“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
The Western world is becoming increasingly secular in many countries, especially within Europe, where people seem to be gravitating away from God. “New atheists” such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens have capitalized on this movement and have collectively sold millions of books advocating a world without God. Their fervor and the fact my own brother regards the work of Sam Harris highly have inspired my passion against this movement, which has led me to write thirty seven blogs over the past year. They include multiple rebuttals to numerous atheists and skeptics.
Today, I listened to Aron Ra’s Mythical Man video, which I’ll label as a gas-lighting festival against Jesus. Gas-lighting is a form of manipulation in which a person in a position of influence attempts to sow seeds of doubt in others by systematically withholding factual information. Aron makes dozens of non-factual points about Jesus in an attempt to slam Him into a corner. I’ve highlighted thirty one of his most significant points below and have offered the reasons why his points are not credible and should not be taken seriously. Each point he makes is in bold print, followed by my response.
1.Modern scholars depict wildly different persons of Jesus
This point is flawed in multiple ways. Consider the depictions by modern scholars of any historical figure. If we have more than a single source of information on an historical figure, it is likely the opinions of the sources on that figure may differ. Secondly, the depictions by modern scholars matter less than the depictions of eyewitnesses to the accounts in the New Testament. Thirdly, modern apologists who understand the Gospels depict Jesus similarly, as a loving, generous, kind teacher who advocated humility and forgiveness and was crucified for our sins.
The very first opinions on Jesus were shared by Paul in the creed in 1 Corinthians 15: “For what I received I passed on to you as first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”
Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, which made a very clear claim that five hundred of his contemporaries saw the risen Jesus. If he were lying about all of these people, surely they would have called him out. We have no evidence that anyone said there were not five hundred eyewitnesses.
2. The Gospels contradict each other.
The Gospels do not contradict each other. They each provide a piece to a larger puzzle. In my blog entitled “Resolving controversies surrounding Joseph of Arimathea and the women who discovered Jesus’ empty tomb,” I present a blending of the Gospel accounts of the discovery of the empty tomb, which tells a richer story of what happened that day. Just as a detective collects multiple eyewitness accounts to an incident to gain a fuller picture of the event, the Gospel writers provide multiple perspectives on the events that occurred during Jesus’ ministry.
J. Warner Wallace (2013) notes many “un-designed coincidences” where questions from one account are answered in another. Several examples are here:
- Matthew 8:16: Why did they wait until evening to bring those who needed healing?
- Answer in Mark 1:21, Luke 4:31: It was the Sabbath.
- Luke 23:1-4: Why didn’t Pilate find a charge against Jesus even though Jesus claimed to be a King?
- Answer in John 18:33: Jesus told Pilate His Kingdom was not of this world.
3. Even the New Testament authors don’t claim to be first-hand accounts. The authorship is also a question.
Paul clearly claims to be a first-hand account. Luke also joined Paul in his travels, as he documents by referring to himself in the first person, starting in Acts 16. Regardless of whether the Gospels were penned by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John or by their scribes or apprentices, we know they’re attributed to those four authors. Additionally, of the Books in the New Testament, Matthew, Peter and John were among Jesus’ apostles, James and Jude were His half brothers, and Paul indicated he saw Jesus on his way to Damascus.
- Paul was a persecutor of Christians
- James was a skeptic
- Peter had doubts
- Then they saw the risen Jesus
- They preached for decades illegally, risking gory deaths
- All were martyred
- Why did they do what they did?
- See #4
Authorship does not indicate validity. Content indicates validity and the content of the Gospels is validated by no less than nine secular and thirty three Christians within 150 years of Jesus’ resurrection. Historians require two sources: we have forty two sources validating the life and ministry of Jesus. I have offered the names of these sources, along with other archeological evidence in my blogs entitled “Archeological and historical extra-biblical evidence in support of Christianity” and “And Babylon will never be inhabitable.” The secular sources include Josephus (37 – 100), Thallus (5 – 60 AD), Mara Bar-Serapion (70 – ? AD), Phlegon (80 – 140 AD), and Tacitus (56 – 117 AD).
The Christian sources were often apprentices to the disciples. As an example, we know that John taught Ignatius (35 – 117 AD). Ignatius’ portrayal of Jesus includes the following (Wallace, 2013, p. 217):
- “The prophets predicted and waited for Jesus.
- He was (and is) the ‘Son of God.’
- He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
- He was born of the Virgin Mary.
- He was baptized by John the Baptist.
- He was the ‘perfect’ man.
- He manifested the will and knowledge of God the Father.
- He taught and had a ‘ministry’ on earth.
- He was the source of wisdom and taught many commandments.
- He spoke the words of God.
- He was unjustly treated and condemned by men.
- He suffered and was crucified.
- He died on the cross.
- Jesus sacrificed Himself for us as an offering to God the Father.
- This took place under the government of Pontius Pilate.
- Jesus was resurrected.
- He had a physical resurrection body.
- He appeared to Peter and the others after the resurrection.”
- Jesus is the manifestation of God the Father.”
John also taught Polycarp (69 – 155 AD). Polycarp affirmed much of what Ignatius stated. He stated (Wallace, 2013, p. 219):
- “Jesus was sinless.
- His death on the cross saves us.
- We are saved by grace.
- Jesus was raised from the dead.
- His resurrection ensures that we will also be raised.”
Paul taught Clement, whom he identified in Philippians 4:3. Clement referenced a number of examples from the Old Testament and referred to the life and teaching of Jesus as it was passed down to him. From Clement we know the following about Jesus (Wallace, 2013, p. 223):
- “He was resurrected from the dead.
- He taught principles as described by Mark and Luke.
- He was humble and unassuming.
- He suffered and died for our salvation.
- His resurrection makes our resurrection certain.
- He is ‘Lord’ and ‘Son of God.’
- All creation belongs to Him.”
“John Mark was the cousin of Barnabas and his childhood home was well known to Peter (Acts 12:12-14). Mark became so close to Peter that the apostle described him as ‘my son’ (1 Peter 5:13). Peter preserved his eyewitness testimony through his primary disciple and student, who then passed it on to the next generation in what we now recognize as the gospel of Mark” (Wallace, 2013, p. 226).
4. The earliest New Testament authors seem ignorant to the details of Jesus’ life that become clearer later.
To assert that details of Jesus’ life became clearer later, by non-eyewitnesses, perhaps in the gnostic accounts that were written between the second and fourth centuries is to assert nonsense. Why would we prefer accounts written centuries later when we have eyewitness accounts by Peter, Paul, John, Matthew, John, James, and Jude?
The Gnostic Gospels reveal an entirely different genre of material. For example, the Gospel of Truth in the Nag Hammadi Library reads, “Despite its title, this work is not the sort found in the New Testament, since it does not offer a continuous narration of the deeds, teachings, passion, and resurrection of Jesus.” The Gospel of Philip says “it is not a gospel like one of the New Testament gospels. The Gnostic Gospels depict Jesus as more of a lecturer on metaphysics than a Jewish prophet, taking the message from its historical context (Grootjuis, n.d.)
5. “We know that the virgin birth was fabricated and inserted later on.”
This is an assertion without evidence. In the Gospels, Luke and Matthew document the Virgin birth of Jesus to Mary. As noted above, Ignatius also documents Jesus’ birth.
6. No first century secular evidence exists to support Jesus.
See above. We have thirty three Christian and nine secular sources within 150 years of Jesus’ resurrection and many of the sources lived within a few decades of either Jesus’ ministry or the ministry of his earliest disciples.
Additionally, “there are 2,328 manuscripts and manuscript fragments surviving from the earliest centuries of the Christian church and representing all portions of the Gospels. The earliest fragment of any portion of the NT currently in existence is the John Rylands papyrus fragment of John 18:31-33, 37-38, which probably dates to 125 AD or within about thirty years of the original composition of the fourth Gospel. Twenty-one papyri containing major sections of one or more of the Gospels can be dated to the third and fourth centuries, while five virtually complete NTs survive from the fourth and fifth centuries. Compared with the numbers and ages of manuscripts which have survived for most other ancient documents, including many believed to be reliable accounts of historical events, this evidence is overwhelming.” (Green, McKnight, & Marshall, 1992, p. 292).
7. The Gospel of Mark was written decades later.
We know Paul was beheaded in 62 AD by Nero, so it is clear and uncontested that he wrote his epistles prior to that date. The fact that he quotes Luke in 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians confirm that Luke wrote the Gospel prior to Paul’s death. Luke also wrote the Book of Acts after the Gospel, as he indicated at the outset in Acts.
Scholars have indicated that Mark is the first Gospel and the other Synoptic Gospels (Luke and Matthew) used some of the material from either Mark or a source called Q. So at the very least, we have multiple accounts within a few decades of Jesus’ resurrection.
8. Paul was not an eyewitness but he pretended to be. This is the first example of a Christian claiming to seeing something he didn’t see.
In his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15), Paul quite clearly indicated that he saw Jesus. He spent decades preaching for him illegally, risking and enduring beatings and imprisonment, which he documented often in his writings.
9. Jesus said he would return very soon while apostles were still alive. It puts his second coming in the first century. “We’ve been stood up. He ain’t coming.”
Jesus did not make this statement. In Matthew 24:34, Jesus states “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
The interpretation of the word “generation” has led some people to believe that Jesus was referring to a generation of people. The original Greek word for generation is “genea (γενεά),” which means generation, race, family, times, or nation. In Acts 14:16, genea translates to times. “In the past times, he let all nations go their own way.” In Acts 15:21, genea also refers to times. “For the Law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” In Philippians 2:15, genea translates as a nation. “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” Some scholars believe genea refers to the nation of Israel. The translation to times may also be the case, considering the earth’s age (4.5BY) and the time since Jesus walked the earth is relatively short.
10. There are already Christian bishops and deacons thirty years after Jesus walked the earth.
Why wouldn’t there be bishops and deacons thirty years after Jesus walked the earth? He started the Christian church. By the time Christianity was legalized by the Roman emperor Constantine in 313 AD, millions of people considered themselves Christians (Wawro, 2008).
11. The Abrahamic religions have been at war with each other continually since their inceptions.
Wars have been waged, but Christians were not guilty of persecuting non-Christians while Christianity was illegal. All but one of Jesus’ disciples (John) died gory deaths. Peter was crucified upside down, James (John’s brother) was killed by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12: 1-2), and Paul was beheaded by Nero in Rome. Peter and Paul were confirmed by the Eusebius, the first church historian, in his book “Ecclesiastical History.” The martyrdoms of Peter and Paul were also documented by Dionysius of Corinth, Tertillian and Origen. The martyrdom of James the Just (Jesus’ half brother) was documented by Josephus, Hegesippus, and Clement of Alexandria (Habermas & Licona, 2004).
A great quote by Charles Colson says “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Everyone was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world – and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”
A quote by William Lane Craig (n.d.) offers details on early Muslims:
“Jesus said that we should love unbelievers, just as God does, even if they are our enemies. Mohammed’s attitude and teaching were quite different. Early on in his career, when he himself was in the persecuted minority, Mohammed had a very positive attitude toward Jews and Christians, whom he called the “People of the Book” because of their adherence to the Bible. He believed that once the Jews understood his message, they would willingly convert to Islam. Passages in the Quran from this early period of Mohammed’s life are quite positive toward Jews and Christians.
But when the Jews did not convert, but opposed Mohammed, he became increasingly embittered against them. As Mohammed acquired political and military strength, the persecuted prophet changed to the ruthless politician. He began to have the Jews in Medina, where his base of operations was, either killed or dispossessed. In the year 627, after an unsuccessful attack on Medina by the Arab army from Mecca, Mohammad rounded up hundreds of Jewish families in Medina. 700 Jewish men were put to the sword, and Mohammad had their wives and children sold into slavery.”
So I agree with Aron that religious wars exist and have existed for centuries. I do not deny some of the horrible persecutions over the centuries that non-Christians have endured since Christianity was legalized. However, that does not suggest Christianity is untrue. It merely suggests that man sometimes misinterprets the message. Jesus told us not to live by the sword when He said that those who live by the sword, die by the sword.
12. “One Corinthians…I will destroy the wisdom of the wise.”
The Bible advocates wisdom for the righteous and the just. As Psalm 37:30 states, “The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom and their tongues speak what is just.” Proverbs 1:7 says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul was not referring to the righteous and just, but to people with opposing values.
13. Christianity has impeded and retarded progress.
Top Ivy League universities in the United States were founded by Christians. Harvard’s Puritan founders intended “to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches.” Yale was founded in 1701 by Puritans who thought Harvard was too liberal and Princeton was founded in 1746 by people who thought Yale was too liberal. Dartmouth’s motto, “a voice crying out in the wilderness” is a reference to John the Baptist, taken from Isaiah 40:3.
14. Paul preached circumcision. “If God meant for us to be circumcised we wouldn’t be born with foreskins.”
This statement equates to saying if God meant for us to get haircuts and trim our fingernails and toenails, we wouldn’t be born with hair and nails.
15. Christians are fools for Christ’s sake. They accept improbable claims with insufficient evidence.
Contrary to what Aron states, Christians are rational people. People don’t accept improbable claims with insufficient evidence. In addition to the Bible, the entire Christian Apologetics movement provides that evidence and millions of books have been sold by authors such as Gary Habermas, Mike Licona, J. Warner Wallace, C.S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, Timothy Keller, Nancy Pearcey, and more. Below I offer a picture with my recommendations.
16. Robin Hood, Sir Lancelot, the Holy Grail, and King Arthur are legends, so perhaps Jesus is a legend. Dracula is the “only one we can be sure really lived.”
In 1897, Bram Stoker penned his book on Count Dracula. The book was loosely based on Vlad Tepes, who was born in 1431 in Romania. Dubbed Vlad the Impaler, Vlad was a prince of Wallachia who had some of his enemies impaled. Word of his cruelty spread throughout the Ottoman Empire and he became a recognized figure in many countries.
Suggesting we can only really be sure that Vlad the Impaler lived implies that Aron considers Jesus to be a legend, yet as stated at the outset, we have forty two sources (9 secular) within 150 years of Jesus’ resurrection that validate Jesus’ life and ministry. In addition, Jesus is well recognized in every country of the world and Christianity is practiced by 2.2 billion believers today. Few recognize Vlad the Impaler today and his story has been reduced to a vampire legend.
17. Modern apologists say people only know to wash their hands because God told them to do same and Jesus said not to wash hands.
No, modern apologists do not make this silly assertion. Jesus did not instruct us not to wash our hands. Luke 11:39-41 indicates that Jesus did not first wash before a meal. He wanted to make the following point to the Pharisees, to demonstrate that their rituals should not take precedent over their love for God. “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did the one who make the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you – be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.’”
18. We have only one source for Socrates and “that should be sufficient” because he wrote philosophy and he isn’t God.
Such a double standard highlights Aron’s biased views of Jesus.
19. All that “Old Testament stuff still applies to Christians.”
This statement is also untrue. One of Jesus’ purposes was to share the New Covenant in which we follow two basic commandments to love our God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
20. No prophet has respect in his own home town. “The people who knew Him…knew He was full of **it.”
Christian apologists note the presence of much “embarrassing” testimony in the New Testament, which demonstrates the likelihood that New Testament writers were not crafting falsehoods. Peter’s doubts and his thrice denial of Jesus, Jesus’ family’s initial thoughts that Jesus had gone mad, Jesus’ mother and brothers’ attempt to stop Him at one point, and the lowly woman who washed Jesus’ feet are several examples of such testimonies. Aron identified another.
If writers were merely crafting a story, they would not have put in parts that would not be influential in driving people to Christianity. But they did. They wanted to tell the truth. When Jesus died on the cross and the apostles’ initial reaction was to hide in fear, writers detailed the account because it was the truth. When women (who were considered second class and whose testimonies were not to be trusted) were the first to discover Jesus’ empty tomb, all four Gospel authors documented that women made the discovery – because it was the truth.
21. People want to believe Christianity without testing it. Jesus said not to put God to the test.
We are not to put God to the test, but we do test our faith and those who may influence us. 1 John 4 says “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”
22. Jesus “made His money” off of His evangelism.
There is no indication that Jesus made any money off of his evangelism. Instead, he was crucified for it.
23. Jesus was a cult leader who demanded His disciples to serve Him. He said if you don’t hate your loved ones, you cannot be His disciple.
Gotquestions.org answers this question as follows:
“First, we must take this verse in the context of the chapter. Jesus is teaching His disciples, and like any good teacher, He begins with a truth statement that is hard to understand in order to get His students thinking. Then, He clarifies the difficult truth statement with a metaphor. The truth statement is the confusing verse 26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” So, if we don’t hate our family and our own lives, we can’t be His disciple. But does He mean we are to have real hatred for our parents? Next, Jesus relates a metaphor about a man who builds a house without counting the cost and finds that he cannot follow through with what he set out to do. He leaves the house unfinished because he cannot pay what is required. Jesus is showing us the explanation to His difficult statement—that we must count the cost of discipleship. This is the point of the passage. In order to be a disciple, we must be willing to give up everything for Jesus. Therefore, if our parents will not follow Jesus, or even if they disown us for being Christians, we must still choose Him over them. It is in this sense that we are “hating” our family members who reject the Lord or reject us because of the Lord. This is not easy, and of course it is right that we should love our family members and want our family members to love and follow God. After all, 1 John 4:7-8 says “Beloved, let us love one another for love is from God and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God for God is love.” And that is only one of many passages commanding us to love others. But despite our love for the people we know, here is the key: if they don’t love Jesus, He must still be our first priority. We must esteem Him more highly than the people we love here on earth and we must love Him more than our own lives. In fact, we must love Him so much that our earthly loves pale in comparison, even to the point of seeming like hate.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/hate-father-mother.html)
24. He didn’t know when figs were in season or the smallest seeds.
In Mark 11:12 – 21, Jesus cursed a fig tree, which subsequently withered. The story provides a prophetic sign for the people (Ezekiel 4: 1-17, Jeremiah 13: 1-11, Jeremiah 19: 1 – 13) of the Temple and the worship of Israel, which also bore no fruit. Mark placed the account near the account of the cleansing in the Temple (Mark 11:15 – 19).
In Mark 4:30 – 32, Jesus said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”
Mustard seeds were known to the people in Israel with whom He shared the parable as the smallest of seeds, so using the mustard seed to illustrate spiritual growth was appropriate.
25. The devil took him up on a mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the earth, so He must have thought the world was flat.
Aron makes the assumption that both Jesus and the devil are bounded by physical limitations and can only see what is physical in the world. Neither are bounded by such limitations, so when the devil showed Jesus the kingdoms of the earth, they were likely revealed in a metaphysical way.
26. There are two stories of the loaves and fish and people were surprised both times, so at least one must be a lie.
If Jesus had turned water to wine twice or walked on water twice, people would have been surprised in both cases. Just because the miracle occurred twice and people were surprised both times does not mean the miracle did not occur the second time.
27. Baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem yet He’s from Nazareth. He had to come from both places.
People may be born in one place and raised in another. For example, my kids were born in a hospital in one Florida town and raised in another. They consider themselves from the latter.
28. Jesus was born before Herod’s death in 4 B.C. and after the census of Quirinius 10 years later.
Bible scholars suggest that Jesus was born between 4 and 5 BC and that Luke was referring to a census conducted by Quirinius before the one Aron has cited. Quirinius took office in 12 BC and likely took a census around the time in which Herod died and a transition in leadership took place.
Luke 2:2 states “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria). Perhaps the census referenced by Aron is the second census Quirinius took.
29. He compares Hercules, Bacchus, Dionysus, Perseus, and other myths with Jesus. Jesus is merely an imitation of these gods. “Why would God create His Son to be a cheap sequel” to these other gods?
William Lane Craig (2009) offers an answer to this question.
“First, scholars came to realize that the alleged parallels are spurious. The ancient world was a virtual cornucopia of myths of gods and heroes. Comparative studies in religion and literature require sensitivity to their similarities and differences, or distortion and confusion inevitably result. Unfortunately, those who adduced parallels to Christian beliefs failed to exercise such sensitivity. Take, for example, the story of the Virgin Birth, or, more accurately, Jesus’ virginal conception. The alleged pagan parallels to this story concern tales of gods’ assuming bodily form and having sexual intercourse with human females to sire divine-human progeny (like Hercules). As such these stories are exactly the opposite of the Gospel story of Mary’s conceiving Jesus apart from any sexual relations. The Gospel stories of Jesus’ virginal conception are, in fact, without parallel in the ancient Near East.
Or consider the Gospel event of most interest to me: Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Many of the alleged parallels to this event are actually apotheosis stories, the divinization and assumption of the hero into heaven (Hercules, Romulus). Others are disappearance stories, asserting that the hero has vanished into a higher sphere (Apollonius of Tyana, Empedocles). Still others are seasonal symbols for the crop cycle, as the vegetation dies in the dry season and comes back to life in the rainy season (Tammuz, Osiris, Adonis). Some are political expressions of Emperor worship (Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus). None of these is parallel to the Jewish idea of the resurrection of the dead. David Aune, who is a specialist in comparative ancient Near Eastern literature, concludes, “no parallel to them [resurrection traditions] is found in Graeco-Roman biography” (“The Genre of the Gospels,” in Gospel Perspectives II, ed. R. T. France and David Wenham [Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1981], p. 48).”
30. Mark says on the day Jesus was crucified said that sun was obscured from noon to 3 p.m. Matthew added an earthquake. Matthew reanimated corpses. That wasn’t confirmed. Witnesses didn’t record this.
According to Mark 15:33, “at noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’). Mark 15:37-39 continues, “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed His last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how He died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God.”
Luke 23:44-45 states, “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When He had said this, He breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’”
Matthew 27:45 says, “From noon until three in the afternoon, darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani’ (which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Matthew 27:50-52 continues, “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely He was the Son of God!”
According to the prophet Joel (which is recounted by Luke in Acts 2:15-21) “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious days of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
There is some other evidence that on the day of the crucifixion the sun was darkened and/or the moon appeared like blood. The so-called Report of Pilate, a New Testament Apocryphal fragment (see DeLiso & Fidani 2014 for a more complete review) from the fourth century, states “Jesus was delivered to him by Herod, Archelaus, Philip, Annas, Caiphas, and all the people. At his crucifixion the sun was darkened; the stars appeared and in all the world people lighted lamps from the sixth hour till evening; the moon appeared like blood.” Thallus is a relatively unknown pagan author who also cited darkness during the crucifixion, as reported by both him and Africanus (DeLiso & Fidani, 2014). As expected, however, some pagans rejected the reports, including Origene, Jerome, and Chrysostom (DeLiso & Fidani, 2014).
Scholars have reported that devastating earthquakes occurred in Jerusalem during Christ’s death (Mallet, 1853; Rigg, 1941). This occurred in a region that includes the Dead Sea fault, which is a plate boundary that separates the Arabian plate and the Sinai sub-plate (Garfunkel, 1981). This fault has been active since the Miocene (Kagan, Stein, Agnon, & Neuman, 2011) and the fault is still active today (De Liso & Fidani, 2014). The fault extends from the Red Sea in the south to the Taurus Mountains in the north.
Kagan and colleagues (2011) analyzed seismites in the Holocene Dead Sea basin by constructing two age-depth chronological models based on atmospheric radiocarbon ages of short-lived organic debris with a Bayesian model. Seismites are sedimentary beds and structures, which are deformed by seismic shaking. The scholars analyzed seismites in different areas of the basin, finding that several synchronous seismites appeared in all sections during particular years, including 33 AD (+/- 2 sigma; 95% confidence interval). Other years in which earthquakes occurred as evidenced by seismites are (AD unless otherwise noted): 1927, 1293, 1202/1212, 749, 551, 419, 33, 31 BC, and mid-century B.C.
After analyzing laminated sedimentary cores recovered at the shores of the Dead Sea, Migowski, Agnon, Bookman, Negendank, and Stein (2004) also confirmed an earthquake in 33 AD with a magnitude of 5.5. They documented earthquakes around 33 AD in 31 BC and 76 AD. The scholars analyzed seismites using radiocarbon dating.
Ben-Menahem (2014) conducted a literature review of empirical studies over 4,000 years of seismicity along the Dead Sea Rift. The scholar referenced the aforementioned studies along with one by Enzel, Kadan, and Eyal (2000) before concluding that earthquakes occurred in Masada in 31 BC, Jerusalem in 33 AD, and near Nablus in 64 AD.
In summary, the literature on seismicity along the Dead Sea basin supports the assertion that an earthquake occurred either in or very close to the year 33 AD. Jesus was crucified on April 3, 33.
31. Judas died two different ways using the same 30 pieces that He both kept and returned.
Zechariah 11:12-13 “So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’’ – the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the LORD.”
In Matthew 27:3-8, Judas’ suicide is recounted. “When Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ ‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘That’s your responsibility.’ So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the coins and said, ‘It is against the law to put this money into the treasury, since it is blood money. So they decided to use the money to buy a potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day.”
Acts 1:18 – 19 continues recounting the passage. “(With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is Field of Blood.)”
Biblical scholars note that Judas’ body likely decomposed after his death by hanging, which is why his body burst open when he fell onto the ground. Only a decomposed body would burst in such a way that one’s intestines would spill out. Furthermore, Judas symbolically “bought a field,” as the silver coins he returned to the chief priests ended up being used to purchase a potter’s field.
Hopefully the truth has set you free. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
Thank you for your time.
Aron Ra’s Mythical Man video can be accessed here: youtube.com/watch?v=cAEghxnK3UU
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