Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Was Jesus Wrong?

Losing faith in the innerancy of the Bible, and then the Virgin Birth, came as something of a shock to my system.  My intellect was running way ahead of my emotions and, frankly, my emotions were all over the place during these two years of "de-conversion".  By this point in the journey I knew things were getting very serious, but at the same time my hunger to know the truth about Christianity was growing stronger than it had ever been.  It was pretty much all I could think about.

OK, so perhaps the Bible's not perfect, and the Virgin Birth story has some unresolved tensions, but it's still possible, in theory, that Christianity is true generally...isn't it??  I mean, if the evidence points to Jesus being God than, hey, I don't really care if if I can't trust the Bible to be 100% accurate in every single detail.  If Jesus is truly God, come down to earth for us, that's enough! 

This is essentially the thought that compelled me to hone my investigation in on Jesus himself.  At the end of the day I knew it was Jesus, and Jesus alone, who would either vindicate or destroy the truth of Christianity, at least for me personally.  Perhaps it's an oversimplification but, in effect, I was breaking things down like this...

Jesus is God = Christianity is true
Jesus isn't God = Christianity is false 

Sound fair enough?  With this, by way of backdrop, I'd like to dedicate my next several posts to what I discovered, and ultimately concluded, about the man who lies at the very heart of the Christian religion.

The first "Jesus question" I endeavored to answer is the one reflected in the title of this post...namely, was Jesus wrong?  I had already run face first into this claim, several times over, in the course of my reading and online research.  (As such, I knew I couldn't reasonably avoid it any longer)  In so far as I could tell it seemed to be a fairly commonplace view, among Biblical scholars, that Jesus issued a failed prophecy.  You heard that right.  These scholars believe that Jesus issued a failed prophecy.  You see, in the New Testament Jesus speaks often of an imminent judgment which, I suppose, may be enough to raise an eyebrow or two all by itself.  However, in two particular passages, Jesus predicts that this final judgment will occur within the lifetime of his disciples.

These two discourses are found in Mark 8:34-9:1 (with parallels in Matthew 16:24-28 & Luke 9:23-27) and Mark 13 (parallels in Matthew 24:1-44 & Luke 21:5-36).  I won't take the time to quote the passages here but, suffice it to say, they really do have Jesus saying exactly that.  If you don't believe me, I urge you to look them up for yourself. 

The Christian apologists, of course, have an assortment of different ways to "explain" (or is it explain away?) these verses.  I wanted to know who was "right" on this issue so, over the next year or so, I read everything I could get my hands on re: this supposed "failed prophecy" of Jesus.  I won't take the time to detail the numerous point/counter-points, since that would be a lengthy process...but let me cut to the chase and say that, in my opinion, the checkmate argument is made by Thom Stark, in "The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong (and Why Innnerancy Tried To Hide It) ".  Thom quite simply decimates the alternative readings, including a rather novel interpretation proposed by Anglican bishop N.T. Wright.  Listen to how Thom puts a ribbon on it, in his cheekily titled 8th chapter ("Jesus Was Wrong" (Or It's The End Of The World As We Know It And I Feel Fine)")...

"The simplest reading of this discourse, and the reading that fits best with the Jewish apocalyptic context out of which Jesus and his disciples emerged, is also the only reading that makes sense of Jesus' claims.  This discourse displays in no uncertain terms what the Jesus of the synoptic gospels believed: he believed that he would suffer and die, that he would subsequently be vindicated by Yahweh, that his faithful followers would also suffer for his name's sake, and that some would not remain faithful.  He believed that while some of his immediate followers were still alive, the son of Man would appear in the glory of God, with God's angels (now given to his charge), to judge the earth.  Those who were faithful to him are given life, and those unfaithful are shunned, or 'repaid.'  Jesus could not have been clearer if he had said 'I predict that the final judgment will occur within the next forty or fifty years.'  Two millenia of apologetic attempts to make the text say otherwise have not been successful."

It could be argued that Jesus was wrong because His "human" side was unaware of "the day or the hour" that His divine side (the "God" part of the trinity) had ordained for the final judgment (confused yet?).  This seem implausible but, even if true, there is still a yet bigger problem for Christians.  Listen to Deuteronomy 18: 22, "When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is a thing that the Lord has not spoken.  The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you should not be afraid of him. In other words, Jesus fails the Bible's own "prophet test", and the Bible contradicts itself yet again (on the one hand claiming Jesus is God and, on the other, putting a failed prophecy on his very lips)!

In my next post I'll write more about the "Jewish apocalyptic context", that Stark references in the quote above, since it played heavily into my changing views on who Jesus was.  For now, I'd like to leave you with a five part video series, from You Tube user ProfMTH, which ties together (and expands on) many of the pieces of this argument.  Video one, below, essentially just re-states the problem as I have already explained it here...but in parts 2 through 5 he gets into some of the more common "alternative" explanations, offered up by Christians (so it's well worth your time to watch all 5 parts)...

(Parts 2, 3, 4, & 5)


  1. This is a very interesting and persuasive case. Can't wait to hit this part of my research to dig more into the alternative explanations. On the face of it, it seems like highly difficult dilemma for apologists to overcome...

  2. ProfMTH touches on some of the more common "alternative explanations" in parts 2 through 5 of the video series above (when you're ready for this part of your research).