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Sunday, February 13, 2011

The proof of Jesus would stand up in a court of law.

This is another claim made repeatedly by Christians. Here is one statement regarding this idea.

"The resurrection of Christ is one of the most thoroughly and solidly documented events in history. There were numerous eye witnesses who saw the risen Christ. See 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 where we are given a listing of different people who saw the Lord alive after His death, including over 500 people on one occasion (verse 6). If an impartial jury could have all the evidence presented to them, including an abundance of testimony from eyewitnesses, the members of the jury would be forced to conclude that Christ rose again from the dead. The facts of the case overwhelmingly support this conclusion."

However, it is completely wrong. The only court that would accept this conclusion is a kangaroo court. Allow me to clarify the issue.

In a court of law, there are two opposing sides, each being represented by legal council. (Yes, I realize a person can represent himself). They would each offer testimony that would favor their case. There are specific rules of conduct over what is allowed to be presented. There would be examination of witnesses and cross examinations and follow up examinations. There would be forensic evidence presented of the case. There is none of this when the claims of the bible are considered. What is considered is simply the writings of the bible itself.  Now, hearsay is generally not allowed in court. Hearsay is not allowed because there is no way to prove it is accurate. Now, why is that relevant? Because all the testimony for Jesus in the Bible is hearsay. Not some of it, all of it.

In a bizarre expression of circular logic, the Apologists' prime source of proof for the existence of their storybook hero is the storybook itself. The Bible is given the special privilege of confirming its own truth since the Bible is held to be "unique" and "historically reliable".

But what about the four Gospels? There is no agreement on who wrote the gospels or when they were written. There were actually many gospels that have been written about Jesus. It is important to understand that the early church leaders are the ones who choose which gospels were to be accepted. Irenaeus of Lyon  was one of the most influential. He claimed only four in number; according to Romer, "like the four zones of the world, the four winds, the four divisions of man's estate, and the four forms of the first living creatures-- the lion of Mark, the calf of Luke, the man of Matthew, the eagle of John (see Against the Heresies).

Elaine Pagels writes: "Although the gospels of the New Testament-- like those discovered at Nag Hammadi-- are attributed to Jesus' followers, no one knows who actually wrote any of them." [Pagels, 1995]

Therefore, we are taking the word of biased individuals that the gospels were written by the people they are attributed to, in other words, hearsay.

How about other New Testament accounts? Well, they are all hearsay as well.

Epistles of Paul: Not a single instance in any of Paul's writings claims that he ever meets or sees an earthly Jesus, nor does Paul give any reference to Jesus' life on earth (except for a few well known interpolations). Therefore, all accounts about a Jesus could only have come from other believers or his imagination.

Epistle of James: Although the epistle identifies a James as the letter writer, but which James? There were several people names James in the Bible. We cannot be sure it is even of of those. Nowhere does the epistle reference a historical Jesus and this alone eliminates it from an historical account.

Epistles of John: Again, we have no way to know which John this references. In addition, the epistles of John say nothing about seeing an earthly Jesus. We simply do not know who wrote these epistles.

Epistles of Peter: Many scholars question the authorship of Peter of the epistles. Even within the first epistle, it says in 5:12 that Silvanus wrote it. Most scholars consider the second epistle as unreliable or an outright forgery. In short, no one has any way of determining whether the epistles of Peter come from fraud, an unknown author also named Peter (a common name) or from someone trying to further the aims of the Church.

One of my favorites is when the bible claims there were 500 people who say they saw the risen Christ. This has to be one of the biggest attempts at hearsay in the history of the world. No names, no one verifying their statements. It is simply supposed to stand on its own as proof of the event. If someone came to court stating there 500 people who saw an event and did not provide any information about these 500 people, they would be laughed out of court.

Would the facts of a historical and risen Jesus stand up in a court of law? Of course not, that is complete nonsense. Case dismissed.

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