Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Reading Jesus Into The Text

Over the last several posts I've been discussing evolution and sex.  I feel that I've made the (rather basic) points that I wanted to make, at least initially, so for now I'm going to move on.  I have no doubt that both topics will come up again.

Actually, in the coming New Year, I'd like to organically transition the theme of this blog...away from "here's the stuff that made me de-convert" and toward "musings from an 'in the closet' atheist".  There are many things that I can't say, to most people I rub shoulders with each day, and, frankly, I'm dying to get some of them off my chest.  (The lion's share of my friends and associates are Christians, and sadly they believe that I am still one too.)

Until that time, I'd like to circle back and touch lightly on a few areas I haven't really focused on up to this point (but which nonetheless played a noteworthy role in my de-conversion).  One of those areas relates loosely to Biblical prophecy.

I'm convinced that many Christians think of Biblical prophecy as Christianity's smoking gun...the ace in the hole that shows, definitively, the Bible is God's word and Jesus was the Messiah.  It's not hard to see why they would believe this (I certainly did at one point).  For example, if there were in fact numerous things written down, prior to the life of Jesus, that turned out to describe him perfectly (in a way that could not be passed off as coincidence) this would indeed be powerful evidence in Christianity's favor.

For the Christian who has not read much skeptical literature, the evidence here can be pretty compelling.  It is for this reason that it actually hit me quite hard, during my de-conversion, when I discovered that Biblical prophecy is essentially a giant game of smoke & mirrors.  As it turns out, there isn't one genuinely fulfilled prophecy in the entire Bible (if you want to have some fun grab a coffee, and try searching for the term "Bible prophecy" right here.  Happy reading!).

One of the light bulb moments for me came when I finally realized and accepted that the New Testament writers were not neutral and/or unbiased.  No, these were already believers in Jesus, and they were trying very, very hard to prove he was the Jewish Messiah.  One of the passages, that helped me to see this, was Matthew 21.  Listen to how John W. Loftus describes the problem it contains (from "Why I Became an Atheist")...

"For a specific look at how the New Testament writers wrote their stories based upon the Old Testament, notice that Matthew 21:2 has Jesus requesting both a donkey and also a colt to ride into Jerusalem on, based on a misunderstanding of Zechariah's 9:9, which reads: 'Rejoice...your king comes to you...gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.' Zechariah's prophecy is an example of Hebraic parallelism in which the second line retells the point of the first line.  There is only one animal in Zechariah, but Matthew thinks he means there is a donkey and also a colt, so he wrote his story based upon this misunderstanding in order to fit prophecy!"  (bolding mine)

This chapter translates to sort of a "gotcha" moment, for Matthew, since it shows us that he wasn't above manufacturing elements in the stories about Jesus (but for a purpose)!  Most believers assume the Gospels are nothing more than biographies, in effect, as if their main thrust was simply to record what happened historically, for posterity's sake.  This assumption is false.

On top of that it raises the following question...if we know that some elements of the New Testament are not "historical", how much of it is historical?  And how can we be sure??  (For example I've already written, previously, about some of my reasons for concluding the Nativity stories are complete fabrications.)

The New Testament's writers did everything they could to demonstrate that Jesus was the Messiah, and that includes force fitting Jesus into passages they believed (wrongly) to be about him.  This is one simple and straightforward reason, among many, that we should be extremely skeptical of what they tell us.


  1. Hi there,

    I am also an ex-christian and a lot of your story that I've been reading on your blog is similar to mine. I hope I can one day write it all down as you have.


  2. Hi Dave,

    If you do decide to start up a blog be sure to give me the link (I'd love to check it out). And, in the meantime, feel free to comment here anytime. I would welcome your thoughts.

  3. Hi Respectful Atheist.

    What religion were you?

  4. I was an evangelical Christian (of the "born again" variety). What about you?

  5. Great site, but I have to comment - it doesn't "absolutely beg the question", it absolutely raises the question. http://begthequestion.info/

    Sorry, just a pet peeve.

  6. Thanks Anonymous.

    No need to apologize, I appreciate the correction (and the link).

    I changed it to read "raises the following question".