“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:4-6).
I recently watched and wrote a rebuttal to “The Mythical Man” by a full-time atheist activist who calls himself Aron Ra. The Mythical Man is a video he produced that contained a number of fabrications against Jesus and accounts of Jesus as told in the New Testament. Following my rebuttal, which is entitled “31 Christian Responses to Aron Ra’s Gaslighting Festival against Jesus,” one of his supporters wrote a rebuttal. He refers to himself as “the Godless Wolf” and I’ve highlighted key points from his rebuttal below. The intention of the present blog is to respond to each of his major points of refutation. Rather than revisit my original 31 responses, I have numbered and italicized Godless Wolf’s original assertions and responded to each.
- Even the claimed eye-witness testimonies in the New Testament differ, in HUGE ways about Jesus’ figure and life.
“The most striking feature one notices in comparing Matthew, Mark, and Luke is their similarity. Approximately ninety-one percent (c. 601 out of 661 verses) of Mark’s information appears in Matthew or Luke, and usually in both. An additional 235 verses appear in some form in both Matthew and Luke but not in Mark” (Green, McKnight & Marshall, 1992, pp. 294-295).
The authors of the Gospels recount the Gospel events using a device known today as the “critical incident technique.” The critical incident technique is a set of procedures for collecting direct observations of human behavior that intentionally excludes opinions, traits, and biases. Instead of developing the “characters” in the Gospels, as would have been done to be consistent with prevalent story telling in Greco-Roman literature, the authors do not offer their own insight and opinions on Jesus’ appearance and personality characteristics. They only reveal the facts that contribute to the substance of the message.
From Jesus’ ministry, we can make our own deductions about His character as a humble and obedient, yet knowledgeable teacher who forgave people and offered His own interpretations of Old Testament laws. He worked in the pits and not the pedestals as He spent time with and exalted tax collectors and other sinners within the greater Judea region. All four Gospels speak of His miracles, His teachings, and His love for humanity.
In summary, the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ life do not differ in “HUGE” ways about Jesus’ figure and life.
- We have no evidence that there were five hundred eyewitnesses to begin with! All we have is Paul’s say-so.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul makes it clear that five hundred people were eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus. If five hundred people did not see the risen Jesus, the fact that His ministry grew into the millions over the first three hundred years after His resurrection (c.f., Wawro, 2008, pp. 84) is even MORE remarkable as fewer people would have attested to His resurrection.
- Wow…. she cited J Wallace. For those of you unaware of who he is, he’s an ex-cop. He has exactly zero degrees in any relevant subject and has never published a single paper or book on this at any peer reviewed venue.
Through the centuries, God has often empowered and exalted the least among us. Consider Moses’ humble beginnings and the way he initially protested to God in Exodus 4:10:
Moses said to the LORD, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
Consider those whom Jesus chose as His disciples: fishermen, a tax collector, a tent-maker, and other men and women of humble means.
Consider John Bunyan (1628-1688), who was barely educated, yet authored numerous books including Pilgrim’s Progress. He acknowledged his humble birth when he said, “my father’s house being that of the rank that is meanest and most despised of all the families in the land.”
God chooses people of varying backgrounds to share His message in ways that appeal to groups not captured by the traditional apologists in Christian ministries. J. Warner Wallace, as a former homicide investigator, offers a unique perspective on the investigation into Jesus’ ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection.
In addition, Wallace’s books reference and have the support of a variety of Christian apologists who are well-published with terminal degrees. At the outset of his book, Cold Case Christianity, supporting comments from Craig J. Hazen, J.P. Moreland, Paul Copan, Rick Warren, and Sean McDowell are provided.
- The rules of the Sanhedrin were violated, so the crucifixion must not have happened.
The Jewish Talmud, which refers to the writings and discussions of ancient rabbis, refutes this assertion. “Jesus practiced magic and led Israel astray” (b. Sanhedrin 43a; c.f., Shabbat 11.15, b. Shabbat 104b). “Rabbi Hisda (d. 309) said that Rabbi Jeremiah bar Abba said, ‘What is that which is written, “No evil will befall you, nor shall any plague come near your house?” (Psalm 91:10)… “No evil will befall you” (means) that evil dreams and evil thoughts will not tempt you; “nor shall any plague come near your house” (means) that you will not have a son or a disciple who burns his food like Jesus of Nazareth’” (b. Sanhedrin 103a; c.f., b. Berakhot 17b).
“It was taught: On the day before the Passover they hanged Jesus. A herald went before him for forty days (proclaiming), ‘He will be stoned, because he practiced magic and enticed Israel to go astray. Let anyone who knows anything in his favor come forward and plead for him.’ But nothing was found in his favor, and they hanged him on the day before the Passover” (b. Sanhedrin 43a).
The passages above were quoted in J. Warner Wallace’s Cold Case Christianity (2013, pp. 199). From these passages, we know that Jesus was not merely a myth, he had magical powers, and he was hanged the day before the Passover.
Luke 23:2, 5 provides the only explicit record of the charges brought against Jesus: “We have found this man subverting our nation, opposing the payment of taxes to Caesar, and saying of himself that he is the Christ….He stirs up the people throughout Judea by his teaching.”
Pilate’s question to Jesus, which was reported in all four Gospels (Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; and John 18:33) is also unambiguous, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus responded with: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
- Paul never met Jesus in his entire life. Paul is a man whose entire ministry rests on a man he never met, only relying on “visions” and “revelations” he had about a figure he credits to be Jesus.
Throughout the Book of Acts and Paul’s Epistles, Luke (Acts) and Paul have chronicled the beatings, snake bites, harsh conditions, and imprisonments Paul endured in the name of Jesus over decades. Given the fact that his vision of Jesus completely changed his life from a Christian persecutor (Saul) to one of Christianity’s most persecuted, one must consider the power of the vision and the fact that he fought to spread Jesus’ message for years.
Furthermore, Paul did not merely claim he had a vision. He claimed in 1 Corinthians 15 that he saw the risen Christ. Jesus’ form was not merely a vision or a spirit, but flesh-like, as He ate fish with the apostles and showed Thomas the nail marks in His hands. Jesus remained in this form with His disciples for forty days after His resurrection. During this time He “did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:18).
- Also, do we have evidence that James is real? And which James are we talking about?
James, John’s brother, was put to death with the sword by Herod in Acts 12:2. James the Just, Jesus’ half-brother, to whom the Book of James is attributed, was reported by Josephus to have been stoned to death and by Eusebius to have been thrown from the top of a temple and beaten to death with a club.
- The Godless Wolf questions the authenticity of Josephus’ account.
Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews (18.3, 63-64) contains the “Testimonium Flavianium:”
“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him. And the tribe of Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared” (Trans. L.H. Feldman, Loeb Classical Library. In Green, McKnight, and Marshall, 1992).
This statement was known as early as the fourth century when Eusebius twice quoted it (Hist. Eccl. 1.11; Dem. Ev. 3.5, 124). Origin also knew of Josephus’ other references to John the Baptist and James the Just (Jesus’ half-brother).
Bible scholars have debated whether the above passage was distorted slightly by later Christians and some, such as S. Pines (1971), produced slightly different variants based on Arabic translations less likely to be modified by Christian authors. S. Pines’ version is as follows:
“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good, and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations have become his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”
Despite the controversies, Josephus provides important historic information about first-century Judaism. Furthermore, aside from Josephus, we have 9 secular and 32 other Christian sources within 150 years of Jesus’ crucifixion that provide support for the New Testament accounts.
- Christians are fools for Christ’s sake. They accept improbable claims with insufficient evidence. 1 Corinthians 4:10 “We are fools for Christ; you are wise in Christ” (in Greek: hemeis moroi dia Christon, humeis de phronimoi en Christo). The word translated here as “fools” is related to the English word “moronic.”
God does make reference to fools in the Bible in Psalm 14 (1-3): “The fool says in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
- If we apply the same methodology that shows Socrates was not real, then so be it. Historians shouldn’t play favoritism, if there is no evidence for a person, then there is none. Even if Socrates turns out to be a legend, what have we lost? Socrates is known for his philosophies that taught us how to think. His philosophies will still stand even if we conclude he didn’t exist. One thing that separates Socrates from Jesus is that Socrates never said, “believe what I tell you or you will be doomed.”
But there is no need to worry about Socrates becoming a non-historical person. Why? Because unlike Jesus, we actually have better evidence proving he was a real historical man. We have the names of over a dozen eyewitnesses who wrote books about Socrates. The books that survived are by Plato and Xenophon, each of whom was an eyewitness and disciple to Socrates, who each recorded his teachings and reported stories and other information about him. From them, we also know the titles of other books about Socrates, and a number of paraphrases and quotations from them survive in other sources. Not only that, we also have a relatively unfriendly eyewitness account of Socrates: The Clouds of Aristophanes.
We have nothing like this for Jesus. None of his Disciples wrote down anything about him or what he taught. Paul doesn’t count because he never met Jesus in his life. Nor do we have any contemporary sources at the time that were critical of Christ and Christians.
In my previous blog, I cited 33 Christian and nine secular sources confirming the validity of the New Testament within 150 years of Jesus’ crucifixion. The Godless Wolf says he has the names of “over a dozen” eyewitnesses who wrote books about Socrates.
Yet in my investigations, I have found that only Plato and Xenophon wrote about Socrates. Socrates himself wrote nothing. I therefore ask the Godless Wolf to provide further information on his claim that there are twelve eyewitness accounts.
Thank you for your time.
My original rebuttal to Aron Ra can be accessed here: https://christian-apologist.com/2017/10/11/31-christian-responses-to-aron-ras-gaslighting-festival-against-jesus/
The Godless Wolf’s rebuttal can be accessed here: http://trollingwithlogic.com/godless-wolf/2017/10/14/aron-ra-vs-twitter-apologist-31-reasons-aron-ra-was-right-all-along/
“You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.” (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
Green, J.B., McKnight, S., & Marshall, I.H. (1992). Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.
Wallace, J.W. (2013). Cold-Case Christianity. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook.
Wawro, G. (2008). Historical Atlas: A Comprehensive History of the World. Elanora Heights, NSW, Australia: Millennium House.