Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

Patrick H

Conspiracies and the Cross

Conspiracies and the Cross by Timothy Paul Jones is one of the best Christian answers to the theories of Dan Brown and Barbara Thiering and others who seek to undermine the Christian story of Jesus. The unbeliever can learn a lot from this book - if only learn how not to refute Christianity!

Conspiracies and the Cross, Timothy Paul Jones, Front Line, A Strang Company, Florida, 2008
Page 5, the statement some make that they have experienced the feeling of Jesus being alive and that is why they believe is a rotten reason to believe in Jesus.
MY COMMENT: True. It is also a sectarian reason. For example, to be able to say that experience verifies the Christian faith, you would have to say that those who have experienced the power and presence of other religions and gods are lying. If they are not lying then your experience proves nothing or gives no justification for your belief. It is possible the apostles however believed Jesus rose from the dead because they could feel he did. However, Christians do claim to experience God's love and the power of the resurrection of Jesus which changes their hearts and lives. This is more important to them than any evidence.
Page 5 and 6 maintains that people saying they believe just because the Bible says so are giving a rotten reason for believing for the Muslim can say they believe just because the Quran says so
MY COMMENT: True. This is a sectarian reason too. For example it is like, "My Bible is better than yours. I want to listen to my Bible not yours whether it is true or not. I don't care if I am doing wrong and giving a misleading example to the world."Page 11 says that there is a great joy in moving from a blind faith in Jesus to a thinking trust, a trust based on facing the facts
MY COMMENT: Blind faith only makes people insecure in their faith and makes them sectarian and defensive.
Page 15 notices how the authors of the four gospels of the New Testament, Matthew and Mark and Luke and John, never say, "I and Jesus did such and such" or mention that they are based on eyewitness testimony.
MY COMMENT: When the gospels don't claim to be eyewitness testimony, that means that all the bits that Christian scholars say read like they are such testimony prove nothing. Scholars don't agree on what bits seem to have come from eyewitnesses. They only think or assume that certain portions are based on what witnesses said. If an account shows a bit of detail that is more than necessary they assume that it was taken from an eyewitness. But that could be accounted for in many different ways. The gospellers could have imported some revised true stories about the life of some Jewish saint into their gospels. The John gospel claims to use an eyewitness testimony but it doesn't say whose testimony it is using so its no good. The gospels do not even pretend that eyewitnesses were consulted.

Page 21 uses the testimony of Papias to try and show that Mark and Matthew wrote the gospels of Mark and Matthew that we have
MY COMMENT: But the book says Papias got his information from associates of associates of the apostles - hardly very reliable! If it was really that well-known that Mark and Matthew wrote the gospels, then why didn't they use their names especially when lots of fake gospels were circulating. Did Mark and Matthew not wish to add authenticity to their writings? Plus the book says Papias was familiar with these gospels we have. But Papias wrote that Mark was incomplete and jumbled and says that Matthew had to arrange the gospel in an orderly manner. This is really a denial that Mark wrote a gospel. All he did was take notes and Matthew turned them into a gospel. It follows then that if Papias had any of our New Testament gospels in mind, he was saying that the gospel we currently call Mark was the real gospel of Matthew. The bad Greek in Mark would indicate that Matthew the tax-collector did not write it for tax-collectors were generally good writers. It would indicate that whoever wrote Mark had to do it without consulting others and do without their help. He probably was making the whole thing up when he was that reclusive! This would raise the question of how anybody knew who wrote his gospel! The other gospel called Matthew in the New Testament was written by somebody else. We can doubt the reliability of a testimony about the authorship of the Mark gospel coming from Turnkey where Papias lived when the gospel of Mark was written in Rome!

The book admits on page 64 that the early Church did not depend on gossip and tradition to work out if some text came from the apostles. It quotes the letter of Seraphion. Seraphion when he heard of the gospel of Peter rather than just reject it outright, compared it with available New Testament writings to see if it could be true or could be Peter's work. He decided it was false. He didn't say, "There is no reliable tradition that Peter wrote this gospel therefore I reject it." Page 64 also confesses that there is more ancient papyri for this gospel than there is for the gospel of Mark. Christians use the fact that a lot of fragments of the gospels went about to show that the gospels were taken seriously by the Church and regarded as having an origin among the apostles or their close associates. They suppose the apostles or their close associates must have produced them when they were so well known and so popular. Christians don't want to take the gospel of Peter seriously so they ignore it. They don't suppose that it had an apostolic origin despite the fragments all over the place. They are totally unfair and biased. This Peter gospel speaks of Jesus being an apparition not a man and speaks of witnesses to the resurrection itself. The four gospels never speak of such witnesses but merely of people who saw Jesus after he rose which is a different thing. Its being authentic would undermine the Christian faith.

There is every reason to deny that Mark and Matthew really wrote the gospels bearing their names.

Page 22, Polycarp learned from eyewitnesses that Matthew wrote his gospel among the Hebrews and in Hebrew. He learned that it was written while Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome. Mark wrote the gospel of Mark after Peter and Paul died in Rome. Luke wrote a gospel and then finally John wrote his gospel.
MY COMMENT: The book should not be using this testimony for it contradicts the evidence that Mark appeared first and Matthew came after. It contradicts nearly every modern scholar. Also Matthew, from internal evidence, was not written during the time Peter and Paul were alive. The testimony is unreliable. The Gospel of John was not written by the apostle John for its version of Jesus is antinomian in temperament. His Jesus advocates the idea that you can lie, get drunk, claim to be a god as long as you love. The other gospels however have a Jesus who was morally strict.

You might say if somebody was lying about the authorship of a gospel why would they say or let people think it was Mark who wrote it for he was not a well-known figure or an apostle? But what about the gospel of Mary Magdalene and the Gospel of Judas and the Recognitions of Clement (attributed to Clement of Rome). None of these figures were as important as the twelve apostles. There is less chance of being caught out too if you pretend that the real author is somebody of lesser importance.

Polycarp was a liar.

Page 29, mentions the view of some scholars that the ancient gospel of Thomas has a Jesus who was just a wandering sage who did not do miracles or rise from the dead. This silence could mean denial or that the beliefs about Jesus of miracle and resurrection were considered insignificant. The book gives a date range from 100 AD to 150 AD for this gospel.
MY COMMENT: Jesus says in the gospel that he is there when a piece of wood is split up. He seems to stress his presence in nature as a pantheistic deity. He wants to be found in nature and not in Heaven as a resurrected god. He said that a lion that eats a human is lucky for it becomes a human. He seems to be saying that the lion assimilates human flesh and becomes human in that sense. He is hinting that we are animals for eating animals or plants for eating plants. It does not sound like he believed God would raise dead bodies up. To raise Jesus for example would be raising the animals and plants he ate. The gospel of Thomas claims to have been written by Thomas the Twin. That automatically gives it one over on the gospels of the New Testament. While it is true the author could have been lying, at least we have a testimony be it right or wrong that the gospel came from the pen of an apostle. Also the gospel takes the form of oral traditions and all scholars agree that the original Church used oral traditions about Jesus. It is a better match with the apostles than the gospels.

The gospel of Thomas is a good challenge to Christian nonsense.

Page 38, Morton Smith allegedly discovered a portion of Marks gospel copied from the second century writings of Clement of Alexandria into a book. The copy was made into the book in eighteenth century writing. We have only photographic copies of it. The writing was retouched to make it look eighteenth century. The writing refers to error being mixed with truth like dirt being mixed with salt. This was a mistake for Smith didn't know that granular salt didn't exist in the time of the second century. The copy was a hoax.
MY COMMENT: People see all sorts of things in photographs. We need the original which is missing before we can accuse anybody of a hoax. Photos are just not the same. Also, Jesus said in the gospel of Mark that everybody would be salted with fire. That sounds like granular salt until you think of Jesus meaning that everybody would be flavoured with the fire. Also dirt can be mixed with granular salt and non-granular salt as well. The ancients couldn't grind the salt down very well but they broke it down enough to flavour their food.

Page 38 gives us no reason to assume that the missing portion of Mark claim is based on a hoax. Recent books have shown that the portion does seem to have been cut out of Mark for it contains poetic chiasms (patterns) that match the pattern of the much of the existing gospel Smith tried to use the portion to prove that Jesus was a profligate libertine but it fails to do that. A real forger wouldn't abuse his forgery like that. He would have it saying what he wanted to say.

The portion belongs to Mark.

Page 54, states that the claim of scholar Elaine Pagels that the bodily resurrection of Jesus was not important for early Christians until after the apostles died is false.MY COMMENT: The book mentions Acts 2:31 where Peter says that Jesus was raised in fulfilment of the psalm which said that his flesh would not decay. First it is not Peter saying this but the author of Acts saying that Peter said it. Second, neither Peter or the author were claiming infallibility for Peter in saying this thing. The author only reports. Thirdly, the psalm doesn't mention anybody actually dying. It was always been taken by Jews to refer to David getting very sick and almost dying but the Lord will keep him from dying and rotting. Peter seems to be basing his belief in bodily resurrection on a warped and fanciful interpretation of a line from the Bible rather than on apparitions of Jesus or touching Jesus. Mark 8:31, 9:9,10, 31/10:34 are cited by the book as showing a belief in physical resurrection. The Mark gospel is picked out for the author thinks it was written when the apostles were still alive. But it only says Jesus will rise but not how he will rise or if it will involve his body or not. Perhaps a magical body would be made from one cell of it. After all Paul said the body was the seed of the resurrection body. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 said that the Messiah died and was buried and rose again. This does not necessarily indicate that Jesus rose bodily or that the apostles could verify it. Seeing an apparition - even one that you can touch does not mean that you are entitled to assume a bodily resurrection. Pagels view is unrefuted.

Chapter 4 of the book outlines much of the fake evidence and false claims that the words of Jesus and the text of the New Testament was altered. It says none of the variations between ancient New Testament texts are important . For example, John 1:18 in some manuscripts is one and only Son and in others it is the one and only God. The book contends that it doesn't matter which version is right for the gospel says Jesus was the only Son of God and was God anyway. It affects no doctrine.MY COMMENT: The references to Jesus being God are so few in the New Testament you would wonder why anybody would want to distort one of them leaving us unsure if it calls Jesus God or not. The only son possibility is the one that should be assumed. Plus, it is a fact that the John gospel does not say Jesus was God. When it says the Word who was God became flesh it does not clearly indicate that the Word actually became a man - Jesus Christ - in the Greek. The variation does affect doctrine. Scholars state that Paul says the Church is the body of Jesus and we are his arms and legs and means it as more than a metaphor. Yet they say Paul would not have thought we are God or that Jesus is not a man anymore. The ancients had a funny way with religious language. Paul once wrote that he was no longer alive but Jesus was alive in him. That sounds like he was claiming to be Jesus. He wasn't. The book ignores an important point by saying the variations between the manuscripts don't matter for they don't affect doctrine. A God who inspires scripture and who can't preserve the text is not a God in whom we can have much confidence. The scripture is left with variations from what he wants. Many Christian doctrines from the Bible hang on one verse from the Bible or even one word. For example, Jesus said at the end of the Matthew gospel, go and baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If Jesus said go and baptise in the names of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit it would demolish the doctrine of the Trinity for those who depend on this verse to justify believing in the Trinity. It would be giving them three gods or personages not three persons in one God or one name. When it is that strict, how do you know that you are not basing a doctrine on one word or line that was altered from its original meaning?

The book is uncertain (page 82) if the story in John 8 about Jesus saving the adulteress belongs in the Bible. That is a whole portion. The Jews brought the woman to Jesus to ask what should be done with her for they thought she should be stoned to death for adultery. Jesus said that he who is without sin must be the first to throw a stone at her. He said he approved of her being killed if those judging her were better than her. This contradicts modern Christianity's refusal to punish adulterous people by murdering them as long as it is the virtuous that carry out the killing. Jesus let her go just the same way the courts have to let the guilty go if the accusers make a mess of their statements. Doctrine is affected by the inclusion or omission of the text.

Page 84 says that the forged ending of Marks gospel which contains the resurrection appearances Jesus made after his crucifixion says nothing that the Bible already says. The book says that even if it is fake it still changes nothing that the Bible believers believe about Jesus. It says that the resurrection appearances are implied in the gospel of Mark at 9:9 and 14:28 anyway. True but it doesn't say they happened as promised or if they will provide evidence that Jesus was raised.

Also the gospel says there were strangers at the tomb after the body disappeared. They could have taken the body. It never hints that they were angels or supernatural. And it is surprising that Christians think it is terrific to imagine that there was no human being who could have stolen the body when they believe angels who could have stolen it were there! The men at the tomb told the women who had come to the tomb and found it open not to be amazed and that Jesus had gone before his followers into Galilee. That sounds like they were saying that Jesus did not rise as a result of a miracle so there was nothing to be amazed about and that he had gone to Galilee on foot and was there then. He must have went on foot and have been staying somewhere there to await reunion with his friends. That sounds anything but supernatural. A supernatural being is not going to vanish from the tomb and appear in Galilee to wait for his friends when there is nobody about.

The Mark account is indicative of a hoax, was Jesus let go before the crucifixion? Were the believers led to believe he had in fact died on a cross and got buried? Mark never says the women saw into the tomb - they were just told Jesus wasn't in it. That would explain what an all too human Jesus was doing in Galilee.

The ending promises that believers will take up snakes and drink poison and not die and heal the sick and so on. The book says the Old Testament promise such powers. But it never says they will be given when the risen Messiah will appear. It is only the forged ending that has Jesus giving such powers at that time. Luke 10:19 has Jesus promising the apostles his protection. The book deceitfully says that what is said in the forged ending is said here anyway. The verse says nothing about people getting bitten by snakes and poisoned without any ill-effects. The ending does affect doctrine and says things the Bible does not say.

If Jesus did not say what the ending says he said, then other Bible verses saying similar things does not help one bit. Jesus is still being said to have said what he didn't say. The account is false. If the account is false, then
Christians have put the word of man in the word of God.

The book says the ending is a fifth witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ (page 84). It is not. First of all its magical Jesus does not fit the indications in the real Mark that Jesus may not have been a supernatural being after his resurrection. Secondly, Mark does not testify to the resurrection. So what you have is Matthew, Luke and John and the forger testifying. That is really three for one testament is dubious.

The Christians are lying to cover up proof that their scriptures are not divinely inspired at all.

Page 94, 95 gives incredible logic to answer that the objection that the early Christians would not have remembered Jesus that well and oral tradition is unreliable.
MY COMMENT: The logic is based on the assumption that the early Christians learned off the Jesus story and the oral traditions in the methodical and strict manner of the Jews. There is no evidence at all that they did. They were persecuted and were a very small sect and might not have felt the desire or had the time. They believed strongly in the presence of Christ in his Church guiding it and making it strong. The Jews did not believe God communicated with them like that. Christians then might have felt no inclination to emulate the Jews. Plus the Christians did not regard their New Testament as scripture at that time. They preferred to hear the apostles than learn books off. The objection that the gospels are unreliable for they come from oral tradition is secure.
Page 113, Josephus should have mentioned Jesus and it seems he did. Josephus silences those who say nobody mentioned Jesus in the first century and so he probably never existed.
MY COMMENT: I like the word seems. The book admits that the writing of Josephus about Jesus was embellished or tampered with. Who is to know if any of it was written by this man?
Page 113 Josephus mentioned James the brother of Jesus called Christ
MY COMMENT: James was well known and popular among the Jews. Jesus was not. Josephus did not need to say brother of Jesus the so called Christ to identify James. Jesus was less well known. The reference to Jesus may be an insertion by a faker. Josephus would have been unlikely to have written such a thing for if James really was the brother of Jesus and Jesus was dead or presumed dead that would make James the new Messiah. Josephus would have agreed with Rome that threats to its rule should be destroyed. He did not like messianic contenders or anybody who had the potential to be one. The Christians went to a lot of trouble to put Jesus into the writings of Josephus. They acted like top liars who were faking evidence for their idol's existence either because it was weak or there was none.
Page 124 exposes the errors and absurdities of scholar Barbara Thiering who says that mello the Greek word for about to in the gospel code means three. Her Jesus never went to Jerusalem or Galilee. The book objects that nobody saw these codes before her.
MY COMMENT: It is even more important how hardly any scholars agree with her nonsense. Her method supposes that the authors of the gospels rather than using codes to apply scriptural texts to their own day, were using the codes to hide recent history. The codes, called peshers, were never used like that. Also the New Testament was written in Greek while the peshers were written in Hebrew and Aramaic (page 130). Had the gospels being written with peshers in mind Greek would not have been deployed. Thiering presents no challenge to those who deny that Jesus existed.Page 148, the Gospel of Philip has been translated to say that Jesus loved Mary more than his disciples and used to kiss her often on the mouth and she was called his companion from the world koinonos which means spouse but can also mean fellow worker towards a goal. There is a hole in the text so we don't know where Jesus kissed Mary. Jesus great love for Mary does not imply anything more than a close friendship.
MY COMMENT: The evidence for Jesus' homosexuality is stronger than the evidence for Jesus' marriage. But it is a problem for Christians how first century Judaism said that a man who doesn't marry and produce children is like a man who sheds blood and that it was a man's unconditional duty to marry (page 139). Judaism would not have taken an unmarried man seriously.
Page 147 speaks of celibacy among the Jews. It says that the Essenes didn't marry. But they were heretics not proper Jews. Jesus claiming to be the Son of David or Messiah would mean Jesus would have to marry to keep the bloodline up. The Jews could not accept a celibate man as the Messiah. The book admits that celibacy among descendants of David was not accepted. Jesus mentioned celibates at Matthew 19:12. But he called them eunuchs. This suggests people who avoided all sexual desire rather than just celibates. The Jews would not have accepted such people. And Jesus speaks as if he is not one of them! The context is about his strict rule forbidding divorce so it seems he was referring to people whose marriages had broken down and who turned their backs on sexual relationships. He was not advocating celibacy but chastity.

There is no gospel evidence for an unmarried Jesus. If Jesus was not married then the gospels are lying about his popularity.

Chapter 8 gives a good refutation of the claims of the Jesus Family Tomb in which it is claimed that the burial boxes of Jesus and his family have been found
MY COMMENT: When people were crucified, most were not buried (page 154) . They were left on the crosses for birds and animals and wild dogs to feast on. This was the norm (page 154). There is much archaeological evidence and evidence from texts that this was so. The epitaph for a person murdered in the second century says that the murderer was hung from a tree while alive for the feeding of the beasts and the birds. It is impossible to find the bodies of crucified people because all that is left is what was dragged away the dogs. Only one heel bone from a crucified man has been found, the bone of a Jew called John. This was found in an ossuary.
MY COMMENT: In relation to John, his heel bone being found in an ossuary does not indicate that he was buried but only that pieces of him may have been gathered up and put into the tomb. That he is all that can be found shows that it was very unlikely for Jesus to have been buried. The bodies of crucified men were guarded until death and then left on their crosses for scavengers as a warning to those who would break Roman law (page 155). Jesus committed a very serious breach - even more serious than any other crucified man. He claimed to be king and rode into Jerusalem in kingly style to the acclaim of the people - major treason.The claim of the book that the Jews insisted on burial is very weak for the Jews hated Jesus and wanted him nailed to show he was cursed. The assertion of Josephus that the Jews got crucified men buried before sunset is not backed up by the evidence. Joseph of Arimathea is supposed to have gone in secret to get the body of Jesus to bury it. The Jews did not want to bury Jesus and they were not exactly queuing up to do it.

The book says that Pilate allowed Jesus to be buried for he was crucified outside of war time. It says it was only during war that the burial of crucifixion victims did not take place. Philo wrote of cases where burials were allowed by the Romans. In those cases the family wanted the body buried before the religious feasts and their wish was granted. For all Rome knew, it could have been wartime with the death of a descendant of David at their hands.

The book with typical Christian illogic, provides texts from Roman law that speak only of releasing the body to relative to support the gospel claim that Joseph of Arimathea received the body of Jesus. This law would in fact prove different for Joseph and Jesus were not related. It is also foolish how the book says that Pilate gave the body to Joseph because he wanted to keep the peace with the Jews (page 157). This contradicts the gospels in which Jesus is hated so much by the Jews that they didn't care what they did to get rid of him and the more he was mistreated the happier they were. The Roman law text says that bodies of people guilty of high treason were not to be given for burial. Jesus' treason was extremely high - he claimed to have supernatural powers and be protected in a way the godlike Roman emperor was not and to be the true King of Israel.

There is no reason at all to believe that if Jesus died on the cross that he was buried after.

Page 242, suggests that it is indeed possible that Mary the Mother of Jesus married another man after her husband Joseph died. This would require fixing John 19.25 to read, "His mother Mary the Wife of Clophas and his mother's sister and Mary Magdalene". The verse doesn't make much sense the way it is in our current Bibles. Clophas means replacement which could mean that this was his title for replacing Joseph.
MY COMMENT: This if true would demolish the Roman Catholic claims for the mother of Jesus. If she didn't have sex with her first husband she would certainly have to have sex with her second!
ConclusionThe book gives us no reason to believe that there is much eyewitness testimony in the gospels. It gives us no reason to believe that the Bible is really the word of God. If gives us no reason to think the Bible text has not been tampered with. It gives us no reason for believing Jesus was buried. Its efforts to prove that Jesus was bodily resurrected fail as well for nothing in the gospel says that Jesus claimed his whole body was raised. All is said as that the tomb was empty but we are not told why. Then Jesus appeared after and was touched.