Unreliability of the Christian Bible

The Gospel of Matthew 2:13-18 tells the account of Herod's slaughter of the innocents in an attempt to hopefully kill the child Jesus in the slaughter. There is, however, not one contemperaneous account of this event outside the Bible, not one from the time when it happened, Josephus decades later made no mention of it, though Antiquities of the Jews mentioned Jesus, now recognized to be a spurious interpolation added long after Antiquities was written. Seutonius didn't make mention of it, neither did Tacitus.
Why might this be ? Why is this account found in the Bible alone, and no one else makes mention of it ? Could it likely be that the slaughter of the innocents simply never happened, that some unknown redactor interposed that into the story of Jesus decades after Matthew was originally composed. Maybe even as much as three to four centuries after Matthew was penned.
Archaeologists digging in the Sinai Peninsula have dug deep enough to find hunter gatherer tools and weapons, but have been unable to find any trace of any Hebrew encampments in the Biblical desert wilderness, they have found no traces wherever they have looked in Sinai. Jericho was not an inhabited city when Israel would have come to it. It was destroyed hundreds of years earlier. Archaeologists find no evidence that the Hebrew kingdoms of David and Solomon ever existed.
There are no traces of a Hebrew presence in Egypt. And if you look for evidence of Noah's global deluge in the earth's strata you won't find it. The geolgic column is properly ordered and not jumbled and mixed as they would be if there had been a catastrophic global flood. The geologic column is a geologic record of the progression of life from simple to complex. The Christian Bible is just not reliable.

Tags: Bible, Unreliable

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Anthony, you state:  "Most believers are harmless, but there are those who are violently fanatical, and it is for this reason we must keep up the good fight using the only weapon we have...rationality and reason."

I could be wrong, but I think it was Christopher Hitchens who referred to mainstream religious practitioners as the "enablers" for fanatics.  All religious fanaticism stems from moderate, or even liberal, views.  Which is why we need to fight against ALL religion.  Religious liberals and religious fanatics are all using the same texts and worshiping the same god to justify their beliefs.  It must be stopped on all levels in order to achieve any sort of rationally-thinking, livable society. 

Flying Atheist:

"I could be wrong, but I think it was Christopher Hitchens who referred to mainstream religious practitioners as the "enablers" for fanatics."

You are correct that Christopher Hitchens, among others, have said that moderate religion opens the door to extremism in religion, a point which I think I may have addressed on my Google blog. All I meant by what I said is that most believers won't kill you for your differences. But I absolutely agree, it must be stopped on all levels. If not for moderates there would be no fanatics.

"If not for moderates there would be no fanatics."

We'll always have fanatics, obviously, but in my opinion there would be far less of them to deal with if we didn't indoctrinate religion into the masses (especially children) on such a large scale as we've done in the past and presently.  Yes, Anthony, I'm in total agreement with you that most believers won't kill you for your differences.  I'm afraid, however, that in the coming years as religion becomes less relevant to individuals, and as our society becomes more outwardly secular we will see an increase in fanatical behavior.  Dangerous, disturbing and destructive behavior from a perversely disgruntled minority.  There will be desperate actions carried out as part of a losing battle. 

Flying Atheist:

"I'm afraid, however, that in the coming years as religion becomes less relevant to individuals, and as our society becomes more outwardly secular we will see an increase in fanatical behavior.  Dangerous, disturbing and destructive behavior from a perversely disgruntled minority."

For many years I have had the suspicion that Christians would be the next terrorists on the horizon, and it appears more and more each day that I'm being proved right.

Debra:

Very well said. However, as Flying Atheist and I have discussed, religion in itself is harmful because of the doors it opens. A.C. Grayling et al., believe the world would be better off with no religion.

Debra:

"Keeping it to themselves does little harm."

You are correct that if religious people kept their religion to themselves, left it at home or at Church, Synagogue, or Mosque, it would do no harm. But by and far we don't see the religious keeping their religion private.

Religion is having detrimental effects all around the world, and the United States is every day edging closer to theocracy because of a fringe movement called Dominionism that has a huge influence on the right wing of US government, and among evangelical fundamentalist Christians. There are politicians in US government who do not want to see separation of Church and State. They claim that the wall of separation is not to keep religion out of government but to keep government out of religion.

Christians in particular are anti-science, anti-freedom of religion (they believe we should only have the freedom to be Christian), anti-democracy (as are the Islamists), anti-healthcare, anti-gun control (as are the Islamists), anti-choice, and a whole host of other negative things. Do the research.

I mean no harm in saying this Debra, but you need to take off the rose colored glasses. One religion in the world is bad enough, but several religions all with incompatible beliefs and claims to being God's true chosen people is insufferable.

Brandi:

No worries. You didn't hurt my feelings or upset me. Not all atheists will agree on everything. Like everyone else every atheist is a unique individual.

I read what you have to say and understand the value of your position. It must be stated and you do so very clearly.

However, Being polite, gentle, using reason, pleading, crying, begging for relief from the torment imposed on people in the name of god is a crime that has never been addressed to its full degree. Have you been reading all the heroic efforts of military women and the culture of rape? That attitude just doesn't fall out of the sky on some evil men, it falls from the belief, held for centuries, that women are objects to be used. Sure it is better now, but where did that idea get started?

Being silent has never been the way out of misery for me and countless other women and children. The term "Battered Child Syndrome" was first coined in 1962. Before there was a name there was no syndrome. A thing seems to have to have a name to be a problem worth looking into. 

The Earth is coming to a tipping point in many factors. Access to oil is on a downward curve, water becomes a problem around the globe, changing climate and rising water put pressure on lives and infrastructure, unresolved conflicts that have simmered for years come to a head, income gaps grow by the month and have been doing so since 1975, rogue states have access to nuclear power, and overconsumption of all resources threatens our well being.

Being silent on any one of these factors leads to not waking up to what is going on. People project their frustration toward insignificant things instead of paying attention to underlying causes of disruption. They scapegoat others and stop looking for causes. 

It seems strange to me that the last person who was burned at the stake for heresy was only in 1612 and when we object to the tyranny of religion we are accused to being too loud or too militant or too strident. NO! We are not strident enough.  

I take no offense and you certainly did not hurt my feelings. No need for an apology. I intend to speak as clearly and honestly as I can and I expect the same from others. Being timid or self-censoring serves no one, especially me. I'm having trouble finding words today, I can blame it on recovering from anesthesia, and I intend to respond when my mind clears. 

Thanks for your input; I value it. 

Debra Stevenson,

You are wrong on many points.

1.       Atheists do not base their opinions on what the great atheists say. I became a confirmed atheist some 40 years before and knew nothing about the greats you mention. Also, atheism has existed on this earth since very long ago with many atheists expressing their independent reasons and views. So there is no idolatry. You are talking like a theist here. I haven’t read anything from them. I purchased the ‘Delusion” several months before and have to finish it yet. Many atheists have expressed differences of opinions with great atheists and I myself have done so before.

2.        You say “Perhaps the world would be better of without religion but many atheists who desire the destruction of religion are not really behaving any different than religious people who look forward to their deity punishing atheists  for eternity or annihilating them.”

Some over enthusiastic atheists may talk of destruction of religion but this not a universal atheist slogan. There is no need for anybody to destroy religion, it will destroy itself in not too distant future.

                Why say that the world may be a better place without religion. How can you have any doubt on this count if you know what damage religion has caused, is still causing and will continue to do so in the future, until it destroys itself.

Hey Anthony,

Why might this be ? Why is this account found in the Bible alone, and no one else makes mention of it ? Could it likely be that the slaughter of the innocents simply never happened, that some unknown redactor interposed that into the story of Jesus decades after Matthew was originally composed. Maybe even as much as three to four centuries after Matthew was penned.

Your first question is actually very interesting, since this is one of the ways of understanding the message that the writer of Matthew is trying to impart, and the way he goes about doing it. I don't really know of anyone who believes that this slaughter is a later interpolation (there's no evidence for this), in fact I would argue against it.

Put simply, the writer of Matthew is trying to show that Jesus is the Messiah by continuously contrasting his deeds and history with the deeds and history of figures in the Old Testament. It's also rather clearly geared towards a Jewish audicence, which is why gMatt places such a high emphasis on prophecy and goes through a lot of pain of showing how Jesus supposedly fulfills all these prophecies. And it also shows Jesus essentially reliving several key moments of the mythology of the Jewish people.

The first chapters of Matthew in particular are filled with references to Exodus. After tracing Jesus' genealogy back to Abraham, the father of all Jews, in the first chapter, we get Jesus' birth narrative. Just like the Jews escaped from the Pharaoh after an angel appears to Moses, Jesus' family receives a similar angelic vision and escapes from King Herod. Herod's insistence on retrieving them causes the deaths of all the first-borns in the city (a direct parallel to the last of the plagues of Egypt). After they travel to Egypt for a time of banishment -again, it can't get any more clear- the first scene after their return is... you guessed it, Jesus' baptism in water as the confirmation of his Messanic nature, paralleling the confirmation of the Jews as God's chosen people by the parting of the Red Sea.

These analogies occur all throughout Matthew and they're not exactly hidden: they're fully intentional ways of linking Jesus to other Jewish holy men. That's why they're of course nowhere to be found in the writings of historians of the era: these are literary devices.

It's similar for the genealogy found in Matthew or Luke. Was that actually intended to be factual? Probably not. Matthew's genealogy traces Jesus back to Matthew, the father of the Jews, to show his allegiance to the Jewish people. Whereas Luke's genealogy goes all the way back to Adam, the progenitor of the human race. Why the difference in emphasis? Because Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience with a Jewish message, whereas Luke has a more universal message.

Now the really interesting question is: given that all these references would be absolutely obvious to someone who knew these texts practically by heart, how would a First-Century Jew even interpret all this? Quite possibly, for many it would have been clear that this was not all meant to be literal history, but simply tongue-in-cheek ways of showing the significance of Jesus and the audience would have understood them as such. It's only through a change in Christian mythology (de-emphasizing Jesus' Jewish side) and a general loss of Biblical knowledge, that we don't recognize these references anymore and start asking ourselves if this is all meant to be historical.

It's probably not. But after 2000 years, we'll never quite know for sure.

Matt VDB:

I am aware of all that you said, but be it noted that many Bible critics also point out the fact that the gospels are literary devices, as shown by the fact that the slaughter of the innocents did not occur at the time between Jesus was born and the time he reached 2 years of age. But what does this say about the message of the gospel ? And what does it say about the historicity of Jesus the man or his alleged divinity ? What good is a literary device in establishing the validity of Jewish and Gentile Christianity and it's message ?

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