My extensive study that I call a wisdom quest, which I began when I was 9 years old, has led me to some very surprising conclusions. I am fully persuaded that I can prove my allegation that the New Testament, with its Messianic portrait and apostolic band of assistants, consists almost entirely of literary fiction. This would mean that the Atheists actually got it right on this one (Credit where credit is due).
The most striking considerations that tell in the direction I am now leaning are these:
- The 12 apostles listed in Luke 6 never appear as individuals in any one Gospel scene. Most of the apostles never have even one conversation with Jesus. The only ones of the 12 that appear in Acts are James, Peter and John. And almost none of the 12 besides the five that have recounted their individual conversions in the Gospels (James and John, Peter and Andrew, and Levi or Matthew) ever appear in the epistles. The 12, as individual leaders are absent during the entire NT. They only appear together as names on a list in Luke 6.
This is almost totally inexplicable. Why are the apostles so important that you never say one thing about half of them? They simply hang limp as literary mannequins, whose listing should have come with a sign that reads “for display only.” “Do not touch.”
This near total absence of at least 6 of the twelve is best explained as an early tradition that never gained currency with later generations of Christians and so no one ever finished what the early writers began. It simply represents what we might call a “botched” or aborted literary development scheme.
2. The same thing is true of the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. It most probably never happened. The account is fouled up in several ways. The first proleptic hint of it (in the previous chapter) indicates that the only topic to tackle there was circumcision, but it ends up taking on three topics — circumcision, dietary laws, and sexual immorality. This sudden growth spurt remains unexplained. (See the letter that results from the council sent to all the churches, and compare it to the original reason for the council given in chapter 14.)
The letter itself remains highly problematic since this council (around 45, according to conservatives) covers the same topics taught in the letters of 1 Corinthians (for which they give a year of 51) and Galatians (for which they give the year 48). Why did not Paul simply tell these groups to consult that council’s letter, since it would have reached them in or around 47 — only 1 year prior to Galatians and 4 years prior to 1 Corinthians?
The conciliar epistle should have made much of the material in these letters unnecessary. The conciliar letter is implausibly never EVER referenced, quoted or alluded to in any epistle or writing of the New Testament. It is never even retrofitted to the Gospel account to teach a lesson. It just seems as though it never exists in the rest of the NT, just like 6 or so of the 12 apostles.
3. Tatian penned a “harmony of the Gospels” called the Diatessaron around the year 180. This seems to be the first of its kind, and yet many were aware of challenges to the authority of the Gospels based on charges of contradictions between the Gospel accounts prior to that time. If the Church had only penned one Gospel, say Matthew’s, only a few such charges would have even been possible — and the apostles left no harmony of the Gospels, and there letters show no awareness of any contradictions. In fact, John’s Gospel shows no awareness of the existence of the other Gospels (See Chapter 12 — many other wonderful things, but I suppose that if I tried to tell them all the world could not contain the volumes — does not say “see the other accounts like mine”).
This is strange business. The Gospels seem impossibly both aware and unaware of each other, and in different ways. No one has ever satisfactorily explained both of these features of Gospel interactivity, collectively called the Synoptic Problem — no matter what they tell you.
4. Over time I began to notice more and more of what I came to call “literary discontinuities,” a kind of border between two differing accounts that should flow smoothly (as good narrative must make good use of transitions) where things just seemed to fall apart, creating even more strange business. This happens often in the Passion narratives, but earlier snafus are easily detectable.
For instance, if one adds up all the supposed instances of demons blurting out confessions at the Messiah (e.g. “I know who you ARE, the Holy One of God!” — Here Jesus has to tell him to be quiet), and lists their confessions propositionally, theirs ends up besting the confession of the apostle Peter in Matthew 16, which is reknowned for its loyalty to Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.
5. The most telling turning point in my entire Wisdom Quest, and in my searching out the biblical literature came one day when I changed my entire approach to biblical study. I really think it was just really good coffee, boredom with the old paradigm, and dumb luck that accounted for my new choice. I was the best, and most scholarly choice I ever made in this regard. I had firmly decided to start making a list of the salient features of the NT that DID NOT APPEAR IN THE RECORD but should be there given the things that are present. I called this my “conspicuous by its absence” list. Here are some my findings of things that should be there in an accurate record of the Jewish mindset of the first century, but are not found there. Not one reference is found there for the following:
- Philo of Alexandria (Apollos of Alexandria is mentioned, Acts 18)
- Alexander of Macedon
- The Rabbinical Schools of Shammai and Hillel
- Plato (Obscure Greek poets are quoted in Acts 17 in Athens)
- Ptolemy Philadelphos
- Hannukah or any other Jewish Feast day (besides the Passover)
- Judas Macabees (He was the greatest of Jewish heroes to many Jews of the day)
- Queen Esther of the OT (Both the Queen of Sheba and the Ethiopian Candace receive mention)
- The Septuagint, the authorized Bible of Jews and Christians!!! Is never mentioned once. This is the most astonishing omissive feature of the entire NT. The Book of Hebrews cites it 97% of the time when quoting the OT.
- The Essenes
- Most of the Kings of Israel mentioned in the Kings and Chronicles never receive mention
- Julius Caesar (the first “Caesar,” Paul “appeals to Caesar”)
- The library at Alexandria (This was one of the greatest innovations in history! The largest number of Jews living outside Israel in any one city were living in Alexandria)
- We know almost nothing about 6 of the apostles from the NT
- We do not know why Jesus was arrested when he was arrested
- We do not know why he was arrested during the Passover (They had said, “not during the Feast lest a riot break out among the people”)
- We do not know why they did not fear to arrest Him at all since “the people held that he was a prophet; and they feared the people” given as the reason the rulers did not arrest him when teaching in the Temple area earlier
- We do not know why Jesus was not arrested for defiling the Temple when overturning tables. This was the very purpose of having a temple guard — to prevent the defiling of the Temple as with Antiochus IV.
- The Book of Numbers from the Torah is all but unknown to the Gospels
- Bezalel and Oholiab, the chief mastercraftsmen who built the tabernacle in the desert
- Ruth and Boaz
- The Targumic Traditions (Targums are an Aramaic Bible with brief commentary)
All of these omissions point to the fact that the NT record badly botches its memory of what the real environment of the Jewish mindset in Palestine really was in the first century. It is instead, a diaspora Jewish collectively mindset from the second-century (from Asia Minor), trying to recall and reconstruct the actual conditions native to the Palestinian Jewish outlook(s) from the early second century.
The salient omissions tell the story probably at least as well as the often-legendary information that it includes. Then there are the very interesting omissions of the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus.
F. Josephus names a Jewish Historian who wrote an excellent history of the Jews (given his time and culture), and a very full account of the the War of the Jews (against the Romans), which ended badly for the Jewish people — who lost some 3 million according to Josephus — and culminated in the loss of the Temple (the very — invincible and divinely-protected — House of God. With the fall of God’s house to the Pagans or Goyim (Romans), the Jewish faith was in absolute shambles and needed redefining. Jews who left Jerusalem prior to that time, and headed for Asia Minor (See 1 Peter 1’s, stated intended audience, and Revelation 1-3), eventually formed a new understanding that the unjust death of a prophet — one Jesus of Nazareth — had caused the impossible event.
Here is another impossible event. Josephus writes an extensive (very long) account of the Jewish people, including extensive details about its various cultural groups and their history (including a goodly amount of information about Pontius Pilate), and he never says one thing about Jesus or the Christian Church that wasn’t quite arguably added to his account later by Christians. Not one word.
Here are some other salient points to consider:
- Josephus was the son of a priest, one Matthias, and was trained as a priest, not merely as a pharisee (the latter of which gets much notice, seemingly at the cost of the former.
- Josephus clearly had access to the Temple records, as one would imagine an investigative historian would, given his friends the priests and his status as a priest prior to 66.
- Josephus shows some of what he had in the temple records by presenting an unbroken lineage of the high priests in Jerusalem from prior to the second century (before Pilate) all the way to the war of 66.
- These temple records knew nothing of the high priests Annas and Caiaphas ordering an investigation, holding an interrogation, and pressing for the execution of one Jesus bar-Joseph. This never happened according to those records. And remember, Josephus offers four different accounts of episodes between the Jewish people and Pontius Pilate. Josephus has a fairly extensive profile of Pontius Pilate to offer — but nothing about Jesus or the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) or its supposed catholic letter — sent out to all the churches to detail their rules about circumcision, dietary laws and the Christian view of salvation.
- While writing for Romans, from Rome itself — Josephus omits the point of Cornelius Tacitus that Nero blamed Christians in Rome (68) for a fire that ravaged the city. Tacitus would have written around the same time as Josephus, only a bit earlier. Again, not one word.
- Mark’s Gospel, according to most Christian theologians was circling about in Jospehus’ backyard (was sent to Rome) from before 60. Yet Josephus shows no awareness of it whatever, and never quotes or mentions it. Not one word.
- Clement of Rome supposedly writes his first letter from before the time of the writing of Jospehus, and again, Josephus knows nothing about Clement, whom had he known of him as a bishop in Rome, could have inquired of him for written sources about the “Palestinian movement” known as Christianity. But Josephus knows nothing of Clement, Christians in Rome, or any epistles.
- Paul supposedly wrote an epistle to the Romans before 60, and there would have been several large congregations there of whom Josephus could have easily inquired. Acts ends with Paul in Rome, appealing to Caesar, and preaching and teaching unhindered to the household of Caesar, and beyond. This seems never to have happened or else Josephus would have known of it.
Where are all the Roman congregations FJ would have encountered, of whom he could have inquired?
According to Acts 15, a copy of the catholic letter sent from the Jerusalem Council “to all the churches” should have reached Rome by 60. Why does Josephus know nothing of it, just like the rest of the New Testament — which never quotes or alludes to it? Galatians treats exactly the same topic, about which Paul could simply have said “Just read the council’s letter we sent to you last year or so.” He never needed to have written Galatians, but if he had, he certainly would have referred to, or else quoted, the conciliar letter detailing just the answers needed by the Galatians. Strangely, the entire NT after Acts 15 never mentions the Council or its universal letter — not ONE WORD.
Oh that awful silence. Remember also that FJ was trained as a priest, nor merely a Pharisee, and would have been working in and around the temple prior to his service in the Jewish navy in the 60’s — when James, Peter and John were in Jerusalem — with their disciples (Christians) according to Acts 15. FJ would have had extensive contact with the disciples of James, Peter and John, the leaders at the Jerusalem Council in 45. FJ records not one word about this whole affair, and knows nothing of high priests condemning Jesus, even though FJ offers a comprehensive list of high priests and shows he know a good deal about their ministries.
The book of Revelation shows the actual origin of Christianity from Asia Minor (around 100 – 110). Here, believe it or not, Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) is the paradise-like New Jerusalem — by indirect discourse. Here, Jesus the priest walks among the seven golden lampstands that stood in the Temple just beyond the veil (curtain) that led into the Holiest Place, where the two angels (cherubim) spread their wings over the mercy seat, where God’s divine presence was thought to dwell. This temple locus — which we see descending from heaven as the perfectly symmetrical NEW Jerusalem (meaning after the old one in actual Jerusalem had been destroyed, here dubbed “Babylon”). The perfectly symmetrical 7 letters of chapters 1- 3 mimick the perfectly symmetrical foursquare Temple of the NJ. The two are both perfect, since they are in effect one and the same. These are both heavenly (assuming you have never been to Turkey).
Astonishingly, almost no one who has ever written a commentary on the Book of Revelation seems to have noticed that its beginning introduces a conundrum — how can Asia Minor be the NJ?? The rest of the narrative then goes on to expound how this highly unlikely situation came to pass. The end of the book comes full circle with its beginning.
This book is then badly misnamed. It is a Genesis account — of how Christianity began, as an offshoot of Judaism, the true Judaism, after the old Jerusalem was destroyed. The Gospels explain WHY it was destroyed, since all Jews had thought this absolutely impossible for centuries (especially the Zealots).
My punchline is this: If the New Testament documents actually provided real, historical evidence, they would remember the Palestinian environment (approximately) correctly in a manner similar to what FJ records. They do nothing of the kind, and are way off in what they omit more often than in what they contain. This proves that the NT documents have no real historical value, and thus that there is no good reason to believe either in the historical existence of Jesus or the apostles; and there is no good reason to believe that any Christian Church existed prior to 70. Nor is there any good reason to believe it began in Israel, but rather in Asia Minor, per the book of Revelation.
Second, Christianity actually began as a diaspora Judaism movement from Asia Minor around 90 -110, and incorporated some of its Gospels’ teachings, especially regarding the death and resurrection accounts of Jesus, from the mystery religions which flourished in a syncretic fashion (mix and match this with those features of other religions) from that area — especially Pergamos, whose rich library held books (scrolls) filled with all manner of myths and religious outlooks.
Third, we have to remember the audience and context in which FJ wrote for the Romans. They had hired him to write a very complete account of the history of the Jews — and it is somewhat lengthy because of this — of all things of interest to the Roman aristocracy and its political concerns. This means that if FJ failed to include much of what the Gospels and Acts teach (if these had been historical), the purpose for which FJ wrote would have been soon discredited upon the discovery of the former by the Romans. A supposedly powerful and influential prophet killed by Rome would have been very interesting to the Romans, to put it mildly, given the track record of Messianic rebellions with which they had already had to deal — from the time of Judas of Galilee (ca. 6) and before. The Jerusalem Council would have also been of great interest both to Josephus and to Rome.
There is very good reason to accept my argument from Modus Tollens, not a bare argument from silence, that Jesus and the apostles never existed, and that the NT documents simply read so much differently than Josephus — when Mark’s supposed audience was the same as that of FJ — to have any credibility as historical sources.
If the NT were historical sources, they would record accurately the Palestinian environment of the first century. They do nothing of the kind; therefore, they are not historical source material at all, but literary fiction like the OT accounts of Elijah and Elisha.
My nearly scientific Postscript
A word about arguments from silence seems well in enough in order, given the responses to some recent blog posts I have received. Suppose that someone has a one-dollar bill. The bill appears to be perfect in every single respect, except for one error only. The picture of George Washington is missing from the obverse (face) of the bill.
How could you tell that the dollar bill is not legal-tender? Your answer amounts to an argument from silence – the salient feature noticed is missing, therefore your bill is not legal-tender. This is #1 An argument from silence (of a highly specific kind) and #2 It is perfect – that is, sound and valid – an argument that is not fallacious at all.
As noted above, the “George Washingtons” of the New Testament are many. Thus, we may know it to be inauthentic – not at all what it claims to be. This proves that some arguments from silence – showing salient features that are conspicuous by their absense – are still sound and valid.