Are Biblical accounts copied from pagan religions? Part 2. The Resurrection

Depiction of the empty tomb of Jesus

Depiction of the empty tomb of Jesus

Since the original sin in the garden of Eden, mankind has searched for reasons not to believe God so he could live a life independent of God. In the garden, the serpent convinced Eve not to trust God. Why? Supposedly because God was holding back the knowledge of good and evil to the detriment of Adam and Eve. The serpent suggested God was wrong f0r withholding that knowledge, but that if they were to discover the truth, they would be “like God”. (Gen 3.5) That was a big lie. God was indeed withholding the knowledge of evil, but he was not wrong in doing so because he knew that (experiential) knowledge of evil (like disobeying God) would lead to death.  And the biggest irony is – they were already like God (Gen 1.26),  there was nothing to be gained from what the serpent offered.

Today there is another lie circulating to destroy belief in God: The claim that the biblical accounts are not history, but rather stories borrowed or stolen and then adapted from the made up stories of pagan religions. If there’s no reason to believe the pagan religions, then there’s no reason to believe a made up story based on it either. Continue Reading

“Finding Jesus” – the Shroud of Turin – A Review

The first episode of the new CNN Series “Finding Jesus – Faith Fact Forgery” uses selective evidence to support the unwarranted conclusion that the Shroud of Turin is a forgery.

Sunday night CNN launched a new documentary series on the Christian faith titled “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery”.  The first episode, “The Shroud of Turin” was, as the title implies, a re-examination of the highly venerated, highly questioned burial cloth of Jesus. The question is, of course, is the cloth authentic? Is it really the cloth of which the gospel writer Mark records:

“So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”
Mark 15.46

… or is it a forgery? Based on the title, the producers want to draw a sharp line of demarcation between what is faith (that which science can neither affirm nor deny); what is fact, and what is unwarranted faith (that which science can attempt to either affirm or deny and if denied, declare a “forgery” or false). Based on the first episode, the producers want to remove any scientific basis for faith – even when such evidence is overwhelming. This is clearly the case because of the wealth of evidence that exists concerning the authenticity of the well studied, well researched Shroud that the producers chose to ignore. I say chose to ignore, because as producers of a documentary on the well known relic, they are responsible for being aware of such public domain information and should surely  know about these evidences which contradict their theories. And if they don’t know, they are not qualified to be doing a documentary on it. This first episode (and thus presumably the rest of the series) is clearly biased against evidence that confirms the veracity of Christian claims.

In an apparent effort to cover their bias, the documentary is overall respectful of the faith – providing a traditional retelling of the events leading up to the burial of Jesus.  In my previous article Physical Evidence Jesus Existed I list 6 evidences of authenticity for the Shroud; 3 of which are not mentioned in the documentary, the others are either ignored or outright denied. Below is further exposition and clarification on some of those evidences, and the addition of new evidence from an effort to date the Shroud apart from Carbon dating. Obviously a documentary cannot be expected to present every piece of evidence, but certainly some of the well established evidences – especially those which contradicts your proposed theory – should be presented – if the goal is to present a fair and balanced piece of journalism. Of course if you’re not interested in fair and balanced reporting, then liberal usage of the fallacy of suppressed evidence is a viable course, and the route which they have obviously chosen for this episode, and presumably the series. 

So what is the theory that they resort to suppressing evidence to protect? Continue Reading

Is Faith Rational?

The Declaration of IndependenceThe Declaration of Independence – a permanent testimony to the establishment of the United States of America
Rejecting the Bible because it’s an “ancient” document and we didn’t witness any of it is as foolish as rejecting the Declaration of Independence because it’s ancient and we didn’t witness the signing.


Is faith rational? If one took this question at face value,  the answer is quite simple: yes, faith is rational. How do we know that?  We merely need to understand the terms and see if “faith” fits within the bounds of “rational.”  That’s a simple academic exercise handled in the sidebar below. Of greater interest is what people usually mean when asking the question. What’s commonly being asked is either:

1.  How can faith be rational, when faith means believing in something with no evidence?

Or:

2. Is Faith/belief in God/belief in miracles  compatible with science?

 

Starting with the second  question – Faith in God and belief in miracles are compatible with science because faith and science are complimentary; not contradictory. There are questions that science is not equipped to handle. In such cases it doesn’t mean the item the question isn’t real; it simply means that science is incapable of answering the question.  One such item, as author, scientist and theologian Alistair McGrath points out is this:

 “What is the meaning of life?” This is clearly an important question. But can science answer it?1

The answer clearly is no, science can’t answer it. And why not? Famous evolutionary biologist and historian of science Stephen Jay Gould suggests it’s because science and religion deal with different spheres of knowledge – “magisteria” as he called them – and they do not overlap. Science and religion are thus Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA)2 – so the one can not comment on the other. This formulation is close. Science can not see or measure the spiritual world, so it can not comment on it; but God, who is spirit (John 4.24) sees both the spiritual and material world, and thus can comment on both as an eye witness. Thus regarding the creation of the world, what you have in Genesis 1 is an eye witness account of the creation of the heavens and the earth in 6 days, and recorded as evidence – a testimony for all time.

In passing, God as an eye witness to the creation is something science can not disprove. They can disagree with his testimony,  (which they do) and disbelieve he even exists (which they do), but they can not prove he does not exist. Neither can they provide an eye witness to their version of creation – the big bang.  They say believing God’s testimony can only be done by faith. Okay, so what is it when you believe George Washington was the first president? No one alive today was there to see it. All we have are testimonies. Is that not then, also faith?  Yet no one asks scientists to prove George Washington was the first president, or prove that he existed. They take both to be true on the word of historians. Biblical testimony is no different. So why is faith in God’s written testimony any less rational than believing written testimonies that George Washington was the first president?


If doubters of the Biblical account still want “proof” one can say creationists have higher quality “proof” than scientists – since in addition to scientific evidence,  creationists have an eye witness account by a perfect witness while science merely has a of highly disputed theory – the big bang3 which is backed by highly disputed evidence. Indeed the more we learn, the more the big bang is discredited.  The universe is both too young for the theory to be true (for more on that see  Saturn’s Rings are Young!)  and recent discoveries like the Higgs Boson (the so called “god particle”)  contradict the Big Bang theory. (For more on that see Testimony of the Higgs Boson.)

So faith expressed as belief that God exists is rational; it is consistent with how we use “faith” in other spheres, and it is consistent with science. But some people don’t agree with that assessment for reasons that take us back to the first question:

“How can faith be rational?” (implied: when science can’t see the evidence to prove it). This is perpetuated by a chorus of acolytes echoing the refrain:

“Faith is believing something for which you have no good, objective, rational reason to think is actually true.”4

What’s always amusing about these statements is the claim there is no evidence. Because the first thing they typically do is list the evidences then explain why they refuse to believe it. First off they want to eliminate the Bible as evidence because it’s well – the bible – a holy book.  They never seem to realize they are committing the fallacy of a false analogy when they compare the Bible to a book of mythology or even other holy books. Unlike mythology and other “holy” books the Bible is full of verified history, fulfilled prophecy (we’ll note one below), known, verified historical people, and geographical locations that exist to this day that you can visit. That makes it a reliable source of information. In fact regarding reliability of  the key section of the Bible that records the life, death and resurrection of Jesus – the New Testament – author and apologist Josh McDowell states:

“There is more evidence for the historical reliability of the new testament than any 10 pieces of classic literature combined.”5


Objective scholars regard the Bible as a reliable historical record, it’s people with an atheistic agenda who object to using the testimony of the Bible. But let’s look at a few of these objections. Typical of those stating faith is not rational, is the blogger above6 who states faith is believing something which you have no good reason to believe is true. He has 3 main objections:
Continue Reading

Physical Evidence Jesus Existed

Interior - St. Peter's BasilicaInterior – St. Peter’s Basilica as painted by Giovanni Paolo Panini
Claims that there is no evidence that Jesus ever existed are simply untrue. Here’s why.

In the companion article, Is Faith Rational, I note that many atheists claim:

In fact, there’s really no evidence that Jesus ever existed or had followers…There is no historical or archaeological evidence to support the existence of Jesus.1

You’ll find this objection from bloggers and authors2 alike among other skeptics. In response,  I pointed out 4 items that are historical or archaeological evidence of the existence of Jesus to silence this claim. They are:

1. St Peter’s Basilica; Cathedrals and Churches all over the world.
2. Nails From the Cross of Jesus
3. The Spear of Destiny (The Spear that pierced Jesus’ side)
4. The Shroud of Turin

In the companion article there was not space to discuss these issues, so here is that discussion.

Physical Evidences of Jesus’ Existence:

First, please note these are presented as evidences not proofs. It’s very difficult to “prove” anything that happened in the past. However what we do have left from events in the past is evidences that the event occurred. The following are evidences that Jesus existed.

1. St Peter’s Basilica; Cathedrals and Churches all over the world.
Pictured above is a view inside the great St Peter’s Basilica, the centerpiece of the Vatican, named  after the apostle Peter, a follower of Jesus who is  regarded by Catholics as the first Pope. For someone who never existed, Jesus somehow managed to get multiple people to write down the names of his first followers (the apostles), and managed to get churches, cathedrals and this basilica built to honor and worship him. Unlike mythical deities, such honor and worship continues to this day.  An amazing feat for someone who never existed.
Note: while the Basilica itself is prima facie evidence of the existence of Jesus, it also contains items that also prove the existence of Jesus. (See item three.)

Before moving on – wait – I hear an atheist saying, based on that logic every pagan god for which a temple was built must also exist. Nice try. Let’s consider a pagan temple the Bible mentions – the temple of Artemis (Roman name: Diana) in the city of  Ephesus. (Acts 19.27) and compare how people treat a mythical god with how they treat  Jesus:

– Is Artemis worshipped in any significant way today? Does she have thousands of temples/churches?
(In contrast Jesus is worshipped around the world today)

– When swearing or cursing, does anyone swear by Artemis? Or use Artemis as an expletive?
(As a corollary, why do you suppose that people only use the name of Jesus as an expletive, and not other deities? After all according to atheists all deities are the same – nonexistent. What’s the significance of using Jesus’ name?)

– Does anyone claim Artemis loved mankind enough to become incarnate, live on earth and redeem mankind from his own sin and folly?

– Is time divided before and after the coming of Artemis?
(Critics who want to point to days devoted to pagan gods like Thor’s day; Saturn’s day etc. should consider that such days do not point to anything meaningful. The division of BC/AD (before Christ/in the year of our Lord [Jesus]) locates for the world when the son of God became man for our benefit, and as such is very meaningful and significant. What does Thursday represent besides the fourth day after Sunday?)

– Does Artemis have an animal marked on its body with her symbol that carried her in triumph as Jesus does? (John 12.12-15) Has her symbol inspired kings and armies like the Chi Rho did Constantine and his army?

– Did Artemis prophesy anything that was fulfilled?
(In addition to his resurrection, Jesus predicted the destruction of the second Jerusalem temple which was fulfilled in 70 AD by the Roman General Titus.)

Whether you love Jesus and revere him or despise him and use his name as an expletive, clearly the responses to Jesus has always been, and always will be  qualitatively and quantitatively different from any other so called god. This makes both the worship of Jesus and his places of worship also qualitatively different.  There is an entire fabric of evidences that St Peter’s Basilica becomes part of strengthening the entire case for the existence of Jesus.  The temple of Artemis [or substitute any false god – Zeus,  whatever] is a single thread that simply reminds man of his tendency to idolatry and folly.  So please, don’t bother with the comparisons to other fallen temples.

2. Nails From the the Cross of Jesus
In 1990, construction workers digging to build the foundation for what is now the Peace Park in Jerusalem stumbled upon the tomb of Caiaphas, the high priest who questioned Jesus (John 18.19) and with the elders convicted him and sent him to the Roman governor for execution (Matt 27.1-2).   (Incidentally, this is yet another discovery that verifies a historical fact recorded in the Bible – in this case the existence of Caiaphas.  Such verifications are not possible with myths – which some skeptics believe the bible to be.)

While this find is helpful, what’s even more interesting is this: archeologist Simcha Jacobovici, noted that in the grave of the Caiaphas  were two nails.  He believes he has found the very nails used to affix Jesus to the cross, stating he has made: Continue Reading