One of the points of establishing this blog was to deal with matters of truth. So, when people, whether they call themselves Christians, atheists, or what not, make truth claims (which includes claims about morality or whatnot) I find it necessary to address them.
A piece by Valerie Tarico has once again crossed my path. This one is titled, “The right gets Jesus wrong: 9 reasons everything you know about Jesus is a myth”. So, in the Triggerman tradition, I’ll take a few posts to respond to her claims.
The second paragraph of her article states,
We have no record of anything that was written about Jesus by eyewitnesses or other contemporaries during the time he would have lived, or for decades thereafter.
That is simply a false assertion. Luke’s gospel begins.
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4, ESV, emphasis added)
There are several points that need to be pointed out in this statement.
1. Notice the phrase, “…things that have been accomplished among us…” The author includes himself in the group that the “things” that “have been accomplished among”.
2. The author, while not claiming to be an eyewitness himself, claims that what he is reporting is what was “delivered” ( a form of the verb παραδίδωμι, which means “to hand over”) by “eyewitnesses and ministers”.
3. The author claims to have “followed all things closely” and is concerned that his audience, “Theophilus” can “have certainty concerning the things [he has] been taught.”
So, contrary to her assertion, we do seem to have eyewitness testimony contained in the Gospel of Luke.
Also, in the Gospel of John,
This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. (John 21:24, ESV)
In the Greek manner of confirmation we have a dual confirmation here:
1. That the contents of the book that proceeded the statement are eyewitness testimony from the “disciple” in question, who was a witness and,
2. There is secondary confirmation by an unnamed party to the veracity of the testimony.
So, we have, in fact at least two sets of eyewitness testimony: one a compilation and the other direct.
The second part of her assertion is thereby rendered irrelevant because it is contradicted by the fact that we have reliable, eyewitness testimony, regardless of when it was written. Also, there’s something that needs to be considered, a point that seems to be ignored by modern scholars that might make such a claim: how did people in the 2nd century, who reference the Gospel accounts consider them? After all, shouldn’t our considerations and understandings be based on theirs since they were closer to the events? Anyway, let’s look at the “myths” that we “get wrong” about Jesus.
“Myth” number 1:
Married, not single. When an ancient papyrus scrap was found in 2014 referring to the wife of Jesus, some Catholics and Evangelicals were scandalized. But unlike the Catholic Church, Jews have no tradition of celibacy among religious leaders. Jesus and his disciples would have been practicing Jews, and all great rabbis we know of were married. A rabbi being celibate would have been so unusual that some modern writers have argued Jesus must have been gay. But a number of ancient texts, including the canonical New Testament, point to a special relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. The Gospel of Phillip says, “[Jesus] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth.”
I’m going to guess that she has not heard, or chose to ignore the fact that the “ancient papyrus scrap” that she’s referring to has been declared a fake, something a simple Wikipedia search would have uncovered. And in spite of the fact that there was no tradition of celebacy among Jewish rabbis in the 1st century, it simply does not follow that to be called “rabbi” by his peers that Jesus would have to be married. Further, from the primary source documents (ie, the Gospels), given Jesus’ itenerant lifestyle, there wasn’t a reason for him to marry. Notice the insinuation, which flows from a 2nd century, gnostic gospel. Can anyone say, “double standard“?
“Myth” number 2:
Cropped hair, not long. Jewish men at the time of Christ did not wear their hair long. A Roman triumphal arch of the time period depicts Jewish slaves with short hair. In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he addresses male hair length. “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him?” (1 Corinthians 11:14 NRSV). During the 1960s, conservative Christians quoted this verse to express their disgust against the hippy movement and to label it anti-Christian.
Um, so what? Next…
“Myth” number 3:
Hung on a pole, not necessarily a cross. For centuries scholars have known that the Greek New Testament word “stauros,” which is translated into English as cross, can refer to a device of several shapes, commonly a single upright pole, “torture stake” or even tree. The Romans did not have a standard way of crucifying prisoners, and Josephus tells us that during the siege of Jerusalem, soldiers nailed or tied their victims in a variety of positions. Early Christians may have centered on the vertical pole with a crossbeam because it echoed the Egyptian ankh, a symbol of life, or the Sumerian symbol for Tammuz, or because it simply was more artistically and symbolically distinctive than the alternatives. Imagine millions of people wearing a golden pole on a chain around their necks.
Attentive people will notice that she refuted herself but, historically, the first Christian symbol was not a cross, it was a fish, specifically the Greek word for fish, the symbol that a lot of Christians today still put on their cars, just pointing in the wrong direction because it was an easy way to identify brethren on the sly (if anyone has ever read the novel The Robe, they will find a discussion of this) during the times of persecution from around AD65 until the peace of the church in 313. The cross, or more specifically the crucifix, was a Roman Catholic identification. Anachronism out the wahzoo.
OK. Enough for this post. Keep watch for my continuing response. God bless.