Dr Potter and Anonymous disagree whether the Gospels about Jesus are fabrication or fact:



History's 'truth' depends upon the silence of the dead

Bob Potter

(Investigator 147, 2012 November)


Every student of ancient religious rites is familiar with the idealized image of the unjustly tortured and martyred individual, tormented for the very reason that he is 'good' and 'righteous', selected as a victim by human malice, yet bearing his sufferings for the sake of all humanity. It was an image well drawn long before the time when the 'historical' Jesus is alleged to have entered this world…explicitly discernible in Hebrew and other scriptures [i.e. in the Second Isaiah -- "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not." (Is. 53:3)].  The theme is equally common in secular writings, e.g. Plato's acceptance of the 'spiritual superiority' of Socrates, rewarded similarly with an ignominious death.

Sir James Frazer, foremost mythologist of his day, relates in The Golden Bough: "The transfer of evil, the principle of vicarious suffering, is commonly understood and practiced by races who stand on a low level of social and intellectual culture. It occurs in the history of classic antiquity, while the peoples still remained in barbarism."(1) The cult of the Syrian God, Attis, was one of those sharing with Christianity the 'cleansing of the soul' by the shedding of sacrificial blood; is it more than 'mere co-incidence' the attic rites, involving the shedding of the blood of the sacrificial ox, took place at the very spot where today's Vatican church of St Peter's stands?

Judging by the Greek word (KATA) used in the title of each Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) the text in question was supposedly written by followers of the named disciple – not written by him 'in person'.(2)

Remember, not a line of these Gospels was written before the activities of Paul had lasted many years. Paul, the 'true founder' of Christianity, had a purely theological conception of Jesus – grounded upon his psychotic experience on the Damascus road.

He knows nothing of the everyday activities of Jesus as described in the surviving Gospels 'lives' of Jesus – he knows Him only as, "…the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him."(3) [Arguably, the clearest and most sympathetic, yet critical, study of the famous Galilean, as portrayed by the Gospel writers, is still that of D F Strauss, in his Life of Jesus (4) – a work described by Albert Schweitzer as, "one of the most perfect things in the whole range of learned literature … in over fourteen hundred pages he has not a superfluous phrase; his analysis descends to the minutest detail, but he does not lose his way among them".(5)

For a more objective study of the evolution of Christian beliefs, based upon a scholarly examination and comparison of changing and modified versions of the scriptures themselves, inter-linked with other major works of contemporary historians, the 500 page epic, Christianity,(6) by Annie Besant, remains unsurpassed – in spite of additional 'discoveries' during the past century; both texts should be required reading for any serious scholar of  religion in general, Christianity in particular.   

My necessarily brief (and mixed) observations, assume readers are familiar with the scriptures referred to. No serious Biblical scholar today regards the fourth Gospel (if any Gospel) as documentary evidence of historic facts; in the case of John, probably produced in the first half of the second century (post-dating both the evolving and repeatedly edited three earlier compilations and the arguably 'genuine' parts of the Pauline epistles). The 'gospel of John' is pure symbolism; introducing, in rejuvenated form, ancient Messianic conceptions. Where he may have used fragments that had already been incorporated into other, earlier gospels (appropriately known as the 'synoptic gospels'), John transforms them into symbolic mysticism; his mysticism of numbers, for example, appears everywhere – Jesus walks three times through Galilee and three times through Judea. The number of miracles wrought in each locality is three; three times he denounces Judas as the one who is to betray him (Jn 13: 18-21-26). Jesus rises from the grave on the third day and three times is seen post mortem!  

In John, the act of healing itself is described as a symbol of the entire activity of Jesus (Jn 5:17), the multiplied loaves symbolize distribution of the 'bread of life'. [Proving himself 'superior' to Elisha, who previously fed a hundred men with twenty loaves (2 Kings 4:42-4), while Jesus fed four thousand with a few fishes and seven loaves (Matt 15:34-38; Mk 8: 1-8). As with other replicated miracles, the feat improved with the passage of time – in John 6:5 there are five thousand participants and only two fishes!]

The miracle of Jesus walking on water implies a victorious 'spirit' – the Word returning to its original eternity. Curing the blind man shows the Messiah is the 'light of the world'; 'conquering death' by raising Lazarus. These same 'miracles', where reported in the earlier books are just 'miracles'; raising the widow's son, as had Elijah and Elisha in the old Hebrew texts, or all again mere replications of the resurrection stories of the dead Attis, or Adonis, or Horus, or Dionysos, or Krishna; the list seems endless. (Hardly surprising, therefore, this 'resurrection feat' was to be repeated three times, by Peter, Paul and Jesus himself!)   

So also the 'massacre of the innocents', as in the myth of Moses; combined with Arab myths of Abraham and Daniel prefiguring the New Testament tale [see the first Kings (11:15 et seq) to learn of Hadad's escaped from Joab's killings by fleeing to Egypt, where he found favour with Pharaoh…and so on…] Apropos John's numerology, ask a Christian, how many times Peter denied Christ and you'll surely be told 'three times': Strauss, itemizes the eight or nine occasions where Peter is recorded as 'denying Christ' according to the Gospel accounts, together with the very crucial (for this essay) contradictions between their differing versions regarding the judicial hearing before Pilate (7) etc.

It's difficult to imagine how an objective reader could take the story of Christ's passion seriously. As is generally known, Palestinian Jews had no legal jurisdiction, could not pronounce sentence on anybody; it is very hard to imagine what interest might press a Roman procurator to yield to Jewish pressure to take the life of Jesus. (Rather like a British vice-regent of India sentencing a Hindu to death for expressing heterodox opinions about the teachings of the Buddha on the basis of an accusation equivalent to that made against Jesus for saying: "I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another without hands".) Although today's Christians continue to claim 'the Passion' a central theme of their faith; it just cannot have happened as portrayed by the Gospels.   

Approaching the question as the Scriptural writers did, they unsurprisingly discovered the 'true beginning' in Psalm 22. It opens, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"; words later to become the cry of the dying Jesus. How absurd, to believe that Jesus, who had consciously and freely chosen to carry through with this 'sacrifice', would actually shout this exclamation in his final moments. Who heard him? According to the oldest Gospel, none of Christ's 'own people' were present — all apostles, or disciples as then called, had fled (Mk 14:50) – even 'his rock', Peter, had deserted and denied him. According to the later (arguably less reliable) evidence of Matthew, a number of women 'looked on' from a great distance (apo makrothen); expressly stated as being 'so far off' they couldn't possibly have heard this cry, which, according to the seventh verse of the twenty second psalm, predicted this would be the case: "All they that see me laugh me to scorn: thy shoot out the lip, they shake the head"; practically identical words incorporated into Matthew's account (27:39).

Continuing with the Psalm, verse 16 relates, "The assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierce my hands and feet". Here surely is the derivation of the incident described (Jn 20:25), where Thomas insists on seeing 'the print of the nails' in the hands of the resurrected Jesus [also the manner in which all subsequent Christian art would represent the murdered saviour; pierced hands and feet, without the small seat (sedile) on which doomed victims of Roman justice were usually placed; feet tied, not nailed, to the cross]. In the Septuagint version of the Old Testament (the only version known to Jesus and his followers) the twenty second psalm contains the misunderstood passage: "They tore my hands and feet", which later became, "They pierced my hands and feet". [The original Hebrew text read: "They cling like a lion to my hands and feet"; the LXX version survives to support current Christian 'mis-perception' of this 'central icon' of their faith.] Finally, at verse 18 we read: "They part my garments among them and cast lots upon my vesture", providing the unmistakable source of Matthew 27:35, where readers discover how those who had crucified Jesus 'cast lots to divide his garments among themselves'.   

Other psalms added to the developing legend; the genesis of 'bad guy', Judas Iscariot, are of special interest. Psalm 41, refers to a betrayal by a trusted 'family' associate, a friend with whom bread had been shared, although not an enemy, he conspired with others, 'whispering'; Acts 1:16-18 interprets this passage as clear prophecy of the part destined to be played by Judas (Judas was undoubtedly derived from this source). The creation of the 'bad guy' (ironically named 'Judas', the Jew, so appropriate for the anti-Semitism that would later, become an essential element of 'Christianity'!) also developed over time. The role of Judas as 'betrayer' is first known to Jesus, according to the Synoptics, at the last supper, that is, when his dastardly crime had virtually been perpetrated; Jesus had so little presentiment that one of the twelve would betray him, he promised them all, without exception, the honour of sitting on the twelve thrones of judgement (Matt 19:28). However, according to John's version, Jesus announces the coming betrayal at the time of the previous Passover – a year before the event! (Jn 6:70); in fact, Jesus knew from the beginning Judas was a devil who would betray him!! (v 64)

Students of the evolution of Hebrew religion will remember the introduction of the 'father of evil', Satan, and his 'demonology' into Hebrew theology and writings began during the Babylonian captivity (where dominant Zoroastrian doctrine was grounded on exclusive distinction between 'good' and 'evil'; angels and demons). Following their captivity, the priestly versions of scripture began to take shape; slowly 'God' became divided into two increasingly distinct beings; a modification best illustrated by comparing the opening verses of 2 Sam 24, where "And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah" and the later I Chron 21, where a description of the same event becomes, "And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel".

Every aspect of the Passion story is saturated with mythology; many would argue the search for any historical foundation is out of the question.  Consider the interpolation of the bandit Barabbas, introduced into the post-trial events.  As detailed in early Armenian and Jerusalem Syriac versions of Matthew (27:15-17), the name of the condemned prisoner is given as "Jesus Barrabas'; with this insertion, Pilate's question to the populace becomes: "Whom will ye that I release unto you?  Jesus Barrabas, or Jesus which is called Christ?" We know Origen was familiar with this version; he certainly did not condemn it! The etymological meaning of 'Barabbas' is simply 'son of the father' – note the Aramaic word 'abba' embedded within; three times this word 'Abba' appears in Christian scripture, on each occasion referring to 'God the father'. Could it be that, once again, two separate individuals were evolving from an entity, that Jesus and Barabbas were initially the same symbolic representation (like 'God' and 'Satan' see above), both were, literally and metaphorically, 'son of God'? The forename 'Jesus', eventually 'dropped' as the cult's theology evolved and 'believers' were offended by the Saviour's name being shared with a murderer.    

It would not be 'out of place', historically, if early Semitic tribes held an annual sacrifice of the 'son of a father', of a Barabbas, a player in a ritualistic feature of tribal life (the sacrificial goat) – rather as the soldiers mocking the captive Jesus point to an earlier pagan ritual. Would such a possibility help explain the disparity between the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (on one or two animals?) – for which there is no evidence – yet only a week later that same multitude was crying out, 'Let him be crucified!'. Philo of Alexandria (20BC - 50AD) tells of a piece of mummery staged at his home town (aimed at King Agrippa, grandson of Herod), which seems to have represented a more ancient custom. A crazy man named Karabas is said to have paraded as a make-believe king, with tinsel crown, a sceptre and purple robes. Karabas is clearly a misspelling of Barabbas (see Frazer (8)); the story of a prisoner mocked by Roman soldiers quite out of keeping with Roman discipline and the equally fantastic story about a Jewish mob's preference for Barabbas, would become harmonized as a reminisce of a Semitic carnival – which in turn carried vestiges of earlier human sacrifices of the firstborn by his father, eventually replaced by the sacrifice of the paschal lamb (Ex. 22:29).
   
In similar style, the bizarre teaching methodology of Jesus, using parables in order that listeners, including his intimate disciples, do not understand the message he is giving them is foreshadowed by Isaiah, whom the Saviour cites!, while the actual 'messages' of Jesus are foreshadowed in Isaiah, "Is not this the fast that I have chosen…to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him… Then shall thy light break forth as the morning…and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward." (9)

Indeed, all the miraculous cures performed by Jesus are forestalled in the texts of Isaiah. In Matthew we read: "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and have our sicknesses." And he makes Jesus say, "The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear", again following the ancient prophet we read concerning the coming of God: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.  Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing", and already (in the Second Isaiah) the widespread idea of one suffering in place of, or on behalf of, another, the theme common to ancient religions as well as Christianity. "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  All we sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all… He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."(10)

Other psalms (all 'known by heart' by Jewish scribes and scholars) serviced these fabrications; Ps 69:21 reports, "They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (see Jn 19:29/39) and two verses later comes the prefiguring of Jesus' explanation as to why he speaks in parables: "Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake." – the critical scholar readily perceives how one detail after another was inserted and weaved in the construction of the mythological journey to Gethsemane. Older myths, from other cultures, were incorporated, but the Hebrew writings provided the essential ingredients for inventing the Passion myth – invariably and routinely accompanied by the explanation: 'it happened thus, in order that ancient prophecy be fulfilled'. Here, in a very small nutshell, we have the history of the Christian scriptures!


References

(1) The Golden Bough Sir James Frazer (abridged edn. 1960) pp 706-7
(2) See Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford UP 1849)   pp 683-4
(3) Colossians 1:15-16
(4) The Life of Jesus Critically Examined David F Strauss (SCM Press 1972)
(5) The Quest for the Historical Jesus Albert Schweitzer (SCM Press 2000) p 74
(6) Christianity Annie Besant (Part Two of 'Freethinker's Textbook' (Watts 1876)
(7) Strauss ibid p 660; pp 670-1
(8) The Golden Bough (unabridged 1906-15)   Sir James Frazer Vol 9: p 418
(9) Matt 13: 13-14; Mk 4:12; Is 58: 6-8
(10) Matt 8:17; 11:5  Is 35:5 ;  53:4-6        
             


"HISTORY'S TRUTH" RESPONSE


(Investigator 148, 2013 January)

Anonymous


RENEWED ATTACK

Dr Potter's renewed attack on the Bible (#147) maintains that fabrication is indicated in a narrative when it:
•    Describes "vicarious suffering";
•    Is similar to a previous story;
•    Has events occurring in threes;
•    Describes a person fulfilling an agenda;
•    Reports the occurrence of miracles.
Potter strengthens this five-fold attack by interspersing it with examples of Bible inconsistencies.


VACARIOUS SUFFERING

Potter notes that the theme of a righteous person suffering for others is common in religion, and he thinks this makes the Jesus story false.

Some unfair suffering, including taking blame for another, probably occurs in every human life. Its commonness, however, does not by itself make any particular story of "vicarious suffering" false.

Secondly, the idea of a suffering "saviour" starts in Genesis 3:15 and can be traced through the Old Testament (OT). If the theme is this ancient, then its re-use in multiple religions is to be expected.

Isaiah 53 "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows…etc" is so descriptive of Jesus' life that Potter thinks the similarity proves the Jesus story is myth based on the OT.

The New Testament (NT), however, teaches that Jesus fulfilled OT prophecy.

Much of Isaiah describes future events to occur in "the last days". (Isaiah 2:2)
[The phrase "last days" occurs 19 times in the Bible — Genesis 49:1; Numbers 24:14; Deuteronomy 4:30; 31:29; Isaiah 2:2; Jeremiah 23:20; 30:24; 48:47; 49:39; Ezekiel 38:16; Daniel 2:28; 10:14; Hosea 3:5; Micah 4:1; Acts 2:17; Hebrews 1:1-2; James 5:3; 2 Timothy 3:1; 2 Peter 3:3]

In Daniel's time the last days were still future and would occur with the third empire after Babylon. (Daniel 2:39-44)  Micah 4:1 refers to the last days and foretells that a "ruler from Bethlehem" (Chapter 5) will be "great to the ends of the earth."

The NT commences the last days with Jesus (Hebrew 1:2; Acts 2:17) and interprets Him as the "man of sorrows" of Isaiah 53. (Acts 8:32-35; I Peter 2:22-25)

Potter says that vicarious-suffering stories occur among races "on a low level of social and intellectual culture". However, some of world's wealthiest nations also have large Christian populations. Even if this weren't the case, being poor does not prove someone wrong.


PAUL and CHRIST

Potter complains that Paul "knows nothing of the everyday activities of Jesus" but knows Jesus only as "the first born of every creature: for by him were all things made…" (Colossians 1:15-16)

Well, I've read articles about Napoleon in 1815 at Waterloo and the authors seemingly "know nothing" about Napoleon's Egyptian campaign, Trafalgar, Austria, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, and various alliances. So, did all this history never happen? The explanation is that someone focussing on 1815 is not obligated to repeat everything prior. Paul, similarly, did not repeat everything prior — only items of "first importance" (I Corinthians 15:3) such as Jesus' betrayal, last supper, death, and resurrection. (I Corinthians 11:23-26) If Paul's absence of repetition means that the Gospels in points not repeated are wrong, then there was also no Emperor Tiberius, no Samaritans, no King Herod, no Sea of Galilee, and no Jordan River. It's a silly argument.

Besides foretelling the "suffering servant" the OT also foretold a godlike "son of man" who receives "everlasting dominion" and "kingship" over "all peoples, nations and languages". (Daniel 7:1-14) Jesus declared himself to be this "son of man". Paul's purpose was not merely to repeat what Christians already knew but to proclaim this King and establish congregations to follow him.

John likewise does not rehash the previous Gospels, but presents Jesus as "the Word was God" (John 1:1) and the Messiah long-awaited by Jews and Samaritans (4:24-26).


THREES

Another evidence for fabrication, Potter suggests, is the recurrence of "threes" — Jesus went three times through Galilee, denounced Judas three times, and rose on the third day, etc.

However, I went to three schools, travelled overseas three times, went to three colleges, stayed in Sydney three times, owned (at different times) three houses, and currently debate with three atheists in this magazine, and grow three types fruit in my back-yard — and I'm not fabricating!

The "threes" in Jesus' life suggest he imitated OT precedent where certain numbers — 3, 2, 12 and 40 — are significant. The occurrence of certain events in threes was an additional identification of Jesus as Messiah.


SIMILAR EVENTS

Another Potter fabrication-argument is that some events in the Gospels imitate OT miracles.

Jesus' resurrection feats (e.g. Lazarus) imitated the resurrections by Elijah and Elisha. Elisha also fed a hundred men with 20 loaves (II Kings 4:42-44) but Jesus fed 5000 (John 6:1-14) and 4000. (Matthew 15:32-38; Mark 7:31-8:9)

Potter considers the 5000 and 4000 the same event "the feat improved with the passage of time". The book Aids to the Student of the Holy Bible (c.1880) provides a numbered, chronological list of 161 events in the Gospels. Feeding the 5000 is Number 64 and feeding the 4000 is Number 69 — they were separate events.

The 5000-feeding occurred on the east coast of the Sea of Galilee. (John 6:1, 22-23) Jesus then crossed to Capernaum (6:24, 59); went to the Mediterranean coast at Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21); and then east again to Decapolis a region of ten cities east of the Jordan. The 4000-feeding occurred then, near Bethsaida (Luke 9:10, 12), a village probably north-east of the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus' imitation of OT events was deliberate, to identify him to Jews as the foretold "messiah". The OT indicated — by predicting a future "Elijah" (Malachi 4:5), a future "David" (Hosea 3:5-6), a second Exodus (Isaiah 11:11) — that there would be future parallels to many events it recorded.

Speaking generally — the concept of following a similar path as predecessors occurs all the time. Students follow similar studies as earlier students to reach similar career-goals and aspiring champions follow similar training as previous champs. This goes on everywhere and does not prove that previous achievers and current ones are myths.


PSALMS

Another Potter argument for Jesus being a fabricated "legend" is the correspondence between Jesus and the OT Psalms.

In words from Psalm 22:1 Jesus, on the cross, called out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

Potter doubts anyone heard Jesus. The Gospels, however, mention within talking distance soldiers, passers-by, priests, scribes, elders, bystanders, women disciples, Jesus' mother, and John. (Matthew 27:27-36, 39, 41, 47, 55-56; John 19:26)

Potter claims that Psalm 22:16 in the Septuagint reads "They tore my hands and feet" and Christians altered this to "They pierced my hands and feet." A large nail punched through one's body would do both — pierce and tear. My copy of the Septuagint Greek and English Old Testament has "They pierced my hands and feet" (22:16), but footnotes to 22:16 in some Bibles state: "Meaning of Hebrew uncertain." (NRSV)

Jesus deliberately "fulfilled" many Psalms — just as he imitated Elisha and other OT heroes — again to demonstrate to Jews that He is their Messiah. Potter's claim that this indicates fabrication is weird since people follow outlines and fulfil agendas all the time:
 
Consider teachers teaching a class according to a course outline. The outline lists lecture-dates, essay-completion dates, practical exercises, knowledge to be examined, etc. A teacher might even say "There's always one student who excels and comes top." Months later one student's performance corresponds to the course-outline perfectly and other students are witnesses. By Potter's logic the top student does not exist and the witnesses are fabrications. Such logic places a false assumption — that the fulfilment of an outline proves the fulfilment didn't happen — above empirical observation.

Another example is actors acting for a movie. The events on screen follow the written script — but by Potter's logic the movie doesn't exist.

The "outline" Jesus followed was pre-written in the Psalms, Isaiah, and other OT prophets.

An interesting question is whether the Psalms, when originally written, were intended to be prophetic of the Messiah, or whether the NT writers read the predictions into them.

Psalm 72 is "Of Solomon" but describes prosperity beyond anything Solomon achieved and adds, "May he have dominion from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth." Zechariah 9 (about 500 BCE) repeats these same words and connects them to a future king: "Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey…"

Hosea 3:4-5 reads: "For the Israelites shall remain many days without a king… Afterwards the Israelites shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king…in the latter days." This was written long after David's death and so suggests a future counterpart to David.

In Matthew 22:41-46 both Jesus and the Pharisees accept the Psalms as prophetic of "Christ" which suggests this was common Jewish belief.


ISAIAH

Many prophecies of Isaiah began fulfilment in Jesus' ministry.

Potter compares "The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped" (Isaiah 35:5) with "The blind receive their sight…the deaf hear". (Matthew 11:5) He considers that such prophecy-fulfilment combinations again indicate fabrication.

Why not go further and call today's sight-restoring cataract operations and hearing-restoring cochlear implants "fabrications"?

I demonstrated the Bible's miracle narratives plausible by explaining about 20 miracles that have scientifically testable details — See #26; #58; #78; #131.

Today's genetic engineering, robotics, information technology and nano-technology suggest the Bible is right when predicting: "nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them." (Genesis 11:6)

Jesus' ministry showed locally the good things that will occur worldwide when God takes over; ultimately including an end to famine, death and pain. (Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 21:4)

The scientific confirmation of some of Jesus' miracles together with equivalent healings today, and such expected from prophecy, undercut Potter's fabrication claims!


FAULTY COMPARISONS

Another Potter evidence for the biblical Jesus being fictitious is similarities between Jesus and various gods such as Horus and Krishna.

Potter also links the "evolution of Hebrew religion" especially the idea of "Satan" to the Persian preacher Zoroaster (628-551 BCE).

Such "copycat" hypotheses were debated in #126-129 and #121-123 and can here be only briefly recapitulated.

Krishna's resemblances to Jesus are the most impressive, but they originated several centuries after Jesus, when Christianity had reached India. And Horus of Egypt was to the Bible writers a pagan idol. The NT writers did not study Horus but, as already discussed, they compared the OT with the Jesus.

Zoroaster's religion did not exist in Babylon when the Jews were captive there, starting about 600 BCE. We debated Zoroaster in #121-123 and Potter failed to demonstrate any quotes in the OT from Zoroaster.

It's possible Zoroaster obtained ideas about Satan from Israel's "ten lost tribes" which Assyria, a century before Zoroaster's birth, transferred to border areas of Persia. Assyria sent one Israelite priest back to Israel to teach the new, non-Israelite inhabitants the former religion (II Kings 17:27-28) and these became the Samaritans. Israelites in captivity near Persia would have possessed the Pentateuch and some other OT books and likewise shared their beliefs.

The Krishna and Zoroastrian resemblances with the Bible therefore happened in the same way as the resemblances of the Bible with Manichaeism. Manichaeism was founded in Persia by Mani (216-274 CE) and incorporated a lot of reworked material about Jesus. Since Bible manuscripts from Mani's time still exist, it's easy in this instance to confirm who copied from whom.


ALLEGED CONTRADICTIONS

Potter says that Peter denied Christ eight times not three. By interspersing this and other Bible "contradictions" among his above-refuted bad arguments Potter hoped to intimidate readers into swallowing the bad arguments.

The Investigator website includes my "Bible Consistent" series in which I harmonize passages alleged to be contradictory. With many "contradictions" already explained Potter should by now see the trend and go with the flow and be solving some problems himself.

The Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (1982) has 1½-pages on the Peter-denial problem, so I'll leave that for another time.

Potter says that Jesus knowing "from the beginning" that Judas would betray him contradicts Jesus' words "when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones…" (Matthew 19:28)

"From the beginning" refers to when the idea to betray Jesus first took root in Judas' mind. And the words "you who have followed me" implies faithfulness until the end of their lives and does not preclude one or more "thrones" becoming vacant. Judas was replaced by Matthias. (Acts 1)

Potter wrongly connects "Judas" with "Jew" and Anti-Semitism. As shown in the Anti-Semitism debate #136-140, persecution of Jews is contrary to the New Testament. "Judas" was a common name and two apostles were named "Judas", and the other one was not a traitor.

Potter suggests that the Greek word "kata" meaning "for" in the Gospel titles implies that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John did not write their Gospels. Paul, however, sometimes dictated to a scribe (Galatians 6:11) and other NT writers probably did likewise.

Regarding Christ's execution Potter asks: "What interest might press a Roman procurator to yield to Jewish pressure to take the life of Jesus?"

An obvious "interest" — seen from reading Josephus on riots and insurrections in Judea, some with hundreds of deaths — would be to avoid another riot. Maintaining peace was part of a procurator's job!

Finally, who incited King David to hold a census — God (II Samuel 24:1) or Satan (I Chronicles 21:1)?

A doctrinal answer comes from the book of Job. The book describes Job losing his children, possessions, property, health, and status. Behind these calamities is "Satan", but Satan acts within constraints defined by God. (1:12; 2:6) The Bible therefore attributes evil to Satan as its originator or source, and to God because God permits it. In David's case this doctrine tells us that Satan overtly "incited" David to disobey God, and God indirectly "incited" David by permitting Satan to do it.


REAL PROOF

I've now shown that Potter's attack on the Gospels as myth is speculative and unsound.

Sound evidence in contrast is the following which has been presented in Investigator for many years:

The total confirmed geographical locations, historical people, historical events, scientific points, and prophecies in the NT — I repeat "confirmed", we can check them — number hundreds. These testable statements prove the accuracy and inspiration of the Bible. If we rely on what can be checked by observation and science — such as the Star of Bethlehem, 9-month-long pregnancy, fetuses responding to sound, 100 geographical locations mentioned in Acts alone, and much more — then the NT is not "saturated with fiction" as Potter claims but saturated with truth. That deserves repetition — The New Testament is saturated with truth. To discover this, Potter must judge by the testable facts not by arbitrary principles.


CONCLUSION:

Does history depend on the "Silence of the dead?" No, real history depends on testing what is testable, checking what is checkable, and finding which sources are reliable.

http://users.adam.com.au/bstett/

http://ed5015.tripod.com/