Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Divine, Deity, or Delusion

Today people say that the Bible definitively supports and champions Jesus as god. They use various Bible verses to prove to a degree of absolution that Jesus was divine and deity or god. They say that Jesus’ own disciples understood him to be god incarnate. They even claim that Paul the apostle understood Jesus to be god. But before I begin destroying their  reasoning I would like to point out one thing. I will only be using the “claims” of deity that Jesus spoke himself. I will not be using claims that Paul said because I think it is bogus to use his “claims” and here’s why.
 Paul never claims to have met Jesus, so how in the world does he know he’s god? Well first off Paul says he learned all the knowledge and secrets he had from god himself. He goes to great length and intent on letting the reader know that he did not learn his knowledge and wisdom from the disciples. He specifically spells out that he learned all from god when he was thrown off his horse by a bright light on the road to Damascus. God showed him all wisdom. But isn’t that enough to say that Paul would know if Jesus was god or not because god would know all? Well let’s turn this on us. Would it be enough if you or I said that god came to us in a light on the road to work one morning and said that Jesus wasn’t god and we have got it all wrong these years? Of course the answer would be no. Who would believe you? Maybe a few? What evidence does Paul have to prove his claims? None. Just like you and I, what evidence do we have? The answer again is none. So what would be the difference between now days and Paul’s time? There is no difference we still have to take Paul’s claims and our claims with a grain of salt and test that persons theory as credible. But how in the world do you test someone’s theory that some one may be god? There is no test in the world you could do. There is no god test. So this leaves us with 2 conclusions about Paul and all other disciples. They are either liars or psychotic lunatics. Just look at Paul’s case. He claims that god came to him in a bright light on the road to Damascus, but none of the people he was traveling with could see the light. Why? If god wanted to show his authority and all powerfulness why would he only appear to one man? So let me paint you a picture of what these men traveling with Paul might have seen or thought. They are riding along and all of a sudden Paul falls of his horse and shields his eyes from the sky and starts talking to himself. Then Paul gets up and claims he has seen a bright light and in that bright light was god who told him everything he needed to know about Jesus and what he had to do from this point on.

So where’s the evidence? Paul is a liar and a lunatic. With this knowledge you now have you will understand why I will only be using Jesus’ own words. So let’s begin with the claims of modern apologists. I will go verse by verse and show you how apologists reach and stretch for everything they have and still come up short time and time again.

John 10:25-33. This is the Bible verse where Jesus says in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” Modern apologists use this verse to claim that Jesus didn’t find it blasphemy to be equal with god. But let me ask you a simple question. Why then does Jesus not go on talking about he is equal with god? This is a stretch of the apologist mind. Jesus was simply showing how he and god are one because he does the work of the father who sent him. Not showing he is equal with god. Plus how many times does Jesus talk about how we can become one with god also? A lot actually; he talks about how we can be one with god through him through accepting him. He also says we can become one with god through love. Yet another modern extrapolation from apologists.

John 5:17, 18. In this verse the Judeans get angry with Jesus because he claims god is his father, “My Father is working still, and I am working.” The Judeans claim that since Jesus is saying god is his father then Jesus is claiming equality with god and that is blasphemy. This sounds a lot like the last argument. But yet again Jesus does NOT claim equality or even say he is equal. Instead he goes on in the next verse explaining what he meant by what he said which is that what ever he “sees” god doing he must do. In Jesus’ own words, “…the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise.” No claim of equality or divinity or deity. He is basically saying that since god sent me I must do his work and his work is all I can do, I can do nothing of my self. Jesus as god? I think not.

John 8:58. In this verse Jesus actually claims to be around before even Abraham. But how is this remotely possible? Jesus was born of a human right? That’s exactly what the Judeans were thinking when he said this. Funny to me though that Jesus didn’t claim to be god or a god. This claim is a direct claim of divinity and it’s completely different than deity. But again how do we test if someone is divine? There is no test. We have to take their word for it. If this is the case why can’t you or I say we are divine? Again Jesus isn’t claiming deity but divinity. But how could he claim that? Well it is just as Jesus says, god willed it to him. Time and time again we read Jesus saying that god gave him the power of this or that. It’s simple he could have been around since the beginning of time, yes, but he could also be delusional. What seems more likely? We will be dealing with the trilemma that apologists like to use; it’s the famous liar, lunatic, or lord scenario given by C.S. Lewis.

John 5:23, 24. This verse is about Jesus saying that god had granted him life. Eternal life to believers and god granted Jesus life. Apologists use this verse way out of context. They do a sneaky but devilish trick. It is called quote mining. Basically only using part of a text to twist into what they want. If you read the whole paragraph from start to finish you see that god is doing all the work and granting Jesus to do this or that. Remember Jesus said he can do nothing of himself. Only what god wills to him. Those are Jesus’ own words. Once again we see the apologist even lying to their constituents and misquoting the bible. Such a shame.

John 8:19. Again just like the last verses apologists quote mine. Jesus claims in this verse that, “…if you knew Me, you would know the Father.” But if you read it in context instead of reaching for the stars you would see that Jesus isn’t claiming equality or all the above. Here are his own words, “I bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me.” He isn’t claiming equality he’s showing you that the father has sent him or “bears witness to”. Why would apologist lie yet again?

John 14:1. “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.” This is yet just another stretch. Jesus isn’t claiming anything. He is pleading to you to believe him and his testimony.

John 14:8, 9. In this verse Philip asks Jesus to show them the father. But Jesus replies, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?” No equality or any other claims to divinity or deity. We have gone over this time and time again. Jesus wasn’t saying he is god. If Jesus was god he wouldn’t be so ambiguous. He would have no problem saying I am god. But yet Jesus answered Philip not by saying he ‘is’ the father but by saying he is ‘in’ the father and the father is ‘in’ him. Yet once again found wanting.

These are the 7 claims of deity and divinity apologists use to say Jesus was god or a divine creature. But what does Jesus say about this? At best, using Jesus’ own words, Jesus could be divine but definitively not deity or god. There is no evidence in Jesus’ own words that he made direct claims of equality with god or even being god. Its just not there. The only way of seeing Jesus as god by his own words is to imagine him this way.

So what does this have to do with the genealogy of Jesus? Well as we know in Luke, it appears after his baptism and in Matthew we know it appears at the outset of his gospel. But why? Some people contend that since Matthew is putting his in the beginning he is trying to say that Jesus was divine since birth. With Luke it is just the opposite. Luke actually is saying that Jesus didn’t become divine till after his baptism. But what makes them say this? It is because after his baptism god says to Jesus, “Thou art my beloved Son, with thee I am well pleased.” But in other much older more reliable manuscripts at the end of this verse god says, “and today I have begotten thee.” Not at birth I have begotten you but today I have begotten you.

There is one more verse they use to champion a man as god incarnate. They say this is proof enough even if the last seven are stretches of the imagination this one is definitive. It is the famous John 1:1-14. But this verse was not spoken by Jesus it was said by John, the author of the gospel. The same criteria I spoke about Paul applies to John also. But there is also something very peculiar going on here that most people don’t notice. All references of Jesus’ supposed claims of deity and divinity come from one book, the gospel of John. Why is it that these claims only come from one book? Surely the other gospels have similar verses of Jesus saying similar remarks. But oddly enough the answer is no they don’t. John is the only book that uses such language. So let’s get some background on the gospel of John.

The Gospel According to John

The gospel of John is probably the most unique gospel out of them all. In this gospel you do not have a single parable. The rest of the gospels contain a lot of parables. John also does not have the account of the Sermon on the Mount. John also does not contain the last supper. Instead it contains a story unique to John itself. Instead of the last supper it contains the story of Jesus washing his disciple’s feet. John was the last gospel to be written. It was written some 70 years after Jesus’ death around the year 90-100 c.e. So why is it that all of the apologists claims of deity belong to the gospel of John and no other gospel? This is where the liar, lunatic, or lord scenario comes in. Let me break down this apologist argument so you understand the scenario. If Jesus was not lord of all then he was either a liar or a lunatic. Then they try and show you how Jesus was not a liar or a lunatic. Then they contend since Jesus wasn’t a liar or a lunatic he must have been lord. So let me explain why this scenario is bogus and outrageous. First of all what this argument does is presuppose that our subject is a liar, lunatic, or a lord. But what if the criterion doesn’t fit the subject at all? How can you tell if someone is a liar, lunatic or a lord? Well one way would be by meeting the person, meeting people who know him, talk to his employers, and just do basic research into his past. Luckily for us we have a book called the Bible that gives an idea of who Jesus was. Well with the evidence we have its hard to determine whether he was any of the three. Why? Well it is because the Bible was written by people who had an agenda. It is not a disinterested piece of history. It was written by men who wanted to convert people to their religion. It will always be slanted to their beliefs. It is a theological work. So since there is no other way of telling if Jesus is a liar, lunatic, or lord because no other records exist and it's not like we can just set up a meeting with the guy. He’s dead. It is also very easy to look back in hindsight and make a conclusion rather in the moment of meeting some one. For instance if you met a liar for the first time it would be hard to tell if they were lying or telling the truth, this also goes for the lunatic. So is there any other conclusion we can come to about Jesus? Fortunately the answer is a yes. Legend. In Bart Ehrman’s book Jesus, Interrupted he explains how Jesus had time to become a legend. For instance let’s just use the earliest of our New Testament writers the Apostle Paul. He wrote most of his letters 20 to 30 years after Jesus’ death. This is a sufficient amount of time for some one like Jesus to become a legend. In all reality one year would suffice for a man like Jesus to become legend. Let me explain. In those days, on average only 7% of the people could read or write. So what was their main way of sharing their faith since they didn’t have a Bible to give out? Word of mouth was early Christianity's modus operandi. It is like the game of telephone I use to play as a child. You would tell a short story to one person and that person would try to repeat word for word your story you just told them to the next person in line and so on, till it got back to you. If the story never changed it would be the lamest game in the world. Yet try playing the game of telephone with 1 million people in the 1st century who spoke dozens of different languages over a geographical location the size of the state of Alaska over a span of 20 years. If this is not enough time to create a legend out of a man who already claimed to be the “messiah” then you are severely crazy. In Josh McDowell’s book Evidence for Christianity he claims that there was not enough time for Jesus to become a legend but I am sorry Mr. McDowell I think you need to think that one through again.

So in the case of the gospel of John being written some 70 years after Jesus’ death, it is conclusive to me that whoever wrote the gospel of John had a different picture of who Jesus was then the rest of the gospel writers. It is clear to me that John accepted the legend that Jesus was god. Not to say that the rest of the gospel writers didn’t think Jesus was god because in all reality they could have thought so but they forget to mention it in their gospels. But if I thought some one was god and was writing a book about their life I don’t think I would leave out that important of a detail. So it is obvious to me and should be to all that Jesus did have enough time to become a legend.

12 comments:

  1. Congrats on leaving the flock! Excellent post, well argued...

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  2. Thanks! It was a long, arduous, and painful journey but I got through unscaved. Thanks for the comment on my post. I have tried making this argument to other people I know who are still hardcore evangelists and the like but they just dont understand. But they understand how someone could survive in the belly of a whale for three days. Or they can champion around psuedoscience creationism bull crap but cant understand a simple childhood game of telephone....absurd.

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  3. dear devin, Congrats on your awakening to reality. Coming from an Irish Catholic upbringing and all that baggage, I understand the lifelong damage guilt can do. Even fifty five years later, the monster is still under the bed waiting. I make guitars and play music. It's the best antidote I know of. Music makes sense, is logical, and has an unequivocated beauty. I can see how religion used it's beauty as a tool for control. As an example of positive thought towards evil mind control, please visit my website, www.handmadeguitars.ca Sometimes the best way to deal with a problem is to just close the mental door to it and just don't give it the respect of consideration. Failte, james o'hare. And as I say to my religious friends, Good Night, Good Luck, and may Your God go with you..................

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  4. good article - it's making me think

    alright man, I’ve made a few comments in your later posts, but here’s an attempt at some discussion since this seems to be one of your first times laying out reason for why you’ve rejected Christianity.

    For starters, let me just say that, because of the shoddy teaching I’ve received in more than one church, I constantly find myself mistaken about what the Bible actually says (for example: I used to claim that the Bible said drinking alcohol was a sin). It wasn’t until I actually started studying the reading the Bible for myself that I was able to start figuring out what the Bible actually does and doesn’t say (and this is an ongoing process, just the other day I found myself quoting a verse I had been taught from Scripture that didn’t actually exist).

    I’m not trying to score points (like in a debate) by pointing out where I think you’re wrong. I don’t care in the least for any “Aha! I told you so!” moments. Dialoguing on this helps me think these things through, and it’s thinking these things through that I’m interested in doing. I want everyone to point out when I say something inaccurate, and I’m just assuming you’re the same way. It’s one thing to claim that Scripture isn’t reliable or true, but it’s another thing altogether to claim that Scripture doesn’t say that Jesus was God. When discussing this, it’s probably better to discuss the latter first. But you did make a few claims that I thought was worth pointing out how basic Christianity differs.

    Devin - Paul never claims to have met Jesus, so how in the world does he know he’s god?

    Actually, Paul does claim to have met the resurrected Jesus. The simplest example of this is in 1 Cor. 15:3-8 where he is listing all the people who could act as eye-witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection (himself included in verse 8).

    Devin - He claims that god came to him in a bright light on the road to Damascus, but none of the people he was traveling with could see the light … So let me paint you a picture of what these men traveling with Paul might have seen or thought. They are riding along and all of a sudden Paul falls of his horse and shields his eyes from the sky and starts talking to himself.

    In the road to Damascus story, the men with him were surprised speechless because they heard someone talking other than Paul (Acts 9:7). And they saw the brilliant light but couldn’t understand what the voice they heard was saying (Acts 22:9). Of course, you’re also arguing whether the Scriptural account is accurate and that’s fine. But the Scripture account itself isn’t that the men with Paul heard and saw nothing.

    John 10:30-33 - Devin - “But let me ask you a simple question. Why then does Jesus not go on talking about he is equal with god? … Jesus was simply showing how he and god are one because he does the work of the father who sent him. Not showing he is equal with god.”

    But he does go on to affirm his being equal with God (in a different sense from how Christians be united with God by being of the same mind) if you read past verse 33. They tell him they are going to stone him because “you, being a man, make yourself God.” Instead of saying they have mistaken what he said, he goes on to affirm that his works (which can only be done by God) are evidence of who he is and that he and God do have equality.

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  5. John 8:58-59 - Devin -“In this verse Jesus actually claims to be around before even Abraham … Funny to me though that Jesus didn’t claim to be god or a god. This claim is a direct claim of divinity and it’s completely different than deity.”

    “before Abraham was, I am” - Jesus isn’t just saying that he was more than 2,000 years old. He doesn’t say “I was.” He says “I am” for a reason. Within Judaism, it is understood that “I am” is the name of God. When Moses asks God for his name in Exodus 3:13-14, God tells him his name is “I am.” The Hebrew name for God “yahweh” is “I am” in English. The Greek “Ego eimi” is translated “yahweh” in Hebrew and “I am” in English. God’s name “I am” is a declaration of his eternal attribute (and God has to be eternal in order to be God). This was completely understood by Jesus’ opponents which is why they decided to stone him to death for blasphemy.

    I’m not sure how you are distinguishing between claims of divinity and claims of deity, or precisely how you’re applying that to these verses. I could also go over the rest of your examples from John, but I’m also not sure if it’s worth it because you’re discounting John later as being the only gospel that makes claims of Jesus’ deity in the first place. Either John is claiming Jesus is God, or John’s only being misinterpreted to claim Jesus is God. Probably better to answer that question first.

    you said - All references of Jesus’ supposed claims of deity and divinity come from one book, the gospel of John. Why is it that these claims only come from one book? Surely the other gospels have similar verses of Jesus saying similar remarks. But oddly enough the answer is no they don’t. John is the only book that uses such language.

    Here’s one last difference. The other gospels do make constant claims to Christ’s deity. Just off the top of my head, Jesus calls Himself “the Lord your God” in Matthew 4:7 during His temptation. In Mark 2:10-11, Jesus announces Himself as God by declaring that he has the spiritual power to forgive sins (something only God can do within Judaism). In Mark 14:61-64, when asked who he is, he again specifically says “I am” on purpose, and this is understood by the Pharisees to be a claim of deity (which is why they want to crucify him). This is important in all the gospels, Jesus’ trial is unique in history because they’re not crucifying him for things he’s done, but instead for precisely who he claims to be. Within Judaism, it is blasphemy for a man to say that he is God.

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  6. And after thinking about what you wrote for a while, I think the most important part of what you’re saying was summed up in these two questions -

    But how in the world do you test someone’s theory that some one may be god? There is no test in the world you could do. There is no god test.

    “But again how do we test if someone is divine? There is no test. We have to take their word for it. If this is the case why can’t you or I say we are divine?”

    I agree with you. There is no historical or scientifically valid test of whether the supernatural exists or not.

    So I don’t think we could spend too much time arguing about whether Jesus was God, or whether there is even historical evidence that Jesus was God without answering other questions first.

    Jesus being deity incarnated is essentially a miracle. It’s the intervention of the supernatural against the natural physical laws of the universe. If we don’t believe miracles are possible, then no amount of evidence is going to convince us that God could become incarnate. If we just believe miracles are very improbable, then historical evidence is still incapable of giving us the amount of mathematical proof we’d need to believe in one. If we believe miracles are possible, then the question finally comes down to be what would be credible evidence.

    So now that I think about it -

    - before a theist and nontheist could fully discuss the evidence OF miracles (or the evidence of the Christian claims to Christ’s deity, Islamic claims to Mohammad‘s identity, etc.), wouldn’t they have to answer the more philosophical question first of whether miracles are even possible in the first place?

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  7. I will comment back on your Bible claims of divinity and deity when I have more time for proper exegesis.

    As for miracles, science cant prove them. But science can be proven so using science is a good way of proving something is real or probable. Science cant prove miracles. Why? Well because they go against principles and laws science is founded on. I personally dont believe in miracles. I see the world around me and wonder why more and more miracles dont happen. They seem to usually only happen to the people who can afford them. Seems odd to me. But regardless if I believe in them or not they cant be proven.

    This poses a problem for Christianity. The whole religion is based off of miracles. Since you can't prove miracles scientifically, you have to have faith, blind faith if you ask me.

    Second problem is that once you prove one miracle you have to prove them all. But most Christians reject that. But why? Well they claim Jesus is the only god so only miracles that pertain to him could be real. But this is absolutely wrong. For all we know Achilles couldnt be killed. Mohammad did ascend to heaven. This is why historians cant prove miracles. This is why I reject the resurrection. If you prove it, then prove to me Mohammad and Nirvana.

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  8. You didn't do such a good impression with John 8:58, now, did You? In all other instances, You have tried to put forth a different understanding of what Jesus Himself might've probably meant by His very own words; but in this one You did no such thing.

    Secondly, isn't it so obvious that John's Gospel, who supposedly invents Jesus' divinity (and yet at the same time it doesn't -- odd indeed) lacks [among many other things, some of which You've already mentioned in Your article] the narration of the virgin birth? Now, why is that? Hmmm..?

    Thirdly -but this is beyond the scope of this article- the Gospels which do mention the virgin birth, are supposedly at odds with eachother (Luke mentions it because his is the Gentile-Gospel par excellence [and the pagans had lots of 'virgin births' of their own, right?] .. but why is it then that we find the exact same thing in Matthew, the Jewish-Gospel par excellence, hmmm?)

    The list could go on, but I think I'll stop here.

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  9. Sorry if I didnt live up to your standards Lvka. The fact is John 8:58 is very ambiguous and it is the only one to me that is ambiguous enough to say Jesus could have claimed divinity. I am not going to make something up just for the sake of arguing. I tried to be as honest as I could.

    And yes I find it completely odd that it lacks the virgin birth. But Im not following your train of thought here...all you said is isnt it odd...?

    Matthew is very peculiar actually. I am currently working on the birth naratives contradictions and discrepancies so you will soon see that Matthew and Luke are far different. Practically the only thing they share is the virgin birth. But for Matthew it was because of prophecy this happenned he is very clear on that. Luke on the other hand has a different view. You will soon see.

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  10. And yet they share it. Neither one of them being John. And John himself makes quite interestingly no use of it. (And I'll probably share some of my own thoughts with You on the birth-narratives when the time comes).

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  11. What do you mean by "And yet they share it"?

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  12. Well, as You said: "Practically, the only thing they [Matthew & Luke] share is the virgin birth" (all the differences notwithstanding: hence the use of the word "yet").

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