How to rebut the attacks of atheists on the reliability of the Bible? (specifically from the web site humanknowledge.net)
I’m a Christian but I’m finding it hard to rebutt some contradictions
of the Bible I believe atheist are taking their questions from this website.
Can the Bible challenge his theories?
- Jesus’ endorsement of the murderous immorality of Yahweh in the Torah;
- Jesus’ doctrine of "eternal punishment" in the "eternal fire" of Hell;
- Jesus’ failure to claim actual divinity;
- Jesus’ failed prophecy of his imminent return;
- Jesus’ failure to competently reveal his doctrines (concerning e.g. salvation, hell, divorce, circumcision, and diet) in his own written account or that of an eyewitness;
- Jesus’ failure to perform miracles the accounts of which cannot be so easily explained as faith-healing, misinterpretation, exaggeration, and embellishment;
- Jesus’ failure to attract significant notice (much less endorsement) in the only detailed contemporaneous history of first-century Palestine;
- Jesus’ failure to recruit
- anyone from his family,
- any acquaintance from before his baptism,
- a majority of Palestinian Jews, and even
- some of those who heard his words and witnessed his alleged miracles.
1. I am not sure what saying of Jesus this person is referring to. Jesus certainly never endorsed murder or anything like murder. In fact, he said that we should love our enemies, pray for them, and do good to them (Matthew 6:43-48 for example). Jesus is probably the most famous pacifict in history. It is true that the Jews participated in warfare in the Old Testament. They were a people and a nation and back then it was quite literally impossible to exist as a nation without being willing to take and defend territory. In fact, God was quite specific in limiting both the kind of warfare they could pursue and the extent of territory they were allowed to take. I will admit that it is hard, at first, on an emotional level, to justify what the Jews had to do in order to establish a theocracy, but in the Old Testament God never allows cruelty, torture, unnecessary violence and certainly murder. God NEVER allowed the Jews to murder anyone. This is a false charge.
2. Who is to say that God, the creater and sustainer of all, does not have the prerogative to call people to justice for the actions they committed while in their physical body. How is this an argument against the reality of who Jesus was? I am sure some people do not like the docrine of hell, but this is not any kind of argument against Jesus and who he claimed to be. The God of both the Old and the New Testament is presented as a God of love, but also one of justice on those who rebel against him. The fact that one does not like an attribute of God is certainly no argument against him having this attribute.
3. Jesus claimed divinity several times and in a number of ways. Because he would have been executed almost immediately upon claiming deity, and because he knew he had to be crucified in Jerusalem at a particular time and year, he was careful how he made this claim. Nevertheless, John 8:58-59 is an obvious claim to deity, which explains the picking up of the stones. John 10:25-33 is another clear claim to divinity on the part of Jesus. Again, they attempted to stone him for claiming to be God. I think we should let those who actually heard Jesus decide whether this was a claim of deity, as they were Jews and they heard the entire message. Of course, Jesus did not defend himself in this case by reminding them that they were mistaken in assuming he was claiming to be God.
4. Jesus did not prophecy that he was coming back within a few years. He said he would come back at some time in the future. In fact, he said that no one knows the time of his return (Matthew 24:36). It is true that many Christians in the early church believed that the return was immanent in the sense of coming in just a very few years. Apparently, they were wrong! This is not a legitimate argument against the claims of Jesus at all, unless one can present a statement by Jesus that he was going to come back within just a few years. Such statement does not exist, as I assume this critic is well aware.
5. I do not know what doctine Jesus is accused of not revealing. It is true that he presented some of his teachings to parables. I would need a specific charge to even respond to it. Let me just choose the first. The claim is that Jesus did not completely reveal his teacing on salvation. I would agree that some of the details were not taught, but this is because salvation was to be preached directly after he was resurrected from the dead. The complete "doctrine" of salvation is left for Acts chapter two, in which the first gospel sermon is preached, but that only makes sense. Jesus made it crystal clear in his teachings that salvation was only through him. I could quote more than a dozen passages. Let me just give one. "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." If this critic wants to accuse Jesus of being vague here, well I believe the broad implications are quite clear!
6. Jesus did some of his miracles in private, of course, but a number of his miracles were done in the most public situations possible. His resurrection was certainly no secret. His raising of Lazarus was not done in a corner. In fact, his miracle-working ministry was a huge public spectacle, at least in the eyes of the Jews, and they wanted to supress it, as this was going to bring on the wrath of the Romans. This is supported by John 11:45-53 where we see the miracles of Jesus were a major factor in his execution. In Acts 2:22 Paul declares that everyone knew about the miraculous ministry of Jesus. Even Jewish writings record that something was going on. In the Talmud, Jesus is accused of doing signs by Satan. Of course, anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was a true miracle worker became a follower, but even his enemies reported that he was doing something extraordinary.
7. Jesus is mentioned by at least seven writers in the Roman world in the first or very early second century. Such writers include Suetonius, Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, the Jewish Talmud and more. In fact, one apologist has pointed out that the number of ancient references to Jesus is about the same as the number to the emperor Tiberius. Each has about seven ancient writers who mention them. The fact that a poor, untrained peasant from the rather obscure province of Judaea is mentioned as many times in historical documents as Tiberius makes this claim rather obviously false. Is any other peasant from the ancient world as well known as Jesus? The answer: no!
8. First of all, the claim that he failed to convert any of his family or acquaintances from before his ministry is flat wrong. Second, the number of adherents to a particular claim is not particularly strong evidence in either direction–pro or con–for the truth of a claim. The fact is, however, that the mother of Jesus, and at least two of his brothers were converted. James the brother of Jesus became the principle leader of the church in Jerusalem. We do not know anything about his friends in Nazareth one way or another, so it is hard to judge the claim that none of his earlier acquaintances were converted. This seems like a spurious charge, as it is impossible to support or deny. The fact is that thousands of Jews in Jerusalem at the time of the resurrection of Jesus did in fact believe in him. The fact that many chose not to accept his message is not good evidence that he did not in fact give this message. This argument is quite spurious in my opinion.
John Oakes, PhD