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Chapter Two: Problems with God

Section 2: The Jesus myth

The evidence suggests that the Biblical Jesus never lived. If true, this does not prove that God does not exist, but it destroys the heart of Christianity and weakens Islam.

The Feeding of the Five Thousand by Joachim Patenir

The previous section examined secular evidence that suggested Jesus did not exist. This section and the next look at evidence in the Bible itself.

2.2d Discrepancies in the Gospels

As a narrative of the life of Jesus, the Gospels (the first four books of the New Testament) present us with several problems.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are only four of many biographies of Jesus written in the first and second centuries. Others include the Gospels of Judas, Mary Magdalene, Peter and Thomas, which were widely circulated in the early years of the Common Era. Some stories in these Gospels confirm Biblical accounts; other passages contradict them.

It was not until CE 360 at the Laodicea Council that church leaders decided which books were to be accepted as the Word of God and which rejected. This means that Jesus' official biography life was only agreed over 300 years after he supposedly died. (The dispute over Biblical text did not end at Laodicea. The Book of Revelations was not included at that time and the Protestant and Catholic Bibles later diverged.)

2.2e The Devil is in the detail

Even if we accept that only the four Biblical ("canonical") Gospels are accurate, we have a problem. They agree on the overall story of Jesus' life but differ in detail.

Many incidents, such as the turning of water into wine, appear in only one or two gospels. Because they affected a few people, we would not expect them to be corroborated in secular narratives, nor is it surprising that they do not appear in every Gospel.

On the other hand, it is highly unlikely that

Problems with God

Chapter One showed us that if there is a God, we cannot be certain about his nature. So let's look at the question from another perspective: Is there a form of god that can exist?

We start by looking at the god described in the Bible and Quran; does the information there support or reject the idea of God? Then we look at general concepts of God and see if they make sense.

2.1: In the Bible
Do inconsistencies in the Bible make it irrelevant?

2.2: The Jesus myth
Biblical evidence suggests that the Son of God never lived

2.3: Other scriptures
What do other scriptures tell us about God?

2.4: Forgotten tongues
Why can God not speak modern languages?

2.5: Male order
God's fondness for men

2.6: Compassion and bloodlust
God claims to be compassionate but frequently causes pain and death

2.7: Disease and disaster
Why do they happen?

2.8: Omniscience and free will
One or the other, not both

2.09: Miracles and prayer
How does God make his presence known?

2.10: Eternal life
Do we really want to live forever?

2.11: Alien beliefs
Do they know God on Betelgeuse?

2.12: Summary

Finished this chapter? Move on to

Chapter 3
God the creator?

God does not have to be the creator of the universe; in some religions the world comes first and then the gods apprear.

In Judaism, Christianity and Islam, however, God is the creator of the universe. How does he do it?

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major events such as the Sermon on the Mount and Feeding of the Five Thousand, which would have been witnessed by many, are not described in every gospel. (In the previous section we pointed out that it is also highly unlikely that they were not recorded by Roman historians.) Omitting such key events is like writing a history of the United States without the Vietnam War or 9/11.

Even more disturbing for those who see the Gospels as history is the conflicting versions of key events. During Christ’s last night in the Garden of Gethsemane how often do the disciples fall asleep? Once, says Luke. Three times, say Matthew and Mark. John says they stayed awake all night. Should the disciples be armed? “Yes” says Jesus in Matthew. “No” says Jesus in Luke. Who betrays Jesus and how? Judas, with a kiss (Matthew, Mark). Judas, but kiss uncertain (Luke). Jesus himself, and no kiss (John). And so on and so on.

For a comprehensive list of New Testament inconsistencies, see The Atheist's Introduction to the New Testament and The Skeptic's Annotated Bible.

2.2f Word of mouth

How can we explain these and many other errors? Firstly, the Gospels were written in Greek, not the Aramaic or Hebrew that Jesus and his followers would have spoken. Secondly, they were written at least thirty years after Jesus is believed to have died. Thirdly, the manuscripts that have come down to us are not the original documents, but copies-of-copies-of-copies-of-etc; that meant that scribes over the centuries may have made errors in transcription or deliberately added or removed text that did not conform to their beliefs, making it almost inevitable that the Gospels approved by the Laodicean Council had remained unchanged since they were written.

These facts combined tell us that the Gospels are, at best a collection of hearsay narratives written by people who were far from the events described. But even if they remained unchanged from the first time they were entrusted to papyrus or parchment, we can, as rational beings only conclude that they offer no greater evidence of the Biblical Jesus than that provided by Josephus and Tacitus (see previous section). The Gospels do not prove that Christ existed - only that stories about him existed three or more decades after his presumed death.

To summarise this page:

a. The Gospels provide only inconsistent and contradictory hearsay evidence.
b. The Gospels do not prove that the Biblical Jesus existed, only that there were
    conflicting stories about him thirty years after he supposedly died.

But it's not just the Gospels that suggest that there was no Jesus; the words of St Paul himself, point in that direction, as we will discover in the conclusion of this section.

Christianity is ...
... "the belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree"
One of many definitions of the Christian faith from

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If God existed, he would...

admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create

recognize that eternity is meaningless

deny both heaven and hell

disown all men and women who speak in his name

denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"

help the human race to thrive without him

If God existed, he would be an atheist.

What is the difference between science and faith?

science is certain of nothing and requires proof of everything

faith is certain of everything and requires proof of nothing

Which do you trust?

"I know there is no God"
"I believe there is no God"

Check the answer

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