A Response to Daniel Miessler

What do I think of what Daniel Miessler said about the Bible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Someone recently shared with me a post by Daniel Miessler to show the Bible is fiction. At the start, this is something even difficult to say. Everything in the Bible is fiction? Every single thing? Nothing in it happened at all? Nebuchadnezzar never conquered Babylon? No one in the New Testament who is a major character ever even existed? (I have taken enough looking at mythicism to show it’s a joke theory I think.)

Still, let’s see what Miessler has to say. He wants to emphasize Genesis and Jesus. Now my main specialty area will be Jesus, but I have a few things to say about Genesis.

First, let’s look at comparisons about the flood. To begin with, much of this is also found in Dawkins’s Outgrowing God which I am writing an ebook response to at the time. One of my main sources I am using for the Genesis part is this one.

My source, in this case, is a researcher at Cambridge who specializes in Assyriology. Now let’s consider that Miessler is an expert in cyber security by contrast. All things being equal, before we even investigate the claims, which person is more likely to know the most about an Ancient Near Eastern culture and their writings? Ding ding ding! That’s right! It’s the one who actually studies those cultures.

I leave it to you to read the article that I shared to see some of the major problems, but let’s look at what Miessler says.

“Keep in mind the level of detail in these similarities. It’s not a matter of just a flood, but specific details: three birds sent out, resisting the call to build the ark, and a single man being chosen by God to build the ark. Then consider that the first story (Gilgamesh) came from Babylon — hundreds of years before the Bible was even written.”

To begin with, I don’t recall Noah ever resisting the call to build the ark. Second, if an event was historical to some extent, we can expect some similarities. The differences will be in the secondary details, but there will still be similarities.

Nothing is said about the differences. Nothing is said about a polytheistic culture living in the great symbiosis system versus a monotheistic covenant theology system. Nothing is said about the size and shape of the boats. Nothing is said about the purpose of the flood. Nothing is said about what happens to the hero of the story afterward. For example, in Noah’s study, he builds a vineyard, gets drunk, and is sexually shamed in some way by his grandson. (The language of the Bible is very euphemistic at this point.) Hardly a way to glorify your hero in the end!

The writing of Miessler is dated to September 18th, 2019. Why did he not avail himself of a study such as The Lost World of the Flood by Longman and Walton? I suspect that it is because this writer, like many non-Christians I meet, and sadly many Christians, has a fear of contrary thought. His source material is horrendous anyway.

Second, he says that this came from Babylon centuries before the Bible was written. Neither of these points is substantiated. Nothing is said about when the Bible was written. It looks like he’s going with a JEPD date of Genesis, but he does not argue for it. He merely assumes it. It would have been nice to see some effort here.

He also has in the footnotes that all of this is to show that God is fiction and was made up because we are scared of death and wanted to control people. If so, the plan failed miserably. In the Old Testament, you would think that if death was something that people were scared of, you’d see more explicit statements about resurrection and warnings about Hell and encouragements about the joy of Heaven. If it was to control people, it looks like that failed miserably too because in the Old Testament, the Jews are very rarely under control.

Such thinking anyway is quite fallacious. Imagine if I said, “Atheism is a system that exists because people don’t want to be under authority and they don’t want to be bound by God and live a life with the sexual freedom they want.” Could that be a motivation for some? Sure. Could some people be Christians because they fear death? Sure. Nothing in this really addresses the arguments for the beliefs.

By the way, Miessler, if you want to show that God is not real, it would serve you well to deal with some arguments for God. You do not do so in this piece. Now it could be you have elsewhere, but if you are making an argument that God is fiction, perhaps you could link to an earlier writing on your part.

It’s also worth noting that his information on Noah comes from ReligiousTolerance.org. Yep! This is first-rate research we are seeing right here!

Now let’s move to the fun part. Jesus. HIs source is Bandoli and even then, he doesn’t get the link right on his post. Fortunately, I was easily able to track it down. You can see it here.

If you go through the list, you will see that none of them have any documentation. The one exception is a book about Alexander the Great and not even a page number is cited. Everything else, the writer expects us to just take by faith, which apparently Miessler did and then the person who shared it with me. I often say that when an atheist looks at an argument, he doesn’t look to see if the argument is true. He just asks a question or two.

Does the argument argue that Christianity is false?

Does the argument make Christianity look bad?

If so, it is absolutely true and no research is needed. Now if anything is brought up contrary to atheism, that requires evidence. If anything is brought up contrary to Christianity, that requires no evidence. I, meanwhile, prefer to demolish a bad argument period regardless of if it’s against atheism or Christianity, and yes, there are plenty of bad arguments against atheism and plenty of bad arguments for Christianity.

Scholarship for the most part, even skeptical scholarship, doesn’t really take the copycat idea seriously anymore. The grand central hub of resources on the pagan copycat claim can be found here. Still, let’s go through the list and mention a few interesting ones.

Osiris is said to be the only true God, which is interesting to say since the Egyptian religions are very polytheistic. Osiris also didn’t rise from the dead. He was reconstructed by his wife, except for one particular body part she couldn’t find which she made a substitute of, and then ruled from thereon in the underworld and not the land of the living.

Horus doesn’t fare much better. Egyptologists have looked at the many claims given for him. As is said at one point in the article:

While all recognize that the image of the baby Horus and Isis has influenced the Christian iconography of Madonna and Child, this is where the similarity stops. There is no evidence for the idea that Horus was virgin born.

Of course, evidence is a small thing for internet atheists to consider. This argues against Christianity so it had to be true. Most atheists will share it without bothering to check it out.

Mithra is also amusing. We have NO writings by worshipers of Mithra. There are also three different versions. Which one is had in mind? Since we don’t have writings from his followers, our main sources are artwork and the writings of the church fathers about Mithra. So much of this is nonsense. They did not practice baptism (Not babtism) but rather the followers were put under a bull and had its blood poured out on them. That is obviously a one to one parallel with going into the water and being submerged into it.

For claims about Buddha and Krishna, Mike Licona interviewed two scholars in those fields who found these kinds of arguments far less than convincing. You can read that here. Again, there’s a reason the copycat thesis is not taken seriously.

Let’s look now at Bible contradictions. The first is about the flood. This is not so much a contradiction as a supposed falsehood. Miessler is under the impression the text requires a global flood. It doesn’t. The flood I contend was local, though the scope would be considered the known world of the time. Hence, questions about foreign animals and the like will not be something that concerns me. That means there’s nothing left.

He then says in Luke, the angel spoke to Mary. In Matthew, to Joseph. Which is it? These don’t contradict. The angel tells Mary she will give birth while being a virgin (Which I do affirm) and then tells Joseph later on when he hears the news that Mary is telling the truth and don’t be afraid to marry her. That doesn’t mean the story is true, though I affirm that it is, but this is hardly a contradiction.

He says the word for virgin is Almah and means young woman of marriageable age. In Isaiah, definitely. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word is parthenos and definitely means virgin. He also says Jesus had other brothers and sisters. Most Protestants would agree and say only Jesus had a virgin birth (Which I do affirm) and the rest came the natural way. Even a Catholic or Orthodox who holds to perpetual virginity should at least have no problem seeing that this wouldn’t violate the virgin birth as held by Protestants.

As for the census, the wording in Luke 2 is quite difficult. Ben Witherington in my interview with him indicated it could mean a smaller census taking place before the great census later on. Further, if Luke was really fabricating something, I see no reason to think he would fabricate something everyone would know was false.

He says the Bible says to honor your father and mother, but Jesus says to hate your parents and call no one father. It’s incredible that people still have such a hard time reading basic instructions. No one ever took Jesus to mean that we must actually hate our parents until internet atheists came along. Jesus’s statement there is one of comparison. Your love of the Kingdom must come before even familial obligations.

He then says God says killing is wrong, yet advocates genocide. To begin with, the Hebrew word is Ratsach. There are a number of other words that refer to killing. This kind of killing is being forbidden. Killing, in general, is not. As for genocide, we are sure that Miessler will never read a work such as Did God Really Command Genocide? After all, contrary thought is way too frightening. You can listen to my interview with Matthew Flannagan, one of the authors, here.

He also goes after slavery. Nothing is said about how Israelites in the wilderness were supposed to make their living. Slavery is never defined. He also says we all know it’s wrong, which is really a recent innovation. I would like to know how on atheism Miessler would know that slavery is wrong. Again, at any rate, he could have talked to a scholar about the topic like I did here.

He also says about the genealogy of Jesus that if Joseph isn’t the father, why give a genealogy to someone who isn’t related to you? Joseph’s is given for legal reasons. Joseph would be seen as the legal parent of Jesus. Keep in mind, an adopted son became Caesar after all.

He then asks about the Passover. Wouldn’t an all-knowing God know who was faithful and who wasn’t? This is more a judicial review of sorts. Those who were faithful were to make a sacrifice to show to everyone else they were and to make a public demonstration of their trust in the promises of YHWH.

Finally, what about Abraham being asked to kill his son? To begin with, Isaac was the child of promise and had a miraculous birth in the account. Isaac was also promised to be the one through whom Abraham’s blessings would come. When Isaac and Abraham go to offer the sacrifice, they are accompanied by others. Abraham stops them at one point and tells them they must wait. Abraham and Isaac will go alone and they will both return.

Isaac is also not a wimp here. He’s carrying the wood himself for the sacrifice. Keep in mind Abraham was well over 100. Does anyone really think Isaac couldn’t have outrun him or fought him off or something like that? Would Isaac be willing to be sacrificed? Apparently. Death wasn’t the big deal to people back then that it is today. People faced death everyday on a regular basis.

Abraham instead was trusting God’s promise. Either YHWH would stop him somehow, or YHWH would raise him from the dead. As it is, Abraham was stopped.

He asks how is Jesus’s sacrifice the ultimate one if He didn’t stay dead. That’s not a requirement though. The sacrifice is offered to God. God can do with it what He wants. The giving back of life to Jesus is saying that God approves of the offering and of the life His Son lived. Justice has been paid.

He then asks if Jesus removed our sins, why do we have to avoid sin and accept Him to avoid eternity in Hell? This is really such a simple question I can’t believe anyone is really asking it like a stumper. We avoid sin because sin dishonors God and because it goes against our own purpose in this world. We are to live holy lives. Why do we have to accept Jesus? Because in accepting Jesus, we agree with God’s verdict and seek His forgiveness. It is never forced.

He also says why does the Bible say so much about treating slaves, how to kill enemies, and how to avoid angering God, but never anything such as not to harm a child. Probably because the ways of YHWH on many things were counter-cultural and different. Not harming children is largely basic, though Israelites were forbidden from sacrificing their children unlike their pagan neighbors.

The next two assume a worldwide flood. I have no need to reply since I don’t hold to that.

The next is about the problem of evil and the suffering of children. To begin with, the logical problem of evil is no longer used as a disproof of God. The probabilistic problem of evil and evidential problem is. Evil cannot disprove God, but it can make His existence seem unlikely.

There is no easy solution to this and I recommend reading works, especially Clay Jones’s book Why Does God Allow Evil? which I interviewed him on here. What I want to know is why Miessler considers this an evil. If we are all just a cosmic accident, we have no meaning and purpose, so what difference does it make? A child dies or an old man dies. Their lives are meaningless and they will both go to nothing.

Finally, he says Wikipedia can be updated. Why not Scripture? For one thing, Wikipedia regularly gets things wrong, such as the Shane Fitzgerald incident. Second, imagine the chaos if all around the world people had different books all said to be the Bible and they were different for that culture or the manuscripts were radically differing. The system God has works now.

Miessler then tells us we have two options.

#1.

God created all these stories and characters thousands of years before the Bible in order to trick people, and then created new stories and characters that were almost exactly the same. But the version that went into the Bible—even with all the contradictions and immoral teachings—is the actual word of God. …OR

#2

The Bible was created during a time where stories were orally passed down over thousands of years. Stories constantly morphed and changed over time, and the Bible is a collection of these. This is why it has the nearly identical flood story from Gilgamesh, and why Jesus has the same characteristics as Dionysus, Osiris, Horus, Mithra, and Krishna. The contradictions and immorality in the stories are not evidence that God is flawed or evil, but rather that humans invented him, just like the thousands of other gods that we used to but no longer believe in.

Let’s go with #3.

Miessler is someone who wouldn’t recognize good scholarship if it came up to him and smacked him in the face. He is highly ignorant of the evidence for Christianity and believes anything found in atheist works without reservation. The real case is the Bible needs to be studied contextually and when this is done rightly, one can see it’s true and Jesus rose from the dead.

He then concludes:

If you hadn’t been taught Christianity since you were a young child, which of these two explanations would make the most sense to you?

Well, none of the earliest Christians were taught Christianity since they were young children and yet the faith thrived at that point. What makes the most sense to me is Miessler doesn’t ever study what he seriously disagrees with and believes anything that argues against it. Christians who study these issues don’t even blink anymore. Those who believe Miessler are just as much people of faith as he is.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Christian Delusion Chapter 1

How do religion and culture interact? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Christian Delusion is a book edited by a guy named John…oh….what’s his name?…..Oh yeah. Loftus! He takes several atheist authors and puts them together in yet another appeal to show Christianity is wrong. Let’s see how well it measures up.

David Eller is the first one who writes about the culture of Christianities. At the start, he says every argument in support of religion has been shown to be inconclusive or demonstrably false, and yet it persists. With a bold claim like this, one would expect some backing for it, but alas, there is none. Could we at least get a footnote pointing to some books on atheism? Nope.

Another big problem here is that right at the start, Eller has never defined religion. It is a difficult term to define even according to scholars of religion. Classical Buddhism as an example does not hold to a deity. How is that a religion? What makes a religion? Eller doesn’t tell us. He uses the term throughout assuming we all know what it means.

From here, there is a whole lot about how Christianity interacts with culture and how culture interacts with Christianity. One problem I see with this is that this isn’t just a trait of religion. All systems do the same thing and all cultures do the same kind of thing. Secularism does the same kind of thing as it interacts and affects the culture and is affected by the culture and has its own rules and taboos even if the rule is there is no rule and the taboo is saying nothing is taboo.

One statement is that Christianity is not reasoned out and is assumed to be true without prior proof. You have to wonder how much reading has been done on this kind of topic. Early Christians were making arguments for the existence of God before atheists were really a major force around to deal with.

I wanted to cheer when I read this statement from Eller:

“As I have tried to warn readers in my previous work, the United States and the wider Western world are heavily saturated with Christianity throughout their many large and small cultural arrangements. Whether or not they know it—and it is more insidious if they do not know it—non-Christians living in Christian-dominated societies live a life permeated with Christian assumptions and premises. Christians and non-Christians alike are literally immersed in Christian cultural waters, and like fish they usually take for granted the water they swim in.”

Please let this be written in gold and shown to atheists everywhere. Let them take it in and make it a reality in their lives every day. Let them realize how much their worldview is influenced by Christianity. Let them realize this in morality. How much of what they stand on in moral issues can be demonstrated? Is Eller married to one woman and faithful to her? I do not know, but if he is, how is this established on atheism?

I have long contended that atheism today often hijacks a Christian morality as if it was obvious to everyone and then runs with it. If you are an atheist, I urge you to not believe anything unless it can be backed on atheistic grounds entirely. You may not like the system, but live it out at least.

Eller later says Christianity has a disdain for the physical and the bodily. I do not know what he’s talking about. Perhaps some do, but for me, I love the physical and the bodily. Do I need to remind you all that I am a married man? The physical body is super good! Jesus was resurrected in a body. Jesus lives in a body. Eller has confused modern Christianity and assumed it’s like ancient Christianity.

Eller also says that if religions cannot have their place in the institutions, even dominating them, they will make their own. I found this amusing since it is normally here in America the case that secularism tries to dominate religion. I always wonder about this supposed takeover of the government by religion. People wanting a theocracy are in the minority. I am convinced there will always be some corruption in every church because every church is made of corrupt people, much like every system of government.

Eller also says that since its inception, Christianity accommodated itself to its surroundings, and it had to since otherwise it would be unappealing and unintelligible. Why yes. The early Christians did this. That’s why they told the Romans there was only one God who had revealed Himself in Jesus and taught a crucified Messiah and refused to pray to the emperor.

Eller also gives a howler talking about Christianity absorbing pagan rituals such as Nordic practices of yule trees and Easter eggs. No documentation is given of any of this stuff. He also says there is ample evidence that Jesus’s birthdate was borrowed from pagan religions like Mithraism since there is no basis in Scripture for a December 25 date. We challenge Eller to please go and show the December 25 date in Mithraism with primary sources. For a claim with ample evidence, it would be nice to have seen some of it.

He also gives the claim about 38,000 denominations. Even Roman Catholic apologists are saying to not bring out this one. Statements like this lead me to believe that Eller has just as much blind faith in atheistic arguments and such as do many of the Christians he condemns.

In conclusion, of course, there is interaction. Christianity can be changed by a culture some in its presentation. When we attend an Orthodox Church, I notice the priest uses a device like a tablet for his reading. I doubt the early church was doing that. There are ways Christianity influences culture. Some good and some bad on both ends, but in the end, the fundamentals are still there and Eller says nothing to challenge those. It is just assumed that Christianity is false and we go on from there.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Reinventing Jesus

What do I think of this book by J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel Wallace? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I have read a number of books on the Historical Jesus that defend my own view, a conservative Christian view, but most of them are rather passe in many ways. You can hear the same old, same old, as if the writers just want to give you the mere basics of the case so you can make it. Now for some people, basics are good and necessary, but so often I really would like to read something more substantial from the conservative side and something that will give them a lot of firepower.

I picked up Reinventing Jesus not knowing what to expect, but found myself impressed thoroughly by this work. The authors lay out a powerful case and even better, they deal with the popular critics that will be mentioned in water cooler conversation. These are the ones largely quoted on the internet. Scholarship doesn’t really take their claims seriously, but such a situation has never stopped ignorant people on the internet from touting off the claims with the same degree of certainty as they condemn in a fundamentalist revival preacher.

So do you want to see Dan Brown dealt with? Got it covered! How about Acharya S.? She’s answered? Earl Doherty? Taken to task. Frank Zindler? Robert Price? Freke and Gandy? Aside from Price, who is on the fringe of scholarship, these are names not taken seriously, but that does not mean they should be ignored. It’s extremely important to show the massive ignorance that is often pontificated on the internet.

The authors start off with the case for oral tradition, which is an excellent start since the average lay reader knows little about this and can often think of modern concepts of memory which don’t really apply to an ancient society. In doing so, they show that the teachings of Christ would have lasted at least to the time of writing.

Well how about that time? Maybe the writings are wrong? That’s when we look at textual criticism and this section is an excellent tour de force. The authors have up-to-date statistics on when the NT manuscripts were written and how they were copied and deal very well with the popular criticisms that work against the idea as well as scholarly concerns. Let it never be stated they only deal with popular claims. They deal with scholarly ones as well.

What about the books that were copied? How do we know the canon was right? Again, this is an excellent topic that is not discussed often in literature. The writers put forward a presentation that demonstrates the integrity of the early church and show that they did not just blindly attribute authorship to a writer. They had the highest of standards. Much of this information I found immediately useful.

Did those books reflect the truth about Jesus? Extremely beneficial here is a look at what went on in the Council of Nicea to show that Nicea did not change everything. Also, there is abundant information to show that there was an early high Christology showing Jesus was perceived as included in the divine identity and that He Himself made such claims.

Supposing that’s the case, did the Christians not just rip off other pagan myths like Osiris and Mithra? I was extremely pleased to see a section on this! This is one of the most preposterous claims that goes around the net by people who have never read an original source on the topic. The writers have done us a service by giving a superb presentation to show that there has been no copying, unless you count copying by others of Christian claims and language.

In conclusion, I recommend this fine work without reservation. If I was to teach a class on NT apologetics, this book would no doubt be required reading.

In Christ,
Nick Peters