Book Plunge: Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 6

What more is in Hall’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Hall has Jesus appearing to the twelve disciples, but thankfully, Hall is there to point out an error no one noticed. There weren’t twelve! Judas had already killed himself! We should all appreciate Hall is here to give us his brilliant wisdom and point out something no one has ever noticed or written about.

The restaurant Five Guys was originally based on a husband and his four sons (His wife was there, but the guys were given prominence). A couple of years after that, a fifth son was born. Did anyone note the name being changed to Six Guys? Nope. If two of them died, would it be Four Guys? The name is still the same, just like the Big Ten Conference no longer has ten. The name, the Twelve, just came to refer to the circle of Jesus’s own direct apostles.

Hall also tells us that civilizations have been around for 14,000 years. Granting that, how is it that they thrived without Moses telling them murder was wrong? If that wasn’t the point, why the Ten Commandments?

Yes. This is apparently where popular atheistic thinking is today.

The Ten Commandments did not reveal new moral principles. They were already known. They were just founding wisdom for guiding a people, not necessarily on moral issues, though that would be included. These were a sort of agreement the people would live by. It wasn’t that the morality was new and even in the New Testament, such as in Romans 2, it’s known that you don’t need the Law to know right from wrong.

He uses Zechariah 14:12 to say any nation that attacks Jerusalem will face drought and its people will become zombies. It’s certainly a bizarre interpretation, but it doesn’t fit. It’s an apocalyptic message using rich symbolic imagery and it refers to a specific people at a specific time in a specific situation and not for all time.

He then has something to say about substitutionary atonement. This is the most immoral and wicked doctrine to think that someone else can pay for the sins of another. It’s more than just paying sins, but taking on the shame and facing the shame. It strikes me that if God did nothing, He would be condemned for not dealing with the problem. Now He deals with the problem, but it’s just not liked how He did it. How horrible that someone takes on a punishment for us so we don’t have to! Wicked!

Also, it’s said that God shouldn’t have waited 200,000 years. Apparently, Hall has this idea that the atonement only applies to people afterward. Again, this is how little Hall has really studied Christianity.

Hall also looks at the story in Ezekiel 23 of the two sisters. He knows it’s an allegory, but he thinks it’s a pretty disgusting story. Okay. And? Is the Bible supposed to meet Hall’s personal sensitivities? Saying you’re offended by a passage says nothing about if that passage should be there or not.

He says Lot’s daughters got him drunk so they could rape him and have sons. Yes. They did. And? The Bible records how depraved they were and how two of Israel’s future opponents came about. The point?

Hall says that miracles also ceased once the camera came around and yet they became more common when photoshop came about. No data is given to support this. No interaction is given with Keener’s work, especially since his miracles take place in areas where cameras and photoshop aren’t as common.

He asks if you could stop someone from raping someone, would you? If so, you are more moral than God. This is just the problem of evil. Does Hall want Jesus to be Johnny on the Spot stopping every single instance of evil whatsoever? Don’t expect Hall to again heed any philosophy on the problem of evil.

He says Rome did not allow the bodies of the crucified to be removed. This is true, except in Palestine. Why? Romans were sensitive to Jewish purity laws and that would include the treatment of the dead, even the crucified dead. He says only one crucified corpse has been found. Granted that, lo and behold, it was in the Palestine area. When peacetime was going on between Rome and Jerusalem, Jerusalem was allowed to observe its laws.

Hall tells us that Mark was the first one written and the others copied Mark after that and the resurrection was hearsay and the last twelve verses were added a century later. Again, Hall does not read scholarship. He only needed to consult the agnostic Bart Ehrman on this one. This is from Jesus Before The Gospels. Ehrman says this in the endnotes on 280, but the link is to p. 226.

It is sometimes said that Mark does not have a resurrection narrative since the final twelve verses (16:9–20) are lacking in our best and earliest manuscripts. It is true that Mark appears to have ended his Gospel with what is now 16:8, but that does not mean that he lacks an account of Jesus’s resurrection. Jesus is indeed raised from the dead in Mark’s Gospel, as the women visiting the tomb learn. What Mark lacks is any account of Jesus appearing to his disciples afterward; in this, it is quite different from the other three canonical Gospels.

He also says Jesus said He came to bring fire to the Earth in Luke 12 and how He wishes it was kindle. No doubt, Hall reads this as a literalist thinking Jesus wanted to have an actual flamethrower or nuke the planet. This is more likely speaking in terms of revolution and bringing about the Kingdom of God. There’s no reason to really think it’s about torching the planet.

He has a question about how many of the Biblical writers met Jesus face to face. The options are zero, 4, at least 12, or at least 40. His answer is in the notes to that question.

(A) Zero. Remember that cognitive dissonance I was talking about? Yeah, you’re probably feeling it right now. Time to fact-check me.

Yeah. It is, because Hall provides no source whatsoever for that one. How about talking to Richard Bauckham of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses? I personally went to Emory University once looking through commentaries on Mark. Most scholars agree that Mark is the testimony of Peter who, check me if I’m wrong, but I think Peter knew Jesus face to face. The author of John also likely was an eyewitness or used an eyewitness. Perhaps we could also ask how many people Plutarch wrote about did he meet face to face?

It’s interesting that the next item he gives is about how the writers were anonymous. So were the writings of Plutarch. The point? As E.P. Sanders says about it,

The authors probably wanted to eliminate interest in who wrote the story and to focus the reader on the subject. More important, the claim of an anonymous history was higher than that of a named work. In the ancient world an anonymous book, rather like an encyclopedia article today, implicitly claimed complete knowledge and reliability. It would have reduced the impact of the Gospel of Matthew had the author written ‘this is my version’ instead of ‘this is what Jesus said and did.’  – The Historical Figure of Jesus by E.P. Sanders page 66.

Don’t expect Hall to acknowledge this. It would have required he actually research something. He says the vast majority of scholars say Mark did not write Mark. My personal research disagreed. I would like very much to see what scholars he consulted since so far, his work indicates the number is likely zero.

He also gives a personal favorite of mine saying Jesus would return within a lifetime and He didn’t. The citation is in Matthew 24 with the this generation passage. Sorry Hall, but Jesus said nothing about a return. He was talking about His coming and He referenced Daniel. Daniel has the Son of Man approaching the Ancient of Days. He’s going up, not down. This is about Jesus’s coming meaning His coming to take His throne. The disciples would not have asked about His return since they had no concept of that. They didn’t think He was going to die in Jerusalem let alone rise again, leave, and then return. Jesus’s prophecy, which included the destruction of the temple, happened exactly as He said it would.

His next objection is

Religion is based on supernatural phenomena, beings, forces and miracles. The supernatural cannot be scientifically scrutinized because if science could detect it, it would cease to be supernatural and instead become natural. Unfortunately for science, religion can never be verified. Fortunately for theists, religion can never be falsified.

This is really an odd paragraph. For one thing, supernatural is never defined, which is another reason it’s a term I don’t use. He also has an implicit scientism here that unless something is scientific, it cannot be shown to be verifiable. This isn’t the case at all. Scientific truth is reached inductively. It goes by probabilities and the science we have today could be junk tomorrow. Some things are much more likely than others. One could say science can’t be falsified because for many claims, there are variables one could cite that explain why this just isn’t so.

Next he quotes Bart Ehrman to say Jesus is not mentioned in any Roman or Greek Non-Biblical source (I wasn’t aware there were Greek and Roman Biblical sources) until 80 years after His death.

“In the entire first Christian century, Jesus is not mentioned by a single Greek or Roman historian, religion scholar, politician, philosopher or poet. His name never occurs in a single inscription. It is never found in a single piece of private correspondence. Zero, Zip references.”

You really wish these guys would go to the original source. Prior to that, he tells us that there’s no doubt the historical Jesus is the most important person in the history of western civilization. There is no doubt of that at all in his opinion. Why does Hall leave this out?

He gives us Justin Martyr’s idea of diabolical mimicry wanting the reader to ask if the devil reading the prophecies about Jesus and attempting to fulfill them in false religions is a reliable argument. No. It’s not. The irony though is that Justin is not trying to explain away similarities. He’s doing the opposite! He’s trying to point them out and say to his audience, “We don’t believe shameful things because you believe similar.” Why are they similar? Because of the attempt by the devil to mimic. Again, not persuasive, but it’s not said for the reasons Hall thinks.

He then tells us about how vast the universe is and asks “Do you really think it was done with your insignificant self in mind?” Well, no. I think it was done with the glory of God in mind. We still needed a place to live in it. Whether it’s necessary or not scientifically, I leave that to the scientists. Again though, I suspect we have a case where Hall would claim victory in anything. If we had a universe teeming with life, the argument would be “See? There’s life everywhere. We’re not special.” Since we have the opposite as far as we know it is “See? We’re it. That argues against theism.” It’s a bad argument when you could make a case either way for you to win.

He brings up Jesus saying His disciples didn’t wash their hands. Couldn’t Jesus have mentioned basic sanitation? Um, Hall, The water likely back then wasn’t really pure and pristine. They didn’t have our soap and dishwashing detergent like we do today. Why should Jesus bring up something like this that would only apply thousands of years in the future?

He cites 2 John 9-11 to say you are not allowed to invite atheists into your house. Again, Hall does no study. The passage then is about a house church and how you shouldn’t allow a non-believer to be given a teaching position in your house church. It says nothing about having friends come over who are non-believers.

He cites Leviticus 21 saying handicapped people aren’t allowed in the assembly of the Lord. This is about the temple. Also, no non-Levites were allowed to enter and only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and only once a year. Why? Because this was supposed to image Jesus, the perfect lamb of God. Those with disabilities could freely eat of the offerings given though. This means they, like all others, can partake of the blessings of God.

He goes to Deuteronomy 22:23-29 about a woman marrying her rapist. Even another atheist has taken this one to task. Again, don’t expect Hall to have studied the text. That requires too much work. Outrage works so much better.

We’ll continue another time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters