Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 12

As we come to an end, is there anything new? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’ll try to decide which of the last 66 “facts” I think are relevant today. He says that if you rape a female slave, you owe the temple a ram and you will be forgiven. The slave will receive a severe beating and whipping for no reason. His reference is Lev. 19:20-21.

Let’s see what the passage says.

20 “ ‘If a man sleeps with a female slave who is promised to another man but who has not been ransomed or given her freedom, there must be due punishment. Yet they are not to be put to death, because she had not been freed. 21 The man, however, must bring a ram to the entrance to the tent of meeting for a guilt offering to the LORD. 22 With the ram of the guilt offering the priest is to make atonement for him before the LORD for the sin he has committed, and his sin will be forgiven. 

First off, nothing is mentioned about rape. Could it include rape? Perhaps, but it just says sleep. Nothing is said about if this is consensual or not. Since it says they are not to be put to death, I am leaning towards consensual. However, there is absolutely nothing here about beating or whipping. I have no idea where Hall got this unless he just didn’t read the text.

Hall then says this in another fact.

If there was a god and it wrote a book, I would expect it to be perfect in every way. Clearly written. Accessible to everyone. Easily understandable. Promoting peace and love. If there were no god, I would expect humans to create lots of books then say they were written by God. I would expect the books to be full of internal contradictions. And the books would not agree with each other at all. They would contain a haphazard collection of personal stories, letters, vague parables and admonitions. The stories and instructions would be open to multiple conflicting interpretations. They would contain good moral teachings, but they would also have passages of violence, intolerance and hatred. Which scenario lines up with reality?

This sounds convincing to a lot of people, but what evidence does Hall give that this should be so. Is God supposed to control culture and language to such a degree that nothing ever changes whatsoever? Is every word supposed to be magically clear to every culture and the context just magically beamed into our heads? Would this even work anyway? Would some people still just say “Fine, but I don’t care. I would rather have my wealth and sexual pleasures.”? Hall lives in a world where he doesn’t believe and wants to blame God for Hall’s own refusal to do his research and homework. Why is that atheists always tell us that the wonder of science is we get a question and say “Let’s find out!” but when it comes to religion, God is supposed to just give us all the answers upfront?

He says Moses once kidnapped 32,000 virgins and points to Numbers 31. Yes. These were people who had gone out of their way to visit Israel and entice them to break their covenant with YHWH by even their own women selling themselves into prostitution. Israel was not bothering these people and was not a threat to them. Why were the virgins spared? Not for rape purposes, as anyone who participated in battle had to be outside of the camp for a time for purification, but because the virgins were not involved. These girls were likely adopted into Israelite culture then. It’s amazing. When God kills everyone, atheists complain. When He spares anyone, atheists still complain.

He says that for 700 years, no one who was doing exquisite torture doubted their actions were not justified by the Bible. Hall doesn’t tell us when these 700 years were. Without that, I have nothing to go by really.

He says that if God is outside of space and time, then He cannot interact with us because He is paralyzed. He says movement in space requires time and motion is the change of the position of an object with respect to time. Amazing that no philosopher has ever thought to address this. The problem is that Hall has given no real reason to believe this. If a being created space and time, why think He is bound by them. Hall gives no evidence about non-material beings. How did He come across this data anyway that he is presenting?

He says the number of the beast is 616. Is this supposed to be a new fact? I actually agree with him. What of it?

He has the typical knock knock joke with Jesus as the door saying He wants to save you. From what? From what He’ll do if you don’t let Him in. This argument assumes that mankind is innocent and has no need of a savior whatsoever. Hall gives no reason to think that and most of us by personal experience know we have done things wrong. If Hall thinks himself an exception, I have even more reason to be concerned about him.

He also has something about the command in Deuteronomy to stone children. Of course, Hall never does bother to study a passage. If it’s supposed to be news to us, it’s not. I have already written about it here.

He says when judgment day comes, stars will fall out of the sky and land on the Earth and then mockingly says this God-breathed book doesn’t even know what stars are. Well, this internet atheist who thinks he knows enough to write a book doesn’t even know what apocalyptic language is and doesn’t realize that political events are spoken of in cosmic terms. It is by genre not literal. Be patient with Jimmy. He needs to avoid that contrary thought so he won’t experience cognitive dissonance.

With fact 635, he does mention several problems in atheistic communities such as Madalyn Murray O’Hair being murdered by a former employee. Amusingly, he also mentions Richard Carrier being banned from a number of atheist conventions. Hey. 665 facts against the other side. Maybe Hall is feeling generous.

He goes to adherents.com and says there are 4,200 religions on Earth. Color me skeptical, but okay. He then says Christianity has 41,000 denominations. This isn’t the result of an omnipotent deity, but of a group of people afraid of the unknown and death. I have no idea how he got to the last point, but the point about denominations is just wrong. Even Catholic apologists are now pointing this one out.

He cites the end of Matthew 2 saying Jesus will be called a Nazarene which is embarrassing since the Old Testament never mentions Nazareth. Indeed, it doesn’t. Hall doesn’t notice that this is the one place Matthew mentions a fulfillment and uses the plural. I think this is to mean the prophets said Jesus would be a shameful figure. There could also be a pun here as the word for Nazarene can be related to a branch which would mean Jesus is the Messiah, the branch of David.

He says no serious Bible scholar believes that Revelation is future. Well, I would say several likely do. I think they are wrong, but that is beside the point. He also says it was written to give people hope that Jesus would come back and save them from the Romans. That’s not referred to either in the book, although justice does come on Rome and Jerusalem as well. I really wonder how Hall reads Revelation.

Actually, I’m wondering at this point if he reads anything.

He says over 50 million people have been murdered by Catholicism, yet of the instances he gives, they only number 1,480,000. That’s still too many, and I even question those reports, but that is a far cry from 50 million. It’s likely he’s repeating bogus atheist history that is not taken seriously anymore by historians.

He says Jesus didn’t think of Himself as God because he asked “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Swing and a miss again. Jesus is not receiving a compliment directly, something that would bind him in that culture to the giver of the compliment, but checking the devotion of the questioner. “You say I am good? If you think that, then you are treating me as if I am God. Are you ready for that?” There was no denial of this. He is saying either He is good and He is God or He is not good in which why listen to Him?

It’s worth noting He goes on in that passage to say that the disciples will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes. This likely goes back to Jesus since it says twelve and we all know Judas apostasized. Simple question. Where is Jesus going to sit? Jesus could only be sitting on the throne of the Son of Man over the twelve apostles, quite a high view of Himself there.

He says that there are 16 disciples named when there are supposed to be twelve. He says that people did have more than one name, but if they didn’t get the names right, what else did they get wrong? But if someone has more than one name, they did get the names right. It would be acceptable to use either one of them.

Nothing more goes on in this book. In closing, Hall is just someone who really should give up writing about Christianity. He is woefully uninformed. That being said, I hope he doesn’t. He will keep making his fellow atheists more and more uninformed and doing more damage to atheism. Thank God that Jim Hall is writing books. He’s doing more damage to the atheist community than many of my fellow apologists are.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 11

As we get closer to the end, what more will we find? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We start out with the 1 Cor. 14 passage about women being silent in church. Obviously, Hall thinks his audience hasn’t read the Bible and doesn’t know what’s in it. Any discussion on how some scholars think this is a textual variant not original to Paul? Nope. Any look at any commentaries and meanings of this passage? Nope. This is the kind of low content we expect from Hall. Those curious are recommended to check my interview with Lynn Cohick on this.

He refers to wars between Arabs and Christians and uses Nigeria as an example with 20,000 being killed in God’s name since 1990. Nothing is said about the regimes of Mao, Stalin, or Pol-Pot of course who have done far more, but hey, details. Who needs them?

He asks pastors to stop using Hosea 11:1 in Matthew “Out of Egypt, I called my Son” as a prophecy of Jesus. As per the first entry of today, nothing is said about the ways that texts were interpreted in the times of the apostles. Nothing is said about pesher or midrash. In Matthew’s day, this would have been acceptable. Just as in the past, YHWH called His son Israel out of Egypt, so He does with Jesus as Jesus relives the experiences of Israel.

As if predicting my reply to the 20,000 killed above, he asks how many are killed in the name of atheism. Sadly, he goes the usual route that those were politically motivated and weren’t done in the name of atheism. Yes. It was just a coincidence that they were killing Christians and dynamiting churches. They get a free pass since it wasn’t done in the name of atheism.

He also says atheism is just the lack of a belief. This doesn’t fly at all. If that’s the case, Hall is just giving us his personal psychology and not a worldview. Second, supposing God does exist. In that case, theism and atheism could be true in that theism which says God exists would be true and what is supposed to be its negative since a in front of theism negates it would also be true as atheists who hold to atheism could still exist. Also, I doubt Hall would accept it if I just said “Oh. I hold to theism as I have God belief, but that doesn’t mean I’m claiming anything about reality.”

I also want to suggest what two atheist philosophers say should be taken seriously.

He then says that the same God who said do not kill. The references are the Ten Commandments and Exodus 32:27. Had Hall done a couple of minutes of research on a site like Blue Letter Bible and looked up the words, he would have known they were different words in Hebrew. Alas, that’s not doable for Hall. We dare not research lest we find out we are wrong and we can’t welcome contrary thought.

He makes statements about the Sea of Galilee such as it’s not really a sea and the storms can’t get life threatening. I have seen David Fitzgerald make such a claim before and thankfully, I asked my friend Greg Monette who has been to Israel many times about it.

” The lake is huge. If you google it you will find the dimensions. It’s also in a valley. If you’ve ever been to Galilee the mountains surround it and the wind rushes down. Only someone who hasn’t been to Galilee region would say such a thing. I’ve been on the lake with waves that were at least 3-4 feet high. That was in a big boat. Now make that an ancient fishing boat similar to the one at the Yigal Allon Nof Ginosar Boat Museum where they found the first century fishing boat and it would be very difficult to navigate that boat in the water with saves even 3 feet high and wind blowing hard. There are dozens of windsurfers surfing on Galilee every day in the summertime because the wind is so strong. “

Hall also says you can believe someone walked on water or you can grow up. Yes. Because obviously anyone who believes in miracles just is still stunted in their growth. We’ll see what happens if the big bad adult Hall ever gets the guts to go through works like Craig Keener’s or Candy Gunther Brown’s.

He claims Dionysus was born of a virgin on December 25th, turned water into wine, made a triumphant entry on a donkey, and was killed, resurrected, and bodily ascended into heaven. He has citations, but no page numbers, but having seen many such claims before, I really don’t take them seriously and I have no wish to scour through a whole book looking for them. The only one I think is accurate is that he turned water into wine, fitting for the god of wine.

He says the Didache didn’t make it in the Bible because of the embarrassing fact it doesn’t mention Jesus or the resurrection. Hmmm. That does sound embarrassing. What would be even more embarrassing is if one was to, oh, I don’t know, go to a website and look up the Didache and do a search for Jesus.

Chapter 9. The Eucharist. Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way. First, concerning the cup:

We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever..

And concerning the broken bread:

We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever..

But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs.”

Chapter 10. Prayer after Communion. But after you are filled, give thanks this way:

We thank Thee, holy Father, for Thy holy name which You didst cause to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You modest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Thou, Master almighty, didst create all things for Thy name’s sake; You gavest food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to Thee; but to us You didst freely give spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Thy Servant. Before all things we thank Thee that You are mighty; to Thee be the glory for ever. Remember, Lord, Thy Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Thy love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Thy kingdom which Thou have prepared for it; for Thine is the power and the glory for ever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen.

Or resurrection, such as at the end of the last chapter.

And third, the resurrection of the dead — yet not of all, but as it is said: “The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him.” Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.

Obviously, Hall did no fact-checking whatsoever. If we cannot trust him on claims we can verify easily, why should we trust him on ones we cannot, such as ones about Dionysus?

He quotes 1 Corinthians 1:19 saying I will destroy human wisdom and discard their most brilliant ideas. He doesn’t even realize Paul is being sarcastic at this point talking about the sophists of his time and how they didn’t really have wisdom. Hall does no research whatsoever.

He says Judas was a good guy and not a traitor. Why? The Gospel of Judas. Never doubt the ability of skeptics to question the closest testimonies we have to the source but give whole-hearted endorsement to the ones that come over a century later.

He says a prophet once asked another to cut him down. The second prophet refused and was killed by a lion for it. Had Hall actually read the text, he would have known the first prophet did not ask to be killed. He asked to be struck.

He points to Joshua 11:6 about hamstringing horses which he describes as torture. This would actually be done to prevent their enemies from using them and thus stopping the loss of more human life. Again, Hall doesn’t bother to look at why something was done. He just says “I don’t like it” and that shows it’s wrong.

Next time, I hope to go through the remaining 66 *cough* facts *cough*.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 10

What more nonsense shall we find in Jim Hall’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So let’s jump back in with fact #482.

“Philosophy is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat. Metaphysics is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn’t there. Religion is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn’t there, and shouting “I found it!” Science is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat with a flashlight.”

Unfortunately, none of this is scientific and is actually very philosophical and specifically metaphysical since he’s making a statement about the nature of reality. As for religion, it is never defined. These are just little platitudes that Hall throws out, something Boghossian would call a deepity, aside from the fact that they agree with him.

He says Adam and Eve were innocent since they would not have known right from wrong. What Hall misses is good and evil is a merism and is referring to wisdom and not moral knowledge. Adam and Eve were trying to make themselves the center of wisdom rather than YHWH.

He then has a list of people who you will be in hell with if you choose to deny Jesus, which includes a list of famous people from past to present. Well, if Hall wants to go that route, he’s free to do so. I think I’ll just choose something that I think has been shown to be true, unlike about 99% of the “facts” in Hall’s book.

He says the book of Philemon gave tacit approval of slavery. Quite the opposite. He expected Philemon to do what was right, return Onesimus to his household and treat him like a brother. He also added he would be visiting soon to make sure that this would have happened and this was a letter that would have been read publicly at Philemon’s house. This was one of the main books that helped bring an end to slavery.

While not a fact, he gives this quote.

“You’re allowed to believe in a god. You’re allowed to believe unicorns live in your shoes for all I care. But the day you start telling me how to wear my shoes so I don’t upset the unicorns, I have a problem with you. The day you start involving the unicorns in making decisions for this country, I have a BIG problem with you.” – Matthew Shultz

When I first found this, I had to look up who this guy is and the closest I could get is someone in a band. If this is the response, then I can say you’re allowed to disbelieve in god. You’re allowed to proclaim it from the rooftops. You’re allowed to be offended by my disagreement, but as soon as you use your offense to start controlling what I should do publicly, I have a BIG problem with you.

I really don’t care if Shultz has a problem with me. It’s his problem. It’s not mine.

He has a fake dialogue set up between an atheist and a theist where everything the theist says the atheist says “That’s what believers of every religion say.” Really? Every religion says Jesus rose from the dead? If he wants to talk about their holy books, by all means bring them forward. Let’s compare them. Note that Hall won’t do this. That requires doing research and study and he can’t handle the cognitive dissonance.

He has a section on Giordano Bruno and how he got burned at the stake for his beliefs, including ones about science. It is quite certain that Hall has never read anything by Bruno on science. It is even more certain he has never studied this topic since this has been answered ad infinitum by even atheists. Jimmy. I would recommend you read History for Atheists, but I know how you are about contrary thought.

The story of Jephthah shows up. There is much to explain in this one. I find it easier to just link to this video on it.

He has a series of claims about the Salem Witch Trials. Unfortunately, none of them have any documentation. Until they do, I have no reason to take them seriously considering how much “research” Hall has been shown to do already.

Naturally, Jeffrey Dahmer is brought up. I don’t understand atheists having a problem with this. First God is a tyrant when He judges people. Then, when He forgives people, He’s still in the wrong. My thoughts on Dahmer can be found here.

Hall then talks about freedom of religion and then says you can’t use religion to discriminate and forbid goods and services to certain members of the population. Why not? If I have a good or a service, it is mine to decide what I want to do with it. No one else is entitled to my good or service against my will. If the government can force me to do otherwise, what else can they force me to do with my goods and services? Even though some of us might like the outcome as something we think as good, the means to get there is a very dangerous one.

He also says that it’s amazing that the more we see science explaining things, the less we see of things like miracles. Of course, this is avoiding anything by Craig Keener. It’s also avoiding the research of Candy Gunther Brown on prayer. Hall doesn’t see these things because he’s not looking for them.

It looks like the further we get in this book, the more Hall begins grasping at straws and the less there is to say about anything. Hopefully next time we will see more, but I’m not holding my breath. Hall has never demonstrated much of a penchant for doing actual research.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 9

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

One of the first points today will be five questions to ask your pastor. Let’s go through them!

“If our religion is the one true religion, and the majority of the world population does not believe as we do, how can God say he ‘does not want anyone to perish’ but yet he is going to burn at least 70% of his children for eternity? ● “According to the New Testament, judgment day was supposed to have happened a long time ago. It’s been two thousand years, what is God waiting on?” ● “Was it ever moral to kill babies, own another human being or commit rape? If not, is God a good role model for us?” ● “We are taught that salvation is through faith alone. Are we supposed to ignore the parts of the Bible that tell us salvation is also through works?” ● “If God is perfect, he does not need anything. Why did he make us? He was around for an infinite number years before us, then at some point he decided to make humans for a blip of time in eternity, why?”

Of course, we need to remember Jimmy has likely never bothered to try to find answers to these questions. Nope. That would require research and study and well, we can’t have that now can we?

First one is that first off, if someone isn’t one of God’s, they’re not His child. Second, many Christians like myself hold to a sort of inclusivism whereby many will be saved who never knew the name of Jesus. This is not to say that there is more than one way, but it is to say that God has great mercy on those who never heard through no fault of their own. Finally, people don’t “burn” in hell.

The second depends on what Judgment Day is. I recommend anyone interested look at my writings on Orthodox Preterism such as this one. Please understand that if Jimmy read this, he might get cognitive dissonance. He has an allergy to contrary thought after all.

For the third, rape is never approved of by God in the Bible. For the other point, I don’t see God as a moral agent, but as a good agent. God also has right over life and if He wants to take a life, He can take it. He owes no one else life. We do not have that same right.

For the fourth, it depends on the passage in question. The main one is James. In James, this is not about justification before God, but before men. Also, in my way of thinking, a true salvation by faith will not be without works. Eventually, the tree that is a true tree does produce true fruit.

Finally, God created no one out of need. He created out of abundance. The ancient Celtics said that the Trinity existed in a dance of love for all eternity and mankind was created to join in the dance. It is the same reason many parents have children today. Not because of need, but because of love.

Next we have five more signs you might be brainwashed.

You laugh at people that have more than one god, but you have no problem believing in a Trinity. ● You don’t trust the people in lab coats that devote their lives to following the evidence, no matter where it leads them, but you unquestioningly believe those people rolling around on your church floor speaking in tongues. ● You don’t bat an eyelash when I talk about all the violence God condones in the Bible, but why is it haram to criticize the violence that was committed in Allah’s name in the Qur’an? ● You mock the eastern religions and ancient Greeks because they claimed that gods had sex with mortals, yet you have no problem with the idea that Yahweh impregnated Mary? ● You think a loving god would allow 21,000 people per day to die of hunger?

No Jimmy. I don’t laugh at people who have more than one god. I debate them. I present evidence against people I disagree with. (You should try it sometime. This book is evidence you don’t care much for real research.) Furthermore, the Trinity isn’t polytheism. It’s hard to understand, but hey, so is light being a particle and a wave both.

For number two, wrong on both counts. I’m quite skeptical of many Christian claims and I have no problem with claims of science. Anything that can be established well in science I think should be believed.

Depends on the context again. If I thought Islam was the true religion, then it would be just for God to order something as He can take life when He wants to. My problem with Islam is that I don’t think it’s a true religion and the violence is not limited to a specific time and place and context.

God didn’t have sex with Mary to bring about the virgin birth, which I do affirm.

God is under no obligation to do the work that we should be doing. It could just as easily be said the effort Hall spent writing this book could have gone to feeding those 21,000 children. He also might want to note that the majority of organizations feeding those children are Christian ones and consider reading something on the problem of evil. Oh, wait. Contrary thought. Jimmy is scared of it.

Oh boy! Five more questions to ask your minister! Jimmy must be running out of “facts” so he’s just having to make up questions.

“Why did God wait over 5000 years after the rise of civilization before he delivered the rules we are supposed to live by?” ● “When the kangaroos got off the ark, how did they get all the way back to Australia? How did the sloths get back to South America?” ● “If god loved Abel’s cooked meat sacrifice more than Cain’s vegetable sacrifice, does he think less of me because I’m a vegetarian?” ● “Why do bad things happen to good people? You’ve probably been asked that a million times before, but this time, can you give me an answer that isn’t complete horseshit?” ● “Why did Herod send astrologers to find the baby Jesus instead of Roman troops? Wouldn’t that have prevented having to slaughter a town full of male infants later?”

Oh, Jimmy never gets old.

No Jimmy. The Law of God was not a new revelation of morality. That’s built into the creation. Again, try studying some Christian ethics.

Kangaroos and sloths weren’t on the ark. The flood was a local one. This is a common position in evangelicalism, but I don’t expect Jimmy to know that.

The love of the offering had nothing to do with the nature of the offering, but with the nature of the heart. Abel had a better heart towards God. Cain was never criticized for what he offered.

Again on evil, just read something on the problem of evil some time and really interact with it. It’s getting tiresome for you to ask the same objection just a different way over and over.

Last I checked, Roman troops were probably not the best at astrology and following stars. The wise men knew this one the best.

Let’s move to the next fact.

Did you know that the “Jesus fish” on the bumper of your car is a pagan astrological symbol? Before the Christians pilfered it, the symbol was used by the Syrians and Romans to represent Ichthys, the child of the mermaid-like Atargatis, the pagan goddess of fertility and well-being. The symbol also plays an important role in other tales. For example, as the Fish of the Nile, Ichthys swallowed Osiris’ penis after Isis had finished having sex with Osiris’ corpse.

Let’s suppose that this is all true. So what? Christians were forbidden to use fish as symbols? What Hall would need to show is that the Christians went out and deliberately found the pagans using this and stole the symbol. Noteworthy of course that he has no citation whatsoever here.

Next, he has a list of people who never mentioned Jesus. Let’s go through this one.

Aulus Perseus — First off, it’s Aulus Persius Flaccus. He was a Roman poet and satirist. He wrote satire of Etruscan religion. Why would he want to mention Jesus?

Plutarch — Plutarch is understandable to some extent, but he wrote about Greek and Roman lives and a man who was Jewish and seen as a crucified criminal would not have been of interest to Plutarch.

Columella — He wrote about agricultural issues and trees. Why would he mention Jesus?

Pomponius — This one is likely Pomponius Mela who wrote about geography. Why mention Jesus?

Dio Chrysostom — He wrote on literature, philosophy, and politics. Why should he mention Jesus?

Quintilian — He wrote about Greco-Roman rhetoric. This is not what Jesus did and furthermore, even if He had, there would be no reason for Quintilian to include someone his audience wouldn’t care for.

Justus of Tiberius — We don’t even have his works, but he wrote on kings of the Jews. If he did not see Jesus as the king of the Jews, why mention Him?

Quintus Curtius Rufus — His only work we have is a book on the history of Alexander the Great. Why mention Jesus?

Livy — Not only did he write on Roman history, he died before JESUS EVEN BEGAN HIS MINISTRY!

Note. Why does Jimmy not know this? Because he never bothered to look it up. He just heard it and vomited it back out.

Seneca — He could have included Jesus, but in his writings on ethical issues, he had enough material to work with and would have no need to refer to a shameful crucified Messiah figure.

Lucanus — He was Seneca’s nephew. All we have from him is a pem. He also wrote on the civil war between Pompey and Caesar. Why mention Jesus?

Silius Italicus — He wrote about the second Punic War. Why mention Jesus?

Lucius Florus — He wrote about events prior to the birth of Jesus. No need to mention Jesus.

Statius — He wrote poems and histories, mainly pertaining to Greek myths. No need to mention Jesus.

Caecilius — All I can find here is a banker who did in the eruption of Vesuvius. Not only do I not know if he wrote anything or not, why mention Jesus?

Petronius — He wrote vulgar satire. Why mention Jesus?

Theon of Smyrna — He studied math and astronomy and wrote a handbook for students on such subjects. Why mention Jesus?

Phaedrus — He wrote fables. Why mention Jesus?

Valerius Flaccus — He wrote a poem about Jason and the quest for the golden fleece. Why mention Jesus?

Philo Judaeus — I wrote about him in a prior post reviewing this book.

Valerius Maximus — He wrote a book of anecdotes. Why mention Jesus?

Phlegon — Phlegon actually did write about the eclipse at the time of Jesus’s crucifixion.

Pliny the Elder — He could have mentioned Jesus, but why would he? He didn’t mention a number of great Jewish moral teachers if any.

I also recommend Hall look at this work which is even by an atheist sympathetic to mythicism.

He quotes Deuteronomy 25:11-12 about two men fighting and a woman grabbing the testicles of one of them. She is to be shown no mercy and have her hand cut off. First off, some translations say she is to have her own pubic hair shaved as a shaming. Second, grabbing a man’s testicles was not only inflicting physical harm, but seeking to destroy his future by eradicating his ability to reproduce and destroying his manhood.

He also has the claim about Christians being atheists to many gods. He just goes one god further. I can imagine what Jim would say if a defense lawyer said this in court.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. We all agree that many people in this courtroom did not commit the murder. They are all innocent. I just ask that you look at my client and go one person further.”

No juror would buy this defense and no lawyer would be stupid enough to use it, but apparently, it works for internet atheism.

Joy! Five more questions for your minister!

“Why aren’t there faith healers working in hospitals?” ● “If the Lord’s word is so powerful and inspirational, why does he need us walking around knocking on people’s doors?” ● “If I thank God for sparing my house when that tornado hit, aren’t I really just thanking him for destroying someone else’s house instead? When I thank God for the food I am about to eat, aren’t I basically just thanking him for choosing someone else to starve instead of me? ● “Why do you support the use of gay conversion therapy for the homosexual members of your congregation, when the American Psychiatric Association and every major national health organization on the planet have announced that there is no scientific demonstration of conversion therapy’s efficacy?”● “Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons? And if not, did belly buttons ‘evolve’ later?”

#1. I think because they’re frauds.

#2. Because the Bible can’t move on its own and I don’t think that’s a proper way to view it anyway. It’s like treating the Bible like a magic book.

#3. No. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Because someone doesn’t have something, should I refuse to enjoy it myself. Will Hall refuse to enjoy the love of his wife because many men are single?

#4. I think there was a lot of political work going into what happened with homosexuality being removed. I also have interviewed people on my podcast who used to be homosexual. They no longer are.

#5. Who cares?

He says that the Bible says morality is written on our hearts, but many animals display moral behavior. Supposing that’s true, what of it? That shows morality is not written on our hearts how?

He cites the case of Alex Malarkey who made up a story of visiting Heaven. Yes. That demonstrates that all such stories are made up. Hall is right that death is peer-reviewed in journals, but he misses that such studies exist of NDEs as well. They are not denied across the board at all.

He then has four reasons religion is all made up. The first is that none of them agree. So what? Neither do all scientific theories. Why should we expect all religions to?

Second is the geography as they all center around one area. An omnipotent deity would not let boundaries stop him. Keep in mind that Jim Hall says this in a nation where he is surrounded by Christians and that nation happens to be a few thousand miles away from Jerusalem.

The third is death. Religions are made to deal with death. No evidence is given of this.

The final is divine hiddenness. God apparently wants to remain hidden. He’s not doing a good job. Billions of people have found Him. Don’t expect Hall to do anything like look at Blake Giunta’s work on this topic.

Now for another set of questions.

If you’re so sure of your religion, why do you care so much that others doubt it? Why do you cry at funerals? Why don’t you question it critically? Why is your religion the exact same as your parents, and their parents?

For the first, because I care about their eternal salvation. For the second, I am sad that I have to for the time being cut ties with this person. Am I not allowed to miss someone? For the third, I do question it critically, much more so than you question my position. Fourth, I found out it was true, but what about so many people who come from Muslim, Mormon, or atheist households and become Christians?

He also says religion has answers that may never be questioned and science has questions that may never be answered. It’s a cute saying for atheists, but hardly applicable. I wish more people would question their religion. I wish more atheists would bother to ask questions about religion and find answers. For many atheists, if you ask a question about a religion and don’t know the answer, it means there isn’t one. Don’t bother going to find one.

That brings us through 421-480. We’ll go through more next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 8

What new nonsense does Hall have? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Oh, joy! We return to Hall’s book and what do we have but famous quotes from Popes! These are real delights! Let’s start with one of the most famous ones of all!

“How well we know what a profitable superstition this fable of Christ has been for us and our predecessors.”

Yes. He actually has that one in there. This one has been shown to be bogus numerous times. Here’s one such excellent takedown of it even mentioning the source that Hall has of Bembo.

He also has this one:

“Jesus was no other than the sun, adored in its Mithraic sect, and Jupiter represented in the paganism in the shape of a ram and of a lamb… there is no valid document to demonstrate the existence of Christ.” – Pope John III

Hall provides no citation. A search of mine couldn’t even find this one on atheist cites. I guess Hall wants us to take it on faith.

Well, here are some choice Jim Hall quotes.

“I’m an idiot who doesn’t know how to do research and validate source claims.” — Jim Hall.

“I don’t bother to check an argument, but I just see if it argues against Christianity and then I assume it must be true.” — Jim Hall.

“I experience great cognitive dissonance when I see someone use fake quotes the same way that I use them on myself.” — Jim Hall.

The next one he has is on where Mary and Joseph went after the birth of Jesus. To the temple or to Egypt? Simple answer. They went to the temple and then later on when Jesus was still an infant they went to Egypt.

He then says

“If you tell a non-believer that she is intellectually bankrupt and cannot have a moral framework because morality is objective and based on God’s law, don’t be offended when she tells you that your moral framework is based on intolerance and hate.”

Don’t worry, Jim. I’m not offended. For one thing, I would never say the former since I don’t believe you need the Law of God to know morality. Second, I don’t make a big deal out of offense like that. I leave that for atheists like yourself.

He says theists like to say something comes from nothing, but then says Scripture says otherwise since Hebrews says God made the universe from nothing. Little difference there, Jimmy. God does not need raw material to make something. He can create something by fiat. Please let me know what causal power your nothing has like that.

He says Babel took place not because God was condemning their pride, but because He thought they might pull it off. Nothing in the text says otherwise and the text indicates God is actually mocking them. The tower is to reach to the heavens and yet God says “We need to go down to see what they are doing.” In other words, God is saying He is up there in Heaven and He can’t see the tower.

He says Mary was not a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus (And I do affirm the virgin birth) since the word almah is used. Actually, in the New Testament the word Parthenos is used. That word means virgin. Hall is going by Isaiah 7:14 instead and even then, that word can refer to a virgin as well.

He says that if you climb a tall enough mountain in the Middle East you can see China and the Incan civilization. The reference is Matthew 4:8 since Jesus was shown all the kingdoms of the world. I think the mountain was likely a move to show a place of high honor and all the kingdoms could be shown in a visionary way or else it could refer to the kingdoms of Israel and Jesus being the Messiah of Israel.

Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist. If the contemporaries can be fooled, what does that say about the resurrection tale? You tell me, Hall. Let’s compare the data we have agreed to by critical scholars on the resurrection event and you give me your explanation for it.

Hall says that before the Gospels, it was clear Jesus was just a man. Not at all. He was a man, but Romans 9:5 refers to Him as God above all. 1 Cor. 8:4-6 includes Him in the Shema of Israel. Philippians 2:6-11 has Him given the name above all other names. You could go and pick out verses that refer to Him as a man and point out His humanity, but one must give both sides of the equation. Again, don’t expect Hall to interact with the scholars in the Early High Christology Club. He can’t take cognitive dissonance.

He says Philo says nothing about Jesus or Christianity. Why should he? Philo wasn’t even in Jerusalem and Jesus was a flash in the pan who was crucified and Christianity was a shameful sect that no one wanted to regard. This kind of argument only works on people who really don’t know a thing about history, such as Jim Hall and his followers.

He says that Paul said anyone who disagreed with his teachings was to be cursed, even an angel from heaven. No. Paul actually said anyone who teaches a different gospel than the one the Galatians were taught and at the start, he refers to a plurality of people with him.

Hall then lists signs that you might be brainwashed.

● You vigorously deny the existence of hundreds of other gods but get outraged when someone denies the one you believe in. ● You can’t even entertain the possibility that you might be wrong. ● You think you know more about your holy book than the average atheist. ● You think humans came from dirt and ribs, and you get angry when the public school tries to teach your kid that we evolved from simpler life forms. ● You only remember the few times prayer worked for you, and you conveniently forget the many times it didn’t.

Let’s look at these.

For the first, I don’t get outraged. You avoid that Jim when you’re secure in your beliefs intellectually. Quite different from your refusal to interact with my reviews of your literature.

I can fully entertain the possibility that I might be wrong. I just think Hall can’t due to his refusal to interact with contrary thought. If Hall thinks I am wrong, let him make a case. Note: Two books of bogus claims are not convincing.

Yes, Jim. I do think I know my holy book better than the average atheist. That’s because I study books by leading scholars and read books that disagree with me.

I don’t hold necessarily to that interpretation of Genesis 2, but I have no problem with evolution being taught. I am sympathetic to the idea of evolution being true. Another swing and a miss.

I can tell you many times prayer didn’t “work” for me and thank God it didn’t. If I had got everything I wanted I would be in trouble. So on this list, Hall misses everything entirely.

We will continue another time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 7

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

One of the first new facts of Hall’s is about the incident in 1 Samuel with 50,070 people dying for looking in the Ark. He pictures people lining up and all dying when they look or an event like a football stadium and everyone dying at once. Funny. I picture someone who doesn’t bother reading scholarship and now agrees that the text should more accurately read 70. Of course, Hall has never been one for reading contrary thought. He has to avoid that cognitive dissonance after all.

There is something in there about an iron axe head floating. Again, this is called a miracle. I really don’t understand this technique of atheists. “Look! Your account contains miracles!” Yeah. It does. That’s only ipso facto stupid if it is shown there is no God, which is really what is the question under dispute. This makes as much sense as me going to atheists and saying “Look! Your account requires naturalistic evolution!”

He then goes to Jesus’s command that if you look at a woman with lust, you’ve already done it in your heart and since adultery is punishable by death, everyone should die multiple times over. First off, yes. Everyone deserves judgment for their sins. Second, Jesus is telling to stop the problem in the heart, but there is definitely a difference between real adultery and desire to commit adultery. One cannot be punished for a thought like that in the court of man at least.

He then looks at the Exodus. First off, he says the population would be about 2,000,000 Hebrews not counting women and children. On this, he’s unaware that even that is disputed in evangelical scholarship where it’s asked if it means that many people or a large number of chiefs. He says there is nothing recording the death of the firstborn in Egypt, but why would there be? Most cultures didn’t record what could be perceived as failures of their gods.

As for lack of evidence of slaves wandering the area in the wilderness, the Scythians were a large group and wandered much longer. What did we find of them? The tombs of their kings. In other words, we only found the stuff that they built to last. The Hebrews didn’t build any such things to last in the wilderness.

He then goes to a list of ways to identify a false religion.

● Its deity never appears in person ● Its claims are unverifiable ● No documented physical evidence ● Praying to its deity has no measurable real-world effect ● Rewards are promised for belief; punishments are threatened for unbelief ● Regular group-think meetings are held to reinforce the belief ● Believers never ask critical questions

Let’s go through this list.

Yes. Our deity did appear in person. He was crucified.

Our claims can be verified using philosophical methodology for the question of God and as verifiable as you can get using historical methodology.

We have plenty of archaeological and documentary evidence for Biblical events.

Hall will not interacted with the research of Craig Keener on mracles of Candy Gunther Brown on prayer studies.

People are not punished for unbelief. People are punished for their sins. Trust in Jesus is not just mere intellectual assent. It’s a lifetime of treating Jesus as Lord.

Church is not meant to be a group-think situation but a time to worship. All people to some extent tend to like to hang out with like-minded people. I have no problem with atheists coming together to meet.

And Hall, I have no problem with critical questions. If you don’t, then by all means maybe you should respond to my review of your past book or this current review. Could it be you don’t like being challenged?

He wonders why Mary was confused by Jesus being in the temple when He was 12 years old. Mary likely still had in mind the traditional views in Judaism of the Messiah. The plan was not spelled out for her.

He says the Israelites used to be polytheists. Wow. Really? I mean, don’t we know in the Old Testament that they were perfect holders of monotheism who never ever once deviated in worship from YHWH?

Hey everyone! Cool scientific fact! This morning, the sun rose in the East.

He has also the usual God doesn’t heal amputees and says this never happens. How does he know? There was controversy on the Unbelievable? page a few years ago when someone contacted the radio show about praying for someone and they had an eye regrow back. Now Hall can say that this never happens, but it will become circular.

“Prayer never causes an eye to grow back.”

“But this person says it happened.”

“It didn’t happen.”

“How do you know?”

“Because that never happens!”

He then says it was common knowledge to the early Christians that Jesus was a copy and paste job from other deities. After all, Justin Martyr said to the emperor that the Christians didn’t believe anything different from their pagan neighbors. Here’s the problem. Justin is trying to show that Christianity is not shameful and if Christianity is persecuted, then other beliefs should be persecuted. It is not saying the Christians copied. This is an idea that has been dropped by scholarship for about a century.

He points to Romulus as a copy. He says he was a son of God, preached to followers on a hill, corpse went missing, returned from the dead in an immortal body, witnesses were frightened, appeared to one follower in a spiritual form in a bright light on a road into the city.

Not a single source is given for any of this. I challenge Hall to find the source and demonstrate his claims. I also want to know how close the claims are to the original events. I think Hall will be disappointed, but he won’t look. Hall can’t take the cognitive dissonance.

He also says if you have enough faith, you can literally move a mountain. Hall doesn’t realize ancient Israelites spoke in topographical language about political events. Of course, God could move a mountain, but rearranging topography is not in mind. More likely, Herod is in mind.

He also says,

“Philosophical arguments don’t win debates; evidence wins debates. Moreover, gods who exist don’t leave their existence open to debate.”

Unfortunately, there is nothing in here that is evidential and it is really philosophical. He also says gods who exist don’t leave their existence open to debate. Does he have any evidence for this? It will have to be philosophical argumentation, but for him, that doesn’t count as evidence, so he has a belief without evidence.

Lesson for you Hall. Any time you disparage philosophy, you will wind up hoisting yourself on your own petard.

He also has something about Attis who was supposedly around in 1250 BC. He was born on December 25th (Which by the way, is nowhere in the New Testament about Jesus), had names like the only begotten son, savior of mankind, most high god, and the logos. He was the son and the father, crucified on a Friday and rose from the dead three days later, and eaten as bread by his followers.

Again, I defy Hall to come here and source any of these claims from primary sources.

He tells about the story of the woman caught in adultery and says this isn’t found in the original manuscripts. The same with the ending of Mark. Well, yes. This has been known even in the times of the Church Fathers. Hall then wants to know what more could be suspect. How about we see what Bart Ehrman says?

If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is. Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco. http://rosetta.reltech.org/TC/vol03/Ehrman1998.html

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy. Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.

“The manuscripts of the New Testament do indeed have large numbers of variations in them: alternative ways of reading a verse in a passage; omissions of words or sentences; additional insertions of words and sentences here and there. But the problem is not of such a scope as to make it impossible to have any idea what these ancient Christian authors wrote. If we had no clue what was originally in the writings of Paul or in the Gospels, this objection might carry more weight. But there is not a textual critic on the planet who thinks this, since not a shred of evidence leads in this direction. And I don’t know even of any mythicist who is willing to make this claim. As a result, in the vast majority of cases, the wording of these authors is not in dispute. And where it is, it rarely has anything at all to do with the question of whether Jesus existed.” -Did Jesus Exist, p. 181

Again, I’m not covering everything, but there is more than enough evidence thus far even that Hall doesn’t know what he’s talking about. We’ll continue perhaps more next week.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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

Book Plunge: Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 5

What else can we find in Jim Hall’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return again to Hall’s treasury of comedy, for lack of a better word, to see what arguments he has. Getting back into the matters, one of the first is the problem of evil. This is about how 25,000 children are dying everyday in fear, pain, and hunger. We are to remember this when we win some money in a scratch-off lottery ticket and give thanks or on Thanksgiving dinner.

We could just as easily ask Hall what great atheist organizations are doing to help combat the evil. Christians are normally right there on the front lines whenever disaster strikes and we are the ones that run the organizations helping children in need. Not all of it is Christian, but a large portion of it is.

Hall has nothing here on interacting with any scholarship on the problem of evil. Nothing about Clay Jones or Peter Kreeft or Alvin Plantinga or anyone like that. It’s simply the emotional appeal. While one would hope there is genuine concern for children, it looks more often like these children are trotted out to score personal points against theism.

He also says God violently drowned the world because they were too violent. This is supposed to be irony. What’s ironic is I went to Biblehub to do a search of the main passage, Genesis 6:5, and not one of them mentioned violence. Instead, it referred to man having a continual inclination towards evil. That could include violence, but it would not be limited to it.

Furthermore, God is the judge and ower of life and has the right to end the life He created. We do not have such a right. Hall just has a bad case of theistic personalism going on here. He views God as a big man just like the rest of us and under the same moral rules. God is good, but He is not a moral agent since there is nothing that He ought to do.

While I’m not Catholic, I find it amazing to hear him say Catholics practice cannibalism with transubstantiation. Hall is going back to older claims about eating the body and blood of Christ that Christianity’s first opponents used. Some arguments just never die.

He asks about how many pairs of animals Noah brought onto the ark. Was it two or seven? It’s amazing such a weak challenge is taken seriously. The clean animals would be extra for sacrifice and the number refers to how they were to enter the ark.

He quotes Matthew 6 to say Jesus was against public prayer. No. Jesus was against prayer to be seen. Pharisees would let it be known to everyone that they were praying so they could get the honor for it. Jesus Himself prayed in public, such as at the tomb of Lazarus.

He has that a 90 year-old woman gave birth. News flash to Hall, but everyone at the time also knew that this was generally impossible even without knowing why. That’s why it was called a miracle. I still do not understand how it is supposed to disprove a claim to someone that believes miracles are possible to show that a miracle occurred.

He also says one man circumcised 300 of his slaves in a day. As if to say that because the text says Abraham did this, he had to do it all directly. You might as well say that when John 19:1 says Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged, that Pilate did it directly. What is it with fundamentalist atheists and literalism?

He tells us the oldest bit of text we have from the New Testament is P52 and it is about the size of a credit card and dated to about 225 CE. Not sure where he’s getting the date at. Most sources I read say mid-second century. Furthermore, there is really no reason to call the text of the NT into question. We don’t have any original manuscripts of any ancient work and the NT is far and above better with dating and manuscript number than any other ancient work. Hall cites no scholars for his claim. For my position on the NT text, I will.

If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is. Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco. http://rosetta.reltech.org/TC/vol03/Ehrman1998.html

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy. Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.

“The manuscripts of the New Testament do indeed have large numbers of variations in them: alternative ways of reading a verse in a passage; omissions of words or sentences; additional insertions of words and sentences here and there. But the problem is not of such a scope as to make it impossible to have any idea what these ancient Christian authors wrote. If we had no clue what was originally in the writings of Paul or in the Gospels, this objection might carry more weight. But there is not a textual critic on the planet who thinks this, since not a shred of evidence leads in this direction. And I don’t know even of any mythicist who is willing to make this claim. As a result, in the vast majority of cases, the wording of these authors is not in dispute. And where it is, it rarely has anything at all to do with the question of whether Jesus existed.” -Did Jesus Exist, p. 181

He also says that insects have four legs according to Leviticus. Keep in mind these were people who regularly hate these insects and knew how to count. What’s going on? Simple. The back legs are not counted as regular legs like the others.

He says that God cursed humanity with multiple languages for trying to build a tower to Heaven. Why isn’t NASA judged yet? Because the tower was built after the flood when mankind was supposed to disperse throughout the Earth and instead they were acting in pride to build a tower to keep themselves safe in defiance of the flood in their recent history.

“The gospels were not written by simple, illiterate, Aramaic-speaking fishermen and peasants who knew Jesus, but were written decades later by literate, educated writers who wrote in Greek and were, incidentally, rather hazy about the Jewish landscape” – Kenneth Humphreys

Yep. Ken Humphreys, owner of Jesus Never Existed. We are getting into some first-rate scholarship here, folks. First off, in the ancient world, most works of history were written decades later. Actually, that’s not really accurate. Many times it was at least a century later. Hall and Humphreys obviously hope their audience is as ignorant as they are.

Second, most everyone who could write back then even used a secretary when writing. That the apostles might have still been illiterate is irrelevant. Literate people used secretaries.

As for errors in the Jewish landscape, none are given. I guess Hall just wants us to take it on faith.

Hall lists a variety of seafood that you are forbidden to eat citing Leviticus 11. Well, maybe if you’re observant of Jewish law and kosher practice, but not necessarily if you’re a New Testament Christian who is not under the Law. Again, Hall takes a simplistic approach to a complex topic. It’s alright. We wouldn’t want him to actually work and study a topic.

He shares the story of Jacob working seven years to get Rachel and not noticing that he got Leah instead and how he worked another seven years. What’s the problem here? For one thing, how could he not notice? A number of reasons. One is he could have been likely drunk which would happen at weddings. Another is the woman wore a veil often and he might not have even seen her face until the next day and keep in mind, no lighting really at night unless you used a candle or something of that sort.

There are some accounts in the New Testament that Hall questions how the writer could have known about them. The first is the voice of Heaven at Jesus’s baptism. Yes. It’s a wonder how the author could have access to a public declaration done at the baptism of Jesus. Some such events are conversations with the priests and what they were thinking. Considering Acts 6 says some priests became followers of Jesus, it’s not too hard to figure out how that could have come about. What about Jesus praying alone? The word indicates that Jesus was a short distance away. This could have been easily heard. Pilate and Jesus’s private conversation. Doubtful that when it says they talked together, they were alone. A governor would not be without his aides especially when interviewing someone thought to be a criminal. Another humorous one is Joseph of Arimathea asking for Jesus’s corpse. Well, since Joseph was a follower of Jesus, maybe, and I realize this is stretching, but maybe he told other followers of Jesus what happened.

Could be.

He says that denying a gay customer a wedding cake because of your religious beliefs is the same as a Catholic refusing to sell condoms, a Muslim refusing to sell bacon, someone refusing to sell you cookies because you’re on a diet, someone refusing you a fishing license because they became vegan, and a Jew refusing to sell Christmas cookies.

Again, a simplistic approach to matters. To begin with, I think anyone who has a good or service has a right to refuse that since you do not have a right to anyone else’s goods or services. Second, to supply actual artwork for an event as is often asked is to be forcing someone to endorse that event since their artistic labors are part of their free speech. Would Hall be fine with forcing Jewish bakers to paint a pro-Nazi cake?

He says bats are birds and not mammals. This is going by modern taxonomy. In the Biblical case, the word for bird referred not to a taxonomy class, but a winged creature. Last I checked, bats have wings.

He says Judas refers to a Jew and thus the betrayal of Jesus is obvious fiction since Judah in the Old Testament sold his brother for 20 pieces of silver and Judas in the New Testament sells Jesus for 30. Never mind that Richard Bauckham points out that Judas was the fourth most popular name for Jewish boys in Palestine. Could it be that maybe Judas was the name because that was a common name and not because of some conspiracy theory? We’ll wait to see if Hall takes off his tin foil hat for this one.

We’ll continue another time. Only so much nonsense in a day after all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 4

Does Hall’s book get any better? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So as we go through and we’re past fact 100 now with nothing that has seen us blink so far, let’s see what we get. One of the first is that religious fundamentalists spread hate and intolerance, increase teen pregnancy by denying sex education, bomb abortion clinics, impose beliefs on others, throw homosexuals off of buildings, and other similar items. What do atheist fundamentalists do? Hurt your feelings and challenge your faith.

He left out that atheist fundamentalists can also murder millions of their own people, but details, who needs them? Of course, it’s easy to do something like this if you just take the worst of your opponents and overlook the rest. I prefer what Bruce Sheiman has said in An Atheist Defends Religion.

“The militant atheists lament that religion is the foremost source of the world’s violence is contradicted by three realities: Most religious organizations do not foster violence; many nonreligious groups do engage in violence; and many religious moral precepts encourage nonvio lence. Indeed, we can confidently assert that if religion was the sole or primary force behind wars, then secular ideologies should be relatively benign by comparison, which history teaches us has not been the case. Revealingly, in his Encyclopedia of Wars, Charles Phillips chronicled a total of 1,763 conflicts throughout history, of which just 123 were categorized as religious. And it is important to note further that over the last century the most brutality has been perpetrated by nonreligious cult figures (Hitler, Stalin, Kim Jong-Il, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosevic, Robert Mugabe—you get the picture). Thus to attribute the impetus behind violence mainly to religious sentiments is a highly simplistic interpretation of history.” 

He also says the early Christians were hypocrites since their love feasts were wine orgies. It is true that Paul says some people were getting drunk at the Lord’s Supper and he condemned that, but there is nothing about orgies going on. This was a criticism of the opponents of the early church, but Hall presents no such data to show this. It would be a shame if he was being hypocritical here and not giving evidence but making a blanket statement expecting us to take it on faith.

He says Genesis 1:29 says every plant is safe to eat. It says nothing of the sort. It says man has command over them and I am more prone to think it refers to the plants that are in the Garden of Eden since the world for Earth can also refer to the land. The ancients knew about poisons just like we do.

He says same-sex marriage are not redefining marriage since marriage predates religion. Let’s suppose I grant that marriage comes first. (Although I contend people have always been religious.) What of it? Marriage is a metaphysical reality that does not depend on any one religious claim. Have the reasons for marriage changed? Yes. Has there always been a man-woman unit? Yes. Hall could actually try to study the history of marriage and find a place that had same-sex unions. Good luck with that.

He tells us that some beliefs were borrowed from Zoroastrianism. These include a good being vs an evil one, every human having a soul, heavenly afterlife, final judgment, and an apocalyptic end of the world. A shame isn’t it that he gives no source for this. A shame that he never tells us when we have our first writings of what the Zoroastrians believe. Hint. It comes AFTER Christianity.

He says God killed a man for putting his load on the ground instead of “knocking up” his sister-in-law. This is the sin of Onan. No. It does not refer to coitus interruptus being a sin or masturbation being a sin. Onan was really protecting his own inheritance knowing that if his sister-in-law got pregnant, the child would not be his and he and his own family would lose any inheritance he could get. Meanwhile, he was denying her what he owed her and denying his dead brother his duty and getting all the benefits. This is much greater than Hall realizes.

Hall says there are over 25,000 Greek New Testament manuscripts and 99% of the New Testament is quoted in church fathers, however, these come after 300 AD (or CE as he says) and this is the same century Christianity becomes established and when they start burning libraries. Unfortunately for Hall, we find more and more manuscripts regularly and these date earlier. Second, the only library I know of being burnt is the Library of Alexandria. It’s not really an open and shut case. Furthermore, the Christians were not opposed to these other books. We were the ones faithfully copying them for centuries.

He says Adam was to die if he ate from a tree and instead he lived 900 years. First, I understand some Hebrew scholars indicate that it means that the process of death will begin at that point for Adam. Second, I think he did die. He died spiritually that day.

He takes Genesis 2:18 that tells us that God tells us that He would make a helpmate for Adam. Proper interpretation? Bestiality was the original plan for Adam. Friends. At this point, I really don’t think I need to say anything. I have no idea how Hall reached such a bizarre interpretation.

He also says prayer doesn’t work because of prayer studies for healing. First, it’s interesting to note that if prayer works, it’s supposed to involve us getting something. Second, I take such studies with a grain of salt anyway, but I am intrigued by the research of Candy Gunther Brown. Third, I want to explain why I don’t pay much attention to these studies.

For one thing, we’re not often told about who is praying. Are these people really people dedicated to a Christian faith? That’s relevant data. Second, God is not a genie or a vending machine that can be tested. God will heal who He wants and not heal who He doesn’t want to. Third, there will be people praying for those in the hospital anyway that can’t be tabulated. There are just too many variables here.

He says according to the Bible, donkeys, snakes, and bushes can talk. The creatures talking would be what we call miracles. That’s assuming this is to be read in a literalistic sense. Even if it is, these are one-time events. The bush is the burning bush and the text indicates that the Angel of the Lord appeared in the bush.

He goes to Leviticus to say tattoos are not allowed ever. This is part of the Levitical Law which is not binding for Christians and never has been. Hall has earlier indicated his ignorance on this point. It is not a surprise that he repeats it.

He says Genesis 3:14 says dirt is the primary food of snakes. The ancients knew just as well as we do what snakes eat. What this means is rather a statement of shame and humiliation for the serpent. It is not making any statements about diet.

He quotes the meme about Codex Sinaiticus having 14,800 differences from the KJV. How an English translation is compared to a Greek copy of the Bible like that is not really stated. It’s good to know that he gets his information from memes. Too bad he never read anything that disagreed with him.

He claims Christian worship on Sunday began under Constantine. I wonder what he does from chapter 67 of the First Apology of Justin Martyr.

And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.

He says when Cain got married, his parents were the only other people on the planet. This is not said into the text, but it is read into the text, though understandably so for many people. I am not persuaded of this interpretation and think it more likely that Adam and Eve were our representatives.

Finally, there is condemnation that Noah who was a man of God cursed his son for the crime of seeing him drunk and naked. It could be far worse. Robert Gagnon in his book The Bible and Homosexual Practice says this could be a euphemism indicating that his son did more than just that and shamed his father sexually.

We will continue another time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 3

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

As we return, it’s not a shock that one of the passages I come across is Judges 1:19 and how God can’t drive out the people because they have iron chariots. Naturally, a God who conquered Egypt and parted the Red Sea would obviously have a problem with iron chariots? Right? The reference to he is not to YHWH. It is to Judah. Judah was not being fully faithful and chose to not take on iron chariots. After all, later in chapter 4, there is an army with 900 iron chariots that is defeated.

Hall also has a list of words known to Bible scholars but not to men in the pews. This is a shame. The people in the pews do need to be better educated. These terms include gloss, mimesis, and pseudepigrapha. There are some assertions here such as Moses is deutero which Hall says is another writing of a book but not by the same author. Deuteronomy really means Second Law and is a summation of all that happens before the Promised Land.

He also says Nazareth does not show up anywhere in the ancient world. Why should it? It was a small little podunk hardly worth mentioning. Rene Salm popularized the whole idea of the myth of Nazareth. It has never caught on among archaeologists. Bart Ehrman has even written on this arguing that Nazareth was a real place.

He has the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman as well. This is one I have already written about. Again, Hall is banking on his readers being just as ignorant as he is and getting an emotional reaction out of them. It would be awful for him to consult any commentaries and actually encounter contrary thought.

He has the story about Lot and the two angels. Yeah. Not Lot’s finest moment. What is this supposed to show? YHWH never approved of Lot’s behavior. He still spared him not because of his sinfulness but in spite of it.

He says that Peter and Paul supposedly died around 65, but if that’s the case, then Peter would not refer to Paul’s writings as Scripture because, well, reasons. None are given. He also says Paul’s letters weren’t discovered and circulated until 150 A.D. I would love to know where he got this little piece of fiction from since Polycarp and Clement both wrote of Paul. Third, he says Peter was illiterate so he couldn’t write so obviously, this letter is a forgery. The problem here is Peter would have used a secretary, just like people who could write used.

He has God making light on day 1 but nothing that produces light until day 4. It is a shame he has never availed himself of the cosmic temple view of creation that John Walton has. In this, it’s not that the matter is being created, but that the function of it is being named.

He says the RCC has finally accepted evolution, but they still accept Adam and Eve which is the epitome of cognitive dissonance. I am not aware if they have made a formal statement on Adam and Eve or not, but how is it cognitive dissonance? One can have evolution and still have two distinct human beings. Furthermore, I don’t think the RCC was really that opposed to evolution from the beginning.

He says wearing a polyester-cotton blend T-shirt is a sin based on Leviticus. The first problem is missing the role of the law and the relation of it to the Christian. The second is that this is about ritual purity and it is not about sin.

He says Jesus was illegitimate since Mary and Joseph had not yet married when he was born. The whole point of the story is that Jesus was not conceived through illegitimacy but had a virgin birth, which I do affirm. Exactly how little does Hall think his audience knows about the Bible?

Hall says there’s only one reason to believe something and that’s you know it to be true. That’s not accurate. One could just have good reason to believe it to be true. Proof isn’t always easy. Some reasons he says to not believe something are that it gives you comfort or hope, everyone around you believes it, or social reasons like losing job or reputation, or because you fear death. Sure. I agree with those. And?

He also says it took the Israelites 40 years to walk 250 miles. Indeed. Purposefully too, because they disobeyed and they had to wander in the wilderness until the wicked generation died. This is basic knowledge every Christian should know about the Old Testament.

He also has a list of later beliefs Christians had that aren’t in the Bible. One is the Trinity since 1 John 5:7-8 is a forgery. What of it? To say that is the basis of the doctrine of the Trinity is to be entirely ignorant of New Testament studies.

He finally says that if the only reason you don’t do wicked evils is because of religious morality, you are a dangerous psychopath. Japan has one of the lowest rape rates in the world but is one of the most atheistic country in the world. Where does he get this from? He says the Pew Research Center, but color me skeptical since Japan is highly religious with Shintoism and Buddhism both playing major roles. Also, Japan has one of the highest suicide rates as well.

Furthermore, what reason does Hall have to not be that psychopath? Who makes these moral rules? What is their foundation? Why should I care?

We shall continue another time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters