God is Not Great - an Appraisal  - Chapter 8


This is the Chapter 8  Page for the appraisal of the contents

of Christopher Hitchens' book, God is Not Great.

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Chapter 8: The New Testament Exceeds the Evil

of the Old One




Page Contents






Chapter Content


Use the links and drop down to the comments if you would like to see each comment applying to each paragraph here.


P.109,110 Questions about prophetic implications – the author's inability to understand prophecy. Link below


P.110 Sceptics' mutterings – Mencken's muddled thinking  Link below


P110,111 Mel Gibson & The Passion of Christ    Link below


P.111,112 Uncertainties about the Gospels – careless reading and thoughtlessness   Link below


P.112-114 Gnostic Gospels – leaning on freaky unreliability       Link below


P114 Confusion about the disciples   Link below


P.114-116 Further misunderstandings   Link below


P.116,117 Mary – virgin birth and family     Link below


P.117,118 Magic and Muddled Thinking     Link below


P.118-120 Misunderstanding C.S.Lewis      Link below


P.120-122 The Woman taken in Adultery        Link below




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General Comment


To the uneducated the categorical statements found in this chapter appear to provide an utterly convincing picture of a man who knows much about a lot of the New Testament. To those of us who know something of the New Testament background and contents, this chapter is full of misunderstanding, misjudgements and utter banality, apart from the usual spate of derisory comments that have no foundation.


As usual with atheists seeking to lambaste the New Testament, there is a resorting to questionable and dubious scholarship that any one of any real education has written off long ago. It seems that, the further the book progresses, the more vitriolic the writer becomes. Someone once came out of a mighty orchestral work performed by a top quality orchestra and was heard to be decrying the work. Another passer-by paused and said, “Sir, it is not the work of art that is being judged. You are.” When we speak rashly and foolishly about subjects we know little about, or come with such patently tinted glasses, it is not the subject matter that is revealed as defective.



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Specific Comments


Again we look at the specific points we have observed in the ‘Content' part above


P.109,110 Questions about prophetic implications – In the early stages here we find reference to “Gradually these two myths converge”. Now the author has this nasty habit that comes from his strong desire to be nasty to anything to do with Christianity, of declaring something wrong or a myth or whatever, before he has laid down grounds for what we hope is his conclusion and not his starting place.


Prophecy & Signs: This is a lead-in to his expressing how odd it is that Jesus might be specifically fulfilling prophecy. Well there are several points to be made here.

First, it wasn't until many years later that the apostle John realised that Jesus did many things as ‘signs' or ‘signposts' and therefore there is no surprise that Jesus did do various things in line with the Old Testament prophecies, specifically for those who had eyes to see. (There almost seems a principle, implied and specified in the New Testament – quoting the Old at one point – that God doesn't make everything obvious to all and sundry, only to those who are looking and whose hearts are open.)


The second point here is the awareness that for centuries Jewish scholars had been struggling with prophecies that spoke about a coming one. The concept of prophecy was very common, of God speaking out the future before it arrived, but yet the scholars found some three hundred pieces of prophecy about this coming one, that often didn't seem to fit together. On one side were indications that this one would be a lowly servant who was badly mistreated, while on the other, that he was a conquering king. It wasn't until after Jesus came, that it was realised that he fulfilled both of these pictures.


A third point to be observed here is that while Jesus was able to do a number of things that might be seen as fulfilment of some of these prophecies, there were still a lot over which he had no influence – his place of birth, nature of birth, the awful anguish following Herod's actions, and then later on the nature of his death, burial and resurrection.


All these things are a far cry from the author's terribly negative “work of rude carpentry, hammered together long after its purported events…” We'll come to the veracity of those events later.


P.110 Sceptics' mutterings – Mencken is known as a cynic of his time so here again we find the atheist's favourite tactic of appealing to other atheists who come up with equally fatuous comments. To describe the New Testament as a “helter-skelter accumulation of more or less discordant documents” is a testimony to the man's blindness, not to the truth of the New Testament. There is a staggering unity in it!


P110,111 Mel Gibson & The Passion of Christ:   Well I don't know Mel Gibson's background so I wouldn't wish to join in the author's denunciation of him. I confess to feel largely negative about The Passion of Christ which did little for the Christian cause in the long term.


Eyewitnesses? One of the things that is difficult about this author is that he seems very poor at clarifying the points he is trying to make. There are lots of descriptive words but it is often difficult to find the point he is making. I think it is simply to denigrate anything whatsoever linked to the Christian cause. He clearly objects to the description of the events of the Gospels being reports of eyewitnesses, yet that is exactly the language of the New Testament. I find Luke's writing considerably more viable than the present author's:

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you.” (Luke 1:1-3)

These are not the words of a fraudster, or indeed of some minor scribe cobbling together bits and pieces.


These are the words of a scholar. Similarly, John when writing his first letter:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard.” (1 Jn 1:1-3)


Again these are not the casual words of conniving conmen. This is the language of a witness who has been totally convinced by his experiences. In fact I have to say that, contrary to the author's later speculations, I find the traditional explanations about John's life and writings and the writings of the other Gospel writers, far more likely and having a feeling of truth about them, than some of the bizarre writings from the odd characters, past and present, we're often asked to believe!


A simple reading of the New Testament will find that again and again there are actually references to the writers having been eyewitnesses. For example: Acts 2:32, 3:15, 4:18-20, 5:30-32, 10:39,40, 1 Cor 15:3-8, 1 Pet 5:1, 2 Pet 1:16, Jn 19:33-35, 20:24-30, Heb 2:3,4. These ALL speak about being witnesses and having seen and heard these things. This is not the language of the novel.


For a detailed treatment of this subject I recommend I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman L Geisler and Frank Turek who well and truly bury these speculations!


But Why? A question I find rising in my mind again and again when people such as the author challenge the content of the New Testament is, why ever should anyone go to the trouble to fabricate such a staggeringly careful plot and take such time and effort to write all these different documents, in an age when writing was such an effort? The logic behind such preposterous grumblings is completely absent!


P.111,112 Uncertainties about the Gospels: So here we move into authoritative sounding generalisations. The fact that the Gospels were not written until decades after Christ's death is rolled out as if in some way it sounds the death knell for the authenticity of the Gospels. In fact it simply reveals lack of understanding. If anything, this gap adds to authenticity, not detracts from it.


Delayed Writing? What is obvious when you study these things is that the early church collected a number of sayings of Jesus, and these were the things focused on first of all. As years passed and the apostles started dying off, it was recognised that it would be wise to write down the things that had happened. This was particularly made obvious when a variety of heretics started declaring things that were contrary to actually what had happened as remembered by the apostles. Until that time there had been no need to write the Gospels down. Those who had been there were still around and the basic teachings were already being handed down by word of mouth.


Family Trees : A passing shot is made at the differences in the family trees of Matthew & Luke. Unfortunately this biased author doesn't bother to find out anything as to why. If he had done some research he would have realised that Hebrew writers of two thousand years ago were very different from writers today who feel it is important to include every detail. Writers of genealogies didn't worry if various names were omitted; their ‘family trees' were more like signposts speaking in generalities. This may appear strange for us with our desire to include every person, but that's how they were in that culture.


The second thing to note about these family trees is that although we believe the writers were inspired by God to write, He didn't shut off their humanity but in fact used it, and so inspired different emphases through the different writers. It is clear that Matthew was writing to the Jewish audience of the day, while Luke was writing to the Greek world. Luke takes his tree specifically from Joseph and goes back past Abraham to Adam. Having just recorded that this man is perfectly God, he also now records that he is perfectly human. That is the point of Luke's tree. Matthews seeks to show he was part of the family of David, a king. Thus each writer fans out their family tree in different directions to make a different point. It's as simple as that!


The Flight to Egypt: Questioning the apparent differences here, the author again doesn't bother to examine the texts and think out what was said. The implication from Matthew's account is that Mary and Joseph stayed quite a long time in Bethlehem and the likelihood is that the ‘wise men' didn't turn up until at least six months later. The fact that Herod instructed all children under the age of two to be killed indicates quite some time has passed before he realises his plan has been foiled, and during that time they leave to go to Egypt for sanctuary. The likelihood of their having settled in the south after the birth, is confirmed by the references, at the end of chapter 2 of Matthew, to their original intentions to settle back there when they returned, which were thwarted when they heard that Herod's evil son was now reigning there. Thus they went up to Nazareth and lived there again.


Now when we compare this to Luke's account, referred to by the author, all we find is When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.” (Lk 2:39). Note the absence of the word ‘immediately'. That one word would have produced a contradiction, but mere absence of information is not contradiction (see our Apologetics pages [CLICK HERE]). Why would Luke not have mentioned their flight to Egypt? Perhaps because it didn't ‘fit' with the compilation of detail that he had in mind and the emphasis he was putting on it for his readers, perhaps because he knew Matthew has already included it and it wasn't something that needed double emphasis (as for instance some of the key events and teaching does.)


Man-Made or God Inspired? Perhaps this is the right moment to put in more detail in response to the author's oft quoted, “this is a man-made book”. Let's repeat what we said earlier, that although we believe the writers were inspired by God to write, He didn't shut off their humanity but in fact used it, and so inspired different emphases through different writers. The fact that they put a different emphasis to their writings in no way undermines the truth of what they said. In fact, quite to the contrary, it gives us a much fuller picture than if there had been four identical Gospels. Look into why four and why four with differences and you move into a wonderful world of understanding that brings us a full-orbed (but not total) picture of Jesus Christ. No, not contradictions, just differences of emphasis.


Dating the Census: Speculation remains about the date of the census and Jesus birth but history suggests that

a) there were a variety of periodic censuses,

b) the main order for a census about this time was BC6 and

c) it is likely that it took time to be applied across the empire and Herod delayed it because of local politics.

This may be a little like a statement of faith, but it seems rather strange that Luke, who uses the careful language of an historian should dare to record events if he wasn't absolutely sure of them.


Let's quote from our notes in The God Delusion – An Appraisal : To be dogmatic over the dating of the census is unwise because it is not clear and scholars of all persuasions have come up with different conclusions. Possibly one of the most helpful and most wise conclusions would be to say, that wherever it has been possible to check Luke's statements, his accuracy as an historian has been impeccable.

Please note what we've just said: ‘Wherever it has been possible'. This is an unclear situation and the wisest conclusion, in the light of archaeology over the past hundred years is to say with humility, well, there have been other unclear things which have simply been eventually ratified by later archaeological findings, and Luke's pedigree appears so good in all other respects, that we would to well to trust him until clear evidence clarifies this particular point.


Closing Comments: There follows a wave of careless brief sweeping statements, one after another (so we won't even bother to try and pick them up because there is so little to take hold of) which indicates that the author a) really hasn't read and thought about the Gospels, and b) has never thought about what is a genuine contradiction and what is simply different viewers observing different facets of the same incident. To consider this more fully, please go to our Apologetics Page 25, ‘Questions about Reconciling Contradictions'. CLICK HERE


P.112-114 Gnostic Gospels: For the next page or so the author leans on the dubious and rejected writings of the so-called Gnostic Gospels. Without going into details, we recommend Dr. Michael Green's book, The Books the Church Suppressed which looks in detail at the books the author speaks of here and shows why they cannot be trusted.


P114 Confusion about the disciples: There is some odd wording in the short following paragraph.


Illiterate disciples? For instance, “His illiterate living disciples left us no record.” I'm not sure why this description because although some of them may have not been educated there are no grounds in the text to assume that. In fact one of them having been a tax-collector would certainly have been able to keep written records and it is thought that he was quite probably the accurate source of many of the sayings of Jesus, as it is likely that he would have been able to do a form of shorthand. Why some of the disciples being uneducated bars them from being witnesses, I don't know. This just seems another one of those silly comments which seem to litter this writing.


Non-Christian Disciples? Shortly after this he extends this silliness by saying about this disciples, “in any event could not have been “Christians,” since they were never to read those books in which Christians must affirm belief.” How silly is that! Is he referring to Paul's letters written a number of years later? Belief in certain bits of Scripture is not what makes a person a Christian; it's their belief and experience of Jesus Christ. The rest follows on but is not what makes them a Christian! Very silly writing!


Jesus not the founder? Finally in this short paragraph there is: “There is scarcely a word in any of the later-assembled Gospels to suggest that Jesus wanted to be the founder of a church, either.” I suspect that this is a double example of the author's ignorance. First of all ‘church' simply means ‘called-out ones' not any institution or organisation. In that sense Jesus was creating ‘church' as he went along. Secondly, one of the criticisms that is sometimes levelled at Jesus is that he was so apparently self-centred. All of belief was to focus on him, e.g. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.” (Jn 3:36 ), or “Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (Jn 6:35). So, totally contrary to the author's assertion, almost everything Jesus said pointed people to himself as the Son of God who could save them. He was the central focus of this bunch of ‘called-out ones'.


P.114-116 Further misunderstandings : In what follows we simply have a handful more of things the author doesn't understand. What seems sad is that these atheistic writers push themselves out on a limb of ignorance and expose themselves to ridicule from anyone who has but a little knowledge of these things. One must assume they are simply pandering to the congregation of those who are likeminded and largely ignorant of the Bible and the Christian Faith, for no one else would give them any credibility.


Bethlehem v Nazareth. Here he manages to talk himself into almost believing. When talking about “a huge amount of fabrication,” he wonders, “But why do all this at all” which is exactly what I asked earlier. In his semi-doubting of Jesus' historical existence, he obviously has not come across the sources outside the New Testament that refer to Jesus at that time. He gives no grounds whatsoever for genuinely doubting the Gospel accounts but still manages to use the language of doubtful innuendo and even has the temerity to speak about his own “attempt to be fair and open-minded”. Pardon? I have seen no signs of that whatsoever, in fact just the contrary.


John on Jesus' Origins. I really haven't a clue to what the author is referring to when he speaks about the Gospel of John, “which seems to suggest that Jesus was neither born in Bethlehem nor descended from King David.” Whatever is he talking about? A little ignorance is a dangerous thing! He asks, “of what use is my analysis?” to which the answer has got to be, of none at all except to show that anyone making any analysis of the Gospels needs to have thoroughly read and understood them first of all, which is what countless reputable scholars have done down through the centuries. So, I'm afraid I have no idea what he means when he speaks about “the contradictions and illiteracies of the New Testament have filled up many books by eminent scholars and have never been explained by any Christian authority…”

He is obviously not a judge of “eminent scholars” because if he is calling on support from the educational establishment, I assume he has to be referring to the liberal school of the nineteenth century who started off from the premise that God wasn't able to DO any of the things the Bible says, and so started from a position of unbelief and so ended up with conclusions that were erroneous and subsequently rejected by the world's wider scholarship that followed through the twentieth century. (Please read Appendix 6 of our appraisal of The God Delusion , ‘The misuse of Liberal Theologians'. CLICK HERE


To return to John's Gospel and his absence of reference to either Bethlehem or King David, we need to understand that John was writing many years later and the three other Gospels had already been in existence for many years. One thing I have noted with older people is that their long-distance memory functions more clearly than at any time before. My belief is that in old age, John reflecting back on the incredible experiences he had had with Jesus when he was young, sees in his mind so many of those events and suddenly thinks something like, “My goodness, we never realised! Why didn't we realise the truth when he was speaking about having come from heaven, and being the Son of God? How blind could we have been? The others didn't even see it when they put their Gospels together!”

And thus he writes after years and years of experience as a wise and highly respected leader, seeing the outworking of all the things Jesus had spoken about, and his emphasis is on Jesus the Son of God who came to save the world. His Gospel is for the world, not just mainly the Jews (Matthew) or the Greeks (Luke) or the Romans (Mark). If our author had bothered to study these things he would have known them, but his closed mind has stopped him enquiring and finding out!


Man-made: In a bizarre attempt at some form of logic the author tries to show that the book is man-made because by its own confession in John, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (Jn 1:17). Implication: all the Old Testament law was made up by Moses and all the New Testament stuff was made up by Jesus. Conclusion, it's all man-made! What this terrible logic omits is the incredible account of God giving the Law to Moses, and Jesus performing incredible signs (including his death and resurrection) to reveal he is God in the flesh (that's the whole point, for example, of John's Gospel.)


Mary not a Virgin. Then follows some little thought out chatter about the meaning of virgin, the stuff that beginners learn. Yes, the Hebrew can simply mean ‘a young woman' but it misses the point that it can also mean ‘virgin' and when Matthew collects together the records of Jesus' birth, it's like he says, Oh my goodness! This is what Isaiah was speaking about! He did actually mean a virgin! It's not because Matthew says she is a virgin, but because of the whole account to do with the angel!

Of course if you don't believe in the supernatural, you won't believe in angels and you won't believe in the possibility of a virgin birth, but that's because of your presuppositions, not because of your carefully researched conclusions! The point of the Holy Spirit being involved is less about Mary being sinless (an add-on belief) but of how God could be in human form inside this girl!


P.116,117 Mary – virgin birth and family: This leads us in to the main onslaught on Mary with, sadly, even more thoughtless comments. Let's pick them up one by one because there just may be gullible people around who could get led astray by this silly writing.


Jesus' silence: “Jesus… never mentions that his mother is or was a virgin.” How crass is that! In those days at least, children honoured their parents. The author is a classic example of those who will misunderstand wherever there is an opportunity for something to be misunderstood, and a subject like this would really detract from the main things Jesus was teaching. The fact is that he had no need to speak about this. He's not asking us to believe in him because of his virgin birth; he asks us on the basis of the things he did.


Jesus' Rudeness: “Jesus… is repeatedly very rude and coarse to her.” He doesn't cite any references for this but I assume he may be picking up on Jn 2:4 where older versions have, “ Woman, what have I to do with thee ?” Modern translations have a much softer, Dear woman, why do you involve me? ” In either case, Jesus is now operating as the head of the family (his father having died and he being the eldest son), and also as the Son of God that he is slowly revealing to the world. Mary was pushing in where she shouldn't and so his response is in fact remarkably gentle and he does follow through on what she said, almost as if to honour her.


Mary's Memory Loss: “She herself appears to have no memory of the Archangel Gabriel's visitation, or of the swarm of angels, both telling her that she is the mother of god. In all accounts, everything that her son does comes to her as a complete surprise, if not a shock.”

He then indirectly refers to the incident when Jesus was twelve and stayed in Jerusalem, and also to the John 2 account mentioned above. This is either ingenuous or just unthinking. The author has obviously never thought himself into Mary's position. She was a teenager when the immaculate conception occurred. It was a most incredible experience but with the passing of years, it is very easy to doubt. There is nothing that takes away from Mary's humanity. Just a small point in passing, Mary didn't have a swarm of angels come to her, the shepherds did.


So you've had a child in a way you can't explain. You have this memory that is very vivid but it still leaves you with dozens of questions. Was her son staying in Jerusalem when he was twelve something to be expected? Of course not! Of course, as a mother, she was both surprised and concerned. Was she expecting her son to become a miracle worker? Highly unlikely! Even if she grasped anything of the Messiah concept, she probably could not have expected a quarter of what he did. Of course she was surprised. Jesus himself didn't plan all the things long beforehand (not in his human form at least), but did the various things as prompted by his Father in heaven. This wasn't something he explained in detail to Mary; it didn't work like that.


Jesus' Parents: I'm afraid these comments in the book get more and more incredible. “Luke even makes a telling slip at one point, speaking of the “parents of Jesus” when he refers only to Joseph and Mary.” Oh, my goodness! What is this about? Luke isn't out to make a theological point. Mary and Joseph all the way along are referred to as Jesus' parents. As far as the world was concerned, they were. When a child is adopted we still speak of those adopting it as its ‘parents'. We're not trying to be deceitful or distort the truth; we're just stating the obvious, that for all intents and purposes, in everyday life, this couple are acting as the child's parents. This is just silly writing in this chapter of the book!


An Absent Joseph: “who only exists in reported speech.” Whatever is this about? Calling the whole of Matthew's Gospel ‘reported speech' is cowardly and intellectually facile. This is just making silly comments for the sake of it. If you want to go to the subject of authority and veracity of the New Testament, please go to our Apologetics pages. [CLICK HERE] This isn't worth talking about any more here.

The ongoing chatter about Mary and the Roman Catholic Church's intellectual machinations is valid, if not a touch banal, but please don't taint the rest of us with their unbiblical confusions at this point.


I'm not sure about his ‘repeatedly'. The only other occasion that comes to mind, when there is reference by Jesus to Mary and the family is, for example in Mark 3:31-35 where Jesus, to those in the house (not the family) expands ‘mother and brother' to include anyone who is part of his spiritual ‘family'. There is also no record that he didn't get up and go out to see them!


P.117,118 Magic and Muddled Thinking: I remember a quick-draw artist who used to appear on TV. He worked with single lines that went onto the board as quick as could be and eventually painted the big picture. This writer is like this. He shoots out lines as fast as he can go, as if they were meaningful and as if they contributed to the big picture. It's bad stuff but for the sake of the gullible we'll cover it!


The Old Testament: “riddled with dreams and with astrology”? And the sun standing still for Joshua was an example of that? Yes, God does sometimes speak through dreams, but astrology? No, not the Old Testament (just 3 mentions of stars and one condemnation of stargazers and astrologers!), just that one star over Bethlehem. No, I don't understand what happened with Joshua and I don't know which of the various suggestions that have been made of the Bethlehem ‘star' is actually true. I don't think the ‘wise men' were “witch doctors and sorcerers”; they come over with much greater authority and wisdom, and the key issue is that they turned up at the right time because, by whatever means, they heard God!


The Beatitudes: “fanciful wish-thinking”? I remember, as a new Christian living in London many years ago, going to a Bible Study at a local church (don't worry about which denomination) and it was on the Beatitudes. I'm sure the only two Christians there were me and the minister. The rest of the group reckoned that the Beatitudes were impossibilities, just like our author does. But I realised something; that God's intention is always to draw us into closer relationship with Him and we can't do anything good without His help. Yes, humanly these beatitudes are impossible, but the point is that with God they are possible, and they don't show a belief in magic (I'm not sure what he's referring to). I don't think he realises that the Beatitudes refer only to verses 1 to 11, for I think he must be commenting on the rest of his sermon with his unclear comments that are so unclear as to defy comment!


The Canaanite Woman: Yet again we find more of the misunderstanding, or perhaps lack of understanding, we have come to expect from this author. Yes, Jesus did come primarily to speak into the Jewish nation and there was a very clear reason for it. Not wanting to just repeat myself and copy out lots of detail, can I refer you to the second part of chapter 7 of our appraisal of The God Delusion which covers this in detail. CLICK HERE


Another aspect of that particular story not covered there, is linked to something we've already mentioned once in these notes, that often God wants us to show a possible desire after Him and after the truth. There are a variety of instances in the Bible of God or Jesus ‘having their minds changed'. What we find though, with a little bit of consideration, was that the original appearance was not their real intent. They were wanting the person (or us) to come out with and face the truth, or declare our real desire. Then, and only then, does His real intent become clear. But I don't expect the cynical atheist to want to learn that lesson.


P.118-120 Misunderstanding C.S.Lewis: These misunderstandings lead him on to an almost incredible conclusion, that this could be the Son of God (well not quite!). However that leads him into what seems a most amazing example of blindness. He takes a quote from Mere Christianity which is an incredibly simple and straight forward defence of the Gospel, and he completely misses the point that Lewis is making, that the only logical answer to the apparently bizarre teaching of Jesus, is that he meant he really was the only Son of God. Because Lewis uses irony the author choose to completely misunderstand what he is saying.


Moreover, to make it worse, he completely denies Lewis's simple logic that Jesus was not merely a great human teacher. He denies Lewis's alternatives but fails to put up any other. He simply derides him. Sounds like the truth was getting close to home!


To confirm this conclusion, he makes an incredible comment: “Either the Gospels are in some sense literal truth, or the whole thing is literally a fraud and perhaps an immoral one at that.” Now I have already commented upon how unlikely it is that a whole bunch of different writers could have concocted such an elaborate fraud as the New Testament (you can't take the Gospels on their own – the rest too strongly weigh in as well).

In the face of all the staggering amount of evidence to the contrary, the author simply sweeps it all away as ‘hearsay'. Hearsay? Thousands of people have given their very lives for this ‘hearsay' starting with most of those twelve apostles closest to Jesus who saw and heard it all and were totally convinced by it – and died painfully for it! See the notes above on the ‘witness culture' of the New Testament.


P.120-122 The Woman taken in Adultery: This part starts off with the rather bizarre account of a young man who had to change his views from one extreme to another. Atheists seem to delight in using this sort of cockeyed thinking. Simply because one person goes overboard in opposite directions, it doesn't make either of his extremities valid.


It is followed by a story of the woman taken in adultery which the Bible itself notes “The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11”. Somehow the integrity of the New Testament canon escapes the author. What he has obviously never realised is that those who publish the Bible maintain a very high level of integrity, noting questionable words etc. by putting notes at the bottom of the page or, in this rare case, before the passage.


The author then quotes Dr. Zhivago where an imaginary priest declares that no one knows if the woman went away and didn't sin again. “Nobody, indeed, does know” he adds portentously! So what is that supposed to say? If he thinks it adds meaning he's simply exposing his bias again. Of course we don't know what dozens of Bible characters subsequently did. That doesn't affect the truth of the text at all.


He then refers back to the Old Testament to demonstrate more of his own lack of understanding. If only these crusading atheists would bother to do their research they wouldn't come up with so many unthinking comments. “Gruesome laws of the Pentateuch”? He cites an eye for an eye. What he has never thought about was the primitiveness of culture – including the culture of Israel – in those early days of civilisation. The “eye for an eye” law was actually a restrictive law that was basically saying “ONLY an eye for an eye.” In that primitive society it was inhibiting revenge which tends to grow and grow.


The reason I take so much time on some of these things is that in the midst of all of his writing comes some of the most fatuous (sorry, that is what it really is) comments possible. Listen: “but if only non-sinners have the right to punish, then how could an imperfect society ever determine how to prosecute offenders.” Where ever does he get this idea that the Bible talks about non-sinners. It doesn't! It says exactly the opposite: we are ALL sinners. What he fails to distinguish is that there are differences in degrees of sin, and so we don't equate for social purposes the sin of ignoring a needy person you pass by with the sin of murder. The consequences of each are vastly different.


And then we have, “And what authority did Jesus have to ‘forgive'? That is exactly the point, the authority of being the Son of God. But he continues, “Presumably, at least one wife or husband somewhere in the city felt cheated and outraged.” It's a shame that that which at first sight seems so morally superior in fact simply reveals a short-sightedness. The issue is not about offending the innocent husband or wife. The issue is about responding to the heart of the offender. Jesus reads her mind and sees she is repentant. Before God she is forgiven. Yes, of course there is a whole issue of the husband and wife sorting out his misdemeanours. Perhaps, just perhaps, Jesus knew the truth of this situation, that in a male dominated culture it would have been the man who had taken the initiative and he was the primary cause of this situation.


Yes, there is the whole situation of the husband seeking the wife's forgiveness but that's not the point. It's not the husband who is being threatened with stoning. Even though he should have been according to the Law, the male-orientated religious leaders didn't bother with him. They just used the woman as a scapegoat to put Jesus in an awkward situation. Jesus is, in fact, standing up for women in this situation, long before anyone else championed for women's rights. The author seems to forget that, but then he's aligning himself with those religious leaders, trying to make Jesus look silly. All that happens is that they, and our author, appear foolish and heartless, but perhaps that is unfair, for he eventually does come to understand some element of the story.


At the close of this section and the chapter he seems to think he is making some great point – this wasn't in the original Gospel. No, it probably wasn't, but read again what I've said at the beginning of this part. Why would it have been included (including the note)? Because it has an air of authenticity about it and shows an incident which does conform to all else we know about the mercy and grace of Jesus. No, “the case for biblical consistency or authenticity or ‘inspiration'” has NOT been “in tatters for some time” – only in the confused minds of those who have thought very little about these things and are so quick to comment about them from their misunderstandings.





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On this page we have:

  •  highlighted some of the key points he makes,
  •  warned against the misunderstanding, misjudgements and utter banality, apart from the usual spate of derisory comments that have no foundation found in this chapter
  •  responded, point by point, to the points he makes.


In the course of those notes we have observed the author's:

  •  habit of declaring things a ‘myth' without any foundation,
  •  lack of understanding about Biblical prophecy,
  •  habit of appealing to other sceptics, or questionable film-makers, for his authority,
  •  failure to recognise the ‘witness culture' of the New Testament,
  •  lack of understanding about
    • when and why the Gospels were written,
    • the different culture of writing comparing Biblical accounts
    • dating recorded incidents
    • what ‘inspiration' of the Scriptures means
  •  tendency to make wild, sweeping statements,
  •  tendency to lean on discounted Gnostic Gospels,
  •  lack of understanding in respect of:
    • the disciples' ability to record what happened,
    • the status of the disciples,
    • Jesus' intentions to lead a new kingdom
    • the historicity of Jesus
    • the perspective John brings to the Gospels 
    • the role and position of Jesus' mother
  •  confused thinking and lack of understanding in respect of Biblical accounts, i.e.
    • the Bethlehem star 
    • the Beatitudes
    • the Canaanite woman
    • the woman caught in adultery.


Sadly, this is a chapter absolutely riddled with confused thinking and misunderstandings. What I find even more sad is that the author, who purports to have Christian friends, has either never fully listened to them, or has never gone through the New Testament accounts with them – or that they too are shallow in their thinking and understanding of the Bible. A sad story all round.





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