Question:

The other day I overheard an atheist talking to someone about the Bible. I didn’t join in on their conversation, but they were loud enough and close enough for me to hear every word they said. Anyway, the atheist (I know he’s an atheist because I heard him say it) said that all the evidence that the Bible is inspired (like fulfillment of prophecies, scientific facts, etc.) was all made up, and I quote, “when some people got together to make up a religion to exert power over people”. He went on to say that the Bible was written centuries after the 1st Century A.D. And finally, he said that the secular historians who wrote about Jesus (like Josephus, Pliny the Younger, etc.) were, too, fabricated by a group of people long after the First Century. Comments?

Answer:

First of all, when this atheist said, that religions are formed “When some people got together to make up a religion to exert power over people,” this is mere rhetoric.  Has this ever happened?  Yes, it has.  This could describe what Joseph Smith did, but the questions is whether this applies to Christianity. Simply saying this about Christianity does nothing to do make it true.  So, let us simply ask whether this is mere rhetoric (given that this guy gave no evidence that it is true).

First of all, we need to know that Christianity was born from Judaism.  The Christian movement did not come out of nothing, but it came out of a religion that was already expecting a Messiah to come and to establish a kingdom.  The Church did not invent this idea.  This is a matter of history and it is a fact, not conjecture.  Second, the fact is that Jesus did in fact fulfill literally dozens of prophecies which were in the Old Testament.  The fact that these prophecies were in place hundreds of years before Christ is incontrovertible, given the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint Greek translation, made in the third century BC.   I am copying an pasting here a few examples of prophecies which are without possible doubt contained in the Old Testament hundreds of years before Jesus and without reasonable doubt, which were in fact fulfilled by Jesus.   I have more to say on this below the prophecy examples.

Isaiah 53:1-9  Written about 750 BC.  It should be noted that the Jews themselves considered this passage to be about the Messiah.

  1. v3  The Messiah to be despised and rejected.  Fulfilled in Luke 23:18-24 and many other places.

    b.   v5  The Messiah to be “pierced” for our sins.  Fulfilled in John 19:31-37.

  1. v7  The Messiah will be silent and meek when accused and led to his death.  Fulfilled in Mark 14:60,61, Mark 15:1-5 and other places.

    Psalm 22:15-18          Written about 1025 BC.  None of these events occurred during David’s life, so who is he talking about?  This must be a Messianic prophecy.

  1. v15  Thirsty.  Fulfilled in John 19:28.
  2. V16  The Messiah to be crucified.  Fulfilled in Mark 15:25.  It should be noted That crucifixion was not invented for about six  hundred years after David lived.
  3. v17  No bones broken.  Fulfilled in John 19:32,33, when they broke the bones of the thieves, but not of Jesus, because he was already dead.
  4. v18  Divided up and gambled for the Messiah’s clothing.  These seem contradictory, yet both were fulfilled in John 19:23,24.

    Comment:  The crucifixion of Jesus is an historical fact which even the die-hard skeptic cannot deny.  Jesus could not have arranged for the fulfillment of any of these prophecies.

    Zechariah 11:12,13  Written about 520 BC.  Careful study of v7-11 shows this to be a prophecy about the Messiah.

  1. v12  The Messiah will be “priced,”  ie. sold for thirty pieces of silver.  Fulfilled in Matthew 26:14-16.
  2. V13  The money will be thrown into the Lord’s house and “to the house of the potter.”  Fulfilled in Matthew 27:3-10.

    Micah 5:2  Written about 750 BC.  This was a well-known Messianic prophecy to the Jews in Jesus’ day.

  1. The Messiah must be born in Bethlehem.  Fulfilled in Matthew 2:1.

    Isaiah 9:1  Written about 750 BC.  See v 6,7 to prove this is a prophecy about the Messiah.

    a. Despite Micah 5:2, the Messiah must be raised in Galilee.  Fulfilled in Matthew    4:12-15.

    Comment:  If you look closely at a map of the tribal territories, finding the border between Zebulun and Naphtali, and compare it to a map which includes Nazareth, you will see that the town where Jesus was raised is on the border of these two territories.

    Daniel 9:24,25   Written about 550 BC.  This is a prophecy concerning “The Annointed One.”  The Hebrew word Messiah means literally the anointed one.

    The Messiah will appear in Jerusalem “seventy sevens” (490 years) after the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.  This decree was issued by the Persian  king Artaxerxes in the seventh year of his reign (Ezra 7:8-26), which was 458 BC.  Counting 490 years from 458 BC brings one to the year 33 AD[1].  In other words, the Messiah would come to Jerusalem to bring in forgiveness of sins in about 33 AD.

    Summary.  According to the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, he must:

  2. be despised and rejected.
  3. be pierced.
  4. be crucified.
  5. have people divide and gamble for his clothing at his crucifixion.
  6. be born in Bethlehem.
  7. be from Galilee, in the vicinity of Nazareth.
  8. be sold for thirty pieces of silver.
  9. come to Jerusalem about 33 AD.
  10. etc….    There are many other messianic prophecies.

As he claimed in Luke 24:44, Jesus fulfilled all these prophecies and many more.  Many of these events are a matter of historical record, not just from the Bible.  Many or most could not have been fulfilled on purpose by a manipulative fake.  Is there any other conclusion to all these facts except that Jesus is the prophesied Messiah and the Bible is inspired by God.

[1] Because there was no year 0 BC one calculates AD 33 rather than AD 32.

This atheist’s rhetoric is mere rhetoric in view of these facts.  Which of the things above are “made up?”  None.  Besides, his claim is that Jesus and the apostles were trying to “exert power over people.”  Is this a reasonable accusation?  Was Jesus trying to control people?  I think not, given that he knew all along that he would be killed.  Were the apostle trying to “exert power over people”? Really?  Does what we know about these men agree with this charge?  These men lived lives of extreme suffering, persecution and eventual martyrdom.  It is outrageous to make this charge.  The statement of this atheist is mere talk, plain and simple.

His second charge is that the New Testament was written hundreds of years after the New Testament and that the Roman and Jewish historians who wrote about him are really just Christian frauds.  All I can say about this is that this guy has absolutely no idea what he is talking about.  Any serious skeptic of Christianity would not make such outrageous and blatantly false statements.  Scholars agree that Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians in the 50s AD.  Mark was written in the 50s, or at the latest the 60s, and Luke and Acts in the 60s.  The entire New Testament was complete in the first century. Any responsible person, even the hardened skeptic who knows what he or she is talking about will agree with these statements.  This person does not know what he is talking about and is simply blowing off steam.  You should  completely reject his bogus claims.  We have quotes from the New Testament, for example, in Clement of Rome (about AD 95), Shepherd of Hermas (before AD 110) and several other authors by the first half of the second century.  Again, what he is saying is simply NOT TRUE.  The he says that the historians who wrote about Jesus, including Tacitus, Josephus, Seutonius, the Jewish Talmud and others are fabrications of Christians.  Again, the fabrication is by this atheist person.  No scholar will agree with him.  It is true that there is a passage in Josephus which mentions Jesus, and that there is a Greek manuscript which shows evidence of a Christian interpolation.  In other words, of the writers he mentions, one of them has statements about Jesus, part of which were in the original of Josephus, but part of which was an addition (unfortunately) by an over-zealous Christian.  But even this quote die mention Jesus, and there is no evidence that the other authors’ writings were altered by believers.  So, the last statement by this atheist person is 10% true and 90% not true.  The fact that he makes such an outrageous exaggeration, again, shows that this person is irresponsible in his statements.  His bias is so huge, that you ought to dismiss all of his statement for what they are–nonsense.

John Oakes

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