Four items appear below:

Christianity is False #76
Keith S Cornish
Reliablility of the NT Documents #77
Carl O Jonsson
Reply to Keith Cornish #77
Evidence for Jesus was Rigged #78
F P Russo


 Keith S Cornish

 (Investigator 76, 2001 January)

The essential dogma of Christianity is summarised in John 3:16 God so loved the world that he gave his…son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

The only indication that Joshua (Jesus) of Nazareth ever lived is contained within the gospels, particularly four in the New Testament. Assuming that he was born during the reign of Herod, then his death would have been around 30CE.

From the evidence contained in the letters of Paul to his churches they were written between the years 52 and 62CE but nowhere is there any mention of the gospels, so one can assume that they were written later from the memories of someone who knew or knew of Jesus.

The gospel of Mark is acknowledged as the earliest and is the work of a Roman, for no Jew would be given a name from the oppressing race.

 As Matthew and Luke follow the precise sequence of events as does Mark, it is obvious that they had access to his gospel, so it is interesting to note how they have expanded and altered his story.

It is important to recognise that the earliest gospel manuscripts date from the 4th century so errors in transcribing would have appeared as theology changed. Remember that the official divinity of Jesus was established by the vote at the Council of Nicea in 325CE and the list to be included in the New Testament was decided at the Council at Hippo in 393CE.

Jesus was a Jew and it is almost certain that he was subjected to the best education available in Jerusalem at that period and therefore was fully aware of the Old Testament with its prophecies and expectation of a Messiah (Christ) who would renew the moral standard of Jews. This was necessary so that their god Yahweh could free them from the oppression of Roman rule.

Jesus specifically says that his mission is to the Jews and instructs his disciples not to go to the Gentiles. He endorses the keeping of the minutest detail of the Jewish law but emphasises that it is summed up in the two commandments to love Yahweh and to love fellow Jews. Nowhere in the gospel of Mark does he claim to be the son of god but stresses that he is the son of man who is proclaiming the good news of the coming of the kingdom of Yahweh.

He sees this kingdom being established not by a Jewish insurrection but by a divine force of angels. His knowledge is restricted to that of the Old Testament with its myths of creation, Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses and the Passover of the Jewish captivity in Egypt.  All of which we now know to be false.

Being aware of the commandment in regard to drinking blood, he certainly could not have instituted a ceremony where that is the central feature. He believed in a blissful heaven and a hell of torment and in spirits. Nowhere in Marks gospel is there any suggestion that he came to found a new religion.

The 'just believe' doctrine of Christianity is entirely the work of Paul who was always at loggerheads with the disciples of Jesus. It was Paul who conceived the idea that Jesus was the Son of Yahweh, the sacramental lamb who was crucified for the sin of mankind. Human sacrifice to appease the gods is a very primitive and ancient idea discarded by Jews long before the time of Jesus. It is morally disgusting.

Christianity or the religion of the Messiah has nothing to do with a Joshua of Nazareth but is the invention of Paul of Tarsus.

 Humans can only survive if their code of conduct is determined by reason and not by religion, by facts and not by faith.

The foregoing is a basic premise of a new book, Origins of the Christian Faith, by Steve Cooper who then explores the character of Paul.



 Carl Olof Jonsson

 (Investigator 77, 2001 March)

The claim of Keith S Cornish, that "Christianity is False" (Investigator No. 76, January 2001, pp. 20-21), cannot be supported by any statement of his. His first paragraph that the Christian faith is summarized in John 3:16 is correct, and probably also his last, that his article is "a basic premise" of a new book by Steve Cooper, Origins of the Christian Faith. But nearly every paragraph between these two contains serious errors. As a reply has to be shorter than his article, I am forced to point out only some of the mistakes:

 In §2 Mr. Cornish states that the "only indication" that Jesus ever lived is contained in the four gospels. This is not true. All history is primarily based upon eyewitnesses. Although it is "only" the four gospels that contain detailed accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, all the 27 books of the NT are written by individuals who were either eyewitnesses or in close contact with other eyewitnesses. Thus, although Peter did not himself write a gospel account (Mark did it for him, according to Papias), his two letters forcefully testify to the factuality of Jesus' death and resurrection. So do also the letters of James and Jude, both of whom were brothers of Jesus.

 Luke and Paul both had close contacts with many of the original eye-witnesses, and Luke explicitly states that he had carefully checked everything from the beginning by the aid of "original eyewitnesses" (Luke 1:14). All the NT documents, therefore, must be regarded as primary sources. Taken together their testimony about Jesus Christ is enormous compared to the historical documentation for most other individuals in the first century.

 In §3 Cornish admits that Paul's letters date from as early as about 52-62 CE, but adds that, as he nowhere mentions the gospels, "one can assume that they were written later from the memories of someone who knew or knew about Jesus." It is true that Paul does not directly mention the gospels, but this in itself does not indicate that all of them were written later. Some of Paul's letters clearly reflect knowledge of the contents of some of the gospels. One example is I Thess. 5:1-8, which is based on Jesus' statements recorded in Matt. 24:36-44; Luke 17:26-30, and 21:34-36. (See Joseph Plevnik, Paul and the Parousia, Hendrickson Publ., 1997, pp. 99-121)

There is no evidence to show that the gospels were written late, or that Mark was the earliest. Matthew and Mark may very well have been written in the 40's, as Dr. John Wenham has argued recently. (Redating Matthew, Mark & Luke, Hodder & Stoughton, 1991) In fact, any evidence to show that any of the NT documents were written after AD 70 is totally lacking, as was ably demonstrated by Dr. John A. T. Robinson. (Redating the New Testament, SCM Press Ltd, 1976)

In §6 Cornish claims that "the earliest gospel manuscripts date from the 4th century so errors in transcribing would have appeared as theology changed." Again he is wrong. True, the two great codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus both date from the 4th century. But there are numerous NT papyrii containing various parts of the NT documents that are up to 200 or more years earlier. Just a few examples of the gospel mss: P104 and P64 (containing parts of Matt. 21 and 26) are dated to c. 125-150 AD; P77+P103 (parts of Matt. 13, 14, 23) to c. 150-190; P4 (Luke 1-6) to c. 150; P75 (Luke 3-24 + John 1-15) to c. 175; P66 (John 1-21) to c. 150; P52 (John 18:31-33, 37-38) to c. 100-125; and P45 (Matt. 20-26; Mark. 4-12; Luke 6-14; John 4-11; Acts 4-19) to c. 200 AD.

 All the earliest of the NT papyrii have recently been published with translations and discussions of dates etc. by Philip W. Comfort & David P. Barrett (eds.), The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts (Baker Books, 1999)

 There is considerably more evidence of the historicity of the NT than of any other ancient writings from the first century or earlier. Compared to the about 5,000 extant manuscripts of the NT, some of which are dated to the middle or early 2nd century, the manuscripts of most other ancient writings from that time are few and usually very late. For example, of the writings of Flavius Josephus, written in the last quarter of the 1st century AD, there are only a few dozen manuscripts at most, dating from the 10th century and later. Of Tacitus' Roman History (written c. 100 AD), the only manuscript, containing four and a half of the 14 books, dates from the 9th century AD. And of his Annals, there is again only one manuscript containing 10 of the 16 books and dating from the 11th century.

 It may safely be said that no events of the first century are so well and securely documented as those connected with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Anyone who questions this is challenged to provide another example and describe the documentary evidence.



 (Investigator, 77 2001 March)

Mr Cornish is correct in calling John 3:16 God so loved the world that he gave his only son the "essential dogma of Christianity." Some of his other claims are, however, dubious.

 For example: "The earliest manuscripts date from the 4th century so errors in transcribing would have appeared as theology changed."

True, the earliest manuscripts of the entire New Testament (NT) may be 4th century. However, we have 5,400 ancient manuscripts with portions of the NT and a few are 2nd century.

 Ancient papyri now have a catalogue number as well as an international name consisting of "P" plus a superscript numeral. The John Rylands Papyrus 457 (P52) is located at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, England. This papyrus has several verses of John's Gospel…and is dated around 120 AD. It was found in Egypt in 1934.

The John Rylands Papyrus 457 (P52) is noteworthy because its discovery refuted arguments that John was written near 200 AD. The NT itself indicates John's Gospel was written in the 1st century. Since we have a fragment from a copy from about 120 AD the NT appears to be correct.

This demonstrates the point I keep making that thousands of statements in the Bible only seem wrong because the scientific evidence is incomplete but are being proved right and the critics wrong one after another as science catches up.

Another example may be the Gospel of Matthew. Although lacking 1st century manuscripts scholars place its construction to about 80 AD.

The "Magdalen Fragments" of Matthew were purchased in Egypt in 1901 and donated to Magdalen College, Oxford. Photos were published in 1953. The fragments, initially dated to 200 AD, were largely ignored because: "there were already 37 other New Testament papyruses from the 2nd and 3rd centuries." (Schoenthal, R. Time magazine, January 23, 1995)

Peter Thiede, of the Institute for Basic Epistemological Research in Padeborn, Germany, is an expert in ancient papyrus manuscripts. He examined the handwriting style in the Magdalen fragments and placed it to before 70 AD!  However, the debate is still on.

Regarding the NT as whole: Scholars known as "textual critics" study and compare the 5,400 ancient NT portions available and work out the original wording of the NT. The Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament has an appendix listing thousands of "various readings. Because of the work of textual critics it's been estimated that only 1/500th of the original NT wording is still in doubt.

 Mr Cornish says: "Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses and the Passover…we now know to be false."

The Adam & Eve story has ideas that have scientific support such as:
1 Modern humans started at one location and spread from there;
2 All humans are genetically similar, derived from one mother;
3 Divisions called "races" are recent and arbitrary; this implies notions of racial superiority and political action based on them are mistaken.
I may further discuss these points another time.

The conviction that Moses and the Passover are myth follows largely from the documentary hypothesis of Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918). According to Wellhausen the Books of Moses were composed by four writers and combined into one document in the 6th century BC.

However, Wellhausen's hypothesis is under siege. Like hundreds of other former attacks on the Bible it may end up proved wrong.  K A Kitchen (1995), for example, says:
Now, however, there is quietly mounting evidence that the basic inherited outline from the Patriarchs through the Exodus to Israel's entry into Canaan, the united monarchy and then the divided kingdom of Israel and Judah, and the exile and return – is essentially sound. There is no need whatsoever to "reconstruct" early Hebrew history. Wellhausen's enterprise was an appalling bungle. (Biblical Archaeology Review, Volume 21, No. 2, 1995 March/April, p. 94)
Regarding the doctrine of Christ being crucified for human sin on the cross Mr Cornish says: "Human sacrifices to appease the gods is a very primitive idea, morally disgusting."

The Bible in principle agrees: "And they burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind." (Jeremiah 7:31; 19:4-5)

Why, then, the doctrine of Jesus being sacrificed to save humanity? According to the Bible the first humans, Adam and Eve, communicated and cooperated with God. They then chose to go their own way, live independently of God, and invent their own standards of right and wrong.

Later some humans sought on their own initiative to restore a semblance of the original relationship by sacrificing animals and grain to God. (Genesis 4) However, God does not need anything from us. What pleased Him is the attitude behind the sacrifices:
          The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
          A broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Psalm 51:17; 50:7-15)
Animal sacrifices even with a "contrite heart" could, however, never compensate for all the hurt humans do to each other. Given that humans chose sacrifices as the way to go, what was needed was a sacrifice that reflected the value of Adam and Eve before they sinned and also the value of all humanity. Humans could never supply this but God could. Required was a sinless, perfect "Messiah"/"Son of God" who would die for all.

As time passed humans began sacrificing to gods of their imagination and to idols they invented. They even sacrificed fellow humans. The Aztecs before the Spaniards intervened murdered thousands of people every year.

Yes, the sacrifice of humans to imaginary deities is disgusting – the Bible agrees. The doctrine that "God gave his only son", however, is not. Its biblical roots lie in animal sacrifices initiated by humans and God adapting the idea. The doctrine teaches God's love for humans, His humility in cooperating with them, and humanity's great value. Consequently it's a lesson in compassion and reconciliation.



(Investigator 78, 2001 May)

Both Jonsson and Anonymous seem impressed because some New Testament manuscripts date to the 2nd century. (#77) However, their antiquity alone does not prove their contents are reliable.

After Jesus died a lot of different writings and gospels about him came into existence. They're listed in The Apocryphal New Testament, 1924. (My edition is from 1986 by Oxford University press.) The early Christian Church decided which gospels to accept and preserve. One basis for selection was that the documents be consistent with each other and accurate at least accurate to the extent that the Church, centuries after the events, could confirm. We should not therefore be surprised if the New Testament is fairly consistent and much in it even accurate, for it consists of documents chosen for these features.

The gospel of Mark believed to be the earliest gospel has a secrecy plot: Jesus repeatedly tells people whom he miraculously cured not to tell anyone. Could, however, the resurrection of a girl witnessed by a small crowd really be kept quiet? (Mark 5)

This secrecy plot can be explained if Mark found no evidence of Jesus' more-impressive miracles and needed to explain this absence of proof. Mark's explanation, in effect, is that Jesus commanded some whom he healed to keep silent about it.

F. R. (Adelaide)