Friday, January 27, 2006

Point-by-Point Refutations of Brian Holtz's Nonsensical Anti-Christian Arguments

So far the following parts of Brian Holtz's "Arguments Against Christianity" have been refuted on this blog. The rest of the arguments will receive rebuttals, and the current rebuttals will become more detailed, as time goes on. For now, you can check books and the rest of the web. All of Holtz's arguments have been thoroughly debunked in books and on the Internet.

  • Jesus' endorsement of the murderous immorality of Yahweh in the Torah;
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-speaks-of-murderous-immorality.html]

  • Jesus' doctrine of "eternal punishment" in the "eternal fire" of Hell;
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/it-is-hard-to-find-atheist-who-did-not.html]
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/02/only-eternal-punishment-will-suffice.html]

  • Jesus' failure to claim actual divinity;
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/one-objection-to-christianity-is-Jesus.html]
  • Jesus' failure to perform miracles the accounts of which cannot be so easily explained as faith-healing, misinterpretation, exaggeration, and embellishment;
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/secular-humanism-must-be-abandoned-by.html]
  • Jesus' failure to recruit
    • anyone from his family,
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-claims-one-of-eight.html]

The miracles ascribed to Jesus seem not to have been very convincing [Mt 11:20, Lk 10:13, Jn 6:66, 10:32, 12:37, 15:24], and seem explainable by a combination of conventional faith healing, exaggeration, and mythologizing.

[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/secular-humanism-must-be-abandoned-by.html]

The three people Jesus allegedly reanimates [Mk 5/Lk 8; Lk 7; Jn 11] might not actually have been clinically dead, and the gospels report not a single indication supporting such a diagnosis.

[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-alleges-that-trinity-has-no.html]

[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/02/holtz-says-confirmed-miracles-are.html]
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/new-testament-authors-did-not-invent.html]
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-says-that-extra-scriptural.html]


The Christian doctrine of the "trinity", attempting to reconcile Jewish monotheism with Jesus' self-revelation, holds that Jesus 1) is both fully human and fully divine, and 2) is God (in a different "person"). The former is a contradiction, and the latter has no scriptural basis.

[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-alleges-that-trinity-has-no.html]
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/one-objection-to-christianity-is-Jesus.html]
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/02/when-god-refers-to-himself-in-plural.html]

Jesus repeatedly distinguishes himself from God:
Why do you call me good? No one is good--except God alone. [Mk 10:18, Lk 18:17, Mt 19:17]

  • Why do you call me good? No one is good--except God alone. [Mk 10:18, Lk 18:17, Mt 19:17]
  • No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. [Mk 13:32]
  • And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. [Lk 12:10]
  • Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. [Lk 22:42-43]
  • Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. [Lk 23:46]
  • the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son [Jn 5:22]
  • By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. [Jn 5:30]
  • I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. [Jn 8:28]
  • I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. [Jn 8:42]
  • If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who is glorifying me, of whom ye say that He is your God. [Jn 8:54]
  • I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. [Jn 12:49]
  • The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work [Jn 14:10]
  • If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. [Jn 14:28]
  • I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. [Jn 14:31]
  • Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. [Jn 16:25]
  • I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you [Jn 16:26-27]
  • I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. [Jn 20:17]
  • As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. [Jn 20:21]
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/one-objection-to-christianity-is-Jesus.html]

The title of 'God' is never reliably applied to Jesus anywhere in the New Testament.

[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/one-objection-to-christianity-is-Jesus.html]

Jesus
also did not effect a competent revelation of who precisely he was. Depending on e.g. various 4th-century Roman emperors, there waxed and waned such christological heresies as Ebionism, Docetism, Adoptionism, Dynamic Monarchianism, Sabellianism, Arianism, Marcionism, Apollonarianism, Nestorianism, Monophysitism, and Monothelitism.

[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/docetism-wrongly-denies-christs.html]

The doublethink of the "trinity" is not found in the Bible, but instead was invented to reconcile Jewish monotheism with Jesus' idiosyncratic Sonship claims.

[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-alleges-that-trinity-has-no.html] [http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/one-objection-to-christianity-is-Jesus.html]
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/02/when-god-refers-to-himself-in-plural.html]


In the earliest gospel (Mark), Jesus never calls himself Christ/Messiah,

[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-alleges-that-trinity-has-no.html]

is reluctant for his special nature to be known

[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-says-that-it-seems-implausible.html]

The Empty Tomb story could have resulted from a discreet reburial or removal -- perhaps by a disciple, as in a rumor reported in Mt 28. Possible conspirators were Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene, a longtime disciple [Lk 8:2] "out of whom [Jesus] had driven seven demons" [Mk 16:9, Lk 8:2] and who (unlike any apostle) attended both the crucifixion and entombment. She was the first to visit the tomb on Easter [Mt 28:1, Jn 20:1], and the possibility of removal [Jn 20:2,14,15] was not unimaginable to her.

[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/biblioskeptics-like-holtz-often-say.html]


Many of the "appearances" seem to have been unimpressive to the disciples who heard about them (and should have been expecting them) and even to those who witnessed them.

  • But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like idle tales. [Lk 24:11]
  • When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them [Mk 16:11-12]
  • These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. [Mk 16:13]
  • When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. [Mt 28:17]
  • Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. [Lk 24:15-16]
  • she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. Thinking he was the gardener, she said ... [Jn 20:14-15]
  • Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. [Jn 21:4]
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/biblioskeptics-like-holtz-often-say.html]

What probably happened is that some disciples began having epiphanies, perhaps involving the occasional dream, ecstatic vision, encounter with a stranger, case of mistaken identity, or outright hallucination (or fabrication). The disciples in their desperation and zeal initially interpreted these experiences as manifestations of a triumphant and vindicated (but not necessarily reanimated) Jesus, who had apparently predicted that he would in some sense return or at least that his ministry would require but survive his death.

[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/biblioskeptics-like-holtz-often-say.html]
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-alleges-that-disciples-made.html]
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-alleges-that-trinity-has-no.html]
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/new-testament-authors-did-not-invent.html]

For the gospel accounts of Jesus to be believable, two kinds of evidence would have to surface:
  • Textual discoveries that Jesus did not believe in the literal truth of the entire Old Testament, and that the unjust Christian notion of eternal damnation is a misunderstanding.
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/it-is-hard-to-find-atheist-who-did-not.html]

However, available extra-scriptural records do not corroborate the gospel miracles.

[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-says-that-extra-scriptural.html]
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/new-italian-court-case-over-existence.html]

Celsus (quoted by Origen) dismissed the miracles as the "tricks of jugglers" that he said are "feats performed by those who have been taught by Egyptians", and the Jewish slander reported by Tertullian claimed the empty tomb was faked.

[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/biblioskeptics-cite-true-doctrine.html]
[http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/biblioskeptics-like-holtz-often-say.html]


The 1st-century Jewish historian Josephus is hard to count as anti-Christian, even after discounting his affirmation (unnoticed by all of his earliest Christian commentators) of the resurrection as an interpolation. Josephus may have written that Jesus "performed surprising works" and even that Jesus was believed to have been resurrected, but the (possibly interpolated) mention is only in passing. Josephus devotes more space each to John the Baptist and James, and while reporting much minutiae over the entire period during which Jesus lived, does not mention:

  • the Christmas Star that disturbed Herod and "all Jerusalem" [Mt 2:3],
  • Herod's massacre [Mt 2:16],

  • [http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-claims-that-flavius-josephus.html]
  • Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem [Mt 21:8-11],
  • the Good Friday earthquake [Mt 27:51],
  • [http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-says-that-extra-scriptural.html]

  • the Good Friday resurrectees that "appeared to many people" in Jerusalem [Mt 27:53], or
  • the Good Friday 3-hour darkness "over all the land" [Mk 15:33, Lk 23:44, Mt 27:45].
  • [http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-says-that-extra-scriptural.html]
    These events in fact went unnoticed by every non-Christian writer, including the historians Seneca and Pliny the Elder. (Syncellus quotes a lost text of the Christian historian Julius Africanus which itself cites a lost text by Thallus: "Thallus calls this darkness an eclipse". The identification of Thallus' eclipse with "this darkness" might just be in the mind of Julius Africanus, and Thallus at any rate cannot be reliably dated as writing independently of the gospels.)

    [http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-says-that-extra-scriptural.html]

    Why such vague and equivocal claims of divinity?
    [http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/one-objection-to-christianity-is-Jesus.html]

    Why after his resurrection appear so ambiguously, so briefly, and to only his disciples?

    [http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-alleges-that-trinity-has-no.html]

    It seems implausible that an omnibenevolent, omniscient, infallible deity would entrust a few fallible men in a backward corner of the world with such paltry evidence and then demand that everyone else either hear and believe them or suffer eternal damnation.

    [http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-says-that-it-seems-implausible.html]

    In the gospels Jesus damns entire towns [Mt 11:23], compares non-Israelites to dogs [Mt 15:26]

    [http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-says-that-in-matthew-1526-Jesus.html]

    The god of the Torah creates linguistic division for fear of an ancient construction project [Gen 11:6]. It is implausible that the Creator of the universe would be so petty and wicked.

    [http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-says-that-it-seems-implausible.html]

    In the gospels Jesus promises sinners not a thousand years' unrelenting torture, nor a million or a billion, but an eternity of excruciating torture by fire [Mk 9:43, Mt 18:8, 25:41, 25:46]. It is implausible that a competent and benevolent deity would in his revelation allow the endorsement of such heinous crimes and evil policies.

    [http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/it-is-hard-to-find-atheist-who-did-not.html]

    • Miracles were reported commonly in ancient times and are attested in many other religions. Christians might argue that competing miracles were wrought by demons, but those very miracles could be used by a competing religion to justify the same claim about Jesus' miracles.
    [http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/secular-humanism-must-be-abandoned-by.html]

    Matthew was written c.70-80 by an unknown author who later church tradition identified with the apostle Matthew, but the text heavily quotes the non-eyewitness Mark rather than providing an independent eyewitness account.

    [http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-says-that-it-seems-implausible.html]

    John was written c.90 by an unknown author who is ambiguously identified (in the third person: 21:24) with the apostle John only in the final chapter, which is itself an apparent addendum.

    [http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-says-that-it-seems-implausible.html]

    There is no reliably first-hand testimony to the physical resurrection of Jesus. Matthew is anonymous and contains no assertions of first-hand witness by the author.

    [http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/holtz-says-that-it-seems-implausible.html]