Criticism of the Bible | Wikipedia audio article


The view that the Bible should be accepted
as historically accurate and as a reliable guide to morality has been questioned by many
scholars in the field of biblical criticism. In addition to concerns about morality, inerrancy,
or historicity, there remain some questions of which books should be included in the Bible.==History of the Bible==The Hebrew Bible, upon which the Christian
Old Testament is based, was originally composed in Biblical Hebrew, except for parts of Daniel
and Ezra that were written in Biblical Aramaic. These writings depict Israelite religion from
its beginnings to about the 2nd century BC. The Christian New Testament was written in
Koine Greek. (See Language of the New Testament for details.)==
Historicity==Biblical minimalism is a label applied to
a loosely knit group of scholars who hold that the Bible’s version of history is not
supported by any archaeological evidence so far unearthed, thus the Bible cannot be trusted
as a history source. Critics of the authenticity of the New Testament such as Richard Carrier
and Paul N. Tobin argue that pseudepigrapha within the New Testament invalidates it as
a reliable source of information. Author Richard I. Pervo details the non-historical sources
of the Book of Acts.==Authorship==At the end of the 17th century few Bible scholars
doubted that Moses wrote the Torah, but in the late 18th century some liberal scholars
began to question his authorship, and by the end of the 19th century some went as far as
to claim that as a whole the work was of many more authors over many centuries from 1000
BC (the time of David) to 500 BC (the time of Ezra), and that the history it contained
was often more polemical rather than strictly factual. By the first half of the 20th century
Hermann Gunkel had drawn attention to mythic aspects, and Albrecht Alt, Martin Noth and
the tradition history school argued that although its core traditions had genuinely ancient
roots, the narratives were fictional framing devices and were not intended as history in
the modern sense. In the 2nd century, the gnostics often claimed
that their form of Christianity was the first, and they regarded Jesus as a teacher, or allegory.
Elaine Pagels has proposed that there are several examples of gnostic attitudes in the
Pauline Epistles. Bart D. Ehrman and Raymond E. Brown note that some of the Pauline epistles
are widely regarded by scholars as pseudonymous, and it is the view of Timothy Freke, and others,
that this involved a forgery in an attempt by the Church to bring in Paul’s Gnostic supporters
and turn the arguments in the other Epistles on their head.==Canonicity==The Hebrew Bible and Christian Bibles are
works considered sacred and authoritative writings by their respective faith groups
that revere their specific collections of biblical writings. The limits of the canon
were effectively set in the early church, however the status of the scriptures has been
a topic of scholarly discussion in the later church. Increasingly, the biblical works have
been subjected to literary and historical criticism in an effort to interpret the biblical
texts, independent of Church and dogmatic influences.In the middle of the second century,
Marcion of Sinope proposed rejecting the entire Jewish Bible. He considered the God portrayed
therein to be a lesser deity, a demiurge and that the law of Moses was contrived.Jews discount
the New Testament and Old Testament deuterocanonicals, Jews and some Christians discredit the legitimacy
of New Testament apocrypha, and a view sometimes referred to as Jesusism does not affirm the
scriptural authority of any biblical text other than the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels.==Mythology==The validity of the Gospels is challenged
by writers such as Kersey Graves who claimed that mythic stories, that have parallels in
the life of Jesus, support the conclusion that the gospel writers incorporated them
into the story of Jesus and also Gerald Massey, who specifically claimed that the life story
of the Egyptian god Horus was copied by Christian Gnostics. Parallels have also been drawn between
Greek myths and the life of Jesus. The comparative mythology of Jesus Christ examines the parallels
that have been proposed for the Biblical portrayal of Jesus in comparison to other religious
or mythical domains. Some critics have alleged that Christianity is not founded on a historical
figure, but rather on a mythical creation. One of these views proposes that Jesus was
the Jewish manifestation of a pan-Hellenic cult, known as Osiris-Dionysus.Christ myth
theory proponents claim that the age, authorship, and authenticity of the Gospels can not be
verified, thus the Gospels can not bear witness to the historicity of Jesus. This is in contrast
with writers such as David Strauss, who regarded only the supernatural elements of the gospels
as myth, but whereas these supernatural myths were a point of contention, there was no refutation
of the gospels authenticity as witness to the historicity of Jesus.Critics of the Gospels
such as Richard Dawkins and Thomas Henry Huxley note that they were written long after the
death of Jesus and that we have no real knowledge of the date of composition of the Gospels.
Annie Besant and Thomas Paine note that the authors of the Gospels are not known.==Translation issues==Translation of scripture into the vernacular
(such as English and hundreds of other languages), though a common phenomenon, is also a subject
of debate and criticism. For readability, clarity, or other reasons, translators may
choose different wording or sentence structure, and some translations may choose to paraphrase
passages. Because many of the words in the original language have ambiguous or difficult
to translate meanings, debates over correct interpretation occur. For instance, at creation
(Gen 1:2), is רוח אלהים (ruach ‘elohiym) the “wind of god”, “spirit of god”(i.e., the
Holy Spirit in Christianity), or a “mighty wind” over the primordial deep? In Hebrew,
רוח (ruach) can mean “wind”,”breath” or “spirit”. Both ancient and modern translators
are divided over this and many other such ambiguities. Another example is the word used
in the Masoretic Text [Isa 7:14] to indicate the woman who would bear Immanuel is alleged
to mean a young, unmarried woman in Hebrew, while Matthew 1:23 follows the Septuagint
version of the passage that uses the Greek word parthenos, translated virgin, and is
used to support the Christian idea of virgin birth. Those who view the Masoretic Text,
which forms the basis of most English translations of the Old Testament, as being more accurate
than the Septuagint, and trust its usual translation, may see this as an inconsistency, whereas
those who take the Septuagint to be accurate may not.
More recently, several discoveries of ancient manuscripts such as the Dead Sea scrolls,
and Codex Sinaiticus, have led to modern translations like the New International Version differing
somewhat from the older ones such as the 17th century King James Version, removing verses
not present in the earliest manuscripts (see List of omitted Bible verses), some of which
are acknowledged as interpolations, such as the Comma Johanneum, others having several
highly variant versions in very important places, such as the resurrection scene in
Mark 16. The King-James-Only Movement rejects these changes and uphold the King James Version
as the most accurate.==Ethics==Some of the most commonly criticized ethical
choices include treatment of women, religious intolerance, use of capital punishment as
penalty for violation of Mosaic Law, sexual acts like incest, toleration of the institution
of slavery in both Old and New Testaments, obligatory religious wars and the order to
commit the genocide of the Canaanites and the Amalekites. Christian apologists support
the Bible’s decisions by reminding critics that they should be considered from the author’s
point of view and that Mosaic Law applied to the Israelite people (who lived before
the birth of Jesus). Other religious groups see nothing wrong with the Bible’s judgments.
Apologists also point to the fact that nearly without exception, these criticisms are refuted
or negated by statements or doctrines made or clarified by Jesus in the New Testament.
One example that is often cited is the biblical law of the rebellious son: “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious
son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even
listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the
elders of his city at the gateway of his home town. And they shall say to the elders of
his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton
and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove
the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear of it and fear.” (Deut. 21:18-21) Skeptics often criticize this response, claiming
that apologists are appealing to moral relativism, which is a widely criticized stance on morality.
Other critics of the Bible, such as Friedrich Nietzsche who popularized the phrase “God
is dead”, have questioned the morality of the New Testament, regarding it as weak and
conformist-oriented.==Internal consistency==There are many places in the Bible in which
inconsistencies—such as different numbers and names for the same feature, and different
sequences for the same events—have been alleged and presented by critics as difficulties.
Responses to these criticisms include the modern documentary hypothesis, the two-source
hypothesis and theories that the pastoral epistles are pseudonymous.However, authors
such as Raymond Brown have presented arguments that the Gospels actually contradict each
other in various important respects and on various important details. W. D. Davies and
E. P. Sanders state that: “on many points, especially about Jesus’ early life, the evangelists
were ignorant … they simply did not know, and, guided by rumour, hope or supposition,
did the best they could”. More critical scholars see the nativity stories either as completely
fictional accounts, or at least constructed from traditions that predate the Gospels.For
example, many versions of the Bible specifically point out that the most reliable early manuscripts
and other ancient witnesses did not include Mark 16:9-20, i.e., the Gospel of Mark originally
ended at Mark 16:8, and additional verses were added a few hundred years later. This
is known as the “Markan Appendix”.Mosaic authorship, authorship of the Gospels and authorship of
the Pauline Epistles are topics that remain widely debated.==The Bible and science=====
Origins===A common point of criticism against the Bible
is the Genesis creation narrative. According to young Earth creationism, which takes a
literal view of the book of Genesis, the universe and all forms of life on Earth were created
directly by God sometime between 5,700 and 10,000 years ago. This assertion is contradicted
by radiocarbon dating of fossils, as well as modern understanding of genetics, evolution,
and cosmology. For instance, astrophysical evidence suggests that the universe is approximately
13.8 billion years old. Moreover, 10,000 years is not enough time to account for the current
amount of genetic variation in humans. If all humans were descended from two individuals
that lived less than 10,000 years ago, it would require an impossibly high rate of mutation
to reach humanity’s current level of genetic diversity.
The argument that the literal story of Genesis can qualify as science collapses on three
major grounds: the creationists’ need to invoke miracles in order to compress the events of
the earth’s history into the biblical span of a few thousand years; their unwillingness
to abandon claims clearly disproved, including the assertion that all fossils are products
of Noah’s flood; and their reliance upon distortion, misquote, half-quote, and citation out of
context to characterize the ideas of their opponents. Science-faith think tanks such as the Biologos
foundation and Reasons to Believe have sought to reconcile these scientific challenges with
the Christian faith.===Archaeology===According to one of the world’s leading biblical
archaeologists, William G. Dever, Archaeology certainly doesn’t prove literal
readings of the Bible…It calls them into question, and that’s what bothers some people.
Most people really think that archaeology is out there to prove the Bible. No archaeologist
thinks so. […] From the beginnings of what we call biblical archeology, perhaps 150 years
ago, scholars, mostly western scholars, have attempted to use archeological data to prove
the Bible. And for a long time it was thought to work. William Albright, the great father
of our discipline, often spoke of the “archeological revolution.” Well, the revolution has come
but not in the way that Albright thought. The truth of the matter today is that archeology
raises more questions about the historicity of the Hebrew Bible and even the New Testament
than it provides answers, and that’s very disturbing to some people.
Dever also wrote: Archaeology as it is practiced today must
be able to challenge, as well as confirm, the Bible stories. Some things described there
really did happen, but others did not. The biblical narratives about Abraham, Moses,
Joshua and Solomon probably reflect some historical memories of people and places, but the ‘larger
than life’ portraits of the Bible are unrealistic and contradicted by the archaeological evidence….
I am not reading the Bible as Scripture… I am in fact not even a theist. My view all
along—and especially in the recent books—is first that the biblical narratives are indeed
‘stories,’ often fictional and almost always propagandistic, but that here and there they
contain some valid historical information… According to Dever, the scholarly consensus
is that the figure of Moses is legendary, and not historical. However, he states that
a “Moses-like figure” may have existed somewhere in the southern Transjordan in the mid-13th
century BC.Tel Aviv University archaeologist Ze’ev Herzog wrote in the Haaretz newspaper: This is what archaeologists have learned from
their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander
in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on
to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is that the united monarchy of
David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small
tribal kingdom. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, YHWH,
had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning
period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai. Professor Finkelstein, who is known as “the
father of biblical archaeology”, told the Jerusalem Post that Jewish archaeologists
have found no historical or archaeological evidence to back the biblical narrative on
the Exodus, the Jews’ wandering in Sinai or Joshua’s conquest of Canaan. On the alleged
Temple of Solomon, Finkelstein said that there is no archaeological evidence to prove it
really existed. Professor Yoni Mizrahi, an independent archaeologist who has worked with
the International Atomic Energy Agency, agreed with Israel Finkelstein.Regarding the Exodus
of Israelites from Egypt, Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass said: Really, it’s a myth […] This is my career
as an archaeologist. I should tell them the truth. If the people are upset, that is not
my problem.==Prophecies==The alleged fulfillment of biblical prophecies
is a popular argument used as evidence by Christian apologists to support the claimed
divine inspiration of the Bible. They see the fulfillment of prophecies as proof of
God’s direct involvement in the writing of the Bible.===Messianic prophecies===According to Christian apologists, the alleged
fulfillment of the messianic prophecies in the mission, death, and resurrection of Jesus
proves the accuracy of the Bible. However, according to Jewish scholars, Christian claims
that Jesus is the messiah of the Hebrew Bible are based on mistranslations and Jesus did
not fulfill the qualifications for Jewish Messiah.
An example of this is Isaiah 7:14. Christians read Isaiah 7:14 as a prophetic prediction
of Jesus’ birth from a virgin, while Jews read it as referring to the birth of Ahaz’s
son, Hezekiah. They also point out that the word Almah, used in Isaiah 7:14, is part of
the Hebrew phrase ha-almah hara, meaning “the almah is pregnant.” Since the present tense
is used, they maintain that the young woman was already pregnant and hence not a virgin.
This being the case, they claim the verse cannot be cited as a prediction of the future.===Prophecies after the event===An example of an alleged after-the-fact prophecy
is the Little Apocalypse recorded in the Olivet Discourse of the Gospel of Mark. It predicts
the siege of Jerusalem and destruction of the Jewish Temple at the hands of the Romans
in 70 AD. Most mainstream New Testament scholars consider this to be an ex eventu (foretelling
after the event), as are many of the prophecies in the Old Testament such those of Daniel
11.Another example is Isaiah’s prophecy about Cyrus the Great. Traditionally, the entire
book of Isaiah is believed to pre-date the rule of Cyrus by about 120 years. These particular
passages (Isaiah 40-55, often referred to as Deutero-Isaiah) are believed by most modern
critical scholars to have been added by another author toward the end of the Babylonian exile
(ca. 536 BC). Whereas Isaiah 1-39 (referred to as Proto-Isaiah) saw the destruction of
Israel as imminent, and the restoration in the future, Deutero-Isaiah speaks of the destruction
in the past (Isa 42:24-25), and the restoration as imminent (Isaiah 42:1-9). Notice, for example,
the change in temporal perspective from (Isaiah 39:6-7), where the Babylonian Captivity is
cast far in the future, to (Isaiah 43:14), where the Israelites are spoken of as already
in Babylon.===The success of Joshua===
The Book of Joshua describes the Israelite conquest of Canaan under the leadership of
Joshua, the son of one of the aides to Moses. After Moses’ death, God tells Joshua to conquer
Canaan and makes predictions of his success. Amongst other things, Joshua was to be given
a vast dominion that included all of the Hittite land, and the advantage of facing no one who
could stand up to him. While the Book of Joshua delineates many successful
conquerings, the Canaanites were not amongst those conquered and the Israelites did suffer
defeat. Judah, a leader of one of the twelve tribes of Israel, is unable to dislodge the
Jebusites from Jerusalem and was forced to cohabit,
while the Manassites, another of the twelve tribes, lack the strength to occupy several
Canaan towns. Other bastions of resistance dot the landscape.
Even after Joshua’s death, the land is only partially conquered with the Canaanites remaining
a significant external threat. Critics argue that Joshua never lives to see the full territory
God promises him and that the substantial resistance put up by the indigenous population
violates God’s promise of battles in which no enemy was his equal.===The destruction of Tyre===Ezekiel predicts that the ancient city of
Tyre will be utterly destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and “made a bare rock” that will “never be
rebuilt” (Ezekiel 26:1, 26:7-14). However, Tyre withstood Nebuchadrezzar’s siege for
13 years, ending in a compromise in which the royal family was taken into exile but
the city survived intact.Apologists cite the text as saying that the prophecy states that
“many nations” would accomplish the destruction of Tyre, and claim that this refers to later
conquerors (Ezekiel 26:3), but skeptics counter that this was a reference to the “many nations”
of Nebuchadrezzar’s multinational force (Nebuchadrezzar was described by Ezekiel as “king of kings”,
i.e., an overking, a ruler over many nations. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:1,14,18) promises the
Jewish captives would return from Babylon, coming from ‘many nations.’), and that subsequent
conquerors didn’t permanently destroy Tyre either (it is now the fourth-largest city
in Lebanon). Ezekiel himself admitted later that Nebuchadnezzar could not defeat Tyre
(Ezekiel 29:18). Ezekiel said Egypt would be made an uninhabited
wasteland for forty years (Ezekiel 29:10-14), and Nebuchadnezzar would be allowed to plunder
it (Ezekiel 29:19-20) as compensation for his earlier failure to plunder Tyre (see above).
However, the armies of Pharaoh Amasis II defeated the Babylonians. History records that this
Pharaoh (also known as Ahmose II) went on to enjoy a long and prosperous reign; Herodotus
writes that:It is said that it was during the reign of Ahmose II that Egypt attained
its highest level of prosperity both in respect of what the river gave the land and in respect
of what the land yielded to men and that the number of inhabited cities at that time reached
in total 20,000. The prophecy in chapter 29 dates in December
588—January 587. 20 years later, in the year 568, Nebuchadnezzar attacked Egypt. F.F.
Bruce writes still more exactly that the Babylonian king invaded Egypt already after the siege
of Tyre 585—573 BC and replaced the Pharaoh Hophra (Apries) by Amasis:The siege of Tyre
was followed by operations against Egypt itself. Hophra was defeated, deposed and replaced
by Amasis, an Egyptian general. But in 568 BC Amasis revolted against Nebuchadnezzar,
who then invaded and occupied part of the Egyptian frontier lands.Flavius Josephus even
writes in his Antiquities, citing the 4th century Greek writer Megasthenes that Nebuchadnezzar
had control of all northern Africa unto present day Spain:Megasthenes also, in his fourth
book of his Accounts of India, makes mention of these things, and thereby endeavours to
show that this king (Nebuchadnezzar) exceeded Hercules in fortitude, and in the greatness
of his actions; for he saith that he conquered a great part of Libya and Iberia.
On the other hand, Nebuchadnezzar makes no mention of this campaign against Egypt in
his inscriptions, at least that are currently known. It is too simple to argue with Herodotus,
especially because his credibility was ever since contested. The forty years are not to
understand as an exact number. This figure became a significant period of chastisement
to the Hebrews remembering the forty years in the desert after the exodus from Egypt.===The protection of the King of Judah===
Isaiah spoke of a prophecy God made to Ahaz, the King of Judah that he would not be harmed
by his enemies (Isaiah 7:1-7), yet according to 2 Chronicles, the king of Aram and Israel
did conquer Judah (2 Chronicles 28:1-6).In Isaiah (Isaiah 7:9) the prophet says clearly
that a prerequisite for the fulfillment of the prophecy is that Ahaz stands firm in his
faith. F.F. Bruce claims that this means Ahaz should trust God and not seek military help
in the Assyrians, which Ahaz did.===The death of the king of Judah===
In predicting Jerusalem’s fall to Babylon, Jeremiah prophesied that Zedekiah, the king
of Judah, would “die in peace” (Jeremiah 34:2-5). However, according to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 52:9-11),
he was put in prison until the day of his death.Apologists maintain that Zedekiah did
not suffer the same terrible death as all the other nobles of Judah did when Nebuchadnezzar
killed them in Riblah. Jeremiah also told Zedekiah in his prophecy that he would have
to go to Babylon, which the Apologists claim implies that he will be imprisoned. There
are no historical records of what happened with Zedekiah in Babylon and a peaceful death
is not ruled out.===The death of Josiah===
Prophetess Huldah prophesied that Josiah would die in peace (2 Kings 22:18-20), but rather
than dying in peace, as the prophetess predicted, Josiah was probably killed at Megiddo in a
battle with the Egyptian army (2 Chronicles 35:20-24).Apologists allege that the prophecy
of Huldah was partially fulfilled because Josiah did not see all the disaster the Babylonians
brought over Jerusalem and Judah. The prophetess clearly stated that because of Josiah’s repentance,
he will be buried in peace. But the king did not keep his humble attitude. As mentioned
in 2 Chronicles (2 Chronicles 35:22), he did not listen to God’s command and fought against
the Egyptian pharaoh Necho. It is quite possible that he did this “opposing the faithful prophetic
party”. Prophecy in the biblical sense is except in some very few cases never a foretelling
of future events but it wants to induce the hearers to repent, to admonish and to encourage
respectively; biblical prophecy includes almost always a conditional element.===The land promised to Abraham===According to Genesis and Deuteronomy (Genesis
15:18, 17:8 and Deuteronomy 1:7-8), Abraham and his descendants, the Israelites will unconditionally
(Deuteronomy 9:3-7) own all the land between the Nile River and the Euphrates River for
an everlasting possession. This never happened.An apologist’s counter-claim would be that a
reading of Davidic conquests tells of the Israelite occupation of all the promised lands.
F.F. Bruce writes: David’s sphere of influence now extended from
the Egyptian frontier on the Wadi el-Arish (the “brook of Egypt”) to the Euphrates; and
these limits remained the ideal boundaries of Israel’s dominion long after David’s empire
had disappeared. Acts 7:5 and Hebrews 11:13 are taken out of
context if used as evidence against the fulfillment of these prophecies. Stephen does not state
in Acts that the prophecy was not fulfilled. Moreover, it does not seem any problem for
him to mention side by side the promise to Abraham himself and that Abraham did not get
even a foot of ground. This becomes understandable with the concept of corporate personality.
Jews are familiar with identifying individuals with the group they belong to. H. Wheeler
Robinson writes that Corporate personality is the important Semitic complex of thought
in which there is a constant oscillation between the individual and the group—family, tribe,
or nation—to which he belongs, so that the king or some other representative figure may
be said to embody the group, or the group may be said to sum up the host of individuals.
The letter to the Hebrews speaks about the promise of the heavenly country (Hebrews 11:13-16).===The fate of Damascus===
According to Isaiah 17:1, “Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of
ruins”, but in fact Damascus is considered among the oldest continually inhabited cities
in the world. An apologist’s response to this statement
is that this verse refers to the destruction of Damascus as a strong capital of Syria.
This was fulfilled during the Syro-Ephraimite War. The prophecy perhaps dates from about
735 BC, when Damascus and Israel were allied against Judah (Isaiah 7:1). Damascus was taken
by Tiglath-Pileser in 732, and Samaria by Sargon in 721. The passage is consistent with
2 Kings 16:9, which states that Assyria defeated the city and exiled the civilians to Kir.
The mythicist position is that “Damascus” is not Damascus, Syria, but Qumran, in Jordan,
land of the Essenes.===The fate of Jews who stay in Egypt===According to Jeremiah 42:17, Jews who choose
to live in Egypt will all die and leave no remnant. But history shows that Jews continued
to live there for centuries, and for a time the Hellenistic Jewish cultural center at
Alexandria was the largest urban Jewish community in the world. While declining greatly due
to conflict and conversion, Egypt’s Jews numbered some 75000 as recently as the 1940s.According
to apologists, the surrounding text suggests that Jeremiah is stating that no refugees
who flee to Egypt would return to Israel except for few fugitives. Jeremiah 42-44 had relevance
mainly to the group of exiles who fled to Egypt. It emphasizes that the future hopes
of a restored Israel lay elsewhere than with the exiles to Egypt.===The return of Jewish prisoners of war
===Isaiah and Jeremiah (Isaiah 27:12-13, Jeremiah
3:18, Jeremiah 31:1-23, and Jeremiah 33:7) predicted the return of the exiles taken from
Israel by the Assyrians in 722 BC. It never happened. Following the conquest of the northern
kingdom by the Assyrians in 721 BC, the 10 tribes were gradually assimilated by other
peoples and thus disappeared from history. Unlike the Kingdom of Judah, which was able
to return from its Babylonian Captivity in 537 BC, the 10 tribes of the Kingdom of Israel
never had a foreign edict granting permission to return and rebuild their homeland. Assyria
has long since vanished, its capital, Nineveh, destroyed in 612 BC.Apologists, however, charge
that Luke 2:36 states that Anna the Prophetess, daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher,
was living as a widow in the sanctuary ministering to God with and fastings and petitions night
and day. Thus, at least some (tiny) portion of Israel returned, since it was unlikely
that a lone female would return to the land of Israel unaccompanied by kinsmen as safe
escort. Although the exiled Israelites from the Northern
kingdom did not return from Assyria, apologists state that it must be considered that these
passages also contain the expectation of the messianic days. Theologians point out that
in Isaiah 27:12-13 Euphrates and the Wadi of Egypt represent the northern and southern
borders of the Promised Land in its widest extent (Genesis 15:18) and thus they refer
these verses to the return of the Israelites to Jerusalem in the last days, in the messianic
time. Israelites will be gathered from wherever they have been expelled from the north, Assyria,
to the south, Egypt. Jeremiah’s prophecy of Israel’s and Judah’s return from the north
in Jeremiah 3:18 is preceded by the request of Yahweh to the Israelites to come back (verse
14). After fulfilling this condition God will increase their number and none will miss the
ark of the covenant (verse 16). All nations will then honour the Lord (verse 17). Consequently,
Christian scholars refer verse 18 to messianic times when there will be a kingdom united
as in the days of David and Solomon. Jeremiah 31 should be seen in context with chapter
30. Some scholars argue that these chapters were written early in Jeremiah’s ministry
and refer to Northern Israel. Later these poems were updated and referred to Judah as
well, probably by Jeremiah himself, when it was realized that Judah had passed through
similar experiences to those of Israel. The Book of Consolation (Jeremiah 30:1—31:40)
reaches his final, messianic scope in the establishment of a New Covenant between Yahweh
and the House of Israel and the House of Judah.===The strength of Judah===
Isaiah 19:17 predicted that “the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt”. Assuming that
the ‘terror’ implied was a large-scale military attack of Egypt, it never happened.According
to theologians, the statement that the “land of Judah” will terrify the Egyptians is not
a reference to a large army from Judah attacking Egypt, but a circumlocution for the place
where God lives; it is God and his plans that will terrify Egypt. Verse 17 has to be understood
in its context. The second “in that day” message from verse 18 announces the beginning of a
deeper relationship between God and Egypt, which leads to Egypt’s conversion and worshiping
God (verses 19-21). The last “in that day” prophecy (verses 23-25) speaks about Israel,
Assyria and Egypt as God’s special people, thus, describing eschatological events.===The identity of the conquerors of Babylon
===Isaiah 13:17, Isaiah 21:2, Jeremiah 51:11,
and Jeremiah 51:27-28 predicted that Babylon would be destroyed by the Medes, Ararat, Minni
and Ashkenaz and Elamites. The Persians under Cyrus the Great captured Babylon in 539 BC.
Daniel 5:31 incorrectly stated that it was Darius the Mede who captured Babylon.
Christian apologists state that the prophecy in Isaiah 13:21 could possibly have been directed
originally against Assyria, whose capital Ninive was defeated 612 BC by a combined onslaught
of the Medes and Babylonians. According to this explanation the prophecy was later updated
and referred to Babylon not recognizing the rising power of Persia. On the other hand,
it can be mentioned that the Persian king Cyrus after overthrowing Media in 550 BC did
not treat the Medes as a subject nation.Instead of treating the Medes as a beaten foe and
a subject nation, he had himself installed as king of Media and governed Media and Persia
as a dual monarchy, each part of which enjoyed equal rights.
Jeremiah prophesied at the height of the Median empire’s power, and thus he was probably influenced
to see the Medes as the nation that will conquer Babylon. Several proposals were brought forth
for “Darius the Mede” out of which one says that Cyrus the Great is meant in Daniel 5:31.===Jehoiakim prophecies===
The prophet Daniel states that in the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar
conquered Judah (Daniel 1:1-2). The third year of Jehoiakim’s reign was 605 BC, at which
time Nebuchadnezzar was not yet king of Babylon. It was in 597 BC that Nebuchadnezzar takes
Jerusalem, by then Jehoiakim had died.Apologists respond that this is not a prophecy but a
statement. Daniel 1:1 is a problem of dating. But already F.F. Bruce solved this problem
explaining that when Nebuchadnezzar, son of king Nabopolassar, was put in charge over
a part of his forces, he defeated Necho in the battle of Carchemish 605 BC. In this situation
his father Nabopolassar died. Before Nebuchadnezzar as heir apparent returned to Babylon he settled
the affairs in the Asiatic countries bordering the Egyptian frontier, which means also Judah,
and took captives from several countries as, for example, also from the Jews.
Jeremiah prophesied that the body of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, would be desecrated after his
death (Jeremiah 22:18-19, Jeremiah 36:30-31). However, his death was recorded in 2 Kings
24:6 where it says that “Jehoiakim slept with his fathers”. This is a familiar Bible expression
that was used to denote a peaceful death and respectful burial. David slept with his fathers
(1 Kings 2:10) and so did Solomon (1 Kings 11:43). On the other hand, 2 Chronicles 36:5-6
states that Nebuchadnezzar came against Jehoiakim, bound him in fetters, and carried him to Babylon.
Judging from the treatment Zedekiah was accorded when the Babylonians bound him and carried
him away to Babylon (Jeremiah 52:9-11), one might justifiably argue that his body probably
was desecrated after his death. Jeremiah, however, predicted that Jehoiakim’s own people
would be his desecraters, that his own people would not accord him lamentations appropriate
for a king, that his own people would cast his body “out beyond the gates of Jerusalem”.Apologists
proposal for a partial solution: In the 7th year of his reign, in the month
of Kislev (December/January 598/97), Nebuchadnezzar himself left Babylon and undertook the subjection
of rebellious Judah. In that same month, King Jehoiakim died in Jerusalem. (On the basis
of a comparison with 2 Kings 24:6,8,10ff, with the Babylonian Chronicle, Wiseman 73,
lines 11-13, Kislev is the ninth month. In the twelfth month, Adar, Jerusalem was taken.
Jehoiachin’s reign falls in these three months.) It is not impossible that he was murdered
by a political faction who thereby sought more mild treatment for their country. His
18-year-old son Jehoiachin was raised to the throne (2 Kings 24:8). Three months later
Jerusalem was entirely surrounded by Babylonians. Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the city of Judah
(al-ya-ahu-du), and on the second day of the month of Adar he comquered the city and took
its king prisoner. Also F.F. Bruce writes that Jehoiakim died
in Juda before the siege of Jerusalem began. This would mean that Jehoiakim was desecrated
after his death and in this way the prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled. The passage in
2 Chronicles 36:5-6 does not speak explicitly about Jehoiakim’s death. Thus, it can be seen
as a parallel to Daniel 1:1-2 which speaks about an event in the lifetime of the king
of Judah (see paragraph above). 2 Kings 24:6, nevertheless, remains unclear. Part of the desecration prophecy was that
Jehoiakim would “have no one to sit upon the throne of David” (Jeremiah 36:30), but this
too was proven false. Upon Jehoiakim’s death, his son Jehoiachin “reigned in his stead”
for a period of three months and ten days (2 Chronicles 36:8-9, 2 Kings 24:6-8). Also,
there are biblical genealogies that purport to show Jehoiakim as a direct ancestor of
Jesus (1 Chronicles 3:16-17, Matthew 1:11-12).Apologists say that if Jehoiakim had not been killed
by his own people, on the condition that this supposition is true (see preceding paragraph),
in all likelihood, Jehoiakim would have been put to death by the Babylonians. The Israelites
anticipated what Nebuchadnezzar intended to do. In this case, most probable, Jehoiakim’s
son Jehoiachin would not have become king and Jeremiah’s prophecy would have been fulfilled
in its full sense. Jehoiachin’s successor, Zedekiah, was no descendant of Jehoiakim,
but his brother. The double reckoning of Jehoiachin in Matthew
1:11-12 is made possible by the fact that the same Greek name can translate the two
similar Hebrew names Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin. In this way in verse 11 Jehoiakim and in verse
12 Jehoiachin is meant. The verse Jeremiah 36:30 says that Jehoiakim’s descendants will
not be kings in Judah anymore. This does not mean that he cannot be an ancestor of the
Messiah.===New Testament===According to Luke 19:41-44: As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city,
he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring
you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your
enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.
They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will
not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming
to you. It may be argued that the utterance that “no
stone” would be left upon another (Matt. 24:2; Mark 13:2; Luke 19:44; Luke 21:6) was intended
as hyperbole. However, the prophecy did not eventuate in the literal sense, as the wailing
wall (a remnant of the Second Temple courtyard wall) still remains. In reply, John Robinson
writes: it was the temple that perished by fire while
the walls of the city were thrown down.====The imminence of the second coming====Jesus prophesied that the second coming would
occur during the lifetime of his followers and Caiphas, and immediately after the destruction
of Jerusalem in 70 CE (referred to as abomination of desolation in Matt 24:15). For the Son of Man is going to come in his
Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what
he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before
they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:27-28)
“When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will
not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:23)
..Again the high priest (Caiphas) asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed
One?””I am”, said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of
the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:61-62)
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call
his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the
truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” As
Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell
us”, they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of
the end of the age?” So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes
desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then
let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down
to take anything out of the house. Pray that your flight will not take place in winter
or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning
of the world until now-and never to be equaled again. Immediately after the distress of those
days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall
from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son
of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will
see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. Even
so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell
you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have
happened. (Matthew 24) (see also Mark 13:1-30, Luke 21:5-35, Mark
13:30-31, Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27, John 21:22, Matthew 26:62-64, Mark 14:62)
It may be argued that Jesus was not speaking of the second coming in Matthew 16:28 but
instead referred to a demonstration of his or God’s might; a viewpoint which allows the
fulfillment of the prophesy through a variety of traumatic events, notably, the destruction
of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD. The temple’s destruction is held by proponents to demonstrate
that God was on the side of the Christian people rather than that of the Jews. However,
at that time only some of Jesus’ disciples still lived. In the same way Matthew 10:23
should be understood. Note, however, that this view (referred to as Preterism) is not
the majority view among American denominations, especially by denominations that espouse Dispensationalism.
Furthermore, it is a misunderstanding that Jesus meant Caiphas in Mark 14:62. The word
“you will see” is in Greek “ὄψεσθε” [opsesthe, from the infinitive optomai], which
is plural and not singular. Jesus meant that the Jews, and not just the high priest, will
see his coming. This prophecy is also seen in the Revelation
of Jesus to John. The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God
gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his
angel to his servant John,… Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will
see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because
of him. So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:1,7)
“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.
… Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according
to what he has done.” … He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:7,12,20) Despite the strongly repeated promises to
the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 1:4,11) in the 1st century CE, Jesus has not come
quickly or shortly according to critics. Apologists respond that the word “soon” (other
translations use “shortly” or “quickly”) does not have to be understood in the sense of
close future. The Norwegian scholar Thorleif Boman explained that the Israelites, unlike
Europeans or people in the West, did not understand time as something measurable or calculable
according to Hebrew thinking but as something qualitative. We have examined the ideas underlying the
expression of calculable time and more than once have found that the Israelites understood
time as something qualitative, because for them time is determined by its content….the
Semitic concept of time is closely coincident with that of its content without which time
would be quite impossible. The quantity of duration completely recedes behind the characteristic
feature that enters with time or advances in it. Johannes Pedersen comes to the same
conclusion when he distinguishes sharply between the Semitic understanding of time and ours.
According to him, time is for us an abstraction since we distinguish time from the events
that occur in time. The ancient Semites did not do this; for them time is determined by
its content. In this way expressions of time, such as “soon”, do not mean that the denoted
event will take place in close future but that it will be the next significant event.The
Apostle Paul also predicted that the second coming would be within his own lifetime, 1
Thessalonians 4:17: After that, we who are still alive and are
left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
And so we will be with the Lord forever. The philosopher Porphyry (232-305 CE), in
his Kata Christianon (Against the Christians), a book burned and banned by the church in
448 CE writes of Paul: Another of his astonishingly silly comments
needs to be examined: I mean that wise saying of his, to the effect that, We who are alive
and persevere shall not precede those who are asleep when the lord comes—for the lord
himself will descend from heaven with a shout… and the trumpet of god shall sound, and those
who have died in Christ shall rise first- then we who are alive shall be caught up together
with them in a cloud to meet the lord in the air… Indeed—there is something here that
reaches up to heaven: the magnitude of this lie. When told to dumb bears, to silly frogs
and geese—they bellow or croak or quack with delight to hear of the bodies of men
flying through the air like birds or being carried about on the clouds. This belief is
quackery of the first rate. The apologists’ answer for the passage in
1 Thessalonians 4:17 is that Paul speaks about his own presence at the last day only hypothetically.
He identifies himself with those Christians who will still live in the time of Jesus’
return but does not want to express that he himself will still experience this. That becomes
fully clear some verses later in which he says that the Day of the Lord comes like a
thief (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). The comparison of the Day of the Lord with a thief is a word
of Jesus himself (Matthew 24:43-44), which expresses the impossibility to say anything
about the date of his second coming (Matthew 24:36).==Notable critics==
Richard Dawkins Matt Dillahunty
Albert Einstein Sam Harris
Christopher Hitchens Robert G. Ingersoll
Thomas Jefferson Thomas Paine
Bertrand Russell Mark Twain
Voltaire==See also==
Bible conspiracy theory Criticism of the Book of Mormon
Criticism of the Talmud Criticism of the Quran
Misquoting Jesus Tahrif==References====
Further reading==The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy, by C.
Dennis McKinsey (Prometheus Books 1995) The Historical Evidence for Jesus, by G.A.
Wells (Prometheus Books 1988) The Bible unearthed, by I. Finkelstein and
N. Asherman (Touchstone 2001) David and Solomon, by I. Finkelstein and N.
Asherman (Freepress 2006) The Jesus Mysteries, by T. Freke and P. Gandy
(Element 1999) The Jesus Puzzle, by Earl Doherty (Age of
Reason Publications 1999) Not the Impossible Faith, by R. Carrier (Lulu
2009) BC The archaeology of the Bible lands, by
Magnus Magnusson (Bodley Head 1977) godless, by Dan Barker (Ulysses Press 2008)
Why I became an Atheist, by John W. Loftus (Prometheus books 2008)
The greatest show on earth, by Richard Dawkins (Blackswan 2007)
The god delusion, by Richard Dawkins (Blackswan 2010)
101 myths of the Bible by Gary Greenberg (Sourcebooks 2000)
Secret origins of the Bible by Tim Callahan (Millennium Press 2002)
The Origins of Biblical Monotheism by Mark S. Smith (Oxford University Press 2001)==External links==
Bible Research —The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy
Introduction to the Bible and Biblical Problems, Internet Infidels website
Examination of the Prophecies —Examination of the Old Testament Prophecies of Jesus by
Thomas Paine

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