Wherein I briefly expand on a couple of the Gospels from the first set of notes (see: HERE) and try to very briefly review the growth of the resurrection myth….
I could write a book of fiction about events taking place in today’s world, referring to real places and real surrounding events. For example, I could write a story about an imaginary person living in Washington, DC, visiting the Capitol or Washington Monument and advising President Obama. Just because someone might dig up evidence for the Capitol, the Washington Monument, or Obama at some point in the future, doesn’t do much to establish the reality of the imaginary person I wrote about. I admit it might be better than if they never found evidence of anything in my story, but it wouldn’t be much to establish the reality of the imaginary person. Let’s say that I give the imaginary person I write about the ability to fly. Digging up a piece of the Washington Monument isn’t going to do anything to give evidence of that.
Anybody can write that people rose from the dead, there were 500 witnesses, or whatever nonsense they like, but until you can establish that the person writing is trustworthy that is all meaningless. Even if you believe in the earliest dates for the Gospels and that these authors are generally reliable (and the documents we have are fair copies of the originals, etc. etc.), you have to admit that every step of the way you are choosing to accept the most favorable viewpoint to confirm your belief.
It might not be as big of a deal if we were talking about whether some sheep farmer lived 2,000 years ago that herded sheep. That would be much easier to believe than some son of god performing miracles.
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” and there is just too much debatable stuff here to be convincing (esp. when it sounds like many other myths). Even if we had some empirical evidence for the miracles, that wouldn’t prove that this was the Son of God (e.g.: it could be some supernatural demon trying to deceive us, or it could be a more intelligent and advanced being from another planet, or it could be an alien that had technology much greater than ours).
Matthew & Some Mark
Boy! I could really get into it here if we wanted to go through the whole book: the genealogy that doesn’t match Luke’s version to try to prove some prophecy that becomes irrelevant once the virgin birth myth comes in; the fact that “Matthew” wouldn’t have anyone’s word for it (other than Mary’s?) about the virgin birth thing anyway, or what angels might have said to Joseph or Mary; the problems with the indicated year of his birth; the absurdity of people going to the city of their birth to register for a census (which would have been a bureaucratic nightmare and which there is no external historical evidence for); the ‘slaughter of the innocents’ story (which there is no external historical evidence for); the quick trip to Egypt (which is yet another of many poor attempts “Matthew” makes to sell readers on the idea that Jesus fulfilled prophecies that he doesn’t understand and gets wrong when he makes up stuff, the biggest blunder of that type occurring when he has Jesus riding two donkeys into Jerusalem at the same time because he misread Zechariah 9:9!), and so on and on, but I’ll try to repress myself and skip to the end.
As we get into some of the other details, it seems that “Matthew” wasn’t even there at all (nor does it seem any of his speculative “eyewitness” sources might have been). He talks about 30 pieces of silver being weighed out, when they didn’t “weigh out” pieces of silver during that time and place (coins were minted) and “pieces of silver” weren’t used as currency, but I’ll pass over that as an instance of poetic license to get to one of my favorite parts: the zombies that came out of the broken tombs after the earthquake!!!
Wow! You would think that there would have been some external historical account about something as odd and significant as that, but it didn’t seem to be something significant enough for even the other gospel writers to relay. Dead people coming out of their graves and going into Jerusalem appearing “to many” yet only Matthew seems to bother to record this amazing event.
I can see how this could get very long even though I’m skipping over so much. I will pass over all the conflicting details between gospels regarding the time and day of crucifixion, the conflicting reports of how he behaved or what he said (and other minor things like the fact Romans didn’t crucify robbers, which Mark and Matthew say Jesus was crucified between, for example). For now, I’ll even pass over the differing reports between gospels about who came to see Jesus in the tomb and what they saw once they arrived. I’m sure some would say that is exactly what you would expect from different eyewitness accounts. [This is why eyewitness accounts aren’t considered reliable testimony.]
Matthew narrates the book in the third person and tells about things he wouldn’t have any direct knowledge about.
For example, the whole story about Jesus going into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. This account (like the rest of the book) is written like someone would write a fiction novel.
If this happened, who else would be there but Jesus and the devil? So where would Matthew have gotten this story from? Jesus or the devil (or was there was some unnamed person spying on them to serve as the eyewitness)? So, where did “Matthew” get this from? Was it something he heard Jesus tell about? Was it something that he heard from someone who said they heard it from Jesus or the devil? Do you think “Matthew” decided to tell the story because he was inspired by God? How reliable would you take this story to be?
This is the way all the gospels are written. Time after time when I read through them, I come across passages where I wonder how anyone could have gotten that information. Like who checked Mary out to make sure she was a virgin, or did someone just take her word for it? It seems more likely that someone made it up – Paul doesn’t seem to know that story (or many of the other fascinating things relayed in the gospel stories). At least he doesn’t mention them, even if it could help him make a point. It looks to me that a lot of this stuff was added to the story (made up) after the fact. “Matthew” tries too hard to sell Jesus, to the point he gets prophecies wrong over and over. If there is no external evidence whatsoever of things like people going to the city of their birth to register for a census (which doesn’t even make logical sense) or the ‘slaughter of the innocents’ story (which you would expect there would be) it seems you would start to wonder at how much of this stuff was made up to try to satisfy some prophecies (esp. when mistakes are made like Jesus riding two donkeys, or when he tries to bring in things that weren’t prophecies about a Messiah at all).
Unlike Mark, but like Matthew, Luke gets into the genealogy, but it is almost entirely different (as are a lot of the other details). Like the others, this one gets into relaying events you wonder how the author came to know, like a conversation between Mary and her cousin Elisabeth near the beginning of the book.
Now let’s look at the resurrection story and see how the myth developed over time….
In Mark (the probable oldest gospel), you have an empty tomb and a young man in a white robe to tell what has happened, saying Jesus would be seen in Galilee. In Matthew there is an earthquake and the young man has turned into an angel blazing like lightening, flying down from above to zap a couple of guards and roll away the stone to the tomb with one hand, then saying Jesus would be seen in Galilee (but instead, he shows on up right away and repeats what the angel said). In Luke, the one boy is now two men in dazzling raiment (and you have the extra drama of Peter rushing in to see the empty death shroud), but rather than Galilee, the place to see the visions has become Jerusalem. Then some more time goes by and we get to the story of John (the last gospel) where the boy in Mark has become two angels!! and Jerusalem is again the place to see visions.
Also, as the myth grows, we see Jesus go to more and more trouble to prove that he has a physical body. In Mark, he isn’t there; in Matthew, they grab at his feet; in Luke, he asks his disciples to touch him and eats some fish; in John, he shows his wounds, breathes on people, and lets Thomas put his fingers into the wounds themselves.
It is as if the authors have more and more they want to try to prove about the resurrection, so they keep adding more details and taking it further and further.
Was the tomb open or closed? Who did the women see? How many women were there? Were they supposed to go to Jerusalem or Galilee? I could go on and on here…
But that’s enough Bible notes for now.