences.shtml#index.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints myself, I wll admit that there are questions for which I probably could not give an accurate scholarly answer. However, I have read the Book or Mormon myself and testify to you that it is true. I have come to know this through sincere prayer, a "broken heart and contrite spirit", and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This web site will be of little value to you if you cannot read the articles with an open mind.

I have already read most of the articles at Jeff's site. In fact, in his defense of the Book of Abraham, he actually posted parts of an e-mail exchange that I had with him.

Suffice it to say that I don't put much stock in his "proofs". They are purely circumstantial and superficial, and have been dealt with many times already.

I maintain that the purpose of apologetics is to reassure the faithful, not to convince the unbeliever. I think that Jeff's site, intelligent though it may be, underscores that point.

Received: 4/2/98

I've just visited your web site for the first time and read with great interest. You are obviously very driven by something. What? A search for the truth? Which truth?

Historical? Spiritual?

Everyone has a God; Something that causes them to get out of bed in the morning and press on toward whatever they hope is at the end of their life's journey.

We're all searching for that "something" that will give some meaning and direction to our lives. Right or wrong, the Bible has been spectacularly successful in speaking to that need for many people.

I am college educated and trained as an engineer. I have been taught to deal in facts only. So I easily appreciate what you are trying to do. But attempting to prove or disprove the literal accuracy of the bible misses the point.

Try this: Go to a quiet place, close your eyes, and listen to the small voice in your head. What is it saying? Ask the voice -- Who am I? Why am I here? Am I supposed to accomplish something? What? How? Am I living as I should? How do I seperate right from wrong/good from bad? What's really important?

If the teachings of Jesus help you deal with these central issues and lead you toward a life full of peace, hope, and love, then the Bible holds great value for you. If not, than even if it were a "perfect" book by your academic standards, it is worthless.

Ask yourself this: If you are convinced that the Bible has no meaning or value, why are you expending so much time and energy trying to convince yourself and others of that fact? Something about it must bug you.

John Wesley said the two most important days in every person's life are the day they are born and the day they understand why. You obviuosly haven't experienced the 2nd day. But I applaud how aggressively you are pursuing your quest. Please let me know what you find.

Received: 3/26/98

I have been a student of Mormonism for quite awhile and I appreciate the EXHAUSTIVE work that has gone on to create you pages.

While not an agnostic like yourself (I'm more a christian believer leaning a bit to the left) I thought I'd write you a note in appreciation of your resources.

I'm glad that you enjoyed it. As you are probably aware, I used to be a Christian believer, too. Ironically, it was my study of Mormonism that first alerted me to the fact that there might be something wrong with Christianity. Anyway, to each his own...

Received: 3/16/98

Your theory that conversions are emotional and de-conversions are thought-generated has a lot to recommend it.

I was raised Catholic (old line, in the 50's and 60's), with several priests in the family, nuns too, etc. I went through all the motions but actually, I never really gave it much thought at all.

Christianity is all over America, this is a really big Catholic town, and I just never really questioned it anymore than someone in Iraq or India would question their religions. As I kid though, I do remember thinking a lot of times in religion classes "this stuff is pretty hokey", so maybe the seeds of "infidel" were there a long time.

Around age 35 I went through a very painful divorce, and the "emotions" were kicked into overdrive.

I was searching everywhere for anything. I met a nice "fundie" friend and next thing you know I was doing fundie stuff. That lasted about a year at most, but I can now appreciate the mindset of the fundies. For a while there I really believed all that stuff, and actually remember watching Pat Robertson, Fallwell et al on TV and saying to myself, "Tell 'em guys!"

Fortunately, I also ran into an old friend I hadn't seen since childhood and he said, "Doug, have you ever really thought about all this Christian stuff?....Absurd is putting it mildly". To which I replied, "What do you mean?" A dialogue ensued, I started to think for myself, and here I am.

So, I guess I confirm your theory. "Emotions" got me into fundamentalism, and thinking got me out of it.

If more people thought (few do) there wouldn't be as many Christians running around as there are. I would also be willing to bet that not 1 in a 1,000 Christians has actually read the Bible, cover to cover. A relatively few passages are picked out and preached from the pulpits over and over.


My older daughter is in college at Emory Univ. in Atlanta, biology major. Well, she met a nice looking guy who happens to be a Mormon. Guess what? (Howd'ya know?)

I sent her the link to your website, and now she's back to her old self again. She's still questioning the theism/athiesm thing, but at least she's thinking. I'll let her make up her own mind.

So here's a big THANK YOU. Out in the vastness of cyberspace, your website has had at least one definite and concrete success story.

Received: 3/9/98

I unfortunately was unable to read the entirety of your text, but I read enough to recognize the general flow of your argument and the direction of your argument.

To begin with, I notice that you refer to all that hold the view that JEDP is incorrect are automatically fundamentalist christians. I and many others, who do not consider themselves fundamentalist, while certainly conservative, would certainly disagree with your assessment and label. I think that the many very excellent conservative and orthodox Jews out there who disagree with you would also reject your label.

Second, I think that you yourself have failed to fully research the alternative viewpoints to JEDP. As a matter of fact, Wellhausian source criticism is very much out of fashion with even the so called "theological liberals." They simply still allude to it because there is nothing better (other than accepting the text as it is, heaven forbid!), to fall back on. There have been many excellent responses to JEDP made by conservatives. I wuold refer you to Gleason Archer's Survey of Old Testament Introduction to begin with.

Third,your own "evidence" you point to is flawed. Every evangelical scholar that I know of would agree with your assessment of the quotation from Samuel. We would disagree on your dating. It does not HAVE to be as late as JEDP assumes. Rather, the much older tradtion that Samuel wrote the material can very well explain the need for explanation. The notion that usage of different names indicates different sources has been showed to be deeply flawed by Gleason Archer and other great conservative scholars. Finally, I have been told by people I respect (Ihave yet to actually read him myself) that Umberto Cassuto shows the deep anti-semitic assumptions that underlie the JEDP theory.

If I have time, I will come back and more thouroughly analyze your paper. So many web pages, so little time...

I suggest that you get hold of a good book on textual criticism. One of the best is Richard Friedman's "Who Wrote the Bible?". When I read this book, it was like wiping off a dirty window and being able to see the outside for the first time. At last, I was able to really understand the Bible.

As I said in my article, many people criticize the JEDP theory without ever really coming to grips with the evidence in its favour, which is indeed substantial.

Received: 2/5/98

Why do you call yourself Agnostic instead of just admitting that you are an atheist? There is no middle ground, you either believe in a god or you don't.

Actually, atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive. Atheism deals with belief - I lack a belief in God, therefore I am atheist. Agnosticism deals with knowledge. I am of the opinion that questions concerning the existence of God cannot be answered. Therefore I am agnostic. There is no conflict.

Received: 1/26/98

How is it that you don't know?. Can you prove that God does not exist? The knoweledge of God and His existance can be approached from all logical points of view. From medicine, biology & chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology and history. These all provide a sufficent number of facts and evidence to support a confident position for the existance of God and the origin of life. Faith is the "Bridge" ingredient for believing anything. Faith based on facts and faith based on dispositions arevery different. If someone has already decided that they do not want to believe in God or any ideas related to the subject, no mannner of evidence or fact will change their mind. What the heart shuts out the mind will never except, even truth, love, joy etc.

Several problems here - first, it is not up to me to prove that God does not exist. Since you are making the positive assertion, it is up to you to prove that he does. I might as well ask you to prove that there are no invisible pink unicorns.

Second, you state that there are a number of facts which provide sufficient evidence to support the existence of God, but you fail to list any. Am I simply supposed to take your word for it? Surely you are aware that there are any number of alternative explanations for the origin of the Universe which do not need the concept of a God?

I think you may have the charge about "those who do not want to believe" backwards. In my experience, those who want to believe will do so, and no amount of facts or reason will change their minds. Whether the object of that belief be Jesus, Allah, Krishna or whomever, it makes no difference.

I, on the other hand, would very much like to believe. I would like to know that there is someone out there looking out for me, and that I will continue after death. However, I see no good evidence to hold these beliefs, and I feel that it is far better to face life head on, and enjoy it to the fullest, rather than waste it all chasing after phantoms.

Many men and women more knowledgeable than you or I have come to the conclusion that there is a God with a plan and a purpose. The simplest and most power way to find out is just to ask. If there is a God, if He does care about you and He is personal, then if you ask him to reveal Himself to you then He will. It costs nothing to ask yet I believe if you do with an honest heart what you will recieve will be price-less.

....and many equally knowledgeable people have concluded that there is no god. Appealing to authority solves nothing. As for asking god to reveal himself, I have done so, on many occasions, with all sincerity. However, I am now of the opinion that if god truly did exist, and if he did indeed want all mankind to be saved, then he would find a way to reveal himself that brooks no argument.

Free will is only useful if there are clear-cut choices. If god revealed himself to mankind in an unmistakable manner, and I then chose to reject him, he would be quite justified in inflicting any punishment on me that he desired. However, since he has apparently not chosen to do so, I find that he is not justified in any way for inflicting punishment on the unbeliever. To do so would be immoral.

Received: 11/23/97

I understand you are an agnostic. Your penultimate paragraph said that there is no difference as the apologetic method that you used to defend theBible could just as easily be used to defend other holy books. I believe you are mistaken. Does any of the so called holy books say that their "gods" performed miracles?

Yes. The Koran records that Mohammed split the Moon in two. The Bhagavad-Gita records that Krisnha could make his chariot fly, and was able to perform many miracles. Almost all the various religious traditions have stories of miracles.

Does any of their so called gods raise themselves on the third day after they have died!!

Yes. The concept of the dying and resurrected god was very prevalent in the ancient traditions. The Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans all told stories about their gods who died and were resurrected. There is a detailed article on my website about this issue. See "The Myth of the Resurrection" by Joseph McCabe.

Jesus's grave is empty!!! The one and only. And these are all recorded. How can you say that you know the bible well? How can you say that there is no difference!

Please tell me how you know that Jesus' tomb is empty? All we have to go on are the Gospel stories, which contradict each other so often that it is almost impossible to come up with a coherent narrative of the Resurrection events. Secular history makes almost no mention at all of Jesus, much less that he was resurrected. There is no more proof that Jesus was raised from the dead than Bacchus, Tammuz, Osiris, Baal, or any other of the host of resurrected gods that exist in ancient religious traditions.

I can quite easily say that there is no difference, becuase that is the simple truth. There is very little in Christinaity that did not exist in ancient religions.

Please revisit your Bible. Please pray to Jesus to open your eyes and give you the wisdom. God created us; how can you outguess him. I found Jesus. There is no other! This is the Truth that you should be seeking.

It doesn't help to make unsupported assertions. If you are going to say "there is no other", you have to prove it. I am not simply going to take your word for it. Please show me why I should believe that the Bible is inspired, any more than the Koran, or the Gita, or the Book of Mormon.

Received: 11/23/97 (in response to above)

When I say miracles I mean raising people from the dead, healing the blind, sick etc....not making chariots fly or splitting the moon into two.

A miracle is defined as a suspension of natural laws. You can't use your own definition for "miracle", and then arbitralily decide that only Jesus performed real miracles. The fact is that Mohammed, Krishna, and a host of others also performed miracles. There is just as much evidence for these "miracles" as there is for those of Jesus.

If, however, it is miracles of healing that you want, there are plenty of those too. Have a look sometime at the life of Apollonius of Tyana. According to legend, his birth was attended by miraculous signs, and in later life he was able to heal the sick with just a touch.

Also, did any other say that they are the "Son of God. I am the way and the life?" Mohd did not say that, because he is not. Krishna is more of a folklore and story.

Mithras, the old Persian Deity, who existed a thousand years before Christ was born, and who became the basis of the dominant religion of Rome, is called "the Son of God" many times in the religious writings of the Zend-Avesta.

As for Krishna being folklore, the same can be said of Jesus. Outside of the Bible, there is very little evidence that Jesus actually existed, and that he had such an impact that is claimed. Personally, I think that there was a real historical person called Jesus, but just like Buddha, Krishna, or any other religious founder, the stories that were written about him after his death are probably mythological.

You mentioned the raising of the dead is prevalent in "ancient traditions". The Bible is not a tradition. Jesus coming, his death and resurrection was foretold in great details by the old testament prophets thousands of years before the arrival of Jesus himself. By the way, Jesus' resurrection is not a concept and contrary to what you said, the fact that it was recorded by different people speaks volume not to mentioned it was witnessed by thousands. The point here is that Jesus was resurrected exactly as was foretold. There is no contradiction. What has the Koran or the Gita have to say about their god's resurrection. Please do not get confused with paganism that over the centuries was created by men for their own interest (just like Christmas) and what the Bible says. Same for the Koran and the Gita.

Please give me an Old Testament prophecy that says that the Messiah would be crucified and raised again on the third day. Please note that I need a detailed, specific prophecy. I am not interested in vague ramblings that could apply to just about anyone.

Please give me an Old Testament prophecy that says the Messiah would be named "Jesus".

You seem to accept a whole lot of things with no good reason. How do you know that there were "thousands" of witnesses to Christ's resurrection? I am not interested in what you happen to think is true. Tell me why it is true.

As for there being no contradiction in the Resurrection accounts, let me ask you one simple question. Did Mary see Jesus before she called the other disciples, as Matthew claimed (Matthew 28:8-10), or did she see Jesus after she called the other disciples, as John claimed (John 20:1-16)?

Secular history is exactly that. It is written by mere men to "shut out" the truth about Jesus. You cannot be serious as to refer to it as authoritative. Have you heard of the Dead Sea Scroll? Have you heard about aerial photographs of the Noah's Ark on Mt Ararat?

This is too funny. Surely you don't expect me to believe that a photo of some rocks is supposed to be Noah's ark? You may want to check your sources - at least one of those "Ark expeditions" was later shown to be a hoax.

Yes - I have heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In fact, I have several translations of the Scrolls in my library. So what? You should know that the Scrolls have caused more problems for Christianity than they have solved. For example, we now know that there are two very different versions of Jeremiah, and it now appears that the one that is in our modern Bibles is the wrong one. We also now know that the Book of Revelation is heavily based on a previously lost document called "the Book of Enoch".

I prefer secular history because it is unbaised. You may see all of history as one giant conspiracy to discredit Jesus, but that is your problem, not mine. You have to prove it.

How many of these false gods say that "I am the Son of God" clearly.

When somebody made that statement, you either say he is mad or he is telling the truth. There is no in between unlike the others.

As I already pointed out, there have been several people who have called themselves the Son of God. Why should I believe that Jesus was the only one who was telling the truth? In addition, how do I know that Jesus actually said these things? How do I know that they weren't added later by his followers?

Please also note. There is only one God in Christianity unlike the others where they have Bacchus, Baal,etc. all of which are created by men for their own self interest through the ages.

There are also several other monotheistic traditions. Zoroastrianism is a perfect example. In this old Persian religion, there is only one supreme God, known as Ahura-Mazda. This god has a powerful foe known as "Angra-Mainyu", an evil spirit who seeks to overthrow God. Interestingly, there is no mention of Satan in the Old Testament until after the Jews returned from exile in Persia. Coincidence? I think not...

Interestingly, you did not mentioned about buddha. He did not perform miracles and yet human beings pray to him like a god. He told people he cannot perform miracles and yet humans through the ages says he can. You do know about the woman and the vinegar account.

This only goes to show what I have been saying - that devotees often put words into the mouths of their founders long after they died, something like what happened to Jesus.

You are the opposite of me. I became a Christian so much later ( at the age of 35 after years of not believing). You found Jesus, but now alas you are lost.

Nope. I finally found the truth. I'm afraid that you seem to uncritically accept anything that you are told, without thinking about it. You may want to read some more information on Biblical criticism. You may not agree with it, but it will at least give you some insight into the reasons why Christianity is put in the same class as all other religions by historians.

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