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

If we could be sure that the four New Testament gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were censored or largely censored during the first few decades of their appearance we reduce the already weak evidence for the claims the Church makes for the sinister Jesus Christ considerably. And we can be sure. There is absolutely no evidence that anybody who would have been able to refute the gospels had access to them and there is plenty of evidence that the gospels were kept out of their clutches. Most Christian argumentation in favour of Jesus Christ being a real person and a good man and a miracle worker comes from the idea that the gospels were public and well known and weren’t debunked by people who thought otherwise. They say for example that if the claims about Jesus in St John’s gospel were false this would have been shouted from the rooftops and his gospel would have been forgotten. Even today most miracle claims are not taken seriously enough to be debunked and nobody has the time to study them all. So had the gospels been produced and published much earlier they could still contain a lot of lies. The lies would be easier the longer publication was delayed. Why didn't the writers shorten their material and leave out most of the miracle tales? They didn't because they were restricting what went public and no worries about telling outright lies.

To discount the notion that the gospels are evidence for Christ and his divine sonship and/or his existence we need to knock down the “proofs” that the gospels were available to the generation that knew Jesus and the times he lived in. And it isn’t hard. But anyway, if we cannot prove that the gospels were open to public awareness then we cannot prove that they should be taken seriously. The gospels were written for believers and prospective believers and not critics. They say that. This reduces the validity and quality of their testimony considerably.  They would have more right to be believed if they addressed and invited the observations of critics. Books that cannot do that have no business asking us to believe in resurrections and miracles which need a high standard of evidence. That God failed to make them better evidence indicates that they are not his word at all.
a) “If the gospels needed to be kept hidden from the people who knew Jesus in case they would expose them then they wouldn’t have been written.”

It was intended to publicise and popularise them when the proofs against their tales ceased to exist and could no longer be verified. And anyway there is always an audience for believing your lies especially a long time after the events.

b) “There would be outlandish and crazy tales in the gospels if they were made up and hidden from those who could expose them. There are not so they were not hidden.”
The stories are crazy though they could be a lot worse.

The fig tree story is ridiculous. Jesus allegedly made it wither because it had no fruit on it. The miracle was needless for Jesus did not need to let the apostles see his power if he had done other miracles or to do this to symbolise what happens when people do not bear fruit.

It is absurd to think that the gospel Jesus would have been so free to go about his daily business when everybody wanted him dead.  He was claiming to be Christ and acting it and drawing huge crowds according to the gospels anyway. If they are telling the truth, then the Roman government would not have tolerated him for ten seconds.

d) “You say that a lot of Jesus’ miracles were not miracles but that miracle interpretations are unjustly read into the text by credulous Christians. (See my book, Non-Miraculous Witnesses.)  If that is right then why would anybody hide the gospels? They were ordinary enough so they didn’t need to be hidden.”
That only means they may have had other reasons for hiding the gospels.

Perhaps Jesus never existed. Perhaps he did no spiritual or ministerial work at all and was only accepted as Christ and Saviour because he seemed to have risen from the dead. Apparitions could have been happening and later it was decided they were of a man called Jesus who in fact never lived.
If either of these was the case, then anything said about Jesus would be a problem so there would be no reason to keep back the miracle stories for it is all troublesome.

The miracles would not have been the only reason the gospels had to be kept private. The Jews hated Jesus for his teaching more than his works. He insulted them incessantly and claimed to be the Messiah and despite the ruthlessness of Pilate he put the people of Jerusalem’s lives at risk by looking for praise from them and for them as his supporters as if he was the King of the Jews when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. When the gospel version of that teaching was mostly ignored for decades after the apostles died then the gospels were hidden all that time.

d) “Why would the gospellers have had the gospels concealed from the public eye when in an age where one had to depend on the testimony of people and writings to prove something and not on material or forensic evidence? They couldn’t afford to hide the stories for people would be looking for evidence.”
Anybody could have gotten away with religious type lies and plenty did in those days. The writings could have been rejected as forgeries and lies and still ended up looking credible – that was how the silly pagan religions got started. And testimony gets corrupted by bad memory and confusion and prejudice over the years so people wouldn’t have known who to believe.

What about the fact that they might have hidden their books to be on the safe side? They might have found the case against their nonsense over-whelming and felt that it was best to be careful.

They wrote their gospels long before they intended them to be published to give them more authority and credibility for some people would be able to stand up and say they were written long before publication if any controversy started about the veracity of the works.
Perhaps the reason they were hidden so long was because the right time for their launch was long in coming or delayed due to unforeseen political conditions and turmoil. During the Bar Kochba revolution of the first half of the second century, Bar Kochba determined to eradicate the plague of Christianity from Palestine by persecution and murder and by burning books. He had his Jewish spies to root out Christianity. New gospels would have had to have been written after all that if they were published so any critic who could have left a refutation behind in writing would have been unlikely to manage it. Or perhaps they were just kept secret for safety.

e) “There are contradictions and errors or seeming contradictions and seeming errors in the gospels so if they had really been hidden these would have been removed”.

The smaller the readership the more likely it is that errors will be safe because then it is all the less likely that they will be noticed. This argument proves the opposite of what it is alleged to prove.

Perhaps, nobody cared until it was too late. There is no evidence that the errors were even noticed before then. The gospels were not said to have been utterly infallible in the early days. Perhaps the sneaks set out as soon as they were discovered to give out their ridiculous and far-fetched and fraudulent solutions of the contradictions which were enough to make the prejudiced pretend to themselves that the conflicting writings were a perfect unity. But while it is true that some of the contradictions can be solved, the early Christians would not all have been intelligent or knowledgeable enough to see that they could be and would have perceived them as contradictions. Unless the gospels were restricted to a handful of people we cannot explain how these contradictions were allowed to stay in. It shows that the gospels were not initially treated as scripture or as good as scripture having come from the apostles. The non-apostolic origin of the gospels has been supported by much evidence today and can be considered conclusively proven.

The gospels contain so many contradictions and seeming ones that if they had been studied by the Church these would have been erased by their authors or by their disciples. The gospels were hidden instead of studied and they were released when it was too late to make many corrections. One could think that since the body of Christian dogma is full of absurdities and contradictions so it would not be surprising if Christians reverenced stupid books as the infallible word of God.

f) “The enemies of Christianity knew that there had to be books about it. They would have found these books and revealed their contents publicly and tried to refute them. They did not, so the gospels must have been well-known and irrefutable.”

The enemies could twist things and when the books were not even mentioned in the early days by the enemies it proves they were either non-existent or hidden or perhaps they were just unimportant – which they could only be if they were considered more worthy of being laughed at than debunked. Why look for books that nobody reads like the four gospels and Acts? There were books all right but they were not much of a threat because the readership was very restricted so the books were hidden. And the enemies knew that if the books were too well known they would still be reproduced even if they were wiped off the face of the earth and Christianity could have them again. This might have made them feel it was best to ignore the books. But the view that they did not see any reason to worry about the books for they were such silly books is the most plausible one.
To argue that the enemies wanted to destroy the books and didn’t because there were too many of them is ridiculous considering the much burning that went on in those days. It is easier to think they were not destroyed because the enemies couldn’t get them. They were hidden.

g) “If the Gospels were kept from general readership to be put out into the open when their lies became irrefutable then how did those responsible for them know that they would become scripture someday for that must have been their purpose in hiding them for why hide books that may not be accepted as scripture? It is ridiculous to say they planned for the Church to make scripture of their writings for they had no control over that. So what happened was they were openly preached and their validity led to them being canonised.”

They didn’t know but they knew that Christians might be likely to want them for scripture someday but that whatever happened they would be treasured as precious and valuable records of the life of Christ – that is, if not considered infallible and inspired. They would have thought their record was better than anybody else’s.

h) “The gospels were published early for their enemies could not destroy them. If the gospels had been hidden they would have been fewer and easier to wipe them off the face of the earth. When one goes to the trouble of pulling a Christian out of his house to kill him one could easily search for books and burn them. No religion can thrive without literature. The gospels were published so widely that the enemies saw no point in destroying the books. That is why we have our gospels today.”

The gospels could have survived because they were hidden just as easily as because they were published. Success depends not on the quantity of books but on publicity.

i) “Had the Christians withheld the gospels from the eyes of the world then we would be reading Jewish and pagan complaints. Don’t say they didn’t know they existed for they would have apprehended that the Christians had to have had books to keep Christian traditions from being lost.”

This is a weak argument in the light of the fact that we can prove from the next oldest writings after the New Testament that the gospels were kept beyond the grasp of even the leaders of the Church.
If the Church let the four gospels be circulated it must have wanted them to be burned for that is what the Jews and Gentiles would have done.
Anybody can see that there must have been books. We know, and Luke 1 informs us, that there were many Christian books and gospels. Nevertheless, we have no writings against these books from pagans and the Jews. Even worse, they are not mentioned by outsiders at all. Only Christians mentioned the four gospels we have. If there were no such writings then that might explain the silence of the debunkers. Or perhaps nobody was that interested in debunking them. Maybe this was because there was no danger in the Christian books for they were not widely distributed and interest in them was negligible. Maybe though Luke 1 was right about there being a load of books and gospels about Jesus nobody but a chosen few had access to them.
If these other gospels were well-distributed why do we have barely any copies today? We know of the Church’s book burning escapades. When it did such a good job of getting rid of them how much better would it have done the job of getting rid of any damning evidence about Jesus or the early Church.
Jewish and Pagan works running down the writings of the Christians must have existed but when we read that so many Christian works have been lost it is no problem to say the former were lost too.
Would the Jews and Gentiles really have thought seriously that there were hidden books? At that time, the Church had no official list of sacred New Testament books so they would have supposed that hidden books were not worth worrying about.
It is known that the early Church expected Jesus back say about a few decades after the alleged resurrection appearances so they were unlikely to have started writing gospels until late in the first century and in the early second by when they knew their expectation was a waste of energy.

k) “Why didn’t the Christians say they had hidden gospels?”

Would Christians want future generations to know that the gospels were previously treated like something to be deeply ashamed of? The heretics who were into allegedly hidden tradition would have produced fake gospels forcing the Church to release the real ones eventually to counteract them. These heretics are complained about even in the New Testament itself indicating that the Church may have written the gospels late for they were certainly hidden too.
Moreover, the real explanation might be that since we have so little data from the second century about Christianity that it is possible the Christians did say they had hidden gospels and we have lost the evidence that they did.

l) Christians say that there was no reason for the early Church to keep the gospels close to the chests of a select few: “There is a difference between people being persecuted for their faith and their writings being suppressed. Times it is preferred to kill than to try and destroy the truth. The gospels could have been published freely because it was the sword that was used not the bonfire”.

This contradicts the New Testament in lots of places and persecution is one of the favourite New Testament themes (eg Acts 8). It is a strange kind of persecution that lets the persecuted have a chance to propagate their faith with literature and preaching for the Christians had sufficient freedom to do that under the nose of the legal system that persecuted them all the time according to Acts. The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians or the martyrs’ religion. I suspect that the early Christians may have been involved in violence at what they believed was Jesus’ behest and the brutal ones were the persecuted ones.

m) Christians argue, “Christianity arose among the Jews and became basically a Gentile religion and the Jews did not care what the Gentiles believed. No Jew was likely to try and refute or suppress the gospels with their account of the resurrection for the sake of preventing poor Gentiles from being deluded for Judaism was not interested in converting them but only in keeping and evangelising those who belonged to their own race. So the gospels would have been common among Gentiles.”

When a religion spreads so fast like Christianity allegedly did the books will be the first thing that the persecutors will go for and Rome did not like Christians any more than Jews did. The Gentile Christians were keen to convert Jews for they were easier to convert for they had half of the religion of Jesus anyway.

St Paul said that the Church was the New Israel. The Gentile Christians claimed to be Jews. They said that only Jews can be saved so they are spiritually Jews and Jesus has kept the law of Moses for them to satisfy God’s claims against them. The Jews would not have liked people doing that for it made their religion mean nothing and took credibility and unity from it. They would not have tolerated it.
n) “There were probably so many different and conflicting books for there were such a lot of heretics in the infant Church that the debunker and book burner could not get around to them all and would have dropped the project before it began owing to such discouragement. So the gospels could have safely been published earlier.”

This is nonsense. The Catholic Church once burned heretical books along with heretical scriptures and even burned fairly accurate Bibles because heretics produced them. Christian books are Christian books and that is that.

There is no reason to think that the gospels were known to any outsiders never mind professional debunkers which gives us no reason to think they are probably true and inspired by the Lord.


The Gospels never say who wrote them.

The suggestion of some that this was so that attention would not be focused on the authors but on the subject is sheer lunacy. Not knowing who the authors were is not going to stop people being obsessed with knowing about the kind of person who had done the writing and who that person may have been. The accuracy of the subject depends on examining the author. The Christian argument that the authors did not give their names out of humility is rubbish. The silliness shows how embarrassed they are about this thing.

Tradition ascribes the gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John a very long time after their composition but there is no evidence that it was going on anything other than guesswork, hearsay or flimsy evidence.

The traditions concerning authorship emerged too late after the gospels seem to have been written.

When the gospels are anonymous it shows that the authors were afraid of being identified. Say, if the apostle Matthew wrote Matthew the book would have been better off.

Why were the authors afraid?

They didn’t want to be found out as liars. Their books must have contained slander. Christians would say, “An even better explanation is that they knew enemies of the Church would want to interview them and nip their publications in the bud. There was the risk that disciples of the authors would be hounded to reveal the whereabouts of the books and what steps had been employed to preserve them and publish them. Then they would try to destroy the books. Or perhaps they would execute the authors for writing the books”. All this is speculation for there is no evidence that anybody could die for writing the gospels. Paul went about writing and nobody wanted to kill him for it.  
Also, these men preached in public and were able to protect themselves for so long and go about in freedom. Their preaching was worse and riskier than simply publishing gospels. They were afraid of being found out to be telling little else but lies. The gospellers then had no reason to be anonymous. Unless their gospels were outrageous lies.

The gospels had to have been hidden when the authors were too scared to give their names or to pretend to be somebody else though there were plenty of places to hide.

The Church decided that the gospels belonged in the New Testament for it said they passed the criterion for having started among the apostles. Catholics say that Protestants are wrong to believe in the Bible because of the Bible instead of believing in it because the Church says so. But it is better to believe in it by examining internal evidence for yourself instead of just taking the Church’s word for it and especially when it took centuries for the Church to canonise the books.


It is most probable that anybody who would have been conscious that the New Testament gospels lied if they had seen them never laid eyes on them. Anybody that did wouldn’t have had enough impact on public thinking to even bother trying to expose them. Logically, the early Church was wholly free to invent whatever it liked about Jesus.

The New Testament broke the law of Rome when it proclaimed that no false Gods, such as the Gods of Rome, were to be tolerated and non-Christian religions had to be phased out. For that reason the writings had to be hidden because they would have been destroyed and it would have been illegal to have them. Rome did not tolerate bigoted intolerant religions.

The gospels were predominately for foreign Jews and Romans neither of which groups understood Palestinian Judaism enough or cared enough to be interested in a thorough investigation on Jesus.

In New Testament times, papyrus was used to write on. It was brittle and fragile so only very few would have been allowed to handle it. The result would have been that New Testament writings would have been very obscure. Reading stuff out is not the same.

Jews were forbidden to touch anything idolatrous so many of them would not have touched a Christian book for the mere Christian notion that Jesus was a prophet was an intolerable blasphemy to them. Their revulsion would have been too great.

The New Testament states that the Jews were happy to employ force to break up the Christian movement. If so then they would have been expected to head straight for the jugular, the Christian writings, to get rid of them prompting the Christians to hide the most important of them and say nothing about them. Also, Jews rigidly confiscated and burned books on magic in obedience to the Law which wanted even idols smashed and Jesus was considered to be a black magician so relatives of the Christians would have burned the books to avoid bad luck. “It was a Jewish custom to bury heretical scripture, not to preserve them, but because they might contain the name of God and therefore could not be destroyed” (page 581, New Age Bible Versions). If the name of God was cut out they could then be consigned to the flames. If Christianity was a craze the Jews would have preferred to burn the writings. The writings could only be reproduced by hand and were hard to get so every copy was priceless and had to be kept double safe.
The antichrists were unlikely to have seen the New Testament gospels.
The Church had no official set of scriptures at the time meaning that any critic that did see them would have felt little impulse to spend hours and breath attacking them in those poverty stricken busy times.

There is not a molecule of evidence that anybody who knew Jesus or had met him was acquainted with the gospels. It is easy to see how anybody decades later might have read them asked some old person about their veracity who replied in the negative might do no more research and turn around and believe them. Would-be Christians were urged to feel God inspiring them to believe the so-called true religion. That was the voice that came first, the critics would have been written off as belonging to a satanic world or as having sour grapes.

The quotes from Jesus that managed to get enshrined in the gospel were circulating as tradition long before they were written down. There is no hint that the historical claims made about Jesus in the gospels were going around as well.


There is no evidence at all that the Gospels were published or fully published within one hundred years after Jesus’ demise. The first publications were about the teachings of the Lord. Regarding that period it is no wonder that Robin Lane Fox described it as extremely difficult to figure out when the gospels were first quoted (page 124, The Unauthorized Version). There is no evidence that they were published for a long time after the end of the first century. Even if they were published they were not widely known or made important and even the highest people in the Church did not know of them. The words of Jesus were published before the acts of Jesus. Anybody could make up the words but the acts would be more difficult if the person did not exist or if a lot of lies were told. But if you make up the teachings first and get people to want to believe in the existence of the man who allegedly taught them it is easier to add in the alleged deeds later. The words differ from the gospels enough to indicate that the gospels were still evolving or were secret. These facts utterly destroy the credibility of Christianity.


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Evil and the God of Love, John Hick, Fontana/Fount, Glasgow, 1979  
Handbook to the Controversy with Rome, Karl Von Hase, Vols 1& 2, The Religious Tract Society, London, 1906  
He Walked Among Us, Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson, Alpha, Cumbria, 2000  
Jesus – One Hundred Years Before Christ, Professor Alvar Ellegard, Century, London, 1999  
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The “Historical” Jesus by Acharya S