One of my Facebook friends recently posted a link to a page entitled “The Big Think.” This page is a collection of videos and articles from well-known and influential people. The link posted on my friend’s Facebook page was a short monologue given by Dr. Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and author. The topic Krauss chose to speak on was “Is Xenophobia Inherent in Organized Religions?” Right off, I was puzzled by the title of the clip because he is a theoretical physicist so why would he be speaking about socio-cultural matters? My guess would be that he would want to talk about what is in his area of expertise, say maybe… “physics?” Of course he can talk about anything he wants to but a curious choice, nonetheless. However, he is listed as an expert on the page. Is he an expert in culture/religion?
Nonetheless, as I watched and listened to him speak, it is clear that he has a gift for communication, has a pleasant appearance, is intelligent, and is very engaging. However, when I actually listened to the content of what he was saying, I was humored in one sense because he seemed oblivious to the irony of accusing most of the world’s population (those who are of organized religions) of being xenophobic while totally missing that such a statement is xenophobic in itself. My other reaction was concern because charming and influential people like Doctor Krauss are saying things that in my opinion are quite alarming.
Before I discuss Krauss’s perspective any further, I want to make a distinction between atheists and “radical” atheists. I have known and worked with atheists through the years and found them to be very good associates and acquaintances. Of course, true tolerance endorses the right for all to hold their opinions and express them freely. So, naturally, people of good will who hold to any belief system will be tolerant of one another’s perspectives. This is a foundational principle of democracy (even though this tolerance seems to be waning in recent years). But what I realized when listening to Krauss is that he is of the new variety of “radical” atheists who believe that religion is a negative and subversive force in culture and that it is basically the root of all evil, thus no real tolerance for Christians and other religionists from Krauss. He is not just a person who endorses atheism but aggressively goes after other groups of persons pinning the woes of the world on them.
During his short monologue, he went into the usual radical atheist rant about the subjugation of women by religionists (I guess he really did not read Paul’s letters too closely or realize that Western culture actually does pretty good in this area-not that we are perfect), or question why anyone would believe in something that was created by iron age peasants (I guess he forgot that most of the major scientific accomplishments throughout the ages were accomplished by religionists such as the great, ancient Babylonian astronomers, the Greek scholars/theorists/astronomers who were pagan religionists, and the long procession of great Western astronomers who affirmed belief in God, etc.), and that religionists always want to kill, ostracize, and send people to hell (I guess he forgets about the great genocides of atheist regimes of the 20th century, and the fact that Christians are charged to love other people even their enemies, not condemn them to hell). Surely, all people who are a part of organized religions are not contributing to the demise of the world? In that he paints all persons from organized religion with a broad brush, he commits religious bigotry and seems totally unaware he is doing it.
In addition to his hostility towards those of organized religions, it seems that Krauss thinks that the only domain for real truth is found in a test tube. But how can you come to the conclusion that the universe came into existence by itself or by chance in a laboratory? How come truth cannot come from domains other than science, say from logic, philosophy, principles of investigation or heaven forbid, from even religion? What about the professional geneticist who I recently had breakfast with who described the amazing complexity of the cell and that as time goes on and with the advancement of scientific technology to look at the cell, new layers of complexity and design are constantly being discovered? This led this geneticist to proclaim awe in the design observed in just one cell and the belief that a super-intelligent mind must have designed it.
Does Krauss really know any of those he speaks against? Has he dined with any religionists? I really think that is part of the problem. Instead of demonizing those who don’t agree with you, why don’t we seek to try and know them as persons? Why doesn’t a Christian invite a Jew to lunch? How about an atheist and a Hindu go out for coffee? Perhaps, we would be less willing to think of each other as evil entities if we just realized that those of other religious perspectives (radical atheists are religious too) are just people. I am not saying that we should compromise our core beliefs at all. But I am saying that we should try to have relationship with those that we disagree with. I am someone who could do better at this.
It seems to me that Krauss is hostile towards anyone who holds to a standard of truth other than his own. It is obvious that Krauss believes that one is intolerant and xenophobic if one does not view things the way that Krauss does. This is where a brilliant man like Krauss is toxic in condemning billions of people who are not like him. In Krauss’s case, his video clip should not be on a site named “The Big Think.” A more appropriate name for a site with this clip would be “The Bigot Think.”
Atheist scholar John Loftus asks this question, “So again, why didn’t God tell his people, ‘Thou shalt not own, buy, sell, or trade slaves,’ and say it as often as he needed to ?1 One of the accusations that skeptics make against the God of the Bible is that he was “pro-slavery.” This topic came up for me recently as I was reading in the book of Jeremiah and he was discussing slavery in chapter thirty-four. What does Jeremiah have to say about slavery? Reading him would be a good place to start to see if God was/is, in fact, “pro-slavery.”
Before going into that, yesterday, I was reading the family history and saw where one of my English ancestors, George (b. 1770) was sold by his father (also named George) into indentured servitude in order for the son to become an apprentice as a turner (machinist). There was a contract that was drawn up showing the amount paid to his father and for the time period of the indentured servitude. Also, the “master” (the turner) would be responsible for George’s upkeep. But aside from that, the “master” had control over George for a period of seven years and in return George would work for him as a turner’s apprentice. So, my ancestor was willingly sold into servitude in order to learn a trade.
Going back into ancient history (6th century BC), the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar was conducting a military campaign against Judea, in particular, Jerusalem. Nebucahdnezzar had laid siege to Jerusalem. During this campaign, King Zedekiah, ordered that all of the Hebrew slaves be released. In turn, the people released all of their slaves but after a short period of time, they forced the Hebrew slaves back into bondage. In response to this, the prophet Jeremiah delivers a prophecy against Jerusalem. Here are the verses from chapter 34 concerning these slaves:
8 The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to proclaim freedom for the slaves. 9 Everyone was to free their Hebrew slaves, both male and female; no one was to hold a fellow Hebrew in bondage. 10 So all the officials and people who entered into this covenant agreed that they would free their male and female slaves and no longer hold them in bondage. They agreed, and set them free. 11 But afterward they changed their minds and took back the slaves they had freed and enslaved them again. 12 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I made a covenant with your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I said, 14 ‘Every seventh year each of you must free any fellow Hebrews who have sold themselves to you. After they have served you six years, you must let them go free.’[a] Your ancestors, however, did not listen to me or pay attention to me. 15 Recently you repented and did what is right in my sight: Each of you proclaimed freedom to your own people. You even made a covenant before me in the house that bears my Name. 16 But now you have turned around and profaned my name; each of you has taken back the male and female slaves you had set free to go where they wished. You have forced them to become your slaves again. 17 “Therefore this is what the Lord says: You have not obeyed me; you have not proclaimed freedom to your own people. So I now proclaim ‘freedom’ for you, declares the Lord—‘freedom’ to fall by the sword, plague and famine.
What is of particular interest to me is what Jeremiah states regarding how the slaves came to be slaves in the first place and the requirement to release them after a short period of time. In verse 14, it states that the slaves “sold themselves into slavery” and also as provided for by the Mosaic law, they were to be released every 7 years. Therefore, because the slave owners reneged on their agreement to release the slaves, God was going to punish this injustice by the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians.
So we find in these verses that the slaves sold themselves into servitude and that they were to be released after six years which reveals that God was compassionate towards slaves. What is also striking is how bad of an offense God thinks it is. Injustice towards these slaves is so bad in God’s opinion that he will permit the destruction of Jerusalem as a result of this offense. So, it is clear that in these verses from Jeremiah that God is very concerned with social justice, that God is compassionate, and that he is concerned about the victimization of the innocent. There is a lot more to be said in the pages of Jeremiah about the abuse of the vulnerable at the hands of the powerful (actually a recurring theme in the OT) but odds are that you won’t read the rest of this article if it is too long so I’ll end now. But suffice to say that Jeremiah shows us that the “God of the Old Testament” was not an ogre at all as some would have you think. Rather, he cared and still cares for those who are not in a position to protect themselves.
Recently, I saw “God’s Not Dead 2” with my friend, Brian. I did enjoy the movie and I wanted to give you my thoughts from my perspective as someone who has watched numerous trial proceedings and testified on many occasions in a courtroom. Before going into that, I really liked how they portrayed pastors in the movie. In being an elder at a church here in Kernersville, I see how pastors are unsung heroes in many ways. Yes, you see them running around in church on Sundays smiling and shaking hands. But during the week, what a lot of people don’t see is the tough work they do helping people with their problems in so many different ways. We did see this in the movie on several occasions when the two pastors (Revds. Jude and Dave) made themselves available to help some of the characters who were having “dark nights of the soul.”
Regarding how the action in court played out, there were many dramatic moments in the movie that would not have been allowed to occur in the federal courts (and I assume local courts as well) that I operated in. For instance, when Brooke Thawley, the teenaged “victim,” burst into the courtroom and blurted out her support for her teacher (the defendant-Grace Wesley), I am pretty sure that a mistrial would be declared by the judge on the grounds that the jury would be unduly prejudiced for the defendant by the outburst. There were also several other dramatic surprises in the movie as well. Mention was just made of the teenager bursting into the courtroom. Another dramatic surprise was when Grace Wesley was forced to testify on the stand by her own attorney. In a real courtroom, if a defendant, one who is charged with an offense or one who is accused of wrongdoing, does not wish to testify, she is not going to be forced to testify. This protection against self-incrimination is covered under the fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution. So, Grace Wesley would not have been “forced” to testify near the end of the movie like she did unless she desired to do so. Even in the case that she wished to testify in the proceeding, the judge would question Grace to make sure that she understood what she was going to do before she did it (that she understood her fifth amendment right against incriminating herself).
So, a rule of thumb for federal courts is that federal judges do not like surprises in their courtrooms. There is an orderly way of doing business that attorneys who practice in federal court on both sides of the bar, are familiar with and adhere to. These are contained in local rules of the court and also in the federal rules of criminal procedure. For instance, if the defendant’s attorney (the lawyer of the teacher Grace Wesley), wanted to put witnesses on the stand for the historicity of Jesus, then they would have to notify the court and the attorney for the plaintiff (the side bringing the case) that they were going to make this argument well before they intended to do it. They would also have to inform the court and the plaintiff’s attorney exactly which witnesses they were going to call to the stand to testify and what these witnesses are going to testify about. The court would also allow the plaintiff’s attorneys time to examine the new material in order to properly prepare to cross-examine the defendant’s witnesses. So, there would have been a pause in the trial proceedings to allow for this process to occur.
The two witnesses for the historicity of Jesus called by the defendant were author/educator, Lee Strobel and retired Torrance, CA homicide detective, J. Warner Wallace. Even though Lee Strobel offered good evidence for the historicity of Jesus, his testimony would not be allowed to come in as evidence in the proceeding. In order to get the evidence in, the defendant’s attorney would have to offer and authenticate the documents that Strobel referred to. So, the documents of those non-biblical sources that Strobel spoke of would have to be brought in as evidence through introducing the documents themselves through witnesses who maintain them. This would be an arduous process because there would be numerous ancient documents that would need to be authenticated by different witnesses who possess the ancient documents. Most likely, because of the fragility of the documents, an alternative arrangement would be made so that the jury and the plaintiff’s attorney could review these ancient documents outside of court. So due to these complications, I see why the makers of the movie had Strobel do a summary of these proofs. However, in a real courtroom, Strobel would not have been allowed to testify in this manner especially when he offered the opinions of others (He would not be able to testify about what others say- hearsay- Gary Habermas, etc.).
Jim Wallace was a natural on the stand and the information he testified to is also very good evidence for the truthfulness of the New Testament. When he testified on the witness stand, I appreciated his forensic analysis of the account of Jesus before Caiaphas as he analyzed the same account from three of the four Gospels. Two Gospel authors unwittingly verified the details from another Gospel author (Mk. 14:65; Luke 22:64 confirm Matt. 26:67-68;). This is good confirmation of the accounts being truthful. He also offered good circumstantial evidence for the veracity of the NT and by extension the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ when Wallace discussed the fact that all of the apostles died as martyrs for their faith.
In my opinion, the most effective way to show the veracity of the New Testament in court (and by extension the historical Jesus) would be to authenticate the various gospels by presenting the early manuscript copies that exist, demonstrating the evidence for their early authorship, presenting evidence for the authorship of each Gospel, and by showing the “chain of custody” in which the New Testament comes to us. Additionally, the defendant’s attorney could also call those who have possession of ancient copies of documents of the early church fathers (those 1st and 2nd century church leaders who confirm the authorship of the various NT books) who wrote about the various books of the New Testament and their authors. However, this would be a tedious process. This is probably the reason that the makers of the film condensed this process by calling both Strobel and Wallace to the witness stand to summarize this evidence. In much more detail than GND2 permitted, Jim Wallace makes a great case for the authenticity of the New Testament in his book, Cold Case Christianity. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in studying the evidence for the veracity of the New Testament.
Another point to mention regarding the testimony of Wallace and Strobel is that the plaintiff could call witnesses to refute the testimony that they both offered on the stand. However, in the movie, the plaintiff did not call his own witnesses in order to refute the claims of both Strobel and Wallace regarding the historicity of Jesus Christ and the NT accounts. If skeptical scholars gave their testimony against the veracity of the NT, they would most likely offer arguments such as “the gospels contradict each other,” and “the mythical Jesus comes from pre-existing pagan myths.” Regarding these two skeptical arguments, I believe that I have successfully refuted them by showing that they do not rely upon accepted principles of evidence but merely conjecture (see blog articles http://shieldyourfaith.org/blog).
So, all in all, I do believe that GND2 does offer good evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ from a historical vantage point. I also believe that hostility towards the free expression of religion on public school campuses, as portrayed in the movie, is a real and serious issue that Christians face today (as observed in the law suits listed at the end of the movie). Finally, even though an actual court would not operate like the one depicted in the movie, the makers of the movie were able to summarize some of the great evidence for the historicity of Jesus in an entertaining way.
In the past two articles on the supposed similarities between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the supposed resurrection of Osiris, we’ve looked at some serious problems that Dr. Richard Carrier, a mythicist (someone who asserts that Jesus did not really exist), has from an evidential perspective. He makes the claim that early Christians “came up” with the resurrection story of Jesus Christ and borrowed it from various mythical stories of dying/rising gods that came before Christianity. It was shown that he does not support his assertions with relevant evidence from historical witnesses. It was also shown that he relies on fallacious reasoning when he claims a causal linkage with Osirianism and Christianity. In the second article, a short summary was given for the Osirian myth. It was noted that the story of Osiris is obviously a myth and from even a cursory look at it, this myth does not come close to resembling the account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In this last article in the series on Osiris/Jesus Christ, we’ll take a quick look at the supposed similarities and the contrasts between the Osirian myth and Christianity. Dr. Carrier asserts these similarities:
Both were dying/rising gods
Both died during a full moon
Both had 72 conspirators who caused their deaths
Both religious groups practiced baptism
Both have the concept of final judgment for each person
Both were murdered, dismembered, and ascended to heaven
Doctor Carrier makes other comparisons as well but it would take a research project to deal with all of his claims thoroughly so we’ll just look at those already mentioned.
Both Dying and Rising Gods
But Osiris is known to arise every night when the sun god Ra/Re goes into the Netherworld (when the sun sets) and joins with Osiris. When these two get together, then there is a joint renewal for both and the mummies of those in the Netherworld will be re-energized through this nightly joining of Re/Ra with Osiris.. The spirits of the dead come back to their mummy to get this energy so they can live and function in the Netherworld. Osiris also rises every year in conjunction with the vegetation/inundation (Nile River) cycle. So, Osiris is rising all of the time. Another important item to note is that in the Osirian myth, Osiris does not rise bodily from the dead. Rather, his spirit issues from his mummified corpse and goes to the Netherworld where a pantheon of gods determined his fate. This pantheon also proclaims him as the King of the Netherworld.
Also, Osiris never walks bodily on the earth again after his death like Jesus Christ does after his resurrection. Jesus does not have a mummy like Osiris nor did he need others to magically reassemble his body (Isis and Thoth). Moreover, there is not a list of real people who observe the real Osiris rise from the dead (it is a myth). In contrast, there are many “real” witnesses who observe the risen Jesus Christ after his death by crucifixion. Also, a pantheon of gods voted to support Osiris against his brother Seth and that is when he was declared worthy to be “raised.” Jesus Christ did not need a pantheon of gods to determine his fate after his death. As God Incarnate, his own power raised him from the dead (John 10:18). Furthermore, Jesus Christ only died and rose from the dead once in contrast to Osiris who is rising and dying all the time. So, more and more contrasts become apparent even as one aspect of the Osirian myth is analyzed.
Both Died During A Full Moon
I find this comparison amusing because the significance of Jesus dying during a weekend when there was a full moon has nothing to do with the full moon itself. Rather, it is because it is the weekend of Passover. It is known that there is a full moon every Passover weekend. So, Doctor Carrier’s observation actually works against him. The Passover symbolism of Jesus Christ as the “Paschal Lamb” sacrifice for all who are in relationship with Him ties the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to Judaism and not ancient Egyptian folklore (1 Cor. 5:7). He offers “evidence” that really weakens his position.
Both Had 72 Conspirators Who Caused Their Deaths
Dr. Carrier gets this number from 71 members of the Sanhedrin and then he adds Judas Iscariot to the equation to make 72 co-conspirators who caused the death of Jesus. Of course we really do not know how many members of the Sanhedrin were present the day they voted to crucify Jesus. Moreover, we know of two members of the Sanhedrin who were supporters of Jesus Christ (Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus). When a modern legislature votes on an issue, in most cases, not all members cast their vote in the chambers of the legislature. For a number of reasons, there will be members absent from the roll call and vote.
So, we really do not know the number of persons who voted to crucify Jesus. Of course there was one other who caused the death of Jesus as well that Dr. Carrier does not mention: Jesus Himself. Jesus was fully aware of his impending death. He waited in the Garden of Gethsemane for those who would carry him away to his severe flogging, humiliation, and crucifixion. He could have fled like a “fugitive from justice.” But that was not what he came to the earth to do. He did not come to pursue worldly interests or aggrandizement. He did not come to lead a political movement. He came to the earth to die and then rise from the dead. He knew full well that this day was soon approaching. So, however many voted to crucify Jesus, you could also add Jesus himself as one who caused his death. In reality, there was only one who permitted the death of Jesus as Jesus could have called the whole proceeding off if he chose to do so (Matthew 26:53). Rather, he chose to die (Matt. 26:54-56). Of course, Osiris was lured to his death and deceived to jump in his casket (where the 72 co-conspirators trapped him inside). As stated above, Jesus’ arrest and impending crucifixion were no surprise to him.
Both Religious Groups Practiced Baptism
Doctor Carrier gets his evidence from two sources 1) a fictional account of someone going through an Osirian initiatory rite and also an ancient papyri of two cult officials discussing an unknown problem. In the first instance, only a bath of purification is noted which occurred before a secret initiation. Again, this account is fictional. Dr. Carrier uses a fictional book as evidence (The Golden Asse by Apuleius). In the second instance the expert that Dr. Carrier quotes at best can only say that there “may” have been some sort of baptism. Moreover, this papyri and what it states are hotly disputed by scholars. So, there is no clear evidence that Doctor Carrier presents for this claim.
Both Have the Concept of Final Judgment
Well, any religion will have a number of common themes as noted by Hans Schoeps, a comparative religions specialist. Notwithstanding these general similarities (initiatory rites, expiatory rites, sacred meals, modes of worship, etc.), there are profound differences between the two notions of final judgment. First, there is no real concept of sin that needs atonement in the Osirian myth. Osiris does not atone for anyone’s sins. Rather the concept of Ma’at from Egyptian mythology is a weighing of good deeds against bad deeds. So, if you have one more good deed than you have bad deeds, you will be allowed into the Netherworld. But you also have to say or possess the right magical incantations. Plus, in the Osirian formulation, the Egyptian pantheon of Gods votes to see if you get in. In contrast, real people whose identities we know witnessed the actual death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was an actual atoning sacrifice for the sins of all who place their faith in him. In Christian formulation of salvation, good deeds don’t get one into heaven. Rather, it was the one good deed of Jesus Christ, God enfleshed, that allows entry into heaven (not the Netherworld). Moreover, Jesus is the sole arbiter who renders eternal judgment on every person who dies in contrast to the Osirian myth.
Both Were Murdered, Dismembered, and Ascended to Heaven
Yes, both were murdered, but for totally different reasons. Osiris, was murdered for his dalliance with Seth’s wife. In his jealousy, Seth murdered Osiris. Again, this murder took Osiris by surprise as well. In contrast to this, the murder of Jesus Christ was because he proclaimed that he was God. It was not for any misdeed other than making this proclamation under questioning by the high priest (Matt. 26:62-68). Jesus Christ was the pure and spotless Lamb of God, who knew that he was going to die and willingly accepted the torture and crucifixion that he endured (1 Cor, 5:7; Matt. 26:54-56).
As far as both being dismembered, this is what the Osirian myth states about Osiris. However, Dr. Carrier makes an odd claim that “dividing the garments” of Jesus as he was crucified was actually figuratively speaking of the dismemberment of Jesus’ body. He is really reaching with this comparison and I don’t think much commentary is necessary on this point. In regards to both ascending into heaven after death, the passage that Carrier uses to support his idea is from the Pyramid Texts that actually come off the walls of Egyptian pyramids. Of course, as previously noted, Osiris was mummified after his death, and so his mummy is the connection point between his eternally living spirit and the Netherworld. So, his mummified body stays in the tomb but his spirit goes to the Netherworld. So, yes, the spirit of Osiris ascends out of his tomb going to the Netherworld but his mummified body remains behind in the pyramid in total contrast to the ascension of Jesus Christ who arose to heaven in his physical body (Luke 24:50) that was witnessed by many real persons.
These ancient pyramids were tombs that were meant to symbolize rebirth upon death and the passages out of the tomb physically ascended upwards even as a baby travels a passage out of its mother’s womb. So his spirit ascended up but it went to the Netherworld or Duat that is on the reverse side of the earth from where the sun travels across the sky of Egypt. The ancient Egyptians thought of the Netherworld as being beneath them, sort of. Ancient Egyptians thought the Netherworld was on the far side of the Earth from them and that is where the sun went through at night in order to rise again the next morning revitalized from Osiris. So the soul ascended up out of the pyramid into the heavens on its pathway to the Netherworld. The conception of the ancient Egyptian Netherworld is much different than the heaven of Christian description.
So, as you can see, the above comparisons that Dr. Carrier makes are not good ones after analyzing them. Also, the more one probes, the more contrasts become apparent. Osiris is just one of many examples that Doctor Carrier offers of dying and rising gods from antiquity which is a problem in itself (just pick one god and go with it). So, if he has no actual relevant evidence to support his claim, then why give his theory any serious consideration? If his comparisons unravel upon inspection then why support his position? As far as I am concerned, from an evidentiary perspective, his claim is dead with no hope of resurrection.
Allen, J.P. 2005. The ancient Egyptian pyramid texts, edited by P.D. Manuelian. Translated with an introduction and notes by J.P. Allen. Atlanta: Society of biblical literature.
Apulieus, L. 2014. The golden asse [Kindle ed.] trans. by Addington, W. London: Heritage Illustrated Publishing. Available: http://www. amazon.com
Assman, J. 2005. Death and salvation in ancient Egypt, Translated from the German by D. Lorton. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Carrier, R. 2009. Not the impossible faith: Why Christianity didn’t need a miracle to succeed [Kindle ed.]. Published by Lulu.com. Available: http://www. amazon.com
Carrier, R. 2013. How not to defend historicity (In Price, P and Zindler, F. eds. Bart Ehrman and the quest of the historical Jesus of Nazareth). Cranford: American Atheist Press.
Carrier, R. 2014b. On the historicity of Jesus: why we might have reason to doubt [Kindle ed.]. Sheffield: Sheffield University Press. Available: http://www. amazon.com
David, R. 1998. The ancient Egyptians: beliefs and practices. Portland: Sussex Academic Press.
Hare, T. 1999. Remembering Osiris: number, gender, and the word in ancient Egyptian representational systems. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
In a previous article on this blog entitled, Is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ Another Myth? (October, 2015), I discussed the problems that Doctor Carrier has in making such an assertion. I typed that aside from his opinion, Doctor Carrier did not support his assertion with any relevant evidence and I used the federal rules of evidence as a foundation to describe what relevant evidence is. Even though he did not offer any relevant evidence of a connection between Christianity and the Osiris myth as we saw in the first article, it would be of value to take a look at a summary of the Osirian myth to see if there are any solid parallels. It is important to confront Doctor Carrier’s ideas (and other ideas like his) as they are being told to your children when they reach college or when they are in high schools as if the scholarly research supports these findings. Skeptics use these arguments to discredit faith in Jesus Christ and the statistics tell us that many are leaving the Christian faith when they attend secular colleges.
Again by introduction, Doctor Richard Carrier is a mythicist which means that he believes that Jesus Christ was a mythical character invented by some religious enthusiasts near the turn of the 1st millennium. As evidence to support this overarching perspective, Doctor Carrier has written on the parallels between various pagan mythical characters and has compared them to Jesus Christ. One of these mythical figures that he compares to Jesus Christ is Osiris, the King of the Netherworld who is the main figure in the ancient Egyptian funerary cult.
Doctor Carrier states of Osiris:
Osiris was likewise murdered, dismembered, buried, then ascended to heaven to become “the Supreme Father of the Gods.” Like the Inanna myth, the Osiris myth also contained curious yet inconclusive parallels with the Christ story. Although it’s otherwise a very different tale, there are still a few similarities that might be too unusual to be coincidental: both were “sealed” in their tomb or casket; both were killed by seventy-two conspirators; both rose on the third day after their death; and both resurrections took place during a full moon (Carrier, R. Not the Impossible faith, why Christianity didn’t need a miracle to succeed. 2009, Kindle ed., ch.1).
However, when one surveys the Osirian myth, it is easy to see the glaring differences and not just superficial ones. Osiris is one of the earliest myths in recorded history and we find most of what we know about Osiris coming out of The Pyramid Texts and The Book of the Dead. Moreover, a great deal of information about Osiris comes from the ancient pyramids themselves through drawings, statues, and hieroglyphics, etc. The Greek scholar Plutarch has also written a book entitled Isis and Osiris that explores the myth in its form as a mystery cult during his lifetime (1st and 2nd century A.D.).
What we know of Osiris is that he was the son of Geb (dad) and Nut (mom). These were two gods. Nut was the sky goddess and Geb was the earth God. Osiris by virtue of his birth was the ruling king of Egypt. While in the womb, Osiris had sex with Isis and Osiris ended up marrying his sister, Isis. Osiris also had a brother by the name of Seth and a sister by the name of Nephthys. Seth and Nephthys married. However, on one occasion Osiris unknowingly had sex with his sister, Nephthys thinking it was Isis. After this occurred, Seth launched a conspiracy to murder Osiris. Eventually, Seth hatched his plan and Osiris was lured into a casket where 72 co-conspirators nailed Osiris inside. Seth then threw the casket with Osiris in it into the sea and then Osiris drowns. However, the goddess Isis finds the casket and keeps it intact with Osiris inside. Seth finds out about the recovery of the body of Osiris and then dismembers the body by cutting it up into fourteen pieces and scatters the parts of the body across Egypt. Isis then finds the different pieces of the body. As this action is occurring a group of gods render a judgment that Osiris was wrongfully murdered and they cause him to come to life again but as the king of the realm of the dead.
Now as a result of his death and reanimation as the king of the realm of the dead, all who die can receive eternal life in the Netherworld. This is achieved by Osiris everyday as he works in tandem with Re aka Ra, the Sun God. So the cycle goes like this: The sun goes on its daily journey in a boat. When the sun sets, it goes into the Netherworld where Osiris is located. Because of his renewed life and status as king of the Netherworld, Osiris joins with Re or Ra (the sun god) in his (the sun’s) journey through the netherworld and reinvigorates the sun by joining with him in the Netherworld. So, the sun is ready to resume his journey in the realm of the living at sunrise because of its union with Osiris. Osiris gets something out of the arrangement too.
So, those who say the right spells and incantations can unite with Osiris when they die. They can take advantage of this solar cycle of renewed life given by Osiris. But that is where the mummy comes in. Osiris, in order to revivify the dead person needs to reunite (by his nightly union with Re/Ra) with the mummy of the dead individual in order to pass on this life force. The life force awaits the dead person who is traveling around in spirit form in the Netherworld and eventually goes back to his mummy in order to get reinvigorated by Osiris.
There is also an ancient Egyptian concept called Ma’at where the newly dead are judged. Their deeds are weighed in a balance by a tribunal of gods to include Osiris. If their good deeds are more than their bad deeds then they are allowed entrance into the Netherworld. But you have to have a mummy or Osiris cannot revivify you. Remember, you also have to have the right spells and incantations, etc too or you won’t be allowed in.
Because of the death of Osiris and his renewal to life in the Netherworld, he is also observed by ancient Egyptians to be the one who presides over the watering of crops and insures the inundation of the Nile River is successful (remember he died originally by drowning in the Nile). Not only is Osiris responsible for the watering of the crops, he is also responsible for the harvests of grain and there are statues and images that also portray this aspect of Osiris.
There are several variations to this story but that is the gist of it. With only a brief summary and a superficial knowledge of Christianity, it is pretty obvious that the differences between Jesus Christ and Osiris are immense. The most obvious difference being that this story is a myth and is not rooted in any sort of historic background. When the sun goes down, the sun goes into the Netherworld where it meets with Osiris? Need I say more? In contrast to this myth is Jesus Christ who is rooted in history, in a time, a place, and has real brothers and family members one of whom becomes a prominent leader of the church and writes about Jesus himself (the Epistle of James, the brother of Jesus). Also, John the Apostle who is the “disciple that Jesus loved” becomes a surrogate son to Mary, the mother of Jesus (John 19:26, 27) and writes about it. Now that we have set the stage by telling the myth of Osiris in abbreviated form, we can make some contrasts/comparisons between the resurrections of Osiris and Jesus. We’ll go into more details in the next article.
Sources for the Osirian Myth:
Allen, J.P. 2005. The ancient Egyptian pyramid texts, edited by P.D. Manuelian. Translated with an introduction and notes by J.P. Allen. Atlanta: Society of biblical literature.
Budge, E.A.W. 2002. Osiris and the Egyptian religion of resurrection. London: Kegan Paul.
David, R. 1998. The ancient Egyptians: beliefs and practices. Portland: Sussex Academic Press.
Hare, T. 1999. Remembering Osiris: number, gender, and the word in ancient Egyptian representational systems. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Plutarch. 2012. Isis and Osiris. Oxford: Acheron Press [Kindle Edition].
Smith, M. 2008. Osiris and the deceased. In Dieleman J. & and Wendrich W. eds. UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, Los Angeles. Available: http//scholarship.org/uc/tem/29r70244 Date of Access: 16 January 2016.
Smith, M. 2009. Traversing eternity: texts for the afterlife from Ptolemaic Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Taylor, J.H. 2001. Death and the afterlife in ancient Egypt. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Regarding the account of the Magi, there are those who describe the trip of the Magi as a fictional account. However, we do know that the Magi were a historical group of persons who lived in the Middle East during the time of Jesus. Herodotus, the early Greek historian who wrote in the 5th century B.C., introduces us to the intrigue of the early history of the Medes and the Persians and speaks of the “Magians.” In those days, the “Magians” are described as one of the tribes of the Medes and that they had special abilities to interpret dreams. Herodotus specifically informs us of the dreams of kings and the involvement of the Magi in interpreting these dreams. These dreams were believed to be predictions of the future of kingdoms and kings.
It is believed that the Magi were able to endure through the changing of empires as a priestly caste through the era of the Achaemenid Dynasty (550 B.C.- 330 B.C.) and into the Parthian Dynasty (or Arsacid Dynasty 247 A.D.-224 A.D.).
The historical existence of the Magi in the time of Jesus is wholly consistent with their journey to greet Jesus after he was born as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. It is also believed that they had an interest in the stars as they relied upon them for their practice of astrology (sources “The Histories” by Herodotus, Radford: Wilder Publications, USA, 2014; The Catholic Encyclopedia; http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09527a.htm).
After conducting research into the zodiac by use of examining coins during the timeframe of Jesus’ birth, Michael Molnar, a former Rutgers University astronomer, concluded that the moon passed in front of Jupiter (referred to as an occultation) in the same general timeframe as the birth of Jesus Christ (6 A.D.). As, Jupiter has astrological symbolism tying the planet to royalty, this occurrence would have been a big deal to stargazers of that era like the Magi (Govier, G. (2014). O subtle star of Bethlehem: theory suggests wise men saw something big in something little. Christianity Today, 58(10), 19).
“The possibility that the Magi were gentiles, and perhaps Arabs, tells us that even here, at the very beginning of the story, Jesus is shattering religious tradition by bringing outsiders inside. Before the story is over, Jesus will shatter boundaries of race, class and gender. And the marginalized—the poor, prostitutes, lepers and Roman centurions—will all be welcome at his table” (Buchanan, J. M. (2012). Outsiders bearing gifts. The Christian Century, 129(26), 3).
“The Magi were also intellectuals, students of the stars and seekers after truth. It took the learned sages somewhat longer than the unlearned shepherds to find their way to Bethlehem, but they got there in the end” (Following the star. 2004. Christianity Today, 48(1), 61.)
In Dan 2:2, 10, the only occurrences of magoi in the LXX, are when they are summoned by King Nebuchadnezzar and commanded to interpret the king’s dreams. As in the midrash on the exodus, the magi are depicted as ineffectual sycophants of the powerful ruler.
It is often believed that the only witnesses to the virgin birth are in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. However, the other two Gospel evangelists briefly mention their assent to the virgin birth as well:
In that most famous of Bible verses, John 3:16, John declares that God gave “His only begotten son” for the redemption of humanity. In that Jesus was the only begotten Son of God, this declaration by John reveals that Jesus did not have an earthly father but that his parentage was uniquely divine. (John R. Rice Cited by McDowell, 302)
Mark shows his understanding of the virgin birth when he writes, “is not this the carpenter; the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us (Mk. 6:3)?” In that Mark emphasizes his earthly relations to Mary, he is unique from the parallel scriptures in Matthew and Luke that emphasize Jesus’s earthly parentage through Joseph (Millard Erickson as cited by McDowell, 301).
On his journey from Antioch to Rome to face the beasts due to his refusal to recant his Christian faith (most likely in the year A.D. 110), Ignatius wrote seven letters one which was addressed to the Christian church at Ephesus. In this letter, he affirmed the virgin birth of Jesus Christ:
“For our God, Jesus Christ was conceived by Mary in accord with God’s plan…The virginity of Mary, her giving birth, and also the death of the Lord were hidden from the prince of this world: three mysteries loudly proclaimed, but wrought in the silence of God.” Ignatius held this belief until his martyrdom in the Arena in Rome. Lending more credence to the belief of Ignatius as to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ is that he was a hearer of the Apostle John who was very well acquainted with Mary and would be able to inform Ignatius about details of her life (John 19:26-27 reveals that John knew Mary the mother of Jesus as they were together at the crucifixion of Jesus).
Justin Martyr, a philosopher and early Christian church member at Rome, wrote a letter defending the Christian faith also known as an “apology” to the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius between 148 A.D. and 161 A.D. In this letter Justin stated:
“And again, hear how Isaias [Isaiah] expressly foretold that He was to be born of a virgin. He stated the following: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son; and for his name they shall say ‘God with us’…But the power of God, coming upon the Virgin, overshadowed her, and caused her, while yet a virgin, to conceive.”
Martyr was beheaded in Rome between the years 163 A.D. to 167 A.D. for his convictions regarding Jesus Christ to include that Jesus was born of a Virgin.
Luke’s historical accuracy has been proven over and over again. One of the proofs for his precision is his mention of the census that was taken during the reign of “Caesar Augustus” when “Quirinius was Governor of Syria.” Luke mentions this in relation to the return of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem in order to take part in the census. Critics disputed the Lucan account of the census as it was believed that the governorship of Quirinius was too early to be accurate. However, Luke’s accuracy was verified when it was uncovered that Quirinius was governor of Syria twice and the later range of his governorship would be in keeping with the traditional date of the birth of Jesus (McDowell, 63).
Another verification of the accuracy of Luke’s nativity narrative comes from archaeology and the discovery of an ancient Egyptian papyrus that describes the procedure for those who were required to take part in a census. This papyrus states, “Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their homes should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment and that the tilled lands may retain those belonging to them.” This verifies the scenario depicted by Luke (2:1) where Joseph returns to Bethlehem (McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, 63, 1999).
Not only do all the Gospel authors write about the virgin birth, but the apostle Paul briefly alludes to the virgin birth as well when he writes, “God sent his son born of a woman (Galatians 4:4).” (Rogers, CM, 101, Cited by McDowell, 302).
How would God enter into our world? A woman of humble circumstance with no credentials or great wealth is selected for the honor of being the mother of Jesus. God, being wholly virtuous, would not have made his entrance in the style of many earthly rulers who surround themselves with extravagant symbols of luxury to demonstrate their power and splendor.
There were no golden chariots present or gilded cradles with attendants rushing to and fro that first Christmas day. But only a humble, previously unknown family who received Jesus into the world that day. Yes, there were several groups who were notified and there was an angelic presence announcing this most momentous of births. But how inspiring it is that the virtuous creator of the universe, Jesus, who was the greatest person ever to be born of a woman and God incarnate himself, would enter this world without the grandeur of earthly kings. (Ross Hickling)
As we move into the Christmas season, I look back at the Old Testament and see how it proclaimed the future advent of Jesus into the world. Even thousands of years ago, God was preparing the way for the entrance of his Son. Here are some scriptures and reflections on them that I hope will inspire you as we move closer to Christmas day:
Over three millennia ago, Moses wrote the Book of Genesis:
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great;…And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
This prediction of the blessing of the “House of Abram,” written over a millennium before the birth of Jesus, has its fulfillment in this birth, as Jesus was a descendant of Abram who would be a savior for “all the families of the earth.”
But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”
Being a descendant of Abraham and by virtue of his birth, Jesus Christ inaugurated the “everlasting covenant” that would be guaranteed by his death and resurrection.
“Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
God confirms a third time to the patriarchs (Jacob here) that through his descendent, Jesus Christ, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh or “He to whom it belongs” comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”
Near death, Jacob pronounces his blessing to his sons and prophesied about the coming of Jesus, his power, and his authority over all of the earth. As observed in both Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies, Jesus was descended from Judah.
2 Samuel 7:16, 17
“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’”
Anticipating the Birth of Jesus Christ, Nathan the prophet reported the eternal nature of David’s lineage. I believe that this prediction was fulfilled through the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that brings eternity to mankind.
I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”
The psalmist writes about a king whose father is “the Lord” and who will rule over the entire earth.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Who else could Isaiah be referencing other than Jesus of Nazareth who is the only man known to be born of a virgin? The name “Emmanuel” (“God with us”) is also consistent with the advent of Jesus into the world. The documentation for the fulfillment of this prophecy is contained within the genealogies of Jesus Christ located in Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-35.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom…From then on and forevermore.
Approximately 700 years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah predicts this noble birth and that Jesus would be a descendant of King David. Who else could qualify as the one whom Isaiah prophesies about? By his lineage and also by his status as God Incarnate, the birth of Jesus Christ fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy (Luke 1:32-33; 3:23-38; Matthew 1:1, 6-7).
Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1
A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.”
“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts.
These two verses written centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ speak of John, the Baptist who would go before Jesus and proclaim his status as the “Lamb of God” who takes away the sins of the world. The fulfillment of these scriptural predictions about the forerunner of Jesus are observed in Luke 1: 16-17 as the Angel Gabriel spoke to Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist) and in Luke 1:76 by Zechariah’s own proclamation.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
Again, Jesus fulfills another prophecy of the coming of God Incarnate, one who is from “ancient times,” who was in fact born of a virgin in the city of Bethlehem. This prophecy is fulfilled in both Luke 2: 1-7 and Matthew 2:1-6.
In the continuing series of arguments that atheists use to attack the New Testament, I will focus now on the claim made by atheist scholars that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was developed from mythical stories that preceded the resurrection accounts in the New Testament. One such scholar who puts forward this idea is Dr. Richard Carrier, among others. Regarding Christians borrowing from “dying and rising gods,” Dr. Carrier states:
So, it is far more likely a resurrected Adonis cult was not new. The more so as we can confirm several other examples of clearly pre-Christian dying and rising gods well known across the Roman Empire: the savior cult Zalmoxis (of Thracian origin) is clearly attested in Herodotus centuries before Christianity; the imperial cult of the resurrected Romulus is likewise attested in several pre-Christian authors…and the Egyptian savior cult of the resurrected Osiris is likewise undeniably ancient (Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt, (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2014).
Is Dr. Carrier’s contention supported by evidence? Does Dr. Carrier offering multiple sources for the “resurrection myth” strengthen his case? It will be helpful to conduct a brief survey of the myths that Carrier mentions and we’ll go over those in more detail in the next blog post. But first, before getting into the details, let’s talk about a major problem that Dr. Carrier has “right out of the gate.”
In the field of argumentation and debate, there are certain rules that govern how one should proceed when arguing with someone. In making one’s case or arguing against the view of an opponent, sometimes, improper arguments are made. One way someone can make an improper argument is by basing an argument on flawed reasoning. A logical fallacy is one such violation of the rules of argumentation. One such logical fallacy is labeled by a phrase in Latin. The “Post hoc ergo propter hoc (translated “after this, therefore because of this”)” is the logical fallacy or error that just because event X occurred before event Y, it does not mean that event X caused event Y. Assuming that the Prohibition movement (making the sale of alcohol illegal in the U.S.-1920-1933) came as a result of the Azusa Street Revival (1906) would be an example of someone committing this sort of fallacy.
So, what would be needed to prove that the Azusa Street Revival was the cause of Prohibition? One would need historical evidence that the two events were linked or that there was a causal connection between the revival and Prohibition. For instance, to prove this, you would need articles or writings from the leaders of the revival that the United States should vote to prohibit the sale of alcohol nationwide and maybe articles about how the growing support for Prohibition came out of the revival. But the truth is that just because the Azusa Street Revival preceded Prohibition in history doesn’t mean that the revival was the cause of the prohibition movement.
But this is what Dr. Carrier is doing even as he offers his argument. Just because the mythical accounts of these different figures who came before Christianity and supposedly arose from the dead does not mean that the resurrection accounts were derived from these mythical stories. Dr. Carrier needs to show the historical connection between mythical adherents and early Christians (i.e. the earlier group influencing the later group). Can Dr. Carrier show us historical examples of the intermingling of the followers of Inanna or Osiris with early Christians? Can he give an example of the adherents of Zalmoxis meeting with and joining Christians? Does Dr. Carrier have a historical text showing where early Christian writers discuss the merits of these ancient resurrection stories? Does Dr. Carrier have any evidence of a connection between these ancient religious myths and the resurrection account of Jesus in the New Testament? I don’t think that Dr. Carrier can give us any examples of this occurring. Without any historical proof that the followers of these mythical religions interacted with early Christians or even influenced them, then why should we give Dr. Carrier’s theory any credence at all? Dr. Carrier improperly commits a logical fallacy as he assumes that the resurrection is a borrowed myth from other, earlier mythical religious traditions.
Besides are there any New Testament Scriptures that mention the aforementioned mythical gods? I have not seen them. However, we do see the influence of another religion throughout the New Testament- Judaism. Specifically, regarding his future death and resurrection, Jesus responds to the Pharisees request for a sign by stating, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:39) .” This reference to the death and resurrection of Jesus in comparison to Jonah and the whale doesn’t come from Zalmoxis or Osiris but it comes from the Old Testament (Jonah 1:17). Weren’t the disciples Jewish? Wasn’t the Christian faith birthed in Judea?
A related reason to Dr. Carrier committing a logical fallacy is that he doesn’t use relevant evidence based upon facts. The Federal Rules of Evidence give guidance on relevant evidence. According to Rule 401, evidence is relevant, “if (a) it has the tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and (b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action”(Cornell University School of Law: 2014).” Does Dr. Carrier offering information about mythical dying and rising gods prove that there was a pass down of mythical stories to Christians? In addition to this rule, another rule coming from the Federal Rules of Evidence that is relevant to this issue is rule 104b which states that when relevance of evidence depends on whether a fact exists, “proof must be introduced sufficient to support a finding that the fact does exist.” Does Dr. Carrier support his supposition with some sort of proof? He just does not offer any evidence that there was a connection between the resurrection of Jesus and these religio-mythical devotees. In the next blog post in this series, we’ll go into more detail about these mythical stories to see if they resemble the resurrection accounts of Jesus.
Many of our high school and college students will hear this skeptical claim and others like it on their campuses from those who are opposed to the Christian faith. As a result of not knowing how to answer these skeptical claims, many of this generation will fall away from the Christian faith when confronted by skeptics. In my time investigating different crimes throughout my law enforcement career, oftentimes, it was necessary to obtain documents to prove one of the elements of a criminal offense.
For instance, if I came across a man with a weapon when patrolling, I would conduct a check of his criminal history to see if he had been convicted of a felony. If the check revealed that the man was a convicted felon, then I would charge the suspect with possession of a firearm by a felon. In preparation for the court proceedings, I would order historical records (certified copies of his conviction) held by the court where he was convicted for the original offense in order to prove that he was indeed a convicted felon. When the court proceedings came along, I would present a certified copy of the court order showing the conviction to the judge or jury for their inspection. This procedure also applied to several other crimes that I prosecuted persons for in the federal system during my tenure with the U.S. Marshals Service (sex offender registry violations, escape from a federal prison, etc.).
As noted in the title of the blog article, some skeptics claim that we do not know who the authors of the New Testament are. Dr. Richard Carrier is one such scholar. Regarding their identity, he states, “But we don’t know who Mark is, either, or when or where he wrote or who his sources were…nor do we know who Luke or John were, or when or where they wrote, or who any of their sources were (Carrier, R. 2010. ‘Why the resurrection is unbelievable’ in The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails).”
Are there any historical documents that shed light on Carrier’s claim of unknown Gospel authors? The answer is “yes.” There is evidence in a number of historical documents that gives guidance on this issue. The first group of documents is the New Testament books themselves:
The apostle Paul mentions two of the writers (Mark and Luke) in one passage together on several occasions (Philemon 1:24, 2 Timothy 4:11, and Colossians 4:10-14)
Mark is mentioned not only by Paul as observed above, but he is also mentioned by Peter as well (1 Peter 5:13)
Luke mentions Mark on a number of occasions in the book of Acts (12:12; 12:25, 15:37-39)
John is mentioned by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul
Matthew is mentioned by Mark, and Luke (Acts)
The second class of documentary evidence is other documents that were written by the authors outside of the Bible:
Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis and hearer of the apostle John, wrote that Mark was the author of the Gospel that bears his name and that Mark had obtained his information for his Gospel from Peter
Other early church leaders such as Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, and Clement of Alexandria write that Mark was the author of his Gospel
Matthew is affirmed as author of his Gospel by the writings of second century Bishop of Lyons, Irenaeus
Papias also writes that Matthew is the author of his Gospel
Luke is mentioned as the author of his Gospel by the Muratorian fragment, a second century document which is a listing of the books of the New Testament as authenticated by the early Christian church
The writer of the Anti-Marcionite prologues of the late second century endorsed Luke as the author of the third Gospel
The oldest known manuscript of the Gospel of Luke, The Bodmer Papyrus XIV (A.D. 175 to A.D. 225) attributes authorship of the Gospel of Luke to Luke
Early church leaders who affirm in writing that Luke is the author of his Gospel are Tertullian and Irenaeus
John is attributed authorship to his Gospel by the writings of Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian
The Book of John itself mentions that he (John) was an eyewitness and wrote these things down
The second century anti-Marcionite prologues and Muratorian Fragment mention John as the author
A 2nd century enemy of the early Christian church, Celsus, identifies in writing that two of Jesus’ disciples wrote two of the Gospels even while he attacks Christianity
Just like when I would collect historical documents to prove an element of a criminal offense against a defendant, I can also view copies of historical documents that show that the Gospels were written by those named as authors in the New Testament. Furthermore, it is clear that other authors of the New Testament also knew the Gospel writers. As you can see by the aforementioned list, there is ample documentary evidence to establish that we can know who the authors of the Gospels are. We need to let others know about this great evidential support for Christianity because Dr. Carrier and others are making spurious claims as if they are factual. Just one more reason we should be prepared to “Contend for the faith (Jude 3).”
There are skeptical voices today that claim the Gospel narratives contradict each other. One of these voices belongs to Dr. Richard Carrier, an atheist, who specifically targets the resurrection accounts in the different Gospels as being contradictory. In regards to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he observes contradictions in the number of angels, the lists of witnesses to the resurrection, the details of the burial of Jesus, the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, etc. Does Dr. Carrier’s claim have any merit?
In my police career, when arriving at the scene of a crime, it was important for me to interview all of the witnesses of the crime. Oftentimes, these witnesses had different accounts of what happened. The witnesses would provide me with what they observed from their unique perspective. As an investigator, it was up to me to figure out what really happened from the evidence that I collected to include the testimony of the different witnesses. Later in my career as a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive investigator, I would often interview a number of informants/witnesses, on a case, who would give me differing pieces of information about the fugitive and his whereabouts. One person might tell me that they saw the fugitive last night with his girlfriend in Kernersville at a particular address whereas another witness may tell me that he heard that the fugitive was going in and out of Kernersville every couple of days in a blue Chevy truck.
These statements about the whereabouts of the fugitive are reconcilable even though they come from different perspectives and vary in small details. They both tell me that my fugitive is frequenting Kernersville even though one has more specific information than the other. In both instances (the crime scene and the fugitive investigation), it was up to me to determine the truth from the testimony of the different witnesses. One thing that I realized from my investigative career is that witnesses in the same case rarely gave identical testimony even though they had many points of similarity. If the testimony of two or more witnesses is identical in every respect, then this can lead one to believe that the testimony is rehearsed.
Does Dr. Carrier make valid points? Are the Gospels contradictory? In answering these questions, I think that the definition for the word “contradiction” would be a good place to start an analysis:
Here is a definition of the term “contradiction” that comes from Merriam Webster’s online dictionary:
2:a: a proposition, statement, or phrase that asserts or implies both the truth and falsity of something b: a statement or phrase whose parts contradict each other <a round square is a contradiction in terms>
3:a: logical incongruity b: a situation in which inherent factors, actions, or propositions are inconsistent or contrary to one another (Merriam Webster,)
Do these definitions of the term “contradiction” fit the Gospel narratives? My first observation is that this term applies to a single entity. For instance, the example given is of a “round square.” This is certainly a contradictory phrase but this contradiction is included within one phrase. We are now in the presidential campaign season (ugh!) and when you hear the candidates going back and forth, you don’t hear one candidate say to Donald Trump, “you just contradicted Ben Carson.” That would not make sense. What those irritable politicians do say to one another is “you just contradicted yourself.” In other words, a witness can contradict himself by stating something contrary to what he said before, but he cannot contradict someone else.
In light of what a contradiction actually is, Dr. Carrier’s accusation just does not make sense as the Gospel accounts are four separate versions of the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Dr. Carrier made the accusation that the Gospels have differences, then all would agree because they are thematically different accounts from different witnesses/sources. I would go further and say that they have to be different. If Carrier says that the accounts cannot be reconciled, then he has to deal with the great number of similarities that the Gospels share which is a big problem for him.
In the same way that information from different witnesses that I interviewed had differences in perspective and minor details, so also the Gospel evangelists wrote their accounts from different perspectives and utilized different sources. From reading the Gospel narratives, we can determine that Jesus Christ had a ministry that was accompanied by miracles and aided by twelve disciples, was crucified in Jerusalem during Passover weekend, was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and that many groups of witnesses observed the empty tomb as well as the risen Jesus Christ. We can have confidence in these Gospel narratives as they give us the same story although from different perspectives. Furthermore, there is no historical testimony that offers evidence to rebut this testimony. If the body of Jesus was located subsequent to the crucifixion, then surely there would be testimony to support this counter-claim in the historical record, but there is none. Dr. Carrier’s accusation just does not make sense.
 Merriam Webster: An Encyclopaedia Britannica Company [Web]. Contradiction. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/contradiction Date of access: 23 June 2015.
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