The Bible is not Credible
Most Christians don’t know where their Bible came from, and sadly, don’t think to question this. This is highly problematic because the crux of Protestantism is that all Biblical events are allegories for the inner life of their readers, a worldview which is complicated by the facts that:
- There is no external historical confirmation for the existence of Jesus or his alleged events in the New Testament. Even the often-cited report in Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews (c. 94 CE) has been revealed to be a forgery. Skeptics of the historical Jesus (i.e., one who walked the Earth as a man) point out that there is no direct physical evidence of his existence -- no clothes, no handwritten letters, no house with his name on it -- no artifacts of any kind. This is admittedly unsurprising for a tradesman from that era and region; the Roman histories of the time don’t even mention Pontius Pilate. However, given Jesus’ degree of local fame and notoriety, something should have been recorded somewhere, by someone who actually knew Jesus. Even the Gospels don’t qualify as reliable written sources; as we will demonstrate below; biblical scholars agree that the Gospels were written well after Jesus’ death, by unknown persons who never saw him in the flesh. Thomas Paine pointed out that everything in the Bible is hearsay; even if the message at the tomb were true, it would have had to pass through God, the angel(s), Mary, the disciples, the Gospel writers, all the copyists, and all the translators. Even if the events were true, they would have been distorted by the grapevine/telephone game/Chinese whispers game needed to bring the message to us.
- The New Testament's stories are internally contradictory. In addition to the Bible’s many glaring contradictions, it also contains wild improbabilities, such as the verbal exchange between Jesus and Pontius Pilate. Apart from the fact that interrogations were conducted by underlings, it is hardly probable that an exalted official would make a point to talk with a local criminal. Moreover, Pontius Pilate spoke Latin, and Jesus spoke Aramaic; yet according to the Gospel of John, they conversed back and forth, without an interpreter, translator, or intermediary.
- There are other explanations for the origin of the Jesus myth.
- The miracle reports make the Bible unhistorical. The presence of miracle stories in the New Testament makes the legends highly suspect; if miracles are as defined as a violation, suspension, overriding, or punctuation of natural law, then miracles cannot be historical. Of all of the legitimate sciences, history is the weakest, as it can only produce approximations of truth. In order for history to have any strength at all, it must adhere to the strict, but common, assumption of invariant natural laws. Without this assumption, there would be no way to separate fictions from facts, and everything that has ever been recorded would then have to be taken as literal truth. If miracles are defined as “highly unlikely” or “wonderful” events, then the Bible could be historical, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. This does not mean we need a miracle to prove a miracle; but miraculous claims require additional proof beyond what a more credible claim would require. These miracles are not impossible, per se, just wildly, comically improbable.
While the Bible contains numerous predictions, these are meaningless, since they are vague enough to have multiple interpretations. None of the Bible’s prophecies are so straightforward that anyone could read them and conclude that they came true, as predicted, and in ways that could only have been due supernatural means. Most prophecies merely predict things that are fated to eventually happen (e.g., earthquakes, war, moral decay, etc.), without listing any specific instances. (e.g., an earthquake killed over 800,000 Chinese people in 1556, and God made no effort to warn them).
Another problem with biblical prophecies is that they are in the Bible. To predict an event which occurred thousands of years ago, and then tell a story about how that event happened shortly thereafter is unconvincing. Predictions are only incredible when they describe the future, not the past. However, Christianity has little to offer along those lines; the only future-oriented prediction the Bible offers was Jesus' 2000 year-old promise to return “soon”. "The day of the LORDis at hand" must ring hollow at some point, be it in the year 2525, 7510, 10000, or increasingly, today.
If the Bible is authoritative, then who wrote the Bible? When did they write it? Where did they get the ideas for the Bible? How do Christians know if the Bible is even the word of God? If these questions cannot be answered, then why value the Bible at all?
Who Wrote the Bible?
Traditionally, Matthew and John were said to be two of the Twelve Apostles, Mark was Peter’s secretary while he preached in Rome, and Luke was one of Paul’s assistants, who also wrote Acts of the Apostles, as a “sequel” to his Gospel. Paul was not an apostle per se, and did not know Jesus during his lifetime. However, each of the four Gospels was written anonymously. No author’s name appears on any of the earliest partial or full copies of these texts, and none of the authors gave any personal information about themselves. These author attributions were assigned by Irenaeus in 180 CE, based on traditions established earlier that century. If any of the Twelve Apostles, or their close associates, wrote about Jesus’ life, that book would’ve become an instant classic among Christians, leading it to be widely copied, distributed, cited, and other Christian writers would frequently mention its author by name, even if their name didn’t appear in the text. Yet, it appears that until 180 CE, Christian scholars had no idea who wrote the New Testament Gospels, and their present labels were either baseless assumptions, or utilized unreliable sources. Prior to 180 CE, Christian writers thought the four Gospels were “memoirs” of unattributed apostles, and only identified these books through their characteristics (e.g., Matthew and Luke were “the Gospel with the genealogies,” etc.). The gospels themselves contain many indications of their false attributions:
- The Gospel of Matthew refers to the Apostle Matthew in the third person, indicating that the author and the apostle were different people.
- In a passage that many scholars consider to be an addition from a later author (JOH 21:24), the “Beloved Disciple” was stated to be the source for the Gospel of John. However, the Bible never says who thev= Beloved Disciple was, and nothing indicates that it was John; only that it was neither Peter nor Judas Iscariot.
- The Gospel of John freely admits to being propaganda (JOH 20:31).
- The author of Luke specifically said that he began his effort when many others had already wrote orderly accounts of what had been “handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and servants of the word” (LUK 1:2), but he never claimed that any of the Apostles had written a Gospel. If anything, his language suggested that his written sources were not eye-witness accounts, but secondary sources based on oral traditions (i.e., rumors).
- Luke stated that his Gospel as an investigative report for Theophilus, so that he may know the certainty of what he was taught (LUK 1:3-4). Theophilus’ identity is unknown, but based on his name (literally: “God-lover”), he is likely a metaphor for reader, or for the Christian movement itself.
- Luke did not name his sources, or tell us when he cited a source.
- Tradition holds that Luke was Paul’s companion, but the author of Luke made no such claim, and never stated to have obtained any information form Paul. Most New Testament scholars recognize that the description of Paul’s activities in the Acts of the Apostles conflicts with Paul’s version of the same or similar events, as described in his letters. The author of Luke-Acts appears to have had no knowledge of Paul’s letters, or any intimate knowledge of Paul’s works from personal observation; he apparently even misunderstood Paul’s theology. If the author of Luke-Acts knew Paul, they were casual acquaintances at best. Therefore, the author of Luke was apparently isolated from the Apostolic circles that emerged after Jesus’ death. If he was Paul’s companion, the many errors he made regarding Paul’s career and teaching suggests that his accounts of Jesus’ life should be viewed with skepticism -- and if he wasn’t a close companion of Paul, then readers should be even more wary.
- The “silence of Paul” is a huge problem for those advocating for a historical Jesus, because the Christ in Paul’s writings is an entirely different character from the Jesus of the Gospels. Furthermore, Paul adds no verification for any aspect of the Jesus story; even Paul’s supposed confirmation of the resurrection (1COR 15:3-8) contradicts the Gospels.
Please keep in mind that forging Gospels, letters, and other writings attributed to the Apostles and other figures from Jesus’ time was a popular cottage industry in Christianity’s first few centuries. Most New Testament scholars who studied these issues reluctantly acknowledge that several of these falsified documents eventually made their way into the New Testament. As such, the following holy books and letters are now dismissed as forgeries:
- 2 Peter
- All of Paul’s letters, excluding:
- 1 Corinthians
- 2 Corinthians
- 1 Thessalonians
When the Bible was Written?
Dating the Bible's authorship is a difficult task because:
- The Bible’s explicit historical information is unreliable and contradictory. For example:
- Matthew says Jesus was born “in the time of Herod the king;” Herod died in 4 BCE.
- Luke reports the Jesus was born during a Roman census “when Cyrenius became governor of Syria,” both of which happened in 6 CE.
- Some books mention no external historical events to use as reference points (e.g., the Gospel of John).
- There is no corroborating evidence or records for many of the Bible’s events. (e.g., The Book of Matthew is the only time Herod’s genocide is mentioned by anyone, either inside or outside the Bible. This event should have caught someone’s attention.)
- Scholars agree that the four Gospels were not the first books written, and were not written in their traditional order (i.e., Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).
- Mark was written first, and was based off some now-lost earlier work (“proto-Mark”). Thus, even the earliest accounts of Jesus’ life are still secondary sources.
- The last twelve verses of the Gospel of Mark were added on at a later time; the earliest versions end with the empty tomb.
- Matthew and Luke both used Mark's gospel as a reference, as indicated by the fact that Matthew and Luke rarely contradict Mark.
- ~20% of Matthew and Luke’s Gospels are additional details which were not found in Mark, and do not conflict with each other. This implies the existence of another Gospel (“Q”), which they also used as a reference. There are no existent copies of Q, but based on analysis of ancient manuscripts, Q was written in Greek; went through at least three major developments; and the original version was used to write Luke. No one knows who wrote Q, or if it’s information is reliable.
- ~33% of Matthew and ~40% of Luke is content which is not featured in the other Gospel. These passages are attributed to oral traditions or other lost documents (“M” and “L", respectively.)
- It is unclear why Luke, a colleague of Paul, would primarily rely on Mark and Q.
- John appears to have worked in isolation, which explains why his Gospel contains so many contradictory accounts.
- Paul mentions little about Jesus’ life, and freely admits to never meeting the pre-resurrected Jesus. Paul’s Jesus is a disembodied, spiritual Christ who speaks from the sky, and not a flesh-and-blood historical person. In fact, one of the Bible’s most glaring contradictions is the two conflicting accounts of how Paul first met the disembodied Christ. As such, Paul neglected to mention any of the following:
- Jesus’ parents.
- Jesus’ virgin birth.
- The common Gospel practice of referring to Jesus as the “Son of man.”
- Any of Jesus’ miracles and/or deeds, excluding the Last Supper ritual.
- Any of Jesus’ historical activities, in any time or any place.
- Jesus’ trial.
- The geographical location of the crucifixion.
- Paul rarely quoted Jesus, which is odd considering his use of many other persuasive techniques.
- Paul contradicted Jesus’ explicit teachings on divorce (1COR 7:10), allowing for none, while Jesus permitted exceptions.
- Jesus taught a Trinitarian baptism (“in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost”) in the Gospels, and Paul and his disciples baptized in Jesus’ name only. This is evidence that that Gospels were written after the time of Paul, since the Trinity was developed later as a workaround to rationalize Jesus’ contradictory claims of being both the Son of God (JOH 3:36) and God himself (LUK 10:22; JOH 10:30, 17:22).
The Upper Bound of Biblical Authorship
Prior to c.400 CE, the only written evidence for any of the Gospels is a few papyri fragments from the Gospel of John. The earliest of them, no larger than an index card, was dated to c.130-150 CE, based on its writing style. This suggests that 150 CE is the latest possible date for writing that Gospel. There is no evidence of other Gospels until c.200 CE, and the earliest complete Gospels date to c.300 CE. However, Patristic literature makes references to these Gospels in a way that suggests that they were in circulation earlier than 300 CE -- but the question of how much earlier is an unresolved problem.
The Lower Bound of Biblical Authorship
The Gospels never mention the Bar Kokhba revolt of c.132 CE, and its devastating result where the Romans put down the rebellion and barred the Jews from Jerusalem, their holy city. This suggests that the Gospels were almost certainly written prior to this event.
Scholars have attempted to date the Gospels by the themes and events mentioned in the text, and by the apparent chronological relationship of the Gospels to each other. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all contain references to the Roman's destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 CE. Since Jesus alluded to this event (MAR 13:2; MAT24:2; LUK 21:6; see also MAT 22:7; LUK 19:43), and that “prophecy” was likely a post-hoc creation of the authors, this sets a lower-limit of 70 CE. The overwhelming majority of biblical scholars date Matthew and Luke to 75-82 CE, based on the MAT 22:7 and LUK 19:43 references. Mark is believed to have been written during or shortly after the outbreak of hostilities in 66 CE.
However, if these books were written after the temple’s destruction, then these texts would have featured that event more prominently, which supports a pre-70 CE authorship date. However, this viewpoint is not accepted in most scholarly circles, because the Gospels place an extreme emphasis on the conflict between Christ’s followers and the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the dominant religious authority in the post-temple era; otherwise, Jesus would have faced additional resistance from the Sadducees and Essenes, who were wiped out during the revolt.
Dating the Gospel of John is difficult because he mentioned no external historical events to use as reference points. However, the expulsion of Christians from the synagogues, and the absence of any Jewish groups other than Pharisees and priests also indicate an authorship date after 70 CE. It is unknown if the author of John even knew there were other Gospels; if not, the scholarly consensus is that the Gospel of John was written c.90-110 CE to fill this perceived need.
The 7 legitimate Pauline letters appear to be the earliest known Christian writing, dating back to c.50-55 CE.
The Bible’s Pagan Origins
Christianity was cut from the same fabric as pagan mythology, and the early Christians freely admitted to this. When arguing with pagans, c.150 CE, St. Justin Martyr said:
“When we say that the Word, who is the first born of God, was produced without sexual union, and that he, Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven; we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter (Zeus).”
It is interesting to note that the phrases “Word of God” and “Lamb of God” are probably connected, due to mistranslating typos. The Greek word logos (“word”) was originally used by the gnostics, and translates into Hebrew as imerah. The Aramaic word for “lamb” is immera. This is one example of how the early Christians, who lived at the intersection of many cultures and languages, could become confused and influenced by many competing religious ideas. Case and point, the story of Noah's Ark was adapted from The Epic of Gilgamesh, as a result of Hebrews assimilating Babylonian culture during their captivity.
Scholars have demonstrated that the Jesus story is a patchwork of pieces borrowed from other religions. Most of the New Testament has parallels to pagan myths (e.g., the Last Supper, Peter’s denial, Pilate’s wife’s dream, the crown of thorns, the vinegar and gall at the crucifixion, the mocking inscription over the cross, the Passion, the trial, Pilate’s washing of hands, the carrying of the cross, the talk between the two thieves hanging beside Jesus, etc.). In general:
- Crucifying sun gods was a popular trope in myths throughout the region. This also extended to Antigonus, the “King of the Jews”, and to some accounts of Cyrus.
- Ascension myths occur throughout the world’s religions (e.g., Adonis, Attis, Enoch, Elijah, Krishna, Heracles, Dionysus, and later, Mary).
- Many mythological figures had virgin births (e.g., Perseus, Buddha, Catlicus, Huitzilopochtli, Attis, Genghis Khan, Krishna, Horus, Mercury, Romulus). The virgin birth of Christ was seen as pandering and résumé-padding at the time, to the point where Peter and Paul both indirectly denied the virgin birth, and no mention was ever made of it besides passing references in Matthew and Luke. While Jesus frequently spoke of his father’s divinity, he never mentioned his mom’s virginity.
Fermicus attempted to establish Christianity's uniqueness, only to encounter pagan precedents at every step of the way, prompting him to declare “Habet Diabolus Christos sous!” (“The Devil has his Christs!”) This early Christian apologist reluctantly concluded that Jesus’ story was “nothing different” from paganism.” In particular, the following examples stood out:
- Attis, a self-castrated god-man who was born of a virgin, was worshiped between March 22 and March 27 (i.e., the vernal equinox) and was hanged on a cut pine tree. He escaped, fled, descended into a cave, died, rose again, and was later called “Father God.”
- Dionysus was a Greek man-god said to be the “Son of Zeus.” He was killed, buried, descended into hell, and rose from the dead to sit at the right hand of his father. His empty tomb at Delphi was long preserved and venerated by believers.
- Osiris was slain by Set, only to rise again to become ruler of the dead, 2000 years before Jesus’ birth.
- This connection is reinforced by the fact that Jesus received an Egyptian burial. Joseph of Arimathea used 75 lbs. (34 kg) of aromatic herbs, myrrh, and aloe to purify Jesus' body before wrapping it in swaddling bands, just like mummification.
- Simon, the Cyrenian sun God carried pillars to his death. He was assimilated into Christianity as Simon the Cyrene, who carried Jesus’ cross on his behalf.
- Mithra was a virgin-born Persian god. In 307 CE Constantine officially designated Mithra as the “Protector of the Empire,” and also institutionalized Christianity shortly thereafter, causing the two myths to become blended and confused.
- Mithra was born on December 25, as the result of one of the following contradictory origin stories held by various Mithratic traditions:
- Mithra was the product of incest between the sun god and his own mother.
- Mithra was a virgin-birth from a human mortal.
- Mithra had no mother, but was miraculously born from a female rock (the petra genetrix) which was fertilized by the Heavenly Father’s phallic lightning.
- Mithra’s birth was witnessed by shepherds and by Magi who brought gifts to his sacred birth-cave.
- Mithra performed the following miracles:
- Raising the dead.
- Healing the sick.
- Making the blind see.
- Making the lame walk.
- Casting out devils.
- As a Peter (i.e., a son of the petra), Mithra carried the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
- Mithra’s triumph and ascension to heaven were celebrated during the spring equinox (i.e., Easter).
- Before returning to heaven, Mithra celebrated a Last Supper with twelve disciples, who represented the zodiac constellations. In memory of this event, Mithra’s worshipers instituted meals of cross-marked bread as one of their seven sacraments. This meal was called mizd, which was Latinized to missa, which was Anglicized into mass. 
- Mithra’s image was buried in a rock tomb, and was later withdrawn from it and said to live again.
- Mithraism was an ascetic, anti-female religion, with a priesthood consisting only of celibate men.
- Mithraists believed the world was destined to be destroyed in the fires of a great battle between the forces of light and darkness in the Last Days. As a result of this battle, virtuous people would be saved, and the sinful would be cast into hell.
- Roman military men adopted Mithraism, since its rigid discipline and vivid battle-imagery was appropriate for warriors. Christians also adopted these notions, and began to describe themselves as “Soldiers for Christ.”
- Unlike the Jewish sabbath, Mithraists celebrated their feasts on Sunday.
- Mithraists practiced baptism to allow post-mortem ascension through the planetary spheres to the highest heaven, while the wicked (i.e., the unbaptized) would be dragged down to darkness.
- Mithra was born on December 25, as the result of one of the following contradictory origin stories held by various Mithratic traditions:
- Mary is a name similar to the other mothers of gods. (e.g., the Syrian Myrrha, the Greek Maia, and the Hindu Maya all derived from the familiar “Ma” for mother.)
- Prometheus and Heracles were made to wear mock crowns.
- Babylonian prisoners dressed as kings for five days, and then they were stripped, scourged and crucified. This was likely assimilated into Jewish myth following the Babylonian captivity.
- The New Testament mirrors The Iliad, because of the literary conventions of the time (mimesis). Specifically:
- The casting of lots to select Judas’ replacement (ACT 1:12-26) parallels the casting of lots which led Ajax to fight Hector (Iliad 7).
- The corroborating visions of Cornelius and Peter strikingly resemble the two visions in the beginning of Iliad; i.e., the dream Zeus gave to Agamemnon, and the vision of serpents and sparrows (Iliad 2).
- Peter’s escape from Herod’s prison mirrors Hermes’ rescue of Priam from the Greek camp (Iliad 24).
- Paul’s speech to the elders of Ephesus at Miletus is a rewrite of Hector’s farewell to Andromache (Iliad 6).
- This was blatant plagiarism, because this speech was incredibly popular at the time. Many authors appropriated this speech for their own use, including: Herodotus, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Plato, Xenophon of Athens, Xenophon of Ephesus, Chariton, Heliodorus, Virgil, Ovid, and Silius Italicus.
- Speeches of this type follow a standard format, where the hero:
- States that they do not know what dangers they will face.
- Boasts about never shirking from their duty.
- Warns of disaster.
- Expresses fear concerning the captivity of their loved ones.
- Invokes his gods.
- Prays that his successors will be like him.
- Cites a comparative quotation.
- States his willingness to face his destiny with courage.
- Commands his audience to attend to their tasks.
- Similarly, MAR 1-14 were based upon The Odyssey, while MAR 15-16 was based upon The Iliad. Jesus plays Odysseus, and the Jewish authorities are Penelope’s suitors. Peter plays the role of Eurylochus; Judas and Barabbas are Melanthius and Irus, etc.
- ACTS 17:28 is a quote from Aratus’ Phaenomena, and ACTS 26:14 is a quote from The Bacchae.
The Golden Rule
Jesus’ key teaching, the Golden Rule, does not occur in the Bible in it’s familiar “do unto others” wording; while Jesus stated its core concept in roundabout ways (MAT 7:12; 19:19; MAR 12:31; LUK 6:31; ROM 13:9; GAL 5:14; JAM 2:8), he assigned no particular importance to it. However, the Golden Rule was not an original concept, and it appeared in other religions well before the Bible was written, and was appropriated from one or more of the following established traditions:
- Judaism: The Golden Rule appears twice in the Old Testament (LEV 19:18; 34).
- Hinduism (Bhramanism): "This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you." (Mahabharata, 5, 1517) c.300 BCE
- Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that yourself would find hurtful.” (Udanda-Varga, 5,18)
- Confucianism: “Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that you would not have them do unto you.” (Analects, 15,23)
The Golden Rule also independently appeared in the following religions during or after the time of Christ:
- Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to our fellowmen. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.” -- Rabbi Hillel, (Talmund, Shabbat, 31a), 10 CE
- Taoism: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” (T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien), c.900-1200 CE
- Zoroastrianism: “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself.” (Dadistan-i-dinik, 94,5)
- D. Kimball, They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations (Zondervan, 2007).
- E. D. Cohen, Mind of the Bible-Believer (Prometheus Books, 1988).
- D. Barker, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists (Ulysses Press, 2008).
- V. J. Stenger, The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason (Oxford Prometheus Books, 2009).
- G. P. Harrison, 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian (Prometheus Books, 2013).
- M. Onfrey, In Defense of Atheism: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (Penguin Canada, 2008).
- R. H. Green, in Everything You Know About God is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion, edited by R. Kick (Disinformation Books, 2007).
- D. Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Freedom from Religion Foundation, 1992).
- D. Mills, Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person's Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (Ulysses Press, 2006).
- C. Hitchens, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (Twelve, 2009).
- R. Kick, Everything You Know About God is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion (Disinformation Books, 2007).